By Mordecai Holtz
When I hear the word nonprofit, I don’t usually think of technology and apps.
In the age of digital media and, in many respects, digital communities, Jewish organizations need to continue to find the tools that respond to current interests, technological opportunities, while remaining true to the Jewish traditions of educating and inspiring the next generation.
Thankfully, albeit slowly, more Jewish organizations are pushing the envelope by redefining the classic definition of engagement. These organizations and agencies are bridging the gap between classic Jewish education and the technology available to ensure that Judaism remain relevant and engaging to future generations.
With chanukah around the corner, many are polishing their silver menorahs, fine tuning their dreidel skills and finding the tastiest jelly donuts. In the spirit of keeping the flame of the Jewish tradition alive, I decided to search for some of the best Channuka apps out there that offer a specific focus on educating, inspiring and kindling the flame within our children.
Before my review, I’d like to say that the future of Jewish education looks very bright if these apps are the beginning stages of merging technology and Jewish education.
My Menorah App
Geared for 2-5 year olds. This app is probably the most comprehensive available. Children can spin the dreidel to choose a color for the candles, set up the Menorah, light their own animated Menorah and sing all the Channukah songs. In addition to teaching kids fundamental skills, during Channukah this app will be sharing to its users via its social channels and blog, a daily packet of supporting materials (infographics, activities, videos) for parents to maximize the 8-day holiday as an opportunity to teach children about core Jewish values.
Clearly, Jewish Interactive understands the space. Originally a South African organization, now this global organization has expanded its efforts to include the US and UK.
This takes storytelling to a new level. It brings the Maccabee’s victory and the restoration of the Temple to life. The engaging graphics allow children to experience a historic journey of the Channuka story with an undertone of teaching the value of standing for one’s beliefs. Together with the high quality storytelling, this app offers numerous games, gifts and virtual potato latkes.
While geared towards children, parents will appreciate the educational aspects of the app. Chai on Chanukah is an app for teaching children about Chanukah. The app has four interactive components. Children light the menorah and track the days of Chanukah. If they know the meaning of the letters of the dreidel, they can play spin the dreidel with a group of friends. Using their finger, children can move a pair of scissors and open presents. The app also includes a fun and engaging story about Chanukah.
Combined, these apps serve as excellent educational tools for children of all ages. From the interactive, animated, talking Hanukkah book with games, to a Touch-n-Read platform geared to learning the blessings, these were designed with one goal – education and inspiration.
Like Jewish Interactive, the Behrman House is on the right track of continuing its tradition for creating distinguished Jewish educational materials used in schools throughout North America and in English-speaking countries around the world.
While some may argue that mobile devices focus on providing individual experiences and eliminate the collective power of the Jewish community, I think these apps are shedding tremendous light on the potential of what is in store for our future. Connecting children and the next generation to Judaism with the digital advancements of today will ensure that the flame of the Jewish tradition is never extinguished and will shine even brighter.
Mordecai Holtz is the Co-CEO and Founder of Blue Thread Marketing, a boutique digital marketing firm working with start-ups, businesses, municipalities, and nonprofits to weave a unique digital narrative for each client.