Nostalgia is trending on the web and the Detroit Jewish News's digital archive, launched in November, is a prime example. I am famously fond of my hometown, where I now serve as a rabbi, so poking around on the site is fun for me, but the archive also connected me with someone I have longed to meet since my Bar Mitzvah and thought I never would.
"Russell Stone is a rabbi at a poor synagogue in New York City. He is a devout man with a problem. Membership is way down and he lacks the funds to keep his synagogue open. Things are looking very bleak, and he has grown progressively more cynical and bitter with the passage of time. Just as he is on the verge of packing it all in, he receives some interesting news. A former member of his congregation has died and left the rabbi a significant amount of money. A blessing? Or the start of something far more sinister? Can Rabbi Stone just accept the money and move on? His conscience says no. Step into his shoes as he travels all over Manhattan in his attempt to uncover the truth."
In the Coen Brother’s movie “A Serious Man,” we see young Danny practicing for his bar mitzvah by listening to the cantor’s rendition of it on his record player. That scene was undoubtedly sentimental for Jewish men of a certain age who prepared for their bar mitzvah by keying up the phonograph in their parents’ living room.
More people are beginning to hear about Google Glass, and it has lots of potential for both Jewish practice and outreach. They function much like a SmartPhone except there is nothing to hold. Glass responds to voice commands; the user can also activate the device by swiping the right temple. If you want to take a photo, simply say “Okay Glass, take a picture.” While walking around, it’s easy to request and view directions or get an answer to a quick question.
Like me, you have probably never heard of Israeli tech company Silentium before. But that will soon change. This company aims to fix something that many people didn’t even realize was a problem: background noise. We often find ourselves talking loudly to someone standing right in front of us because we have become so used to the background noises of machines and electronics.
In 1982 when I was in first grade at Hillel Day School, a Jewish day school in Metropolitan Detroit, my father brought in our family’s Apple II computer for show-and-tell. There were no computers in the school at that time so it was a seminal technological moment for the school. I’m sure my father figured he would blow my classmates minds by showing them how to type a few lines of the LOGO programming language and get the turtle cursor to turn and move across the screen. However, my peers didn’t have any mind-blowing experiences that day -- it was only the beginning of what our generation would come to expect from computers and technology.
Those who read Milton Steinberg's novel "As a Driven Leaf" will remember that eternal life is a reward given for the fulfillment of two mitzvot (commandments), namely the honoring of one's parents and the shooing of the mother bird from the nest before taking her eggs. However, yesterday those who wanted to taste eternal life could have simply logged into the auction website eBay and bid on heaven.
Let the jokes begin. From the people who wandered in the desert for 40 years comes the best navigational app so far. Waze, an Israeli crowdsourced navigation mobile application, has been growing in popularity over the past couple years. And in the past half a year there have been more than a few rumors that Waze was on the verge of being bought by Apple and Facebook. Those deals never materialized and some say it was because Uri Levine and his investment partners at Waze were holding out for more.
One of my favorite times of each day is my children’s bedtime. I enjoy watching them perform the nightly rituals before bed and then I join them in saying the bedtime Shema prayer. I recently spoke with kindergarten students and their parents at my children’s day school about Jewish bedtime rituals. For the second year, I heard parents tell me about their own enjoyment in tucking their children into bed. It’s a special time for parent-child bonding, so many of them explained. And Judaism recognizes the opportunity for both spirituality and education during these precious few moments before falling fast sleep.