Jewish Techs

An occasional column from Jason Miller, a rabbi and tech maven.

Summer Camp For Budding Mark Zuckerbergs

This summer, the first cohort of young campers will attend a beautiful camp in Boulder to start their journey as entrepreneurs.

Brainstorm during the week; unplug on Shabbat. Courtesy of Camp Inc.

The Death Of The Synagogue Newsletter; Long Live The Synagogue Newsletter

As anyone who has ever donated to a nonprofit organization or synagogue knows, every donated dollar counts and some count more than others. While every organization needs support for overhead costs, donors want to know the organizations they support are as efficient as possible and put as much money as possible toward the direct pursuit of their mission. So we wonder how much of that $18 donation to your favorite local organization or congregation goes into a card thanking you, or whoever you have honored with your gift.

A screenshot of the weekly newsletter from Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Courtesy of Rabbi Jason Miller

A 'Bar Mitzvah Twin' Found Through A New Digital Archive

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.

The author found mentions of his grandparents in the Detroit Jewish News' digital archive. Image courtesy Detroit Jewish News

The Shivah Video Game is Back

"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."

The Shivah video game is a murder mystery featuring a rabbi. Originally released in 2006, it's now available in the App Store.

From Turntable To iPad: B'nai Mitzvah Prep Today

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.

B'nai Mitzvah training technology has changed, even if the text hasn't. Rabbi Jason Miller

Envisioning Jewish Applications For Google Glass

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.

Laying tefilin with the help of Google Glass. Photo courtesy Rabbi Jason Miller

Silentium: An Israeli Start-Up Silences Noise

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.

Yossi Barath

When Old Technology Is Just What We Need

It’s unusual for me to write about old technology. In the tech field what’s new is what’s interesting and newsworthy. Yesterday’s technology quickly becomes obsolete.

The author's grandmother with the record containing birthday greetings from her deceased family. Rabbi Jason Miller

Google Glass and Jewish Education

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.

Hillel Fuld, a technology evangelist in Israel, tries Google Glass. Photo courtesy Hillel Fuld

Eternal Life For Sale On eBay?

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.

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