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.
In the old days the White House tried to protect the location of POTUS (that’s the president’s name to insiders). Today, with the 24-7 news cycle people demand to know where the leader of the free world is at all times. The White House posts President Obama’s schedule on its website so people know which lunches he’s speaking at, when he’s welcoming the Super Bowl champs to the White House, when he’s shooting hoops with his buddies and when he’s at a state dinner.
Ask most rabbis what their number one recommendation is for "saving" the Jewish future and they will point to Jewish literacy. Helping young Jews become more literate about Jewish history, culture and religion is a top priority for Jewish leaders on college campuses. The way to do this is by getting them to read books about a whole host of Jewish themes and topics. Rather than telling college students to read a history of the Jewish people and having them feel like they have one more 4-credit course to take, innovative Jewish educators are envisioning new ways to encourage Jewish literacy. I was impressed when I learned of a new program being implemented at Brown University to get college students excited about reading books with Jewish themes.
Apple has been criticized by mobile app makers for the difficult process involved in getting their apps into the AppStore. The reason for all the red tape in this process, however, is so Apple can approve each app for content ensuring there is no hate speech or racist material in the app. In France, Apple has even removed an app that was in violation of that country's strong policy on anti-Semitism.
When the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut were announced, Jewish media outlets immediately published articles about the youngest victim Noah Pozner, the 6-year-old who was laid to rest earlier this week in a traditional Jewish funeral.
Spending a week in Israel earlier this month I kept my eyes open to the way Israelis use technology. Even on my first visit over 18 years ago I noticed that Israelis thirsted for the latest tech gadgets. Being a country that struggled with telecommunications early on in its existence made Israel primed for a telecom revolution. In the first decades of statehood, stories permeated about families who waited years just to get a telephone in their home. So when mobile communications took off in the middle of the 1990s, Israelis were eager to adopt the new technology.
Ever since the old AmericaOnline, people have used the Internet as a way to learn more about religion and to engage with likeminded co-religionists. The Senior Religion Editor of Huffington Post, Paul Raushenbush, published an interesting article about the search for religion on the Web. He writes that "Religion is one of the hottest areas of the Internet because religion is one of the most intense and contested arenas of human relations and ideas." He's right.