Posts Tagged ‘apps’

Shofar? There’s An App For That

August 31, 2013

This piece was first published in The Times of Israel.

A screenshot from 'Wake Up World' (photo credit: Courtesy of G-dcast)

A screenshot from ‘Wake Up World’ (photo credit: Courtesy of G-dcast)

You just put your lips together and blow. That’s how you whistle, as Lauren Bacall once told Humphrey Bogart. It’s also how you make a shofar blast come out of your smart phone or tablet.

 Making the shofar sound by blowing in to the microphone of a handheld electronic device is so easy a small child could do it. And that is precisely what G-dcast had in mind when it created it’s new “Wake Up World” app for the preschool set.

“As far as we know, this is the first Jewish app that uses this input technology,” says Sarah Lefton, executive director of the San Francisco-based Jewish educational media non-profit.

 Having started off in 2008 producing Torah commentary cartoon videos, Lefton and her team are now experimenting with interactive mobile apps for young children. Before releasing this new Rosh Hashanah one (for Apple and Android), G-dcast put out a Passover game app, and also an app that takes kids through the steps of making challah for Shabbat — including the blessings recited before washing hands and eating bread.

With “Wake Up World,” G-dcast pairs its newfound strength in app development with its original storytelling chops. Only this time, the narrative is not a retelling or adaptation of an existing tale, but rather a completely original children’s story.

Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.


Casting Our Sins In To The e-Wilderness

August 29, 2013

This article was first published in Haaretz.


SAN FRANCISCO – If you keep an eye out, you’ll notice a goat wandering around the Internet.

This being the Jewish season of repentance, it isn’t just any goat. It’s an electronic scapegoat onto which computer and smart phone users are unloading their sins in a virtual reenactment of the ancient Yom Kippur ritual described in Chapter 16 of Leviticus.

“I’m too often grateful to get to work and away from my spouse and kid,” confesses one person. “I sexted my ex,” admits someone else. Another individual divulges that they “once ate bacon before the rabbi came over.” One parent apparently only “go[es] cycling with my kids just to get a tan.”

While we may be reluctant to own up to our misdoings, it seems that eScapegoat, a new web app from G-dcast, a fast-growing San Francisco-based Jewish educational media production company, is helping some of us overcome our sheepishness. G-dcast makes self-reflection easy. If you can tweet, then you can atone.

All you need to do is go to and read short texts on the biblical scapegoat story and how it relates to today’s observance of Yom Kippur. Then you enter your maximum 120 character-long confession and post it anonymously. You just type and click your way through the initial stage of atonement. “It’s just like the bible, only nerdier,” the on-screen text tells us.

There is, however, one major difference between then and now. In biblical times, the sins cast onto the scapegoat only went as far as the animal made it in the desert before dying. With this cyberspace-dwelling cartoon goat, our sins could live on forever, having been broadcast out to the world through eScapegoat’s (lightly moderated)@SinfulGoat Twitter feed.

Click here to read more.

@ 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Watch What You Say

May 26, 2010

Apple's Steve Jobs as he launched the iPad

This morning I read a front-page business-related story in The San Jose Mercury News, my local Silicon Valley paper, that annoyed me. It wasn’t the article’s topic, the perception that Apple is now too controlling and stifling of tech free market creativity and innovation, that bothered me. In fact, I think that’s a subject that needs examination and discussion. What irked me was the quote used by the reporter at the end:

“Still, says Sadun [an app developer], even disgruntled developers who flee Apple often come back ‘because they’re addicted to the audience and the technology Apple provides them.”

That would have been fine, but then the piece closes with:

“‘I joke that Apple’s my abusive boyfriend,’ she says. ‘He looks so good; I love him; but he treats me so bad. It’s that kind of relationship – you want to leave, but you keep coming back for more.'”

The metaphor is clear. But the joke isn’t funny. Believe me, I completely understand the reporter’s (and his editor’s) desire to end with something punchy and memorable, but how about a nod to good taste – not to mention social responsibility. As a businesswoman, it  may be in Sadun’s best interests to come back to the “abusive” Apple after it has knocked her down a few times. But the same is not true for a woman who has been kicked around by her boyfriend.

One might argue that I am being too sensitive and taking too much offense at illustrative language that was simply meant to make a point about how a tech giant is treating those trying who work with it. Perhaps that closing quote did not strike a discordant chord for anyone else. However, a recent experience has made me more attuned to the use – and misuse – of such figurative speech.

At the workshop presented by The OpEd Project (of which I wrote in my Owning My Expertise post) that I recently attended,  I met Naomi Tucker who directs Shalom Bayit, Northern California’s first and only Jewish agency dedicated solely to ending domestic violence in the Jewish community. As we went around the circle introducing ourselves, and as we worked together for the entire day, I got a sense of how dedicated Tucker is to her work and cause, and an understanding of how she and her organization have acted as leaders in fighting domestic violence not only in the local Jewish community, but also in the larger Jewish community and even on the national scene.

Shalom Bayit is Hebrew for “peace in the home.” The organization’s website states, “We hope that our name will spread a new message — not of keeping the family together at all costs, but of true peace in every woman’s life.” It further emphasizes that Shalom Bayit “maintains that it is a woman’s right to live free from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse: from economic control; from social isolation; and from ongoing threats of intimidation.”

Many, many women read The Merc, including ones in abusive relationships, I am sure. So I would just ask that its writers and editors think a bit more before they publish – that is, if they are interested in getting the right message across.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.