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Summary:

While Christmas is always on Dec. 25, the Jewish calendar and the secular calendar don’t match up the same way each year. For 2010, Hanukkah starts on the evening of Dec. 1. Here are some apps that make great last-minute gifts!

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Hanukkah comes early this year — it starts the evening of Dec. 1 — so gift givers better get on the ball! What better last-minute gift than these Jewish-themed iPad apps, hand-picked for a variety of backgrounds and ages? (To gift an app, click the triangle next to the price on the app’s iTunes Store page and choose “Gift This App.”)

1. Siddur HD ($19.99)

If you had to pick only one prayer-book app, Siddur HD is the most comprehensive. The main focus of the app is a complete Jewish daily (but not Shabbat) prayer-book. It contains a variety of styles for different backgrounds, such as Ashkenazi and Sephardi. The app includes only the Hebrew text, but an in-app upgrade ($8.99) includes the English for most prayer (but not transliterations).

Siddur HD uses the iPad’s GPS to find your local prayer times (Zmanim) and the compass function to show the proper direction to pray. The app even helps you find a local minyan and a Luach (Jewish calendar) tells you the Hebrew date and upcoming holidays (with push functions as well). The iPad version is an outstanding example of putting the iPad’s real estate to good use, as you can see in the Zmainm and Luach integrated right into the prayer screen.

2. Dreidel HD ($0.99)

Unfortunately, not many developers have made an all-around great dreidel app. In fact, I could find only one, Aint Bubbie’s, that actually allows you to spin your iPhone to spin the dreidel. After testing with the kids, the most popular game was Dreidel HD. This app allows you to “spin” a virtual dreidel with a tap. The dreidel lands with one of four symbols face up, which decides how much (if any) of the pot the player gets, or whether he or she has to add to it. The animation, including half-eaten gelt (chocolate coins), kept them occupied for quite a while. Maybe it’s best they can’t spin the iPad to spin the dreidel.

3. Jewish Radio ($0.99)
Whether you want an alternative to all the Christmas music playing on the radio, or some great tunes to fry latkes by, the Jewish Radio app has an extensive collection of Jewish and Israeli online radio stations. The scan function allows you to quickly scan like a car radio so you can find which station is playing “Rock of Ages.” For those running iOS 4.0, the music can play in the background.

4. Torah for iPad ($7.99)

Instead of showing you the Torah in a book-like format, the Torah for iPad app acts just like a scroll, with the text presented in a right-to-left format without pages (and without vowels). Unlike the real Torah scroll, the app allows you to bookmark certain key passages for later reference. The developer has marked each weekly Torah portion, as well as key passages such as the Shema and The Ten Commandments. Even a yad (pointer) is included.

5. 123 Color (Hanukkah Edition, $1.99)

If the kids are getting antsy for sundown, 123 Color can help them get into the spirit. The generic coloring book app has a specific Hanukkah module that allows kids to paint by number or letter on nine different Hanukkah cartoons, as well as winter, autumn and general shapes. After the kids (or really bored adults) finish a drawing, they are rewarded with a non-Hanukkah related song and can either email the art or save it to iPhoto.

6. Synagogues ($0.99)

If you’re traveling and aren’t sure where you can worship, or if you’re just lazy like me and want to quickly look up your local synagogue’s info, Synagogues is a great app. It uses your current GPS location to find the nearest local synagogue and provides contact details, the name of the rabbi, the congregation size and affiliations.

7. iTalmud – iPad Edition ($29.99)

For those who don’t know, the actual Talmud has old-school “hyperlinks” — well, footnotes — to other volumes and passages, so it ends up making an ideal iPad app. You can use the links to move easily between passages and see all the commentary on one page. This version includes both the Hebrew and English, as well as audio commentary from various rabbis that can be turned off and on. Those participating in a Daf Yomi program can keep track of their daily Talmud study in the app. Note that due to the large download size of the text and audio, it’s best to start initial study with a Wi-Fi connection, because you’re liable to transfer a whole lot of content onto your device early on.

8. Talking Hebrew ($5.99)

Whether you’re traveling to Israel or just want to practice conversational modern Hebrew, this iPad-only app has you covered. You’ll be presented a choice of either words or common phrases such as “Do you speak English?” in a flash-card format that presents a picture of the word, the word in Hebrew and then the audio. You can even record yourself speaking the word for practice. When you’re confident enough, you can take a quiz, matching the Hebrew with either the English or the picture. Sadly, no phrase for “Where is the bathroom?” was included, nor was “Do you have applesauce for these latkes?”

Whether you want to give a new app each night or give them all at once is up to you. Happy Hanukkah!

Disclosure: All apps were provided directly from the publisher at no charge for review purposes.

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  1. For more Jewish/Israeli themed apps for iPad and iPhone (incl. Hanukkah – almost 30 apps) visit http://www.jewishiphonecommunity.org

  2. Check out 2 apps from Behrman House for Hanukkah. iHanukkah helps you recite the prayers. Dreidel Labyrinth is a free game for Hanukkah that combines the classic dreidel game and adds a labyrinth, to increase the challenge.

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