For some readers, it’s the start of the year 5770. The High Holidays are over and meeting your spiritual goals is fresh on your mind. There is an extensive amount of Jewish-themed iPhone apps available. Even if you aren’t Jewish, these apps highlight some of the great features of the iPhone 3.x software and the GPS and compass functions. Religions such as Judaism have rituals based on time, location and direction, and even if you aren’t Jewish, you might find some of these apps interesting for their ability to take advantage of all the iPhone has to offer, as well as providing a glimpse into another culture.
Apps like Yelp help you find the best restaurants nearby via your GPS, but if you keep kosher, you want slightly different information about a restaurant. First, obviously, is if they are kosher, but the Kosher App also includes reviews from users of the website Shamash.org as well as the certification authority used to determine if the place was kosher (some authorities are accepted more widely than others). The application can also work without an internet connection since the database is downloaded during setup. The app also contains the blessings for the meal, although the average user of Kosher probably already knows them.
Kosher Cookbook ($4.99)
There are lots of recipe apps out there, but the average app doesn’t consider the restrictions on types and combinations of food kosher cooking requires. Similar to other applications, Kosher Cookbook has a large database of recipes and allows you to create custom shopping lists and meal plans. I liked the organization of the recipes in such a way that the kosher home would approach it: dairy, meat and parve. Additionally the virtual “shelf” of cookbooks contains the secular categories as well, such as appetizers, breakfast and dessert. For anyone who keeps a kosher kitchen, or wants to cook for kosher guests, this cookbook will steer you clear of ingredients and combinations that would be inappropriate.
Originally this started out including just the blessing over food (hence the KosherMe title). Unique to most of the Jewish applications is the fact that prayers and information are also in Hebrew and until recently the iPhone didn’t support Hebrew. Most other applications simply render the Hebrew as an image. KosherMe actually renders it like text and allows you to choose Hebrew, English, or transliterated Hebrew (Hebrew words “sounded out” for those that read English but not Hebrew). The newest version expanded to practically all common Jewish prayers and I use it to enhance my spirituality. See a beautiful rainbow and don’t know a prayer for it? There’s an app for that.
iBlessing (99 cents)
If you just want the blessings over food and not sure which one to say, or how to say it, iBlessing is for you. For only 99 cents, it tells you all the proper blessings for food as well as washing hands and grace after meals. Instead of showing you the text, it says the blessing for you in Hebrew and in English and gives you time to repeat each word. If you can’t read Hebrew at all, this is great. Bonus prayers include the Shema and Modeh Ani. Unfortunately, even with iPhone sound turned off, it plays introduction music which can be disconcerting if you only want the blessing.
In sharp contrast to KosherMe is Siddur. Siddur is, pardon my cross-cultural reference, the whole enchilada. Not only does it contain practically every common prayer and blessing a Jew would need, but it subdivides those prayers into the various cultural backgrounds such as Ashkenazik and Sephardic. The folks at Rusty Brick really went all out to make this program the center of your iPhone Jewish life. On the basic level, Siddur includes the morning and evening services as well as most major blessings in all the Nusuch. Unlike KosherMe, there is no English transliteration or transliterated Hebrew. You have to know what you’re saying. Siddur Lite stops there. The non-lite version includes a Zmanim which uses the GPS to tell you the proper prayer times for your current location (push notifications coming?!), a Luach to tell you the current Hebrew date and upcoming Hebrew events, and a public misheberach prayer list.
Synagogues (99 cents)
So you only go to synagogue twice a year and aren’t sure how to get there? Synagogue uses your GPS coordinates to find the closest synagogue. Maps is ineffective for this search because it pulls up day schools and other places affiliated with synagogue, but not houses of worship. Additionally, Synagogue tells you the religious affiliation of the synagogue (Reform, Conservative, and so on) as well as the rabbi’s name, the website, and the number of households in the congregation (in case you want a smaller or larger one to attend).
Shabbat Shalom (Free)
What time does Shabbat start? What time is it over? What’s the Torah portion for the week. This application I use more than any other to answer these questions. Since many of my friends are observant Jews and do not answer the phone on Shabbat, being able to see what the start and end times for Shabbat where either I live or they live is very helpful. You can add multiple locations so I know not only when I can call local people, but when I can call observant friends and family living out-of-state.
Mizrach (99 cents)
During many Jewish prayers in America, you must pray pointing East, towards Jerusalem. Mizrach, which means “east” in Hebrew, uses the 3GS compass feature to accurately and elegantly tell you where east is (technically, slightly southeast). Sure, you can use the actual compass, but it isn’t as pretty. Mizrach will accurately direct you towards Jerusalem no matter where in the world you might be praying.
Shabbat Clock (Talking Version) (99 cents)
One of the restrictions of a traditional Jewish Sabbath is the inability to use electronics such as an alarm clock. Generally, you can set the alarm clock in advance, but you can’t snooze the alarm because that would be using electronics. You can’t even wake up the phone from sleep because that would be “using” the phone. Shabbat Clock keeps it’s app open and prevents the iPhone from going to sleep (make sure it’s plugged in). At the appointed time, it will play an alarm for up to a minute. It will even automatically call someone if you’d like.
For those so inclined, an iPhone might be your must trusted tool in the synagogue next to your siddur. Just please put it on vibrate during services!