How Technology is Helping Us PrayI
We’ve all been there.
You are stranded enroute and need to catch a Minchah.
You need to say Kaddish but are stuck working late at the office.
You are on vacation with the family and want to put together a minyan.
Finding a minyan used to be a difficult and stressful task. It was not uncommon to see men standing in the street with tallis and tefillin asking passerby if they can spare a few minutes to be the tenth man for a minyan.
Thanks to technology, finding that tenth man – at places like LaGuardia airport, Disneyland, a Mets baseball game, or even jury duty – has gotten much easier. All you need is the right App or website, and you can find or create a minyan just about anywhere.
MobileGabbai is the brainchild of Azarya Feig, a digital operations manager (and Jewish Echo columnist!), who had an agenda: making minyanim easier to assemble. “MobileGabbai was spawned off my role as a minyan gabbai in NYC, “says Feig who was always involved in shul- related activities growing up in Brooklyn. “I managed a daily Minchah minyan for a few years and knew that there had to be an easier and more reliable way to assure a minyan, even in places like hospitals, museums, theme parks, or vacation spots.”
Especially now, when so many are away for Pesach, this database can help families enjoy their vacation without compromising on davening during an airport layover, Chol Hamoed trips and excursions, or a stay at a resort or hotel.
MobileGabbai is completely free and doesn’t require its users to have access to WhatsApp or Facebook; it works on a mobile browser or desktop. This is important because, as Feig explains, some shuls use WhatsApp or similar groups which inform locals but are inaccessible to visitors.
Marci Yankelov of Baltimore says she wishes this service was around in 2016 when she struggled to gather 10 men after her father’s passing. “We needed one more male the last day of my Dad’s shivah. We ended up having services but no Kaddish. This service would have been so helpful,” she admits.
Where are some of the most unique places MobileGabbai helped facilitate a minyan? Masada, Ben Gurion, Orlando International airports, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Wintergreen Resort, Shoprite on Avenue I, and even a neighborhood hardware store.
Want to arrange your own minyan? It’s a simple process. Post your minyan on MobieGabbai’s bulletin board. Feig advises posting it at least a week before you need it to guarantee that people will see it. You will be notified with emails as others join your online minyan request. To increase your chances of getting 10 men and for more visibility, it is recommended that you share your posting on social media.
Feig is working on developing a MobileGabbai app and updating features to make the database even more accessible.
As their logo states, “We pray. You join us.”
Here at The Jewish Echo, we utilize GoDaven.com for our popular Zmanim page. It is from this Orthodox worldwide database that we are able to compile and update a list of nearby shuls and their minyanim times so our readers who live in the surrounding area know their davening options. In fact, when newcomers move to Marine Park and call the JCCMP office inquiring about local synagogues, we will often refer them to this site.
GoDaven was started in 2001 by Dr. Yosi Fishkin as a way to track all of the davening times and minyanim around the world. It now reaches 10,000 people a week. GoDaven was the first website to compile all the Orthodox minyanim into a single source. Its website includes a “Start a Minyan” option for those looking for a permanent minyan, and a “Temporary Minyan” tab for vacationers.
Dr. Fishkin devotes an hour each night to updating minyan information so that users can easily search for an accurate minyan by time, location, or other criteria. Shuls, schools, and office-based minyanim can easily log in to modify their own minyan times, and site visitors can submit updates as well.
The GoDaven site also includes shiurim. Dr. Fishkin has partnered with electronic Artscroll Gemara so users can click on a link on the Gemara for information on the nearest Daf Yomi shiur.
The next project in the works is the GoDaven app, which Dr. Fishkin says will “truly revolutionize how Jews find minyanim instantly; it has never been this easy to find a minyan in all of Jewish history.” Over the past year, Dr. Fishkin has been working with Ira Zlotowitz, the son of Rav Meir Zlotowitz, z”l, who provided the resources needed to hire a team of professional programmers and designers who upgraded and beautified the site. A few weeks ago, the new website went live.
“The new GoDaven site is very mobile friendly,” says Dr. Fishkin. A self -proclaimed “computer geek,” Dr. Fishkin does not make any profit from this database but says he is rich from nachas. “I love the feedback that the site generates,” he says.” I am inspired by the stories of people who proudly tell me they didn’t miss a single minyan during their year of aveilus because of the site. I enjoy hearing people saying that they base their vacation plans around the information they glean from the site. There is no lack of hakaras hatov.” t your n bulletin board
We have all been in situations where we needed a siddur but didn’t have access to one. Today, we all have a virtual siddur right in our back pockets through the use of the many siddur apps currently available on the market.
The Siddur is one of the most popular Jewish apps and it is RustyBrick’s flagship product. It offers users Ashkenaz, Sefard, Sefardi Mizrachi, and Nusach Ari liturgy, and it even has an integrated and shared Mi Sheberach list, as well as a mizrach compass.
Tefillin Mirror, a free app from RustyBrick, allows you to check the placement and position of your tefillin shel rosh on your iPhone. The forward-facing camera on the phone, along with three simple guidelines, will act as a useful tefillin checker. This is a great feature for boys who are just getting accustomed to putting on tefillin, the elderly who made need assistance with the positioning, or for anyone that could benefit from having access to a mirror.
In our fast- paced life, we can sometimes forget that today is Rosh Chodesh or neglect to include Hallel in our morning prayers. Orel Zion, an Israeli Android developer, designed Smart Siddur seven years ago. The app shows users the necessary prayers of each day. For example, on Rosh Chodesh Yaleh Ve’yavo will pop up on the screen while on regular days it won’t. The app, which is free for basic users and includes a paid option for premium users, not only displays prayers but offers an auto-scroll feature so you don’t need to turn pages during davening. The app also features a quick jump feature so you don’t have to scroll to find where Mussaf is. Zion is currently working on updating the Smart Siddur with an iOS version.
Ping! Our phone alerts us to breaking news, upcoming weather, and traffic jams. Well, now that ping can notify us when it is time to stop and pray. MyZmanim offers a service which alerts users about zof zman kriyas Shema, candle lighting, netz, shkiah, chatzos, and when Shabbos starts and ends. The My Zmanim app will point you towards mizrach. Developed 20 years ago, MyZmanim started off as a Windows software application, but when its founder, who prefers to remain anonymous, saw the rise of the internet, he grew it into a website which now attracts some 10,000 users daily.
“People wanted to know the zmanim anywhere they were in the world,” says the founder. The positive feedback on their website boasts comments from people like Dr. Efraim Kramer of Johannesburg, South Africa who travels around the world and credits the service for helping “keep me on time, in the right direction, and fully connected.” Chaia Frishman of Far Rockaway commented that the alerts have helped her “find the time to daven Minchah more frequently and also daven Shacharis on time. This is technology helping our avodas Hashem.”
For those that are not tech savvy or do not have a cellphone, MyZmanim offers information via phone and text. “Our most advanced service,” says the founder, “is the website where we calculate the right time for you to daven based on a variety of details including issues people may not be even aware of like the weather!”
There are many complex davening questions that arise. For instance, when one is 35,000 feet in the air and flying through different time zones, how does one know when is the right time to daven?
“When people used to fly, we would try to project the route and look up the higher latitude sunrises in the Naval Observatory book,” says Rabbi Dovid Heber, Rav of KAYTT in Baltimore and a kashrus administrator at the Star K. “But today, actual past flight patterns are available to the public allow MyZmanim to run complex computer programs that provide clear data to the traveler for a much better estimate of davening times on their flight.”
Various halachic issues arise in certain regions says Rabbi Heber. MyZmanim simplifies this dilemma. If you enter your flight number and departure time, they will send a PDF to your inbox of inflight zmanim based on advanced aircraft technology data of previous flights.
“Your inflight zmanim service is gevaldig: it allows me to sleep!” says Moshe Goldberger of Brooklyn. “Until now, whenever I’d fly to Eretz Yisrael, I couldn’t sleep well—I was nervous about missing the zman for krias shema and shacharis. Now I set my phone alarm to the perfect zman to daven.
There are always new Jewish apps being developed and you’d think they would be battling each other in this small market, but they do not. In fact, you will even find some referencing other competing programs and their features to customers. Orel Zion recently found out that he has been working in the same building as his main competitor, Tfilon (although he is quick to point out that “the more the merrier, really. There’s no ‘competition’ in helping Jews daven.”)
“So apparently unbeknownst to me, we’re praying in the same Minchah minyan for the past six months or so,” Zion laughs.
Rabbi Heber cautions that one must be careful when using technology and should use the services of organizations such as TAG (Technology Awareness Group) to ensure that their devices are properly filtered. Once that is in place, technology can assist people find minyanim, determine davening times, and even find nusach of tefillos to enhance their avodas Hashem when they pray.
Yoy! There’s a Jewish App for That!
Gematria Calc App
What is the gematria (numerical value) of Moshe plus Miztrayim minus geulah? The Gematria Calc is a calculator that can help you mathematically derive the value of Hebrew letters and or whole words.
Have 3,000 years of Jewish texts in Hebrew and English translation (Torah, Tanach, Mishnah, Talmud, and more) delivered right to your fingertips via your iPhone or iPad.
Created by a 39-year old Brooklyn businessman, the “Uber of the tefillin world,” as he calls it, connects those who have tefillin with those who do not.
An app developed for Israeli Jews or Jews who are in foreign lands. It connects people to emergency services during a dangerous situation like a terrorist attack or natural disaster. Users can warn authorities about suspicious individuals or behavior. When the user presses the app’s SOS button, they can qualify what type of emergency is happening, whether it’s a terrorist attack, violent incident, being lost or trapped, or require medical emergency. Yogev Deri created the app after three Israeli boys were kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in the West Bank in 2014.