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Chabad.org Creates First Jewish App for Apple Watch

by Menachem Posner

Watch out! Watch this! Many clever lines will draw attention to the novelty of the upcoming Apple Watch, but right now, all eyes can turn to the first Jewish app for the new gadget, which will make the technology even handier for many users.

Released on Wednesday night, a much-anticipated Jewish app for the watch was launched by Chabad.org’s app team, bringing together the 3,000-year-old Jewish calendar with the hottest new item in technology these days: wearables.

The first of its kind, the “Hayom” app (Hebrew for today) for the Apple Watch harnesses Apple’s latest product with Chabad.org’s extensive Torah knowledge. The amalgam of the two was a natural. After all, the observance of Judaism’s rituals revolves heavily around precise adherence to the clock: Make a blessing at this time, say a prayer at this time, stop working at this time and so forth.

The new app tells time according to Jewish law, known as “halachic time,” which is governed by the movement of the sun. It also displays Hebrew dates, which are determined by a complex synthesis of the solar and lunar cycles.

“The watch app reveals only some of the strategic planning that went into Chabad.org’s existing ‘Hayom’ app and other products,” explains Chabad.org’s lead app developer Dov Dukes. “We’re prepared for the latest technology developments, including wearables. It allows you to glance at your wrist and let you know right away what date it is on the Jewish calendar, and how much more time there is until the next halachic phase of the day.”

Users accessing the “Hayom” app, for example, can glance at their watch mid-morning and the screen will inform them of how many more minutes remain for reciting the morning prayers. To make it a little more personal, users are greeted with a cheery “good morning,” “good afternoon” or “good evening” at whatever time of day they check in, plus the added bonus of an inspiring Jewish quote.

“The possibilities in app development for Jewish audiences keep expanding,” says Chabad.org’s managing director,Rabbi Meir Simcha Kogan, “and this step into wearable technology—to enable and assist with Jewish education and observance—is another important advance.”

More Applications in the Works

The Chabad.org app team is analyzing further applications for the Apple Watch and other wearables, such as an alert notifying a nearby Jewish event, center, synagogue or services taking place in real time.

Other features of the Jewish app being considered include detecting when the wearer is strapping on tefillin and instantly pulling up the appropriate prayers on his smartphone; reminders to remove the watch in advance of Shabbat and Jewish holidays; and help tracking a user’s waiting time between eating meat and dairy meals.

The “Hayom” watch extension joins Chabad.org’s Jewish Apps Suite in strategically leveraging Chabad.org’s content and know-how to make Jewish information and observance accessible on other platforms.

The most recent offering, the “Omer Counter,” which was released earlier this month before Passover, has already been used 225,000 times in less than 20 days of Omer-counting—an impressive demonstration of the app’s widespread appeal.

Like the “Omer Counter,” the watch extension was made possible through the generosity of a group of funders. The drive, vision for and underwriting of the apps, which are available free of charge, come from the generous partnership of Dovid and Malkie Smetana, Alan and Lori Zekelman, the Meromim Fund, and Moris and Lillian Tabacinic—all dedicated to spreading the wisdom and practice of Judaism worldwide.

The watch app joins the “Hayom” app, the “Passover Assistant,” the “Jewish.tv” video app, the “Shabbat Times” app, a JewishKids.org app for children, the “Omer Counter” and others—all designed to help bring Jewish wisdom and tools to the fingertips of users. Additional apps are in the planning and developmental stages by an international Chabad.org team.

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