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If I Only Had One Jewish App On My iPhone

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This past week I saw a video preview of an upcoming iPod app that excited and inspired me to the point of near tears. It was for RustyBrick’s jaw-dropping ArtScroll Schottenstein Talmud app. Unfortunately that app won’t be out for another few months (but take the time to check out the preview at www.rustybrick.com), yet I realized after months of writing this column that I had yet to give the due attention to RustyBrick’s Siddur app. While I discussed the Siddur app in my Jewish Press column two years ago, that was an expose on Jewish apps as a whole. Now, aside from being the Jewish app I use most frequently, I can say that if I could only have one Jewish app on my iPhone the Siddur would be it.

I remember that before getting an iPod touch (and later an iPhone), I would carry a tiny siddur in my wallet. It certainly added unwanted bulk, awkwardly making my wallet protrude from my pocket. I immediately downloaded a free app with tefillah on it, but then came across the Siddur app – and became sincerely awed. It had full prayer services in Ashkenaz, Sephard, and nusach Ari, could find a shul or minyan near your current location, and had a full luach with daily z’manim. For these reasons alone, I felt (and still feel) that it’s worth the $9.99 price tag. And that was only the early version of the app. Two weeks ago RustyBrick updated the Siddur app to version 5.0.

The updates on 5.0 include the option to hide the navigation bar, giving the siddur a full screen option, the ability to swipe from tefillah to tefillah, and new zoom and text control features. It’s nothing too sensational, but the app has already been improved in various ways during the 60-plus previous updates. They added a Mizrach compass, a public cholim list to which one can add names, extra optional tefillot (e.g. for parnassah in Shemoneh Esrei) and, with the introduction of the front-facing camera, a tefillin mirror with lines of symmetry. My favorite update was the English translation for the app (an in app purchase, please note). While I would have preferred the English transliteration under the Hebrew, one can read the two languages side by side when using your i-device in the landscape view.

Of course the Siddur is still a “smart app” as well. Hallel is automatically inserted on Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, and on any other day when the extra prayer is said. Torah-reading and full Tachanun is included on Mondays and Thursdays. When one bentches right after sunset the app will ask you when you started your meal, so as to properly add any prayers that might be needed. Basically the app makes sure that all the tefillot you might need to say on any given day for any given prayer will be available – so long as it’s not Shabbat or Yom Tov (it won’t work on those days).

It appears that I’m not the only person who favors the Siddur app. Of the 18 paid apps provided by RustyBrick (with many more free apps available as well), the Siddur is the most downloaded. This is probably because it really is the most consistently useful app on the Jewish market. “We are honored and privileged to be in a position to help contribute to the Jewish community in this unique and exciting way,” said RustyBrick founder and CTO Ronnie Schwartz. Indeed it does. Despite never having met Ronnie or his brother Barry (the company’s CEO), there is a genuineness about them that makes comments like the aforementioned seem totally sincere. The fact that they just gave all their paid apps for free to a young girl in my community who is bed-ridden following spinal surgery makes them all the more sincere. I will certainly be using my Siddur app to daven for her, and for any weekday tefillah needs I might have.

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