In the last few years, we have seen a flood of apps created to make life easier for observant Jews. In an effort to discover the “must-have” Jewish apps, I recently asked friends, family, and social media connections about their favorite and most utilized Jewish apps. Below is a list I compiled of the top 12.
Some of the apps on this list have already gained prominence in the mainstream Jewish world. Others are still relatively new. All of them are free and, unless otherwise noted, are downloadable to both iPhones and Androids.
CRC Kosher: Ever go to the supermarket and find an awesome new product with an unfamiliar kosher symbol? The CRC Kosher app has a list of recommended kosher certification agencies, thereby making the process of researching kosher symbols much simpler and less time consuming.
But that’s not all! The CRC Kosher app also has a separate food, beverage, and liquor list detailing which require – and which do not require – kosher certification, as well as a product list with the correct before and after blessings.
Kosher GPS: For those who travel, Kosher GPS is a must. This location-based app is aimed at providing the kosher consumer with a list of available kosher restaurants in his or her vicinity. The app is divided by meat, dairy, and other and provides location information, the telephone number, and the distance and directions from the user’s current location for each listing. Users are encouraged to call ahead to verify the hashgacha of any eatery before frequenting it.
Kosher GPS also enables travelers or people unfamiliar with an area to find minyanim and mikva’os in the neighborhood. As for restaurants, the app provides location information, the telephone number, and the distance and directions from the user’s current location for every listed minyan and mikveh.
Shabbat Times: The Shabbat Times app is location-based and provides users with the correct starting and ending times for Shabbos and Jewish holidays.
Omer Counter: It’s easy to forget to count the Omer between Pesach and Shavuos – and it can be frustrating when one loses the chance to count the remaining days with a beracha. The Omer Count app makes the process of counting – and remembering the correct day – much simpler by sending the user a notification at the time of counting. All the user has to do is open the app, say the beracha, and, voila, the counting is done for the night. Ultimate Omer is another app that serves the same function as Omer Counter.
CALJ: CALJ provides its users with all the information they need as observant Jews for the current date – or any date – in whichever location they may find themselves. It is a location-based app. However, users have the ability to search for or change their location manually or even set “favorite” cities.
The app has a list of 16 halachic zemanim – such as alos hashachar, the earliest time for Shema, the latest time for tefillah, and so on – for the current date. It also indicates whether Tachnun is said, provides information on the daf for the day and upcoming Shabbos and/or Yom Tov, and even lists the yahrzeits of some prominent rabbanim. CALJ also comes with a complete calendar.
CALJ respects various halachic opinions and therefore one can customize the app according to his or her minhag. For example, for the timing of Tzeit HaKochavim, the default is 7.08 degrees below horizon, according to the opinion of Rav Posen. However, those who follow Rav Ovadia Yosef can change the setting to 13.5 seasonal minutes after sunset and they will then receive the information according to Rav Ovadia Yosef’s opinion.
The app is accessible in numerous languages such as English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, German, and Hebrew.
(A similar app, Ultimate Zmanim, provides users with – as expected – zemanim. However, it has fewer features than CALJ.)
J-SOS: Traveling to a foreign country alone? J-SOS was created to keep the Jewish traveler safe. If a user ever finds him or herself in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation, he or she can simply press the SOS button on the app. The call, as well as the user’s exact location, is sent to the closest Chabad emissary and to a non-profit Situation Room in Israel. Once the Situation Room in Israel confirms that it is indeed an emergency – and not a user erroneously pressing the SOS button – a local volunteer, usually the Chabad emissary, will summon the local rescue services to provide assistance.
The J-SOS app claims it can connect with the Situation Room even if the user doesn’t have Wi-Fi or an Internet connection. If the user is in dire straits and is unable to talk, he or she can keep his or her finger on the SOS button to indicate that he or she is in danger. The Situation Room gets an updated location from the phone every five seconds.
Stay tuned for Part II of the Must-Have Jewish App List in next week’s paper!