There are some great Hanukkah apps in the iTunes App Store. In keeping with the on-going series of App recommendation articles in the New Jersey Jewish News this week’s hardcopy of the paper (it does not appear on-line) included a few of my picks.
History of Hanukkah If you are looking for an iPhone app that explains what Hanukkah is and why we celebrate, this is for you. The text itself is drawn from Wikipedia but the app does a nice job of gathering the information, organizing it and adding some nice images as well.
I especially appreciate the fact that it is clear about the origins of the legend of the oil and the fact that, in that first year, “Hanukkah was in effect a belated celebration of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret.” Whether it is through this app or some other source, it is worth spending some time to learn more about the holiday and its real origin.
iGevalt: There are a number of different iPhone and iPad apps that let you simulate playing dreidel. Although this app falls short in that it is only for the iPhone, it does explain the rules of the game. So why is it in this list? Quite frankly, the name. You look at the name, you smile and the day is a bit brighter. That in itself is a gift.
Super Dreidel: This app is everything iGevalt is not. You can select the number of players (from 2 to 8), determine the bankroll of each player and choose between different betting rules. You can also set the number of rounds to be played and adjust the sound level. From there you can name the players and start the game. The graphics are good and the app tells you what each symbol means.
iMenorah: Of all the Hanukkah apps in the iTunes App Store, I’d like to highlight iMenorah for a few reasons. First, when the holiday is underway it will display only the appropriate number of candles for that night. Second, you actually use the shamash to light the candles, and when you do, the blessings are sung. It even “forces” you to light the candles in the proper order and you can watch as they burn down over time. Third, I love the fact that the voice in the app is far from a trained cantorial voice, reminding us that Judaism in general and Hanukkah in specific belong to everyone.
I gave this app to friends as a joke two years ago. They ended up stuck in the airport on the first night of Hanukkah. With no menorah to light and no way to get one, this app came in quite handy.
Hanukkah Gift List: Hanukkah shouldn’t be about gifts but let’s face it, here in America gift giving is part of the celebration. This app lets you set a budget, define the people for whom you need to find gifts, lists and tracks gifts and offsets it against your budget. The app interacts with your contacts list and much more. It is a rather impressive app and great if you want to keep your holiday shopping separate from other lists and tasks.
mGive: Hanukkah shouldn’t only be about gifts and this app helps guarantee it won’t be. According to the Talmud, the reason we begin with one candle and the Shamash on the first night of Hanukkah and then add an additional candles is that “in matters of holiness we should increase and not decrease.” This app lets you bring a bit more light into the world each night of Hanukkah. As the app’s description explains,
mGive turns your iPhone or iPod Touch into a social empowerment tool, giving you access to hundreds of nonprofits needing your help to make a difference. Choose your cause and receive news, local information, event updates, learn how to donate, help raise money, volunteer time, and connect to the nonprofits you support in your local community and around the world. You do not need to donate right away to your chosen nonprofit to receive their updates or be involved. Be part of curing disease, feeding the hungry, sheltering animals, rebuilding areas hit by natural disasters, and more…all from the mobile device in your hand or pocket right now.