By Jeremy Olshan, New York Post
Tech-savvy Orthodox Jews can now reach out for the handset of God.
Two entrepreneurs who attended Yeshiva University have written software that turns the BlackBerry from a device to check e-mail and stocks into a pray phone.
Dubbed “the JewBerry,” the $30 program replaces the traditional prayer book by providing all the Hebrew blessings observant Jews are required to say three times a day.
“Throughout the day, Jews gather in office-building stairwells and conference rooms to pray, and while sometimes you might not remember your prayer book, no one goes anywhere without their BlackBerry,” said co-creator Jonathan Bennett, 33, of Cedarhurst, LI.
Currently, JewBerry – which is not affiliated in any way with BlackBerry maker RIM – is a static program that does not take advantage of the device’s wireless capabilities.
But Bennett and Jerusalem-based partner Jonathan Kestenbaum hope their product will eventually become the Facebook of Moses followers.
Using GPS technology, for instance, the phone will one day enable Jews to create minyans – the minimum-10-member groups necessary for prayer.
“Say you’re in a place like Shea Stadium. You could post that you are looking for a minyan, pick a location, and other people signed up will be able to respond and meet up at the Carvel stand,” Bennett said.
Nearly 10,000 Jews from across the world have already purchased the software, and Bennett’s company, Promised Land Holdings, has been besieged with requests for new features, including mobile versions of the Talmud.
Yeshiva University President Richard Joel was among the device’s early users. “I love it, because now I can not only look how the market is doing, but I can also say my evening prayers,” he said. “A lot of breakthroughs are done trying to advance science or make a buck, but at the heart of what Yeshiva [University] is about is the notion that it’s not our technology that informs civilization; it is our values.”
The JewBerry has already caused some confusion during worship, but people who appear to be checking e-mail may in fact be immersed in prayer, Bennett said.
But he does not believe the technology will ever completely replace the prayer book itself.
“Personally, I still like the experience of holding a prayer book when I have one available, but I like that if I ever need [the JewBerry], it’s there,” he said. “Our goal is not to make the book obsolete but to take something as physically mundane as the BlackBerry and make it more spiritual.”