By COLlive reporter
It’s become the hallmark of “Generation Z,” children with their noses buried deep in one app or another. For the first time, however, app technology is being harnessed to teach children Parshah in a way that is both educational and enjoyable.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s faithful to authentic Torah teachings.
The latest app to hit the Jewish market, called “Shazak Parsha,” is the brainchild of the same team of educators, artists and humorists, who gave Jewish children the best-selling holiday books and DVD’s, “Out of Egypt,” “Queen of Persia,” and “Miracle Lights.”
“I believe that it’s crucial to teach each child at every level,” explains Rabbi Moshe Moscowitz of Chicago, who spearheads the Shazak Multimedia team. “Many kids nowadays live in a universe of technology, so it is our task to make sure that their ‘Torah-tech’ learning is on par with the secular—and even better!”
Here are some of the Shazak Parsha features:
Audio – The familiar riveting voice of the Shazak series features once again, Shmarya Shoshani, together with a host of other voice actors, including David Sokoloff, and the Moscowitz gang, from young to old. This includes Rabbi Mendel Moscowitz, a well-known educator and author. Rabbi Moshe Moscowitz is the audio engineer, who spends up to 10 hours a week, meticulously choosing the right background music, and adding the perfect sound effects. Moscowitz adds that Shazak Parsha must be “kosher,” and he spends much time, effort and money to obtain the rights for the music he uses.
Auto-Play – Shazak Parsha features an auto-play feature, which lets the user listen to the entire Parsha without having to swipe each page. A Parsha is between 15 minutes to a half hour, which makes Shazak Parsha the perfect bedtime treat.
Coloring – With one press of a button users can switch from the colorful picture to a black and white line work, ready to be colored, while listening to the audio. Once finished, there is an option to share it digitally via email, text or Whatsapp, with parents, grandparents and friends around the world.
Shazak Parsha app is available through Google Play and the Apple Store, for both Android and iOS devices. Currently the book of Bereishis is available, which includes 12 Parshiyos. It’s a “Freemium” app, namely, a limited amount of pictures per Parsha are free, but an entire Parsha costs one dollar. There is a pre-order sale of all Five Books of the Chumash (containing 54 Parshiyos), for $29.95. The entire app expected to be ready by the summer of 2016.
Shazak Chumash Book
“Shazak Parsha” is being released in tandem with a series of books called “Shazak Chumash,” a whimsical telling of the Torah stories. Each volume features bright pictures in the unique Shazak style, clear and exciting text, as well as commentaries based on Rashi and a wide range of other Torah-true sources. The pages are peppered with a wealth of “Fun Facts,” and even the glossary is written to entertain. Now, whoever heard of a “fun glossary”? Shazak Chumash is not only geared for kids. There are plenty of “insights” for adults that bring the Chumash experience to life.
Rabbi Moscowitz is widely acknowledged as a pioneer of Torah “computer edutainment.” As early as 2001, he developed the popular “Learn-to-Learn” programs for Chumash and Gemara, which teache basic vocabulary words through six entertaining games.
According to Moscowitz, the Learn-to-Learn program is still quite popular and thousands of students use it. In fact, he notes that his own grandchildren use it with their “Online Shluchim” education in Flagstaff, Arizona and Champaign, Illinois.
All this is done in Moscowitz’s “spare time,” since his weekday is busy in the “Kosher world.” For the past two decades he has served as a Senior Rabbinical Coordinator for the cRc (Chicago Rabbinical Council), supervising kosher in food plants throughout the world.
When asked if he has plans to add games to the Shazak Parsha app, he replies, “We are always thinking of new and innovative ideas. After all, Shazak’s motto is ‘Where Learning Meets Fun.’ But the reality is that these projects are very costly. I’m very hopeful that sales and sponsorships will allow us to add more exciting features to Shazak Parsha.
“Everything we do is really the collaborative effort of many very talented individuals,” he tells COLlive.com. “Every Sunday, we sit together in our Shazak Studio (a.k.a. family room) to draw, record, and bounce ideas off each other.”
Regarding the illustrator, he says, “In my opinion, there is nobody like David Sokoloff. His pictures bring the learning to life in such a fun way. Every picture is meticulously drawn with such attention to detail. I study the Parshah in depth and think hard how we can portray the essence of the content. I bounce back ideas with my wife, Leah, and of course, David. Sometimes we go through six or more revisions till we get it just right.”
Technology plays a vital role in Shazak’s production. Beyond Chicago, their colorist, Otto, is in Argentina, and Mushka from Israel designed the masterful Shazak Chumash layout. “We are living in amazing times. No longer are there geographical borders. Nowadays, it is possible to get the very best talent, no matter the location.”
While Rabbi Moscowitz may be best known as the creator of children’s books, DVD’s and other fun educational tools, he has also written a number of Hebrew seforim, including a five-volume collection of divrei Torah on Torah called Tzohar LaTeivah, and a thoroughly researched sefer depicting the life and works of the Rambam.
“It’s all the same underlying theme,” the rabbi explains. “Torah is vast and it’s fascinating. When something is captivating to me, I endeavor to share that same exciting experience with others, regardless of their ages or levels of knowledge.”
The first volume of Shazak Chumash, which covers Bereishis to Lech-Lecha, is currently being sold at the Shazak website and in Judaica stores.
For more info go to shazak.com
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