New b’nai mitzvah app
(screenshot from mitzvahtools.com)
Mitzvah Tools 2.0 aims to make every aspect of bar and bat mitzvah preparation easier for everyone involved. The app schedules meetings, keeps track of progress, enables long-distance learning, organizes essential information like the Torah portions and honors at the ceremony, and makes resources for studying available to the student. The architect of the app is Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Sholom, who is founder and chief executive officer of Mitzvah Tools.
Moskovitz’s interest in digital Torah education tools goes way back. He has been a computer geek since his own bar mitzvah, which took place in the days of the Atari 400. In rabbinical school, he developed software to help him with the Jewish calendar and, while working in a Los Angeles synagogue in 1998, he created a database to track the progress of children studying for their b’nai mitzvah. In 2003, he developed Mitzvah Tools 1.0, a much more limited version of the current platform.
Mitzvah Tools 2.0, which was released in June, was developed with the help of Cantor Mark Britowich, director of sales and operations at Mitzvah Tools, who has more than 20 years of experience in b’nai mitzvah education. Vancouver’s Mark Fromson was the project manager and Australia-based Salim Jordan led an international team of programmers.
Mitzvah Tools was completely updated to help synagogues prepare their b’nai mitzvah students. According to the app’s website, “the original was locked in the rigidity of fixed browser widths and ’90s graphics. We kicked some new life into this trusty tool with a fresh identity and comprehensive design system to define its look and feel.”
The entire b’nai mitzvah educational team can interact using Mitzvah Tools to manage the study process together. Each student’s resources and their assignments can be accessed, and the student can attach recordings and send them to their tutor to review. Tutors and other team members can work from any location, and Mitzvah Tools enables video chats between tutor and student.
The app’s multimedia resource bank includes the chanting of every Torah and Haftorah portion. Recordings of prayers, various Torah commentaries and pages of the Tikkun (a book of the text as it appears in the Torah scroll) can all be stored and shared, as well as any other relevant files. All members of the team can communicate with each other, and students and parents can communicate with their team members, as well, with privacy settings available to restrict who can access different conversations.
Since its release in June, Mitzvah Tools is already in some 30 congregations. For more information, visit mitzvahtools.com.
Matthew Gindin is a Vancouver freelance writer and journalist. He blogs on spirituality and social justice at seeking her voice (hashkata.com) and has been published in the Forward, Tikkun, Elephant Journal and elsewhere.