Mitzvah mobile: The iPhone app that checks your Jewishness

Don’t even think of breaking Shabbat — or this iPhone ‘app’ will tell the rabbi


By Simon Round, February 25, 2010
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It is said that there is an application for everything on the Apple iPhone. So what about an app to make you a holier Jew?

Well, now there is.

From America comes the mitzvah app - which is set to take the community by storm. The Orthodox world, which has traditionally been suspicious of digital technology, is embracing this development, although there is a minority that feels that the new app will herald a Big Brother culture in Judaism.

When the system is fully up and running, strategically placed sensors will enable the mitzvah app automatically to recognise when you have entered a synagogue, a Jewish community centre, nursing home or Jewish communal building, and will award points accordingly.

For example, attending weekday shacharit or minchah at your local synagogue will score top points. Other high scores can be gained by attending institutions of Jewish learning and even Jewish cemeteries.

The app, which is set to get the full backing of both the United Synagogue and the Federation of Synagogues, will, say its designers, encourage congregants to live as devout a life as possible, with points redeemable against synagogue membership or burial society fees - a kind of burial miles system.

The app, which will be free to all synagogue members - and may eventually become compulsory - will also deduct points if sensors detect your presence at White Hart Lane, the Emirates Stadium, Brent Cross shopping centre or Manchester's Trafford Centre, on Shabbat. Anyone getting too close to the entrance of a McDonald's or Burger King restaurant should be careful too, as points will also be deducted here.

Controversially, the app will disable your iPhone if it is used on Shabbat - the only exception being 999 calls.

Civil liberties groups are worried that the app will constitute an invasion of privacy - a spy in the pocket of every Jew. Others have dismissed it as "Judaism by numbers".

However, Esther Tapuach of themitzvahapp.com, based in New Jersey, dismisses the concerns.

"If you are living a righteous life, you needn't be worried," he said. "In the shtetl your friends and neighbours would keep an eye on you to ensure you were living a kosher life. From now on your iPhone will be doing the same job."

Last updated: 3:57pm, February 25 2010