Family & Education

Chief Rabbi hails the 'mitzvah' of technology


Itay Pincas has created more than a dozen mobile apps, advises companies on digital marketing and launched the official Snapchat account of former Israeli president Shimon Peres.

And he is 15 years old.

The Israeli schoolboy, who last year appeared in his country’s Forbes under-30 list of achievers, embodies the youthful entrepeneurism inspired by new technology.

His apps range from helping people find organisations to volunteer with to calculating a fair tip for waiters. His latest, 11.11, is intended to encourage people to spend one minute every morning focusing on something they are grateful for or wish for: and once a week, to join in a collective reflection with others on a worthy goal.

His route to digital enterprise began at the age of 10 when a friend persuaded him to attend a coding class after school. When his mother came to collect him after the first session, he told her, “I think I have found what I want to do in my life.”

So who better to explain the world of the technophile teenagers of “Generation Z” to a dinner for Jewish Interactive, the London- based charity creating Jewish educational resources for smartphones and tablets.

“There is no doubt that we are addicted to our mobile phones,” he told the 180 guests  high up in the Millbank Tower in Westminster. “At least a third to half our day is spent with our eyes down looking at our devices. It begins the second we wake up in the morning, as we feel like we have missed a lot of super-information during the night.  

“So we grab our phone as we lay on the bed and check for messages and notifications in all existing social networks created so we can start the day relaxed.”

Jewish Interactive’s rapidly expanding repertoire of educational games and learning aids has been eagerly taken up by teachers across the community and beyond looking to engage their digitally-savvy students.

Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev, once a Jewish teacher himself, saluted its work “transforming ancient teachings from parchment to pixel”.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who also spoke at the dinner, said it deserved “maximum support”.

Although technology could posedangers, he said, it was a “mitzvah” to take advantage of its opportunities.

“We can utilise educational technology in order to enhance everything that is sacred and good in our lives in an accessible, affordable and engaging way,” he said. “This is the major initiative for our community and the Jewish world and I am so proud of it.”

And in a video message to Jewish Interactive, Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said, “You are the face of Judaism for the future.”

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