A New Yad for the Bar-Mitzvah Set

By Lisa Alcalay Klug

Published November 18, 2009, issue of November 27, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A ceremonial yad, or Torah pointer, is a traditional gift for a bar or bat mitzvah. But a new technological innovation aimed at helping children learn their Torah and Haftarah portions represents a new kind of competition for this classic ritual item.

Sound It Out: The Magic Yad software application captures handwritten notes and links audio to them. (click for larger)
JEFFREY KORN
Sound It Out: The Magic Yad software application captures handwritten notes and links audio to them. (click for larger)

In contrast to ornate sterling silver or intricately carved wood, the Livescribe Pulse smartpen is a gray metal stylus that features digital recording technology. Teaming the smartpen with Magic Yad software empowers the device to function as a portable “hi-tech tutor” that records, stores and plays back more chanting than any potential bar or bat mitzvah might ever need: 200 hours in all.

“This is the only method that allows the student to point to exactly where he or she wants to study and practice recorded passages,” Magic Yad president and founder Alan Greenfield said.

The Magic Yad system relies on Torah and Haftarah portions that are printed in special booklets and that include tiny patterns of dots that the stylus recognizes with a camera. When touching a mark, the Magic Yad’s cantor, Gastón Bogomolni, chants each individual phrase aloud in perfect pitch — eliminating endless rewinding and fast-forwarding.

Greenfield, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate who is a 30-year veteran of the technical industry and lives in Needham, Mass., conceived of the application and hired a company to write the software. A volunteer with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, Greenfield thought of the idea while helping a frustrated 12-year-old boy prepare for his bar mitzvah. “None of the old methods, cassette tapes or even MP3 files work this way,” he explained.

Students can also record their own chanting, instantly compare both versions and play back audio in slower speeds to finesse pronunciation and cantillation. And like a traditional tikkun (a traditional book for Torah readers), the Hebrew practice texts appear both with and without vowels and trope/cantillation marks. (Currently, English transliterations are not available.) At www.Livescribe.com, retail prices begin at $170 plus $100 for each Torah or Haftarah portion, the price some families pay for a celebratory cake.

Greenfield operates Magic Yad together with his wife, Claudia, who manages public relations, and Alan Warshaw, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based technology consultant.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.