Cantor's Apps Bring Jewish Prayers To the iPhone Crowd

Emanuel Perlman Believes Ritual Must Make Room for Tech

A Holy Trinity: Emanuel Perlman (center) with his pocketshul.com partners John Kiel and Bill Riley.
Justin Tsulcas
A Holy Trinity: Emanuel Perlman (center) with his pocketshul.com partners John Kiel and Bill Riley.

By Simi Horwitz

Published February 14, 2013, issue of February 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Despite the fact that he stars in and co-produces iPhone and iPad apps featuring “A Cantor’s Seder,” “High Holiday Highlights,” and blessings for the deceased, all of which are available on pocketshul.com, Cantor Emanuel Perlman remains a traditionalist.

The earnest 60-year-old Perlman, hazan at Baltimore’s conservative Chizuk Amuno Congregation, says he has little patience for wishy-washy Judaism gussied up as ecumenicalism or political correctness. But he is convinced that cantorial music and Jewish ritual will die unless they accommodate themselves to the digital era.

“That’s why the app is so important,” he asserted. “In every age, we have to adapt to the way information is transmitted. We have to go with the flow, and today that means the app. A.P.P.: I like to think of it as Appropriate Prayer Presentation. But the message is still the same. People think the message changes. The change is the way the meal has been garnished. The garnish is not the meal. That doesn’t change.”

The apps, with their Judaica-themed graphics — a Kiddush cup, a menorah — are designed for multiple audiences, not least Jews who simply don’t have access to a religious service and wish they did, such as tourists wanting to celebrate the Sabbath on a secular cruise, or a frightened patient seeking spiritual comfort in a hospital that may not have a rabbi on staff. They speak to the uninitiated as well as to the Jew who is well versed in religious tradition.

“The key is accessibility,” said Perlman, who added that he hopes his apps attract Jews who have stopped attending ­— or who have never attended — synagogue services. His ultimate goal is not to pave the way for a do-it-yourself Judaism, but to bring Jews back to synagogue. “The apps are part of a religious tool box that will give people the tools to participate in religious ritual and make them comfortable in a religious environment,” he said.**

Interactive features enhance the apps further. In the Passover app, for example, prayers are voiced in Hebrew, but with the tap of a finger, phonetic pronunciations appear on screen along with English translations. Perlman’s are by no means the only Jewish apps on the market, but they are arguably the most sophisticated: They are forged at Soundtrack Recording Studios, where clients include film directors Spike Lee, Jonathan Demme and Martin Scorsese.


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!
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different. http://jd.fo/p57AB
  • J.J. Goldberg doesn't usually respond to his critics. But this time, he just had to make an exception.
  • 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.