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!
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • 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.