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October 27, 2010 • Editorials

Sunday (actually every day), the Rabbi Used an iPad

(Dan in action at my wedding with his handy iPad)

A few days before my wedding I received an instant message from Dan (who was our officiant). It’s never good when your rabbi tells you he has a “dilemma” regarding your ceremony…but I had to laugh when his central issue was whether to use an iPad or a Kindle for the service! Never one to choose, Dan had us reading off the iPad for part of it, though he did use the Kindle for the outdoor portion. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen Dan use an iPad for rabbinical business, as he also used to walk us through the ceremony a few weeks earlier. But in seeing how easily he had so much information at the swipe of his fingertips, I began to realize just how central the iPad is to his daily life as a rabbi. Being the curious sort I picked Dan’s brain a bit to find out the various ways he’s been using his iPad for work (since I already know he’s practically surgically attached to it for his personal life).

So first, straight from the horse’s mouth, is Dan’s description of how he uses his iPad:

Ways I use my iPad in the rabbinate

  • I put most of my liturgical and some of my textbooks on my iPad so I have them with me all the time. What is especially great about using the iPad for lifecycle rituals Is that, prior to the service I can customize the text and add my notes into it and then have everything right there at my fingertips. No more holding one book and then having note cards or text on a separate page.
  • I scanned all my bar mitzvah Torah packets and keep them on my iPad. This accomplishes two things. First, when I meet with my students I always have the exact same pages they are reading from in front of me. Second, when a kid comes in upset because he or she lost their packet getting a new one to them is only an email address away.
  • I forward all my relevant rabbinic emails to Evernote so I always have them accessible to me.
  • I have my assistant send me PDFs of all documents that would have, in the past, been printed. This way I always know where they are and I save on killing trees in the process.
  • Because I now use the iPad for all my teaching and preaching I am guaranteed to have the most recent version with me and, as I update, do not have to continually reprint and waste paper.
  • I use one Torah text on my iPad when I teach my Torah study. It is convenient but it also let’s me look up relevant words or other information all in the same place.
  • When I meet with families about or funeral or with a couple prior to a wedding I tend to opt for my livescribe pen. Then, however, I upload the text screen cast to the livescribe website and, now that there is a pen player iPad app, download the text to my iPad so it is with me all the time.
  • I often use my iPad as a VoIP speakerphone and, while I am speaking to people I am updating my information on the call and what followup I need to do.
  • I have used my iPad to update the synagogue website within seconds of someone sending me information.

Then there is the use for email, for writing thanks to dragon diction, etc., etc.

The list goes on and on. In all, there isn’t an area of my rabbinic work where the iPad has not shown itself to be simple, convenient and a great way to have al my information with me all the time

Sent from my iPad

All good stuff, and according to Dan no one has given him a hard time about using the iPad in place of traditional texts and paper documentation. Full disclosure, though: Dan doesn’t count people telling him he has an addiction to Apple products!

Dan’s doing more than just using the iPad for his own purposes. He is even using the iPhone/iPad flash card app MentalCase to create an entire bar/bat mitzvah tutorial program that includes the words to prayers, each word or phrase spoken and, when needed, transliterations of the words. He commented that while it is a big undertaking he knows that with so many of his students have access to one iOS device or another it will be quite useful. He is also hoping to equip a learning lab with iPod touches or iPads in the near future! But Dan’s not addicted to Apple products at all…

All teasing aside, it really seems like Dan has his workflow down cold on the iPad. While I’ve only really seen him in action during my wedding (and the prior planning meetings), I can tell you that from my experience his use of the iPad made the whole process very smooth. We sat in his office, and he was able to walk us page by page through the ceremony with a few swipes. Yes, he could do that with a paper book, but the nice thing about the iPad was that he was then able to email us a copy of the relevant passages easily. It made collaborating and planning an absolute breeze. I am sure in more planning-intensive and communication-heavy situations it runs even more smoothly with the iPad in Dan’s hands.

(Dan in action again)

The other thing that really jumps out at me is how universal Dan’s usage of the iPad really is. In many ways his use boils down to a few simple ideas. He can go paperless, he can remain connected easily, he can carry an entire library’s worth of reference materials in his bag, and he can create and collaborate on the fly. In many ways that’s the holy grail of just about anyone with a demanding career. Dan makes his iPad the central piece in his workflow as a rabbi, in a tradition that’s thousands of years old and has the stacks and stacks of books to prove it. If he can do it, what’s holding you back?

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  10. […] year later, Carly wrote a post entitled Sunday (actually every day), the Rabbi Used an iPad. It described my move from the Kindle DX to the iPad on the bimah. I had switched devices, but the […]

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