When the iTunes App Store first opened I owned and ran one of, if not the, first iPhone app review sites. It was a fun gig although, I must admit, being here on Gear Diary with Judie and the rest of the crew far surpasses that experience. In December of 2008 I reviewed a number of apps that would be good for Hanukkah. This year I did a similar roundup for a local newspaper. (I’ll be sharing it as soon as the article is published later this week.)
One of the apps I reviewed in 2008 was iMenorah, which is a virtual menorah that is actually quite handy. The developers just released an iPad version of it and we have some copies of each to give away. Before we do however, let’s take a quick look at a revised version of that December 2008 post.
When I was a kid we took a family vacation most years during winter break. The timing often meant that we were on vacation during part or all of the Hanukkah festival. Each year our family of five packed carefully for the two weeks we would be away but, inevitably, there were few things left behind. Suntan lotion was always forgotten, as was at least one person’s pair of sunglasses. And no matter how hard we tried and no matter how hard we planned, we always seem to forget to bring the Chanukah menorah (known in Hebrew as a Hannukiah). The menorah didn’t come with us but the Festival of Lights always did so, every year we forgot the Hanukkiah, we came up with a different creative way to build a “travel menorah”. One year we simply put the candles in the sand while, another year, we took nine different frozen concentrated orange juice container and converted each into a candle-holder. Had we been living in the age of the iPhone we wouldn’t have had to go that far. Instead, we could have used iMenorah– a virtual, iPhone-based, (and now iPad-based) menorah.
An application like this could be really cheesy, overly quaint or try too hard to capture that “old world” feel. This doesn’t. Instead, this is a nice, relatively simple, implementation of the menorah on iOS devices. It looks nice, it actually works, and it allows you to interact with the image of the menorah rather than just be a passive observer.
You can light each candle using the Shamash (“user” candle) and the app even has a “ritual failsafe” that ensures you light the candles in the proper ritual manner (from left to right rather than right to left). The animation looks realistic enough without “trying too hard” and the candles actually burn down while the holiday blessings chanted.
There are some nice touches. For example, I love the fact that the blessings are not sung by someone with a superb operatic voice or by someone who sounds like they came out of the schtetl (the “old country”). Rather, the blessings are sung by someone just like you or me (assuming neither of us have an operatic voice or came out of the schtetl.) I also appreciate the fact that during the eight days of Hanukkah application will automatically show the proper number of candles for the day while prior to or after the holiday it will allow all nine candles to burn.
Finally, I love the fact the proceeds from the sale of the application will, in part be donated to a chart of organization. Better yet, the developers have not only indicated that a minimum of a 10% tithe will be given to a food bank.
When the app first came out I gave a copy to some friends. I thought they would be amused by it but was happily surprised to hear that, while caught in an airport over it on the first night of Hanukkah they actually USED the app for real and it saved the day. I thought that was rather neat!
What I Like: Well done; teaches the main ritual of the festival without being heavy-handed; good graphics; doesn’t go over the top with cheesiness
What Needs Improvement: Nothing
We have a few copies of both the iPhone and the iPad app to give away. In keeping with the philosophy behind the app, the donation made whenever the app is purchased and the season, I’ll be making a personal donation to OUR local Food Bank equal to the cost of each of the apps we will give away.
To enter to win one simply tell us which version you would prefer and… A personal Hanukkah (or Christmas) story.