Technology Gives Us a New Way to Observe Yom HaShoah This Year

April 28, 2016Susan S. Ringel

I truly believe in the joy of Judaism. I love Jewish holidays (with Shabbat, Sukkot, and Purim at the top of the list), Jewish humor, and Jewish culture. I also find it joyful to teach Hebrew, cook and eat Jewish food, and do mitzvah projects.

But of course there are more somber parts of Judaism, notably Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Each year, my husband Mark and I volunteer at our synagogue, Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, in Beachwood, OH, with a program run by the Men of Fairmount Temple (MFT). We are in the corps of 30 or so volunteers who deliver about 700 Yom HaShoah yahrzeit candles to the homes of our fellow congregants.

Last spring, Mark and I were driving around a neighborhood – he was driving and I was navigating – to deliver our allotment of about 25 candles. At my feet were the candles. In the cup holder was my iPhone.

An idea popped into my head.

Aloud I said, “There should be an app where you can virtually light a Yom HaShoah candle!” Mark responded, “Yeah… there probably already is.”

A search of the App Store yielded no results. I was onto something, and I wanted to create the app.

Months later, I talked with MFT President Lester Potash and presented the idea at an MFT board meeting. The board gave the financial sponsorship, and we hired a professional mobile app developer to create the app.

The race was on to finish the app before Yom HaShoah, which begins this year on the evening of May 4. After many designs, changes, and edits, the app is now available as a free download for iPhones on the App Store (search for Yom HaShoah Candle App).

Once you download it, you’ll be able to choose the time on May 4 that you wish to light the candle. When that time arrives, you’ll receive a notification to open the app. You’ll see the candle lit with a realistic flame, and then read a paragraph of text. After 24 hours, you will receive a notification that the flame has been extinguished.

In the meantime, there are many reasons you may want to consider using this new app:

  • In addition to lighting a physical candle, you wish to observe Yom HaShoah in another way.
  • You live in a place where you cannot light candles, such as an apartment building, nursing home, or college dorm room.
  • You will be out of town and can’t light the candle at home.
  • You don’t have a candle but want to light one.
  • You find it meaningful to use apps like this on your phone.

Although the yellow candle program at our temple has not changed, I’m excited to see how many people will download the app, which provides them – and a much broader, worldwide audience as well – with an opportunity to light a candle, pause, and remember the tragedy of the Holocaust.

As Jews, we never stop learning, and we are always looking for new ways to connect and grow. I was motivated to volunteer to devote time and energy to this project not only to learn, connect, and grow, but also to take on a challenge and see a project through from start to finish.

Our lives are filled with joyful moments and somber moments. Technology, too, is part of our lives like never before. In 2016, it’s possible to light two Yom HaShoah candles: a real one and a virtual one.

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