Tech at Summer Camp: Will the Policy Change?

School is back in session in many parts of the country and that means the summer camp season has come to a close. With each passing summer, I try to evaluate the role that technology plays at sleep-away camp. It seems that each year more summer camps institute “screen free policies” concerning the use of technology and electronics at camp, but other camps are gradually relaxing their policies (e.g., letting staff keep a cellphone in their pockets during the day, not checking for campers’ Wi-Fi-enabled devices on trips out of camp, etc.). Last week I published the following piece on The Huffington Post’s website about technology and summer camp. It has already generated a lot of discussion about appropriate use of technology at summer camp and what the future might look like.

Sitting with my wife by the lake in Northern Michigan at the beginning of the summer I listened as the director of our family camp, Camp Michigania, recited the rules for the week. “One final thing we ask everyone to abide by,” he said to the assembled adults, “please keep your children from using any technology this week and try not to use your own cellphones and computers in public.” I noted the irony that he had just read his annual list of policies and procedures from his iPhone.

Is it hypocrisy when a camp director asks campers to unplug while being tethered to his own smartphone? I contemplated this from my spot on the beach watching my kids kayak and paddleboard as I tapped away at my notebook computer, enjoying the gorgeous surroundings as I put the finishing touches on a blog entry.

I am a techie, but I am also an advocate for summer camp. I respect those who believe that our kids should leave anything that requires a rechargeable battery at home before getting on the bus to sleep away camp — hard as that may be. But I also wonder if we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Just how far into the future will we be able to continue banning communication devices from these children of the digital age?



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Israeli Company Taboola Buys Perfect Market

Israeli company Taboola brings native to programmatic with its recent acquisition of Perfect Market. Taboola, the leading content discovery platform, today announced that it has acquired Perfect Market, a leading provider of digital publishing software solutions for driving traffic, engagement and revenue. Taboola’s expected annualized run-rate post-acquisition will reach approximately $250M. By combining Perfect Market’s programmatic advertising technology with Taboola’s global, industry-leading content distribution and monetization capabilities, Taboola will create a world-class content discovery platform that provides publishers with a “one-stop-shop” for full page monetization across all platforms. The new programmatic offering will be called “Taboola-X,” and will enhance Taboola’s existing paid-content offering.

“Early on, we identified a need by publishers for a consolidated solution, including both native placements in-feed and programmatic. Perfect Market has put together an impressive team as well as created superior programmatic technology, and together, we’ve teamed up to provide publishers with innovative solutions to help streamline all content and revenue efforts,” said Adam Singolda, founder and CEO of Taboola. “With Taboola-X and the introduction of full page monetization opportunities, publishers will be able to drive even stronger monetization results across all platforms with Taboola, and drive an exciting ROI back to content and journalism.” Prior to founding Taboola, Singolda developed his analytical skills while serving as an officer in an elite mathematical unit of the Israeli National Security Agency.


Taboola-publishers-screenThe acquisition supports Taboola and Perfect Market’s shared mission to help publishers engage consumers as well as generate revenue. The combined solution will provide publishers with the ability to monetize IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) standard size ad units on their websites by delivering the right sponsored message to users in real-time.

Magna Global projects that U.S. programmatic ad spending will reach $9.8 billion this year. Globally, Display is projected to grow to $51.8 billion with overall Internet advertising spend reaching $121 billion. The Perfect Market transaction, Taboola’s first acquisition, will help to accelerate programmatic native advertising growth overall in the market.

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Bomb Gaza Video Game Gets Shot Down from Google AppStore

Google removed from its app store — Google Play — a mobile game that simulates Israeli attacks on Gaza. “Bomb Gaza” lets video game players drop bombs and try to avoid killing civilians. The game got the axe from Google this week after a public backlash, said the Guardian newspaper.

Bomb Gaza Game Google

PlayFTW developed the game in which players drop bombs from a fighter jet and dodge missiles from Hamas fighters. “We remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies,” a spokesman for Google told Reuters without specifying which policy the game violated. The game, which is still available on Facebook, has been downloaded about 1,000 times and generated angry comments on Facebook and Google Play app review pages since launching July 29, the Guardian reported.

“Please take this off the Play store. It is offensive and I am really let down that Google actually allowed this,” Oma Al, a user, wrote on the game’s review page, according to the Guardian. “If this game isn’t removed I’m starting a Google boycott.”

“Bomb Gaza” is not the only mobile game on Google’s app store that references the Israel-Gaza conflict, the Guardian reported. Others include “Gaza Assault: Code Red” and “Iron Dome.”

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Israel’s Tech Scene Is Having A Banner Week Despite Horrific Israel-Palestinian Violence

By Armin Rosen

The conflict between Israel and Hamas has sent shockwaves through the Middle East and the broader world, but the hostilities have left one aspect of life in Israel curiously untouched: the Israeli tech sector.
The four weeks since Hamas members kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank — a period which has included the war in Gaza, major protests in the West Bank, and occasional rocket fire from southern Lebanon — have been historically fruitful for Israeli tech. As Bloomberg News noted, investors pumped nearly $600 million into Israeli tech companies between June 12 and July 24, more than twice the amount as during the preceding six-week period.

This week also marks the largest-ever American initial public offering by an Israeli company.


Mobileye, a Jerusalem-based company that makes camera and navigational systems for cars, is expected to raise over $600 million in an IPO this week. And the company’s future seems bright, considering that noted serial entrepreneur Elon Musk is planning on using some of its products in a proposed model of driverless car.

Mobileye isn’t the only Israeli company going public in the U.S. this week. Three Israel-based biotechnology firms are also having their IPOs, and two of them have a projected market capitalization of over $250 million each.

The Gaza hostilities have had an impact on various sectors of the Israeli economy. Most notably, funders for the Leviathan natural gas project off of the Israeli coast have indicated the conflict will delay an over $6 billion investment in what is expected to become one of Israel’s major industries. Over 1,000 factories and farms have lost productivity or stockpiles of perishable goods since the conflict began, with industrial losses alone calculated at around $200 million.

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Can We Have a Virtual Minyan With Skype?

It was 1998 and I was in my first semester of rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary. My Talmud professor, Rabbi Avram Israel Reisner, approached me after class one day to discuss a project he was working on. As a member of the Conservative Movement’s Law Committee, he was examining the acceptability of a virtual minyan (prayer quorum). Knowing my interest in technology, he picked my brain about some of the technical implications of video-conferencing. He sought to answer the halakhic (Jewish legal) question of whether a minyan could be convened using non-traditional, electronic means. Some of the sources he was considering were drawn from the same pages we were then studying in his class, namely Tractate Rosh Hashanah as it deals with hearing the sound of the shofar to fulfill the obligation.

Rabbi Reisner’s project resulted in a teshuva (legal position paper) titled “Wired to the Kadosh Baruch Hu,” in which he ruled that a virtual minyan conducted via video-conferencing was not “kosher.”

The full text of the teshuva is available online. I encourage you to read it, but I have summarized it below before making some comments on his conclusions. I hope to elicit some feedback about both Rabbi Reisner’s understanding of the “virtual minyan” and my commentary on his teshuva.

internet_minyan_rabbi_jasonRabbi Reisner’s initial questions are the following:

1) May one pray over the Internet?
2) May one constitute a minyan over the Internet?
3) May one constitute a minyan through e-mail or in chat rooms only with a real-time audio or video connection?
4) May one constitute a minyan through telephone or video conferences?

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Benjamin Levy of eduCanon Wins 1776’s Challenge Cup Competition

Benjamin Levy, the Jewish founder of eduCanon was one of four young entrepreneurs who won 1776’s Challenge Cup competition, which brings regulators and disruptors together. Benjamin Levy’s company eduCanon was a winner in the education category. eduCanon is an online learning environment to build and share interactive video lessons.

Barely six months after it opened its doors in D.C., 1776—a collaborative workspace for startups—announced an eight-month-long quest for the best ideas to revolutionize health, energy, education and urban planning.


eduCanon-Swaroop Raju Benjamin Levy

eduCanon’s founders Swaroop Raju and Benjamin Levy

The group’s Challenge Cup was open to U.S. as well as international participants with 16 preliminary rounds taking place in seven American cities (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Austin, Denver and San Francisco) and eight abroad (Moscow, Berlin, London, Sao Paulo, Cape Town, Tel Aviv, Beijing and New Delhi). The Challenge Cup finals and the culminating week-long Challenge Festival were held in the nation’s capital in May.

With thousands of national and international participants competing in four different sectors, the easiest way to wrap your brain around the Challenge Cup may be to think of a March Madness college basketball bracket. 1776 received a total of 5,000 applications from startups in what Co-founder Donna Harris describes as “hard-to-change” regulated industries that need to be “reinvented” and 64 were selected to present during the finals.

The 64 competing groups which traveled to D.C. were comprised of the top four from each regional city round. From there, an “elite eight” competed for the ultimate startup prize package: a chance at a$150,000 investment, exhibitor space at the 2015 International CES® and support from 1776 and its swath of partners. The three remaining category winners are each eligible for a $100,000 investment, as well as exhibitor space at CES. The founders of the four Challenge Cup winners—CancerIQ, Plugsurfing, eduCannon and Grand Prize winner HandUp—are featured in this issue as “The Faces of Innovation.”

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Mobile App to Say Tehillim for Israelis

RustyBrick, a Nyack, New York based mobile app developer, is trying to do their part in helping with the ongoing Israel crisis.

Today they made their Tehillim app, for iOS and Android, completely free to download for a limited time period. They want to enable Jewish people around the world to pray easily for those in harms way.

For more details on how to download the free app visit their Tehillim app website here.

For information on RustyBrick’s Google Glass App to help warn Israelis of incoming rockets visit

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Can a Robot Write a Torah Scroll?

Since 10 July 2014, a KUKA robot has been writing a manuscript of the torah – at the speed of a human scribe – at the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

The KR 16-2 is using a quill pen and ink
The artistic group “robotlab”, that frequently uses industrial robots for performances in public spaces, deals with the relationship between humans and machines.

Robot writes a Torah Scroll

Writing the torah in the same way that a human would, combines centuries of cultural history and traditional techniques with state-of-the-art automation.

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Social Media Advice for the Pro-Israel Crowd

5 Ways To Turn Down the Social Media Flame

Think More Carefully About Posting on Israel and Palestine

By Jay Michaelson

Originally Published July 16, 2014 in the Jewish Daily Forward

What Did You Expect?

I’d like to say that social media doesn’t matter. Israel and its Palestinian counterparts are pursuing tactics, military and otherwise, and the battle for public opinion is only one among many. Despite what nearly everyone seems to think, what happens on our Facebook and Twitter feeds probably doesn’t matter that much.


Except when it does. Presumably, the echo chambers in which we cloister ourselves have an impact on ourselves, even if not on Israel or Palestine. We do create communities of shared values, online as well as in person, and if those values are extreme one-sidedness bereft of analysis or reflection — well, that matters, if nothing else, to the kinds of communities in which we and our children are supposed to live.


Over the last week, I private-messaged half a dozen people who have frequently posted on Facebook one-sided accounts of the current violence. The (small, unscientific) sample included an ardent Zionist, moderate/two-state Zionists, and a BDS-activist anti-Zionist. Not one of them agreed to post accounts both of the Israeli suffering and of the Palestinian suffering. Each side insisted the other side is morally deficient, that there is no equivalence between them, and that there’s already too much attention to the other side’s suffering.

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Free Software for Nonprofits: Beware!

Buyer Beware: The Hidden Costs of Free Software for Nonprofits
By Gretchen Barry

Originally published on eJewishPhilanthropy

The Appeal and Illusion of Free

When it comes to purchasing new software, many organizations do so to increase efficiency, save time, and reduce costs. This is particularly true of nonprofits, which often have limited staff and busy schedules.

Enter “free” software: on its surface, a simple, cost-effective solution. However, free software isn’t always free, and nonprofit executives often learn this the hard way: after incurring costs from implementation, consultants, ancillary features, support, and ongoing maintenance. These costs add up to more than a solution with an upfront cost but long-term savings.

Below are pitfalls to avoid and tips to help you select something that will be a better fit for you, your nonprofit, and your budget over the long haul.

The Misleading Sales Pitch

Low purchase prices and robust “communities” of users tempt nonprofit executives to invest in these free solutions. However, the “free” program is typically a bare-bones solution, containing only limited functionality. The sales staff exalts the limitations as a selling point, telling potential clients that their software is highly customizable. While this is true, it’s this customization that contributes to the overall cost.


If You Can’t Implement the Software, It Will Cost You in the Long Run

Consultant fees for implementing a system you can’t negate any initial cost savings. Why? Transforming the basic software into a usable solution for your organization typically requires consultants. Most nonprofits do not have IT personnel on staff, which means that they are completely dependent on these consultants to implement the software. More complex features increase implementation cost. Consultants work on an hourly basis, often charging up to $150 per hour. And once the system is up and running, the staff needs to learn how to use it. There is often limited documentation on these low-cost products, and the trainers to help also cost additional money. What does this say about a system that is so difficult to understand that it requires consultants to manage? In the end, the nonprofit could have paid a higher up-front fee for an all-inclusive software solution and greatly lowered their costs.

How to Find a Comprehensive and Cost-Effective Solution

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Jewish Techs: The Jewish Technology Blog

This blog looks at how modern technology affects Jewish life, particularly the impact of the Internet on Jews across the globe. The Internet has made the Jewish community seem smaller. The Jewish Techs blog, written by blogger Rabbi Jason Miller (The Techie Rabbi), explores the places where Jewish culture, education and faith intersect with technology. Of course, like anything, Jews will continue to ask if technology is good or bad for the Jews – the age old question of our people. Good or bad, it is undisputed that technology has changed Jewish life. If you’re Jewish or interested in technology or both… you’ll enjoy the conversation. Thanks for reading the Jewish Techs blog.

The Techie Rabbi – Rabbi Jason Miller

Rabbi Jason Miller, the Techie RabbiJason Miller is NOT your typical rabbi. Known as the Techie Rabbi, he launched Access Computer Technology in 2010 and has grown it into a full-scale technology firm that provides social media marketing consulting and web design in addition to IT support. Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary a decade ago, Rabbi Jason has made a name for himself as a popular blogger, social media expert, educator and entrepreneur. Based in Detroit, his congregation includes more than a million people who read his blog and follow him in Cyberspace. He began the Jewish Techs blog in January 2010 as the New York Jewish Week's technology expert.

An entrepreneurial rabbi and an alum of Clal's "Rabbi Without Borders" fellowship, Jason Miller is a rabbi and thought leader whose personal blog has been viewed by millions. The Detroit Free Press called him “the most tech-savvy Jewish leader" and the Huffington Post ranked him among the top Jewish Twitter users in the world. A social media expert, Rabbi Jason is a popular speaker and writer on technology and its effect on the Jewish world. He writes the "Jewish Techs" blog for The Jewish Week and the monthly "Jews in the Digital Age" column for the Detroit Jewish News.

Miller won the 2012 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce and is one of the winners of a Jewish Influencer award from the National Jewish Outreach Program.

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