When Rusty Brick CEO Barry Schwartz walked into his New York synagogue Tuesday
morning, he didn’t have to get out his siddur or even look up which prayers to
say. A small screen hovering over the corner of his eye already knew what he
needed, and handily displayed it for him.
Schwartz, among the few lucky
people to test Google’s wearable computer spectacles, called Google Glass, was
getting all the information he needed from JewGlass, the first Glass application
for religious Jews, which his company released on Monday.
“It’s not a way
of bringing people closer to Judaism, but a way to help people who are already
observing do it more efficiently,” says Schwartz, whose company has released
over 30 applications for Jews.
Rusty Brick boasts an iPhone siddur and
Passover Haggada, a “no more hametz” application, a Bedtime Shema App to guide
children through the evening prayer, and a bar mitzva learning tool to help
students learn their portions.
But to Schwartz, Google Glass is a whole
“I think it’s going to be a game changer, though I don’t
think it’ll be so obvious that you’re wearing it when the final product comes
out,” he says. “I love it.”
To that end, JewGlass was a logical next
step. The app sends notifications to the ever-present Google Glass screen,
reminding those who are observant when it is time to pray, helping them locate a
nearby synagogue, and even displaying the relevant prayers through its prayer
On Fridays it lets the user know at what time Shabbat begins and
ends, and the portion of the week. For kashrut-keeping Jews on the go, the app
can also locate kosher restaurants in the vicinity. The best part: It does it
all through context, figuring out where the user is and what information might
be useful at that time.
Though the company’s offerings are geared toward
religion, he says, some of their programs also take a different tack.
have a lot of religious apps, but we also have holiday- related apps and
learning apps, like learning to read the aleph-bet to learn Hebrew, or touring
the Old City, or a Jewish radio app for Jewish music,” he says.
the religious application market isn’t the most profitable, the company is able
to fund its projects with money it makes developing applications for the likes
of MTV and Harvard.
“It’s our way of doing something for the community,
and we’re glad that we can do it,” says Schwartz.
He even has a plan for
getting technology to fill the gap on Shabbat and holidays in which phones and
wearable computers cannot be tinkered with: Shul Cloud. That product would
stream relevant data on prayers and holiday-specific instruction to screens in
synagogues that are connected ahead of time and require no
“You can make it useful and Shabbat-proof,” Schwartz says.
“We’ll see if rabbis think that’s acceptable.”