Why is this app different from all other apps?

Interactive iPad Haggadah could be leading light at this year’s Seder.

‘THE HAGGADA’ app for iPad 370 (photo credit: Melcher Media)
‘THE HAGGADA’ app for iPad 370
(photo credit: Melcher Media)
A newly published interactive Haggadah app downloadable for iPad users offers a novel way to get kids (and adults) truly engaged at this year’s Seder proceedings.
“The Haggadah” app features traditional kosher for Passover recipes, a host of pre-Passover preparation tips such as how to arrange the Seder plate and other rituals, as well as games, photos and interactive elements to keep participants entertained throughout the Seder service. The program – outfitted with some of the latest multi-sensory technology – was designed by New York-based Melcher Media with input from some top Jewish scholars.
“Many of us have been using the same copy of the Haggada all our lives, but today we celebrate, share and learn in new ways so it’s time for a new Haggadah that both honors the old and celebrates the new,” commented Charlie Melcher, founder and president of Melcher Media.
Melcher, which launched the app last week, also used some of the latest online technology to secure funding for the venture by turning to Kickstarter, an online platform that helps fund-raise for creative projects by encouraging individuals to donate money. The Haggadah app raised more than $25,000 with donations from hundreds of interested people.
“This is a very exciting project,” commented David Kraemer, the librarian and professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary, who is the app’s primary author.
“We have used the old to inform the new in the most creative and beautiful way possible,” he continued. “It is my hope that people use the app to create as full or as simple a Seder experience as is fitting for them.”
Kraemer said he is aware that religiously observant Jews will not want to use electronic devices such as iPads at the Seder table – Kraemer himself says he will not be switching it on – but said he is still hopeful that the technology can be used to help those leading the service to prepare or as a tool to explain some of the traditions to children in a more interactive way.
“We understood from the very beginning that the Orthodox would not use this app but we also know that the Seder is one of the most widely observed Jewish rituals,” he said, adding that there are many people who participate in the meal but do not really understand a lot about it.
“We tried to address a relatively broad range of experiences and to provide a foundation for people that know very little,” he added.
While not the first Haggadah app on the market – a handful of others were also released in recent weeks – Kraemer said he hopes that this endeavor will stand out from the pack and highlighted that it is relatively easy to create an e-book and call it an app, even though the deeply interactive elements are missing.
“We have tried to be creative and provide commentary and historical insights that many people might not haven exposed to before,” he continued, pointing out that one of the unique features is a series of images of historic Haggadot and manuscripts only seen by specialists in the art history of the Haggadah.
Kraemer also said that the Haggadah allows for easy toggling between Hebrew and English and that the commentary appears as a pop-out, unlike in traditional printed Haggadot, where often the mix of the two languages and the accompanying commentary can be complicated for those following the service.
In addition to Kraemer’s contributions, Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of Clal, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, Sharon Liberman Mintz, curator of Jewish art at the Library at the JTS and Amichai Lau-Lavie, a founding director of Storahtelling, provided materials for the app.
Available in the iTunes store, the app also contains an element for users to submit Seder photos to be included in a new Haggadah being prepared for next year.