Where high-tech meets High Holidays

Julie Wiener

G-dcast's eScapegoat and Mini Goats enable users to anonymously offload and share their shortcomings.

G-dcast’s eScapegoat and Mini Goats enable users to anonymously offload and share their shortcomings.

Unplugging more from electronic devices has become a commonly cited resolution for both the Jewish and secular new years.

But electronics are also increasingly becoming integrated into Jewish New Year observances. Here are some new offerings at the junction between high-tech and High Holidays.

G-dcast, a nonprofit that is best known for its animated Torah portion videos, has been expanding its repertoire in recent years, creating videos on a range of Jewish texts and topics while also venturing into games and apps. For the new year, it’s introducing “Wake up World,” a digital children’s book with an interactive shofar-blowing feature, and eScapegoat, a quirky website where one can cast off one’s sins onto an animated goat and anonymously share them with others.

“Wake Up World,” an illustrated ebook about Rosh Hashanah, enables users to hear Teruah, Tekiah and Tekiah Gadolah by touching their device’s screen or blowing into its microphone. It also features the voice (but presumably not the shofar playing) of Randi Zuckerberg, sister of the famed Facebook founder.

Meanwhile, eScapegoat, a new and improved version of a similar effort last year, encourages users to prepare for Yom Kippur by offloading their sins to the goat in an echo of the ancient repentance ritual. This year G-dcast has also created Mini Goats, custom eScapegoat websites where individual communities, such as synagogues and youth group chapters, can share their members’ sins, stories and goals. Some examples (for more, visit twitter.com/sinfulgoat).

“I put butter in the vegan sauce.” — http://t.co/olcwCgYrEw — eScapegoat (@SinfulGoat) September 11, 2014

              “I said I didn’t delete my bosses files, but I did.” — http://t.co/olcwCgYrEw — eScapegoat (@SinfulGoat) September 10, 2014

“We realized that private, ‘walled-off’ Mini Goats could be a powerful tool for communities because the interface really encourages sharing and that gets more interesting within a smaller community,” Sarah Lefton, G-dcast’s founder and executive director, said in a news release. “It lets people see what’s bubbling in their own backyards — all the regrets are so much more powerful when you know they belong to your neighbors and friends. It also creates a safe and private place for younger users in school settings.”

Birthright NEXT has created an interactive map to connect 20- and 30-somethings to High Holiday happenings nearby.

Birthright NEXT’s interactive map connects 20- and 30-somethings to High Holidays happenings.

Meanwhile, Birthright NEXT, a program for alumni of the free Israel trips, recently introduced an interactive map of High Holidays events and services that enables young adults to more easily connect to the events’ organizers. As part of the initiative, Birthright Israel alumni can also register to receive resources and small stipends to help host Rosh Hashanah meals, Yom Kippur pre-fast dinners, and break-fasts. Users can search the map, filtering by location and a range of preferences — from musical services to LGBT-focused events. The map also links to social media, so users can recruit friends to join them at events they’re considering attending.

Next year, will there be an app for dipping app-les in honey?

Julie Wiener is JTA’s online editor. Follow her on Twitter @Julie_Wiener