The Chabad.org Blog

Chabad.org Music Radio App Launched

September 17, 2018 5:00 PM

“If words are the pen of the heart,” taught Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, “then song is the pen of the soul.”

Music has always been at the heart of the Chassidic movement, serving as a powerful tool in prayer, meditation and celebratory gatherings.

Chabad.org is proud to announce our new Chabad.org Music Radio app.

Available on desktop and mobile, the app streams Jewish and Chassidic music to users 24/6.

“When we launched our Chabad.org Radio app, our Torah class app that streams classes 24/6, we added Jewish tunes to fill the time between classes,” says Rabbi Mendy Kaminker. “We were asked, ‘I love the classes, but where can I get more of the music as well?’ ”

The Chabad.org Music Radio app was born and has already garnered tremendous interest. Since its launch, it has logged over 170,000 streams.

The app plays an eclectic mix of classic Jewish and Chassidic tunes, and also features an alarm clock, sleep timer and more.

It can be downloaded on both Android and iOS.

"Alexa, Give Tzedakah"

Now you can give charity with a voice command

September 6, 2018 11:20 PM

During our High Holiday prayers, we declare that “repentance, prayer and tzedakah avert the severity of the decree”—that through acts of righteous charity, of giving to help others, we can draw down blessings for the entire year.

To make the mitzvah of tzedakah ever more accessible, Chabad.org has leveraged Amazon Alexa to allow users to donate directly through the virtual assistant using their voice.

Chabad.org is one of a select group of charities chosen by Amazon to take part in an early launch of this new Alexa feature.

By saying “Alexa, make a donation to Chabad.org,” Alexa Donations, powered by Amazon Pay, will execute the donation. This new feature enables users to give tzedakah at any time, and especially at auspicious times, such as before prayers or before lighting the Shabbat candles at the start of Shabbat (but not on Shabbat and Jewish festivals).

According to Amazon, more than a million people have used Amazon Pay to donate to charities even before Alexa Donations was launched.

This feature is part of a suite of new virtual assistant applications that Chabad.org is in the process of developing for Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

Itche Kadoozy Hits the Shelves

New book features video series’ most beloved episodes

August 30, 2018 8:15 PM
Many of the most popular episodes of Itche Kadoozy, the wonderfully wacky web video series, are now available as a soft-cover 408-page book.
Many of the most popular episodes of Itche Kadoozy, the wonderfully wacky web video series, are now available as a soft-cover 408-page book.

Before there was YouTube, there was Itche Kadoozy. The wonderfully wacky web video series features a cast of puppets that includes a gray-bearded rabbi, a dysfunctional but lovable college student, and a talking gefilte fish.

The series was released on Chabad.org in 2004 and continues to entertain and educate children and adults around the world.

“Back then, even before YouTube, the internet created the opportunity to share video with the world,” says Rabbi Dovid Taub who produced the shows with his friend Jonathan Goorvich for Chabad.org, “but there was really very little quality Jewish video content out there. We had this great idea, we made the videos, and people would email them to their friends and that was how they were passed around,” he explains.

As the show gained a faithful audience and evolved, the cast grew to include a fictitious lawyer named Larry Goldstein (who ends every statement with a open-mouthed “Ha!”), some friendly monsters, and a slew of other zany but instantly memorable characters.

For example, in “Jono and the Whale” Jono wins a pet whale in a sweepstakes after purchasing 75 magazines he did not need (he could not resist because he was “pre-selected as a winner”). After arguing over whether bajillion and bazillion were proper numbers, Jono and the rabbi discover that the whale—too big for even six bathtubs—was being shipped to them in a “very large” cardboard box. Jono soon learns that a whale needs more water than could be provided by a 24-pack of spring-water bottles. The lesson: Jews need to be immersed in Torah, which is compared to water, on a constant basis. The show concludes with Larry Goldstein being inspired by the rabbi’s lesson and volunteering to arrange to ship the whale back to the aquarium.

Starting in a miniscule conference-room-turned-studio in the Chabad.org offices in Brooklyn, N.Y., the filming and editing progressed along with the technological advances of the era, as did the facilities. Yet, the nonstop laughs and intermittent Jewish teachings remained a constant.

In a 2007 feature on the show’s meteoric rise to fame and fandom, the Forward reported that “part of the [show’s] appeal seems to be the quirky characters and original, witty plots.” The article went on to explain that the disparate characters of Itche and Jono allow every Jew to see some of themselves in the show and relate to its message.

Coming full circle, the scripts and select images from many of the most popular episodes of the show are now being released in the form of an oversized, soft-cover 408-page book.

“More than a decade since Itche Kadoozy first appeared on Chabad.org, we still have thousands of kids and adults watching these videos every day,” reports Rabbi Shmuel Lifshitz, editor of Jewish.tv, Chabad.org’s video site. “From the steady stream of comments, it is clear that it is still hitting a spot and generating as many laughs as ever.”

Among the thousands of reader comments sent in over the years, Tim in Forest, Va., wrote that “This is great. It reaches kids and adults alike. It was a bright spot in my day and made me laugh out loud.”

“This manages to be utterly hilarious and surreal whilst also being very touching,” wrote another viewer from New York. “Astoundingly good—please keep up the amazing work so I can keep flooding my relatives’ inboxes!”

“We're at a slumber party for our class,” wrote the sixth grade of Bais Yaakov of Boston, “and we just are going on the computer for fun, and we watched this (and also the Chanukah song by Jono) and we decided we agree [with the commenters who are asking for even more IKS videos].”

Over the past few years, the Chabad.org team has been adding closed captions to many of the videos, making them accessible to even more people.

“I first learned about Itche Kadoozy from my kids,” says Rabbi Zalman Goldstein, who produced the book, which is being released by the Jewish Learning Group, in conjunction with Chabad.org. “They would laugh hysterically and watch the shows over and over. I got curious and discovered that it was quite appealing to adults as well!”

Goldstein explains that the book, which includes many of the show’s most beloved episodes, is perfect reading for all ages, especially on long, summer Shabbat afternoons, when computers and similar devices are off-limits by Jewish law. He explains that the book can also be used in the classroom and in camps, with children taking turns acting out the various characters using the scripts in the book as their guide.

Goldstein was able to assemble some parts of the book from scraps of original scripts that Taub stored away years ago and resurrected from ancient hard-drives. But the majority had to be painstakingly transcribed from the actual videos. The book also contains some historical photos and background information that will be of special interest to Itche aficionados.

“Itche Kadoozy was born and developed on the internet,” reflects Taub. “Thanks to Rabbi Goldstein’s hard work, it is now going to live in the world of print media as well—and that’s wasome!”

The Itche Kadoozy Show (softcover; 8.25 x 9.5; ISBN 9781891293610; 408 pages; $24.95) book is published by the Jewish Learning Group and distributed by Feldheim Publishers. Available at Jewish bookstores and online at: www.JewishLearningGroup.com.

Kosher Cooking Site Opens World of Jewish Tastes and Memories

August 8, 2018 3:20 PM

For Jews, food and identity are like matzah balls and chicken soup. From the sights and smells of Shabbat and holiday cooking, to the nostalgic tastes and comfort of a beloved grandmother’s kitchen, so much of our Jewish experience revolves around eating. But navigating the world of kosher cooking can be confusing even for experienced cooks.

Enter Chabad.org’s Kosher Cooking site. Redesigned from the ground up, this new site offers users a chance to explore classic and modern kosher recipes, learn some of the basic laws of kashrut and dig into some Jewish history as well.

According to Miriam Szokovski, editor of Kosher Cooking, the new site is designed with the cook in mind, “offering Shabbat and holiday-specific recipes, along with regular day-to-day cooking tips and recipes that don’t need to be adapted for the kosher kitchen.“

The site also helps users contextualize and apply the laws of kashrut in their own homes.

Beyond a fresh new design, modern interface and enticing photos, the new site is built to easily find just the right recipe for any situation. A powerful search engine lets users stew over whatever their dietary needs or taste preferences may be.

Looking for a low-fat, vegan, Indian main course? Try the Aloo Gobi with Spinach Pakora!

And if you’re going dairy, don’t forget Doughnuts with Feta, Honey and Pistachios for dessert. Beyond just tasty treats though, Szokovski sees the site as a portal to an entire world of Jewish practice and study.

“Food is intrinsically connected to Judaism,” she says. From a kosher nosh to Friday-night dinner, “living Jewishly means living communally, and living communally means shared meals and connecting over food.”

The site will play an important link between the generations, connecting memories of ”eating latkes straight from Bubby’s frying pan” to making related, modern-day dishes (and memories) for a new generation of children and grandchildren. “The Kosher Cooking food site,” Szokovski hopes, “will be the link to help people do just that.”

You can explore the food site on your own at Chabad.org/Recipes.

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