Nov 13, 2019
How can tech shape Jewish ritual and community?

Historically, Judaism has relied on its body of law to enforce social norms and perpetuate traditions. But as technology becomes ever more pervasive, can Jews from across the spectrum of observance figure out how to harness its power and reinforce their own versions of faith?

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When the Hofstatter family was building a new home, they knew they wanted a customized smart house, but a run-of-the-mill Alexa wouldn’t suffice. “When we decided to go with a home-automation system, we knew there had to be something out there that adapts to the Jewish lifestyle,” says Jay Hofstatter. [1] As Orthodox Jews who adhere to halakha (Jewish law), the Hofstatters can’t operate electronics during Shabbat, which lasts from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday, so their house helps out: as sundown approaches, the motion sensors deactivate, the electronics switch to ‘no-touch’ mode, and the lights turn off according to pre-programmed timers.