Check out three recent apps that give an interactive spin on the Chanukah story.
Richard Codor, an illustrator with a big imagination, was 10 years old when his mother told him they were going to have a mountain of latkes for Chanukah. Naturally, he assumed a mountain made from fried potatoes would appear in Wilmington, Del., where the family resided. When it didn’t, he felt misled.
That image stuck with him. When he had his own children, he started spinning tales that involved latke surpluses. That led to the creation of a flipbook containing the story "Too Many Latkes." He has done dramatic readings of the book for the last two decades.
A few years ago, Codor, who does animation for television, followed the industry trend and started to work in digital formats. He spent a summer transferring his flipbook illustrations to Adobe Photoshop, and published the story
as an iPad app in 2011.
Codor’s app is among several released in recent years that are closer in tone to Saturday Night Live’s “Hanukkah Harry”
comedy sketches than to the traditional holiday story. The means of telling the tale may be more modern, but the point is the same: to make children look forward to spinning dreidels, lighting menorahs and eating latkes.
Codor, who now resides in Brooklyn, lived in Israel from 1971 to 1980 and did animation for what was the country’s only television station at that time. He enjoyed the way Israelis treated Chanukah as a secular holiday, focusing more on shared culture than religion.
“I wanted to bring that feeling and tradition here with the story,” Codor said.
In the app, children can read the story, play dreidel, do sing-a-longs and light a menorah as they turn pages. Codor said he does miss the tactile feeling of drawing on paper, rather than working on a tablet, as well as the excitement that comes from accidents with ink, but he does not see those elements as essential to his work.
“I think all this new technology is daunting, but if you have good ideas and can put them down, it doesn’t matter about the technology,” he said. “Good storytelling will never get old.”
“Latkes for Everyone!”
an iPad app created by Loy Enterprises, allows users to color in a book as they read a story about a girl named Leah and her love of latkes. With her family unable to afford latkes, Leah wishes for a holiday feast. Friends bring her so many potatoes and onions that she's able to share latkes with others in need.
The story of the app’s creation is an example of how people can collaborate across cities and religions. Four friends who all live in different cities started Loy, a company that’s not the primary job for any of them. It has created a variety of apps, not all of them Jewish, and two of the members are not Jewish, either.
Damian Moshak, who built the infrastructure for the app, is not Jewish but grew up in Skokie, Ill., where there is a strong Jewish community. He said the partners wanted to stay away from the “classic menorah and lights” story, which is already well known.
“We wanted to focus on family and friendship and sharing,” Moshak said.
In “Hanukkah with Zazzy Katz,”
an iPad and iPhone app, a puppet named Zazzy sings and talks to the user while doing activities, such as spinning a dreidel and eating Chanukah gelt.
Sam Tannen, the owner of Corky Portwine, which created the app, said he was trying to build something similar to the goofy Christmas specials he watched as a child, where a funny character talked to the audience. He had been working as an accountant but became seriously ill in 2011. While on disability he got the idea for the Chanukah app. When he recovered, he left his day job and started creating apps full time.
“People always joke about 'Hanukkah Harry' but there’s actually no one like him,” Tannen said. “I wanted to come up with my own character that would celebrate the Jewish holiday.”