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Hanukkah App Lets Celebrants Light Virtual Menorah

By DNAinfo Staff on November 29, 2012 1:10pm

UPPER EAST SIDE — Meet the Menorah 2.0.

The Jewish Museum New York has released its first-ever Hanukkah app — "Light My Fire" — just in time for the Festival of Lights, which starts at sundown on Dec. 8.

The app allows iPhone and iPod Touch users to light a virtual menorah by first selecting from one of 18 lamps, picking a background, and then swiping a finger along the top of a candle to spark an electronic flame.

The tech-savvy faithful can also learn about the lamps' history and read Hanukkah prayers — plus share their menorahs with friends via Facebook and Twitter.

The eight-day holiday of Hanukkah, celebrated with the nine-branched menorah, marks the Maccabean revolt against the Greek-Syrians and the reinstatement of the Jews' Holy Temple.

Christine McMonagle, the museum's digital marketing manager, said they first dreamed up the idea about a year ago as a way to share the museum's huge collection of menorahs. The Jewish Museum is home to more than 1,000 menorah varieties, McMonagle said, making it one of the largest collections in the world.

"We've done a lot of traditional exhibitions. So this is something new we wanted to initiate," she said of the app. "It's unexpected for the Jewish Museum, and I think people got really excited about it."

It's unclear how many people have already downloaded the app, which is free and compatible with the iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, 5 and the iPod Touch's third-, fourth- and fifth-generation models.

There's currently no Android app, but museum officials are hoping to make one available by next Hanukkah.

"It's perfect for someone on the go," McMonagle said. "It's also great for someone who's into decorative objects and learning about the lamps in our collection or learning about Hanukkah. "

Chabad.org's Rabbi Motti Seligson said he liked the idea of the app, but suggested that traditionalists should stick to the basics to fulfill the Hanukkah candle-lighting requirement.

"The mitzvah of lighting a menorah is with an actual menorah and an actual flame," he said. "It sounds like a great app for awareness of Hanukkah, but you still have to go home and actually do it and actually light the menorah."

But the app can still act as a valuable addition to the festive celebration, he said.

"Technology should be harnessed for a good purpose," he said. "Letting people know about Hanukkah and giving them tools is a great thing."

The Jewish Museum has no plans "at this time" to launch a dreidel app, a representative said.

"But you never know what the future holds," she added.