You know the NCSY Bencher. You probably have a drawer full of them at home because, with more than 2.5 million of them in print, it’s an incredibly popular choice at weddings and bar mitzvahs (and more than a few have probably made their way home after an NCSY Shabbaton over the years!). Now, in addition to the Bencher’s German, Hungarian, Russian and Spanish editions, there’s a brand-new way to connect with the industry leader in benchers: on your phone with the new NCSY Bencher App!
NCSY, the international youth movement of the OU, officially unveiled the app at Yarchei Kallah, NCSY’s winter Torah-study retreat for public school students. Available on both the iTunes and Google Play stores, this incredibly user-friendly app offers not only “benching” (grace after meals), but also popular songs and zemiros for Shabbos. (Obviously, the app is not intended for use on Shabbos or yom tov; in this instance, the app is intended as an educational tool to help people learn the zemiros – more about that very shortly.)
The NCSY Bencher was the brainchild of David Olivestone, who later served as director of communications for the Orthodox Union. The original, groundbreaking Bencher featured the text in Hebrew, English translation, and an intuitive transliteration (Hebrew words phonetically in English), all in an attractive, easy-to-follow layout.
The idea for the app was pitched by Samuel Waller, a financial adviser in Manhattan, who observed that, while the Bencher itself is ubiquitous, those who were not raised in observant homes may find many aspects of it beyond their reach. In addition to its use as a bencher for weekday use, the app functions as an educational tool to teach the melodies and pronunciation of the Shabbos zemiros and more than 125 traditional songs thanks to a database of audio recordings performed by singer/songwriter Aryeh Kuntsler.
Kudos to NCSY international director Rabbi Micah Greenland and associate international director Keevy Fried for spearheading this important addition to Jewish life and education. You can see a trailer about the app here and download the app itself for free for iOS and Android.