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The Shul That Innovation Built

Michal Eisikowitz

What could be more Jewish than transforming the mundane to holy? That’s exactly what’s been done in shuls across the world, where forward-thinking innovators have utilized new technologies to make our lives easier. Want to manage aliyos? Lein from a kosher sefer Torah? Daven for the amud with the right nusach? Instantly access minyan times? Buy a seat without waiting in line? Today, there’s a streamlined solution for just about everything shul-related. Here’s the backstory.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Beadle’s Best Friend

Name: Mendy Israel. Occupation: Software service provider and developer of E-Gabbai.

Some babies are born with silver spoons in their mouths, others with computer chips.

MendyIsraelwas always a technophile. Born and bred in far-from-Silicon-Valley Boro Park, he took an instant liking to the computer ware-friends both hard and soft, effortlessly climbing up the rungs of programming and information technology (IT) mastery.

“I love coming up with solutions, streamlining processes, making things simple and easy,” the self-taught, heimishe PC guru says. “I enjoyed it as a kid, and I continue enjoying it today.”

Currently the president of MI Consultants, a New York-based company providing custom software services to a broad range of industries, a grown-up Mendy has channeled his strengths and interests into a thriving business. Three years ago, after completing a Web site design job for Yeshiva of New Haven, he had an epiphany — and thus was born the company’s latest pet project, E-Gabbai.

“We finished this beautiful Web site and program that attracted people to a shul and automated its management tasks, and then it struck us: Why not create a back-end program for all shuls, to make shul management easy and efficient?”

Mendy got to work, outsourcing the development to a couple of talented programmers in Israelwho were very familiar with a typical shul’s operations. After three years of intense work, and continuous consultation with a seasoned shul gabbai who knew exactly what was needed, it was ready to roll.

“There are three main concepts to the program,” says the clear-thinking, methodical father of two. “The texting-messaging ­aspect, which helps the shul communicate better with its members; the accounting angle, which helps collect money owed to the shul; and the ready-to-go Web site — for those shuls that are interested.”

Gabbaim, says Mendy, are crazy about the text-messaging service, which often saves them hours of phone calls.

“Who wants to sponsor Shalosh Seudos this week?” a gabbai might type into his phone, instantly reaching 150 shul members.

“He’ll get at least two or three responses within minutes,” says Mendy. Sometimes, gabbaim will even conduct a live auction via texting, generating an astonishingly significant response. “Privilege of sponsoring this week’s electric bill … going once, going twice …”

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