An App for That

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From an iShofar to smart Siddurs, RustyBrick, the software company founded by twins Barry and Ronnie Schwartz, dominates the Jewish app market.

Far from the sleek offices of Silicon Valley, a nondescript office building off the New York Thruway in Suffern, N.Y., just over the New Jersey border, houses the headquarters of RustyBrick, a modest web-development company with some higher concerns. Founded and run by brothers Barry and Ronnie Schwartz, 31-year-old fraternal twins, RustyBrick has cornered the market on iPhone and iPad applications for observant Jews.

The Schwartz brothers are tech-savvy Modern Orthodox Jews, which makes them well-positioned to forecast their customers’ desires. “Anything we find useful that we want in our phone, we’ll develop,” Barry Schwartz said. RustyBrick’s 25 Jewish apps include an iPhone Siddur, an iPhone Tanach, and a Shabbat app that provides candle-lighting times and has been downloaded more than 400,000 times. RustyBrick’s shofar app—a simple, free, and, it must be said, completely irritating application that plays the four distinct shofar sounds, was downloaded thousands of times in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah last year, Barry said.

When the twins were in high school in Monsey, N.Y., the nearby ultra-Orthodox hamlet, Ronnie discovered a knack for design and software development. They formed their company in 1999, while they were both in college; today they have 19 employees. Barry, the charismatic brother, handles the business operations, while Ronnie, more reserved, oversees software development. “Anything not related to technology I do,” Barry said. “We overlap,” Ronnie corrected. Twins.

The Siddur was the first iPhone app they developed, in 2008; Barry, who bought the first-generation iPhone, wanted to have a prayerbook on his new device. “There’s a lot of math put in there,” he said of the Siddur, which took him several years to complete and which he still tweaks and updates. The Siddur adjusts both to its user and the changing Jewish calendar, enabling a user to store preferences—Ashkenazic or Sephardic, for example—and see what prayers to say on a specific day at a specific time. (read full article on Tablet Magazine)


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