Muting your iPhone when entering Shul

Last time, we discussed the two issues we all face regarding tefillah and smart phones. The first is stopping your phone’s notifications from disturbing your own tefillah when using your phone as a Siddur (which is best to only be used outside of a Shul where there are no shelves filled with Siddurim). The second is turning off all noise from your phone (ringer and vibration) when entering a Shul so that it does not disturb anyone around you.

We presented a solution for Android phone users using the IFTTT platform (If This Than That) where the phone’s Do Not Disturb Mode can be triggered automatically when entering your Shul.  You can find this IFTTT recipe as well as my growing list of other recipes for the Shomer Shabbat on the Tribe Tech Review IFTTT page.

Now for many of you that are using an iPhone, I present to you the Apple side of the story.

Instead of embracing the popular IFTTT platform and integrating the iPhone in a robust manner, Apple chose to compete with its own App called Shortcuts (previously known as Workflows).  Shortcuts is like IFTTT in many ways and perhaps offers even more flexibility out of the box but with significantly less third-party integrations (besides Apple). Additionally, the ability to trigger events automatically, something fundamental, is lacking.  I have seen online discussions about automatic triggers of Shortcuts and some believe this feature will be added later.  However, I believe that this feature may be counter to the Apple strategy.  Apple wants you to use Siri or your HomePod to call Shortcuts. Additionally, Apple’s re-branding of the app to the name Shortcuts specifically implies the need to do something to get there quicker, not something that is fully automated.  Apple’s strategy around its ecosystem is to provide a closed and secure platform.  Thus, I understand how allowing third party apps like IFTTT to control IOS devices may be counter to that strategy. However, Shortcuts is an Apple service, so I am surprised it is missing this feature.


Regardless, I believe that I have a solution/hack that will get you as close as possible to an automated trigger.  I created a Shortcut on the platform that will simply turn your iPhone’s Do Not Disturb mode on.  You can then have your iPhone remind you when you enter Shul to turn on Do Not Disturb Mode.  The Reminder itself can have the Shortcut embedded so that a quick tap of the reminder is all you need to mute your phone, making it quick and easy to implement.  You will need to install the Shortcuts App, create the Shortcut to set your Phone to Do Not Disturb (or import mine) and have your Synagogue with its address as a Contact.  You will also need to have IOS 12 or greater installed.

After installing the Shortcuts App, download the Shortcut “Mute iPhone for Tefillah” onto your iPhone.


Then open the Shortcut from your Library by clicking on the three dots “…” to edit the Shortcut.  You will see that the Shortcut turns on the Do Not Disturb mode until you leave.  With this screen open (important) speak to Siri and say these magic words: “Hey Siri, When I arrive at Synagogue, remind me to run this.”  Siri will respond with a reminder that has the Shortcuts logo embedded.  Now when you enter your Shul’s Address, a reminder to run the Mute iPhone for Tefillah Shortcut will appear.



There are few caveats to be aware of.  First, when the reminder appears, do not complete the reminder. Simply run the Shortcut so that the Reminder will appear again the next time you enter shul.  Second, please go to your Settings and ensure that your Sounds for Reminders are set to None.  Having this reminder setting off a chime would certainly be counter-productive to your goal of silence. Of course, this Shortcut can also be used if you want the same functionality when you enter school, library or work.  If your goal is to Mute your Phone when entering a location, this Shortcut will work for you.

Now, if there was only a Shortcut to remind people to stop talking in Shul…Happy Chanukah!

Muting your Android Phone When Entering Shul

I am usually the one who touts the benefits of technology within the confines of religious life. I point out how it can enhance your Shabbos and Yom Tov by turning on and off your lights. I research ways to use your gas fireplace on Friday nights to make your Shabbos a little warmer, and I will write about how you can listen to the Daf Yomi on the Amazon Echo. However, there is an area where technology may not be compatible with religious life: I am referring to, of course, having your phone turned on in shul.


We all have a siddur app on our phones that is handy when we are not in shul. At the last wedding I attended, there was a large mincha minyan with nearly everyone davening from their phone. I am sure Steve Jobs is smiling down from heaven as everyone davens to their phone. However, if Hashem is smiling at this is another question.

The problem with using a phone during davening has two facets. The first is the potential distraction of others by having your phone ring or vibrate, disturbing the people around you. Second, the distraction it causes in your own tefillah even if it is not disturbing others.

My phone is always vying for my attention. I have alerts for breaking news, stock movements, weather and the President’s tweets, just to mention a few. While these alerts alone can be a sensory overload, having to view and swipe an alert during Shmona Esrei will surely ruin any focus and connection one is having with the Almighty.

Taking a siddur is always the best idea and really the only option in a shul with shelves full of Siddurim. When not in a shul, a habit I try to form when beginning Ashrei is to turn the phone to Do Not Disturb mode. Turning off your ringer alone will not stop the distracting notifications as Do Not Disturb mode can. There are settings you will need to consider when turning on this mode and the options will depend on the phone and the version of the software you have. An alternative to the Do Not Disturb mode is to turn on Airplane mode.

The second issue with phones and tefillah is forgetting to turn off your ringer when entering shul even when it is left in your pocket. My shul has a charging station in the lobby with compartments with locks and keys, so you could safely leave your phone outside of the shul and even charge it while you daven. Yet, it is all too common for someone’s phone to ring or chime during davening, disturbing the entire minyan. The last time this happened, I thought for a moment, maybe this is a sign for me to pursue a simpler, less technological life. Then I realized the purpose of my articles is to find ways to mold technology so that it is compatible with Halacha and observant life. Thus, the idea for this column occurred to me. By then, I had taken three steps backwards and likely thought little of any of the words I was saying.

Even if you turn your phone to vibrate, the vibrations are enough to disturb those around you. Of course, if you have made it a habit of turning your phone to Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode you can also turn off the sound and vibrations. However, wouldn’t it be nice if there was an automated way of silencing your phone whenever you enter shul? As your Orthodox Tech Journalist, I decided to research this possibility and update you as technology evolves.

I believe I have two potential solutions for you. One if you are an Android phone user and another less robust solution if you are an iPhone user.

For Android users, you may recall, my previous column discussed using the IFTTT (If This Than That) Platform to turn off motion on your camera. Another IFTTT recipe I created was to mute (including vibrations) your Android phone when entering a location. If you go to you will see my growing list of IFTTT recipes for the Shomer Shabbos user. If you select the “Mute Android phone when entering shul”, you will be able to tap on the map (not the address) and alter the location if my shul is not your default shul. You can also zoom in and out of the location to provide greater location accuracy.  This can be important if you live very close to shul or pass nearby without entering. You will also need to enable the reverse recipe of turning the mode off when leaving shul if you want it to be truly seamless. This is a pretty clean solution. I have been testing it with some Beta users and it seems to mostly work well but until you are confident that it is, I suggest you double check your phone before entering Shul.

Unfortunately, iPhone users will have to wait for the next column… so until then, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In or WordPress.

A Wyze Camera for Shabbos (Part II)

In my previous column, we looked at the Wyze Cam smart camera which retails for $19.99 at  We discussed the camera’s robust functionality, attractive price point and (unlike higher priced cameras) its free 14-day cloud storage. In part, Wyze achieves this price point by only storing video in the cloud in 12-second clips after the camera detects motion. We raised the issue of motion detection sensors that trigger events in your home on Shabbat and promised to provide a solution. In this article, we’ll explore a solution that may be a foundation for many smart home applications.

Wyze Cam $19.99

I mentioned in the last column that while the Wyze Cam app does allow for turning off the motion detection at certain times during the day, it does not allow you to choose the day of the week, or to choose times based on sunset for Shabbos. Plugging the camera into a smart switch that turns the entire camera off for Shabbos is a solution, but one that leaves you without recording activity, negating the primary purpose of a security camera.

Addressing the 24/7 recording requirement turns out to be easy. The Wyze Cam offers an option to install a micro SD card and set the camera to record continuously. This changes the camera’s reliance on just motion; instead it records 24/7.  The size of your SD card will dictate the length of playback available as the camera will overwrite older recordings as it needs space. A 32 GB SD Card will give you a few days of continuous recording. If you simply turn off the motion detection and choose continuous recordings most halachic authorities would agree that this is permissible on Shabbos. The motion detection, however, is a key feature that you would only want to turn off on Shabbos and Yom Tov but the app itself will not allow this.

I placed a development request to the company to at least allow day of the week scheduling and sunrise and sunset times for motion detection, but at this time the app still does not offer this. Additionally, this would only address Shabbos but not Yom Tov which, of course, occurs on weekdays as well.

Recently, the Wyze Cam enabled IFTTT connectivity which I believe can resolve all the camera’s Shabbos and Yom Tov issues concerning motion detection. IFTTT stands for IfThisThanThat and it allows many devices to integrate with other services. In our case, the “If” will be if it is Shabbos or Yom Tov and the “Then That” will be to turn off the Wyze Cam motion sensing. We can also create the reverse which is to turn the motion sensor back on Motzaei Shabbos.

IFTTT is a free app that can be loaded onto any Apple or Android device.  Once you sign in, there are a growing number of services and devices you can integrate. In our case, we will be integrating a Google Calendar pre-loaded with candle lighting and Havdalah times for both Shabbos and Yom Tov.

I created a series of public Google calendars pre-loaded with all candle lighting and Havdalah dates and times for several years. These calendars and IFTTT can be integrated to address Shabbos and Yom Tov issues with the Wyze Cam and potentially many other devices. There is a separate calendar for several time zones. There is one for New York Metro, Chicago, LA, etc. and, of course, one for Jerusalem. If you need another time zone, send me an email ( and I will be happy to add it.

To add the appropriate Tribe Tech Review Public Shabbos and Yom Tov Google Calendar to your personal calendar, follow the instructions on the Navigation Page.

I created two Applet on IFTTT as TribeTechReview.  One to link the Google Calendar and turn off the Wyze Cam motion detection for Shabbos and Yom Tov and then another Applet to turn them back on after Havdalah.  You can search for the TribeTechreview Applets by searching for the keywords “Shabbat” or “Yom Tov” or by clicking this link. To integrate IFTTT with both the Google Calendar and Wyze Cam you will need to login to both services on the IFTTT Platform.  The App will prompt you for the appropriate login when required.


I setup the candle lighting Applet to trigger 15 minutes before the listed time to provide a buffer so that small execution delays and time zone differences should not be an issue. I tested both the Candle lighting and Havdalah Applets over several weeks and it worked flawlessly and ran within a few minutes of the scheduled time. This solution will work even if your phone is powered off.

TRIBE RATED version 4

The IFTTT integration is a tremendous step forward for Shomer Shabbos consumers of smart home technology. I would like to see more hardware companies integrate it as it can be the basis of solving the many Shabbos issues that seems to be emerging in home automation. With the Wyze Cam’s IFTTT integration, I can give the camera a high Tribe Tech Level 4 of 5 Rating for being Shabbos and Yom Tov compliant with third party integration. In fact, good things do come in small packages.


Instructions for importing a Public Shabbos and Yom Tov Calendar to your Google Calendar

As a public service, I created a series of public Google calendars pre-loaded with all candle lighting and Havdalah dates and times for several years. These calendars can be integrated to address Shabbos and Yom Tov issues with home automation or just give you candle lighting times for Shabbos and Yom Tov. I created a calendar for several time zones. There is one for New York Metro, Chicago, LA, etc. and, of course, one for Jerusalem. If you need another time zone, send me an email ( and I will be happy to add it.

To add the appropriate Tribe Tech Review Public Shabbos and Yom Tov Google Calendar to your list of personal calendars, Right Click and Copy the appropriate calendar URL link below.  Then go to your Google Calendar on any computer (not phone).  Choose Add Friends Calendar by URL and then paste the appropriate calendar link from the time zones below:

A Wyze Camera For Shabbat

There are many smart security cameras on the market. Nest is a popular brand offering cameras at $199 and $299. Netgear, another popular brand, offers the Arlo camera at $199, while Amazon offers the Cloud Cam for $119. Nest requires a subscription-based cloud service to store video in the cloud so that you can view it from anywhere. The Nest Aware cloud history service is $100 a year for 10 days of history and goes up to $300 a year for 30 days of history. It’s bundled with other services as well. When reviewing home technology, I often prefer to start at the bottom from a cost perspective and see if the features provided are sufficient before I move on to technology with a higher price tag. This month I’m reviewing the Wyze Cam, which sells for $19.99 at No, that is not a typo; the camera costs 20 bucks and does not require a storage subscription. Interested? Keep reading.

When the Wyze Cam camera arrived in the mail, I was shocked at how small the box was: literally a 2-inch cube. Do good things come in small packages? My wife Bibi’s reaction was, “Wow, this camera is cute.” The camera comes with a flexible stand, which allows it to be raised, tilted and swiveled to point in any direction. It also comes with a magnetic base and an adhesive for wall mounting (although I did not mount mine). The camera requires a nearby power outlet (it is not battery powered) and of course a Wi-Fi connection.


Once plugged in, a simple application of the camera is as a baby monitor that will allow you to view your little ones from anywhere. I recommended this to a colleague who is a new father and he loves it. There is also a two-way voice connection that allows you to speak to the camera and hear sounds along with viewing live images.

Right out of the box the camera offers both sound and motion-detection options. When movement or sound is detected, the camera records and uploads to the cloud 12-second clips, which are saved for 14 days without a subscription. That is a huge advantage over some other services that charge hefty fees for a similar feature.

I found the motion sensor to be accurate, detecting primarily actual movement. Occasionally, I received empty motion clips that seems to be triggered by cloud movements and shadows. There is a sensitivity option that I dialed down to address this. The sound clips did not seem very helpful in my experience, though I did discover that houses make sounds—be it the air conditioning or heating or the refrigerator compressor switching on. I dialed down the sound sensor drastically, hoping it would still capture a glass breakage or other loud sound but not bother with the rest.

There is a separate smoke and carbon monoxide alarm sensor that will notify you if any of your external house alarms are triggered, which can be very helpful in a real emergency. The camera also has wide angle (110 degree) viewing capabilities. When I placed it in my foyer I was able to monitor both my front and side doors simultaneously since they are set at a 90-degree angle of each other. If you require coverage of angles wider than 110 degrees you can use two cameras and daisy chain from one power source to multiple cameras, avoiding extra wires.

There is also a night vision mode that I set to Auto; it produces high-quality videos even with all the lights in the house switched off.

The camera is only for indoor use, so I placed it on a windowsill facing the street to capture activity outside my front door. It worked well during the daytime, capturing all movements to my front door. The camera is compatible with the Alexa, so I can ask to view a live image of my front door from a compatible Alexa-enabled device (Echo Show). The wide angle and motion detection works against you in this scenario as the motion sensor picks up each car traveling on your block. Fortunately, a recent update to the software allows you to set a specific zone for motion detection. I set it to the narrow view of my front path while excluding any movement beyond the curb. This defines the motion-detection zone, but once motion is detected in that zone the full camera view is recorded. Nighttime video, however, was a little bit of a disappointment on my window due to the reflection of the glass.  Perhaps if you have a better lighting in front of your house it will give you a better image.  In a recent interview with the Wyze Cam CEO, there was a hint of an outdoor version of the camera in the company’s near future.   I will hold off on purchasing outdoor cameras for a while until this is released.

Motion detection on Shabbat poses the big challenge for this camera as well as other smart cameras and smart home devices. When speaking with halachic authorities, the common opinion is that triggering motion detection that is not for your benefit is not a problem. However, where the trigger is for your benefit it can be problematic. For example, if your neighbor’s motion light sensors are triggered when you pass on your way home, this may not be an issue since the motion detection is for your neighbor’s benefit and not yours. However, setting up a motion-sensitive camera in your own home is clearly for your benefit and this may not be permissible if it will trigger events on Shabbat. In a previous article I quoted rabbinic authorities who believe keeping an Amazon Echo listening in your home on Shabbat is problematic for similar reasons (see Alexa get Ready For Shabbat ).

The app does allow for turning off the motion detection at certain times during the day but does not allow you to choose the day of the week, or to choose times based on sunset for Shabbat. Plugging the camera into a smart switch that turns the entire camera off for Shabbat is a solution (one that I previously recommended for the Amazon Echo itself). I did this for a while and it rebooted after Shabbat without issue. However, I wanted to find a way to keep the safety of the recording going 24/7 but to just turn off the motion-detection triggers over Shabbat and Yom Tov. I have found a solution and it is a solution that may work for other smart device integrations. It is a bit elaborate, so check back soon for Part II…

Using Waze as Your Car’s Built-In Navigation System

NavigtionsMy wife drives a 2017 Nissan Pathfinder. She routinely tells me she loves her car. I am less enthusiastic. For $2,000 we upgraded the vehicle to the “tech package” that includes a navigation system, but the vehicle’s built-in navigational interface is shamefully behind the times. Therefore, to navigate while driving, I clip my phone to a $5 plastic piece that grips the vents of the air conditioning system. I spoke to local car leasing expert Aryeh Moskowitz of Arcar Motors and he agreed that I am not alone in my disappointment. In fact, technology complaints are at the top of the list, according to a recent J. D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study. Wouldn’t it be ideal if our phones easily connected to our dashboards and empowered it with the same capabilities of our phones? The answer, of course, is yes, but is the technology currently available?

My navigation application of choice is Waze. At times, I also use Google Maps. I prefer Waze because I believe its live crowd-sourcing of traffic is superior to any other navigation system available. The interface is clearly much more intuitive than my car’s system. I’ve noticed as I travel that most of the Uber drivers I encounter also use Waze. Some occasionally use Google Maps or the built in Uber map—also Google-based. At times I even use Waze when I know where I am going, just to warn me about traffic cameras and speed traps. I also must admit that I love Israeli technology.

When I was in Israel my rental car came with a Waze navigation system. This was somewhat surprising as I have not seen this option yet in any new, used or rented car in the United States. However, that is what I want in my dashboard: the navigation system of my choice integrated with the car sound system so music will fade when a notification is being communicated and a voice call will work with my navigation system the same way it does for the current factory-installed system.

If you are in the market for a new car, you will notice that some cars now have a (optional) feature called Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto. The idea of these platforms seems to address the functionality we desire. When you plug in your phone to the car USB port (wireless versions are on their way), a selection of available apps optimized for in-car use are displayed. Each platform has its own set of compatible apps that are now built into your dashboard screen. However, do they provide the seamless Waze navigation integration we have been looking for?

I reached out to Aryeh again and asked him to grant me access to a car with Android Auto installed. Thankfully, he had one available and joined me with intrigue as we tested the functionality. We plugged in an Android phone with Android Auto installed, and after some settings configurations we were given the choice of using Google Maps or Waze on our dashboard maps. We selected Waze and, presto, voice guidance took over in the vehicle.

We took it a step further and tested the ability to issue voice commands to Google to make phone calls and send text messages. We were able to say “OK Google, Call” or “Text,” including via WhatsApp, and were even able to ask Google to “play music” from several streaming services. Finally, we were able to say, “Ok Google, navigate home using Waze.” No buttons to press or interface to “navigate.” If you are a user of the Google digital assistant, you can ask Android Auto for anything you can ask your assistant. You can ask it to close the lights or the garage at home, set your thermostat on the way home from work or to read you an audiobook on a long road trip. Try getting your $2,000 factory-installed navigation system to do these.

While much of this same functionality exists on the Apple Car Play, the only navigation app that Apple offers is its own Apple Maps. Sadly for Apple users, both Google Maps and Waze are not available on the Apple CarPlay platform. While Apple Maps has been around for many years, it is far from the best offering from Apple and not what I or many of you use, even if you are completely entrenched in the Apple ecosystem. Allowing Google Maps and Waze on the Apple CarPlay platform would require both Google to desire it and Apple to allow it. As competition for the dominant dashboard platform of the future heats up, I don’t expect either of these fierce competitors to allow it.*

(* Since originally written, Apple has announced they will support third part Maps including Waze within Carplay .  This is of course welcome news)

Regardless of Apple or Android platform, the features on these platforms outperform car manufacturer-installed systems. One would expect all car manufacturers to embrace these platforms. However, after taking a closer look with Aryeh, not all manufacturers have adopted them in all Models. Infiniti as an example currently does not offer either. BMW offers just Apple CarPlay as an option but not Android Auto. Hyundai, on the other hand, offers both standard. Some manufacturers have announced plans to offer one or the other, while others have embraced the newcomer Amazon, who plans to integrate Alexa into your dashboard.

Will the availability of a platform impact your decision of which car to buy? It is certainly something for you to consider, especially if you want the latest technology embedded into your vehicle. But what if you love a car or already own one without the platforms? Are you stuck in car technology purgatory? Luckily, there are several stereo receivers that are available to be installed into your dashboard that come with both the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto platforms. These receivers can be purchased and installed by companies such as Best Buy. However, for directions to a store near you, you will still need to take your phone out and glue it to your dashboard. If you are using Apple Maps instead of Waze, please watch out for those speed traps and potholes along the way.

Alexa as a Home Intercom System

When we renovated our home, our contractor presented us with the option of installing a classic intercom system. This type of system requires a special phone or a wall-mounted device to page and communicate by voice from room to room. However, something inside of me said that these systems will be obsolete by the time they are installed, so we passed on the option. I then set out to find the latest intercom technology and I am certainly glad that I waited.

The first device that caught my attention was the Nucleus intercom system. If you are looking for an intercom that has both audio and video, this system may be the way to go. The product has come down in price significantly, and at $100 provides a rich set of features including an integrated Amazon Alexa. This means that you can use the device as a stand-alone video intercom or as if it was an Amazon Echo. You will require one of these devices in each room in which you want an intercom set up, which can quickly add up. Additionally, to hang this on a wall you will either require a power source at eye level or have a wire running up the wall. Alternatively, a power over ethernet (POE) would need to be run at eye level to the location of each potential device. The installation can quickly add to the total price. Placing the device on a stand and using WiFi with the cord running behind furniture is certainly the most economical and aesthetic way to go. I have not tested the product, but I do not believe it avoids any of the Shabbos issues raised previously with the Echo. Additionally, powering the device via POE will not allow the smart timer solution I provided in an earlier article.

Given that I (and presumably many of you) already have an Amazon Echo in several rooms, using the Echo as a home intercom system seems like the easiest and more cost-effective choice, for now. You can add an Echo Dot for under $50 and expand it to rooms as you feel necessary. While I don’t currently own the Echo Show, which is the Echo device with a screen, I did convert a Fire Tablet that I bought on sale for under $50 and converted to an Echo with a screen.  This is a much cheaper alternative to the Echo Show without the “clunkiness” of the device. While, we do not have a smart doorbell with Alexa compatibility, I do have a camera on the front door that I can ask Alexa to view from the Tablet.

The key to setting up an Echo device as an intercom is to uniquely name each device after the room in which it is located. We have the kitchen device named “Kitchen” and my daughter’s room named “Abby.” I keep the names as short as possible to make it easiest to speak. For example, saying, “Alexa, call Abby” is easier than saying, “Alexa, Call Abby’s Echo Dot” or “Alexa, Call Abby’s Bedroom.” It also makes it less likely that Alexa will misunderstand a word.

The Echo has two calling modes. One is simply a call where the device rings and a voice command is required to answer the call. The second method is the “drop-in” mode, where the connection is instantly established with no answer or acknowledgement necessary. This can be problematic from a privacy perspective. I set my kitchen Echo to allow drop-in from household members only. The thought is, anyone who can physically drop into the kitchen at any moment can also drop-in via Alexa. However, the master bedroom, which requires a knock before physically entering, will certainly require specific permission before connecting. I set the drop-in feature on this room to “off.” For kids’ rooms, it is really a personal call. If you have an Echo show (or Tablet) with video features, you may feel differently about this than if it is just a voice connection.

While the Echo as an intercom works well, Amazon is far from content to leave it at that. The Echo also allows the intercom to extend beyond the walls of your home. The intercom and drop-in feature can extend to anyone who owns an Echo device. My parents have an Echo and we have used it to talk occasionally (yes, Mom, I know I should call you more often). My daughter has an Echo in her college dorm and it does make me feel like she is just a little closer to home. But beware, Amazon is very aggressive in asking for access to your contacts, and if you don’t configure your Drop-In settings properly, you may have your boss or other contacts Drop-In on your family dinner unannounced, or perhaps even worse.

Finally, Amazon is taking aim at phone cord cutters (those who opt not to have a home phone) and now offer a device called the Echo Connect that will allow your Echoes to call any land line or cell phone. While I have not tested this yet, the idea of being able to dial everyone on your phone book without picking up a landline or cell phone is certainly appealing. To all this, my mom has one thing to say, “OK, so don’t pick up the phone; but call me anyway!”