New Jewish software aims for a home run

NEW YORK — You sit down at your computer, hands on the keys. A baseball game is on the screen.

It's Jewish IQ Baseball, a new generation of Jewish computer software. Unlike other baseball computer games, the player must correctly answer a question on Judaism to run the bases.

Once available only at Jewish bookstores or via mail-order, Jewish software is now part of a growing market.

One outlet, Kosher Komputer, offers a cornucopia of Jewish software. Located in the predominately Orthodox Jewish town of Monsey, N.Y., a suburb of New York, Kosher Komputer fills its shelves with items such as Judaic Wizard, Jewish IQ Baseball and Where In Israel?

While Jewish computer software is available at Jewish bookstores, "it is not an important category," says Emanual Fishman, co-owner of Kosher Komputer.

The fact that people "can actually see and work the software before they buy it" is one benefit of the store, Fishman says.

Kosher Komputer was originally intended as a sales outlet for software designed by Torah Educational Software. But it has expanded and now sells software for big Jewish software makers.

A few years ago, only a handful of software was available for the Jewish computer user. Now more than 60 titles exist.

"The prices are dropping and the graphics are nicer," says Jeff Astor, Kosher Komputer's store manager.

As in the secular world, Jewish software runs the gamut from educational games to printing programs to advanced research tools for the scholar.

"People are looking to educate themselves in their homes," says Anna Young, owner of the Jewish Software Center, a mail-order software company based in Los Gatos.

Young believes the software is especially helpful to people in small communities because it "helps people who don't have access" to other Jewish sources.

Clients from as far away as Gibraltar and Japan take advantage of the wealth of mail-order and online companies now selling Jewish software.

"Pick any country in the world and we probably have someone in our database," says Barbara Singal, marketing director for the Chicago-based Davka Corp., makers of more than 50 Judaic software programs.

Instead of parents hiring tutors, they can buy the software. "Invest once and it's a lifetime thing," says Chaya Teitelbaum, a Kosher Komputer sales representative.

Young said she and other parents want to "show their kids that playing Jewish software games can be fun."

Software designers are listening.

"The software is more sophisticated than it was several years ago," says Astor.