ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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UK interfaith friends develop app to help tamp virus spread in houses of worship

Jew, Muslim, Christian and Hindu are behind Prayin.io, with which congregations can keep track of who took part in prayer services and notify participants of any COVID-19 diagnoses

Jews pray next to their house as synagogues are limited to 20 people as per the government's measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Bnei Brak, Israel, July 9, 2020. (Oded Balilty/AP)
Jews pray next to their house as synagogues are limited to 20 people as per the government's measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Bnei Brak, Israel, July 9, 2020. (Oded Balilty/AP)

A Jew, a Christian, a Muslim and a Hindu have joined forces to produce an app that aims to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus among prayer congregations by keeping track of who was present so that updates on virus cases among worshipers can be quickly passed on.

Prayin.io is the brainchild of Shneor Crombie, Patrick Dobinson, Hussein Duvigneau and Ritesh Vatwani, who all work at the same startup based in London.

“We hope the app will help communities get back together and pray together while maintaining health security, and that we will soon no longer require social distancing,” Crombie, an Israeli who lives in London, told the Makor Rishon website last week.

Currently a website, but with Android and iOS versions coming soon, the service lets administrators manage prayer hours, dates, and the number of permitted worshipers for each event, according to local restriction orders. Users can also reserve their places for a prayer service. As soon as someone reports that they were diagnosed, administrators can quickly inform others who attended the same services as the infected person.

Crombie said the app is being used by religious congregations all over the world, including many synagogues in Israel and even Thailand. Demand has been so great that at times nearly 100 new synagogues have signed up in a single day to use the app, which, Crombie said, “makes me very happy.”

Already available in various languages, the app will also soon be offered in Hebrew, he said.

“I pushed that we offer the service in Hebrew as well, and it required a greater investment to convert the whole system to support that language,” he told Makor Rishon. “It was very important to me that synagogues could also use the product.”

Crombie, 36, is from north London and a member of Ner Yisroel Hendon, the Times of Israel partner site the Jewish News reported last week.

In the UK, the chief rabbi’s office advised synagogues to use the app and all United Synagogue congregations have access to a booking system via Prayin.io.

Rachel Shebabo, director of the Chief Rabbi’s Centre for Community Excellence, told the Jewish News that Prayin.io. will help the Office of the Chief Rabbi find solutions “to the many challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Prayin.io is an excellent example of such a solution and the fact that it was developed as a non-profit venture by four great friends of different faith backgrounds, is all the more reason to offer it our full support!” she said.

The app is being offered free and is not a profit-driven venture, Crombie said.

“We hope that the Prayin.io app will help the congregation get back together safely and that soon our product won’t be needed anymore,” he said.

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