Hannah Joffe has had a lot of free time in the last year. The pandemic really opened up the 12 year old’s schedule.
“I was really bored because my school was virtual,” says Hannah, a sixth grader at Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital.
Where others took up bread baking or crocheting, Hannah decided to make computer programing her new hobby. She took a couple of online courses and started programming. The result was an app, Jewish Holy Days, which Apple’s App Store approved for sale last month.
Hannah’s app shows the Hebrew dates of Jewish holidays and the corresponding dates on the secular calendar, from this year through 2050. It also lets the user create their own holiday to-do list.
“Never forget a pomegranate for Rosh Hashanah again!” the description on the app store promises.
Hannah says the idea for the app actually came from her dad, Hylton Joffe. He always found it a hassle to keep track of the Jewish holidays and often resorted to Googling each holy day so he could mark the proper date on his work calendar.
So Joffe tried to make one of his own. But he got bogged down with work, family responsibilities and involvement at Ohev Sholom — The National Synagogue, where the family are members. Luckily, he has Hannah for a daughter. She saw the project as a way to challenge herself while creating something for her dad.
In the end, Hannah says she learned the value of perseverance. The first time she sent in the app, the store rejected it due to “Minimum Functionality.” The second time, too. After each rejection, Hannah added more features.
“In life, you’re going to have a bunch of setbacks. But don’t give up and you’ll eventually succeed,” Hannah says.
Joffe says he’s proud of his daughter’s accomplishment and for following through on a project, start to finish. “In the face of challenges she never gave up. It’s really cool because two or three months ago she didn’t know anything about coding.”
Hannah says she has more plans for the app. She wants to add minor holidays, like Chanukah and Purim. She’s also working on another app that will be a puzzle game. This time around, her sister Rebecca, 10, is helping with the app’s art.
Hannah doesn’t know if programming is a pandemic hobby, like baking bread, or something she’ll do long term.
“I don’t think I’ll do this as a career,” she says. “But maybe on the side for fun.”