ALL ABOUT TORAHTOTS
WHO FUNDS THE SITE?
Designed by R.A. Stone Design Associate
HI-TECH Computers, Inc.
Page last updated - 10/01/2006
WHO FUNDS THE SITE?
We are proud to say that from the very beginning, we have financed the site ourselves. The site is financed completely by Menachim Shimanowitz, of HI-TECH Computers, Inc., a partner in Torahtots.com. But the financial support is nothing compared to the hours and hours of writing, artwork, and technical time it takes to develop the content on the site. Both, Reuven A. Stone and Menachim Shimanowitz, dedicated no less than sixty hours a week to the site in the first three years, at the same time maintaining full-time jobs!! Today, the site takes over twenty late night hours a week to update, maintain and add fresh content.
When people begin to work on sites like ours, the first thing they usually do is look for funding. For us, however, it was a labor of love and still is. That means that you start out on a roll and you just keep going. When we began working on the site, the general consensus about the internet was that it was an informational medium, still pure of profiteering. Maybe that's why we didn't concentrate on soliciting sponsors and advertisers. We just wanted to develop something that would take on a life of its own for the sake of spreading the joy of learning Torah in a fun and exciting way.
Of course, if we had the corporate or private funding from grants and advertising, things would be much different. We have many new ideas for the site, but in order for it to grow and expand, we are actively looking for sponsors, private or corporate. Any ideas, Anyone?Back to top
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF Torah Tots?
Reuven A. Stone always had a love for Disney and the Muppets. He loved how they both approach costumed characters in their own unique styles. Disney's characters with polished craftsmanship and the muppets in a zany, almost out of control persona. When he began to write children's songs, he knew that he wanted to dedicate his efforts and music to the Jewish market. At the same time, he wanted to find a unique way of presenting Torah Tots to the public. He developed a series of characters, which personified the Mitzvot: a Torah, a kiddush cup, Mount Sinai, an Ark, a Siddur - that was step one.
In 1993, Reuven started to work with a keyboard player who specialized in midi. Without the expense of hiring an entire orchestra, Reuven could pick essentially any sound he wanted for his musical arrangements. With no limits to musical creativity, he was able, for the first time in his life, to fully orchestrate a song. With the magic of Midi, the animated voices of the Torah Tots were brought forth to their greatest potential set against serious orchestration.
Reuven worked together with Shloimy Bluth, an extremely talented and creative vocal impressionist, to develop the voices and personalities for each of the characters. The zany voices brought the album to life and from that point on, Torah Tots was truly a combination of "Disney's polished craftsmanship and Muppet madness." More importantly, Torah Tots would go on to become a unique tool for spreading a message of learning Torah with joy and happiness.
The next step was having costumes built based on the animated drawings Reuven had developed for each character. For the first time, "the mitzvot of Hashem came to life in a swirl of splendor!" You should have seen the wide eyes that followed every move as the Torah Tots took their first stroll down Thirteenth Avenue in Brooklyn! These children, who are not exposed to television or Disney culture, were at first shyly shaking hands with their favorite Mitzvot. It didn't take long, however, for them to graduate to hugging, laughing and dancing with the Torah Tots'!Back to top
In the world of cyber-space, "torahtots.com" has become the "Premier Site for Jewish Children." It began Rosh Hashana 1996, when Reuven was approached by Menachim Z. Shimanowitz, President of HI-TECH Computers, Inc., a computer consulting firm, to do some graphic art work for his business. Their conversations led to Reuven and Menachim deciding to create a web presence for Torah Tots'. They registered the name www.torahtots.com and went to work. Beginning with a series of down-loadable coloring pages for the High Holidays and a few brightly colored buttons, www.torahtots.com had all kinds of possibilities. But what was the objective of this future super-site? What would make people come back time after time? It was the week following Sukkot that they hit upon a grand idea -- Parsha On Parade!
Parsha On Parade, was declared the "Weekly Torah News-letter for Kids." The plan was to write a quick, humorous rundown of each week's Parsha. With the combined talents of Reuven and Menachim, "punny" titles and quick-witted punch-lines made their way into the rundown.
Once the Parsha was complete, Stone and Shimanowitz moved on to phase two: While Menachim re-edited the Parsha and programmed the website, Reuven grabbed his trusty black marker and plenty of paper and came up with three to five coloring pages. Then it was on to phase three: games and puzzles.
Phase three was to develop two or three games for kids to familiarize themselves with the common words and names from the portion. The crown jewel (or should we say "jarred kirby") of the puzzles became "Replace The Pickle," a delectable quiz game in which one must replace the word "pickle" (or the like) with the correct answer. For example: "Moshe came down from Har PICKLE with two CUCUMBERS" (answers: "Sinai" and "luchot"). That quizzical treat along with "Parsha Plopples" ("ewe willow vet" = "You will love it"), "Break The Star-Studded Code," "Parsha Word Search" and other printable games made Parsha On Parade an instant cyber-hit!!
Team together the Parsha, 3-5 coloring pages and four games and puzzles, and you've got a year-round Parsha curriculum that is fun and educational! Before long, Parsha took on a life of it's own. Every week, Reuven was expected to have all the graphic components ready for Menachim by Wednesday for launch on Thursday, when teachers would start teaching the Parsha to their students. Before long, it became apparent that surfers began looking for the Parsha on Sunday to use all week long in school. The rigorous schedule demanded Reuven and Menachim to work on Parsha at night, in the morning, in the car, on the train and on Lunch breaks.
The same formula was applied to a comprehensive Holiday section. A detailed account of the holiday story, traditions and practices was researched and written by Menachim and edited by Reuven. The games, puzzles and coloring were Reuven's responsibility. What started out as a simple experiment on the web was now drawing 10,000 unique visitors each month! (by Dec 2002 it was as high as 95,000).
As the year drew to a close, Reuven and Menachim found the completion of the final Parsha a deeply moving experience. To Reuven especially, although he learned Parsha each week, this was the first time he had ever finished the entire Torah. Being totally dedicated to writing the Parsha day in and day out had given him a new perspective on the continuity from Parsha to Parsha, book to book that is rare. It flowed from the Creation of the world to the promise Hashem made to Avrohom, to the fulfillment of that promise to the Jewish nation. All the while, both of them were aware that thousands of children all over the world were counting on the work they did every week. It was like a race that would last the entire year. No time to lag behind - and if Reuven did, Menachim was there to keep the ball rolling. Reuven A. Stone wrote in his first "end of the year message" that "Parsha On Parade has been the most intensive and fulfilling project I have ever worked on." For the next two years, Reuven and Menachim would edit and re-edit the Parsha, while upgrading the look and feel of the site.
For 5759 (1998-1999) Parsha On Parade took on the Midrash with a new feature called "Midrash Maven", a Midrash written in their unique style with a picture to go along.
Throughout that year, Menachim kept Reuven on the move, as Reuven drew hundreds of pictures for a brand new section on the site featuring the Alef-Bet. "Mysteries Of The Alef-Bet" for older kids and parents, gives insight into the hidden meaning behind each Hebrew letter. The section also features five or more pictures for each letter of the Alef-Bet and a vowel chart so kids can practice combining the letters with the vowels. Every week a new letter was featured. That added another three hours of programming to Menachim's torahtots.com schedule. At the programming helm, Menachim was putting in close to twenty hours preparing the site for each week's run. And that's after a days work! (which, among other things, includes putting other people's business' on the web).
Today, Torahtots.com gets millions of hits per month and has received the honor of "Site Of The Month" or "Best Jewish Site" by various Jewish and secular web- and print-magazines and providers such as "Yahoo," "Virtual Jerusalem," "Britannica.com," "Hareshima," "The Mining Company," "AOL," and "The Jewish Web Ring" "Horizon Magazine" "Sun-Sentinel.com," 4anything.com," "latimes.com," "NYTimes 'Pick of the Week'," "JAFI," and the "Jewish Week," among others.
People from all over the world, including Australia, South Africa, Texas, Netherlands, Israel, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Italy tune in each week for "Parsha On Parade." Over 5,000 e-mails are received annually, thanking Reuven A. Stone and Menachim Shimanowitz for this wonderful perspective on Jewish thought. Over 300 educators worldwide print and distribute "Parsha On Parade" to over 100,000 students. Reuven and Menachim consider torahtots.com their legacy, a constantly growing, ever expanding connection to the Jewish nation all over the world. Menachim and Reuven have never been paid for the development of this site. It is a project of love and dedication.
Over the years, with the development of the torahtots.com site, Torah Tots has become a household name, highly respected and anticipated whenever shows come to town or a new album is released. The website has enabled Torah Tots' to spread the message all over the world.
Reuven A. Stone and Menachim Shimanowitz have since partnered with Torah Educational Software (TES or JewishSoftware.com) to develop an educational interactive CD-ROM series based on "Parsha On Parade." Currently available is volume 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 - Bereishit, Shmot, Vayikra, Bamidbar and Devarim. Released to widespread acclaim. Parsha on Parade was awarded 5 stars (out of 5) by the Jerusalem Post for best Jewish Software.Back to top
3. What is the average number of hits your site receives daily?
TorahTots averages between 85,000 and 115,000 hits a day. We receive 3 to 5 thousand UNIQUE VISITORS DAILY. ALL WITHOUT ANY ADVERTISING.Back to top
4. Is there any difference between the site and the cd roms?
The INTERACTIVE CD-ROM series was developed for interactive use on the computer, without the need for the Internet. In addition to the content that is on the website, the CD is embellished with animation, character voices, narration, music, on-screen painting and animated games.
On each Parsha On Parade CD-ROM there is a "Big Parsha Quiz" with a hundred questions about the Parshiot. This interactive test is given in game show style, featuring Baruch McBracha as the Game Show Host and three Torah Tot characters providing the answers. You'll love the Yetzer Horah's answers- they're always impossibly zany! There is also an extensive Teachers' section that presents all the content from the CD-ROM in an easily accessible printable format for teachers who want to print the text, coloring pages, games and "Big Parsha Quiz."
In the planning stage, is a series of Interactive CD's for the Alef Bet and Holidays, based on the unique material found on the site, also embellished with animation, character voices, narration, music, on-screen painting and animated games.Back to top
Torah Tots' (the characters, music and shows) is moving in on its ten-year anniversary.
Currently, there are 2 types of shows available.
Right from the start, as soon as the first album came out, the original production, "Torah Tots' Live!" was a 90-minute variety show. Over the years, the show has developed further with lights, scenery, audience participation and a touch of Broadway choreography. At the same time, there is a "Two-Tot Show," a smaller version of the full show. With only two actors (as opposed to 7), a small set and the ability to perform anywhere within twenty minutes of arrival, this 40-minute, very affordable show has traveled best. The big show, however, is really a character showcase. When the Yetzer HaRah incites a chase through the audience, all the characters find themselves surrounded by excited mobs of children jumping and dancing.Back to top
Designed by R.A. Stone Design Associate
HI-TECH Computers, Inc.
Page last updated - 10/01/2006