"Nothing stands before the will".
Or so we are taught.
It was 4 short years ago that in an effort to boost Jewish pride and provide Hebrew reading review for Jewish kids around the world, we decided to develop a "Jewish Club Penguin" virtual website for kids of the diaspora and beyond.
(I know I'm not the first.)
The site would include games and review for Aleph Champ as well as other "worlds" filled with mitzvot, Jewish history and Judaic knowledge, activities and missions.
Imagine virtual menorah lighting in the city park. Visiting the sick in the virtual town hospital. Heading to the Judaica store to purchase any of 20 mezuzah cases for your virtual character's home.
So after a year of drawing Dr. Seuss like worlds and dreaming up game ideas & character personalities with my "ever-ready-to-talk-about-alephchampkids.com" nieces and nephews, we hired a development team of lovely Romanians who speak a better English than I do.
A year later we had made little progress and finally decided to do some research into Club Penguin.
It seems Club Penguin is a
multi-million dollar website created by Disney.
Nice try kids.
But... "Nothing stands before the will".
Time for plan B.
(Mind you, plan A was only put on hold... until we find someone crazy enough to partner with us financially. Wink wink.)
Plan B was a "Mario Land" type world where kids would have colored Aleph Champ Lands to play level appropriate games and challenges, slowly moving their way up until they reach Black Aleph.
The very talented Marc Lumer was brought on board to start designing "White Land" and the Aleph Champ characters.
A game developer was hired to create review games for the white and red levels. 100's of aleph bet activities later we ran out of $$. It was just too expensive to create 10 colored worlds filled with games and challenges.
But... "Nothing stands before the will".
Time for plan C.
(Mind you, plan B is still in the works, just on hold until we are ready to continue construction...)
My super-sane and perfectly practical cousin Mushka Friedman came to work at Aleph Champ for the year. After showing her the site we had been working 3 years to achieve Mushka says, "Chani, why don't we take a few of the features your dev team have already created and release a homework site".
Such. A. Simple. Idea.
Why didn't I think of that? After all, our goal at Aleph Champ is to produce "Champion Readers" and the most important element to becoming a great reader is practice, practice, practice.
So plan C was born. Take away all the bells & whistles. Just release a functional homework site... with possibly a few review games... and a little art studio... and aleph bet song chart...
Easier said than done.
If you've never worked with programmers as a complete novice, let me tell you, all the creativity and brains in the world won't help you understand what it takes to design and code technology.
It's Pesach time. I was in Israel with my ever-generous brother Chaim on the search for an Israeli developer to take on my project. The Romanians were wonderful but if we wanted the games to go up to words we really needed a Hebrew speaker.
Long story short, Chaim sets up a meeting with Shachar Oz from Flux Inc. Shachar and his wife Leron are a dynamic couple. Together they run a company that...
Both were enamored with the idea. From plan A to B to C.
Aside from the shared enthusiasm for increasing Jewish pride and sense of community for kids along with exposure to Hebrew reading (and language of course ;)) they came with the real life knowledge of "how to actually make it happen".
So here we are.
Rather than wait for a perfect product we decided to release a very exciting, mid-development alephchampkids.com in its beta stage, with all its potential glitches, updates and necessary improvements for the 5767 school year.
Baruch HaShem we have 100+ brave schools who have signed up for the beta site and have already begun sharing their experiences with us. Their feedback is crucial for our development.
As Shachar recently said "the site will look and act dramatically different in 6 months from now".
Over the next 6 months we ha