By Johnny Moseman
For the Mitzpeh
When Daniel Reidler and Josh Nehrer were in college, they thought it should be a lot easier to plan a Shabbat meal. A lot goes into planning one of these potluck-style meals. It would always take a long time to coordinate who is bringing what and everyone is not normally on the same page.
Normally, a Facebook event or a Google Document would be created to let everyone know who is bringing what and even then it still hard to coordinate with that many people.
After struggling with this problem for most of their college career, Reidler and Nehrer created an app to take the troubles out of planning a Shabbat meal. WeMeal is an app they developed over the past year that makes potluck coordination easier.
“After college I moved to Israel with some friends and my friends thought this should just exist already and it should be super easy to coordinate these meals,” Reidler said.
Reidler, a Columbia graduate, Nehrer, a graduate of this university, and their team received a grant from the Davidson Foundation to build this app last year. They said they then hired a team of developers to make the app, and five months later WeMeal was ready to be tested. After another four months of testing, the app was released to beta production in early May. The final version of the app was released in September.
WeMeal allows users to invite friends to a meals they’ve created and it gives them a list of foods normally eaten at potluck dinners so picking the foods needed is quick and easy.
Another positive of WeMeal, Reidler said, is that the app makes it easy to meet new people.
“I believe that WeMeal has the potential to bring Jews of different backgrounds and affiliations together to share meaningful experiences through informal Shabbat meals,” Reidler said. “I’m just trying to impact the way people meet.”
Reidler said he has heard of some couples meeting after planning a meal on WeMeal. Right now WeMeal has 990 users, but Reidler said he expects it to be over 1,000 in the next few days due to the upcoming holiday season.
Some students at the University of Maryland have been using this app since its release in September to plan their potluck meals. Senior computer science and bioengineering major Noah Bar-Shain said he used the app in November to plan a dinner between friends.
“It seemed like a good way to keep track of who’s bringing what food,” Bar-Shain said. “We would usually use Facebook, but the app made it a lot easier.”
One drawback of the app, Bar-Shain said, is that not everyone at the dinner downloaded the app. This created more work for him because he had to also create a Facebook group for people who did not have the app.
“It was more of a half-hearted attempt,” Bar-Shain said. “There was no incentive for people to download it because it is not too different from Facebook. However, if more people start using it, it will be more convenient to use.”
WeMeal has been used all over in multiple countries and in September the creators of the app organized a 200 person Seudah Shlishit in Central Park, which was very well received, Reidler said. Seudah Shlishit is the third meal of the day on Shabbat and is normally eaten in the late afternoon. One-hundred-and-sixty people living in Givat Shmuel and Jerusalem over Sukkot also used WeMeal to plan their meals, Reidler said.
Junior animal science major Hannah Warshawsky, who was at Bar-Shain’s dinner last month, said she liked the app but she still has her doubts about the practicality of WeMeal.
“I enjoyed the novelty of the app and I was playing around with it,” Warshawsky said, “but I don’t really see why it’s much better than just making a Facebook event.”
WeMeal is available for both iPhones and Androids.