A look at TropeTrainer, beloved Torah learning software that helped rabbis prepare kids for bar and bat mitzvahs, which became obsolete after its creator died. ( S.I. Rosenbaum/Input)

We recently wrote about TropeTrainer, a special Torah learning software that helped rabbis prepare kids for bar and bat mitzvahs. It was one of the most used programs of its kind. But, as it turns out, TropeTrainer’s maker—a company called The RCA—died suddenly in the spring of 2015. So we took a closer look to see what happened. The answer is not surprising: it was the perfect storm of technological advances, consumer tastes, and market dynamics. The lesson here is that things change—especially in the world of technology—and businesses should be prepared to evolve.

What is a TropeTrainer? 

TropeTrainer was created in the 1990s by Rabbi David Wolpe, a prominent Orthodox rabbi and founder of the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies, a highly respected yeshiva based in New York City. It was a simple program designed for rabbis to teach children and adolescents the laws and customs governing a typical American high school. When Wolpe died in 2011, he left behind a software empire, and TropeTrainer is the largest product in the company, accounting for a quarter of sales last year.

How can TropeTrainer, the software help rabbis prepare kids for bar and bat mitzvahs?    

TropeTrainer, the software allows anyone with an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch to take a picture of a person in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony and then have the app convert that image into an animated GIF. Using a series of hand-drawn animations, it tells you the Hebrew phrases used in the ceremony. Then the second step is to create a PowerPoint presentation containing the images and animations. The expressions are intended to help people understand what happens in a typical ceremony and provide a visual record for families who may not otherwise have access to such traditions. They got a feel for the event, the flow of the day, and a chance to interact with the guests and other kids going through the same thing. 

Why Did TropeTrainer Become Obsolete after its creator died?   

The company has lost a key figurehead who was instrumental in helping to develop the product. With the founder dead, there are doubts about whether the software will continue to evolve similarly. The original version of the software was only made available for free if you bought an initial copy. Although this has been changed, many people feel it was very positive that TropeTrainer became free software. Without this, it would not have been easy to build a community of users, and the product’s value may have never come to light.


The creator of Trope Trainer, Rabbi Joshua D. Leichter, died in 2009. In collaboration with several other religious institutions, Trope Trainer was created by him and his team to make religious studies accessible to Jewish kids ages 8 to 14. When it became obvious that the rabbi would die, he asked the group to continue his dream of creating this program to make studying the bible easier for Jewish kids. This was when they decided to give it away for free. By releasing it free for anyone to use, they could get the program out into the hands of thousands of people and, even more importantly, teach students the tools that would help them succeed. Rabbi Leichter died while working on this project, but the vision has been maintained, and the team continues to work on it today. The Trope Trainer software is still available, free of charge.


1. How did TropeTrainer work? 

TropeTrainer would ask kids questions about what they had learned in their bar and bat mitzvah classes and then give them quizzes based on the answers. The more kids answered correctly, the more they would understand.

2. Is TropeTrainer still used today? 

Yes, TropeTrainer is still used today. Some schools still use TropeTrainer, but it’s no longer the dominant software used by Reform rabbis.

3. Why do some rabbis still use TropeTrainer? 

Some rabbis still use TropeTrainer because it’s a way to teach children about Torah in a fun and interactive way. 

4. What are some other Torah learning programs? 

There are several Torah learning programs available on the Internet. One of the most popular ones is called “Torah Games.” This program is available for both Mac and Windows.

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