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Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz & The Artscroll Legacy Will Forever Live On

Published July 4, 2017

Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz

The Artscroll name is the single most well-known brand in the Orthodox Jewish home.  You can walk into any Orthodox Jewish home and find at least one book or many with the Artscroll label on it.  And in recent years, you can find countless mobile device with the Artscroll Digital Library.

Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz had a mission, bring Torah and Torah study to all Jewish people through the most careful translation, while every detail had to be perfection.  Perfection from the way the words were laid out on the page, to the accuracy of the translation, to the book binding and cover – all the way down to the actual feel of paper as you placed your finger across the line you were studying.  Rabbi Zlotowitz instilled this level of perfection and professionalism throughout the Artscroll & Mesorah culture.

Rabbi Zlotowitz was a visionary man – he had the vision that the Jewish world needed Artscroll Mesorah, to bring Torah to the bookshelves of hundreds of thousands of our homes.  He had the vision of translating in awesome detail the Talmud, Torah, Mishnah, Siddurim and hundreds of thousands of Jewish books.    And he had the vision that this had to also be on every Jew’s mobile device.  But not just as a scan or copy but as a true revolution to the content Artscroll has produced.

The Artscroll content on digital devices brings a level of detail and clarity that is above and beyond. You could click on a phrase and instantly see all the sources and commentary around that phrase.   Visualizing in three-dimension the construction of an Eruv that you can virtually walk through to fully grasp the detail of how our sages instructed us to build the structure.  Color-coding the Talmud for those new to Talmud study can quickly learn how to do the “Daf.”  The list goes on and on.  These were all visions of Rabbi Zlotowitz and the Artscroll team, based on his mission to make Torah study more accessible with a level of perfection that is unprecedented.

We at RustyBrick had the privilege of working directly with Rabbi Zlotowitz and experienced first-hand how important it was to him and the whole Artscroll team that everything be 100% perfect.  Everyone we worked with under Rabbi Zlotowitz stressed the same requirement – there was absolutely no acceptable level of imperfection for any Artscroll release, even a digital representation.

Rabbi Zlotowitz announced their next massive initiative in February 2012, the Artscroll Digital Library, they demonstrated how the mobile app would work on iOS and Android devices. We, the developers of the app, sat there in awe.  I remember asking my brother Ronnie, if he was sure we could actually make this all happen with such detail and clarity.  Ronnie assured me, but by being familiar with the Artscroll brand, I was still worried.

Throughout the process of developing the Artscroll Digital Library, Rabbi Zlotowitz was involved every step of the way. Despite the challenges of having high-level data encryption, we had to make the app work smoothly and instantly.  Time and time again the Rabbi pointed out imperfections that he demanded we fix.  We tried to explain that we can release the app now, with some small bugs and then release quick and rapid fixes and upgrades along the way – which users appreciate.  But no, it had to be perfect on release.

I remember sitting in a meeting with Rabbi Zlotowitz and him showing me his email inbox.  He showed me all the emails from customers submitted via the Artscroll web site.  Yes, Rabbi Zlotowitz personally not only got a copy of every single email sent through via the web site but he personally replied to many.  He was a man of extreme detail and every single customer complaint he took to heart and wanted to improve on.  Every single compliment he received, he found a way to apply that improvement upon an already perfect set of works.  Every single thank you email he received from the countless Artscroll customers were all used to bring more and more Torah to the Jewish world.

This perfection and deep-level of care can be seen in Rabbi Zlotowitz’s eyes.  Talking to Rabbi Zlotowitz, he always looked directly at you and there was something deep and meaningful that one cannot fully explain.  His eyes made everyone he every spoke with feel that this conversation was the most important conversation he had that day. 

While watching the levaya, Jewish funeral, and hearing his son Gedaliah Zlotowitz speak that he will continue on his mission – it brought a sense of comfort to not just me personally, but to everyone around him.  Rabbi Zlotowitz programmed into the culture of the Artscroll Mesorah organization the requirement to keep bringing Torah to the Jewish world, with perfection and pursuit – I know everyone will have the potential and tools to learn Torah in the future.

Here is a video interview with Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz from 2012 explaining in his words the Artscroll Mesorah mission:

It is an honor for us to have worked with Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz and his team and we are grateful to have had the that opportunity.

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Barry Schwartz is the CEO of RustyBrick, a New York Web service firm specializing in customized online technology that helps companies decrease costs and increase sales. Barry is also the founder of the Search Engine Roundtable and the News Editor of Search Engine Land. He is well known & respected for his expertise in the search marketing industry. Barry graduated from the City University of New York and lives with his family in the NYC region.

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