His Software Sang the Words of God

Who was Thomas Buchler, the late creator of beloved Torah program TropeTrainer? And can anything be done to revive his life’s work?

For two decades, Jewish clergy across the country had come to depend on TropeTrainer to help prepare kids for their bar and bat mitzvahs, rites of passage in which young adults chant aloud from the Torah for the first time.

But the software wasn’t just a study aid — it was a deep archive of sacred text and music, comprising dozens of different traditions, made easily searchable and infinitely customizable.

“There is other software out there,” says Carrie Shepard, a Torah tutor in Davis, California. “They’re not the same. They don’t have this level of detail.”

But in the fall of 2019, Shepard’s copy of TropeTrainer abruptly became obsolete.

The first warning Shepard got was when she went to update her Mac, and the system warned her that TropeTrainer wouldn’t run on the newest OS. She held off on the update and emailed Kinnor, the software company that made the program: Are you going to address this? She’d corresponded with Kinnor before when she needed tech support, but this time she didn’t get a response. So she sent a snail mail letter. Still nothing.

Shepard couldn’t figure out why the company wasn’t dealing with the problem.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she lamented to a friend. “What could have happened?”

“Didn’t you hear?” the friend said. “The developer died.”

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