Newsletter Issue # 84 - July 10, 2013

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Most people immigrate to Israel for spiritual, religious or familial reasons, and medical care doesn’t usually factor into the equation. In the case of Iris Kowen’s family, that was not the case. Living in the Holy Land was always the ideal, but it was the issue of medial necessity, and special needs potential that prompted the family to consider it seriously. Kowen’s son, Shai, was born a seemingly normal, happy baby. But at four months old, he had his first seizure and was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Photographer Richard Renaldi is a matchmaker for tense times, asking complete strangers to pose together for a portrait. On a recent afternoon in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, it was not going well. He wanted to pose an Orthodox Jewish man with someone from outside the Orthodox community. It’s going to take all the cajoling I can do, Mr. Renaldi, 45, said. There were, in fact, more barriers than he knew. After terse rejections from several people, a man named Abraham Weiss stopped to look at Mr. Renaldi’s large-format, 8-by-10 view camera. Mr. Renaldi made his best pitch.

Through nine states and 25 cities, through blistering heat, torrential downpours and rough roads, come what may, 11 women will pedal 1,500 miles along the east coast. Their goal is to raise awareness for special-needs children. The starting line was at the Friendship Circle of Miami in Pinecrest, 8700 SW 112th St., where the women took their positions behind a blue ribbon to begin their journey. Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner cut the ribbon at about 10 a.m. and the bikers took off in the first-ever women’s Bike 4 Friendship, a cycling trip to promote Friendship Circle’s mission.

In a tale of two apps, both the Jewish establishment and a private entrepreneur have recently released downloadable software that will enable users to obtain up-to-date listings of Jewish events. Though similar in their goal of engaging young adults in Jewish life, Grapevine and JJive, as they are called, differ radically in an important respect. Grapevine, the Jewish establishment’s product for digital mobile devices, offers its users individualized listings based on their personal information, which the app requires in exchange while JJive asks for no personal data but, in turn, provides a one-size-fits-all list of events.

As we Americans celebrated our nation’s 237th year of independence and freedom yesterday on the 4th of July, we also kept a close eye on the precarious situation in Egypt. As the final hours of Mohammed Morsi’s presidency wound down, we continued to monitor the volatile situation there. Although many were concerned that the Egypt-Israel peace treaty would be broken under Morsi’s regime, that didn’t happen. However, now that the military is in charge of the country the peace treaty seems at risk.

The Cyrus Cylinder is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, through August 4, 2013. Cyrus was supposed to be the subject of a historical epic film. We wonder what ever happened to that film. Our best guess is that the film industry has closed ranks and decided that given the current political leadership in that country, there will be no film made that extols the culture of Persia, modern day Iran. Not surprising then, modern reality trumps ancient history.

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