Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Articles written by Larry Luxner

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  • Major Jewish event returns to Ukraine, bringing hope amid ongoing war

    Larry Luxner|Jun 28, 2024

    (JTA) - Nicole Tolkacheva, 52, has endured nearly two and a half years of war as her native Odesa gets pounded by Russian missiles. "Every morning, the city checks who and what survived the night," she said of Ukraine's storied Black Sea port city. "In this life, you don't know what's safer: running to the shelter and risking your life on the way or staying at home and risking being buried under the rubble." But one recent weekend, Tolkacheva got a reprieve from the war. She and 200 fellow Ukrai...

  • Barbra Streisand is known for her songs and movies - but this proud Jew is also a powerhouse philanthropist

    Larry Luxner|Jun 14, 2024

    By (JTA) - Many people know Barbra Streisand as the awkward Jewish girl from Brooklyn who grew up to become one of the best-selling recording artists of all time - and an award-winning actor, director, producer, author, screenwriter and songwriter. Fewer may know that Streisand is a philanthropist, advocate and activist whose charity has transformed the lives of thousands in the United States, Israel and Eastern Europe. Over the past 37 years, the Streisand Foundation has poured tens of...

  • Survivors of the Nova massacre on Oct. 7 work through trauma at unique Israeli therapy center

    Larry Luxner|Jan 19, 2024

    KIBBUTZ HAZOREA, Israel - Fifteen young men and women, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings and to each other, dance around a bucolic field, twisting their bodies to trance music blasting through their headphones. Beyond their earphones is silence, except for the constant rumble of fighter jets taking off from Ramat David air base in the nearby Jezreel Valley. Yet the aircraft and the dancers are connected. Some of these jets are heading south toward Gaza, to bomb the hideouts and munitions...

  • 2 Jewish teens harness the power of their peers to address social problems - and spark a movement

    Larry Luxner|Sep 22, 2023

    In mid-2021, as the COVID pandemic raged, high school student Lily Messing noticed that the social ills plaguing her native Tucson, Arizona - including domestic violence, drug abuse and homelessness - all seemed to be getting worse. Meanwhile, Jake Hammerman, a teenager in Lafayette, California, a suburb in the San Francisco Bay area, saw firsthand how the pandemic exacerbated the challenges facing homebound seniors, many of whom were isolated to begin with. Determined to do something to help,...

  • A new destination for troubled Jewish youth trying to kick drug dependency: Cyprus

    Larry Luxner|May 12, 2023

    TEL AVIV - Young people with substance-abuse dependencies often face a stark challenge when trying to overcome their problem: Any kind of lapse is seen as a failure, and if they backslide even occasionally they start to see themselves as hopeless recidivists. "This 12-step idea says that once you're an addict, you're always an addict - that as soon as you touch drugs, you're off the wagon," said psychologist Tamir Rotman. "But it's very detrimental to teens at such an early stage of their lives...

  • Carnegie Hall concert to honor Japanese diplomat Sugihara

    Larry Luxner|Mar 31, 2023

    For most of his life, Chiune Sugihara received little recognition for the dramatic actions he undertook as Japanese vice-consul to Lithuania on the eve of World War II: the rescue of some 6,000 Jews from Poland and elsewhere from the Nazi death machine. For decades, the Jewish world remained largely ignorant of his heroism. When, in 1985, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center located in Israel, honored the unassuming retired diplomat as a Righteous Among the Nations, Sugihara was to...

  • In Haifa, a university serves as a base for Arab-Jewish coexistence - and a place to tackle global problems

    Larry Luxner|Jan 27, 2023

    HAIFA - On a recent chilly morning, six Israeli Druze women gathered in a room at the University of Haifa library to discuss the joys and frustrations of living in a modern, Jewish, largely secular country. Chatting in Arabic and Hebrew, many of the women, all students at the university, spoke about the challenges of balancing their traditional Druze identity with their modern Israeli aspirations. "I spend two hours each way to come to school. But my education is so important, I'd do it even if...

  • Unique therapy program offers troubled Jewish youth a distinctly Israeli alternative

    Larry Luxner|Jan 6, 2023

    KIBBUTZ HAZOREA, Israel - Throughout high school, Ben rarely did his homework, struggled to complete school assignments and used marijuana on a daily basis. Frustrated with his situation, Ben, 18, decided in early September to leave his U.S. home and enroll in Free Spirit Experience - an in-residence therapy program in Israel's Carmel Mountains. Three months on, it has ended up changing his approach to life. "I went there to work on my studies, but I ended up figuring out who I was independent...

  • Hereditary cancers aren't just a woman's problem

    Larry Luxner|Dec 23, 2022

    Bill Harris, a veteran Los Angeles photojournalist, didn’t think much of it when one morning in 2012 he woke up and found a tiny blood spot on the T-shirt he’d slept in. The next morning, he found blood in the same place on his chest — and went straight to his computer. “Online, I could find only three things that would cause a man’s nipple to discharge blood: being an avid runner, which I wasn’t; having a subtropical fungus, which I didn’t; and breast cancer,” he said. “That was a pretty big shock.” Harris, then just a few weeks shy of his 61...

  • Did you enter a Jewish building, event or program this year?

    Larry Luxner|Sep 30, 2022

    When Jewish summer camps unexpectedly had to cancel their summer programs two years ago after the COVID-19 pandemic hit and before vaccines became available, they faced sudden financial ruin. Jewish camps are widely recognized as uniquely effective tools for cultivating Jewish identity and leadership, and the prospect of dozens of them across the continent permanently shutting down was seen as a problem not just for camps and their campers, but disastrous for the American Jewish community....

  • The new Florida? Record number of US retirees relocate to Israel in 2021

    Larry Luxner|Jan 28, 2022

    TEL AVIV - A few weeks ago, Joel Tenenbaum, 81, and Marilyn Berkowitz, 84, arrived in Tel Aviv on an El Al flight from New York ready to start their new lives in Israel. They had met through JDate five years earlier. Each was widowed; Tenebaum had been married for 47 years, Berkowitz, known as Lyn, for 49. A retired New York trial lawyer raised in Brooklyn, Tenenbaum always had felt an affinity for Israel - fueled since childhood by Hebrew school and the movie "Exodus." Berkowitz, a former...

  • This unique Chanukah program celebrates a world of Jewish miracles

    Larry Luxner|Dec 3, 2021

    Ten years ago, Illya Buzunov never could have imagined that one day he'd be teaching Jews around the world how to prepare potato latkes. Until 2014, the Ukraine native didn't even know he was Jewish. But that's exactly what Buzunov, 24, will be doing on November 30 - the third night of Chanukah - as part of a new video event series that brings together Jews from a variety of countries for Chanukah candle lighting celebrations and an inside look at their communities. Each night, Jews from a diffe...

  • Shultz hailed by Jewish leaders for helping free Soviet Jews

    Larry Luxner|Feb 26, 2021

    TEL AVIV - On Feb. 11, 1986, Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky - freed after enduring nine years in Russian prison on false charges of treason and espionage - stepped off a jet that had carried him straight from Germany and out into the Israeli sunshine. "It was a very dramatic day, starting in a Soviet prison, then meeting my wife in Berlin after 12 years, then finishing at Ben Gurion Airport, and finally visiting the Kotel" in Jerusalem, said Sharansky, recalling the events of 35 years ago as...

  • A need for disability advocacy

    Larry Luxner|Feb 26, 2021

    When Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman debuted at Carnegie Hall in 1963, he performed while seated - a consequence of the polio that left him unable to walk without leg braces or crutches since age 4. "I got a standing ovation, but The New York Times reviewer wasn't sure if that was because of the way I played or because of the fact I was sitting down while playing," recalled Perlman, now 75. "That thing followed me for two or three years. Then people got used to me and they stopped...

  • Israeli researchers use novel methods to seek treatments for deadly pancreatic cancer

    Larry Luxner|Jan 29, 2021

    By the time Barbara Goodman was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in October 2001, there were already 30 tumors in her liver. "We knew we were in for a pretty tough battle," recalled her husband, Kenneth Goodman, then president of New York-based Forest Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company. "But I had an entire research organization I could draw upon." Nevertheless, nine months after her diagnosis, Barbara died. She was only 51, far younger than usual for pancreatic cancer patients, who...

  • US immigration to Israel holds up in 2020 despite pandemic

    Larry Luxner|Jan 15, 2021

    TEL AVIV - Emma Caplan, 23, was seven months into her job teaching English at an elementary school in Rishon Lezion in March when the coronavirus pandemic compelled her to cut short her yearlong Israel experience and fly home to Westport, Connecticut. Three weeks earlier, her entire family in the United States had been infected with COVID-19, though by the time she returned to Connecticut her parents and siblings were no longer contagious. "I felt I needed to be home with my family, but when I g...

  • For the few Jews in West Virginia, one of America's most struggling states, the pandemic has offered silver linings

    Larry Luxner|Jan 8, 2021

    WHEELING, W.Va. (JTA) - Surrounded by silver crucifixes and Christmas ornaments, Samuel Posin and Joan Berlow Smith sell vintage jewelry and myriad tchotchkes at their church-turned-boutique gift shop in this city. This is not the kind of place you'll find many Jews. In this deeply rural state where just over half of all voters identify as Christian evangelicals, fewer than 1,200 Jews are thought to be scattered among West Virginia's 1.8 million residents. Yet born and raised in Wheeling,...

  • Renewed US Jewish interest in Zionist Congress

    Larry Luxner|Nov 6, 2020

    (JTA) — A virus forced the World Zionist Congress to go virtual for the first time since its founding in 1897. But that didn’t stop last week’s gathering, held once every five years, from being any less crucial — or less contentious — for the future of Israel and the Jewish people. Nor did it dampen enthusiasm for the event among the American delegation, which hailed from 28 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., after an election last winter that saw record voter participation. Of the 750 delegates to the 38th World Zionist Congress,...

  • As Genesis Prize goes to a vote, its impact on Jewish causes grows

    Larry Luxner|Oct 16, 2020

    Doron Almog, a former head of the Israeli Defense Forces' Southern Command, was one of the heroes of Israel's 1976 hostage rescue operation in Entebbe, Uganda, and winner of the 2016 Israel Prize for lifetime achievement. But the thing he says he's most proud of is ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, a rehabilitation village he founded in southern Israel for 160 physically and mentally disabled children and young adults. It's named after Almog's son, Eran, who was born with severe autism and died in 2007,...

  • New center sheds light on Babyn Yar massacre

    Larry Luxner|Oct 9, 2020

    Raisa Maistrenko will never forget Sept. 29, 1941 — the day Nazi troops rounded up the Jewish residents of Kyiv, Ukraine, and marched them to the Babyn Yar ravine on the city’s outskirts. “Leaflets were posted saying that all the Jews had to gather in one place,” recalled Maistrenko, who was just 3 at the time. “But we didn’t think it was to execute us. We thought they would transport us to Palestine.” Victor Pronichev added: “With brass knuckles and with sticks and chains, they beat us as badly as they could. The Jews were forced to undress co...

  • Israeli scientists identify new culprit behind cancerous growths: tumor-specific bacteria

    Larry Luxner|Aug 14, 2020

    REHOVOT, Israel - Despite their reputation, most bacteria are harmless. Many are vital to human life. Others, however, cause infections that lead to fatal diseases ranging from tuberculosis to bubonic plague. Add cancer to that list, at least indirectly. According to new research led by Dr. Ravid Straussman of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, bacteria living inside cancer cells are likely to have a profound effect on how different types of tumors behave. "Most bacteria you find in...

  • This Jewish college offers a fast track to careers in medicine and health

    Larry Luxner|Jul 24, 2020

    Eitan Glucksman often wakes up at 4:30 a.m., putting in 15-hour days as a first-year urology resident at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York. The father of two has a grueling schedule but says he feels lucky: He's one of only two urology residents admitted per year to the hospital, which is affiliated with New York Medical College, part of the Touro College and University System. "This is a field where you can really make a difference," said Glucksman, 27, an Orthodox native of...

  • Hundreds of Russian-speaking Jews gather in Vienna for unique festival despite anxiety

    Larry Luxner|Mar 13, 2020

    VIENNA-Few events feature both wiener schnitzel and kosher wine, songs from the classic Yiddish "Bey Mir Bist du Scheyn" to the bluesy "Georgia On My Mind," and uplifting Shabbat services and debates about divisive Israeli politics. It was all part of last weekend's Limmud FSU Europe conference in Vienna, which drew a crowd of more than 600 Russian-speaking Jewish participants from at least 25 countries despite mounting concern about the outbreak. They converged on the Austrian capital for... Full story

  • Israeli researchers at forefront of fight against breast cancer

    Larry Luxner|Oct 25, 2019

    TEL AVIV—About 2.1 million women worldwide developed breast cancer in 2018, according to the World Health Organization. Last year also saw some 627,000 fatalities due to breast cancer—nearly all because their cancer had spread to distant organs. Israeli researcher Neta Erez is trying to find out how the cancer spreads in a bid to stop it. “Most studies are still done on the primary tumor, but that’s not what kills the patient,” Erez said. “If we can intervene at an early stage, we may be able to prevent metastasis.” If successful, t... Full story

  • Israel gives new hope to patients with multiple myeloma

    Larry Luxner|Oct 11, 2019

    TEL AVIV-Shlomit Norman was only 42 when doctors diagnosed her with multiple myeloma-a bone marrow cancer with no known cure that rarely strikes people under the age of 65. At the time, the youngest of her three boys was 10, and few patients with the disease survived for more than a couple of years. "I told my best friend that she'd have to be in charge of my son's bar mitzvah because I didn't think I'd be around by then," recalled Norman, who lives in Haifa. But thanks to some innovative... Full story

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