Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Articles written by Renee Ghert-zand


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  • Israeli podcast covers everything

    Renee Ghert-Zand|Mar 17, 2023

    If an alien spacecraft landed in Dr. Avi Loeb’s backyard tomorrow, he would readily step on, leave his family behind and take off to discover the great beyond. Obviously, he’d be giving up a lot, but it’s for an essential cause, he says: Humans need to explore the possibilities for human life beyond earth. “We know the sun will burn up the surface of the earth within a billion years,” he says. “We won’t be able to stay here.” Loeb, an Israeli-American astrophysicist at Harvard University, shared these thoughts recently in a podcast convers...

  • Israeli food rescue group adjusts approach to meet growing needs in the COVID era

    Renee Ghert-Zand|Sep 3, 2021

    When Israel came to a standstill in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID pandemic, shops, restaurants and offices shut down as part of a nationwide lockdown. But for Israel's hungry, there was no break. On the contrary, the closure of corporate dining facilities, restaurants, hotels and military base cafeterias left them more vulnerable because suddenly there were no excess meals from these institutions to donate. For Leket, Israel's leading food rescue organization, this was an immense...

  • Record-breaking aliyah from North America projected for 2021, with 5,000 expected to make the Israel move

    Renee Ghert-Zand|Aug 6, 2021

    Leah and Yehuda Smolarcik are moving to Israel from Chicago with their four children this summer. The challenges over the past year and a half of COVID convinced them not to put off reaching for their dream any longer. "My husband and I met in Israel while living there temporarily after college, and we always hoped to return as immigrants," Leah said. "The pandemic made us realize that there is no sure or stable thing anywhere, so we felt now was the time to make the move." The Smolarciks are...

  • There's a new test for cancer risks from a longtime Jewish genetic screening program

    Renee Ghert-Zand|Jul 2, 2021

    After discovering a suspicious lump in her breast one day while in the shower, Abby Match was diagnosed in August with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She subsequently underwent a bilateral mastectomy, a hysterectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. It was only after she discovered she was sick that Match, 35, learned she was a carrier of a mutation in her BRCA1 gene - associated with a significantly elevated risk for developing breast cancer at a young age, and also for ovarian and other...

  • Interest in immigrating to Israel from US soars despite pandemic-era challenges

    Renee Ghert-Zand|Apr 16, 2021

    When Aaron Feinblatt moved to Israel in late February 2020, just as the first signs of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak were emerging, only one person wore a mask on his aliyah flight. Feinblatt had no idea that masks would soon become the norm for him and everyone else, nor how COVID-19 would affect the first year in his new home. "I got here two weeks before the country completely shut down," he said. "With all the lockdowns and restrictions in the last year, I feel like I have been...

  • This Jewish teen created a daily news digest, The Cramm, read by millions worldwide

    Renee Ghert-Zand|Nov 13, 2020

    Unlike most teenagers, Olivia Seltzer doesn’t like to sleep in. She wakes up most days at 5 a.m. to scan the internet and write The Cramm, a newsletter with the latest national and international news that reaches middle school, high school and university student readers in over 100 countries. With some 2.5 million monthly pageviews, Seltzer calls it “the cheat sheet to the world.” Written in a fun and relatable style and transmitted via email and text, The Cramm includes the day’s major politic...

  • Creator of 'BoJack Horseman' comes from a home of funny Jews

    Renee Ghert-Zand|Sep 28, 2018

    SAN FRANCISCO (J. The Jewish News of Northern California via JTA)-While growing up in Palo Alto, Raphael Bob-Waksberg was a serious consumer of popular culture. He would watch TV for hours on end and view movies over and over until he memorized them. In particular, he was a huge fan of "The Simpsons." "We used to talk about Bart and Lisa at the dinner table as if they were real people," said his mother, Ellen Bob. Nowadays, the conversation around American tables is more likely about "BoJack Hor...

  • Four years after 3 Israeli yeshiva boys were kidnapped and killed, their families find a new normal

    Renee Ghert-Zand|Jun 15, 2018

    JERUSALEM-It's easy to spot Iris Yifrach as she walks through the crowds in a packed shopping mall in central Israel. And it's not just because she's wearing a bright yellow blouse and matching headscarf. Yifrach has been a public figure since June 2014, when her 19-year-old son, Eyal, was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists in the West Bank. For 18 days that month, Israel and Jewish communities worldwide were gripped by his June 12 disappearance along with two Jewish 16-year-olds,...

  • How an Oregon-born immigrant to Israel found a job giving tours of Hamas tunnels

    Renee Ghert-Zand|Jul 28, 2017

    TEL AVIV-Capt. Libby Weiss spent most of the summer of 2014 in a Hamas tunnel, and she wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else. Israel's military captured the tunnel, which extended from Gaza into Israel near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, during Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza. As a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, Weiss was tasked with showing the tunnel to journalists, and she was the first to bring foreign reporters into the claustrophobic space. Her inaugural tour went...

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