First-ever e-storybooks with sign language

Classics such as ‘Goldilocks’ are now accessible via iPad to American kids with hearing impairment, thanks to the Israeli project eMotion Stories. By Abigail Klein Leichman


 A page from eMotion’s Goldilocks.

A page from eMotion’s Goldilocks.

Eyal Rosenthal doesn’t expect to make a mint from his new eMotion Stories digital books in English and American Sign Language. The world’s first interactive bilingual e-library for parents of children with hearing impairment was created as a labor of love, though the market is quite limited.

Rosenthal, an American who moved to Israel in 2008, expects only to reap the satisfaction of bringing a new dimension into the lives of children who otherwise would miss out on reading classics with their parents such as GoldilocksCinderellaThe Ugly Duckling, Little Red Riding Hood andThree Little Pigs.

Each of the interactive fairy tales features pictures by world-class Israeli illustrators and is narrated in American Sign Language, in synch with the text, by deaf actress Alexandria Wailes.

Soft-launched last May, eMotion Stories offers a free download of its iPad app along with the first book; additional e-books can be purchased for $3.99 apiece.

“There have been 2,000 to 3,000 free downloads and several hundred downloads of paid books,” Rosenthal told ISRAEL21c in October. “Our total revenues are less than $1,000, but this wasn’t done for the money.”

His idea arose in September 2012 over coffee with a friend who has a deaf niece. Rosenthal had just read his nephew a bedtime story, and asked his friend if she’s able to do this with her niece.

“The response was that there are no good solutions. Her sister signs her niece a bedtime story or might put on a YouTube video, but there was nothing available for them that comes close to the experience of a parent reading a story to a child. And so I set out to change that.”

Princesses and dragons

Armed with his vision, Rosenthal – a Tel Aviv resident who does business development and product management at Leumi Tech – got hooked up with the developers at Tel Aviv’s Go UFO web and mobile creative application agency. “Without them it could not have occurred,” he says.

Go UFO creative partner Eddie Goldenberg tells ISRAEL21c that his team “had a lot of experience in pro bono work, and it’s close to our heart to do things more social and environmental.”

Rosenthal’s concept struck a chord with him. “So-called ‘normal’ children can hear bedtime stories about princesses and dragons, but a hearing-impaired child misses out on that,” Goldenberg says.

“I found it so inspiring that Eyal wanted to enrich the vocabulary and allow for a story-time experience. So we started thinking together how to do it. We wanted to combine an interactive story, like those on tablets that are so popular, with the option to let the child or parent also read it using sign language.”

They thought immediately about TV news shows that feature a circle at the bottom of the screen where a presenter simultaneously translates into sign language. “We were certain someone else may have done it, but we saw nothing close, so we decided to do it.”

Believing that the most important aspect of a children’s book is the illustrations – yet hampered by a shoestring budget – Goldenberg approached his father, illustrator Mirel Goldenberg. His father drew the pictures for The Ugly Duckling and also brought to the project top-flight Israeli colleagues Noa Liberman and Shiraz Fuman, who agreed to work for minimal remuneration.


A page from eMotion’s Ugly Duckling.

Rosenthal, who grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey, contacted a friend from college now working as a videographer for News 12 New Jersey. His friend agreed to film Wailes doing the American Sign Language translations.

“From there it was a matter of producing the books and making the sign language fit the text,” says Goldenberg. “We had a lot of quality-assurance and feedback sessions with special educators and other people from the field.”

Because every country has its own sign language, the creators of eMotion are offering their “white-label” platform to other developers at no charge.

“The biggest potential market is the US and that’s why we decided to launch there first, but other countries can take the platform we built and create their own stories and add the sign language,” says Goldenberg. “In our hopes and dreams, every country will have its own app for children with hearing impairment.”

Rosenthal hopes to find some time to launch an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to finance an Israeli version of eMotion Stories and to produce additional storybooks in response to enthusiastic feedback from parents using the app.

“It was definitely a challenge, but it’s been an amazing experience,” he says.

About Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.


By: Great Kosher Restaurants

MANHATTANBravo Kosher Burgers & Deli Opened in Downtown NY Today


 Bravo Kosher Burgers & Deli Opened in Downtown NY Monday

The owners of the famed Bravo Pizza have opened a Glatt Kosher meat restaurant in downtown Manhattan. Bravo Kosher Burgers & Deli, which opened on Monday for walk ins and will start to offer delivery next week, features a menu full of burgers, chicken sandwiches and of course a lot of deli, both by the pound and in many sandwich varieties. We’re sure the hungry Jews working in or around Wall Street are excited to have a new burger and deli restaurant so close to them. Located at 17 Trinity Place, New York, NY 10006. They are under the hashgacha of the OK. Open 10:00am-10:00pm daily.

Sushi Metsuyan Still Open

Sushi Metsuyan 5 Towns

Still Open Until Renovations Occur
Good news for their fans: So the Cedarhurst location is still open until final reservations are worked out which should be in about a month. But the restaurant is indeed open for business and they look forward
 to serving you. Located at 488 Central Ave. Phone: (516) 295-2700
Lamed Vav Grand Opening
 Lamed Vav Celebrates their Official Grand Opening
While open for a few soft weeks, this Monday, November 3rd,
Lamed Vav is having their official Grand Opening.
Come by for free drinks and appetizers (hors d’ouevres),
live music and a wine tasting from 5:00 pm-8:00pm.
20 South Station Plaza, Great Neck, NY 11021 (516) 482-3652

Sip City Bar & Restaurant in Great Neck, NY Turning Kosher with new name: Rimon

Sip City Bar in Great Neck Becoming Kosher

The owners of the restaurant have been prompted to make this big change since most customers are only coming in for drinks and not for the food. “Right now, it’s not providing the type of income that’s necessary,” said Loren Welfar, a business partner at the restaurant. “The makeup of the neighborhood is changing. The restaurant is on its last legs” and is struggling financially and the owners hope the new kosher menu and bar will help boost the amount of customers coming in to eat and drink. The restaurant is located at 16 Middle Neck Road in Great Neck, right near the Long Island Railroad Greak Neck Station. We do not have the kosher certification at this point (although if it will be under orthodox supervision it’s a 99.9% chance it will be the Vaad of Queens) but as soon as the changes are approved, we will update you with more information!
 The Surf Room Opens at the All New Long Beach Hotel

Grand Opening Of The Surf Room At The All New Long Beach Hotel

Looking to get away for a romantic night of dining and hotel beach accommodations in Long Island? The Surf Room at the newly renovated Long Beach Hotel is just steps from the beach with views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Long Beach Boardwalk. On September 30th, the new high-end glatt kosher restaurant had it’s Grand Opening and the menu, with prices from $7-$49, includes Mediterranean dips and salads, lamb chops, kufta kabob, bronzino and salmon. The Surf Room also offers weekend event catering for bar and bat mitzvahs, sheva brachos, chasunahs and more! The Surf Room is open Monday to Thursday 4pm-10pm and Sunday 2pm-10pm. Phone: (516) 544-4444. Only 5 minutes away from the Long Island Railroad, 15 minutes from The 5 Towns and 30-40 minutes from Queens and Brooklyn, The Long Beach Hotel is located at 405 East Broadway, Long Beach NY 11561.The Surf Room is under the kosher supervision of the South Shore Vaad.
So this is a little surprising just for the fact that they completed their long and very nice renovation afew months ago. But it seems that the Route 59 cafe, after 10 years, is closing up shop and focusing their efforts on catering as a sign on their door shows.STAMFORD, CTSs

Soosh Restaurant opening in Stamford Plaza Hotel

Soosh Restaurant Opening in Stamford, CT
A new sushi restaurant is opening in Stamford next week namedSòósh, which will feature an innovative menu and choice of select Sake and Japanese beers. The restaurant will be conveniently located on the premises of two adjoining hotels: the newly renovated Stamford Plaza Hotel and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in downtown Stamford, CT. 2701 Summer Street, Stamford CT 06905. Phone number: (203) 658-7505. Parking in the hotel garage is complementary for their guests. and for your convenience, 15 minute parking is also available right in front of the restaurant for pick up orders. Hours: Sun-Thu: 11am-10pm / Fri: 11am-2pm / Sat. day closed / Sat. night: Open 1 hr after sunset until 2am.
BOCA RATON, FLCentury Grill Opening Across from Century Village in West Boca

Century Grill Opening Today Across From Century Village in BocaTell Grandma: A new 65 seat meat restaurant is opening today, Wednesday October 29th in West Boca, Florida, right across from Century Village. The new waiter service restaurant, which actually will appeal to the influx of young Boca residents, named Century Grill, will feature New American Cuisine and will offer lunch between 12:00-3:00pm, early bird dinners from 3:30-5:00pm and a regular sit down dinner menu from 5:00-9:00. Under the Hashgacha of the Orthodox Rabbinic Board (ORB), they are located at 9060 Kimberly Blvd Boca Raton FL 33434 and can be reached at (561) 571-6144



Babies may get diabetes in utero

A significant study by Israeli, American and Swedish researchers pins the blame for type 1 diabetes on a virus contracted by mothers during pregnancy – By Abigail Klein Leichman


You can blame poor lifestyle choices for the rapid worldwide increase in type 2 diabetes, but what about a similar rise in the less common and more serious type 1, formerly known as “juvenile” diabetes? A study from an Israel Prize laureate suggests that a virus could be triggering the autoimmune disease before birth.

In a recent paper (published in Diabetic Medicine, Prof. Zvi Laron, director of the Endocrinology and Diabetes Research Unit at Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, and head of the WHO Collaborating Center for the Study of Diabetes in Youth, presents evidence that a viral infection during pregnancy may spark the development of Type 1 diabetes in the mother’s genetically susceptible fetus.

He and international research collaborators from Israel (including the Hadassah Medical Organization), the University of Washington and Sweden’s Lund University tested 107 healthy pregnant women for islet cell autoantibodies — a sign of diabetes that appears years before initial symptoms show up. They also tested for anti-rotavirus and anti-CoxB3 antibodies.

The results pointed to evidence that viral infections contracted during pregnancy caused damage to the pancreas of the mother and/or the fetus. In their test subjects, they saw specific antibodies including those affecting the pancreatic cells producing insulin.

In addition, the cord blood antibody concentrations that exceeded those of the corresponding maternal sample, or antibody-positive cord blood samples with antibody-negative maternal samples, implied an in-utero immune response by the fetus.

Worse during winter

Furthermore, the scientists found the time of year to be a risk factor. During viral epidemics of winter months, 10 percent of the healthy pregnant women who had no family background of autoimmune diseases tested positive for damaging antibodies.

“We knew that Type 1 diabetes was associated with other autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto Thyroiditis, celiac disease and multiple sclerosis, so we investigated the seasonality of birth months for these respective diseases in Israel and other countries. We found that the seasonality of the birth of children who went on to develop these diseases did indeed differ from that of the general public,” said Laron, who gained international renown for discovering Laron Syndrome, also known as Laron-type Dwarfism, an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by an insensitivity to growth hormone. He won the Israel Prize for medical research in 2009.


“If our hypothesis can be verified, then preventive vaccine before conception would be useful in stopping the increasing incidence of Type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases,” said Laron, a professor emeritus of pediatric endocrinology at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine.

“There is no cure for this diabetes, so true intervention would be important not only medically but also psychologically and financially, as the costs of the lifelong treatment of this chronic disease and other autoimmune diseases are great.”

Laron and his international collaborators are currently raising funds to expand their research to include nearly 1,000 women and newborns.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system mistakes the insulin-making islet cells of the pancreas for “enemies” and destroys them. At the point when two-thirds of these cells are destroyed, the body no longer produces sufficient amounts of insulin. Israelis are doing world-leading research into approaches to fight this dangerous disease.


About Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.