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Canada’s Oldest Siblings: Three Bodies, One Heart, and a Set of Lungs

l-r: Anne Novak, Sally Singer,
Sol Fink, Ruth Zimmer

By CAROL SEVITT (This article first appeared in The Globe & Mail. Reprinted with permission.) My mother and her siblings, all Holocaust survivors, might just be the oldest siblings in Canada. Amazingly, they have spent nearly all their lives together.

At 99, 98, 96, and 94 they make a formidable quartet. There are three sisters – Sally Singer, 99, Anne Novak, 98 (my mother), and Ruth Zimmer, 94 – and a brother Sol Fink, 96. Sally’s 100th birthday is around the corner in late November, and the others aren’t far behind.
“A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves — a special kind of double,” wrote author Toni Morrison. In the case of my mother and her two sisters, it’s a special kind of triple, or as I see it, “three bodies and one heart.” Despite their different temperaments, they think and act alike. When one sister installed central air conditioning, the others followed. When they went on holidays, they went to the same place together. When one sister bought her first fur coat or string of pearls, so did the others. When one got her first microwave or food processor, so did her sisters. When one stopped colouring her hair, it was only months before the others went grey too. Even now they go to the same doctor, dentist, insurance agent, and financial planner. They use the same face cream and take most of the same medication. They bought the same jewellery and raincoat. They eat the same breakfast and watch the same TV shows (“The Bachelor” is a longtime favourite).

Their brother Sol carved out his own niche. After selling the grocery store he ran with his brother-in-law, he was a shoichet (ritual slaughterer) until he was 85. Throughout his life he chanted Torah and worked as the cantor at a small North End Winnipeg synagogue. He led prayers until he was 95, with Covid protocols putting an end to that. An article written about him a few years ago called him Canada’s oldest working cantor. Growing up with three sisters, whom he still calls the “maidlach” (girls), he learned how to treat women well. With natural mechanical ability, he was always there to do home repairs for them.
The four siblings spent their youth in Sanok, Poland, near the Carpathian Mountains. There were two boys in the family (the youngest Eli perished in the Holocaust), but the sisters were a unit unto themselves. As girls, one was bookish and organized, one was sweet and a peacemaker (my mother), and one was a comedian with a rebellious spirit – traits they have retained throughout their lives.
They were teenagers when the Nazis stormed into Poland – the start of the darkest period of their lives. Although being transported to a Siberian labour camp was traumatic, it was the reason behind their survival. The family spent the war years enduring bitter hardships in Russia, facing hunger and deprivation, but being together somehow made it bearable. The horror of having one brother and 80 relatives exterminated by the Nazis made the siblings hang onto each other even more.

After the war, like most Holocaust survivors, the sisters started making up for lost time. While in a DP camp in Germany, my mother and her older sister got married just 10 days apart. They even wore the same wedding dress. The family joke was that there were cookies left over from Sally’s wedding, so my mother had to get married right afterwards. Naturally, they both got pregnant and had daughters just nine months apart (I am one of those daughters). The youngest sister married a year later and promptly had a child to provide me with another cousin. Sol married a few years later and produced four more musically talented cousins.
After the war, the family emigrated to Winnipeg, and of course lived walking distance from each other. As immigrants, the siblings and their spouses faced many challenges – finding work, learning English, and adapting to the Canadian way of life. But they were young and hard-working, and before long, they bought homes and cars. When my mother got her driver’s license, her sisters quickly followed. My mother gave up driving less than a year ago, and misses her car every day.
Years went by, the families grew, and still the siblings stuck together. Although they each had friends outside the family, their core friendships were with each other.
Having faced hunger during the war, food became one of life’s big pleasures, and not surprisingly the sisters all cooked the same wonderful dishes. As a testament to their culinary skills, my Auntie Ruthie (the comedian) starred in the pilot episode of a grandmother cooking show on television called “Loving Spoonfuls”. My aunt may be famous for making chicken soup and pierogies on TV, but her recipe is the same as her sisters’. Because they think and act alike (three bodies and one heart), if one said she was cooking borscht, blintzes or knishes, the others invariably would do the same.
In their 50s, the sisters ran a coffee shop inside the Jewish nursing home, serving delicious homemade soups, burgers and sandwiches to staff and visitors. No arguments about how to prepare the food, as they all share the same European recipes and love nothing better than feeding a crowd.

Another common denominator is their desire to have fun. Whether it be writing and performing skits and songs, dressing up in costumes, imitating quirky family member or celebrities, or telling off colour jokes, they make each other howl.
In their seventies, it became difficult for the sisters to remain in their homes. My parents moved to a condo first. A year later, the condo unit on my mother’s left became available and her younger sister bought it. Soon, the condo on her right was up for sale and – you guessed it – the older sister bought it. When my cousins and I came to visit from out of town, it was a moveable party as we went from apartment to apartment, (even in our pj’s) enjoying the company, cooking, and wisecracks.
In her eighties, my mother entered the digital world where she loves to check Facebook, send emails, surf the web, and check out YouTube (especially Yiddish cantorial music). She was the digital star until her younger sister got an iPad a few months later.

All three sisters are now widows, but because the trio is together, life is not lonely. Just last year they all sold their condos and moved into an assisted living retirement home. True to form, Ruth is trying to teach the chef how to make tasty pierogies.
Not only are the sisters’ similarities remarkable, they also have the ability to forgive and forget, to smooth things out when there’s an issue, and to lift each other’s moods when a dark cloud descends. Despite devastating personal losses – three of the four have lost an adult child, all the husbands have died, they lost a young brother, their home and relatives in Poland — their outlook remains remarkably positive. At 98, my mother says, “Hitler stole 10 years from me, so I am actually only 88”. Whether in defiance of Hitler or simply thanks to their unique circumstances, all the siblings are alive and kicking.
From my mother, aunts and uncle I have learned many life lessons — to treasure family, celebrate every milestone, cook excellent dishes, and forgive small transgressions. Because my aunts are so close to me, I feel privileged to have three “mothers” who never miss the opportunity to tell me they love me, but not before telling me the latest joke. I also have the privilege of an outstanding uncle who does daily workouts or swims, can fix anything, and uplifts a congregation with his prayer and song.
If I have their genes, I will be lucky indeed.

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Features

A Jewish Perspective on the Hidden Gems of Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta

Nestled along Mexico’s Pacific coast, Nuevo Vallarta and its neighboring city, Puerto Vallarta, have become popular destinations for travelers seeking sun, sea and cultural experiences. For Jewish travelers, exploring these cities offers a unique blend of relaxation and discovery; from pristine beaches to vibrant local culture, here’s a perspective on the hidden gems these destinations offer.

Traveling to Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta

Barceló Puerto Vallarta: A Tranquil Haven

Among the myriad of accommodations in the region, the Barceló Occidental Nuevo Vallarta (with bookings at https://www.barcelo.com/en-ca/occidental-nuevo-vallarta/) stands out as a serene retreat. Situated on Mismaloya Beach, this resort combines traditional Mexican architecture with modern amenities. Its all-inclusive packages cater to families, couples and solo travelers, providing an ideal base for exploring both Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta.

Exploring Nuevo Vallarta

Embracing Nature at El Cora Crocodile Sanctuary

Nature enthusiasts will appreciate El Cora Crocodile Sanctuary, located a short drive from Nuevo Vallarta. This sanctuary not only preserves native wildlife but also offers educational tours that delve into the region’s ecosystem. For Jewish travelers, it provides an opportunity to connect with nature while appreciating Mexico’s biodiversity.

Cultural Insight at the Marina Vallarta

The Marina Vallarta, known for its upscale ambiance and waterfront dining, offers a glimpse into local life. Jewish travelers can explore boutique shops and art galleries while enjoying a variety of international cuisines. The marina’s lively atmosphere during sunset, with boats bobbing gently in the marina and street performers entertaining passersby, creates a memorable experience.

Discovering Puerto Vallarta

Historic Exploration in the Zona Romántica

Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romántica, also known as Old Vallarta, beckons history buffs and culture seekers. Cobblestone streets wind through quaint neighborhoods lined with colorful colonial architecture. Jewish travelers can visit the Zona Romántica’s eclectic art galleries, boutique cafes and the iconic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich cultural heritage.

Artistic Marvels at the Malecón

A stroll along the Malecón, Puerto Vallarta’s oceanfront promenade, reveals a treasure trove of sculptures and open-air art installations. From the whimsical Seahorse sculpture to the thought-provoking Millennium sculpture series, each artwork tells a story of Mexico’s artistic spirit. Jewish travelers can engage with local artists and appreciate the vibrant cultural tapestry that defines Puerto Vallarta.

Culinary Delights

Savoring Kosher-Friendly Cuisine

While kosher options are limited in Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta, some restaurants and resorts offer kosher-friendly menus upon request. The culinary scene in both cities blends traditional Mexican flavors with international influences, ensuring there is something to satisfy every palate. Jewish travelers can indulge in fresh seafood ceviche, traditional tacos al pastor and refreshing aguas frescas while soaking in the coastal ambiance.

Community Engagement

Connecting with Local Jewish Communities

For Jewish travelers interested in community engagement, both Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta host small Jewish communities. Synagogues and Jewish community centers welcome visitors seeking spiritual connection and cultural exchange. Engaging with local Jewish communities provides a deeper understanding of Mexican-Jewish heritage and fosters meaningful connections across cultures.

Final Note

Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta offer Jewish travelers a blend of relaxation, cultural exploration and natural beauty. Whether basking in the sun on pristine beaches, exploring historic neighborhoods or savoring culinary delights, these cities provide a rich tapestry of experiences. With accommodations like the Barceló Puerto Vallarta offering comfort and convenience, travelers can immerse themselves in Mexico’s Pacific coast while appreciating its hidden gems from a unique perspective.

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Features

Gambling Statistics Shine Light on Canadian Gambling Culture

Explore pivotal statistics that highlight Canada’s gambling culture. Get a concise overview of the trends shaping the nation’s betting landscape.

Canada’s gambling culture is as diverse as its landscape, and recent statistics shed light on this thriving sector. From coast to coast, Canadians engage in various forms of betting, each with its own set of trends and numbers. This article delves into the data, uncovering the patterns and preferences defining gambling nationwide.

Canadian Gambling Statistics

User penetration refers to the percentage of consumers engaging with a product or service beyond the expected audience. Despite a 47% decline in 2023, the online gambling industry is projected to expand.

By 2027, it’s forecasted that the gambling market will cater to 20.38 million individuals. This trend suggests an increasing preference among Canadians for online gambling over traditional brick-and-mortar casinos.

The industry boasted a 97% return on investment in 2022, outperforming land-based casinos, which only saw a 61% return. With the rising interest in online betting, Canada’s online casino industry is experiencing the highest user penetration rate.

What Is the Average Expenditure on Gambling by Canadians?

Many enjoy the thrill of the occasional game of chance. The fact that you can retain all of your earnings, as there are no taxes on gambling profits in Canada, adds to the allure of gambling. In Canada, winnings are subject to taxation only for professional gamblers with a sustained winning streak.

In recent years, the trend toward online casinos has changed. The pandemic-induced closures of land-based casinos accelerated this change. It’s a profitable industry, as 60% of Canadians say they spend money gambling each month.

Canadian gambling statistics:

  • Six out of ten Canadians have gambled.
  • The monthly average expenditure for gaming and gambling in Canada is $6.75.
  • A month’s worth of gaming expenses is reported by 63% of males and 57% of women.
  • According to 73% of Canadians, gambling-related issues have gotten worse in their region.

The Increasing Attraction to Online Casino Gambling in Canada

An increasing number of Canadians are using online casinos, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. They offer various benefits regular casinos do not and are more convenient. Over time, land-based casinos’ revenue has decreased due to the growing popularity of online gambling sites.

The pandemic shutdowns accelerated the drop. For instance, the land-based casinos in Alberta no longer make as much money as they once did. Consequently, the Albertan government opened an online casino, and other governments quickly adopted similar strategies.

Casino Games at Online Casinos in Canada

Online casinos in Canada offer various games that cater to different preferences. Some of the most popular casino games at Canadian online casinos include:

  • Slots: These are the most common and varied, with themes ranging from classic fruit machines to the latest online slot games with advanced graphics and features.
  • Table Games: Classics like blackjack, roulette, craps, and baccarat are available in multiple variations.
  • Live Dealer Games: These provide an immersive experience, allowing players to interact with real dealers and other players in real time.
  • Video Poker: A favourite for many, combining elements of slots and poker in a unique format.
  • Progressive Jackpots: Games that offer the chance to win life-changing sums of money with a single spin.
  • Canadian Legalities for Online Gambling Sites
  • Casinos are legal in Canada, but each province and territory has the authority to establish its gaming regulations and issue online gambling website licences. Saskatchewan is the only province that does not host multiple online gaming sites.
  • Authorities in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba issue licences without a specific requirement, but these online casinos must operate exclusively within their respective provincial borders. Online gaming sites seeking to operate beyond these borders need a special agreement.
  • In Canada, only land-based casinos face penalties; foreign operators can only function by obtaining local licenses. Although offshore casinos cannot legally target Canadian players, they can accept them.
  • Statistics on Gambling Addiction in Canada
  • While the majority of gamblers do so without experiencing issues, there are hazards and health issues associated with it for some people. Because of this, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) carries out studies and creates resources aimed at assisting Canadians in making wise decisions regarding their gambling, both generally and, in particular, high-risk scenarios, like when they’re using alcohol or other drugs.
  • Here are some key statistics on gambling addiction in Canada for the year 2024:
  • 64.5% of Canadians aged 15 or older actively participated in gambling activities within the past year.
  • 1.6% of Canadian gamblers, representing approximately 304,400 individuals, face moderate-to-severe gambling addiction risks.
  • Canadian males reported higher gambling participation and addiction risks compared to females.
  • Indigenous Canadians showed a higher tendency to gamble (72.4%) and experienced greater susceptibility to gambling problems (4.5%) than non-Indigenous people.
  • In Canada, responsible gambling is promoted through various programs and initiatives, ensuring that individuals engage in betting activities within their means and maintain control. The emphasis is on providing resources and support to prevent gambling addiction and encourage safe, enjoyable gaming experiences.
  • Reflecting on Canada’s Responsible Gambling Journey
  • The statistics we’ve explored offer a revealing glimpse into Canada’s gambling culture, highlighting both the widespread appeal and the responsible practices of Canadian bettors. As the industry evolves, it reflects the country’s commitment to balancing entertainment with economic benefit and social responsibility. The future of gambling in Canada seems poised to be driven by informed choices and a clear understanding of the risks and rewards involved.
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Features

Caesars Windsor Reduces Operating Hours for Sports Betting Counter

Sports betting has rapidly evolved into a major attraction, drawing a diverse audience ranging from casual participants to dedicated enthusiasts, and its popularity is only increasing with the proliferation of online platforms. In particular, Canada has seen a notable rise in sports betting activities since the legalization of single-event sports betting in August 2021, which opened doors to a multitude of betting avenues, both in physical locations and online. 

The shift towards online sportsbooks has been especially significant, marking a notable change in the landscape of sports betting. Given the expansive range of online sportsbooks available to Canadians, experts like Neil Roarty provide critical reviews and comparisons that guide bettors through the complex array of online options. These sites delve into the nuances of each platform, evaluating everything from user interface and betting options to the perks and security features they offer (source: bestsportsbettingcanada.ca/).  

Despite the rising trend in online betting, traditional sportsbooks like those in casinos are adjusting to the new landscape. Caesars Windsor, for instance, has recently made significant changes to its sports betting services. Initially projected to increase job opportunities and enhance visitor footfall, thereby boosting various service-related positions within the casino, the reality has somewhat shifted. 

The casino’s CEO, Kevin Laforet, had expressed optimism at the sportsbook’s inauguration in January 2023, citing anticipated growth in employment opportunities due to expected higher traffic. This optimism was rooted in the broader economic benefits typically associated with casino expansions, such as increased employment for local and migrant communities including roles like dealers, bartenders, and security staff.

However, recent developments have seen Caesars Windsor recalibrating its approach to sports betting. According to a spokesperson from the casino, after a detailed review of betting trends at their facility, adjustments were necessary to align the sportsbook’s operations with actual guest preferences and patterns. 

As a result, the sportsbook has scaled back its operating hours to 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day, which has led to minor staffing changes. Importantly, all affected staff members have been retained, and the sportsbook continues to operate during peak times, especially during significant sporting events, with kiosk betting available 24/7.

Jessica Welman, editor of the Canadian Gaming Business, remarks on the overwhelming preference for online sports gambling over traditional brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. The convenience of placing bets via a smartphone or computer is a significant draw for many, enhancing the accessibility and appeal of online betting. 

Welman further noted that the market for online betting in Ontario has expanded consistently each quarter since its legalization, highlighting a robust growth trajectory that underscores the market’s potential.

However, the relationship between online gambling and its impact on physical casino revenues is complex and not well-documented. Sports betting reporter Greg Warren pointed out that most casinos do not specifically track how much of their revenue comes from sports betting as opposed to other gambling activities, which muddles the ability to analyze precise trends. 

Yet, experiences from the United States suggest that both in-person and online sportsbooks can experience growth simultaneously, indicating a synergistic relationship rather than a competitive one. According to Warren, the distinct experiences offered by online platforms and physical sportsbooks mean they can coexist and cater to different preferences.

Welman supports this view, suggesting that despite the convenience of online options, there is an enduring appeal for the physical experience of in-person betting. She argues that brick-and-mortar casinos provide a unique atmosphere that can’t be replicated online, serving as a draw for those who prefer the tangible excitement of a live betting environment. 

In line with its diverse offerings, Caesars Entertainment also maintains an online gaming app, which complements its physical sportsbook operations. This app is designed to offer users a seamless integration between the convenience of digital betting and the engaging atmosphere of in-person wagering. 

While specific details on the app’s impact on the casino’s overall business were not disclosed, it represents an integral part of Caesars’ strategy to bridge the gap between traditional and digital gambling experiences. This dual approach not only caters to a broader range of consumer preferences but also positions Caesars to capitalize on the growing trend of mobile and online betting.

As the landscape of sports betting continues to evolve, the interaction between online and in-person gambling platforms will undoubtedly remain a key area of focus for industry observers and participants alike. By maintaining a strong presence in both arenas, Caesars is well-equipped to adapt to changing consumer habits and technological advancements that have seen real money online casinos cornering many gambling markets worldwide, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of the gambling industry. 

This strategic integration highlights the potential for more synchronized growth and innovation within the gambling sector, shaping the future of how sports betting is experienced across different platforms.

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