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Dan Petrenko brings a youthful enthusiasm to his role as the new WJT artistic director

By BERNIE BELLAN At the age of 24, Dan Petrenko became the youngest artistic director of any of the member theaters of the Canadian Professional Association of Canadian Theaters (PACT) when he was hired this past November as the new artistic director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre.
Dan was actually in London, England, having just moved there two and a half months previously, when he was contacted by a recruiter for the WJT, who asked him whether he might like to meet with the WJT board (via Zoom) to discuss the possibility of his becoming the new WJT artistic director.
The WJT’s previous artistic director, Ari Weinberg, announced in June 2022 that, after seven seasons as WJT artistic director, he would be moving on to a new position in Ontario.
Now in its 35th season the WJT has had only five artistic directors prior to Dan Petrenko: Bev Aronovitch, Kayla Gordon, Mariam Bernstein, Michael Nathanson, and Ari Weinberg. The WJT is the only professional theatre company in Canada dedicated to developing and producing new Jewish works.

Recently, we sat down with Dan Petrenko to discuss the path he took to his present position.
Dan was born in Israel, the son of Jewish parents who had moved from their hometown of Odessa in Ukraine.
A formative influence in his life, he says, was his grandmother, who had been a pianist in Ukraine. She had aspirations early in her life to study in a music conservatory, but the antisemitism that was pervasive in the Soviet Union prevented her from achieving that ambition. Instead, she had to travel all the way to Siberia in order to obtain training to become a pianist.
In 1991, Dan’s parents made two momentous decisions, he says: They got married and they moved to Israel, settling in Givaataim.
As Dan describes it, “For the first time in their lives, my parents felt they could be Jewish.”
Life in Israel was good for the Petrenkos, but things changed for the worse in 2006 when Israel became engaged in a major conflict in Lebanon.
Dan and his sister were enrolled in a kindergarten in Givaataim when, one day after dropping Dan and his sister off, his parents heard on the radio that a bus had exploded right next to their children’s kindergarten.
“They didn’t want to leave Israel,” Dan observes, but, like other Israelis who wanted to find someplace safer in which to raise their children, his parents decided to leave, eventually moving to Toronto.

Arriving to Toronto, however, had a paradoxical effect on the Petrenko family, Dan explains.
“In Israel you didn’t have to be Jewish; everyone was.” But coming to Toronto, with its polyglot ethnic mix, awakened a desire in the Petrenkos to embrace their Jewish heritage.
“It was in Toronto that we celebrated our first Passover seder,” Dan says. “We also started going to synagogue for the first time.”
As well, the Petrenkos started keeping kosher and observing Shabbat, something Dan says he adheres to.
Still, when I asked Dan whether he went to Jewish school in Toronto, he says he didn’t.
His first real immersion in a Jewish milieu in Canada, he explains, came when he went to a Jewish summer sleep-over camp near Toronto, called J Academy.
“It was specifically for kids from Russian-speaking Jewish backgrounds,” he explains.
In time Dan went on from being a camper at J Academy to becoming a counsellor, and eventually a senior staff member.
It was also during his high school years that Dan says he began playwriting and directing. In fact, when he was still in high school, Dan wrote a play called “Train for Two,” which was based on his own family’s experience in the Holocaust. Later, he was able to mount a successful production of that play when he was only 17 and had started his own youth theatre company called JDY Theatre.

I asked Dan from where he derived his artistic sensibility?
He answers that, as a young boy, his grandmother had taken him to the opera and to ballet, so developing an interest in theatre was a natural progression.
Even through his years at the University of Toronto, where he double majored in Theatre and International Relations, Dan remained the artistic director of JDY Theatre.
By the time the Covid epidemic began in 2020, however, Dan had moved on to become artistic director of another theatre company: Olive Branch Theatre, which is described as “a non-profit professional company dedicated to providing opportunities for new-generation artists.”
In 2022 Dan returned to university to obtain his masters degree in Theatre. That same year he directed a production of “A Night on Jewish Broadway” in the newly renovated Leah Posluns Theatre in the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre.

This past fall, Dan decided to move to London to pursue opportunities in the West End theatre district.
While in London, he received that unexpected request from a recruiter for the WJT.
It turns out that Dan already had an extensive knowledge of the WJT, as he explains: “I had written a paper on the WJT while I was in university.”
His meeting with the WJT board via Zoom must have been an impressive one for, as Dan says, “I was offered the job the same day.” (He also says he has no idea how many other people might have been considered for the job as WJT artistic director.)
By the same token, the immediate positive reception Dan received from the WJT board was reciprocated. “After meeting with the board,” he says, “I felt this was an organization I wanted to be a part of…So far I feel I’ve hit the jackpot.”

We also have a story by Myron Love about WJT’s upcoming production of “Summer of Semitism,” but we wanted to ask Dan about the play. Since he was hired after the 2022-23 playbill had been announced, Dan won’t be at the helm of the play. (It will be directed by Winnipeg’s Krista Jackson, a former associate artistic director at the Manitoba Theatre Centre.)
The play was written by Ori Black, a young Torontonian. “It’s been in development for six years,” Dan explains.
“It’s a play about belonging – or not belonging,” he continues. “Is it only in a time of crisis that we think we’re part of the Jewish community?”
The play is set in an overnight summer camp (Camp Mazel), where four friends who grew up together and who are now tasked with running the camp, find they have to deal with an unexpected challenge having to do with antisemitism. (We won’t reveal the exact nature of what that challenge is.)
Tension develops among the four camp leaders stemming from the fact that one of them isn’t Jewish.
As Dan puts it: “They’re all brothers, but the question is: ‘Who belongs…who really fits in in a time of crisis?”
The show is intended to provoke a wider discussion of antisemitism and how we respond to it. Dan notes that following two of the shows – on April 30 and May 4, audience members will be invited to participate in a talk-back session.
Tickets for “The Summer of Semitism” can be obtained from the WJT, either online at https://www.wjt.ca or by calling 204-477-7478.

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Features

Popularity of Online Casino Games in Canada

In recent years, the popularity of online casino games in Canada has surged, captivating the attention of a diverse audience seeking thrilling entertainment. With the convenience of accessing these games from the comfort of home, Canadians are exploring the vast world of virtual casinos that offer an extensive array of gaming options.

Diverse Selection of Casino Games:

One of the key factors contributing to the widespread appeal of online casino games in Canada is the vast selection available. There are hundreds of top casino games online, covering every genre imaginable. From classic table games like poker and blackjack to immersive slot machines with captivating themes, Canadian players have a plethora of options to choose from.

The Rise of Online Slots:

Among the various casino games, online slots have witnessed a significant surge in popularity. The ease of gameplay and the potential for substantial payouts make slots a preferred choice for both seasoned players and newcomers. With themes ranging from ancient civilisations to popular movies and TV shows, online slots offer a diverse and engaging experience for players of all preferences.

Convenience and Accessibility:

The accessibility of online casino games is a key driver behind their growing popularity in Canada. Players no longer need to travel to a physical casino to experience the thrill of gambling. Instead, they can enjoy their favourite games with just a few clicks on their computer or mobile device. This convenience has opened up the world of online gambling to a broader audience, attracting both seasoned gamblers and those trying their luck for the first time.

Technology Advancements:

Advancements in technology have played a pivotal role in enhancing the online casino gaming experience. High-quality graphics, realistic sound effects, and seamless gameplay contribute to an immersive environment that mirrors the excitement of traditional brick-and-mortar casinos. Additionally, the integration of live dealer games brings an authentic touch to online gaming, allowing players to interact with real dealers in real-time.

Regulatory Environment:

The regulatory environment in Canada has also contributed to the popularity of online casino games. While each province has its own regulations, the overall legal framework allows for a thriving online gambling industry. This has given rise to reputable online casinos that prioritise player safety and adhere to strict industry standards, ensuring a fair and secure gaming environment.

Social Aspect and Community Engagement:

Online casinos in Canada are not just about individual gameplay; they also provide a platform for social interaction. Many online casinos feature chat rooms and community forums where players can connect, share experiences, and discuss strategies. This sense of community adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the gaming experience, making online casinos a social activity beyond the solitary pursuit of winning.

The popularity of online casino games in Canada is undoubtedly on the rise, driven by a combination of diverse gaming options, convenience, technological advancements, and a favourable regulatory environment. With a wide array of top casino games available at their fingertips, Canadians can indulge in the excitement of gambling from the comfort of their homes. As the online casino industry continues to evolve, it’s clear that virtual gaming is here to stay and will likely continue to captivate audiences across the country.

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Features

Life in Israel four months after October seventh

Orly & Solly Dreman

By ORLY DREMAN

(Special to the JP&N) Feb. 1, 2024

In every news broadcast that we hear that “The IDF spokesman is permitted to announce”… then every person in Israel sits down, holds their breath and waits to hear the names of the soldiers fallen in action that day. This causes deep sadness to every family in Israel. For example, I found out the son of my T.V technician was killed and my handyman’s son was seriously injured. Death in Israel is so personal.

Our synagogue recently mourned twenty seven year old Inbar Heiman who was kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music nature party on October seventh and was murdered in captivity. She was a gifted young woman filled with love and compassion. She was a creative artist that was supposed to enter her senior year at university this academic year. We had prayed and wished that she would return until her family received the tragic news of her death.

When we made personal medical visits to the Hadassah hospital, we often heard helicopters overhead bringing in wounded soldiers from Gaza. In the surgery department we saw a reserve soldier being released after six weeks in the hospital. His wife and newborn baby were with him. The department had a touching farewell gathering with Israeli flags, music and cakes. This is how every soldier who leaves the hospital is treated. More than fourteen thousand civilians and soldiers were hospitalized since October seventh with most of the injuries being in the hands and legs, burns, head and eye injuries.

We seldom are in the mood to go to a restaurant these days, but if we do, such outings are accompanied by guilt feelings. Is it right to go when our people are suffering?- the hostages are starving. We all wear the metal disc that says “Bring Them Home now- Our hearts are captured in Gaza”. They occupy our thoughts pervasively. Some of the hostages have suffered untreated gunshot wounds and the hygiene conditions are poor, many of them not showering for four months, sitting thirty meters under the ground in dark tunnels, with no electricity and suffering from extreme malnutrition. Some of them have diseases like Celiac, Asthma, Colitis, Diabetes, Fibromialgia, heart diseases and allergies. They are getting no medications and time is running out for them. Twenty five of them have already perished. What sort of civil society will we be if we abandon them?

Whole families are recruited for combat duty in different areas of the country. It might be a brother and a sister fighting in Gaza or a father in Judea and Samaria while another brother is fighting on the Lebanese border. If you ask soldiers who have lost their siblings in combat if they wish to go back to fight after the shiva, they do not hesitate, even though it is so hard on the parents. This demonstrates the dedication of Israeli citizens and their wish to complete the task of exterminating the Hamas, while at the same time knowing their family member did not die in vain. The grief is intergenerational and we are even acquainted with grandparents whose grandchildren are in combat and they are given the opportunity to go to workshops that help them with their anxiety.

In a Knesset Committee it was recently reported That many survivors from the Nova party have taken their own lives. Others continue to experience the trauma of the horrific events. They cannot sleep nor eat. Many were sexually abused and even though they were not murdered they continue to experience the pain- the sights, voices- cries for help and the fear. They are in a sense also fighters who awaken to a new existence everyday and continue to fight for their existence.

At the military cemeteries there is one funeral process after another and the families are asked to leave the site to make room to prepare for the next funeral. Wounded soldiers arrive in ambulances, on hospital beds or wheelchairs in order to eulogize their fallen comrades.

The reservists who return home after months of combat are having troubles adjusting because this war, like the War of Independence, is very meaningful. It is the most justified war our homeland has encountered. Upon their return there is a big downfall in physical and mental energy. A stranger cannot understand this. These soldiers were disconnected from normal civilian routine for a long time and they had difficult and intimate experiences with their combat mates. They have lost friends and did not have time to mourn. They must release the stress they were exposed to. They are back in body but not always in spirit. They also might be recruited again in the near future to the southern or the northern front, the war is not over. Many men who were injured worry about their future fertility and sexual functioning.

They entertain such existential thoughts as would it be better that I am killed in action before I have children and leave no descendants, or losing my life and leaving behind orphans. Dozens of children remain orphaned from both parents. They also have witnessed their family members being murdered and their homes burned down. Years ago, Solly treated and did a follow up on a family where both parents were murdered in a terrorist attack. Even though the children were adopted by loving relatives they suffered from survivor guilt and this expressed itself in such phenomena as dropping out of school, turning into juvenile delinquents and having trouble in intimate relations.

The evacuees from the south and the north are dispersed in hundreds of hotels in the center of the country. Hence, they have no permanent home, have no privacy and many have no work, nothing to do for months on end and experience feelings of powerlessness. Some pupils are not capable of returning to their temporary schools because of anxieties, depression and fear. Some teenagers have turned to drugs and alcohol which increases violence and vandalism. For them school is experienced as a waste of time. Their friends were murdered, some still have relatives in captivity and everything is falling apart. They also experience sleep disruptions and are in no mood to study. For them life is a living hell. Some families are moved from city to city several times. The children do not have friends in the new locations and they feel lonely and express a lack of social support.

In the realm of parenting many mothers even those who were NOT directly exposed to the dramatic events reported that their children cry more (eighty three percent). Others say the children have difficulties sleeping (seventy three percent), have concentration problems (fifty four percent) and many children are developing eating disorders. In sixty percent the anxiety of the children is so high it hurts functioning. For example, they are often afraid to leave the house. Other disturbances were reported such as bed-wetting, insisting on sleeping with their parents and acts of anger and aggression.

We, as Israelis are also concerned with our Jewish brethren who are experiencing thousands of antisemitic incidents, higher than the number of all incidents in the last decade. There are many Jews in the diaspora who are considering emigration to Israel after experiencing antisemitic events such as seeing their synagogue, Hebrew school, kosher butcher and other Jewish businesses being stoned and burned. For them Israel is their safest haven.

On a more optimistic note the Jewish people have prevailed over thousands of years despite terrible events. In spite of the uncertainty not everything is lost. We are united and strong. The soldiers are full of motivation and good values. I firmly believe that if we are patient and persist, the Jewish people and the state of Israel will prevail.

Orly Dreman is a 10th generation Israeli. Her cousin, Ruvi Rivlin, was a former president of Israel. Orly’s father was a diplomat who served both in North America and in Europe.
By profession Orly is an English teacher. She has dealt with children suffering from ADD.
Since childhood, Orly has been involved in voluntary work with the disabled, the challenged, new immigrants, the elderly and others. 

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Features

The Critical Job Roles in Online Business

More companies than ever are embracing remote working. As of 2023, around 16% of businesses have a fully remote working model, with many more adopting a hybrid one. All of this should come as welcome news to anyone looking for a better work-life balance. As well as saying goodbye to grueling commutes, remote employees can embrace lucrative salary packages, generous benefits, and more. Ready to reap the benefits of online work yourself? Below are just a handful of remote working opportunities to consider.

Video Game and Casino Platform Development

Whether it’s creating Canadian online slots for real money casinos or an open-world epic, great games need talented developers. Thankfully, this is one sector where the typical rules of the 9-5 don’t apply. In the US, an experienced game developer can expect to take home around $103,000 annually. For a midweight casino games developer, a starting salary of around $65,000 is fairly respectable.

Software Engineering

If you have a background in software engineering, you’re in luck. Currently, it’s one of the highest-paid online roles around, with an average salary of $108,000. There’s no one size-fits-all remit for a software engineer, but typical roles include designing applications, testing, and creating system upgrades.

UX Design

User experience is becoming increasingly important as companies strive to make their digital products more accessible. Unsurprisingly, there’s a high demand for user experience designers, with many positions now advertised as remote-first roles. You’ll need to have sufficient software and development experience to excel here. What’s more, you’ll need to work closely with clients to meet the needs of the consumer. If you think you could do well in a role like this, expect an annual salary in the region of $97,000.

Web Design

One role you’ll never struggle to find is that of a web designer. It’s a pretty broad field, so expect a lot of disparity when it comes to job remits and starting salaries. At a minimum, a web designer worth their salt should be able to create accessible websites for a wide range of clients. You’ll also need to be familiar with coding languages and testing. Less experienced web designers can expect to command a starting salary of around $43,000. If you’ve been working professionally for more than a few years and have a solid portfolio to back you up, you can easily negotiate twice that amount.

Entry-Level Online Roles

For digital natives, remote working will come as second nature. Don’t have the skills to land a web designer or developer job? Not to worry. There are an increasing number of entry-level remote roles out there.

Customer service roles are readily available, with positions to cater to all experience levels. At the bottom rung of the ladder, you might be tasked with making sales calls or resolving complaints from customers. A customer service agent can comfortably make around $40-50,000 a year. If you operate on a commission basis or can take advantage of a generous bonus scheme, you could easily double this annually.

Is Remote Working Here To Stay?

Even as many businesses encourage workers back to the office, there’s an deniable upward trend in the number of remote and hybrid-only roles on the job market. Video conferencing technology and collaboration tools are making it easier than ever for remote teams to remain connected. Meanwhile, company executives are finding it hard to argue with significantly reduced overheads and increased productivity.

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