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Debut novel from Montreal’s Ben Gonshor follows in the mould of Phillip Roth

Ben Gonshor/cover of The Book of Izzy

Ben Gonshor is an award-winning writer, actor, musician and entrepreneur. His play, “When Blood Ran Red,” won the David and Clare Rosen Memorial International Play Contest at the National Yiddish Theatre in New York. 
Now, with his debut novel, The Book of Izzy, Gonshor follows the likes of Phillip Roth in how The Book of Izzy is a captivating modern take on Jewish cultural touchstones and heritage.
“The Book of Izzy is a story about a man trying to find his own place between two worlds as he reckons with letting go of his painful past to focus on creating a fulfilling present. In the process, Izzy embarks on a fanciful, romantic voyage that not only forces him to come to terms with his Jewish identity, but to also confront the mystifying bird that holds the key to preserving the past and ensuring the survival of his heritage.
“Izzy is a writer who’s found himself in a series of downward spirals; between his recently failed love life, his faltering career as both a wedding planner and a novelist, and an ever-looming mental breakdown, he’s at his wit’s end. 
“Filled to the brim with wit, candid discussions about navigating life with a mental illness, and an engaging cast of characters, The Book of Izzy is a captivating modern take on Jewish cultural touchstones and heritage.”


Following is an excerpt from The Book of Izzy:
“Hi, I’m Sue-Ann,” the twenty-something waitress said to me, extending a hand forthrightly and with the other lifted a shot glass, clinked it with Luba’s and downed it with a “L’khaim” that made you pay attention.
“Doubtful,” I thought to myself and immediately began calculating that the combination of brown bottle curls and olive skin combined with breasts and hips that curved in a way my bubbe would have approved of, didn’t add up to Sue-Ann. Then again, the piercing blue eyes and nose that would have survived a Gestapo roundup, suggested I could have been dead wrong.
I wasn’t.
“Sue-Ann, shmuann!” Luba admonished her, then looked to me while pouring herself another shot. “Her name’s Soreh,” she said while pointing insistently to her new friend then drank, ripped a piece of bread from the loaf and tossed it in her mouth and proceeded to introduce me.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that?” Sue-Ann said re Luba’s unintelligible attempt to say my name in mid-chew.
“I’m Isaiah,” I introduced myself. “Friends call me Izzy.”
“Itzikl,” Luba offered with a giggle.
“ALubable!” Sue Ann said in that patronizing way common among dog-lovers when inquiring about a breed they’ve never seen around the run. “And so Jewish…I like that,” she purred then knowingly struck a pose that emphasized her personalities, while simultaneously resting her right palm on the flesh of its adjoining hip that now introduced itself into the conversation, teasing a hint of color that I imagined made for something interesting further below. She then capped it off with a smile that revealed two perfectly formed dimples on either side, the kind so charming as to inspire a Rumshinksy tune.
“You didn’t drink your shot,” she reproached me playfully, pointing at the offending glass on the table that I knew better than to touch. “How about a beer?” she suggested with pride, “we brew in house.”
“Sure,” I answered, still somewhat sensory overloaded. “But nothing too hoppy, I’m not into drinking flowers.”
“Double IPA coming right up!” she said, clocking my narishkeit then brushed her hand expertly on my shoulder as she turned to leave. “You’re right, he’s cute,” she said to Luba, then winked in my direction before heading off toward the bar.
“Let me guess,” I began to ask Luba, who looked at me with a Cheshire grin on her face that told me everything I needed to know: “She’s Leah,” I said, referencing the lead female character in The Dybbuk.
Her giggle this time was more of an outburst of joy, as she clapped her hands near to her face and rocked back and forth happily, like another bet she made was about to pay off.
“Where’d you find her?” I asked, gazing in the direction of the bar where Sue-Ann and her pals were huddled and looking right back at us.
“I didn’t, she found me,” Luba answered and waved in their direction. “I like her. We’ve been spending a lot of time together.”
“Clearly,” I said and returned my attention back to the table. “She’s an actress?”
“Nope.”
“So why is she playing Leah?” I asked somewhat incredulously. Mind you, not that that it was any of my business but, knowing full well the chops required for the part, it seemed a fair question.
“She read for me, she feels the character deeply.”
“She speaks Yiddish?”
“Nope,” Luba answered again, with not an iota of concern in her voice.
“I don’t get it,” I said and continued, dumfounded: “You want me to play opposite someone who doesn’t speak Yiddish and on top of that you don’t even know if she can act?”
“I don’t know if she can act?!” she guffawed, repeating my question back to me aloud as if to make me hear how dumb it sounded. “What she just did naturally in that moment,” she continued, now more earnestly while gesturing with her finger in a circular motion as if to summarize a scene that had just played out at the table, “is more than some actors learn to do with a lifetime of training.”
“What do you mean?”
She didn’t answer, but cocked her head to the side instead and threw me a look like, again, I should have thought before I spoke.
“What?!” I said incredulously and could feel my cheeks starting to flush.
“She had you mesmerized,” she answered with a smile then drank another shot and tossed a piece of bread in her mouth.
“No she didn’t,” I lied.
Luba said nothing as Sue-Ann had now returned with my beer, a basket of gluten free tortilla chips and an assortment of cheeses, each of which she proceeded to describe as an award winning artisanal creation sourced from her friends at farms nearby, without specifying whether the pals she was referring to were the farmers or their animals cuz these days, you know, it could go either way. Regardless, as she side-straddled a chair that she’d pulled in from a nearby table and invited us to dig in, I thought better than to comment on the fact that without a quality goat on the cutting board, which admittedly was artfully presented along with an assortment of dried fruit and a delightfully sweet onion tartinade, what she put on the table was a whole lot of lactose intolerance.

The Book of Izzy

By Ben Gonshor

AOS Publishing

Publication date: May 2024

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Features

The Astonishing Rise of Antisemitism in Canada

By HENRY SREBRNIK Anyone reading jewishpostandnews.ca knows full well the extent of antisemitism raging across Canada now. Not a day goes by when some horrific event isn’t reported, be it at a school, a university, outside a Jewish centre or synagogue, or on a sidewalk in front of a Jewish-owned business. Protestors in many cases openly call for the elimination of the state of Israel.

This is now commonplace and shows no signs of abating, with federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as civil society organizations, including school boards, seemingly unwilling or unable to stop it. 

Statistics show an unprecedented spike in Jew-hatred in Canada. A March 18 report from the police in Toronto, for example, indicated that of the 84 registered hate crimes in 2024, a startling 56 per were animated by antisemitism. The Vancouver Police January 16 revealed that the Jewish community experienced a 62 per cent increase in police-reported antisemitic hate incidents in 2023 compared to 2022. Most occurred after the October 7 terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas.

The Jewish community in this country has been under siege, “confronting levels of antisemitism unseen since the Holocaust,” reported Richard Marceau, Vice President, External Affairs and General Counsel, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. This has included, he noted, “fire bombings of synagogues, community centers and Jewish-owned businesses; shootings and bomb scares at Jewish schools; harassment of community members; intimidation of Jewish students and faculty on campus; cheerleading of Hamas by unions; and many other hateful iterations.”

And it’s not just outright criminality on the part of hooligans that should worry us. There are other, more subtle, ways of making Jews feel they’re not really welcome. Plays are cancelled, speakers disinvited, and artists fired.

Vancouver photographer Dina Goldstein’s “In the Dollhouse” photo series was due to be exhibited at a toy-centred exhibition at the Vancouver Centre of International Contemporary Art. But Goldstein was born in Tel Aviv – so she was told by the organizer that she had got a complaint “from a group of Vancouver artists who didn’t think I should be showing because of the war in Israel and Gaza.” She feared vandalism.

Hamilton’s Playhouse Cinema agreed to be the venue for the three-day Hamilton Jewish Film Festival. But with only weeks to go, it abruptly told the festival they were no longer welcome due to “safety and security concerns at this particularly sensitive time.” They also cited “numerous security and safety related emails, phone calls, and social media messages.”

Sadly and ironically, the only connection to the Gaza war that they were screening was “The Boy,” the last film by Israeli filmmaker Yahav Winner, who was murdered by Hamas on October 7.

Cyclist Leah Goldstein had been invited to address a March 8 International Women’s Day event in Peterborough, Ont. The first woman to win the solo category of the Race Across America, a gruelling endurance race, she was scheduled to speak about overcoming “bullies, sexism, terrorism.” But they “discovered” she was raised in Israel, so was dropped “in recognition of the current situation and the sensitivity of the conflict in the Middle East.” 

An obstetrics professor at McMaster University in Hamilton was removed from the editorial board of an academic journal after publicly criticizing his professional association for failing to condemn the sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas on October 7. “I was waiting for the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists as soon as the stories of rape and sexual violence came out,” Jon Barrett told National Post. 

Barrett saw political bias in Society President Amanda Black’s December 2023 public letter applauding the reporting of sexual assault perpetrated by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, and highlighting the organization’s work advocating for women, alongside the association’s silence on Hamas’s atrocities against Israeli women.

I could provide all too many similar stories, but most of us already know this our new reality.

We know all about the university encampments, but worst of all is the effect this hatred is having in our primary and secondary educational institutions, where very young minds are being informed that Israel – and by implication Canadian Jews? — are evil.

In the official multifaith calendar for the York Region District School Board in Ontario, Jewish holidays this year were denoted with a small menorah, while the holidays of other religions had their usual representative symbols (a cross for Christians, the star and crescent for Muslims, and so forth). Why? A leaked e-mail revealed that administrators deliberately avoided using the Star of David, the traditional symbol of Judaism, lest it remind students of Israel.

On April 30, Shaked Tsurkan, a 14-year-old Israeli girl attending Leo Hayes High School, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, was followed and beaten up by an older student. It happened off school grounds during the lunch hour and other classmates gathered to watch. Someone even filmed the whole thing on their phone, later posted to social media. It was just one of many incidents, and her parents felt authorities were ignoring the antisemitic overtones to their daughter’s beating.

More recently, a Burlington, Ont. mother pulled her Jewish daughter out of high school, saying the school is allowing and encouraging pro-Palestinian activists to display and promote threatening antisemitic messages. “My child is not in school because she’s Jewish. That’s insane,” Anissa Hersh stated, after withdrawing her daughter from Burlington Central High School recently.

Her daughter had artwork included in a school exhibit but the event seemed like a Gaza protest. “They had a huge booth, and it was labeled Palestine. There was a map: the state of Israel was relabeled as Palestine with the Palestinian colours on it.” The school permitted students to wear T-shirts and jewelry depicting the eradication of Israel. The school’s solution to her complaint? “The only thing they did was, they sent me information on how my daughter could finish school at home.”

Just sitting down at the computer every day, reading all these articles can make your head spin.  One year ago at this time, we would have been scoffed at, called fearmongers, and delusional, had we said we felt uneasy about antisemitism in this country. Yet clearly it was all “out there,” ready to go, so to speak. Does this not in some way demonstrate how tenuous civil peace is, that it can turn so incredibly ugly so fast? Was this what it felt like in Berlin in, say, 1931 or so?

 In fact a colleague who teaches European history answered by pointing out that antisemitism lurks often unnoticed within larger social movements, obscured by other issues, until an event comes along to trigger it, like the Gaza war, and then those of us look back and ask where did that come from? Call it the “Greta Thunberg Syndrome?” Even climate change activism has become tinged by Jew-hatred.

 I think that since October 7 Canadian Jews are suffering from political vertigo. It’s as if a rug was suddenly pulled out from under us on an apartment balcony we assumed was safe, and we were tipped over and fell 12 stories to the ground below. 

 Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.

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Features

A beginner’s guide to using Paysafecard

Paysafecard (stylized as paysafecard) is becoming one of the top online payment methods. It is one that not many people are familiar with, outside of seeing a few hints to accepting Paysafecard online, mostly around online casinos that accept Paysafecard. So, we figured that we would give you a quick run-through of what to expect from a Paysafecard. We’ll tell you how to use it, including topping up and spending the cash on your account. We’ll also let you know about the monthly maintenance fee.

What is a Paysafecard?

A Paysafecard is a unique way to pay online, although a platform does need to accept Paysafecard.

It is a secure payment method, since you don’t need to share your payment details with anybody. You can even pay for a Paysafecard in cash (more on that soon).

With a Paysafecard, you get a unique, 16-digit code to pay for things online, although you may also use a Paysafecard account to make your payments.

Because you’re sharing nothing but your 16-digit Paysafecard code, this is one of the safest payment methods online, so it is no surprise that you want to learn more about it.

Topping up your Paysafecard

There are two ways to top up your Paysafecard. One method is more ‘secure’ than the other, although, to be honest, both methods are incredibly secure. One method will require you logging into a website, while the other lets you use a 16-digit code that is more secure but requires a little more effort.

Topping up a Paysafecard with cash

One of the major benefits of using a Paysafecard is that it is one of only a few online payment methods that you can fund with cash. You can head to a variety of retailers that sell Paysafecard (normally smaller shops) and ask to buy a Paysafecard. You can buy the card in a variety of denominations, and the amount will vary depending on your country.

You’ll then be given a 16-digit payment code for your Paysafecard. Protect this. This code is how you’ll access your funds online, as well as check how much cash is in your account. If you lose that card, then you’ve lost access to your funds. However, most people will likely use their Paysafecard right away.

With a Paysafecard account

If you create a Paysafecard account, then you’ve got a bit more control over your money. There are also fewer fees.

A Paysafecard account will give you login details that you can use. Once you’ve got an account, you can top up your Paysafecard account using your debit/credit cards, or even via bank transfer. Don’t worry if you still like to do things with cash, though. You can also buy Paysafecard codes with cash at your favorite Paysafecard vendor and add those cards to your account.

One of the major benefits of having an account is that you can also ‘buy’ debit card details from them (they use Mastercard), which makes it easier to use your Paysafecard funds when a platform doesn’t accept Paysafecard, and not all of them do.

You can top up your account whenever you want. It takes only a few minutes (unless you’re using bank transfer, when it could take a few working days).

Spending cash on your Paysafecard

Now your Paysafecard is topped up, let’s get to spending it, shall we? This part is simple!

It is quite easy to spot online casinos that accept Paysafecard. If a site has a Paysafecard logo, you can make a payment using your Paysafecard 16-digit code, or your account details.

So, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Select Paysafecard as your payment method.
  2. Enter the amount you wish to pay.
  3. Select whether to pay by code or login.
  4. If you’re paying by code, enter your 16-digit code now. You’ll need enough on that card to cover the full amount needed for the transaction.
  5. If you are paying using your Paysafecard account, log in using your details. If you don’t have enough funds to cover the transaction, you can top your account up.
  6. The money should be sent instantly.

Yes! Using your Paysafecard online really is that simple. Now you are free to bet at online casinos, place bets on sports like athletics or simply do some shopping online.

The monthly maintenance fee

There is a monthly maintenance fee for having a Paysafecard. The fee will be determined by your location and how long you’ve had the card for, so make sure that you check the details on the website. Maintenance fees will start at different times:

  • If you have a 16-digit code, you’ll start paying fees in the second month.
  • If you have an online account for Paysafecard, those fees won’t start until the 13th month.

So, if you want to save money, it is best to get an online account for your Paysafecard.

Use a Paysafecard today

So, now you know how to use Paysafecard online (which isn’t that hard), you can go out and find top online stores that accept it. More stores than ever let you use Paysafecard online, so this part shouldn’t be too tricky.

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Features

New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN (May 21, 2024) A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” (https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/ovrim-en) has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to jewishpostandnews.ca Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website, https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-787914#google_vignette) That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

(Updated May 28)

We contacted Ms. Harel to ask whether she’s aware whether there has been an increase in the number of Israelis deciding to emigrate from Israel since October 7. (We want to make clear that we’re not advocating for Israelis to emigrate; we’re simply wanting to learn more about emigration figures – and whether there has been a change in the number of Israelis wanting to leave the country.)
Ms. Harel referred us to a website titled “Globes”: https://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1001471862
The website is in Hebrew, but we were able to translate it into English. There is a graph on the website showing both numbers of immigrants to Israel and emigrants.
The graph shows a fairly steady rate of emigration from 2015-2022, hovering in the 40,000 range, then in 2023 there’s a sudden increase in the number of emigrants to 60,000.
According to the website, the increase in emigrants is due more to a change in the methodology that Israel has been using to count immigrants and emigrants than it is to any sudden upsurge in emigration. (Apparently individuals who had formerly been living in Israel but who may have returned to Israel just once a year were being counted as having immigrated back to Israel. Now that they are no longer being counted as immigrants and instead are being treated as emigrants, the numbers have shifted radically.)
Yet, the website adds this warning: “The figures do not take into account the effects of the war, since it is still not possible to identify those who chose to emigrate following it. It is also difficult to estimate what Yalad Yom will produce – on the one hand, anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews and Israelis around the world reminds everyone where the Jewish home is. On the other hand, the bitter truth we discovered in October is that it was precisely in Israel, the safe fortress of the Jewish people, that a massacre took place reminding us of the horrors of the Holocaust. And if that’s not enough, the explosive social atmosphere and the difference in the state budget deficit, which will inevitably lead to a heavy burden of taxes and a reduction in public services, may convince Zionist Israelis that they don’t belong here.”
Thus, as much as many of us would be disappointed to learn that there is now an upsurge in Israelis wanting to move out of the country, once reliable figures begin to be produced for 2024, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that is the case – which helps to explain the tremendous popularity of Ms. Harel’s website.

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