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Rosie Sharp: wife of Four Seasons Hotels founder Issy Sharp lays it all out in her memoir

book cover edited 1By BERNIE BELLAN I’m not much for reading autobiographies; I prefer to read someone else’s account of a person’s life because I figure you’re much more likely to find out what someone’s life was truly like when it was written by someone else – warts and all.
However, when I was asked whether I might like to receive an advance copy of the memoir of Rosalie Sharp whose name, to be honest, was unfamiliar to me – but who, I was informed, was the wife of Four Seasons Hotel founder Isadore Sharp – I thought: Sure, it’s always interesting to read of the lives of the rich and famous – and when they’re Jewish and Canadian to boot, let’s go for it.

Now, to be even more honest, as much as I’ve heard plenty about Four Seasons hotels – that they set the standard for service and luxury when it comes to hotels, I had never read much about Isadore Sharp. How much would his wife want to talk about her husband in her memoir, I wondered? And how good a writer would she be?
The answer to the first question is: Quite a bit, while the answer to the second question is that Rosalie Sharp is an excellent writer. No doubt she received quite a bit of help in putting together this very interesting book but, as she explains early on, she has written quite a few books previously, mostly having to do with interior design – which is one of her two utmost passions – the other being painting.
What surprised me most about Rosalie Sharp though is how much her formative years as a young girl in Toronto still leave a strong imprint on her, even today, as she must now be 87. (She completed the book in 2021 when she was 86, she explains.) Isadore, by the way, is 91. They’re both as healthy as one could hope two seniors in their dotage could be expected to be. As a matter of fact, “Rosie”, as she prefers to be known, is quite candid in describing her own health situation. At one point she tells a funny story about having a colonoscopy recently, but while she is driving home in Issie’s fancy Mercedes, she can’t hold it in. She goes on to tell how she hid her accident from Issie when she came home, stripping off her dress without him seeing and running out to the car with a pail of soap and water and cleaning up.

The book is full of interesting stories. Rosie (née Wise) grew up in a very poor household in the 1930s – where there was no telephone, but where the phone book served as a substitute for toilet paper. Her parents lived in a non-Jewish area of Toronto, where they ran a dry goods store. Mr. Wise was also an excellent tailor. As for Mrs. Wise, however, Rosie still has an aversion to soup, she explains, after having grown up smelling her mother’s absolutely horrible broth – which she could never bring herself to taste.
Although the book devotes a certain amount of space to describing Issy Sharp’s much more comfortable upbringing – which Rosie writes about in an early chapter, prior to going into detail about her own much more difficult childhood, the lesson that one takes from reading about young Issy is how brimming with confidence he was, even at a very young age. Not only that, he was extremely good looking – as the very many photographs interspersed throughout the book illustrate.
He was also a terrific athlete. Issy was gifted in so many sports, while Rosie never had the opportunity to take piano lessons, which she so desperately wanted to take as a youngster. She also never learned to swim, she admits, but that didn’t stop her from being a sport and donning a life jacket while going on a canoe trip with the family once – or even waterskiing.

The story how Issy and Rosie met at a wedding makes for a great romantic tale. But Rosie admits that she knew of Issy’s reputation as a consummate ladies’ man – and she honestly doubted that he would remain true to her once they became a couple. There are quite a few instances in the book when Rosie describes her own naiveté about sex – something with which Issy was extremely well versed. (He was 22 when they met; she was 17.) Yet, he was always extremely considerate toward Rosie when it came to the physical side of their relationship. She does reveal though that she became pregnant when she was only 19 and did have an abortion because neither she nor Issy were ready to start a family at that point.
While the book does a good job of delving into how Issy Sharp was an absolute genius when it came to building – not just hotels, but apartment blocks as well, to the point where, as of the date of publication of the book, there are now 134 Four Seasons hotels throughout the world, it wasn’t the pursuit of riches that drove Issy, according to Rosie. They have certainly led very comfortable lives, but the first five years of their marriage were spent living in a very humble apartment, she says, and although they’ve moved several times during their lifetime together, it’s been the building and decorating of homes that has been the attraction for them, rather than the accumulation of “toys.”

In fact, Rosie never cared much about things like cars, she says. In one amusing anecdote she describes her driving in what she thought was a Toyota Land Cruiser for years, only to discover that it had a Volvo logo in it. As a collector though, Rosie has been obsessed with the accumulation of ceramic figures, along with a certain number of paintings, she notes – but it’s her ceramic figure collection, which extends into the thousands, of which she’s proudest.
Early on in life Rosie exhibited true artistic talent. She tells of drawing hand lettered signs for her parents’ dry good store that were so well done that people seeing them thought they had been printed by a machine. Later she parlayed her artistic eye into a love for interior design. Even while she was raising four young boys, Issy encouraged her to acquire a formal education in interior design, which she did. She eventually opened her own interior design firm. Much of her work, as one might expect, was for Four Seasons hotels, but she wasn’t given the work simply because she was married to the boss. Issy pays full credit to the many innovations Rosie introduced into the hotels over the years.
At times though, I must admit I was somewhat bored reading Rosie’s quite detailed descriptions of her projects. While she is certainly extremely descriptive, I’m not sure how much readers really care to read about design – whether it be interior design or the design of ceramic objects. Of course, those are both two of Rosie’s passions – and she is allowed to indulge herself as much as she likes. It’s her memoir, after all.
Where I think Jewish readers of a certain age will find this book most resonating though is when Rosie writes about the many relatives she lost in the Holocaust. There is a great amount of time spent exploring the lives of her predecessors in Poland. Rosie can trace her family roots back to the 1700s. (She also does quite a bit of the same for the Sharp family.)

Both she and Issy grew up in Yiddish-speaking households and Rosie harbours a great deal of nostalgia for those early years. Like most Jews growing up in the 1930s the Wise household was an observant home. (She tells a hilarious story about being sent to a butcher a long way off to buy a chicken for the Friday night dinner, but having the bloody chicken, freshly slaughtered, ooze all over her on the bus ride home.) She also emphasizes how important having regular Shabbat dinners with their family has been for both her and Issy throughout their lives – only to see that disrupted when Covid hit. (As a matter of fact, it was Covid that led to her writing this book, as she found that she had quite a bit more time on her hands than would normally have been the course.) In a departure from her observant upbringing though, Rosie says the only time she sets foot in a synagogue nowadays is during Yom Kippur – and that she doesn’t believe in God.
Interestingly, while Rosie acknowledges the role she’s played for years as the wife of a charming and brilliantly successful businessman, accompanying him on many trips to far off lands where it was her duty to sit through endless dinners with some of the world’s most powerful figures (including one ghastly dinner in Japan where she says the fish that was served was still wriggling!), Rosie hardly sees herself as a society maven. She did her duty – and often contributed to the success of Four Seasons on her own, both as a designer and as the gracious wife of a very powerful man, yet she notes over and over again that she feels most at home in her own house – and there have been many different ones over the years, including a home that they rebuilt from scratch in Palm Springs.

Issie Rosie SharpHere’s a description of Issie and Rosie’s harmonious relationship, as given by their son Tony on the occasion of their 62nd wedding anniversary:
“She paints. He promotes. They are full-fledged partners in life.
“Partners in bridge: she is the one who takes the risks and swings for the fences, and he plays more by the book and the percentages, yet rarely an argument, and they regularly place near the top.
“Partners in design…not the least of which is their new bungalow, where our dad concerned himself with light, views, and land assembly, and our mom, the architecture, interior design…Partners in dance. and, can they dance! Partners in fitness – still following Jane Fonda’s Advanced Workout from 1985…
“Partners in philanthropy. Including what our mother considers one of our father’s best achievements: establishing the Terry Fox Run. Proposed in a telegram from our dad to Terry, the run is now the largest single-day fundraising event in the world, having raised $750 million for cancer research.
“And of course, partners as parents. Sharing and living the values that have guided us as a family, and for which we are grateful.”

By this time, if you’ve read this far, you must be thinking: What a perfect couple – and I’m sure they are, but if I could ask two questions of Rosie, they would be this:
You had a son named Chris who died tragically at only age 17 when a melanoma was improperly diagnosed by a doctor. You write so eloquently of what that loss meant to the two of you – as I’m sure it would to any other parents who have lost a child.
But – why “Chris?” I know that it’s not totally unheard of for a Jewish child to be named Chris or Kristina, although from what I’ve read, it’s often when one of the parents isn’t Jewish. But both you and Issy came from traditional Jewish upbringings. Was there a particular reason that you chose to name your youngest son “Chris?”
And, my second question: I had to do some research to see that you and Issy have contributed substantially to many different causes, including the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But nowhere in your book do I see any evidence that you took a particular interest in philanthropy yourself, especially as it relates to Jewish causes. I would imagine that someone of your renown would have been asked many times to lend their name to a particular Jewish fund-raiser. Perhaps it wasn’t of sufficient interest for you to write about that – or maybe it just wasn’t your thing. But, as someone who espouses the importance of Jewish values so strongly, wouldn’t “tzedakkah” have been one of the most important values? I’m not saying this as a criticism because I see that when you do a search of all the causes to which you and Issy have contributed, the list is a lengthy one. But I’m somewhat puzzled that, other than the Terry Fox Run, there’s no mention of any other cause to which you might have attached yourselves. After all, Issy is worth over $500 million from what I’ve read (while the Four Season hotel chain, which is now owned primarily by Bill Gates – is valued at over $10 billion).
Still, let’ s not let these fairly petty questions detract from what is, on the whole, quite the entertaining read.

“Me & Issy – A Four Seasons Romance”
By Rosalie Wise Sharp
Published by ECW Press, Toronto, 2022
274 pages
Available in both print and Kindle editions

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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 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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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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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:  

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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