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911 dispatcher and rabbi take the stand on first day of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial

PITTSBURGH (JTA) — When Shannon Basa-Sabol was asked to recount the events of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in court on Tuesday, what stood out was her memory of the death of Bernice Simon.

Basa-Sabol, a 911 dispatcher, took the stand for close to an hour, describing the ins and outs of her job. 

But when the crowded courtroom heard a recording of Simon’s 911 call from the Tree of Life Congregation, Basa-Sabol paused and began to sniffle. She described telling Simon to stay quiet, then hearing multiple gunshots over the phone.

“Are you still with me?” Basa-Sabol said on the recording of the call. “Bernice, can you hear me?”

Speaking on the witness stand on Tuesday, Basa-Sabol said she had realized Simon no longer had “sufficient breathing for life.”

“I was hearing her being shot,” she said.

Basa-Sabol was the first witness in the trial of Robert Bowers, the man accused of murdering 11 Jews in their Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018. For months, survivors, relatives of victims and the Jewish community of Pittsburgh have anticipated the trial, which began Tuesday, hoping for closure while worrying that the proceedings would retraumatize people, even as no one doubted the culpability of the accused.

As the prosecution and defense gave their opening statements, it was clear that the trial would air graphic details from the attack. But while lawyers and witnesses recounted the events of the day, the courthouse was also the scene of embraces, tears of comfort, discussions of Jewish tradition and even laughter as those who lived through the tragedy connected with and supported one another.

Defendants’ families were in the courtroom and monitoring via videolink elsewhere in the Joseph Weis Federal Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh. Social workers and psychologists were on hand to help them through the proceedings. Reporters were asked not to conduct interviews in the building.

At a break, Tim Matson, a policeman injured in an exchange of fire with the suspect, sought out Andrea Wedner, who was shot and whose mother, Rose Mallinger, was killed. They hugged.

Maggie Feinstein, the director of the 10/27 Healing Partnership, which provides post-traumatic therapy for the community, watched closely over the nine or so family members in the courtroom, and handed them tissues. 

“Today marked the beginning of a very difficult and painful trial that is the direct result of an incredibly terrible action by one person,” Feinstein wrote in an email after the court was adjourned. “It represented an important step in the process of justice, because these court proceedings are a way for our society to take up the burden of remembering and telling the truth about what happened on October 27, 2018.”

On the witness stand, Jeffrey Myers, the rabbi of Tree of Life Congregation, cried as he described how he recited the Shema, thinking he was about to die. 

“I thought about the history of my people, how we’ve been persecuted and hunted and slaughtered for centuries,” he said. “And about how all of them must have felt in the moments before their death, and what they did was recite Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 4, ‘Hear, O, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”

The defendant is accused of murdering 11 people and wounding six at three congregations that met in the same building — Tree of Life, Or L’Simcha and Dor Hadash. He faces 63 charges, 22 of which are death penalty charges that relate specifically to allegations that he targeted Jews: 11 counts of obstruction in free exercise of religious belief resulting in death, and 11 counts of hate crimes resulting in death. Prosecutors previously rejected a guilty plea so that they could pursue the death penalty — a punishment that families of victims and congregational leaders have debated. 

Jury selection began last month and took three weeks, culminating in the selection of 18 jurors and alternates — 11 men and seven women.

In their opening statements, prosecutors and defense lawyers alike warned that the trial would revisit the attack in horrific detail. Judge Robert Colville emphasized the presumption of innocence, telling the jury that Bowers had a “clean slate” unless the prosecution was able to persuade them otherwise. 

He warned jurors to avoid reading about the case in the media, and not to discuss it with friends or even with each other. And he added what he acknowledged was a recent and novel caution: “Persons, entities or even foreign governments may seek to manipulate your opinions,” instructing them not to click through if they saw messages relating to the trial pooping up on their computer.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Song Soo’s 31-minute statement, delivered in a steady tone that only occasionally fluttered with emotion, set forth her case in vivid terms: A community that had come together for decades in love and caring for each other, and for Jewish tradition, was shattered by a gunman determined to murder Jews.

“In the Tree of Life synagogue, the words ‘Tree of Life’ are written in Hebrew high above the bookstand that holds the Torah, the holiest book in the Jewish faith,” she said. “The Tree of Life  synagogue had anchored the corner of Wilkins and Shady for decades. As they did every Saturday men and women of the Jewish faith made their way to the synagogue to observe Shabbat.”

She noted that the Torah portion that week, Vayera, “was from the Book of Genesis and was about welcoming strangers.” She went on to describe the warmth of those who were killed and dwelled on Cecil and David Rosenthal, men in their 50s with developmental disabilities who loved to greet congregants.

“In many ways, they were like children, childlike because of their mental disabilities, trusting and pure,” Soo said, adding that fellow congregants would help them “tie a shoe lace, tuck in a shirt, find a page in a prayer book.”

“That morning David Rosenthal stood at the front of the chapel helping to lead the opening prayer” he had memorized, she said. “His devotion to the faith made up for the fact that he could not actually read the prayer book.”

Then, she described the carnage, referring to the defendant’s alleged statements of hate on Gab, a social media platform friendly to right-wing extremists. He allegedly condemned HIAS, the Jewish refugee aid group that partnered with Dor Hadash.

“That same morning the defendant was making his own preparations to destroy, to kill and defile,” Soo said. “He hated Jews, he called them ‘the children of Satan … the most bloodthirsty, evil demons who ever walked the face of the earth.’”

She read out the Gab entry Bowers allegedly posted while he was parked outside the synagogue complex. “HIAS likes to bring in invaders that like to kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch our people get slaughtered, screw your optics, I’m going in.” 

“And the defendant did go in,” Soo said. She described some of the congregants’ deaths in detail, and concluded by reading out the 11 names of the murdered: Cecil and David Rosenthal, couple Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Rose Malinger, Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Jerry Rabinowitz, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger.

The defendant, clad in a green sweater over an open-collared light blue shirt, stared ahead and scribbled notes. He never looked at Soo, who spoke at a podium to his right.

In her opening statement, Bowers’ lead attorney, Judy Clarke, said the defense would not contest the events, or Bowers’ responsibility for them. Clarke is known as “the attorney for the damned” for her determination to keep her clients from execution. She has defended the Unabomber, the Boston Marathon bomber and one of the conspirators who planned the 9/11 attacks.

“This senseless act, the loss and devastation, were caused by Robert Bowers,” she said. “There is no disagreement, there is no dispute and there will be no doubt as to who shot the 11 congregants. On Oct. 27, 2018, Robert Bowers, the man seated at that table, loaded with ammunition and firearms entered the synagogue.”

Clarke suggested that her defense would focus on whether the defendant’s motives met the standards required by the government’s charges, particularly regarding the 22 death penalty charges.

“We can at least do our best to uphold the rule of law by figuring out, to the best of our ability, what were Mr. Bowers’ motives and intent,” she said. She argued that her client’s statements, which focused on his deluded belief that Jews were intent on replacing white people, do not make clear that his intent met the standards enshrined in federal law.

“These statements are outrageous,” she said. “The fact that they were made raises more questions than they may answer.”

Carol Janssen, another employee from a 911 call center, testified, and in the afternoon, for a number of hours, Eric Olshan, a Jewish U.S. Attorney, asked Myers to guide the jurors through a tour of a physical scale model of the synagogue that was brought into the courtroom. Myers described the building, its congregations and the fundamentals of Judaism to an attentive jury.

Shabbat ends “when three stars are in the sky,” said Myers, who wore a black suit and white kippah and delivered his testimony in measured tones. He wore a kippah because “it reminds me that I’m in God’s presence wherever I go.” 

Myers occasionally smiled at the jury when he cracked a joke, eliciting laughter, as when he recalled what a SWAT team advised him when they reached him in the synagogue: “Rabbi, run your ass off.”

And, as the defendant stared at him, Myers memorialized his murdered congregants, affectionately recalling their self-appointed roles during Sabbath services. He remembered one of the victims, Cecil Rosenthal, who always beat him to the synagogue so he could be in place to greet all comers. “I would say to him jokingly, ‘Cecil did you sleep here again?’”

David Rosenthal, he said, sang prayers “loudly,” while Rose Mallinger routinely led the prayer for peace, “that all people can live together in freedom and peace.”

As he recalled the moments of the shooting, Myers said, he felt he would not be angry at God, “because it was not God who did this. I was prepared to meet my fate.” He sobbed. 

The scheduled Torah reading from Genesis 12, he said, narrates how Abraham welcomes three strangers.

“I was going to talk about the Jewish imperative to welcome all guests whoever they may be,” he said. “But I never gave that sermon.”

The defense declined to cross-examine the rabbi.


The post 911 dispatcher and rabbi take the stand on first day of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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