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A digital Jewish library aims to add women’s Torah scholarship to its shelves — by helping them write it

(JTA) — Sefaria, the app that contains a digital collection of Jewish texts, has made everything from Genesis to an essay on Jewish law and gambling accessible at the tap of a finger.

But in one way, it’s the same as nearly every other Jewish library in history: Almost all the texts, from ancient times to the present, are written by men.

Now, Sefaria is hoping to chip away at that gender disparity by organizing and supporting a group of 20 women Torah scholars who are writing new books on Jewish texts.

“It’s relatively recent in the history of the Jewish people that women have had access to as full a Jewish education as men,” Sara Wolkenfeld, chief learning officer at Sefaria, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “And so it’s even more recent that women are able to create those works.”

She added, “When I spoke to women about this, I discovered more and more that there were amazing women teaching Torah and many fewer women who were being encouraged to write books of Torah and really have the scaffolding in place to do that.”

The participants in the new program, called Word-by-Word, range from ordained clergy to academics and teachers. They have expertise in subjects ranging from early modern Jewish studies to Jewish thought and Talmud. Most of them are affiliated with Orthodox institutions or received Orthodox ordination. There are no non-Orthodox rabbis on the list.

Non-Orthodox women have been receiving rabbinic ordination for more than half a century, and recent decades have seen the proliferation of advanced Orthodox Jewish educational institutions geared toward women. In recent years, a growing number of Orthodox women have received ordination as clergy as well.

Word-by-Word aims to parlay their expertise into texts about topics such as Sephardic women’s halacha and rabbinic literature, villains of the Torah, and environmental ethics. Many but not all of the planned books will cover women’s issues: Rabbanit Leah Sarna aims to produce a pregnancy and childbirth guide for observant Jewish women and Gila Fine in Israel will explore the six women named in the Babylonian Talmud, for example, while Adina Blaustein in Ohio will produce a book rooted in the weekly Torah portion.

The program will provide the selected scholars with a support system that will help them put their knowledge down on paper — and, crucially, will pay them to do so. Cohort members will receive $6,000 per year for three years to support their work and will also get professional coaching, peer mentoring and networking opportunities with publishers and authors. The goal is for at least 15 to publish books by the program’s end, in 2026.

Erica Brown, director of the Sacks-Herenstein Center and vice provost for values and leadership at Yeshiva University, is leading the program with Wolkenfeld at Sefaria. (Sefaria’s CEO, Daniel Septimus, is on the board of 70 Faces Media, JTA’s parent organization.)

“Word-by-Word is the program I most needed when I started writing books about 15 years ago,” Brown said in a statement. “I needed help articulating my table of contents, editing myself down, structuring my ideas, writing a proposal, and then connecting to publishers,” she said. “There is a huge difference between knowing how to write and knowing how to publish a book.”

“Writing can also be lonely,” she added. “But it doesn’t have to be. With Word-by-Word, we’ll be creating a new Jewish sisterhood.”

The program builds on a sisterhood that has been growing for some time — of Orthodox women engaged in leading Jewish communities. Many of the cohort’s members are themselves graduates of, or teach at, Orthodox women’s educational institutions. At least seven of the 20 have spent time at Yeshivat Maharat, a liberal Orthodox institution that ordains women clergy. Others are affiliated with Orthodox campuses such as Yeshiva University in New York City or Bar-Ilan University outside of Tel Aviv, or Orthodox high schools or synagogues.

At least six of the cohort members are PhDs whose academic work mostly focuses on Jewish texts. Others are senior educators or hold prominent positions at Jewish educational institutions or nonprofits ranging from the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies to the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America.

The funders of Word-by-Word include three foundations that have supported Orthodox women’s learning and advancement: Micah Philanthropies, which allocated nearly a quarter of its grant money from 2021-2022 to Orthodox women’s leadership; the Walder Foundation, which has given grants to projects focused on Orthodox women’s education and leadership; and the Arev Fund, which has provided funding to Yeshivat Maharat, the educational center Nishmat, and other organizations geared toward Orthodox women.

Word-by-Word was open to women of all denominations and its organizers aimed for their advertising to reach a broad Jewish audience. But Wolkenfeld estimates that somewhere between 50% and 75% of the 122 women who applied were, judging from the applicants’ resumes, “plausibly Orthodox.” She also said the cohort’s denominational breakdown may have been a result of the program call for projects that closely analyzed Jewish texts.

“We got a lot of applications that were not actually close analysis of Jewish texts, but rather more, like, writing about themes in Jewish texts,” Wolkenfeld said. “To have a fellowship that was even more diverse, we probably would have needed to have different criteria.”

A predecessor to Word-by-Word launched in 2021, when Sefaria and Yeshivat Maharat partnered to create a writing fellowship for Jewish women scholars. Participants received training and, at the program’s conclusion, each presented a 3,000-word piece at a virtual event. The 14 scholars and rabbis who participated in that program included graduates of Orthodox, Conservative and transdenominational rabbinical schools.

Pamela Barmash, a Conservative rabbi and a professor of Hebrew Bible at Washington University in St. Louis, who is not involved in Word-by-Word, said the absence of non-Orthodox rabbis means “the full orchestra of voices that make up the Jewish community is not there.”

“We only see part of the colors in the spectrum,” she said. “We only see pieces of the Jewish world and we’re missing much of the vitality and creativity and initiative that is found in the rest of the Jewish world.”

Wolkenfeld is an alumna of several Jewish educational institutions and said she feels the increasing gender diversity she sees in institutions of Torah learning has been a boon. Soon, she hopes, some of the women she has studied with will see their names on those institutions’ bookshelves.

“As opposed to where we were, let’s say, 20 years ago,” she said, “I think we now have had the chance to start reaping the benefits of what happens when you have both men and women involved in learning Torah and teaching Torah and disseminating Torah.”


The post A digital Jewish library aims to add women’s Torah scholarship to its shelves — by helping them write it 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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