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A Florida bill attacking ‘critical theory’ in higher education has the state’s Jewish academics worried

(JTA) — The University of Florida has more Jewish students than any other public college in the United States — and last week, one of them reached out to a professor, fearing that it would no longer be possible to study Jewish topics there.

Citing a graphic that had been making the rounds on social media, the student asked if it was true that a new bill working its way through the state legislature would remove all “Jewish Studies courses, majors and minors” in the state. The graphic was shared by several people with large online followings, including comedian D.L. Hughley, who has more than 750,000 followers on Twitter.

“I love my major and I can’t imagine switching to anything else,” the student wrote, according to Norman Goda, director of the university’s Center for Jewish Studies. 

Goda wasn’t able to console the student. Like other Jewish academics in Florida who spoke to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, he doesn’t know whether H.B. 999 would affect Jewish studies on the state’s college campuses. Though the bill’s author — a Republican state representative — says that won’t be the case, the bill’s language is much less clear.

That’s because the bill’s current wording would forbid the state’s public higher education institutions from teaching or offering any major or minor based in “methodology associated with Critical Theory.” That prohibition, say academics and other critics of the bill, would make teaching courses in Jewish studies impossible — and would also outlaw many other fields in higher education.

Exactly what the bill means by “critical theory” is unclear. To academics, the term refers to a tool for analyzing society and culture, created in the 1930s by German Jewish academics, that encourages people to view the world through power structures, and to consider why they fall short. To political conservatives, it’s a relative of “critical race theory,” a watchword for those who want to inhibit classroom instruction about racism. An earlier version of H.B. 999 mentioned only critical race theory, not the umbrella theory.

“These people don’t know what they’re talking about,” said a Jewish faculty member at a Florida university, who requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation from the state government, regarding the lawmakers behind H.B. 999. “You’re putting people who don’t know what critical theory is, but have heard the words — and now you’re putting them in charge of universities.”

A university that completely purged such ideas from its classrooms, the anonymous faculty member said, “would be non-existent.”

The bill in question is the latest example of conservative-led state efforts to snuff out culture-war modes of thought like critical race theory and gender studies, often referred to euphemistically by lawmakers as “divisive concepts” in education. Such efforts have occasionally ensnared efforts to teach Jewish history and the Holocaust

Attempts to legislate the classroom are particularly potent in Florida, where Republican governor Ron DeSantis, a likely presidential candidate, has frequently stated his desire to ban “woke” concepts from being taught in the state. (DeSantis has stated he will wait to see H.B. 999’s final form before he decides whether to sign it, but in a discussion with college administrators last week he continued to rail against what he called the “ideological agenda” of campus diversity, equity and inclusion programs.)

The state recently rejected the curriculum for a new Advanced Placement African-American Studies course in high schools, forcing the College Board to rework the class. Florida is also home to several active conservative “parents’ rights” groups that have lobbied to remove objectionable books and clubs from public schools.

While most legislation in this realm to date has targeted what’s taught in K-12 public schools, this bill and other efforts in Florida have gone a step further by seeking to regulate the world of state-funded higher education — creating what critics say are new and dangerous threats to academic freedom, with broad and vague wording that leaves efforts to research and teach a variety of disciplines in doubt.

“This bill would cripple the long-standing freedom universities have to design and teach a curriculum based on the development of academic disciplines,” Cary Nelson, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois and past president of the American Association of University Professors ,who has taught multiple courses on Jewish issues, told JTA. 

In a recent subcommittee hearing on the bill, Republican state Rep. Alex Andrade, who co-authored the legislation, said, “I believe that state universities should be focused on teaching students how to think, not what to think.” He said the bill’s banning of “radical” ideologies referred to “a system meant to direct and promote certain activism to achieve a specific viewpoint.” 

Efforts to limit the material taught to children and college students are underway in several states. But Florida has an especially large population of Jewish students. The University of Florida stands atop Hillel International’s ranking of public colleges with the highest proportion of Jewish students, and the University of Central Florida has the third-largest. Florida State University, Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University and the University of South Florida also rank in the top 60. 

H.B. 999 would affect education at those schools in other ways, too. The bill, which recently advanced to committee, would overhaul the state’s post-tenure review process, so that instead of checking on a faculty member’s research productivity every five years, as is currently the case in the state, tenured professors could face reviews “at any time for cause” including “violation of any applicable law or rule.” 

The result, one academic in the state said, would be “open season on faculty,” who could be out of a job if their university’s board — which, in public schools, is beholden to the governor — disagrees with their syllabus.

Andrade rejected the idea that H.B. 999 would undercut Jewish studies in Florida.

“Outsiders are wrong. Ethnic studies are not affected by the bill either by the bill’s intent or the bill’s language,” Andrade wrote in an email to JTA, accusing the bill’s critics of “lying and claiming that Florida’s leaders have tried to ban teaching black history in schools.” 

The state’s only Jewish Republican legislator, state Rep. Randy Fine, did not return a JTA request for comment on whether he supports the bill. Fine has promoted similar culture-war legislation in the past, including a bill he co-authored in February that would prohibit all K-12 schools in the state from referring to either students or employees by pronouns that do not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth.

With a Republican-dominated House and Senate, some form of H.B. 999 seems likely to reach DeSantis’ desk. (A parallel bill in the state Senate does not contain wording on critical theory.) But there is strong opposition from the academic community. Groups including the American Historical Association, the American Association of University Professors and Florida’s statewide faculty union have harshly condemned the bill and urged lawmakers to oppose it. 

The American Historical Association’s statement on the bill this month calls it a “blatant and frontal attack on principles of academic freedom and shared governance central to higher education in the United States.” More than 70 academic, historical and activist organizations co-signed the statement

The executive committee of the Association for Jewish Studies signed a different statement authored by the American Council of Learned Societies, decrying the bill as an “effort to undermine academic freedom in Florida.” 

“If it passes, it ends academic freedom in the state’s public colleges and universities, with dire consequences for their teaching, research, and financial well-being,” the statement said of the bill. “Academic freedom means freedom of thought, not the state-mandated production of histories edited to suit one party’s agenda in the current culture wars.”

Asked for comment on the bill, Warren Hoffman, the executive director of the Association for Jewish Studies, pointed to the statement. 

Rachel Harris, director and endowed chair at Florida Atlantic University’s Jewish Studies program, is in her first semester at the university, having just arrived from the University of Illinois. “I’m now wondering if that was a terrible mistake,” she joked. (Harris is spending this term in Israel, researching on a Fulbright fellowship.)

Still, Harris said she was “confident” that legislators would “continue to support educational commitments in the state,” noting that Florida has a Holocaust education mandate for K-12 public schools. Her Boca Raton university is currently building an expanded center for Jewish and Holocaust studies, funded by private donors. H.B. 999 in its current form would prohibit universities from teaching critical theory concepts even when such programs are privately funded.

Despite what he described as a few students at the Jewish Studies center who are concerned about the new bill, Goda said he did not think the legislation would change the experience of Jewish students on his campus.

“Jewish kids these days are really choosing universities based on whether or not Jewish kids feel comfortable there,” he said. “And I would argue that [the University of Florida] is a very welcoming campus for Jewish kids overall. There are strong Jewish institutions associated with the campus.”

Instead, he  feels the bill’s real effects would be felt in the state’s ability to recruit faculty and staff while its legislators jeopardize academic freedom, tenure and other lodestars of the humanities. He said, “The real question to me is how and in what way it’s going to be enforced.”


The post A Florida bill attacking ‘critical theory’ in higher education has the state’s Jewish academics worried 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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