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A Holocaust survivor and her family saw ‘Leopoldstadt.’ The Broadway play told their story.

(New York Jewish Week) — On a Wednesday evening last month, three generations of a Jewish family made their way to their seats at the Longacre Theater to see “Leopoldstadt,” Tom Stoppard’s epic Broadway play about the tragedies that befall an extended Jewish family in the first half of the 20th century in Vienna.

The date of the family gathering was a significant one: Nov. 9, the 84th anniversary of the Nazi pogroms known as Kristallnacht. And in the audience was Fini Konstat, 96, who lived in the once thriving Jewish neighborhood after which the play is named, and witnessed the horrors it portrays first-hand. Alongside her were her daughter and her son-in-law, Renee and James Akers, and her oldest great-grandchild, Lexi Levin, 23.

When Konstat was a child, she lived in a “nice apartment” in Leopoldstadt. But exactly 84 years to the day of their theater date, “I was running with my father, seeing all the Jewish stores with all their windows broken,” she told Levin in a short video her great-granddaughter filmed before the curtain rose.

“It’s such a blessing for me to be here with you,” Levin said to her great-grandmother in response. “Ninety-six years old, survived a pandemic, at a Broadway show in New York City.”

Left: Fini as a child on the balcony of her apartment in Leopoldstadt. Right: Fini with her three children in front of the very same building, pictured in 2015. (Courtesy)

Since the beginning of its Broadway run in mid-September, “Leopoldstadt,” with its depiction of a prosperous Viennese family on the brink of destruction, has moved audiences to tears and inspired deep reflections on the Holocaust. Based on the celebrated playwright’s own family history — of which he was barely aware while growing up in England — it has provided a stark counterpoint to news about rising antisemitism and the celebrities who have been purveying it.

But for Konstat, the play was much more personal. “When I heard the word ‘Leopoldstadt,’ this alone gave me lots of thrills and memories,” Konstat, who is known in her family as Mimi, told the New York Jewish Week in accented English. She recalled how Levin, who recently moved to the city, invited her to fly to New York to see one of Broadway’s hottest tickets.

“Leopoldstadt,” she repeated, her voice breaking. “The second district. That’s where we lived.”

At the end of Stoppard’s five-act play, audiences learn that most of the Jewish characters had perished under the Nazis — of the four generations in the show, just three cousins survive to carry on the family’s legacy.

For Konstat too, she and her parents were among the very few in their extended family to survive the Holocaust. “Almost all of them went to Auschwitz or other camps,” Konstat said. “My mother was a twin and only the twins remained alive. [My mother’s] five other siblings and my grandmother perished.”

L-R: Renee Akers, James Akers, Lexi Levin and Fini Konstat at the Longacre Theater to see Tom Stoppard’s ‘Leopoldstadt on Broadway,’ Nov. 9, 2022. (Courtesy)

In a Zoom conversation held over Thanksgiving weekend, Konstat, surrounded by two of her daughters, two of her granddaughters and three of her great-granddaughters, shared what the play meant to her — and how her family has restored what she lost.

In the months after Kristallnacht in 1938, Konstat and her parents hid in a neighbor’s apartment; Konstat recalls hiding under the duvet when German soldiers showed up. Eventually the family fled to Turkey, and then to India, before settling down in Mexico City. There, the teenage Fini met her husband David, also a survivor who escaped Poland. The two of them began to write the rest of their story — starting with the birth of the first of their three children in 1948.

Unlike many Holocaust survivors, Fini and David Konstat were open about their experiences during the war, instilling a sense of pride and duty to remember in their children — something that eventually extended to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“They were proud to speak about how they survived this,” said the Konstats’ middle child, Renee Konstat Akers. “Their life was an odyssey. They had the courage to do things that you would never think were possible. We grew up grateful knowing how our family survived in that incredible way.”

Each child moved to different places as they grew up and got married. Manuel, the oldest, stayed in Mexico. Renee married an American and moved to the Midwest, and Denise, the youngest, to Houston. Each became deeply involved in their Jewish communities, sending their children (Konstat’s grandchildren) to Jewish day schools, celebrating Jewish holidays and participating in synagogue life.

“The word ‘miracle’ really does not feel like an understatement in this scenario,” said Sherry Levin, one of Konstat’s grandchildren. “When we think about what it took for my grandmother and grandfather to survive and how they were able to intersect in Mexico, and such an amazing multi-generational family has come to fruition, it feels miraculous.”

Pictured here on their 40th anniversary, Fini and her husband David met in Mexico City after both had fled Europe. They were married 54 years before David died in 2001. (Courtesy)

Reviews of the show have ranged from rhapsodic to resistant, with some critics suggesting the play is simplistic and obvious in its story-telling or that it is less a well-crafted play than a well-meaning lesson on the Holocaust.

But just as the Merz family clashes and argues about everything from antisemitism to intermarriage to socialism in “Leopoldstadt,” each generation of the Konstat family that saw “Leopoldstadt” that night came away with something different —  a reaction influenced by their age, their Jewish identity, their nationality and their relationship with their family.

For Konstat, the arc of “Leopoldstadt” was so familiar that it hardly stirred her. “It was just very happy watching it and enjoying it and enjoying my children with me, “ she told the New York Jewish Week. “I didn’t think about anybody else.”

Akers, too, felt an intense familiarity with the story, and, perhaps toughened by her own family history, didn’t experience an intense emotional reaction. Her own parents’ lives gave Akers a sense of purpose in her life — for example, in the 1990s, she was passionate about helping resettle Jews fleeing the former Soviet Union. With her own children, she instilled in them a strong sense of Jewish purpose in their work, their education and their family.

“I was a sandwich in between seeing my mother and my granddaughter,” she said of her “Leopoldstadt” experience. “I was emotional thinking of my mom who went through it, but I was more emotional about seeing my granddaughter be so moved. It really hit her at her core.”

Indeed, it was the youngest member of the family present that night who was most shaken by the play.

“It really felt like a gift to my family and to me, specifically, to be able to see what Mimi’s life looked like before the war,” Lexi Levin said, surmising that, as a fourth-generation survivor, she is among the first in her family to be able to start processing the loss on a grander scale.

“For the first time in my life, I really felt the magnitude of her loss,” she added. “I’ve known her story and I’ve been inspired by her story to be involved with my own Jewish causes, but I have never been able to access and truly empathize with her grief and what it meant that she lost the entire family she had before this one that she created.”

Turning to her great-grandmother, as if trying to make her understand the exact precision of the show, Levin explained, “It’s a play about generations and the family was large and then it was small.”

“You made it large again,” she said, referring to the generations of family that had assembled — in the Broadway theater and again over Thanksgiving weekend. “Look at this room.”

Pictured on her 90th birthday in 2017, Fini Konstat now has three children, ten grandchildren and twenty great-grandchildren. (Courtesy)

There was a coda for the family after the curtain went down. The day after the show, the family wanted to see the 1907 “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” one of Gustav Klimt’s most famous paintings, which currently hangs at the Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side. A version of the portrait’s true story — how a painting of a socialite from a prominent Viennese Jewish family was looted by the Nazis and the family’s efforts to get it back — features in the plot of “Leopoldstadt.”

The gallery, however, was closed on the only day the family could visit. After a call to the management at the gallery, which showcases the German and Austrian art collections of  Jewish philanthropist Ronald S. Lauder, the gallery’s director arranged a private tour.

“It felt like we were in a puzzle and everything was finally coming together,” said Akers. “It was an emotional, emotional time.”

When the week was over and the emotions were spent, Konstat and the Akers returned home with a reignited passion for their family story. But there was yet another twist: In addition to the whirlwind trip Levin planned for her grandparents and for Mimi, she had been undergoing the laborious process of applying for Austrian citizenship. Six members in Konstat’s large family have undertaken the process over the last two years.

“Part of the motivation was knowing Mimi’s story, and knowing that she survived because her mother had citizenship in Turkey,” Levin said. “That story was just inspirational to me, knowing that dual citizenship was what saved our family.” She convinced her brother and mother to apply for Austrian citizenship as well.

The day after her grandmother and great-grandmother left New York, Levin called them with news from her small apartment in Manhattan: An Austrian passport had arrived in the mail. The curtain was rising on another act.

Konstat was surprised at how interested her family was in getting Austrian citizenship. “I feel very good,” she said. “I’m very happy.”

“Does it make you emotional?” Levin asked her during the Zoom call with the New York Jewish Week.

“It does — of course it does. I used to love Austria,” she said. “I was sad to leave. I was disappointed. We never thought of coming back. I was happy to be able to escape. Thank God we made it out of hell.”


The post A Holocaust survivor and her family saw ‘Leopoldstadt.’ The Broadway play told their story. 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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