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A Houston synagogue is tightening security after a woman broke in twice, damaged a Torah and harassed children

(Houston Jewish Herald Voice and JTA) — A Houston synagogue is shoring up its security practices after a woman who said she was motivated to vandalize it by Messianic beliefs entered without being detected.

Ezra Law broke into Congregation Emanu El in the early hours of Jan. 14, causing damage to both the building and a sacred Torah. After spending six hours in the building — including drinking wine and spilling it on one of the sacred Torahs — she was discovered by security personnel before Shabbat services and subsequently arrested.

Law was soon released on bond, but instead of showing up at her court arraignment, she returned to Emanu El on Friday to disrupt a preschool class, harassing young children before fleeing. Law was arrested again later that day and was released for a second time on Sunday.

That night, she posted online that she had targeted the synagogue in retaliation for being turned away previously because of her belief in Jesus.

The incident, which unfolded on the one-year anniversary of a gunman taking four people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, has shaken the Houston Jewish community. It has also prompted a review of the lapses that twice allowed Law to enter the Emanu El building.

In the first incident, Law was able to remain undetected and alone in the building because the alarm system had been deactivated while scheduled maintenance was being conducted the previous evening. In the second, she entered the building through a door that had been propped open for workers who were loading equipment into the foyer.

“Our personnel failures and the breaches in Emanu El’s security over this past week are totally unacceptable, and we make no excuse for them,” Senior Rabbi Oren Hayon said in a joint statement with Emanu El President Stuart Gaylor and Executive Director David Lamden.

The incident at Emanu El comes as Jewish communities around the country have spent significant sums to develop security systems and train members on security practices, often with the support of Jewish community organizations, in a campaign that accelerated after the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh that killed 11 Jews during Shabbat services. Colleyville’s rabbi credited that training with enabling him to keep his congregants safe and ultimately escape their captor during the hostage crisis there.

Last year, Houston’s Jewish federation launched a security program as part of the Secure Community Network, a Jewish security nonprofit, and hired a retired FBI agent named Al Tribble to serve as community security director. Tribble, whose job is to train synagogues, schools and other local Jewish institutions on how to keep their community members safe, has been involved in the response to the incidents at Emanu El.

Hayon said Emanu El has taken several steps to increase security, including during religious school classes on Wednesday and Sunday and by boosting the visible police presence on campus.

The synagogue, a Reform congregation with thousands of congregants from all around Houston, is continuing to determine the extent of the damage caused by the intruder, which includes a broken window and wine stains on the back of a Torah scroll and carpeting.

”The damage is immeasurable,” an assistant Harris County district attorney, Erica Winsor, told local media.

“The events of this past week have made many of us concerned about our safety and that of our loved ones,” Hayon told the Jewish Herald-Voice. “Our security team is committed to ensuring the safety and security of congregants, staff and especially our children.”

Security personnel detained Law after discovering her inside the synagogue on Jan. 14 until Houston Police officers arrived to arrest her. As a condition of her release on bond, she was forbidden from being within 1,500 feet of the congregation.

After her release, Law posted messages targeting Emanuel El on her social media accounts. “Cost of spilling red wine on the Rabbi’s robes at Congregation Emanu El Synagogue Houston: $1,500,” read one of the posts. “Cost of the royal blood of Jesus Christ that was spilt on the cross for your sins so that you may have reincarnation in my kingdom: Priceless.”

Law’s Instagram profile, where she has continued to post about her vendetta against Emanu El even after her second arrest, suggests that she is in her 20s and at one point worked in tech and traveled frequently, including, she posted once, to Israel. The account, which posted several times since 2015 about celebrating Jewish holidays, became devoted in the last several weeks to posts about Jesus and the conversion of Jews to Christianity.

Late Sunday, Law posted a screenshot of an explanation that she said planned to deliver in court, saying that she had retaliated against the synagogue after being turned away because of her belief in Jesus and had taken refuge after the second incident in a Messianic synagogue. (Messianics adopt Jewish practices but believe in the divinity of Jesus, and proselytizing to Jews is a core activity.)

“I would like to point out that I only visited Congregation Emanuel El Synagogue out of the kindness and generosity of my heart to share the gospel with them,” Law wrote, adding that she had not meant to spill red wine on a Torah and wanted to pay for the repairs.

Hayon said that after the first incident Emanu El took several steps to increase security, including during religious school classes on Wednesday and Sunday and increased the visible police presence on campus. In addition, after multiple conferences with law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, and Tribble, the synagogue and others distributed Law’s social media posts and photograph to all Emanu El staff members, encouraging them to remain vigilant.

Yet when Law returned to the Emanu El campus on Friday, she was able to enter through an open door and sit among early childhood students and staff who were holding a Shabbat service in a chapel.

The school director and synagogue cantor recognized Law and swiftly summoned security personnel. Guards attempted to remove Law from the chapel but she fled the building before police arrived. She had been inside the building for less than five minutes.

One day later, Law was apprehended and arrested by law enforcement for a second time. She was again released on bond on Sunday.

“Over the past few days, we have learned much about the shortcomings of our security systems and the protocols that were not followed carefully during these times of crisis,” Hayon, Gaylor and Lamden said in their letter to community members. “We have every reason to believe that our campus is safe for you and your families, and that all classes and programs at Emanu El this week will continue as scheduled.”

Emanu El is actively assessing — with the assistance of third-party professionals and consultants — and evaluating its systems, controls and protocols. Several immediate changes include reducing the access points onto the Emanu El campus; employing a two-step verification process for visitors and increasing vigilance, reinforcement and communication about existing security protocols.

As a result, students at neighboring Rice University may no longer will be able to cut through Emanu El’s campus to get to and from graduate apartments, which are located just north of the synagogue.

Emanu El also is providing emotional and spiritual care to its staff and community. This support will include the presence of its clergy’s pastoral counseling resources and trauma-informed counseling professionals, provided by Jewish Family Service Houston.

“All of us recognize that this has been a difficult week for everyone, and that our homes and our hearts have been weighed down by anxiety, fear and uncertainty,” the Emanu El statement read.

“It is precisely by opening ourselves up to vulnerability and tenderness that we allow our synagogue to do its most effective work — but for this same reason, if our synagogue ever becomes a place where we feel unsafe or insecure, the pain of that breach becomes even more acute and hurtful.”

A version of this story originally appeared in the Houston Jewish Herald-Voice and is reprinted with permission.


The post A Houston synagogue is tightening security after a woman broke in twice, damaged a Torah and harassed children 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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