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A Jewish expert on monuments on what Philly’s famous Rocky Balboa statue can teach us about memory

(JTA) — Paul Farber was shocked when he first watched “Rocky” and saw a Star of David on the grave of Rocky Balboa’s coach, Mickey Goldmill.

As a Jew and as the founder of the Philadelphia-based Monument Lab, which has explored collective memory through art installations across the country for over a decade, Farber was well positioned to think about the deeper meaning of that brief shot.

“Anytime I see a Jewish funeral in a film, there’s some kind of call to attention. And I always want to know what that means, especially for a Hollywood production, especially when it may not be branded as a Jewish story,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“We’re not there in a prolonged series of mourning, but in a split second, seeing a Jewish site of a memory is really fascinating,” he added.

That outlook lies behind Farber’s work as the host of the new NPR podcast “The Statue,” a deep dive into Philadelphia’s famed statue of Rocky Balboa, the fictional prizefighter at the center of “Rocky.” The series delves into what sports and society can convey about memory, and in his research, Farber discovered a few Jewish nuggets found in the film series — including the fact that Rocky’s love interest was originally supposed to be Jewish.

“They made an actual gravestone [for her character] and it’s in Philadelphia’s most famous cemetery, Laurel Hill. And you can go there and see this gravestone where a movie character is ‘buried,’” he said. “People leave offerings on the gravestone, including small pebbles as if it’s a Jewish site of memory.”

In an interview with JTA, Farber shared his inspiration for the series, how his Jewish upbringing informed his life’s work and the role statues — such as that of Jewish baseball legend Sandy Koufax — do, and should, play.

This interview was lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Jewish Telegraphic Agency: To start off, I’d love to hear about how you first got interested in studying monuments.

Paul Farber: I’m really interested in the ways that, in cities, we innovate toward the future, and also come to terms with our past, and it happens often in the same exact places. That could be a statue, a street, a corner store. And so that’s a big part for me.

What really inspired this project is a conversation I had with my mother, quite a few years ago. My mother is a lifelong Philadelphian. Her parents were Jewish immigrants in South Philadelphia. And when I told her I was teaching a class at the University of Pennsylvania about Philly neighborhoods, she asked me if I was covering Rocky. When I said, “Oh, it’s not on the syllabus” — and I may have said it in a way that felt dismissive — she gave me this look that I think a lot of us know: “How could you.” So for her birthday, we watched “Rocky” and we went to see “Creed.” My grandfather went to South Philly High and was in the boxing club. He shared stories in our family about what it meant to have sport and culture and belonging go together in South Philly. I started to see that across generations, from long before “Rocky” to this moment now, almost 50 years after the release of the film, many people’s family stories could be channeled through this statue, including my own, and that was enough of a prompt to go dive in.

“Rocky” is obviously not a Jewish story, but there are some nuggets. There’s the funeral scene, and you mentioned something about Adrian almost being Jewish. I’m curious what you think about the little Jewish pieces you can pull out of this famous story, and what those mean to you as a Philly sports fan.

It blew me away that Rocky’s coach, Mick, passes away and the character Rocky goes to his funeral, and you see a Star of David. Anytime I see a Jewish funeral in a film, there’s some kind of call to attention. And I always want to know what that means, especially for a Hollywood production, especially when it may not be branded as a Jewish story. And it just opened up a whole set of questions for me that blurred between art and life, between the film series and the city of Philadelphia.

In episode two, we showcase this monumental art book that Sylvester Stallone [who played Rocky] created. There was this passage in it that just blew me away, about the first draft of “Rocky,” where he says, “As for Adrian, she was Jewish in the first draft.” And he got feedback and cut that character. We never hear about Mickey’s Judaism. We never hear about Rocky’s bond across culture. But the fact that the first scene in the “Rocky” series is in a place called Resurrection Gym — that is obvious Christian iconography — and to put Jewish characters in is really fascinating to me.

There is another famous grave that is involved in the series. The character Adrian eventually passes away, and like the statue, which was made as a bronze sculpture, for the “Rocky” film series they made an actual gravestone and it’s in Philadelphia’s most famous cemetery, Laurel Hill. And you can go there and see this gravestone where a movie character is “buried.” People leave offerings on the gravestone, including small pebbles as if it’s a Jewish site of memory.

People talk about representation on screen, and I’m not sure a Jewish funeral necessarily does that, but I would imagine for some people, seeing Rocky Balboa say the “Mourner’s Kaddish“ was maybe their first interaction with Judaism in some way. What do you make of that?

Every shot is deliberate. And it’s actually that kind of attitude and outlook that created the Rocky statue, because Sylvester Stallone was the director of that film, and they could have made a styrofoam version or a temporary one, but they spent over a year making a bronze version so that when the camera faced it, it would make contact. I think very similarly, this is part of the artistry of Stallone that plays out in our podcast series. We’re not with him when he sits shiva. We’re not there in a prolonged series of mourning, but in a split second, seeing a Jewish site of a memory is really fascinating. And to see the coach Mickey, to have his Wikipedia page say he’s Jewish, all that we have is mourning.

I think about how for immigrant Jewish communities, there are gaps in our narratives. Throughout the series, and one of the reasons I wanted to share my perspective as a queer Jewish person who grew up loving sports in Philly, I’ve been informed by my own family’s history, and what we’re able to recall and what gaps there are. And I see that being echoed for so many people in the Rocky story.

It’s clearly a very personal story for you. Why did you think it was important to start the podcast with your own identity, and to include your Jewish mother?

I think it’s important that when we talk about sites of memory, we understand that there are shared and collective ways that we bring the past forward, and there are others that are incredibly personal. My hope was to find, in this case, to spotlight, a significant site of memory in the city, but ask questions about it. And I think it was important to note what position I would take, because I don’t believe there’s one story to the Rocky statue. To tell a biography of a statue, you actually have to tell it of the people who make meaning from it. So in the series, we do a lot of work where we want to know other people’s stories and backgrounds, whether they are refugees from Afghanistan, or community organizers in Kensington [a neighborhood of Philadelphia]. My hope was by positioning this from my perspective, almost as a memoir in a way, that it opened up space for others to have their experiences be valued and made meaning of.

The official artwork for Farber’s podcast. (Courtesy)

Both with the podcast and in your work with the Monument Lab, how do you feel that your Jewish identity informs what you do? Do you see overlap between your Jewish values and the values you work on in your organization?

I absolutely think so. I grew up in a Jewish community in Philadelphia, and tikkun olam was a constant refrain. The work of tikkun olam meant a worldview that necessitated building coalitions and understanding across divides, to not diminish or under-emphasize them, but to appreciate how we work in solidarity, whether that’s around racial justice, gender justice, in various struggles. I am a co-founder and director of an organization that focuses on memory, and that I really get from the stories of growing up in a Jewish household, in a Jewish community, where memory lived in different ways. We were always aware of the stories of trauma and loss, as well as reconciliation and transformation, and how you work with the gaps that you have, and you listen, and you learn and you carry the story with you. Because that is the way to bond generations. Jewish memory really grounds what I do, and I seek to use it as a tool to learn more and to feed connection across divides.

Rocky takes on this almost mythical, godlike status, and his statue in Philadelphia is a bit of a pilgrimage site. Do you see any tension there as a Jew, given the prohibition against idol worship?

I think about the importance of memory, against forces of violence and erasure. I also understand that, in a world that is full of pain and difficulty and loss, we seek places to release that. And so I understand the pull to monuments. What I would like to see, and what we try to do through this series, “The Statue,” and also with the work of Monument Lab, is to look on and off the pedestal, and really think about how history lives with us. As we say in the series and other places, history doesn’t live inside of statues, it lives with people who steward them, who create other kinds of sites of memory, who are vigilant in their modes of commemoration. What I try to do in this work is understand the ambivalence around monuments, the pull to try to remember and be enduring through time, and just that constant reminder that whenever you try to freeze the past, or freeze an image of power, you cut out the potential to find connection and empowerment, and thus forms of survival.

In sports, there are so many ways to honor people, especially different ways that, like a statue, take on the idea of permanence. When Bill Russell died, the NBA retired his number 6 across the league. On Jackie Robinson Day, every April 15, the whole MLB honors Jackie Robinson by wearing his uniform number. But statues just have a different level of oomph. Sandy Koufax has a new statue in Los Angeles that was unveiled last year; Hank Greenberg has one. What do you think it should take for an athlete to reach that status?

The pinnacle in sports is to have a statue dedicated to you outside of the stadium. And I do believe the cultures of social media have amplified that, because we grew up with the story of Sandy Koufax not pitching in the World Series during the High Holy Days, and that wasn’t because we learned it from a statue or a plaque. We learned it because it was carried forward and put into different forms of remembering and recalling its importance. I went to several Maccabi Games in the U.S. — I used to be a sprinter. And the culture of memory and sport, they were one in the same.

In professional sports, the pinnacle is the statue, but I think you brought up other really important ways of remembering that operate in non-statue forms that feel like they are living memorials. The idea of retiring someone’s number, and keeping their number up, is a way to acknowledge, in this really public of all public spaces, an intimacy and a care, and especially when an athlete passes away, how that transcends the lines of city geography. Jackie Robinson Day is something that did not occur immediately after Jackie Robinson was the first Black player to play in the major leagues, but was a product of a later moment when people around Major League Baseball sought to activate his memory. So yes, a statue outside of a stadium is like a particular kind of professional accolade. But the other forms are really meaningful.

The post A Jewish expert on monuments on what Philly’s famous Rocky Balboa statue can teach us about memory 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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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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