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A jingle inspired a show about dueling lawyers. Two synagogues helped bring it back to the stage.

(New York Jewish Week) — For any New Yorker, the background noise of the 2000s may well have been marked by the numbers 800-888-8888, the ubiquitous jingle for the Buffalo-based personal injury law firm Cellino and Barnes. 

The renown of Ross Cellino and Stephen Barnes grew even more when the pair contentiously split up in 2017. Their acrimonious business divorce included clashes over managing the business, a restraining order against Cellino, claims of “bullying” by Barnes and a complaint that Barnes refused to let Cellino hire his own daughter

Naturally, comedy writers Michael Breen and David Rafailedes needed to write a show about what might have gone down, including a scene about how that infamous jingle came into existence.

Breen and Rafailedes had performed the show, “Cellino v. Barnes,” a handful of times in New York in 2020 before the pandemic shut it down. Breen moved to California and Rafailedes headed to grad school and the play they wrote about a unique New York sensation almost faded into the ether. 

But this isn’t that story. This is the story of how two 25-year-old high school buddies and amateur theater producers made sure that didn’t happen — and how they leaned on their synagogues to get the job done.

David Pochapin and Cameron Koffman were 22 when they saw “Cellino v. Barnes.” They loved the show for the way it spoke to their sense of humor, their New York childhoods and their love of niche theater. The pair would eventually take on the task of producing the play and teaming up with Breen and Rafailedes to bring it to a wider audience, this time in a vacant office space in Manhattan to really give audiences the feeling of authenticity. 

Now 25 and a year into producing “Cellino v. Barnes: The Play,” Pochapin and Koffman are admittedly amateurs — Pochapin works a day job in FinTech and Koffman in city government. 

“When we are trying to get people to come see the show, we say, ‘we’re doing this not because we saw a business opportunity but because we genuinely saw a story that more people needed to see,’” Pochapin said. “It’s hard to imagine finding another project quite like this. It’s been a wild ride and we’re super excited for the show.”

(On Oct. 2, 2020, Stephen Barnes and his niece were killed in the crash of a private plane in upstate New York. Pochapin said there is “absolutely no comedy about the plane crash” and the show centers around the creation, success and break-up of the firm.)

Ahead of the show’s opening, the New York Jewish Week spoke to Koffman and Pochapin about why they love the show, how their synagogues and Jewish communities have supported them in this process and what changes they are most excited about. 

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

New York Jewish Week: How did you get involved as producers with the show?

Cameron Koffman: We first saw the show in January of 2020. We had no involvement — we had just seen an article from the Buffalo News: “Show about Cellino and Barnes is an 8.8888 out of 10.” It sounded fun and it was playing in New York City for just a couple shows in January at the Bell House in Gowanus. It was the absolute funniest thing. Then COVID hit, obviously, six, seven weeks later, and life moved on. 

I got an email from the venue that the show was back for two performances in August of 2021. David and I dragged more of our friends. It was a big group activity because we had been talking about the show for a year and a half at this point. I mean, it’s Cellino and Barnes, iconic New York names and a jingle that everybody recognizes. We saw it again and it was even funnier. 

We had a mutual friend with one of the actors and pushed to get a drink because we just really wanted to tell them, “We thought the play was so funny. It was so great that someone wanted to tell this story.” When we met up with him, we asked if he ever had aspirations to make a permanent run out of it. He said yes, but COVID happened, he ended up having a kid and the other co-writer and actor moved out to the West Coast. Basically, life got in the way. When we talked to [Breen and Rafailedes], it really just sounded like more than anything they needed people to help initiate the process, which we thought we would be able to handle. 

We certainly didn’t have experience in production, but we were so passionate about the story and we like to get our hands dirty with logistics. We just thought it was so fun that we wanted to take it to another level and really create a full run of this. We put our heads down, worked on a proposal and here we are. 

How did your Jewish communities step in to help get the show back on its feet again?

DP: When we first got into this, which was over a year ago now, we talked to everyone we could, every person that would hear us out and offer an opinion. We reached out to people at my synagogue and they offered to provide chairs for the audience and books for the set, so now we have chairs and books. We’re both very involved in our synagogues — mine is Sutton Place Synagogue and Cameron’s is Temple Emanu-El. My first exposure to theater at a young age was not only in school, but during the Purim spiels at my synagogue. It is because of our communities and our upbringing there that we have the confidence that we’ll be able to do this. 

CK: It really is. So many people that we know, that we rely on, that we talk to and the time that we spend with them have helped us put this show together. For example, I lead a couple of lay-led groups at Temple Emanu-El. Through that, I’ve become friendly with dozens of people, I’ve met other people through the young members circle, through becoming friendly with the rabbi and actually leading Shabbat once last year. So — for both of us — one of the main reasons we knew we could do this was because we’re deeply embedded in a large Jewish community and we knew that we could tap into people that would be able to sort of help and guide us with advice and knowledge along the way. Also, we knew we’d be able to blast out the show to a lot of people. David could tell you, one of the first people to buy a ticket for the play was the rabbi [Rachel Ain] from Sutton Place Synagogue, she and her whole family. 

As producers you have a little more control than you did as audience members. What changes are you most excited about since the first production?

CK: Not much had to change about the story. Breen and Rafailedes had done the play and certainly the story of Cellino and Barnes is still ever present in the cultural milieu of today. For a large swath of people, millions of people in the New York area, and even in California, where Cellino and Barnes worked too, that jingle just rings a bell and it seared itself into our brains, so our vision didn’t have to be focused on making sure there was name recognition.

When we saw it at The Bell House, the show was very bare bones. The venue had a stage, but it’s a big hall with 200-250 seats and you don’t really feel like you’re at a theater venue — you certainly don’t feel like you’re at an experiential venue. The space that we got on West 23rd is a vacant commercial space that feels like you’re actually in a law office. That was one of the key things we brought — we thought, “if we’re going to really lean on the vibe and the aura of Cellino and Barnes, we want to make you feel like you’re stepping into a dingy personal injury attorney’s office, with plaques on the wall and all of it.”

Why should people see it?

CK: I’m deeply passionate about my love for New York. A couple years ago, right out of college, I actually ran for the New York State Legislature. I love the city. It’s just such an amazing place. Cellino and Barnes is very much a part of New York’s cultural fabric. There are just certain things that resonate with all New Yorkers. It’s Roscoe the bedbug dog from Bell Environmental, it’s Sandy Kenyon from the Eyewitness News “movie minute” in the back of the taxi cab. All those sorts of things that people who grew up in New York or who have spent significant time here will know and recognize. 

So many people come from different backgrounds, but there are still these unifiers — everybody’s seen the billboards and subway ads. And although it is a very New York production, we do think that it can resonate with everybody. Every city seems to have their own version of Cellino and Barnes — the mysterious personal injury lawyer who’s on every billboard, on every bus, and who has their slogan.

DP: When you’re in the theater and you’re laughing at these two people that are so nostalgic and are two of the easiest people to laugh and make jokes about, it’s just an unforgettable night. It’s hilarious, and even though it’s a comedy it also makes you think. Cameron and I have had several discussions about who’s right or wrong and Team Cellino or Team Barnes.

“Cellino v. Barnes: The Play” opens on April 13 at 320 W 23rd St. Tickets start at $40.

The post A jingle inspired a show about dueling lawyers. Two synagogues helped bring it back to the stage. 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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