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A New York celebration of Ladino aims to bust the myth that the Judeo-Spanish language is dead

(New York Jewish Week) — The sixth annual New York Ladino Day — which aims to celebrate and elevate Ladino culture in New York and throughout the world — will take place this Sunday at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan.

For the first time since the pandemic, the program will be conducted in person, though a livestream option is also available. This year’s theme is “Kontar i Kantar” — “Storytelling and Singing” — and will include  a performance from Tony- and Grammy-nominated Broadway singer Shoshana Bean and a conversation with Michael Frank, author of “One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World,” as well as additional music-oriented speakers and performances.

“Music is certainly one of the domains in which the language is doing well and generating new interest and new music,” said Bryan Kirschen, a professor of Hispanic Linguistics at Binghamton University and one of the event’s organizers. (Kirschen was one of the New York Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” in 2017.)

Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish, was once the primary language spoken by Jews on the Iberian Peninsula. After the Jews’ expulsion in 1492, they brought language with them throughout the Ottoman Empire — Turkey, North Africa and the Balkans. Today, the estimated number of Ladino speakers around the world — mostly Sephardic Jews — ranges between 60,000 to 300,000, from fluent speakers to descendants who are familiar with some words. 

Sephardic Jews were the first Jewish immigrants in New York, founding Congregation Shearith Israel in 1654, the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. (It’s still in operation today at 2 West 70th St., where it has been since 1897.) Sephardic Jews remained the only active Jewish community in New York until the wave of German Jewish immigration in the early 19th century, followed by the mass immigration of Eastern European Jews that began at the tail-end of the 19th century.

Soon enough, Ashkenazi Jews quickly outnumbered New York’s Sephardic community, though Sephardic and Ladino culture continues to thrive today. Today, the main hubs for Sephardic and Ladino culture and education are the American Sephardi Federation and the Kehilla Kedosha Synagogue and Museum, a Greek Romaniote synagogue on the Lower East Side, said Kirschen, and there are large Sephardic synagogues in Canarsie, Brooklyn and Forest Hills, Queens that still conduct services in Ladino.

Ladino, said Kirschen, remains “a very living, in some ways thriving language, interestingly enough, particularly since the pandemic.”

Ahead of Sunday’s celebration  — which is co-curated by Jane Mushabac, a professor emerita of English at City University of New York and a Ladino scholar and writer — the New York Jewish Week caught up with Kirschen to discuss the program, his personal interest in Ladino, and how Ashkenazi Jews can help uplift Ladino language and culture. 

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Kirschen, far left, leads a panel discussion during the 2020 New York Ladino Day celebration. (Courtesy Bryan Kirschen)

New York Jewish Week: How did you become interested in Ladino culture? Are you from a Sephardic family?

I’m from an Ashkenazi, Yiddish-speaking family. So I’m not Sephardic. But for the past 15 years or so, I’ve been doing my best to learn as much about and embrace Sephardic culture as I can, and learn as much as I can about Ladino as well. My own interest stems from learning languages — I’m a Spanish professor at Binghamton University and I have also studied Hebrew for numerous years. So when I first came across Ladino as this Judeo-Spanish language, it interested me for a number of reasons. Once I started to meet actual speakers, it became so much more than just about the language — it became about celebrating and promoting the culture, the history, the connections, of course the food and the music.

What is the origin story of New York Ladino Day?

The idea of Ladino Day came about in 2013 — to have a day when communities around the world would celebrate all that remains. Originally, the day was selected to be during Hanukkah. But because there is no real central organization that governs the language — though there are different institutions, particularly in Israel, that try to foster the language and help promote it — Ladino Day grew in many different directions.

These days, some communities celebrate in January, some in February, some still in December. The National Authority of Ladino in Israel has their own International Day of Ladino in March. But the important thing is that communities all around the world are committed to celebrating it in their own ways.

As far as New York goes, the American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan started holding a Ladino Day six years ago under the direction of my collaborator, Jane Mushabac, who is Sephardic from a Ladino-speaking family. I had been separately organizing Judeo-Spanish celebrations at a synagogue in Forest Hills, Queens, so the following year we joined forces and started co-curating the program together and have been doing that ever since.

The theme for this year’s program is “Kontar i Kantar.” How is this year’s theme different from years’ past?

Last year, we did “Salud y Vida,” which is a common expression for “health and life” and which was fitting for the time. Like most of the world, we had to pivot for the last two years and hold the program online. That afforded different opportunities — we were able to bring in speakers from around the world in a way that was much more doable, and we were able to open up our program to the world. Normally, we like to focus on New York talent and language, but the previous few years doing online events we were featuring different voices from the Sephardic world, so many new connections were made.

Because of that experience, this year’s program will be back in person at the Center for Jewish History, but with a hybrid option. The theme is “Kontar i Kantar,” “Storytelling and Singing.” It will both acknowledge how important music has been to Ladino, and celebrate how, in recent years, there have been so many initiatives for people to get together to share their stories in or about Ladino and to sing in Ladino.

Most Jews in New York have an Ashkenazi background. What role or responsibility do you think Ashkenazi Jews have in honoring and preserving Ladino culture?

Yes, the numbers [of Ashkenazi versus Sephardi Jews] don’t match up. Still, Sephardim from Turkey and areas of the former Ottoman Empire brought tens of thousands of Sephardic, Ladino-speaking Jews to New York City at the start of the 20th century, but as a minority — as a minority within the Jews, as a minority-speaking language, etc. So as someone who is Ashkenazi, I understand the enormous responsibility that I have to represent this language in a positive and genuine way to others and to work with and uplift speakers of Ladino.

Like Yiddish, thousands upon thousands of Ladino speakers were killed in the Holocaust, and those who didn’t experience the same fate often gave up their Ladino to assimilate. So many speakers today, who are typically in their 70s, 80s or 90s — or maybe younger generations who know some words here and there like foods, terms of kin — haven’t historically been so proud of using their Ladino. So aside from research and teaching, I’m really passionate about encouraging speakers and semi-speakers to use their language and to take pride in their language and ideally, to give them a platform to do so. 

Bonus question: What are some common misconceptions about Ladino?

Ladino is not a dead language — that’s something I’m very vocal about. There are all sorts of ways to classify and categorize languages, but as long as they are living, breathing, speakers and semi-speakers, the language is living. So Ladino is a living language, despite all the obstacles. There are speakers and there are amazing resources out there willing to share their language and their story with people.

“Kontar i Kantar: The 6th Annual New York Ladino Day” will take place at the Center for Jewish History (15 West 16th St.) on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. A livestream option is available. Buy tickets and find more information here.


The post A New York celebration of Ladino aims to bust the myth that the Judeo-Spanish language is dead 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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