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As a rabbi in a small town, I understand the Jewish class divide — and how to close it

(JTA) — When you walk into the back door at my home away from home, Beth Israel Congregation of Waterville, Maine, you’re greeted with a faint scent of kosher matzah ball soup mixed with the slightest hint of mildew from a 70-year-old building that can’t quite manage its moisture anymore.

On your left, you’ll see the kitchen, the heart and soul of our congregation. It is often where the most invaluable Torah is taught and learned. That happened a few years ago, when my wife, Mel, was joined one snowy Saturday night by our rabbinical intern.

“Mel,” he asked, “do you always need to make this many sandwiches for the food pantry?”

“No,” she replied. “Demand has gone up over the past few years, but we always need to make double at the end of the month.”

“Why,” he inquired, “should you need to make any more at the end of the month than at the beginning?”

Mel stood there somewhat stunned by a question that should not have felt like a Talmudic riddle. How could he not know? I am sure he knew why we blessed two challahs for each Shabbat meal (to remember God’s grace in the desert, when ahead of Shabbat the Israelites were able to gather double the amount of manna [Exodus 16:22]). But why did he not know why we need to double the number of sandwiches we make at the end of the month?

“Most of the clients we serve, some of whom are members of our own congregation,” she explained, “rely on WIC and EBT, government benefits that are issued at the beginning of each month and that often run out by the end, especially in families with children.”

“Oh, okay. I didn’t know that,” he said with a humility that endeared him so deeply to all of us at Beth Israel.

He didn’t understand the significance of the double portion at the end of the month, but the truth of the matter is before I came to Waterville, I didn’t either. I knew nothing about communities like Waterville. And what I thought I knew was not only wrong, but actually, in retrospect, was harmful and offensive. And if I did think about class differences when I lived in Brooklyn, I rarely thought about it in connection to the Jewish community.

But my ignorance and that of my student should not surprise us. Because how many of us really talk honestly about class? Class isn’t just about money. It’s a messy alchemy of financial wealth, social connections, political and cultural power, the opportunities people encounter in their lifetime and the communal regard they receive. To put it more concretely, someone can have the money — through personal resources of scholarships — to attend a Jewish summer camp. But class is also knowing which brands everyone else is wearing, knowing where to access those in-fashion clothes, and being able to own them.

The trickiness of class is what brought one of my Maine rabbinic colleagues to warn me about sending the kids in my congregation to major Jewish summer camps, “Even if you can get them the scholarship, Rachel,” she said, “the teasing they might endure might not make it worth it.”

Why aren’t we talking about class? The topic is tender because class is inextricably linked with our dignity. In Hebrew, the word for dignity is kavod and it shares the same root with kaved, heavy. Dignity is about how much leverage we have — in creating a world that gives us what we need and brings us into spaces with the promise of fullness, respect and agency. And the inequitable distribution of this kavod is impacting the ability of the American Jewish establishment to sustain functional, holy communities equitably nationwide.

For many small-town rabbis like myself who travel back and forth regularly between large cities and our small-town synagogues, the disparity in services, luxuries and opportunities we witness between urban communities and our home shuls is striking and often painful.

Synagogues like ours are struggling to pay their heating bills so that their pipes don’t freeze. Our congregants often cannot make their rent or pay college application fees, and our boards struggle mightily to raise the funds for paltry part-time rabbinic salaries. These heroic small-town lay leaders work the equivalent of unpaid, full-time jobs so that every member of their congregation can have a human hand to hold when life gets real — during times both of transcendent joy and deep distress.

Over the past 50 years wealth and social power have been increasingly concentrated in 12 metro areas to the exclusion of large swaths of our nation. The organization I lead, the Center for Small Town Jewish Life at Colby College, estimates that 1 in 8 American Jews lives outside one of these areas. At the same time, we must also see that class disparities exist within every locale. And so, as we plan programs and craft policies as an American Jewish community, I would challenge all of us to ask ourselves and our institutions questions out loud that we usually don’t ask.

Who is included or excluded by the price of this event or membership?
What services should every member of a Jewish community be able to access, regardless of price? Who will provide it? Who will pay those who are providing those services and will they be paid a fair wage?
How do we work to address the pain and shame caused by unacknowledged class differences within our community?

Not all of these questions have simple answers, but we have to start addressing them. There are three steps we should be taking as an American Jewish community to make our community more economically equitable now.

First, even though livestreaming has been a blessing and increased accessibility and access in ways that cannot be overstated or taken for granted, we still need to reiterate — in all of our communities — that it doesn’t replace the importance of physical presence. For most of us, to be human is to be embodied, and we cannot let physical presence and contact become a luxury good.

Second, every state in America should have at bare minimum one full-time, at-large, pluralistically oriented rabbi with an endowed salary that serves the entire Jewish community of that state, regardless of ability to donate or pay.

Third, we need to find ways to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table, so that every Jew’s soul is fed. We cannot afford to lose anyone. The eternal faith of the people Israel is a covenant that should not be contingent on one’s class — it is up to all of us to make sure that every member of our people is spiritually sated, held by community, known and called by name. We need a new American Jewish budget that fulfills the basic birthright of every Jew in this nation — to be served and held as a worthy member of our people.

Recently I turned to Central Synagogue in New York City to support the work of the Center for Small Town Jewish Life. They answered the call immediately — partnering with us not only financially, but as thought partners in building community and capacity through Central’s The Neighborhood online community and my organization’s programs. Two other Manhattan synagogues — Rodeph Sholom and Park Avenue Synagogue — came in alongside them, eager to help us spread the story of small-town Jewish life and advance our mission. They are funding our National Impact program, Makom, that trains small-town lay leaders and Jewish communal professionals in order to make small-town Jewish life sustainable. They are also supporting our Shaliach Tzibur program that trains small-town Jews to lead rituals and services when no clergy are present.

But there is so much more to be done on a strategic, national scale to ensure that we are touching and serving every member of the American Jewish community with dignity. We will need to continue this work together, large and small Jewish congregations working together to serve the entirety of our people with dignity.

On every Shabbat to come, let’s dream of lechem mishneh, a double portion for all, and let’s start ensuring that everyone, at the very least, has the flour for a single loaf. As our rabbis teach, “eyn kemach, eyn Torah” — without flour, without physical sustenance, our Torah cannot live.

This essay was adapted from a guest sermon given by the author at Central Synagogue in Manhattan. 

The post As a rabbi in a small town, I understand the Jewish class divide — and how to close it 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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