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Battle lines deepen in bruising fight for control of Germany’s liberal Jewish institutions

BERLIN (JTA) — The fight over control of Germany’s Reform rabbinical school has taken a new twist — one that appears poised to shatter longstanding institutions within liberal Judaism here, and reforge them into something new.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany announced Thursday that it is bringing in an outside expert to help redesign the country’s Reform and Conservative rabbinical schools, to end the influence of a controversial Reform rabbi who stepped aside as rector amid allegations against him this spring but who remains enmeshed in the schools’ operations.

Gerhard Robbers, a professor emeritus of law and religion at the University of Trier, will consult with students and staff as he drafts the proposal, according to the Central Council, an umbrella group for all organized Jewish communities in Germany.

Robbers’ appointment came as the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany this week announced its own interim director for Abraham Geiger College, in what appeared to be a last-ditch effort to preserve control by Rabbi Walter Homolka over the seminary he founded in 1999.

The Central Council announced it could no longer work with the UPJ after the group’s move to install the new interim director, a striking fracture in an alliance that Homolka himself had pressed to create two decades ago.

At the same time, the UPJ could now splinter, with those who are loyal to Homolka facing off against those who believe change is needed.

“Some member communities are now considering leaving the UPJ and reorganizing under the Central Council. We feel we are not represented any more by the UPJ,” Rebecca Seidler, head of the liberal Jewish communities of Hanover and chair of the State Association of the Jewish Communities of Lower Saxony, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Rebecca Seidler, chairwoman of the Liberal Jewish Community of Hanover, Germany, sits in the synagogue there, Sept. 8 2020. (Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images)

In a sign of how deeply the tensions are cutting within Germany’s small community of liberal Jews, Seidler and her mother have wound up on opposing sides of the divide. Rebecca Seidler is the daughter of Katarina Seidler, the attorney whom the UPJ named this week as new interim director of the seminary. Rebecca Seidler described the differences within her family as “very difficult.”

Sources tell JTA that there is talk of a new alliance of liberal, egalitarian communities under the Central Council’s aegis. Josef Schuster, the council’s president, confirmed as much on Thursday, telling JTA that his group is in talks with representatives from communities across Germany.

“Those that wish to step out of the UPJ will be supported intensively, and also we will support them in creating a worthy representation of liberal/progressive Judaism in Germany,“ Schuster said.

The latest developments mark a dramatic new phase in a saga that has been unfolding since May, when allegations of sexual harassment against Homolka’s husband and a possible coverup at the seminary hit the news. Ensuing investigations by the University of Potsdam, under whose auspices the rabbinical schools are organized, and by a law firm commissioned by the Central Council looked into a growing array of accusations of abuse of power by Homolka.

Rabbi Walter Homolka, rector of the Abraham Geiger College, in the Liberal Jewish community’s synagogue in Hanover, Germany in December 2016. (Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Both investigations concluded that there was indeed abuse of power — a finding that Homolka has vigorously denied, and that the UPJ has contested.

In a post on its website, the UPJ had officially announced that an investigation it had commissioned had concluded that there was no proof of abuse of power.

Schuster of the Central Council — which represents some 100,000 Jews in Germany, of which the UPJ says 5,000 are members of its congregations, and is responsible for distributing government subsidies and so-called “religion tax” monies to local Jewish communities — told JTA that the post had convinced him that the “the UPJ is not to be taken seriously.”

“There are two studies that actually show abuse of power, but this is an organization that continues to cover up,” he said. The post was removed Thursday.

Schuster’s frustration deepened on Tuesday, when the UPJ and seminary installed Katarina Seidler as the interim director of Geiger College, two days after an election in which allies of Homolka assumed leadership of the organization. (Homolka had announced only that day that he would not run.) Just that morning, the Central Council had been speaking with Gabriele Thöne, still Geiger College’s interim director, about a “face-saving solution” that would involve her resignation and replacement by someone without ties to Homolka.

Katarina Seidler, then chair of the State Association of Jewish Communities in Lower Saxony, joined a session of the state parliament focused on antisemitism, Hanover, Germany, Oct. 23, 2019. (Sina Schuldt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

“Anyone who thinks they can just carry on providing a rabbinical education with the old followers of Homolka, with him continuing in the background of the entity that he — and not the UPJ — founded, with all its entanglements and dependencies, has not taken seriously in any way the results of the independent investigations of the University of Potsdam and the law firm Gercke Wollschläger,” Schuster said in a statement Wednesday.

Schuster told JTA that Geiger College is set up in such a way that Homolka has retained authority despite saying that he had stepped aside.

“It is not just a feeling that he is in control,” Schuster said. “It is the case on a purely legal basis.“

As yet, there has been no formal response from Abraham Geiger College to the Central Council’s withering condemnation. But Irith Michelsohn, the UPJ’s newly elected chair, told JTA in an email Thursday that her group would “definitely try to find a basis for discussion” with the Central Council.

“Perhaps this is difficult at the moment, but we will see what the new secular year will bring,” she said.

The UPJ move apparently also caught the World Union of Progressive Judaism unawares. The same day, the group had expressed support for Thöne along with “deep sadness and sorrow” following “the recent reports about the misconduct, and the hurt to individuals and their communities.”

In an open letter, WUPJ Chair Carole Sterling and President Rabbi Sergio Bergman set out a list of priorities and said they appreciated the ongoing commitment of federal and regional German ministries and the Central Council “to continue to fund Geiger College while new structures and leadership are put in place.” They also pledged their own assistance.

Support from the Central Council for Geiger College is likely to continue, sources say.

Gabriella Thone, interim director of Abraham Geiger College, in Berlin’s Rykestrasse Synagogue on the occasion of an ordination ceremony, Dec. 1, 2022. (Toby Axelrod)

All of the latest turmoil takes place days after the ordinations of four new rabbis and two cantors who studied at the Geiger College, which has become a symbol of the rebirth of Reform Judaism in the country of its founding. Held at the Rykestrasse Synagogue in former East Berlin, complete with organ music and a processional, the ceremony — which observers described as joyous — was likely the last before major changes to how the seminary operates.

Schuster said a new plan — with input from students, educators and rabbis, and in coordination with other major funders and the University of Potsdam — could be presented in the first quarter of 2023.

“Rabbinical training as a private business can no longer be an alternative in the future,” the statement concluded.

The announcement was welcomed by the International Masorti Movement, a partner and supporter of Zacharias Frankel College, the Conservative movement’s seminary, which like Geiger College is situated at the University of Potsdam. In a statement on Thursday, it called on all stakeholders “to listen to the voices of those who suffered from misconduct and to take the investigations of the University and of the law firm Gercke Wollschläger seriously, and work together for a new beginning, both regarding persons as well as structures.”

It is virtually assured that yet more slings and arrows will fly before all is said and done — and that Homolka continues to loom large in the organizations he built.

At the recent UPJ meeting where Homolka allies won election, “it became clear that there are two fronts in the UPJ,” Rebecca Seidler told JTA: “Those who support Homolka and want to separate from the Central Council, and those who are in favor of taking apart the existing structures, and who stand on the side of those affected.”

The post Battle lines deepen in bruising fight for control of Germany’s liberal Jewish institutions 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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