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Bosnian Jews mourn Moris Albahari, one of Sarajevo’s last Ladino speakers

(JTA) — Moris Albahari, a Holocaust survivor, former partisan fighter and one of the last Ladino speakers in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s dwindling Jewish community, passed away at the age of 93 last month.

It is believed that he was one of four native Ladino speakers remaining in a country where the Judeo-Spanish language once flourished and was spoken by  luminaries like Flory Jagoda, the grande dame of Ladino song, and Laura Bohoretta, the founder of a uniquely Sephardic feminist movement in Bosnia.  

Bosnia’s small Jewish community — with barely 900 members throughout the country, 500 of whom live in Sarajevo — are mourning the loss of a living link to communal memory as well as a dear friend. 

From you, uncle Moco, I learned a lot about Judaism, about life, about nature and especially about people. About both the good and the evil,” Igor Kožemjakin, the cantor of the Sarajevo Jewish community, wrote in a memorial post on Facebook, referring to Moris as “Čika,” or uncle, a term of endearment in Bosnian. 

“It is a terrible loss, especially for Sarajevo. Our community is very small, especially after the Holocaust,” Eliezer Papo, a Sarajevo-born Jew and scholar of Ladino language and literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We’re not speaking just in terms of prominent members of the community, we’re speaking in terms of family members. Everyone is like a family member.”

When Albahari was growing up in the 1930s, the Jewish community of his native Sarajevo numbered over 12,000. Jews made up more than a fifth of the city and it was one of the most important centers of Jewish life in the western Balkans.

In his youth, the city was part of what was then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Formed out of the borderlands between the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, it was a multiethnic state composed of Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks, Slovenians, Macedonians, Hungarians, Albanians and more. Among them were many Jewish communities both Ashkenazi and Sephardic.

The unique mix of of Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and Orthodox Christian communities, with their mosques, synagogues and churches defining Sarajevo’s skyline, earned the city the nickname “Little Jerusalem.”

Speaking in a 2015 documentary made by American researchers, “Saved by Language,” Albahari explained that his family traced their roots back to Cordoba before the Spanish Inquisition, and through Venice, before settling in what would become Bosnia when it was part of the Ottoman Empire.

We didn’t want to ‘just’ write an article about Moris or Sarajevo; we wanted [the audience] to see what we saw and hear what we heard,” Brian Kirschen, professor of Ladino at Binghamton University, who worked on the documentary with author Susanna Zaraysky, told JTA. “This resulted in a grassroots initiative to create the documentary.” 

In the film, Albahari takes the researchers and their viewers on a tour through what was Jewish Sarajevo, giving glimpses of the thriving Ladino speaking community in which he was raised and explaining how ithe language would save him many times, when the Nazis and their Croat allies, the Ustaša, came to shatter it. 

In sharing your story of survival during the Holocaust, you opened doors that remained closed for decades,” Kirschen said in a memorial post on Facebook. “Some of your stories were even new to members of your family, but each survivor has their own timeline. While you experienced great pain during your life, from your story, we also learn about moments of kindness and heroism. Through your story, you also taught us about the power of language.” 

Albahari wasn’t yet a teenager when, in 1941, Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy invaded Yugoslavia. The Nazis occupied the eastern portion of the country, including what is now Serbia, while they raised up a Croat fascist party, known as the Ustaša, to administer the newly formed “Independent State of Croatia” — often known by its Serbo-Croatian initials, NDH — in the western regions that included the modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

The Ustaša collaborated in the Nazis’ genocidal plans for Europe’s Jewish and Roma comunities, and they had genocidal designs of their own for the Orthodox Serb communities living in the NDH.

To that end they established the Jasenovac concentration camp, which would become known as the Auschwitz of the Balkans. By the war’s end it had become the third largest concentration camp in Europe, and behind its walls the overwhelming majority of Sarajevo’s Jews — at least 10,000 — were massacred. Including Serbs, Jews, Roma and political dissidents of Croat or Muslim Bosniak background, as many as 100,000 people were killed in Jasenovac. 

Albahari was 11 years old when the Ustaša came to deport him and his large family to Jasenovac. A former teacher working as an Ustaša guard in the town of Drvar, where the train stopped, warned Albahari’s father, David, about their destination, and he was able to help his son escape from the train. 

The teacher helped guide the young Moris to an Italian soldier named Lino Marchione who was secretly helping Jews.

This was the first case when Albahari’s Ladino came in handy. Ladino is largely based on medieval Spanish, with a mixture of Hebrew, Aramaic, Turkish and other languages mixed in. For speakers of Serbo-Croatian, a Slavic language, it’s entirely incomprehensible. But for a speaker of another Romance language such as Italian, it’s not such a stretch to understand, and Moris was able to converse with his Italian savior.

With his family gone, he was taken in by a Serb family, and changed his name to Milan Adamovic to hide his Jewish identity. Still, by 1942, it became clear that neither as Adamovic nor Albahari would he be safe in the town. So he fled to the mountains. 

“If there was [a battle] I took clothes from a dead soldier to wear, I lived like a wolf in the mountains, you know. Visiting villages [asking for something] to give me for eating, it was a terrible time,” Albahari recalled in “Saved By Language.” 

He would only feel safe in villages under the control of partisan forces. Yugoslavia was the only country in Europe to be liberated from Nazi rule by its own grassroots resistance. 

During his time in the mountains, Albahari joined up with a partisan unit aligned with the movement of Josip Broz Tito, who would lead Communist Yugoslavia after the war. By the war’s end, Tito’s partisans numbered over 80,000 and included more than 6,000 Jews, many in prominent positions, such as Moša Pijade, who would go on to serve as vice president of the Yugoslav parliament after the war. 

Moris was out on patrol as a partisan when he came upon a group of American and British paratroopers. They raised their weapons at him, thinking he was an enemy. Moris tried to communicate, but he spoke no English. 

When he asked the soldiers if they spoke German or Italian, they shook their heads. When he asked about Spanish, one perked up: a Hispanic-American soldier by the name of David Garijo. 

In Ladino, Alabahari was able to explain that he was not an enemy but could lead them to a nearby partisan camp where they would be safe. 

“Ladino saved my life in the war,” Albahari recalled in the documentary. 

At the partisan camp, Morris received even bigger news: The family that he had assumed had all perished after he left the train were in fact alive. The former school teacher and Ustaša guard who had warned his father had met them at the next train junction to help them escape. Furthermore, around half of the Jews in the train car were able to escape using the same hole Moris used during his initial escape. 

Ultimately the family all survived the war, unlike so many other Jews of Sarajevo. 

“Where is Samuel, where is Dudo, where is Gedala? They never came back,” Albahari lamented, listing missing neighbors while walking through Sarajevo’s old Jewish neighborhood in the documentary. “Maybe we are happy because we are alive after the Second World War, but also unlikely because every day we must cry for these dead people.”

When Moris returned to Sarajevo, it was an entirely different place from the bustling Jewish community he had once known. 

Gone was the sound of Ladino in the streets and alleyways of Bascarsija, the market district where so many of Sarajevo’s Jews had once lived. Gone were the synagogues — only one of the many synagogues that had existed before WWII still functions. Gone was the robust Jewish life that was once a central part of Sarajevo

Moris was still only 14 by the war’s end, so he returned to school and ultimately graduated at the top of his class. He became a pilot and later director of the Sarajevo Airport. 

In this new world, Ladino was spoken, if at all, only in the home.

“Always, when I hear Spanish, I hear my father and mother, and all the synagogues, prayers in Ladino and rabbis who spoke Ladino. But that is in the past,” Albahari says in “Saved by Language.” 

Eliezer Papo, who is a generation younger than Albahari, recalled that in his youth Ladino had long been reduced to a language of secrets. 

“Mostly, Ladino was used when the elders didn’t want youngsters to understand,” Papo said.

Only later, in the 1980s, did community members realize what was being lost and begin to gather to maintain their language, recount what Jewish Sarajevo had been like and share their wartime stories of survival. 

“He never took his story to the places of revenge, but he took it and his life experience to a place of ‘Never again,’ not just ‘Never again for Jews’, but never again for anybody,” said Papo.

Like many Sarajevans, World War II would not be the last major conflict Albahari would see. Less than 40 years later, war would once again come to Sarajevo with the break-up of Yugoslavia. 

From 1992-1995 the city remained under constant siege by Bosnian Serb forces looking to break away from what would become Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moris joined with other Jews of Sarajevo in working to provide aid to their fellow Sarajevans during the harsh period.

Sarajevo’s synagogue was turned into a shelter and a soup kitchen. The community ran a network of underground pharmacies and a message service allowing Sarajevans to get word to family and friends outside of the city during what became the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare.

“Moris was an inspirational persona to many members of Jewish community and La Benevolencija,” Vlado Anderle, the current president of that local Jewish humanitarian organization told JTA. “He was a man with such inviting spirit and energy.”

When the dust settled on the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the new Bosnian state rose from its ashes, Moris found himself once again in a new role. 

During the communist era in Yugoslavia, religious activity was discouraged. Sarajevo’s Jews emphasized the ethnic character of Jewish culture rather than the religious one. In the new Bosnia and Herzegovina, that was no longer true. So the community worked to reconnect with their religious identity as well. 

“Everybody looked up to the people who had Jewish upbringing before the Second World War,” Papo recalled. “This doesn’t mean that they were rabbis. Just that they knew it better than anyone else.”

Moris, whose formal Jewish education ended in his preteen years, was appointed president of the community’s religious committee.

As such it often fell on him to represent Judaism to the Bosnian society at large, often in a very creative way, according to Papo, who in addition to being a scholar of Ladino is ordained as a rabbi and serves the Sarajevo community as a rabbi-at-large from Israel. 

In one case, while being interviewed on a major Bosnian television station, Moris was asked why Jews cover their head with a kippah or other hat during prayer. Moris’ response, or rather creative interpretation, as Papo called it, was made up on the spot. 

Moris’ interpretation began with the ancient temple in Jerusalem where Jews once had to fully immerse in a ritual bath before entering.

“Since the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed it was reduced to washing the uncovered parts of the body only, before entering a synagogue, similarly to Muslims: the feet, the head, the hands…” Papo recalled him saying. But in Europe, as Moris’ answer went, they began to cover more and more of their body. “In Europe they started wearing shoes, so the feet were not uncovered anymore, and then they started wearing a hat, not to have to wash their head… you know it’s Europe, one could catch a cold if going out with wet hair…”

“A few months later, I came to Sarajevo, and found that everyone has heard this explanation and is talking about it, not just people in the community, but in the street,” Papo said. “And you know, I let it pass, I couldn’t correct them, it was just so beautiful. That was his genius.”

“Identity is all about telling stories. And Moris was one of the great storytellers of the community,” Papo added. And through his stories he expressed an identity which was “made of the same contradictions that Sephardic Judaism is made of, that Sarajevo is made of, that Bosnia and Herzegovina is made and that Yugoslavia was and is made of and that the Balkans are made of.”

Albahari is survived by his wife and a son.


The post Bosnian Jews mourn Moris Albahari, one of Sarajevo’s last Ladino speakers 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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