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Diaspora alarm over Israel: Your guide to what the critics are saying

(JTA) — I started reporting on North American Jews and Israel in the last century, and for years covered the debate over whether Jews in the Diaspora had a right to criticize the Israeli government in public. The debate sort of petered out in the early-1990s, when Israel itself began talking about a Palestinian state, and when right-wing groups then decided criticizing Israel was a mitzvah.

Nevertheless, while left-wing groups like J Street and T’ruah have long been comfortable criticizing the Israeli government or defending Palestinian rights, many in the centrist “mainstream” — pulpit clergy, leaders of federations and Hillels, average Jews nervous about spoiling a family get-together — have preferred to keep their concerns to themselves. Partly this is tactical: Few rabbis want to alienate any of their members over so divisive a topic, and in the face of an aggressive left, organizational leaders did not want to give fuel to Israel’s ideological enemies. (The glaring exception has been about Israeli policy toward non-Orthodox Judaism, which is seen as very much the Disapora’s business.)

In recent weeks, there has been an emerging literature of what I have come to think of as “reluctant dissent.” What these essays and sermons have in common, despite the different political persuasions of the authors, is a deep concern over Israel’s “democratic character.” They cite judicial reforms that would weaken checks and balances at the top, expansion of Jewish settlements that would make it impossible to separate from the Palestinians, and the Orthodox parties that want to strengthen their hold on religious affairs. As Abe Foxman, who as former director of the Anti-Defamation League rarely criticized Israel, told an interviewer, “If Israel ceases to be an open democracy, I won’t be able to support it.”

I read through the various ways Jewish leaders and writers here and in Israel are not just justifying Diaspora Jews who are protesting what is happening in Israel, but providing public permission for others to do the same. Here is what a few of them are saying (with a word from a defender of the government):

‘I didn’t sleep much last night’
Yehuda Kurtzer: Facebook, Feb. 8 

Kurtzer is the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, the New York-based branch of the Israeli think tank that promotes a diverse, engaged relationship with Israel. In a recent blog post, he neatly describes the dilemma of Diaspora Zionists who aren’t sure what to do with their deep concerns about the direction of the Israel government, especially the concentration of power in a far-right legislative branch.

Centrist American Jews who care about Israel are caught between “those to our right who would see any expression of even uncertainty about Israel’s democratic character as disloyalty, [and] those on the other side who think that a conversation about Israeli democracy is already past its prime,” he writes. He is also concerned about the “widespread disengagement that we can expect among American Jews, what I fear will become the absent majority — those who decide that however the current crisis is resolved, all of this is just ‘not for them.’” 

Kurtzer likens Israel to a palace, and Diaspora Jews as “passersby” who live beyond its walls. Nonetheless, he feels responsible for what happens there. “The palace is burning and the best we can do is to tell you,” he writes. “It is also how we will show you we love you, and how much we cherish the palace.”

An open letter to Israel’s friends in North America
Matti Friedman, Yossi Klein Halevi and Daniel Gordis: Times of Israel, Feb. 7 

Three high-profile writers who moved to Israel from North America and who often defend Israel against its critics in the United States — Gordis, for one, has written a book arguing that American Jewish liberalism is incompatible with Israel’s “ethnic democracy” — now urge Diaspora Jews to speak out against the current Israeli government. They don’t mention the territories or religious pluralism. Instead, their trigger is the proposed effort to reform the Supreme Court, which they say will “eviscerate the independence of our judiciary and remake the country’s democratic identity.” Such a move will “threaten Israeli-American relations, and it will do grave damage to our relations with you, our sisters and brothers in the Diaspora,” concluding, “We need your voice to help us preserve Israel as a state both Jewish and democratic.” 

All Israel Is Responsible for Each Other
Rabbi Angela Buchdahl: Sermon, Jan. 27

Buchdahl, the senior rabbi of New York City’s Reform Central Synagogue, isn’t looking to Israeli writers for permission to weigh in on Israel’s political scene. In a sermon that takes its name from a rabbinic statement of Jewish interdependence, she asserts without question that Jews everywhere have a stake in the future of Israel and have a right to speak up for “civil society and democracy and religious pluralism and human rights” there. She focuses on the religious parties who are convinced that “Reform Jews are ruining Israel,” as you might expect, but ends the sermon with a call to recognize the rights of all Israeli citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish, “and also those living under Israel’s military control.” Of those Palestinians, she says, “We can’t feel comfortable sitting in the light of sovereignty next to a community living in darkness and expect to have peace.”

And like Kurtzer, she worries that concerned American Jews will simply turn away from Israel in despair or embarrassment, and urges congregants to support the Israeli and American organizations that share their pluralistic vision for Israel.

On That Distant Day
Hillel Halkin: Jewish Review of Books, Winter 2023  

In his 1977 book “Letters to an American Jewish Friend: A Zionist Polemic,” the translator and author Hillel Halkin made a distinction similar to Kurtzer’s image of Israel as a palace and the Diaspora as passersby: Jews who don’t  emigrate to Israel are dooming themselves to irrelevance, while immigrants like him are living on the stage where the Jewish future would play out. His mournful essay doesn’t address the Diaspora, per se, although it creates a permission structure for Zionists abroad to criticize the government. Halkin sees the new government as a coalition of two types of religious zealots: the haredi Orthodox who want to consolidate their control of religious life (and funding) in Israel, and a “knit-skullcap electorate [that] is hypernationalist and Jewish supremacist in its attitude toward Arabs.” (A knit skullcap is a symbol for what an American might call the “Modern Orthodox.”) Together, these growing and powerful constituents represent “the end of an Israeli consensus about what is and is not permissible in a democracy — and once the rules are no longer agreed on, political chaos is not far away. Israel has never been in such a place before.”

Halkin does talk about Israeli expansion in the West Bank, saying he long favored Jewish settlement in the territories, while believing that the “only feasible solution” would be a two-state solution with Arabs living in the Jewish state and Jews living in the Arab one. Instead, Israel has reached a point where there is “too much recrimination, too much distrust, too much hatred, too much blind conviction, too much disdain for the notion of a shared humanity, for such a solution to be possible… We’re over the cliff and falling, and no one knows how far down the ground is.”

Method to Our Madness: A Response to Hillel Halkin
Ze’ev Maghen: Jewish Review of Books, Jan. 10, 2023

Ze’ev Maghen, chair of the department of Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University, is hardly a dissenter; instead, his response to Halkin helpfully represents the views of those who voted for the current government. Maghen says the new coalition represents a more honest expression of Zionism than those who support a “liberal, democratic, egalitarian, inclusive, individualist, environmentally conscious, economically prosperous, globally connected, etc., etc., society.” The new government he writes, will defend Israel’s “Jewish nationalist raison d’être, and keep at bay those universalist, Western-based notions that are geared by definition to undermine nationalism in all its forms.” As for the Palestinian issue, he writes, “I’d rather have a fierce, hawkish Zionist in the cockpit than a progressive, Westernized wimp for whom this land, and the people who have returned to it after two millennia of incomparable suffering, don’t mean all that much.”

The Tears of Zion
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Sermon, Feb. 4, 2023

Brous, rabbi of the liberal Ikar community in Los Angeles, doesn’t just defend the right of Diaspora Jews to speak out in defense of Israeli democracy and Palestinian rights, but castigates Jewish leaders and communities who have been reluctant to criticize Israel in the past. “No, this government is not an electoral accident, and it is not an anomaly,” she says. “This moment of extremism has been a long time in the making and our silence has made us complicit.”


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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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