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Far-right Israeli minister urges loyalty as his US visit draws protests, boycotts and arrests

WASHINGTON (JTA) — For more than a week, American Jewish groups have debated how and whether to welcome Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, as he visits Washington, D.C. 

On Sunday night, that debate culminated in protests, arrests, boycotts — and a speech by Smotrich urging American Jews to remain loyal to the Jewish state. 

Inside the Grand Hyatt Washington, Smotrich spoke to Israel Bonds, a U.S. organization that encourages investment in Israel. In the lobby of the hotel, left-wing groups protested, sang songs and, in some cases, were escorted out in handcuffs. And outside the hotel, in the cold rain, hundreds of liberal Jews gathered to declare their dedication to the Jewish community — and to protest Smotrich and Israel’s government. 

“This is a moral emergency,” said Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, in a speech at the protest. “We must name this deep pain that so many of us feel for what’s happening in Israel right now, a place that we love. It is with that love that we come here tonight, standing with our Israeli siblings, saying there is nothing normal, nothing acceptable about this moment.”

The Israeli government is advancing legislation that would transform Israel’s system of government and has drawn sweeping protests across the country as well as concern by foreign investors and financial watchdogs. But little sense of emergency was present in the remarks given by Smotrich, who called on his audience to stay the course. The event was closed to press. 

“This moment in the history of Israel is a miracle,” he said in remarks released by his office. “And for more than 70 years, Israel Bonds investors like you have helped make our Jewish State a reality. But, there is still work to be done, so don’t stop investing!”

Outside the conference room where Smotrich spoke, the left-wing Jewish group IfNotNow protested by singing and reciting maariv, the Jewish evening prayers. The group said seven of its members were arrested by police. The anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace also protested.

The dueling speeches and actions on Sunday came at a time when even the staunchest advocates for Israel are publicly criticizing its government. They serve as the latest evidence that the coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is upending the Diaspora’s relationship with Israel like no government before it. 

Much of the criticism has surrounded the government’s signature legislative effort, which would sap the Supreme Court of much of its power and independence. And a fresh round of criticism came this month after Smotrich called for a Palestinian village to be wiped out — a statement he has since walked back repeatedly and at length, including during his Israel Bonds address. In the past, Smotrich has also made statements denigrating LGBTQ people and Arabs.

Major Jewish establishment organizations and leaders, once loath to publicly criticize Israel, are expressing alarm about the judicial legislation as well as Smotrich’s incendiary rhetoric. They are watching as the country is roiled by frequent massive demonstrations that have brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets.

That criticism has manifested itself in a widespread boycott of Smotrich’s visit — a change of pace for Jewish organizations that are generally eager to meet with senior Israeli officials. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is snubbing Smotrich, and so is the Biden administration. His only known quasi-governmental interaction this week will be a guided tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Aside from his Israel Bonds appearance, Smotrich is meeting with officials from just two Jewish organizations, the Orthodox Union and the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, one of the few U.S. groups to support the judicial reform.

“The hateful views long expressed by Minister Smotrich are abhorrent, are opposed by a majority of Israeli citizens, and run contrary to Jewish values,” the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington said in a statement. “No public servant should ever condone or incite hatred or hate-motivated violence, and when they do, they will be fiercely condemned by a wide swath of American Jewry.”

Those comments were echoed by the speakers at the protest outside the Grand Hyatt, which was organized by an array of progressive Jewish groups. Despite their attitude toward the Israeli official speaking inside the hotel, the event was suffused with patriotic fervor, with piles of Israeli flags for protesters to wave. It finished with a rendition of the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah.”

“Anybody who has authority in the community has to be ne’eman, to be faithful, has to be somebody who the community can trust like Moshe,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of the liberal rabbinic human rights group T’ruah, using the Hebrew name for Moses and quoting a rabbinic teaching.

Jacobs, who is a longtime proponent of curbing Americans’ giving to right-wing extremist groups in Israel, went on: “We’re here to say that the current leadership of Israel — including, of course, Bezalel Smotrich, speaking inside this hotel — they are not ne’eman, they are not people we can trust, they are not people who are leading Israel in the right direction.”

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich addresses Israel Bonds in Washington D.C., March 12, 2023. (Office of the Finance Minister)

Smotrich emphasized the same themes — Jewish unity and mutual responsibility — but toward different ends. He thanked his audience of investors in Israel bonds “for the unquestionable connection between Israel and Diaspora Judaism.”

“We must not forget that we are brothers,” he said. “Despite all of the differences, despite the many colors that make up the Jewish mosaic, we are one.”

He also once again apologized for his call to “wipe out” Huwara, a Palestinian West Bank village where Israeli settlers rioted recently after a Palestinian gunman there killed two Israelis. He said his words “created a completely mistaken impression.”

“I want to say a few words about the elephant in the room,” Smotrich said. “I stand before you now as always committed to the security of the state of Israel, to our shared values, and to the highest moral commitment of our armed forces to protect every innocent life, Jew or Arab.” 

If anyone is finding new allies, it is not Smotrich but his opponents, who run the gamut from the Jewish left to once-reliable mainstays of the right. Miriam Adelson, the widow of casino magnate, Republican kingmaker and pro-Israel donor Sheldon Adelson, said on Sunday that Netanyahu’s rush to enact judicial reform was “hasty, injudicious and irresponsible.”

Those changes galvanized the protesters. “We are the Jewish establishment!” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said later in an interview that the “grounds are shifting” among American Jews. “Some of us here and in Israel have been on the ground fighting against the occupation and the attacks on democracy for years and years, and now it’s becoming clear to more and more American Jews and Israeli Jews that that was the right message,” she said.

The issue of whether to raise Israel’s occupation of the West Bank has been a matter of debate amid the protests in Israel, where there have been reports that organizers have discouraged the display of Palestinian flags, fearing that Netanyahu will weaponize any sign of solidarity with the Palestinians. 

The tension over whether the Palestinians should be mentioned played out before the protest in Washington as well, at a press conference featuring philanthropists and Israeli businessmen who said the judicial reforms were threatening Israel’s economic standing.

The event started with a rendition of “Oseh Shalom,” the Jewish prayer for peace, composed by the Israeli Jewish Renewal group Nava Tehila.

Susie Gelman, a philanthropist who chairs the Israel Policy Forum, which supports the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, said one of the key roles of the Israeli Supreme Court in recent years has been to protect some Palestinian rights and slow Israeli efforts to increase sovereignty in the West Bank. 

“You can’t entirely separate judicial overhaul from the question of what’s happening with Palestinians in the West Bank in particular,” she said.

But Offir Gutelzon, a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur who helped found UnXeptable, an anti-Netanyahu protest movement by Israelis living abroad, differed, saying the protesters’ top priority should be to save the courts’ independence. Achieving that goal, he said, required maintaining unity across the Israeli political spectrum.

“We have to save our Israeli democracy and then we can move on and talk about” the Palestinians, Gutelzon said.

Still, at the protest, speakers spoke of the occupation and its effect on the Palestinians, and there were no objections. Gutelzon led an Israeli contingent in registering cheers for every pronouncement by American liberals. 

The post Far-right Israeli minister urges loyalty as his US visit draws protests, boycotts and arrests 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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