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Fighting food allergies becomes another ritual at synagogues, schools and camps

This article was produced as part of JTA’s Teen Journalism Fellowship, a program that works with Jewish teens around the world to report on issues that affect their lives.

(JTA) — No challah on Shabbat for those with celiac disease or wheat allergies. No cheesecake for Shavuot for those with dairy allergies. No mishloach manot gift packages on Purim for kids with severe allergies to the treats inside. 

Synagogues and other Jewish organizations are seeing a rise in the number of children and teens who suffer from food allergies, and are adjusting to make sure that no one is endangered or feels left out – from nut-free policies to separate gluten-free kitchens.

For some, however, such accommodations aren’t enough to make them feel part of the mainstream. 

“I try not to let it get the best of me, but in the back of my mind I’m like ‘wow, I really wish I could try what everyone else is trying,’” said Micah Pierandri, 17, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who often feels disconnected from others during community events involving food. 

More children and teens are being diagnosed with food allergies than ever. In 2007, only about 4% of children in the United States under 18 reported food allergies, but last year the number more than doubled. A 2020 review of hospital admissions data showed a global increase in hospitalizations for anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life threatening allergic reaction. One study found that 37% of children in an Orthodox Jewish community had food allergies. 

Food allergies can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health. Up to 40% of parents of children with allergies said that they would associate the word “isolating” with their child’s allergy, according to a study by Allergy UK. And while many synagogues are taking steps to become more allergy friendly, holidays and religious events involvinging food can be a struggle for many children and teens with food allergies.

“I’m that allergy kid that has to sit out or bring their own dessert or their own food to events,” said Pierandri.

Pierandri, who has an airborne allergy to peanuts and severe allergies to pecans, walnuts, soy and eggs, often brings her own food to synagogue events. This can make her feel separated from the rest of the Jewish community during the holidays, even if her food is similar to her peers.

Tu Bishvat and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, are especially difficult to celebrate because of the foods that are involved. On Tu Bishvat, the springtime New Year of the Trees, it’s customary for people to eat nuts and try fruits that they haven’t tasted before. For Pierandri, who has oral allergy syndrome, eating most fruits could cause an allergic reaction. Many Israeli dishes contain sesame or nuts, and her mild sesame allergy and severe nut allergies mean that she struggles to find foods that are safe for her to eat on Yom Ha’atzmaut, forcing her to choose between bringing her own food or eating before she goes. 

By listing the ingredients in all food dishes at events, Beth El Temple Center in Belmont, Massachusetts makes it easier for people with food allergies to be included. Around 10% of students at their religious school have allergies. Though the number hasn’t changed much over the past few years, it is high enough that all teachers are notified about students’ allergies, said Joan Perlman, its director of education. 

“It’s important to accommodate people with food allergies because it aligns with our core value of being an inclusive community,” said Debbie Ezrin, executive director of Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland. To her, inclusivity means making sure that everyone feels like they belong. Their congregation is a nut-free facility and works to accommodate people with food allergies during any event involving food. 

Josephine Schizer (left) at dinner with a friend. (Courtesy)

“While the synagogue adheres to traditional Jewish dietary laws, we always ask people to share their dietary needs and do our best to accommodate them,” said Rabbi Daniel Kaiman of Congregation B’nai Emunah, the synagogue that Pierandri attends. 

She also feels like her food allergies have stunted her BBYO experience. “Part of me feels like it’s not really having food allergies, it’s more like people not being cautious,” Pierandri said. She’s been to multiple chapter and regional events where there have been peanuts even though people are aware that she has an airborne allergy. 

“This is one of the areas where we really try to make sure that we’re accommodating our teens and I think it’s a small step we can take towards creating a supportive, inclusive, welcoming environment,” said Drew Fidler, director of BBYO’s Center for Adolescent Wellness. 

Like many other organizations, BBYO has seen an increase in the number of teens with allergies over the past decade. All of BBYO’s conventions are peanut and tree nut-free in order to accommodate teens with nut allergies, and the organization also offers vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free meals by request. 

“They just want to participate and feel normal and be a part of what’s going on,” she said about members who might feel excluded because of their allergies. At its international convention and summer programs, BBYO has a dedicated area for special meals so that teens with dietary restrictions are able to eat during meals.

Many Jewish summer camps are taking similar steps towards inclusion. “We always tell families that food should never be a reason that campers cannot be at camp or participate in Jewish life,” said Rabbi Ami Hersh, director of Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, New York.

Around 10% of the 800 campers that attend each session have food allergies, a larger percentage than in past years. The camp has a dietary specialist who works with each family to find alternative meals for campers. It’s important that the alternative meals closely mirror what the other campers are eating “so that no one’s feeling left out or excluded based on food needs,” Hersh said. 

“I think that sometimes food needs and allergies are misunderstood as something that people are just being difficult about,” he said. “No one wakes up in the morning and says ‘I really wish I had a food allergy.’”

After noticing an increasing number of campers with celiac disease, NJY Camps, an organization that runs five Jewish summer camps in eastern Pennsylvania, opened a dedicated gluten-free kitchen in 2011. 

Taking care of children with food allergies costs US families over $25 billion each year. When parents have to provide food for their children, it can be expensive and isolate the child even further. In a study by Dalhousie Medical School, all 56 gluten-free products tested were more expensive when compared to their regular counterparts. 

At NJY Camps, the camp charges the same for the gluten-free meal plan as for the regular meal plan. “We don’t charge families extra despite the additional cost, it is simply a courtesy provided to those who need it,” said Carrie Youngs, director of Camp Nah-Jee-Wah, its camp for younger kids. Within the last five years, they’ve had as few as 30 and as many as 60 gluten-free campers register for each session. 

The gluten-free kitchen has separate staff, equipment and serving area to avoid cross contamination. Like Ramah Day Camp, NJY Camps try to make the gluten-free meals match the regular meals being served that day so that campers with dietary restrictions won’t feel left out.

“Because we’re a kosher camp, some allergies are just a good fit,” she said. The camp doesn’t have to make accommodations for allergies like shellfish because shellfish aren’t kosher. Camp Nah-Jee-Wah is also completely peanut free in order to accommodate campers who have airborne peanut allergies. 

Before arriving at camp, families are able to meet with an allergy liaison who ensures that all of their needs are met. “We just feel that accommodating campers and giving them the most incredible camp experience is important for their upbringing,” Youngs said. 

 Eating away from home can be scary for people with food allergies, especially when those allergies are life-threatening. “My house is the space where I feel most comfortable when it comes to food,” said Josephine Schizer, 21, a sophomore at Harvard University. She’s allergic to eggs, dairy, sesame seeds, chickpeas, kiwi, lentils and peas, but thanks to her school’s Hillel, she’s been able to eat safely while she’s away from home. She’s developed a relationship with the Hillel’s dining hall staff and made them aware of her food allergies. They’ll often make special meals for her so that she’s able to eat.

Her allergies don’t usually make eating a problem during Jewish holidays, but on Passover, a holiday that imposes additional dietary restrictions, she struggles to find nutritious meals because there are fewer options. “Many of the options that I could normally eat are out of the question during Passover because of the holiday or have egg in them because flour gets replaced with egg,” Schizer said. Nearly everyone in her family has allergies, making it easier for her to celebrate Jewish holidays at home. 

“I think it’s harder when I’m in places that aren’t my own home,” she said. “It’s harder, but it’s still doable.”

The post Fighting food allergies becomes another ritual at synagogues, schools and camps 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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