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Florida school board cancels Paula Vogel’s ‘Indecent,’ a ‘queer Jewish love story’ about a censored Yiddish play

(JTA) — In 1923 in New York, a Yiddish play that featured the first lesbian scene on a Broadway stage was censored for being indecent. In 2023 in Florida, a play about the first play has been canceled for the same reason.

For many involved in the new play, including its Pulitzer Prize-winning Jewish playwright and the Florida high schooler cast in a lead role, the déjà vu is alarming.

“The 100-year anniversary of Sholem Asch’s ‘God of Vengeance’ being shut down on Broadway is the same week that our production of ‘Indecent’ would have opened,” said Madeline Scotti, the student who first drew attention on Instagram to the censorship by her local school board of the “queer Jewish love story” in which Scotti had been cast. “One hundred years — 100 years — and we are still fighting the same injustices that Sholem Asch and his company did.”

Scotti is a student at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Florida, where students had been planning to perform Paula Vogel’s “Indecent” this spring — until officials told them on Thursday, the first day of rehearsals, that their show could not go on. Scotti attributed the censorship to Florida’s new law limiting classroom instruction and discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity — what opponents call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Vogel said she, too, was first concerned about homophobia — then added other worries as she heard from people in Jacksonville.

“Parents who live in the community have written to me and said, ‘There is rising antisemitism in our community,’” Vogel told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Sunday. “I very much think that what the school board may not be able to express is their concern about presenting a play that shows how censorship is the first step to the Holocaust.”

Vogel’s 2015 play is about the 1923 Broadway debut of “God of Vengeance,” a play written in Yiddish by Sholem Asch that includes perhaps the first romantic kiss between two women on an American stage. In “Indecent,” the actresses who play the lesbian characters in the Asch play are depicted as lovers off stage. The plot picks up after “God of Vengeance” is shuttered and its cast briefly imprisoned over obscenity charges. “Indecent” follows the stage manager who returns to Eastern Europe, disheartened by what happened in America, and is ultimately murdered by the Nazis.

Students at Douglas Anderson all had permission to act in “Indecent,” and they had put on other shows portraying sexuality in the past: “Chicago” last year, and “Rent” before that. But conditions in the state changed last year when Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, signed the Parental Rights in Education Law into effect, stoking fear among LGBTQ teachers and students and causing school districts to alter policies.

The board in Duval County has defended the law, drawing a lawsuit from parents and advocates over what they said was its enforcement and arguing in court last fall that the district should be allowed to implement the law while litigation pends.

“Tonight during rehearsal our company was notified that the school board is shutting us down not because of but related to the ideals stated in the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill,” Scotti said in the video. “‘Indecent’ is a story about how detrimental censorship is, about how its damaging effects can ruin a nation and a community. I don’t need to point out the irony.”

Duval County Public Schools officials denied that the decision to cancel the production had anything to do with the law. 

“‘Indecent’ contains adult sexual dialog that is inappropriate for student cast members and student audiences,” the district said in a statement. “It’s that simple. The decision has no relevance to any legislation but is rather a function of our responsibilities to ensure students engage in educational activities appropriate for their age.”

Vogel said she believes the show’s contents are appropriate for teenage audiences — and that she would have permitted changes to the show’s display of sexuality. She volunteered that a school production of “Indecent” could feature the two women holding hands, rather than kissing, in a tweak she likened to removing profanities from some of her other award-winning works. “The judgment by the board that this is too mature for high school students is absolute nonsense,” she said.

The censorship in Jacksonville is the latest in a string of incidents in which works with Jewish themes or about the Holocaust have been ensnared in efforts to limit schoolchildren’s exposure to ideas that some parents oppose. 

School reading materials are under increasing scrutiny amid conservative parent groups’ pressure to remove ideas they define as “critical race theory” and “gender ideology.” Books about Jews have gotten caught in the dragnet, including in a Tennessee district that removed the Holocaust memoir “Maus” from its curriculum, a Texas district that briefly removed an adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary and a Missouri district that briefly removed history books about the Holocaust

Florida is a front line in this new culture war. In Walton County, in the state’s Panhandle, the children’s book “Purim Superhero” was among dozens of titles removed from shelves last year in response to parents’ protests; its main character has two fathers. And the Duval County district kept a diversity-themed collection of children’s books that included a book about Shabbat from students for more than a year. Two candidates supported by the local chapter of Moms for Liberty, a group leading the censorship push, won spots on Duval County’s seven-member school board in November.

Florida has also recently emerged as a hotbed of white supremacist and neo-Nazi activity. The Anti-Defamation League issued a report last year raising alarms about extremist activity in the state — and that was before the leader of the Goyim Defense League, a prominent antisemitic group, moved there from California. The group played a role in broadcasting “Kanye is right” at a college football game in Jacksonville in October, referring to the artist Kanye West’s antisemitic comments. It is also behind the distribution of antisemitic propaganda, often in plastic bags placed under rocks at private homes, around the country and locally.

Vogel said she saw a clear echo of what happened with Asch’s play in 1923, when the play was censored amid an atmosphere of rising antisemitism in the United States. (The rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in New York City, concerned that the play could cast Jews in a negative light at a time when non-Jews were organizing antisemitic campaigns, reportedly sounded the alarm to authorities; the play was later banned in London, too.) 

She said is planning a response beyond the encouraging message she left on Scotti’s Instagram post and the exhortation to Douglas Anderson’s principal that she tweeted. (“Why cancel Indecent rather than structuring post-play discussions?” she wrote. “It is a unique way to look at the Holocaust as well as gender and censorship and antisemitism.”) But the antisemitic activity in Jacksonville, Vogel said, has made her cautious about sharing details of who she is working with locally.

“I don’t want to name anybody because I don’t want anyone having more rocks with [antisemitic] literature in their driveway,” she said. “I want to talk in a group with the students, but I don’t want to jeopardize them. … I don’t want to trigger some wackadoo.”

Vogel said she had spent the weekend Zooming and speaking with members of the original cast of “Indecent,” who worked together for several years as the play made its way from a small stage to Broadway, where it won the Tony Award for best play of 2015. On Monday, she said she hoped to offer the school’s principal “a modest little proposal”: to travel to Jacksonville along with Rebecca Taichman, the play’s original director, to present “Indecent” to the students who were barred from staging it themselves and to a community that could benefit from a hard conversation.

“We know this historically: The first step towards totalitarianism is censorship of the arts. It’s burning books. It’s closing down theaters. … In all societies as we go towards fascism, the arts are labeled as degenerate,” Vogel said. “That’s the conversation we need to be having.”

Vogel said her response was informed by her decades as a teacher; she was a professor for many years at Brown University and then moved to Yale, where she was chair of the playwriting department at the vaunted Yale School of Drama.

“I have one response as a Jewish artist. I have another response as an educator,” Vogel said. “And right now it’s the educator who is coming forward.”

The principal of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts told students last week that “Indecent” would be replaced by a different play, Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” But some of the student actors may have other plans.

“The support from the Broadway theatre community feels like we have found our own mishpoche,” Scotti posted on Instagram on Sunday, using the Yiddish word for “family.” 

Scotti added, “I am delighted to say that we have something in the works. The company is meeting and discussing as you’re seeing this. From ashes we rise!”

The post Florida school board cancels Paula Vogel’s ‘Indecent,’ a ‘queer Jewish love story’ about a censored Yiddish play 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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