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For one group of friends separated by geography, a single Israel experience builds lifelong bonds

When Ashley Inbar of Portland, Maine, got married in a traditional Jewish ceremony at the Jamaican beach resort of Ocho Rios in early January, there were five very special names on the guest list.

Just half a decade earlier, they were all complete strangers.

But then they met in Israel on an unusual Birthright trip geared toward “older participants” — those ages 27 to 32 — and forged bonds that have only grown over the years. When that 2018 trip drew to a close, six of them resolved to hold annual in-person reunions, despite the vast geographical distances that separate them.

“Pretty much right when we got home, we started planning to meet up somewhere,” said Inbar, who heads fundraising for the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine. “Our first trip was to Denver, then we traveled north to Redstone, Colorado, and stayed for the weekend. As soon as we end one trip, we start planning the next one. We see each other as often as we can, and we talk every day through group chats on Instagram.”

The tight bonds established by the six friends — Inbar, Tim Campbell, Max Staplin, Carly Herbst, Simon Muller and Jared Glassman — are part of the goal of Birthright Israel, which seeks to offer participants a “life-changing experience.”

While forging bonds between Diaspora Jews and Israel is the main purpose of the trips, which are given to participants at no cost to them, the 10-day Birthright experience also aims to strengthen both participants’ Jewish identity and their connection to fellow Jews (including Israelis). Countless long-lasting friendships and romances that started on Birthright have blossomed into marriages and Jewish families.

From Inbar’s group five years ago, the vast majority of participants are still in touch, she said.

“There were 38 of us, and our entire group got along really well,” Inbar said. “We were all at similar places in life, and all of us already had careers. Even today, 95% of us are still connected through social media.”

During the pandemic, when the six couldn’t meet up in person, they held biweekly Zoom chats where they’d talk for hours on end, playing games and discussing the ups and downs of their lives — including engagements, illnesses, deaths of family members and job promotions — as well as their shared memories of their Israel experience.

Ashley Inbar, third from right, with her Birthright friends celebrates her January 6, 2023, wedding on the beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. (Courtesy of Ashley Inbar)

The group also stayed in touch with the Israeli security guard, Gal, who escorted them on the trip. Gal video-chats with the group at times of conflict in Israel to share his experiences on the ground — and at other times to practice his English. “He just became an integral part of our collective experience, and I think it was as impactful for him as it was for us,” Inbar said.

Staplin, 36, a franchise attorney in Philadelphia, says the 2018 Birthright trip was one of the best experiences of his life. While the tours to the Dead Sea and Masada were amazing and the vibrancy of Tel Aviv unforgettable, he said, what remains with him most are the friendships he formed during those 10 days.

“We’d stay up till 1 a.m. every night talking. We knew then that we’d be friends for the rest of our lives,” Staplin said. “We decided to have a reunion every year. The first was in New Orleans, then the next year we visited Ashley in Maine. As we were figuring out where to do the next reunion, Ashley got engaged.”

Since 1999, more than 800,000 young Jews from 68 countries have visited Israel on free 10-day trips offered through Birthright, known in Hebrew as Taglit (Discovery). The vast majority were 18 to 26, but from mid-2018 until recently some 13,000 Jews in the 27 to 32 age bracket got to visit Israel as well, according to Noa Bauer, Birthright’s vice president of global marketing.

Now that the pandemic has ended and trips to Israel are back in full force, the organization is seeing its highest demand ever and can’t accommodate all would-be participants without raising additional funds.

“Given the limited spots, we went back to the original age group of 18 to 26,” Bauer said, “though we did allow those who missed out during Covid to participate this past summer as a last chance even if they aged out during the pandemic.”

On Inbar’s trip, the cohort of older Birthright participants included two married couples and several people with children, including her.

Visiting Israel at an older age made all the difference to Glassman, a 36-year-old firefighter in New Orleans. He cited “a much higher maturity level” as one of the advantages of doing Birthright when he did.

“At 18 or 19, I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much,” Glassman said. “Everyone on our group really wanted to be there. In my case, as a young adult, I became much closer to my local Jewish community. I’m a pretty active member of my temple, Touro Synagogue, so when Birthright opened that slot for my age group, it was almost like it was meant to be.”

Staplin said that what really stood out from his experience was the 360-degree view of Israeli life and history that the Birthright trip gave him – not something he could have gotten on a typical vacation.

Six participants of a 2018 Birthright Israel trip gather for their annual reunion in 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Courtesy of Ashley Inbar)

“The most meaningful part was gaining an understanding of what day-to-day life is like in a country with so much history but still in the middle of so much conflict in present times,” he said. “Watching the people of Tel Aviv just going about their regular work days despite the announcement of the largest rocket attacks in years. Taking a bus ride through the middle of nowhere to Masada and learning about what happened there centuries before America was discovered, and then seeing the daily struggles of the Bedouins the next day. Going from the Western Wall to the Mahane Yehuda Market. Eating schnitzel in a kibbutz and then eating fancy Thai-fusion food at a restaurant in Tel Aviv.”

Herbst was 32 when she went on Birthright. Until then, she said, her travel priorities were to visit countries other than Israel, even though her older brother had gone on Birthright and had a positive experience.

“I wasn’t that interested at the age when you’re supposed to go,” Herbst said. “But our group had a different perspective. We weren’t looking just to get a free trip. Even my Jewish identity was certainly different for me in my 30s than in my 20s.”

Now 37, Herbst works in business development at a New York City tech startup.

“For me, what’s special about Israel is the enduring history of religion, and not only of Judaism,” she said. “Even seeing how strong of a presence Islam and Christianity has there was really fascinating for me. There’s no other place in the world where you see that.”

Muller, 37, grew up outside Rochester, New York, and was supposed to go on Birthright in his mid-20s. But a month before his planned trip, Muller lost his job after the congressional office where he was working in Washington, D.C., suddenly closed. He never got around to rescheduling the Israel trip, and then he aged out.

Nearly six years later, he said, he got an email that Birthright was doing a pilot program for older Jews.

“It was just before my 32nd birthday, I didn’t know anybody else,” Muller recalled. “It was a shot in the dark. I had low expectations.”

The trip turned out to be one of the milestones in his life.

“I found people I really clicked with,” said Muller, now an international trade consultant in Seattle. “We all live in different places and have different interests, but Birthright really bonded us. It’s been a wonderful experience.”


The post For one group of friends separated by geography, a single Israel experience builds lifelong bonds appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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