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Founded by a Holocaust survivor, a Bronx bakery’s kosher cheesecake is as tasty as ever after 6 decades

(New York Jewish Week) — Near the northern terminus of the 1 train, just south of Van Cortlandt Park, an unassuming Bronx storefront has been producing thousands of dense, delectable cheesecakes each day for more than 60 years. 

Adorned with a simple red-and-blue sign and occupying the same storefront throughout its history, S&S Cheesecake has become the stuff of legend: Though other spots — say, Junior’s — may have better name recognition, many in-the-know New Yorkers consider S&S’s cheesecakes to be the best in the city. What’s more, its cheesecake recipe hasn’t changed one bit since Holocaust survivor Fred Schuster, 98, first opened the kosher bakery in 1960. 

Though Schuster remains a regular presence at the bakery, these days S&S Cheesecake is operated by one of his daughters, Brenda Ben-Zaken, and her husband Yair. But other than a few nods to modernity — an espresso machine and a small cafe for dine-in enjoyment; upgradedg equipment to increase output to 2,000 cheesecakes a day — little has changed in the past six decades.

“The secret is to bake with love and serve with pride and passion,” Yair Ben-Zaken told the New York Jewish Week of the shop’s success. Since its founding, S&S has supplied cheesecakes to countless restaurants and shops, from as far away as Alaska to as close as the iconic Upper West Side grocery Zabar’s. Their products are available for nationwide shipping via their web site or Goldbelly as well. 

Ben-Zaken and Schuster spoke to the New York Jewish Week on a sunny, temperate morning just a few days ahead of Shavuot — a holiday, which this year begins the evening of Thursday, May 25, when Jews traditionally eat cheesecake and other dairy food. Ben-Zaken was busy packing up hundreds of cheesecakes that he is shipping around the country, as well as several that S&S donates to the Riverdale Jewish Center, the Orthodox synagogue where he and Schuster are members. 

“It gets busy with Shavuot, [but] there is a lot to celebrate with summer and graduations this time of year as well,” Ben-Zaken said. “We are feeling [the busy season] now, but it’s not the same as Christmas and Thanksgiving — those are the real cheesecake holidays for us.”

Before he established his modest cheesecake empire, Fred Schuster was born in Germany in 1925 — only eight years before Hitler came to power. “That was the end of my childhood,” Schuster told the New York Jewish Week. 

In an effort to keep him safe, Schuster’s parents first sent him to a Jewish boarding school near Frankfurt and, when it was forced to close down, he moved in with his grandparents. In 1938, when they became too old to take care of him, Schuster said goodbye to his family — with a commitment to see each other again — and went to live in an orphanage in Frankfurt.

Just before his 14th birthday, Schuster and other children at his orphanage were sent to Switzerland via the Kindertransport. On the train, he met a girl named Karola (middle name Ruth), who went on to become the famous sex therapist and talk show host Dr. Ruth Westheimer

“I always say, of the group there, Dr. Ruth went into the sex business and did very well. And I went into the cheesecake business and didn’t do too badly myself,” Schuster joked.

In Switzerland, Schuster “developed a passion for baking and worked in kitchens and bakeries there,” he said. He arrived in New York in 1941, where he reunited with his parents and sister. (His father had arrived in the United States via England around 1939, and his mother and sister via France, Spain and Portugal in 1940.) 

“Thank God, my parents and everybody made it here,” he said. “We are very happy here. The United States was very good to us.” 

And yet, even though many of his family members survived — and Schuster is blessed with four grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren — Schuster still thinks about what the Holocaust took from him, especially his own grandparents. “I’ll never forget it,” he said. “I am very proud of what I have built in spite of that.”

In the 1940s and 50s, Schuster lived in Washington Heights — home to a sizable German Jewish community, including Dr. Ruth, who is still a fixture in the neighborhood at 94 — and worked as a general baker at various restaurants, where he learned to make all types of pastries. However, “cheesecake was always on my mind,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘There isn’t a good cheesecake here. Let me see what I can do.”

Yair Ben-Zaken joined the team in 1986 and works every day except for Shabbat. Pictured in the bakery in New York City, May 22, 2023. (Julia Gergely)

The recipe he landed on —  a combination of eggs, vanilla, sugar, butter and heavy cream — is something Schuster calls “absolutely perfect.”

Though cheesecake may be an ancient food, Jews took to cheesecake the way a fish might take to water, according to The Nosher. Though its varieties are numerous — from light and fluffy to dense and sweet — it was Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants who came to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who originated the ultra-rich dessert that’s known as New York-style (or Jewish-style) cheesecake. 

That’s Schuster’s specialty, though when Schuster and his wife Sidi opened S&S Cheesecake, he baked all kinds of pastries and cakes. Quickly, however, he narrowed down the menu to only cheesecakes, the bestsellers. These days, S&S sells a chocolate mousse cheesecake, as well as strawberry-, pineapple- and cherry-topped versions of the classic original, which is flavored with vanilla. The OG — which retails in-store for $40 for an 11-inch cake and $20 for a 7-inch one — is his favorite, Schuster said, adding that he always keeps a cheesecake in his fridge for snacking on.

As for Ben-Zaken, after serving in the Israeli Defense Forces as a combat soldier, then working at various food labs in Israel, he began working at the bakery in 1986. Has he dared to change the recipe? “God forbid,” said Ben-Zaken. “Once you know it’s done right, that’s it.”

Schuster, whose wife died in 2017, moved into the Ben-Zakens’ Riverdale home around eight years ago. These days, the two men spend the majority of their time together, baking and talking. “We’ve worked together for many, many years shoulder to shoulder,” said Ben- Zaken, who affectionately calls Schuster “Opa,” which is German for grandfather. “But he is still in charge, I still learn from him.” 

During the course of the New York Jewish Week’s visit to the bakery, a handful of customers came in to pick up the cheesecakes for Shavuot. “It’s always worth a trip,” said a man, who was picking up half a dozen cheesecakes for his synagogue in Pelham Parkway, who declined to provide his name. “It’d be worth the trip even if I lived in Atlantic City.”

For Ben-Zaken, his favorite part of the job is working alongside Schuster. Running S&S Cheesecake has been life-changing, he said, particularly following his recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered as an Israeli soldier.  “I think if there’s anybody that I love more than anything in the world, it is this guy. I owe him everything,” Ben-Zaken said. “But I don’t just owe him, I also just enjoy being with him all the time. He’s still young. In spirit, he’s younger than all of us.”

The post Founded by a Holocaust survivor, a Bronx bakery’s kosher cheesecake is as tasty as ever after 6 decades 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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