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Harry Belafonte, singer and civil rights activist who popularized ‘Hava Nagila’ in the US, dies at 96

(New York Jewish Week) — Barrier-smashing singer, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, who once boasted of being “the most popular Jew in America” because of his rendition of a Hebrew classic, died Tuesday at his longtime Upper West Side home. He was 96.

The New York City native was the one of the first Black artists to achieve widespread commercial success in the United States, and while he was raised Catholic, his life frequently dovetailed with Jewish causes, values and people. Among Belafonte’s many Jewish connections — which included brokering a meeting between Nelson Mandela and Jewish leaders in 1989 — was his marriage to his Jewish second wife, dancer Julie Robinson. The couple, who were married from 1958 to 2004, raised two children, Gina and David.

In 2011, Belafonte revealed in his autobiography, “My Song: A Memoir” that his paternal grandfather was Jewish. Belafonte’s parents were both Jamaican immigrants: his mother, Melvine, was the child of a white mother from Scotland and a Black father, and his father, Harold George Bellanfanti, who later changed the family name, was the son of a Black mother and white Dutch-Jewish father. In his book, Belafonte describes his paternal grandfather, whom he never met, as “a white Dutch Jew who drifted over to the islands after chasing gold and diamonds, with no luck at all.”

Belafonte was born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr., in Harlem on March 1, 1927. His father was largely absent during his childhood; his mother, who struggled with finding work, forged a relationship with a Jewish tailor who taught her how to mend garments. “That tailor gave me my first sense of kinship with Jews, which would deepen over time,” Belfonte wrote in his memoir.  He spent a portion of his childhood with his grandmother in Jamaica, but he returned to New York to attend George Washington High School in Washington Heights — where Alan Greenspan and Henry Kissinger were also educated — before dropping out.

Following a stint in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Belafonte was bitten by the acting bug when, working as a janitor’s assistant, he was given a pair of tickets to the American Negro Theater as a gift. “It was there that the universe opened for me,” he told NPR in 2011. “I decided with any device I could possibly find, I wanted to stay in this place. What I had discovered in the theater was power: power to influence, power to know of others and know of other things.”

In the late 1940s, Belafonte enrolled in acting classes, where he met his lifelong friend Sidney Poitier. The impoverished pair would often share a single theater ticket, trading places at intermission. He also befriended Jewish actor Tony Curtis, writing in his memoir: “He lived in the Bronx with his family; why live downtown, he’d say, when he could live uptown for free? And who cared if they still greeted him up there as Bernie Schwartz?”

He and Curtis frequently went to parties together, he wrote, sometimes with the actress Elaine Stritch, “who swore more colorfully than any sailor I’d known,” and “the blunt Jewish comic” Bea Arthur, “who’d start matching wits with Elaine until the two of them had everyone in uncontrollable laughter.”

To pay for acting classes, Belafonte began dabbling in singing at nightclubs, and it was there that a true superstar was born. One of Belafonte’s early successes were his performances of the Hebrew dance hit “Hava Nagila” at the classic downtown folk club the Village Vanguard. His rendition, Belafonte joked to The New York Times in 2017, made him “the most popular Jew in America.”

In that same interview, Belafonte recalled the tough uptown streets of his childhood, and how he was drawn to the fast money his uncle’s number-running business earned. “Everybody in that world were role models in how to survive, how to be tough, how to get through the city, how to con, the daily encounters,” he said. “But my mother saw to it that unless I wanted to live life absent of testicles, she wasn’t going to have me follow her brother Lenny. Somewhere in there is a Sholem Aleichem — a rich story to be told of the lore of that time.”

With his 1953 breakthrough album, “Calypso” — which included his most iconic work, “The Banana Boat Song” — Belafonte “almost single-handedly ignited a craze for Caribbean music,” according to The New York Times’ obituary. “Calypso” climbed to the top of the Billboard album chart shortly after its release and stayed there for 31 weeks; it is reported to be the first album by a solo artist to sell more than a million copies. By 1959 he was the most highly-paid Black performer in history, according to the Times.

Known around the world as the “King of Calypso,” Belafonte recorded and performed a wide range of global and folk classics throughout his wide-ranging musical career — Jewish standards among them. In 1959, he performed “Hine Ma Tov” in England, with what appears to be an Israeli military choir; his 1963 album, “Streets I Have Walked,” includes a rendition of “Erev Shel Shoshanim” (“Evening of Roses”), a popular Jewish wedding song.

Belafonte’s greatest passion, however, was neither acting nor singing — it was civil rights activism. There, too, he worked closely with many Jewish activists, as part of the historic Black-Jewish civil rights alliance of the 1950s and 1960s. But, as he recalled in his memoir, it was racism delivered by a Jewish TV executive that first inspired him to take on racial segregation in the United States.

The executive, a Jew from Montreal named Charles Revson, asked Belafonte to stop hosting white dancers on his performance show, citing the preferences of Southern viewers. Belafonte said he rejected the instruction and let Revson cancel the show. He realized, he wrote, that TV could only reflect societal attitudes, not change them. “To change the culture you had to change the country,” he concluded.

Through his civil rights activism, Bellafonte befriended Martin Luther King Jr. in 1956; the pair remained close until King’s assassination in 1968. “My apartment was a retreat for him,” Belafonte told NPR of King and his 21-room apartment in 2008. “He had his own entrance, his own kitchen. The home became, for him, a place where he could think and reside, take his shoes off, have his collar open and be him.”

Belafonte helped provide the seed money to launch the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and he was one of the lead fundraisers for that organization and King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was “deeply involved” in the 1963 March on Washington and helped fund the Freedom Rides.

Belafonte’s commitment to social justice endured throughout his long life and career. In the 1980s, he helped organize the Live Aid concert, and he served as UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador after Jewish entertainer Danny Kaye pioneered the role. He was also a co-chairman of the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017, along with Gloria Steinem, though ill health kept him from attending.

Though primarily famous for his singing, Belafonte continued to make movies throughout his career; in 1970 he produced and co-starred in “The Angel Levine” alongside the original “Fiddler on the Roof” star Zero Mostel. Based on a story by Bernard Malamud, Belafonte starred as the titular Jewish angel. (The “project had a sociopolitical edge,” the Times noted, as the entertainer’s Harry Belafonte Enterprises hired 15 Black and Hispanic apprentices to work on the film’s crew.)

The cause of Belafonte’s death was congestive heart failure. He is survived by his two children with Robinson; the two children he had with his first wife Marguerite Byrd, Adrienne Biesemeyer and Shari Belafonte; and eight grandchildren. After divorcing Robinson in 2004, he married photographer Pamela Frank in 2008; Frank also survives him, along with stepchildren Sarah Frank and Lindsey Frank and three step-grandchildren.

“There’s just so much left that’s in my basket of possibilities,” Belafonte told The New York Times ahead of his 90th birthday in 2017. “I’m not as young as I feel, or as young as I would consider myself to be. The 90 figure is a blur. But I do know that if there’s anything left for me to do, I had best hurry up and do it, because time is not an ally.”


The post Harry Belafonte, singer and civil rights activist who popularized ‘Hava Nagila’ in the US, dies at 96 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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