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How Jewish leaders tried — and failed — to keep a Farrakhan follower off a Florida city council

(JTA) – When Brother John Muhammad emerged this fall as the leading candidate for a vacant city council seat in St. Petersburg, Florida, local Jews were distressed.

Muhammad is well known in the city as the president of a local neighborhood association and as a frequent advocate for minority groups. But Jewish leaders learned that he was also a follower of Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who has a long history of antisemitism, and that he had made comments dismissing concerns about Farrakhan’s record.

Jewish leaders tried to stave off Muhammad’s appointment, pushing for more extensive vetting of the seven candidates and, in the case of the local Holocaust museum, actively lobbying against him. But the council confirmed him in a 4-3 vote, leaving local Jews frustrated — before they considered ways to make the situation a learning experience for their city.

“When I see a situation like this, it screams ‘opportunity’ to me,” Michael Igel, chair of the Florida Holocaust Museum, located in St. Petersburg, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The saga playing out in St. Petersburg, Florida’s fifth-largest city, unfolded during the same period that a handful of Black celebrities, including Kanye West and Kyrie Irving, first became enmeshed in controversy over their own antisemitic comments and social media posts. The coincidence meant a dicey environment for broaching a conversation about the antisemitism of the Nation of Islam, whose rhetoric disparaging Jews overlaps with that of Hebrew Israelites, the ideology that Irving promoted by sharing a link to an antisemitic film.

It also turned St. Petersburg into a window for understanding how ties forged between Jewish groups and others can be tested. 

Local Jewish leaders initially sought to stop Muhammad from gaining the city council seat, which was vacated after its previous holder resigned following redistricting and accusations she no longer lived in her district. They learned about Muhammad’s city council application only a week before the council’s vote, leaving them with little time to mobilize. The information came from a political rival of Muhammad, former mayoral candidate Vince Nowicki, who shared information about Muhammad’s Nation of Islam affiliation with local Jewish groups.

Nowicki also shared a comment Muhammad had made about Jews in a 2016 video in which Muhammad interviewed local Black LGBTQ activists. In the video titled “A Conversation About Growing Up Black And LGBT,” which JTA viewed, Muhammad said, “Minister Farrakhan got accused of being antisemitic for a long time because he pointed out and made some corrections about the activity of Jews. And anybody who says anything critical of the Jewish community is labeled as being antisemitic. Good, bad, right or wrong, it doesn’t matter what you say. If you criticize them that’s what you are.”

He continued, saying, “And I’m finding that it happens when you are critical of the gay community, when you say anything critical or anything that doesn’t align with that ideology, now all of a sudden you’re homophobic.” Muhammad’s comments about gay people received some light but friendly pushback from his interview guests.

Muhammad did not reply to multiple requests for comment by JTA, including to questions emailed to him at his request. He said during a public meeting ahead of the council vote that he thought scrutiny of him by Jewish groups had been unfair.

To Jewish leaders, the comments in the video coupled with Muhammad’s Nation of Islam affiliation were clear signs that he should not be appointed to the city council.

“I would sure hope that being antisemitic would be a red line, that you could not be a candidate,” said Rabbi Philip Weintraub of Congregation B’nai Israel, a Conservative synagogue in the city.

Jewish leaders began to take action, issuing statements and launching a letter-writing campaign to the council. They felt so much urgency that some even conducted business on Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday when Jewish organizations typically pause their activities in accordance with Jewish law.

As a nonprofit, the local federation was constrained in how it could weigh in. Since it could not endorse or oppose specific candidates, it instead pushed for every candidate to be “properly vetted” and informed council members about Muhammad’s affiliations and past comments, according to Maxine Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast. She said the efforts did not have their intended effect.

“I don’t think anybody said, ‘Well, who is this Farrakhan, what does he stand for?’” Kaufman said. “I don’t think enough was done, personally.”

The entrance to the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, Nov. 27, 2016. (Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The Florida Holocaust Museum took another approach, circulating information about Muhammad to the wider community, along with a statement opposing the candidacy of anyone who would support Farrakhan’s antisemitism. Their goal, Igel said, was to educate the community about the severity of these views.

“There’s nothing else to talk about when somebody is supporting Louis Farrakhan,” Igel told JTA. “Particularly when you are seeking a position representative of a city, particularly one like St. Petersburg that is so known for its inclusivity and its openness.”

Igel praised some members of the city council who asked Muhammad pointed questions about his views at the vote, giving him the opportunity to refute Farrakhan’s comments about Jews. One council member who voted against Muhammad, Lisset Hanewicz, said her stepfather is Jewish and read Farrakhan’s past antisemitic statements into the record, saying, “I think people need to understand why a certain part of this community is upset.”

Igel acknowledged that getting involved in a city council appointment was an unusual move for a Holocaust museum. He said museum leaders had held a meeting beforehand to determine how to proceed but made a decision fairly quickly to weigh in.

“In this case, we don’t consider this to be a matter of politics,” Igel said. “This is a matter of morality. And this is what we teach.” If the candidate had been a white supremacist, Igel said, “that person would have been disqualified out of the gate.”

The Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center, two hate watchdogs, define the Nation of Islam as a group that propagates antisemitism and other forms of bigotry, not a religion. Founded in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad, the Black nationalist group is not the same as traditional Islam and is rejected by most Muslim clerics; it entered mainstream prominence in the 1960s after civil rights leader Malcolm X and boxer Muhammad Ali publicly joined the movement. (Both later left the group, with Malcolm X publicly denouncing its leadership; he was assassinated shortly after, and two Nation of Islam members who were wrongfully convicted of his murder recently received a large settlement from New York City.)

The Nation of Islam entered its current era after Farrakhan took over the group in 1977. Now 89, he has used his platform to issue a steady stream of antisemitism, including calling Jews “wicked” and the “synagogue of Satan,” saying they have “wrapped your tentacles around the U.S. government,” and calling Hitler “a very great man.” Only a few years ago, the Women’s March progressive activist collective was nearly derailed over some of its founders’ associations with Farrakhan.

It is rare, but not unheard of, for public officials to have current or former associations with the Nation of Islam. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a practicing Muslim, was dogged by accusations that he had formerly been a member of the group when he first ran for Congress in 2006; he apologized for his past associations with the group. Trayon White, a Washington, D.C. council member and onetime mayoral candidate who has spread antisemitic conspiracy theories, has donated to the group in the past. Former President George W. Bush once praised the group, and a photograph showing Barack Obama in the same room as Farrakhan was fodder for Obama’s critics during his presidential run.

Muhammad, who is referred to on the city council website as John Muhammad and whose legal name is John C. Malone, declined to condemn Farrakhan at the city council meeting.

“I am not willing to denounce the leader of my faith no more than a Catholic would be willing to denounce their pope,” he said.

Muhammad’s reaction to questions about Farrakhan particularly concerned the federation and other local Jewish groups. Kaufman told JTA she didn’t know whether Muhammad himself is antisemitic, but she said his refusal to disavow Farrakhan was alarming.

“I do have issue with his reverence of someone who is blatantly antisemitic, and he won’t disavow him, he won’t reject him,” she said, echoing the the federation’s official statement on the vote.

At the meeting, Muhammad did say that he had reached out to the Florida Holocaust Museum but had not heard back — and that he thought the museum’s criticism of him was unfair. 

“What I found when we reached out to have dialogue with the Holocaust Museum director, they did not want to talk to me,” he said. “They wanted to evaluate and disqualify me based on the association that I have as an individual. I don’t think that that’s just.”

Muhammad also defended his record with Jews by claiming that they were among the “diversity of those who support me.” He added, “And if you look at those who oppose me, they’re coming from one particular group.”

Since the vote, a local Black newspaper condemned the scrutiny on Muhammad, calling it a “perusal into his faith practice.”

Igel said the museum had no record that Muhammad had reached out but encouraged him to come and learn more about the Holocaust and the nature of antisemitism. Stuart Berger, head of the local Jewish Community Relations Council, acknowledged at the city council meeting that Muhammad “has made himself available to us” at the federation, but that none of the federation staff “had been in direct contact with him.”

The federation’s involvement in Muhammad’s case became its own issue at the council vote, when the candidate referenced an email Berger had written to the county commissioner. In the email, Berger wrote that Muhammad’s vetting process had been “good enough for me!”

While Muhammad took the email as proof that the federation believed him to be fit for office, Berger and Kaufman maintain that it meant nothing of the sort. Berger had not been speaking on behalf of the federation, they say, and had not intended for his email to be shared publicly.

Now that Muhammad is on the council, attention has turned to building relationships with him. Kaufman has been meeting with individual city council members, and hopes to eventually meet with Muhammad himself. She also aims to have the federation make a presentation to the council about the dangers of antisemitism and push them to make a statement about it.

She doesn’t think it’s complicated. “I think hate’s hate,” she said. “Many different colors.”

Weintraub’s congregation is celebrating its 100th anniversary in March, and one of its congregants, Eric Lynn, is also involved in politics: he was the Democratic nominee for Florida’s 13th Congressional district in the midterms but lost his race to Republican Anna Paulina Luna, who said she was raised as a Messianic Jew and campaigned with far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Weintraub himself is a member of an interfaith ministerial dialogue group with Black churches and says he’s “a professional optimist” when it comes to managing conflict between different communities. He sent JTA an episode of the public radio podcast “Hidden Brain” about how to keep conflict from spiraling, saying it “describes what I’ve tried to do.”

Since Muhammad was appointed, Weintraub has met with him; the pair had what Weintraub described as “a pleasant conversation.” The two talked about parenting and “shared traumas,” he said. They did not discuss Muhammad’s comments supporting Farrakhan, but the rabbi couldn’t help but think about him.

“I thought I was a termite, according to Farrakhan,” Weintraub said. In contrast, Muhammad “said I was a person, so that was nice.”

The post How Jewish leaders tried — and failed — to keep a Farrakhan follower off a Florida city council 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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