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How New York Jews are creating opportunities for disadvantaged Israelis seeking high-tech jobs

Until four years ago, Haim Hacohen, 37, was a full-time student in a haredi Orthodox yeshiva in the Israeli city of Ramat Bet Shemesh. Every month he received a government stipend of about $800 for his yeshiva studies, but it was hardly enough to support his wife and five children.

“That’s when I decided to learn programming in my free time in order to make a living,” Hacohen said. “Back then, it was much less accepted in our community, and people didn’t really understand it.”

Then Hacohen saw an ad for a boot camp seeking haredi Jews with some computer experience. He enrolled, and the training eventually led to a job with the software developer Unique. Now he works for Israel’s Education Ministry, where he earns over $4,000 per month calculating attendance, salaries and other data.

“After only one year, I tripled my salary,” he said.

Yirga Semay, 43, immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia alone at age 9. After his mandatory army service, he stayed on in the Israel Defense Forces for over a decade and a half, serving as an officer in a cyber intelligence unit, eventually earning a degree in computer science and an MBA, and marrying and having three children.

Semay’s long-term dream was to establish his own startup, so after retiring from the army he launched a company in the central Israeli city of Ramle. Called MetekuAI, the company and its 10 employees — all Ethiopian Israelis — combine artificial intelligence with human expertise to tackle problematic online content. Among its clients is the Jewish Agency for Israel, for whom Meteku AI focuses on fighting online antisemitism.

“Our vision is to tackle misinformation and fake news concerning Israel,” said Semay, who started the company a year ago. “We help organizations control the narrative by taking active part in online conversations, identifying potential crises before they spread and responding in real time with personalized content.”

Both Hacohen and Semay received help at key points in their careers from programs funded by UJA-Federation of New York designed to help Israelis from disadvantaged communities — including haredi Jews, Ethiopian Israelis, Bedouin Arabs and underprivileged Israelis from the country’s periphery, among others — find places in Israel’s enormously successful high-tech sector.

Hacohen is an alumnus of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)’s Tech Ventures Program, which helps integrate haredi Jews into Israel’s high-tech sector. Semay was assisted by Olim Beyachad, a nonprofit group that for the past 12 years has been working to get more Ethiopian Israelis into higher education and competitive fields. Both organizations receive substantial funding from UJA-Federation.

“Especially in the current climate, our investments in these diverse initiatives represent our commitment to strengthening a flourishing, inclusive and democratic Jewish state for the next 75 years and beyond,” said Eric S. Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation. “We’re helping to bring hope and possibility to people across Israeli society for the sake of the country as a whole.”

As a founding partner of Olim Beyachad, UJA-Federation gives $180,000 per year to the program, which to date has over 1,400 alumni. Led by CEO Genet Dasa, who was born in Addis Ababa and came to Israel at age 11, the nonprofit aims to steer Ethiopian-Israeli university graduates toward rewarding careers while helping middle- and high-school students in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) so they’ll be better prepared for the job market.

“We know from research that our participants face racism while looking for employment,” said Dasa. “So our mission isn’t just to help them find work but also to change society’s perceptions and negative stereotypes toward Ethiopians.”

Through a group called Siraj, Bedouin Israelis participate in a hack-a-thon and skills building program in southern Israel. (Courtesy of UJA-Federation)

UJA-Federation is also a founding partner of JDC’s Tech Venture Program, which includes Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry and the Haredi Coalition for Employment. The program offers 100 types of services and has more than 5,000 current participants.

“We work with young men ages 17 to 24 who want to integrate into the job market,” said Eli Salomon, who heads the Tech Venture Program. “From the yeshiva world, there’s no natural pathway, so we help to bridge that gap.”

Since its inception in 2006, the initiative has helped 130,000 haredim find jobs.

Programs like these are critical to Israel’s economic health, said Eugene Kandel, the former CEO of Start-Up Nation Central, a nonprofit that helps support Israel’s startup ecosystem. Haredim comprise 13% of Israel’s 9.5 million citizens but account for only 3% of all high-tech workers, according to Kandel. In 30 years, haredim are projected to be 25% of Israel’s population, but they’re ill-equipped to enter the workforce, he said.

“About 60% of haredi homes have computers, so it’s not like they’re completely disconnected, but most of them cannot go to universities,” said Kandel, also a former chairman of Israel’s National Economic Council. “The quality of the places they do study is not great, and most haredi men don’t learn English. So it’s mostly the women who are joining high tech.”

Kandel has served on the advisory board of UJA-Federation’s Benin Scholars Program, which gives talented young people from Israel’s socioeconomic periphery the chance to pursue undergraduate studies in STEM fields. A pilot of this program is operating this year with 180 students across three institutions: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Sami Shamoon College of Engineering in Beersheba. The program offers large scholarships and living stipends alongside psychosocial support and career guidance. It is slated to grow to six or seven institutions and encompass some 700 students, which would make it among the largest STEM scholarship programs in Israel.

When it comes to integrating Israel’s minorities into the high-tech sector, Arab Israelis — who comprise 21% of Israel’s population but only 1.8% of its high-tech employees — are cause for more optimism, Kandel said.

“For many years, Arabs were very wary of high-tech because it was related to defense, and in many cases Arabs couldn’t get into that, so they studied other fields like law and medicine,” Kandel said. “But that’s no longer the case.”

Fahima Atawna is the executive director of Siraj, a nonprofit based in Beersheba that aims to get more Bedouin youth into technology, starting in middle and high school. The organization, whose name means “source of light” in Arabic, was established six years ago. It has partnered with Ben-Gurion University and, more recently, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose students teach local Bedouins how to write code as well as soft skills like working in teams.

“We hope to be a source of light for all those students who dream of a future in high-tech,” said Atawna. “I know that we are a poor community, but our approach is not to sit here and say, ‘We are weak and poor.’ Rather, I know that I’m smart and have ability. Just give me opportunities.”

At present, two cohorts with a combined 43 Bedouin teens ranging in age from 14 to 18 participate in the program, which receives annual funding of $50,000 from UJA-Federation.

Israel is home to an estimated 280,000 Bedouin, of whom fewer than 100 work in high tech, according to Atawna. But the numbers are growing.

“When I started, there were zero Bedouin high-tech graduates at Ben-Gurion University. Now, 21 Bedouins study computer science and software engineering there,” Atawna said. “My community understands that you can do this work from home. You don’t have to travel to Tel Aviv. And Beersheba has good companies like Microsoft and Intel, and it’s very close to our villages.”

She added that companies are being encouraged to hire minorities because having people from diverse backgrounds adds value.

Raghad Aboreash, 15, who lives in a Bedouin village 20 minutes from Beersheba called Hura, said she joined Siraj after hearing about it from friends.

“I like trying new things; it’s in my character. I’ve learned Python” — a computer programming language — “and how to build programs, and I’ve made friends in America. I want to be a software engineer.”

Mohammed Alafensh, 15, from the Bedouin city of Rahat, is studying software engineering and physics. He hopes Siraj will help pave the way to success.

“I dream of becoming a big engineer, because this is the future,” he said. “I will be great at this.”

The post How New York Jews are creating opportunities for disadvantaged Israelis seeking high-tech jobs 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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