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How the CEO of New York’s largest food bank is inspired by Jewish values

(New York Jewish Week) — At the Food Bank for New York City, one of the largest food banks in the country, the holiday season is crucial to ensuring New Yorkers have enough food to be able to live with dignity. 

Since its founding in 1983, the organization has provided over one billion meals to New Yorkers in need — as well as offering free SNAP assistance, tax preparation services and financial literacy programs to low-income residents. 

“Our central mission is that we feed people for today, but we have made significant investments in programming that truly helps to lift people out of poverty,” president and chief executive officer Leslie Gordon told the New York Jewish Week. “Because the reason why people are food insecure to begin with is a resource problem. It’s an inability to get connected to networks or resources, because of racist systems or policy issues.” 

Gordon, who is Jewish, has helmed the organization since 2020, and in some ways, rose to the role in a way that seemed inevitable. As a child, she loved to watch her grandfather sell meat, produce and other goods from the grocery store he owned in Tarrytown, New York, and deliver food donations to the needy. Her mother, who also grew up at the store, was the executive director at the Hunts Point Produce Market, the country’s largest wholesale produce market.

Prior to joining Food Bank for New York, Gordon held leadership roles at Feeding Westchester, a food bank network in Westchester County and City Harvest, which helps make fresh, nutritious food accessible around New York. Starting her job at the beginning of the pandemic, Gordon has overseen a doubling of the Food Bank for New York’s annual food distribution across the city from 70 million pounds to 150 million pounds. 

A fourth-generation Tarrytown resident, Gordon has been a member of the Conservative congregation Temple Beth Abraham her entire life. She lives in the same house that she, her grandfather and her mother grew up in, with her wife, two dogs and two cats.

The New York Jewish Week chatted with Gordon about her background, her favorite parts of the job and the Jewish family values that got her here. 

This interview has been lightly condensed and edited for length and clarity. 

After leadership roles at two other food banks, Gordon took over the top position at Food Bank for New York City in March 2020. She credits her Jewish family values for helping guide her. (Courtesy)

New York Jewish Week: How have your Jewish values guided you as the CEO of Food Bank for New York?

Leslie Gordon: The thing about my connection to Judaism at the Food Bank is really a personal responsibility around doing tikkun olam. It’s an ever-present, everyday commitment to making the world more just and equal through social action, which is what we do every day at Food Bank — helping New Yorkers across the five boroughs to have the resources they need to be able to have a stable, healthy life where they can thrive and look forward to working on achieving their dreams. 

Food is culture. Food is love. Food is history. Food has always been a big part of my personal Jewish experience — whether through holidays or through historical explorations. My grandfather was a butcher. He grew up in a small Jewish enclave in Rockland County called Pot Cheese Hollow [now Spring Valley], which is a sort of a European framing for all things cottage cheese.

You started this job right at the beginning of the pandemic. What was that like, and what was the path that led you to working at Food Bank?

I’ll never forget this: My first day was March 30, 2020. It was a little crazy to be the humble leader of one of the nation’s largest food banks at a time when the need was historically outsized and quickly escalated. It was a little bit of a challenge and, frankly, has been for most of my tenure.

Again, it goes back to my Jewish familial roots. I am carrying on a family legacy of feeding people: My grandfather, Norman Goldberg, was the son of European immigrants. When they came over [to America], and in his growing up years in that enclave in Rockland County, they were really, really poor. One of their biggest assets, believe it or not, was a dairy cow — no running water, no indoor plumbing. He would tell stories as kids that sometimes the only thing he ate in the course of a day was an apple that he picked off a neighboring farmer’s tree.

Fast forward many years into the future, he was a successful businessman, between a grocery store, a butcher store and a wine and liquor store, amongst other pursuits. He never forgot where he came from and he would talk to us about the importance of connecting people with food, and again doing tikkun olam. They would get phone calls from the rabbi at Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, where they lived, because food banks and food pantries didn’t exist back then — the World War II era all the way through the 1950s, ’60s, and even ’70s. They would get a list of people in the community who needed help and [my grandfather] would take my mother by the arm and they would go to the local grocery store and shop. Frequently, as my mom tells it now, they’d end up in a local fourth-floor walk-up apartment building, ring the bell, drop the groceries and go, because you wanted to preserve the dignity of those whom you are helping. 

That really made an impression on me. My grandfather was also an avid backyard gardener and was famous for leaving those little brown lunch bags full of excess produce from his backyard garden on people’s stoops. 

My mother became the head of the world’s largest wholesale produce terminal, which is based in the Hunts Point section of South Bronx. I caught the bug on logistics and operations in food and really the romanticism of the food system. I’m still of that generation where I feel very connected to my local food system and farmers. I had a very unique growing up experience, where I got to see train cars full of broccoli or potatoes or other amazing produce that traveled through small towns and cities across the United States to land up in the South Bronx. So, I’ve been in the arena of food banking for about 15 years. I couldn’t have predicted it, I call it a happy accident. Of the 10 food banks in New York State, I’ve had the pleasure and honor of leading three of them.

What type of outreach do you do to New York’s Jewish community?

We’re a city of about 8.4 million people, and 1.6 million of them, give or take, are people who just don’t know where their next meal is coming from or what it will be. Ask yourself: Have you ever been hungry for a long period of time during the day? How do you deal with that? Imagine if that was your every day. That is compounded, potentially, by other struggles that you have. People don’t live single-issue lives. So, typically, when you’re food insecure, there are a lot of other issues that you’re grappling with — could be housing issues, could be mental health issues, could be employment or underemployment issues. There’s just a lot going on in the mix. New York City is a particularly expensive place to live. It’s a tough environment.

We’re the heart of a network of about 800 on-the-ground partners across the five boroughs. On nearly every street in nearly every neighborhood, our partners are food pantries, community kitchens, senior centers, shelters, community-based organizations like New York City Housing Authority or a Boys and Girls Club. In the case of the Jewish community, we have relationships with more than 40 on-the-ground agencies that specifically serve observant Jews. Organizations like Masbia, Alexander Rapoport’s restaurant-style soup kitchen that he’s now famous for. 

We’re serving one of the nation’s largest kosher observant populations in the U.S. right here in New York City. We’re committed to making sure that kosher-observing communities in Williamsburg, Midwood, Crown Heights, Coney Island, Lower East Side, etc., have access to good kosher food that they can feel good about. The number of Jews in New York City who struggle is just astounding. We have a very large Jewish population, obviously. And so, you know, it’s something that’s on my mind a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Jewish community in New York now for over 15 years. Studies tell us that more than 10% of Jewish adults, and Jewish adults with kids in New York are food insecure. It’s serious. You’d be astounded, probably, to learn that more than 20% of adults in Jewish households in New York are at the poverty line.

What is your favorite part of the job?

A job as a food bank leader is very, very unique. In the course of a day, I can work on operations, I can work on marketing and communications, I can meet with donors, I can be on the phone with one of our agencies or food pantries on the ground, or I can be working on policy or advocacy. So it’s a really varied position. The most fun part about my job is the people and the stories. It’s the people who we serve who just have really big hearts and deep and interesting personal stories, and they’re just like you and me — moms and dads and families and kids who are trying to live their best life. We take the opportunity to be able to help them along the way pretty seriously.

For me, it starts internally with our Food Bank family. I take that really seriously. The culture in the organization is really important to me. I want people to feel supported and have all the resources they need to do their job, to be excited and energized about the ability and opportunity they have to impact people’s lives. At the end of the day, it’s always the people. 

I’m a bit of a builder, and a fixer. It’s just who I am. Why I’m that way, I have no idea. My mother tells me that I’m my grandfather’s granddaughter. I just have a particular affinity for how things work and systems and processes and making things better and more efficient. It’s just part of my DNA, I guess. That is a skill set that really fits well with what’s required to run a food bank.


The post How the CEO of New York’s largest food bank is inspired by Jewish values 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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