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In Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial, Jewish rituals feature as prominently as the carnage of the day

PITTSBURGH (JTA) — Testifying at the trial of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, Carol Black described how, right before he opened fire, she had taken her yarmulke and tallis out of her velvet tallis bag. 

But first, she had to explain what a yarmulke, tallis and tallis bag were. 

“In my briefcase is a blue velvet bag that has a zipper on it,” she said. “I have a Ziploc bag of yarmulkes I would wear and a tallis I would wear.” A yarmulke was a “head covering,” she explained, and a tallis was a “prayer shawl.” The items, she said, “just signified being in the presence of God and being respectful.”

Black, 71, was the second witness to testify on Wednesday, the second day of the capital murder trial of the alleged gunman, Robert Bowers. She was one of a few witnesses who interspersed heart-rending testimony about the trial with, effectively, a crash course on Jewish ritual. 

Black recalled how she sat in the second seat in from the aisle, because the aisle seat was where her brother Richard Gottfried sat, and they shared gabbai duties. Then Black explained the role of a “gabbai” — calling congregants to the Torah and helping them read through a passage. She described Pesukei d’Zimra, the morning service’s opening prayers, and spelled out the Hebrew name of the morning service, Shacharit, for the court reporter.

“I had just started to open the bag and I heard a loud bang,” she said. “To me it sounded like somebody had dropped a table on the metal floor.”

She added, “The first two sounds, I didn’t recognize them as gunfire. You don’t go to a synagogue and expect to hear gunfire.”

The focus of the trial is the gunfire — the shooting on Oct. 27, 2018 that killed 11 Jews praying at three congregations: Tree of Life, New Light and Dor Hadash. But for the prosecution, explaining the synagogue — and the practices that take place in it — is also proving to be crucial. The painful collision on that Shabbat morning of the sacred and the profane is key to the prosecution’s case that the defendant merits the death penalty.

Of the 63 federal charges Bowers is facing, 22 are capital crimes: two for each of the 11 fatalities that morning, including Black’s brother, Richard Gottfried. One is “obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death” and the other is murder, enhanced with a hate crime charge. So prosecutors, seeking to show that the shooting was motivated by antisemitism, are probing witnesses about their Judaism and how they express it.

“As they did every Saturday, men and women of the Jewish faith made their way to the synagogue, to observe Shabbat,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Soo Song said in her opening statement on Tuesday. “To pray to God in the sanctity and refuge of their shared Jewish faith.”

Conversely, defense lawyer Judy Clarke is out to prove that her client targeted the congregants not because of their religion per se but because of a delusion that they were facilitating an immigration invasion to replace whites. Both she and prosecutors have said in court that he committed the attack. 

Clarke occasionally objected when the testimony veered into how American Jews worship, or into explaining what animates Jewish practice. None of her objections to explaining Judaism were sustained — including one where she had tried to preempt the director of one of the congregations’ religious schools from explaining its educational precepts. 

Describing the curriculum, Wendy Kobee, the director of the religious school of Dor Hadash, a Reconstructionist congregation, said, “Religious prayers, religious practices, cultural values.”

“Among the cultural values taught at the school was the concept of welcoming the stranger?” prosecutor Mary Hahn asked.

“Yes, that would have been incorporated into the curriculum in an age-appropriate way,” Kobee said.

Both the defense and prosecution acknowledge that the defendant, a white supremacist, targeted the building because Dor Hadash had partnered with HIAS, the Jewish refugee aid group, to celebrate what the group called National Refugee Shabbat.

The trial is shaping up as a seminar on American Jewish tradition. Witnesses have provided the judge, jury and spectators with an impromptu glossary of Jewish terms, and an introduction to parts of modern Jewish thought. Dan Leger, a member of Dor Hadash who was injured in the attack, outlined the teachings of the Reconstructionist movement’s founder, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan.

Kaplan’s “approach is one of looking at the Bible, the Torah specifically as something that guides our life in ways that give value in social interaction,” Leger said. “One of the ways it is most highly demonstrated is welcoming those into the community who need assistance, who need support whether or not they are Jewish, welcoming immigrants into the country.”

Prosecutors also asked witnesses about Jewish practice in order to explain what happened on the day of the shooting. Song asked Leger to explain tallit katan, the small prayer shawl colloquially known as tzitzit that observant men traditionally wear under their clothing, and why he did not have a cell phone handy when the gunman opened fire. It was Shabbat, when some Jews abstain from using electronic devices, he explained.)

Another prosecutor asked Barry Werber, who testified later, why he preferred to attend services at New Light on Friday night and for Sunday breakfasts and not on Saturdays. He liked to sleep in on Saturdays, he said, but he went to services on the morning of the shooting because he felt obliged to honor his mother on her yahrzeit. He explained that a yahrzeit was “the anniversary of someone’s death.”

Like Tree of Life’s rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, had on Tuesday, Leger testified that he recited the Shema when he believed he was dying, after the gunman shot him in the abdomen. He translated the Torah verse and central Jewish prayer for the jury. Leger, a retired registered nurse, and another Dor Hadash congregant, Jerry Rabinowitz, a physician, had run into the shooting to help the injured. Rabinowitz was killed.

“I thought about the wonder of my life, the beauty of it all, the happiness I had experienced, the joy of having two beautiful sons and a wonderful wife and the wife previous to that wife, all the wonderful friends I have in the world,” Leger said. “I prayed for forgiveness for those who I have wronged in my life. I was ready to go.”

The defendant, wearing a dark blue sweater and a light blue collared shirt, his arms folded, stared at Leger.

The stories on the witness stand offered windows into American Jewish families and history. Gottfried started attending New Light after his mother died in 1992, Black testified about her brother, but she said she remained uninterested in frequent synagogue attendance until she injured a hip running about a decade ago. Gottfried, who was younger, encouraged her to come to services, and she celebrated her bat mitzvah as an adult.

“In Uniontown [Pennsylvania] where I grew up, in our Conservative congregation, which incidentally was called Tree of Life, girls did not get bat mitzvahed,” she said. 

Black and Werber both discussed the social aspect of Shabbat services, describing the propensity of Melvin Wax, a New Light congregant, to tell jokes. Werber recalled that just before the shooting, Wax was telling jokes to Cecil Rosenthal.

Yet along with descriptions of how ritual and prayer bound the synagogue communities together, the testimonies all came back to the horrific details of the shooting itself. 

After sitting with Wax, Werber said, Rosenthal went back upstairs, where the gunman shot him multiple times. Down in the New Light sanctuary, Rabbi Jonathan Perlman led Werber, Wax and Black into a storeroom behind the bimah. Richard Gottfried was in an adjacent kitchen with another New Light congregant, Dan Stein, preparing breakfast for the next morning. He called 911. 

The gunman came down the stairs and killed Gottfried and Stein. There was a pause, so Wax peeked out of the storeroom to see what was happening. The gunman shot him twice, and he fell at Black’s feet. The gunman hovered a while in the area and then retreated.

Eventually, emergency responders found the group hidden in the store room. Wax’s body still lay there.

“I had to step over him to get past him,” Black testified, her voice cracking. “Quietly to myself I said goodbye to him and followed the officers.”


The post In Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial, Jewish rituals feature as prominently as the carnage of the day 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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