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In synagogues and on the streets, Israel’s new ‘faithful left’ is making itself felt

TEL AVIV (JTA) — “Everyone who answers, ‘Thank God’ when asked, ‘How are you,’ raise your hand,” Brit Yakobi asked the crowd of 700 people gathered in an Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem.

The overwhelming majority of hands shot up.

“Everyone who is mortified with our current government, raise your hand,” continued Yakobi, the director of religious freedom and gender at Shatil, an Israeli social justice organization founded by the New Israel Fund.

Once again, almost every hand went up.

The display took place at a Jan. 25 conference billing itself as for Israel’s “faithful left” — a demographic that many consider nonexistent but which is seeking to assert itself in response to the country’s new right-wing government.

Israel’s politics leave little room for left-leaning Orthodox Jews. In the United States, the vast majority of Jews vote for Democrats, and even in Orthodox communities, where right-wing politics are ascendant, liberal candidates hold appeal for some. But in Israel, the official leadership of religious Jews of all stripes is firmly entrenched in the right — and their followers tend to vote as a bloc.

The hundreds of Orthodox Jews at the conference hope to change that dynamic, and have already started doing so by showing up en masse — and to applause — at the anti-government protests that have swept the country since the beginning of the year. But while their list of goals is long, they are also taking time to appreciate the unusual experience of being together.

A view of the attendees at the first meeting of Smol Emuni, the Faithful Left, in Jerusalem shows many kippahs — typically not associated with left-wing politics in Israel. (Photo by Gilad Kavalerchik)

“Just being in a room and realizing I’m not the only one like me was amazing,” attendee Shira Attias told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “The main takeaway for members of this niche and controversial group [is] to feel on their skin that they are not alone.”

Nitsan Machlis, a student and activist, agreed. “I’ve never seen so many people in a room together with whom I felt like I can identify with both religiously and politically.”

The conference took place inside the Heichal Shlomo synagogue, located adjacent to Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue at the same intersection as Israel’s prime minister’s official residence — a symbolic spot at the heart of Israel’s religious center.

“The fact that it was in Heichal Shlomo is quite significant because it’s a very Orthodox place,” said Ittay Flescher, educational director of an Israeli-Palestinian youth organization who attended the event. “It was chosen intentionally as an iconic Orthodox place, a place where Torah learning happens.”

That’s meaningful because members of the new government have disparaged critics of its policy moves as being anti-religious and opposed to Torah values.

According to haredi activist Pnina Pfeuffer, a member of the steering committee of Smol Emuni, which means faithful left in Hebrew, the conference was driven by the idea that leftwing values are an integral part of being Jewish.

“We’re not left-wing despite being religious, it’s part of how we practice our religious beliefs,” said Pfeuffer, who serves as the CEO of New Haredim, an umbrella organization for haredi education and women’s rights groups.

Organizer Mikhael Manekin, a veteran anti-occupation activist and religious Zionist, referred to it as a “very frum” conference, using the Yiddish word for the religiously devoted. Speakers heavily referenced both Jewish texts and previous generations of rabbis, such as Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who famously ruled it permissible under religious law to surrender land for peace, and the Lithuanian scion, Rabbi Elazar Shach, who likewise supported Jewish withdrawal from the Palestinian territories if it meant preserving Jewish life. (Rabbanit Adina Bar-Shalom, Yosef’s iconoclastic oldest daughter, was among the conference speakers.)

Rabbanit Adina Bar-Shalom, the eldest daughter of former Israeli Sephardic chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, addresses the conference of religious leftists in Jerusalem, Jan. 25, 2023. (Photo by Gilad Kavalerchik)

“All of us understand there can’t be activism without religious study,” said Manekin, who runs the Alliance Fellowship, a network of Jewish and Arab political and civic leaders.

While Judaism is not a pacifist religion per se, there is a central theme in rabbinic literature of virtue ethics and an emphasis for caring for the weak on the one hand, he said, and a skepticism towards violence and power on the other. “Our role is to second-guess anything with power.”

According to Manekin, the current brand of religious Zionism and ultra-Orthodoxy’s “very recent” move to the right are emulating secular nationalist ethics a lot more than they are Jewish traditions.

“When somebody like [National Security Minister Itamar] Ben-Gvir says, ‘We’re the landlords’ and ‘I run the show,’ that for me is a very non-traditional Jewish way of looking at the world,” he said.

“The immediacy with which we accept the current militantism of the religious right, when there are such clear rabbinic texts which don’t allow for that kind of behavior is insane,” he said. “The idea that Jews can walk around with guns on Shabbat is much more of a reform than the idea that Jews should support peace.”

The ambition around peace has set the faithful left apart from the wider anti-government protests, which have not focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A week after the conference, a Palestinian terror attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue that took the lives of seven residents after the Shabbat service put these beliefs to a test.

But Manekin said such events — another attack followed this week — would not change his worldview. “Our tradition is [that] the response to death is mourning  and repenting. The political response shouldn’t be based on revenge but on what we think is for the betterment of our people,” he said after the Neve Yaakov attack.

Constant applause and cheers for our group of religious protesters, marching to join main event in Tel Aviv.

— Hannah Katsman | חנה כצמן (@mominisrael) January 28, 2023

Despite hesitations from his co-organizers, Manekin was adamant about labeling the conference “left,” because, he said, among the fringes of the religious community is “a large group of people who are tired of this constant obfuscation of our opinions to appease the right who are never appeased anyway.”

According to Flescher, the left in Israel is no longer relevant “because it can’t speak the Jewish language.” Religious people often feel like the left is “foreign, and alien and even Christian in some regard,” he said.

One of the goals moving forward, Pfeuffer said, is to develop a religious leftwing language.

But as the conference demonstrated, even under the banner of the religious left lies a broad range of opinions. As Flescher put it: “The religious left is much more diverse than the secular left.”

Attias, who wears a headscarf for religious reasons, described herself thus: “I’m very progressive and I live in the settlements.”

Even though she is “very left economically,” Attias said, she refuses to label herself as a leftist because she remains “extremely critical” of the left which she says is often “very removed from Palestinians and poverty” and the issues it purports to champion.

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, a coexistence activist who lives in the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut, described his experience at the conference on Facebook. “I have rarely felt so at home and so comfortable in a sea of kippot in Israel,” he wrote, alluding to the fact that in Israel, the style and presence of one’s head covering is widely seen as indicative of his or her religious orientation and politics alike.

The conference did not shy away from raising hot-button topics that not everyone in the room saw eye to eye on. “Because we tried to include as much of a left-wing range of opinions as we could, everyone at some point felt a little bit uncomfortable,” Pfeuffer said, noting that there was an LGBTQ circle and even references to “apartheid” by one speaker, Orthodox female rabbi Leah Shakdiel.

“If you’re very comfortable then you’re probably not learning something new,” Pfeuffer said.

One thing that made the conference stand out from other leftwing gatherings was the sense of hope and optimism.

“The general mood from punditry on the liberal left is all doom and gloom,” Manekin said.

The atmosphere at the conference, on the other hand, was “emotionally uplifting, energizing, and proactive,” he said. “This feeling of ‘we now have an assignment’ is very indicative of religious communities in general. That feeling that once you congregate, you can actually do quite a lot.”

The post In synagogues and on the streets, Israel’s new ‘faithful left’ is making itself felt 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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