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Israel at 75: How Israel’s political crisis took center stage at a major American Jewish conference

KIBBUTZ MAAGAN MICHAEL, Israel (JTA) — About a dozen Jewish leaders from North America and beyond clustered at the edges of a courtyard on this kibbutz by Israel’s northern coastline, standing silent as a two-minute siren rang out in memory of the country’s fallen. 

Afterward, young Jews from around the world, some of whom will soon enter the Israeli military, read memorial passages and led the crowd in the singing of Israel’s national anthem. The scene, emblematic of Diaspora support for Israel, delivered the kind of feeling that the Jewish Federations of North America hoped to evoke when it held its marquee conference in Israel this week, and timed it for the country’s Memorial Day and 75th birthday. 

It was also a stark contrast from the atmosphere at the conference a day earlier where — even as Jewish leaders emphasized unity in the face of adversity — it was hard to avoid the political strife over the Israeli government’s effort to significantly limit the Supreme Court’s power. A raucous session in the morning was filled with screaming, and other panels touched on hot-button issues such as Israel’s treatment of non-Orthodox Jews as well as human rights groups. 

“We’re also living at a time of so many crises and so much painful brokenness,” Rabbi Marc Baker, CEO of the Boston area’s Jewish federation, said in a short address on Monday afternoon to the conference’s 2,000 attendees, while discussing the importance of Jewish learning. “It can feel like things are falling apart, like at best, as leaders, we’re just trying to hold things together.”

The drama did not exactly surprise organizers of the gathering, called the General Assembly, or GA, who had expected protesters to show up and even encouraged their cause. But it pointed to the challenge facing the Jewish Federations, which had hoped to put on a traditionally exuberant celebration of Israel despite the conflict rocking its streets. 

Those traditional commemorations and festivities did happen, and sessions covered a range of issues, from racial diversity to philanthropy in Israel. But they were mixed in with anguish over the state of Israeli society, which some attendees and panelists portrayed in urgent terms. 

“For the first time, at Israel’s 75th birthday, a government is trying to fundamentally alter the definition of a Jewish state,” Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank, said at the tumultuous Monday morning panel, referring to efforts to restrict immigration to Israel and other proposals. 

He added, “If this cluster of changes, the coalition agreements, would be implemented, I’m not sure that in the 80th year of our national birthday, the GA will decide again to conduct its event here.”

The departure from business-as-usual was evident from the get-go, when hundreds of protesters came to the gates of the conference to protest a planned speech on Sunday night by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who canceled in the face of the demonstrations. Israeli President Isaac Herzog did speak that night.

Julie Platt, the Jewish Federations’ board president, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that she found out about the cancellation earlier on Sunday. Netanyahu’s office told the staff of the Jewish Federations that day of the cancellation, and the news became public shortly afterward. Netanyahu did not reach out personally to Platt or to Eric Fingerhut, the Jewish Federations’ CEO, to let them know he would not be coming. 

“We were preparing for weeks and months for the opportunity to have here the duly elected prime minister,” Platt said on Monday. “We were disappointed that he wasn’t part of our celebration.”

Tensions peaked on Monday morning during a session where anti-government protesters repeatedly interrupted far-right lawmaker Simcha Rothman with shouts and chants, and in which Rothman and Plesner verbally sparred onstage. Multiple protesters were removed by security personnel, and the panel took an unplanned five-minute break to cool tempers. 

“They’re our brothers, they support us,” said Erez Elach, who protested Rothman at the event, regarding Diaspora Jews. Elach is a member of Brothers and Sisters in Arms, a group made up of military reservists opposed to the judicial overhaul.

Elach said he was protesting in order to honor Diaspora Jews who were killed while serving in the Israel Defense Forces. “We lost friends who served with us, who came from those same places,” he said.

Fingerhut told JTA that the protests of Rothman were “a taste of what’s happening in Israel today,” though he added, “I don’t think anyone benefits from that kind of disruption.”

“As the GA grew closer, we knew that the judicial reform issues and the divisions it’s creating in Israel would necessarily be a significant topic,” he said. “By time we were finalizing our plans, we expected it to be a major issue, and it was.”

But he said that he still felt the conference conveyed the importance of celebrating Israel and its ties to global Jewry. “On Sunday night and Monday, we focused on Israel’s history and our contribution to that history. That was not overshadowed,” he said. The battle over the judicial overhaul, he said, “added an agenda item, but it didn’t detract in any way.”

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Tel Aviv on April 24, 2023. (Courtesy of JFNA/Amnon Gutman)

Yizhar Hess, the vice chair of the World Zionist Organization, also said on Monday that things were going well — because of the arguments, not despite them. Hess pointed to the three large gatherings of establishment Jewish groups — the General Assembly, the Jewish Agency for Israel Board of Governors’ meeting and the World Zionist Congress — each of which saw fierce debates or disruption stemming from the judicial overhaul fight. 

“This week has been dramatically successful particularly because it’s been so turbulent,” Hess said directly after the session with Rothman. “Zionism and the state of Israel are a subject that stirs up the Jewish people and is at the heart of the argument. That’s a good thing. … Zionism is more relevant than ever, particularly because Jews are fighting over its character.” 

Bucking its usual practice of not commenting on internal Israeli politics, the Jewish Federations has made its position on the overhaul relatively clear. The group issued a statement objecting to one of the overhaul’s provisions, praised a decision to pause the legislation, said it was “awed” by the anti-overhaul protesters and organized a “fly-in” earlier this year, in which federation leaders traveled to Israel to share their concerns about the effort with Israeli officials. 

Deborah Minkoff, an executive board member at the Madison, Wisconsin, Jewish federation, participated in the fly-in and said she had lobbied to exclude all politicians from the General Assembly stage. She attended sessions where anti-overhaul activists spoke and felt that being in Israel for the conference gave her an opportunity to stand with the protesters. 

“I think it’s going to be easier to sell Israel to our community because of this fight for democracy,” she said. “As we articulate what it means to be a free, equitable, democratic society, I think it resonates with the community who has been critical of Israel in the past.”

Attendees gave a warm reception to Yair Lapid, the leader of the parliamentary opposition, whose easy manner suggested that he felt the crowd would be receptive to his words. “I’m happy to be here, unlike some others,” he said to laughter from the audience. 

“Don’t give up on us,” Lapid told the crowd. “I know how many people here feel about this current government. I know it doesn’t represent your values. It doesn’t represent mine either. But this government isn’t all of Israel… Today, maybe more than ever, we need you to rally around us.”

But not everyone at the conference was keen to protest. Beto Guzman, a Jewish professional who came to the conference from Helsinki, said the Finnish Jewish community tends not to protest Israeli policies because, given its small size, its involved members value having a positive relationship with Israeli emissaries in the country and do not want to blame them for the government’s policies. He also objected to protesters disrupting conferences, though he said the issues at the heart of the debate should be discussed.

“In Helsinki we don’t really have any protests or anything like this, because the community is very small and everybody has their own relationship with Israel,” he said. “For us that connection is very different. We really like the people from the Jewish Agency, their emissaries, and the embassy, they are very nice to us. So for us to put what is going on in the government on them would be unfair.”

Sandi Seigel, the president of Naamat Canada, a branch of a global Jewish women’s rights organization, said she was troubled by raucous debate she saw at the World Zionist Congress, which had taken place at the end of the previous week. She particularly worries that young delegates to the congress, one of whom she recalled seeing crying, would leave disheartened by the fighting. 

“It’s almost like people feel it’s an existential threat for Israel, and so you’re passionate,” she said. “But there used to be an ability to have healthy debate and say, ‘OK, we’re not going to agree on this, OK, but I respect your right to have your opinion. And I think some of that is gone.”

At the same time, Seigel does not feel that the General Assembly was too focused on the debate over the judicial overhaul, which she framed in existential terms. 

“If you have something, and you don’t know, if this doesn’t get resolved, [whether] Israel will be Israel anymore, or it won’t be the Israel that I can live in — there are a lot of things to talk about, but if you don’t deal with that, you can’t talk about anything else,” she said. “Because there’s nothing left to talk about.”


The post Israel at 75: How Israel’s political crisis took center stage at a major American Jewish conference 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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