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Jewish comedian Modi Rosenfeld, a mainstay for Orthodox audiences, is gay. So what?

(JTA) — Mordechi Rosenfeld, the Jewish comedian, insists that the recent Variety article in which he reveals he is married to a man is not a “coming out” piece.

“This article is showing that I’m a veteran comedian and I’m married to a man,” said Rosenfeld, who is known to his friends and fans by the nickname Modi. “This is it. It doesn’t feel like a coming-out piece to me because I’ve been out.”

Anyone who has listened closely to Rosenfeld’s podcast in the last year would know that he and his husband have been married since 2020. The pair talk about living and traveling together, and in a recent episode revealed they would be vacationing on Fire Island, which has a famous gay scene, with prominent gay Jewish cookbook author Jake Cohen.

But the news could easily have come as more of a surprise for one swath of Rosenfeld’s core audience: Orthodox Jews from communities like the one where he grew up, where LGBTQ inclusion remains an unfamiliar and often frowned-upon frontier. Rosenfeld has delivered his signature blend of highly informed Jewish comedy, which often digs into the technical details of Jewish law, on kosher Passover cruises; at benefits for Orthodox organizations including yeshivas, Young Israel chapters and Hatzalah, the Orthodox ambulance service; and on the annual Chabad-Lubavitch movement telethon. But until recently, his routine has contained little whiff of his personal life — in fact, some of his jokes suggested to his fans that he had a wife named Stacy.

“Stacy” is in fact his manager and husband, Leo Veiga, a millennial raised Catholic in South Florida whom the 52-year-old Israel-born, Long Island-raised comedian met on the New York City subway in 2015. The split content has reflected Rosenfeld’s long-espoused belief that the only way comedy can work is to tailor the set to the crowd.

“Even though some religious organization has brought me in and people are coming to see me, I understand I’m under the umbrella of a certain demographic that I need to respect and know the audience,” Rosenfeld told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “If you put me in front of an audience, I give them what they need. And they don’t need gay material — they need the material for this audience.”

“But when I’m on the road doing my material, I can do whatever I want,” he added. “They came to see me.”

The Variety article was born of Rosenfeld’s deepening belief that it’s possible to merge his Orthodox and gay identities more publicly — something that he has long done as a congregant and sometimes-cantor at the Modern Orthodox synagogue he attends in the East Village.

“The prayers are done in an Orthodox way. And somehow, gays have been attracted to come to this synagogue,” he said. “We have a whole group of gay people and we have a whole group of trans people welcome.”

“The rabbi’s thing is no one should ever feel bullied, no one should ever feel excluded,” Rosenfeld said. “Be you. Be a proud Jew and be you.”

Rosenfeld’s “not a coming out piece” is significant and part of a broader recent pattern, according to Rabbi Steve Greenberg, the founding director of Eshel, an advocacy organization for LGBTQ Orthodox Jews and their families.

“You used to leave. Coming out meant [you] had to go. Because you could either stay and be silent, or speak up and leave,” Greenberg said. “What has begun to change the story is people insisting on not choosing between their religious identities and their queer identities and insisting on staying in Orthodox communities.”

The Variety piece comes at a time of tension around LGBTQ inclusion in Modern Orthodoxy. Yeshiva University — where Rosenfeld studied at the Belz Cantorial School of Music — has made headlines for fighting for the right not to recognize an LGBTQ student club. This month, a synagogue affiliated with the Modern Orthodox flagship also made news for its treatment of a transgender congregant; Yeshiva’s top Jewish law authority said she could no longer pray there.

The episode ignited strong feelings for Rosenfeld.

“To torture someone like that, somebody who’s religious, who’s keeping the mitzvahs, who’s teaching, who’s doing that, and to open that up and to do what they did is so terrible,” Rosenfeld said. “It’s so, so terrible. That’s the only thing I can tell you.”

For Rosenfeld, there’s no tension between Jewish observance and being gay — although his articulation of why reveals an awareness of the pain that others might feel in trying.

“Being gay, you can keep Shabbos, you can keep kosher, you can keep anything you want to do,” he said. “You can learn Talmud, you can learn Torah, the only thing you can’t do is kill yourself. You can’t commit suicide. That’s not even on the table as an option.”

When Rosenfeld shared the Variety article on his Instagram page, the vast majority of the nearly 800 comments left by fans and friends showed support for his public embrace of his gay identity.

“It’s amazing that you announce that you are gay,” one fan wrote. “You are an example to all the Jews struggling with their gayness. You are a role model to me. Cheers.”

“I think it’s great you can be out with so many of your orthodox fans,” wrote Peter Fox, a freelance writer and Jewish community advocate. “What a wonderful gift of visibility.”

But a few commenters said they would boycott his work in the future, some citing interpretations of Jewish law.

“I can’t believe you are gay,” wrote one person. “What a giant Hillul HaShem [desecration of the name of God]. I lost all respect for you. Unfollowing now. And good luck to you when it’s time to be judged by The Almighty.”

Rosenfeld doesn’t anticipate that the Variety article will lose him any gigs. If anything, he says, it might actually increase his audience. Since he has started adding gay material to his repertoire, his audiences have been increasingly LGBTQ, like at some of the “Holidazed” shows he performed in December at Sony Hall in New York.

Still, he noted, “onstage, I’m more Jewish than I am gay.”

Rosenfeld began to dabble in comedy while working on Wall Street early in his career, when his colleagues realized he was good at impressions. In the last several years, he has emerged as a leader in a wave of comedians focusing on their Jewish identities, even playing himself on an episode of HBO’s “Crashing.” Five years ago, New York City’s then-mayor, Bill de Blasio, declared June 26 as “Mordechi Modi Rosenfeld Day” in honor of his contributions to the artistic community, and last August, Rosenfeld co-hosted the first-ever Chosen Comedy Festival on Coney Island with his frequent comedy partner Elon Gold to a crowd of 4,000. The Jewish comedy show has since gone on to an audience in Miami and will head to Los Angeles in February.

Meanwhile, Rosenfeld has embarked on a steady stream of sold-out shows on multiple continents himself, while enjoying several viral moments. In one bit that was shared thousands of times last year, he pilloried the practice of taking people who have made antisemitic comments to Holocaust museums, joking, “It just gives them ideas.”

Since comedy clubs reopened after their pandemic closures, Rosenfeld has worked on new material at New York’s iconic Comedy Cellar, where patrons’ phones are kept in sealed envelopes and filming is prohibited. The absence of phones gives comedians the freedom to workshop new material — and a lot of that new material, for Rosenfeld, has been focused on living with a millennial husband.

Rosenfeld and Veiga’s story is a classic New York City meet-cute: The comedian was riding the 6 train when he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Veiga, then an intern at CAA, the talent agency, introducing himself.

“And then we went on a date,” Rosenfeld told JTA. “I picked him up and I brought him to the Comedy Cellar, where I was performing. And he didn’t know that.”

After his 15-minute set, Rosenfeld returned to the comedians’ table, where he had nabbed Veiga a seat, to gauge his date’s reaction. “I said, ‘So I’m a comedian.’ And then we had dinner, we had two more dates, and then he moved in.”

In the eight years they have been together, Rosenfeld credits Veiga with facilitating the evolution of his career as both his husband and manager. During the COVID lockdown, as comedians everywhere found themselves unable to perform in their usual crowded clubs, Rosenfeld says he thought he was getting a break from work — but it was Veiga who suggested a pivot to video. That’s when Rosenfeld grew his online presence and developed his now-beloved characters, like the Israeli know-it-all “Nir, not far” (married to the fictitious, off-camera Stacy) and the Hasidic Yoely, who reviews quarantine-era TV shows and runs for president.

While Yoely is a character, Rosenfeld, too, is religiously observant. He wraps tefillin in the morning, even while touring, and he and Veiga keep a kosher home. Though Veiga is not Jewish — the couple had a civil wedding — he attends synagogue with Rosenfeld, his Hebrew and Yiddish pronunciation is excellent, and he is extremely well-versed in Jewish ideas and lingo. That has occasionally enabled him to stand up for their relationship when encountering people who believe it is forbidden: In one anecdote on the podcast, Rosenfeld shared that at a Shabbat retreat at a yacht club in notoriously conservative Orange County, California, a man at the couple’s table told them that the Bible says two men should not live together. Veiga retorted that the Bible says people should not mix wool and linen — implying that not all strictures are always followed, and leaving the man dumbfounded, according to Rosenfeld’s account.

Veiga has been part of Rosenfeld’s podcast behind the scenes since it began in August 2021, and began appearing on-screen in the taped recordings in December of that year. (In a sign of how deeply Jewish content is woven into his own life, he once wore a kitschy shirt referring to “muktzeh,” the prohibition of touching or moving certain objects on Shabbat.) Rosenfeld co-hosts the podcast with Jewish comedian Periel Aschenbrand, where guests include a mix of mostly comedians with the occasional rabbi (one time, Alan Dershowitz made an appearance).

Leo Veiga, left, wears a t-shirt bearing the Hebrew word “muktzeh,” which refers to a prohibition of touching certain objects on Shabbat. (Screenshot via YouTube)

In the December episode with Jake Cohen, Rosenfeld and Veiga recounted their experience at the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas. The couple, who admitted to following RuPaul’s Drag Race more closely than American politics, learned what causes Republican Jews were almost universally excited by (Israel and antisemitism on college campuses) and what causes they were lukewarm on (abortion) solely based on the volume of applause in the room. They also said they were surprised by how welcomed they felt as a gay couple at a Republican event, and remarked on how many of the political figures and donors they met were excited to show them pictures of all the other gay couples they knew.

Veiga said in the episode that he didn’t learn until after they agreed to the gig that the conference lineup included Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence, whom Rosenfeld said he found “a little creepy.” Both men have advanced policies and ideas that are anti-LGBTQ.

Rosenfeld said he had no principled objection to performing for Republicans, or anyone else.

“If the Democrats want to invite me, I will go there,” Rosenfeld said. “If Al-Qaeda wants to invite me, we’re there. A check and a microphone, and I’m there. It’s simple.”

The aside came as Rosenfeld, Veiga and Cohen discussed one of Rosenfeld’s favorite ideas — what he calls “moshiach energy.”

“Moshiach energy,” as Rosenfeld puts it, is akin to the Jewish principle of loving your neighbor as yourself and then putting that energy into the universe in order to bring about the coming of the Messiah. The idea is inspired by the last leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch Orthodox movement, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson — a major source of inspiration for Rosenfeld, who studied at a Lubavitch yeshiva.

Comedian Modi Rosenfeld Rosenfeld speaks with Rabbi Manis Friedman, right, and comedian Periel Aschendbrand on his podcast in November 2021. A portrait of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the last rebbe of the Chabad Orthodox movement, is behind Rosenfeld. (Screenshot via YouTube)

It’s an attitude that he says is embodied by his synagogue, which he has attended since it opened in the 1990s.

“I am so fortunate to belong to a synagogue, Sixth Street Community Synagogue, where when you put moshiach energy out, it comes right back at you,” he said.

Schneerson considered homosexuality a sin and advocated for Jews to choose not to yield to homosexual urges. Last year, on his podcast, Rosenfeld hosted a Chabad rabbi, Manis Friedman, the former translator for the Rebbe, who espouses the same view; he said he finds Friedman inspiring even though he may not agree with all of Friedman’s views. It’s one of many instances where Rosenfeld has been able to square his identities in ways that have proved challenging for others.

Greenberg, the executive director of Eshel, agreed with Rosenfeld’s hypothesis that the Variety article would have little effect on the comedian’s ability to book gigs — and he said Rosenfeld’s commitment to Orthodox ideas and practices could work in his favor.

“Maybe some of those organizations that have hired him before will actually think this is an even  more important reason to have him,” Greenberg postulated. “Some people will see this as a kind of affirmative step that you don’t have to abandon your religious identity because you’re gay.”

It’s an idea that is central to one of Rosenfeld’s signature jokes. For him, being Jewish means praying with tefillin every day, eating kosher food and observing Shabbat — while also being married to his husband.

“I always say: the Jewish people — we’re not the chosen people, we’re the choosing people,” Rosenfeld said. “Being Jewish is a lifestyle — like Equinox.”

The post Jewish comedian Modi Rosenfeld, a mainstay for Orthodox audiences, is gay. So what? 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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