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Jonathan Safran Foer’s online flirtation with Natalie Portman inspires a new play

(New York Jewish Week) — When Jewish literary power couple Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss divorced in 2014 — amid rumors that he was in love with his longtime friend Natalie Portman — it captivated the nation.

Well, maybe not the nation, but certainly the literary and media worlds, as well as the hipster set in brownstone Brooklyn. Safran Foer and Krauss were rare literary megastars, whose “extremely loud and incredibly expensive” Park Slope brownstone was the subject of numerous articles (and a hefty dose of envy) when it hit the market for $14.5 million in 2013.

Portman, of course, was an actual megastar, and when the confessional correspondence between the celebrated actress and the “Everything Is Illuminated” writer was later published in 2016 in the New York Times, it elicited a fresh round of jealousy, speculation and eye-rolls from the masses, as well as numerous journalistic “takes” on the topic.

I was a teenager at the time, and had only a vague idea of why any of this mattered. But apparently it stayed with me for nearly a decade, because when I saw “The Wanderers,” a new Off-Broadway play running at the Roundabout Theatre Company, it didn’t take long for me to make the connection between this fictional production and the very real but mysterious drama that occurred between these famous Jewish writers.

“The Wanderers,” directed by Barry Edelstein, follows two couples in two different timelines. In the present day are Abe and Sophie, secular Jews and writers who live in Brooklyn and have been together since they were teenagers. The other storyline, set in the 1970s, centers around Esther and Schmuli, a Hasidic couple living in Satmar Williamsburg. The latter are introduced to the audience on the eve of their wedding, one of the first times they’ve ever been alone together.

Throughout the play, the couples, seemingly from different worlds, try to balance their careers, personal lives, internal desires and family obligations.

Abe (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a writer who boasts a Pulitzer Prize and several other literary awards. But he struggles with certain aspects of his life — his frayed relationships, mostly — and is hamstrung by an immense ego that is tempered only by a hefty dose of insecurity. As I watched the play, I began to feel like I knew the man, but I couldn’t quite place him. Was he just a stand-in for every genuinely talented, semi-pretentious, self-important male writer living in Brooklyn?

Abe eventually finds an outlet for his woes by striking up an email correspondence with fictional Hollywood actress Julia Cheever (Katie Holmes, the real Hollywood actress), whom he met when she came to a reading of one of his novels. Eventually, he declares his love for her — a pronouncement that essentially goes ignored by the actress. (In the play, Holmes sports a chic brunette bob not unlike a Jewish actress near and dear to our hearts.)

It became pretty clear who served as the inspiration for this play — and when I asked playwright Anna Ziegler about it, she said I was one of the few she had spoken with who had made the connection.

“In the summer of 2016, when I was writing, Natalie Portman and Jonathan Safran Foer were writing to each other in a correspondence they published in the New York Times,” she said. “She was promoting a new movie of hers, and I guess they had a previous relationship — that sparked the idea for one of the storylines in the play.”

What’s funny, Ziegler said, was that most audience members haven’t made the connection. “We haven’t really been talking about [Safran Foer and Portman] as one of the inspirations, and not many people have raised it,” she said. “I assumed that that resonance would be there for a certain percentage of the audience but, to be honest, I don’t think it’s there for the vast majority of people.”

At one point in the play, after learning his father died, Abe even says the line “Hineni, here I am,” to ground himself and calm his emotions. It’s a phrase in the Torah that usually translates to “I am ready,” which Abraham says to God before being asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as well as a prayer of humility chanted on Rosh Hashanah. But it’s also, possibly, a nod to Safran Foer’s 2016 novel “Here I Am.”

Neither Krauss nor Safran Foer responded to requests for comment on the play. “For people in my generation and younger, the recognition might be there, but it was also so many years ago now,” said Zielger, 44. “So I guess the only people who remember it are the people on whom it made an impact.”

Which is fine — “The Wanderers” stands on its own even if you don’t know the backstory. Plus, the themes of the play stretch far beyond infidelity: It also explores loneliness, free will and inherited family trauma.

Originally, Ziegler set out to write something about arranged marriages, specifically within the Jewish community. “I had always been kind of fascinated and beguiled by the idea of arranged marriage — thinking about what it would be like spending that first night together, that notion always kind of haunted me,” she said.

“I had these two different plays [one about Portman and Safran Foer and the other about arranged marriages], and they seemed thematically related,” she added. “At some point, I concluded that they really were two strands at the same play and so I started weaving them together.”

Ziegler chose to write about the Hasidic Jewish community in particular because she was “somewhat familiar with that culture and community,” she told me.

Still, as a secular Jew, it’s a topic she approached delicately. She hired a cultural consultant and an accent coach for the actors who were both from the community. Ziegler herself, who lives in Brooklyn, spent time in Williamsburg, and read memoirs and watched documentaries.

In the play, the Hasidic wife Esther (Lucy Freyer) struggles to be seen by her community and to feel in control of her life. She doesn’t know where to turn and wonders if she’s fulfilled her potential — as a parent, wife, human and Jew. “One of the great joys of being an actor is being able to learn and dive head first into a community that you ordinarily wouldn’t get to know,” Freyer said.

As the story unfolds, it’s revealed that Esther left the community with her infant son, who grows up to be the renowned Jewish author Abe, who marries his childhood friend Sophie (Sarah Cooper, the comic and actress who broke big with videos mocking Donald Trump). The younger couple is almost entirely secular, yet they grapple with the same search for meaning and belonging, the same doubt as to whether they’ve chosen the right path for themselves — or if it had been chosen for them.

“All five characters, not just Schmuli and Esther, are trying to figure out how can you be happy with what you have, with where you stand in your own skin,” said Dave Klasko, who plays Schmuli.

“We say in the play the Hebrew phrase, ‘Ein ba’al hanes makir b’niso,’ which [Ziegler] poetically translates to ‘We are never aware of the miracles, especially when we are inside them,’” Klasko added. “How can I, in my own life, realize the miracle that I’m living in before I’m on the other side of it?”

For Ziegler, these are very Jewish questions — and the questions of the “Xillennial” generation. “We’re left [with] the complex heritage of feeling chosen, but also self-hating,” said Ziegler, whose previous plays include “Photograph 51,” about Rosalind Franklin, the Jewish X-ray crystallographer who helped Watson and Crick crack the DNA model. “I think this is the most Jewish of my plays, and it’s funny because I’m not that religious, but I have found in my career that there seems to be a hunger for plays about Judaism.”

“At some point in my career, I began to be thought of as a ‘Jewish writer’ — for better or for worse,” she added.

Safran Foer, 46, and Krauss, 48, have also wrestled with the “Jewish writer” term, as well as the play’s big questions of identity, self-doubt and complicated family relationships. In fact, as Ziegler and the actors point out, issues of the play are universal, and have nothing to do with how famous you are, how expensive your home may be, or how strictly you adhere to religious law. The celebrity allusion — plus the chance to see an actual celebrity, Holmes — may be a reason to buy a ticket to see “The Wanderers,” but the timeless message is what will keep you in your seat.

“The Wanderers” is playing at the Roundabout Theatre Company (111 West 46th Street) through April 2. Find tickets and more information here

The post Jonathan Safran Foer’s online flirtation with Natalie Portman inspires a new play 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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