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Letty Cottin Pogrebin wants Jews to own up to the corrosive power of shame

(JTA) — When a lawyer for Donald Trump asked E. Jean Carroll why she didn’t scream while allegedly being raped by Donald Trump, I thought of Letty Cottin Pogrebin. In her latest book, “Shanda: A Memoir of Shame and Secrecy,” she writes about being assaulted by a famous poet — and how the shadow of shame kept women like her silent about attacks on their own bodies.

That incident in 1962, she writes, was “fifty-eight years before the #MeToo movement provided the sisterhood and solidarity that made survivors of abuse and rape feel safe enough to tell their stories.”

Now 83, Pogrebin could have coasted with a memoir celebrating her six decades as a leading feminist: She co-founded Ms. magazine, its Foundation for Women and the National Women’s Political Caucus. She served as president of Americans for Peace Now and in 1982 blew the whistle on antisemitism in the feminist movement

Instead, “Shanda” is about her immigrant Jewish family and the secrets they carried through their lives. First marriages that were kept hidden. An unacknowledged half-sister. Money problems and domestic abuse. An uncle banished for sharing family dirt in public. 

“My mania around secrecy and shame was sparked in 1951 by the discovery that my parents had concealed from me the truth about their personal histories, and every member of my large extended family, on both sides, was in on it,” writes Pogrebin, now 83. “Their need to avoid scandal was so compelling that, once identified, it provided the lens through which I could see my family with fresh eyes, spotlight their fears, and, in so doing, illuminate my own.”

“Shanda” (the Yiddish word describes the kind of behavior that brings shame on an entire family or even a people) is also a portrait of immigrant New York Jews in the 20th century. As her father and mother father move up in the world and leave their Yiddish-speaking, Old World families behind for new lives in the Bronx and Queens, they stand in for a generation of Jews and new Americans “bent on saving face and determined to be, if not exemplary, at least impeccably respectable.”

Pogrebin and I spoke last week ahead of the Eight Over Eighty Gala on May 31, where she will be honored with a group that includes another Jewish feminist icon, the writer Erica Jong, and musician Eve Queler, who founded her own ensemble, the Opera Orchestra of New York, when she wasn’t being given chances to conduct in the male-dominated world of classical music. The gala is a fundraiser for the New Jewish Home, a healthcare nonprofit serving older New Yorkers.

Pogrebin and I spoke about shame and how it plays out in public and private, from rape accusations against a former president to her regrets over how she wrote about her own abortions to how the Bible justifies family trickery.

Our conversation was edited for length and clarity. 

I found your book very moving because my parents’ generation, who like your family were middle-class Jews who grew up or lived in the New York metropolitan area, are also all gone now. Your book brought back to me that world of aunts and uncles and cousins, and kids like us who couldn’t imagine what kinds of secrets and traumas our parents and relatives were hiding. But you went back and asked all the questions that many of us are afraid to ask. 

I can’t tell you how good writing it has been. I feel as though I have no weight on my back. And people who have read it gained such comfort from the normalization that happens when you read that others have been through what you’ve been through. And my family secrets are so varied — just one right after the other. The chameleon-like behavior of that generation — they became who they wanted to be through pretense or  actual accomplishment. 

In my mother’s case, pretense led the way. She went and got a studio photo that made it look like she graduated from high school when she didn’t. In the eighth grade, she went up to her uncle’s house in the north Bronx and had her dates pick her up there because of the shanda of where she lived on the Lower East Side with nine people in three rooms. She had to imagine herself the child of her uncle, who didn’t have an accent or had an accent but at least spoke English.

You describe yours as “an immigrant family torn between loyalty to their own kind and longing for American acceptance.”  

There was the feeling that, “If only we could measure up, we would be real Americans.” My mother was a sewing machine operator who became a designer and figured out what American women wore when she came from rags and cardboard shoes, in steerage. So I admire them. As much as I was discomforted by the lies, I ended up having compassion for them.  

It’s also a story of thwarted women, and all that lost potential of a generation in which few could contemplate a college degree or a career outside the home. Your mother worked for a time as a junior designer for Hattie Carnegie, a sort of Donna Karan of her day, but abandoned that after she met your dad and became, as you write, “Mrs. Jack Cottin.”

The powerlessness of women was complicated in the 1950s by the demands of the masculine Jewish ideal. So having a wife who didn’t work was proof that you were a man who could provide. As a result women sacrificed their own aspirations and passions. She protected her husband’s image by not pursuing her life outside the home. In a way my feminism is a positive, like a photograph, to the negative of my mother’s 1950s womanhood.

“I’m not an optimist. I call myself a ‘cockeyed strategist,” said Pogrebin, who has a home on the Upper West Side. (Mike Lovett)

You write that you “think of shame and secrecy as quintessentially Jewish issues.” What were the Jewish pressures that inspired your parents to tell so many stories that weren’t true?

Think about what we did. We hid behind our names. We changed our names. We sloughed off our accents. My mother learned to make My*T*Fine pudding instead of gefilte fish. Shame and secrecy have always been intrinsically Jewish to me, because of the “sha!” factor: At every supper party, there would be the moment when somebody would say, “Sha! We don’t talk about that!” So even though we talked about what felt like everything, there were things that couldn’t be touched: illness, the C-word [cancer]. If you wanted to make a shidduch [wedding match] with another family in the insular communities in which Jews lived, you couldn’t let it be known that there was cancer in the family, or mental illness.

While I was writing this memoir, I realized that the [Torah portion] I’m listening to one Shabbat morning is all about hiding. It is Jacob finding out that he didn’t marry Rachel, after all, but married somebody he didn’t love. All of the hiding that I took for granted in the Bible stories and I was raised on like mother’s milk was formative. They justified pretense, and they justified trickery. Rebecca lied to her husband and presented her younger son Jacob for the blessing because God told her, because it was for the greater good of the future the Jewish people.

I think Jews felt that same sort of way when it came to surviving. So we can get rid of our names. We wouldn’t have survived, whether we were hiding in a forest or behind a cabinet, a name or a passport, or [pushed into hiding] with [forced] conversions. Hiding was survival.  

I was reading your book just as the E. Jean Carroll verdict came down, holding Donald Trump liable for sexually assaulting her during an encounter in the mid-’90s. You write how in 1962, when you were working as a book publicist, the hard-drinking Irish poet Brendan Behan (who died in 1964) tried to rape you in a hotel room and you didn’t report it. Like Carroll, you didn’t think that it was something that could be reported because the cost was too high.

Certainly in that era powerful men could get away with horrible behavior because of shanda reasons. 

Carroll said in her court testimony, “It was shameful to go to the police.” 

You know that it happened to so many others and nobody paid the price. The man’s reputation was intact and we kept our jobs because we sacrificed our dignity and our truth. I was in a career, and I really was supporting myself. I couldn’t afford to lose my job. I would have been pilloried for having gone to his hotel room, and nobody was there when he picked up an ashtray and threatened to break the window of the Chelsea Hotel unless I went up there with him.The cards were stacked against me.

In “Shanda,” you write about another kind of shame: The shame you now feel decades later about how you described the incident in your first book. You regret “how blithely I transformed an aggravated assault by a powerful man into a ‘sticky sexual encounter.’” 

I wrote about the incident in such offhand terms, and wonder why. I wrote, basically, “Okay, girls, you’re gonna have to put up with this, but you’re gonna have to find your own magical sentence like I had with Behan” to get him to stop. 

You write that you said, “You can’t do this to me! I’m a nice Jewish girl!” And that got him to back off.

Really painful.

I think that’s a powerful aspect of your book — how you look back at the ways you let down the movement or your family or friends and now regret. In 1991 you wrote a New York Times essay about an illegal abortion you had as a college senior in 1958, but not the second one you had only a few months later. While you were urging women to tell their stories of abortion, you note how a different shame kept you from telling the whole truth.  

Jewish girls could be, you know, plain or ordinary, but they had to be smart, and I had been stupid. I could out myself as one of the many millions of women who had an abortion but not as a Jewish girl who made the same mistake [of getting pregnant] twice.

The book was written before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. In the book you write powerfully about the shame, danger  and loneliness among women when abortion was illegal, and now, after 50 years, it is happening again. Having been very much part of the generation of activists that saw Roe become the law of the land, how have you processed its demise?  

Since the 1970s, we thought everything was happening in this proper linear way. We got legislation passed, we had litigation and we won, and we saw the percentage of women’s participation in the workplace all across professions and trades and everything else rise and rise. And then Ronald Reagan was elected and then there was the Moral Majority and then it was the Hyde Amendment [barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortion]. I was sideswiped because I think I was naive enough to imagine that once we articulated what feminism was driving at and why women’s rights were important, and how the economic reality of families and discrimination against women weren’t just women’s issues, people would internalize it and understand it and justice would be done. 

In the case of Roe, we could not imagine that rights could ever be taken away. We didn’t do something that we should have done, which is to have outed ourselves in a big way. It’s not enough that abortion was legal. We allowed it to remain stigmatized. We allowed the right wing to create their own valence around it. That negated solidarity. If we had talked about abortion as healthcare, if we had had our stories published and created organizations around remembering what it was like and people telling their stories about when abortion was illegal and dangerous…. Instead we allowed the religious right to prioritize [fetal] cells over a woman’s life. We just were not truthful with each other, so we didn’t create solidarity. 

Are you heartened by the backlash against restrictive new laws in red states or optimistic that the next wave of activism can reclaim the right to abortion? 

I’m not an optimist. I call myself a “cockeyed strategist.” If you look at my long resume, it is all about organizing: Ms. magazine, feminist organizations, women’s foundations, Black-Jewish dialogues, Torah study groups and Palestinian-Jewish dialogues. 

Number one, we have to own the data and reframe the narrative. We have to open channels for discussion for women who have either had one or know someone who has had one, even in religious Catholic families. The state-by-state strategy was really slow, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg wanted that. She almost didn’t get on the court because she didn’t like the nationwide, right-to-privacy strategy of Roe but instead wanted it won state by state, which would have required campaigns of acceptance and consciousness-raising.

So, the irony is she hasn’t lived to see that we’re going to have to do it her way. 

You share a lot of family secrets in this book. Is this a book that you waited to write until, I’ll try to put this gently, most of the people had died?

I started this book when I was 78 years old, and there’s always a connection to my major birthdays. And turning 80 – you experience that number and it is so weird. It doesn’t describe me and it probably won’t describe you. I thought, this could well be my last book, so I needed to be completely transparent, put it all out there. 

My mother and father and aunts and uncles were gone, but I have 24 cousins altogether. I went to my cousins, and told them I am going to write about the secret of your parents: It’s my uncle, but it’s your father. It’s your family story even though it’s my family, but it’s yours first. And every cousin, uniformly, said, “Are you kidding? You don’t even know the half of it,” and they’d tell me the whole story. I guess people want the truth out in the end.

Is that an aspect of getting older?

I think it’s a promise of liberation, which is what I have found. It’s this experience of being free from anything that I’ve hid. I don’t have to hide. Years ago, on our 35th wedding anniversary, we took our whole family to the Tenement Museum because we wanted them to see how far we’ve come in two generations.

The post Letty Cottin Pogrebin wants Jews to own up to the corrosive power of shame 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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