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Lorraine Hansberry’s second play had a white Jewish protagonist. Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan are reviving it.

NEW YORK (JTA) — Sidney Brustein, Jewish Hamlet? 

Anne Kauffman thinks so. She made the comparison in a phone interview about the play she’s directing — a buzzy production of Lorraine Hansberry’s “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” that opened on Monday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music starring Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan.

“One artistic director who was thinking of doing this [play] was like, ‘You know, it’s not like he’s Hamlet, but…’ And I thought, well, no, actually I think he is like Hamlet!” she said.

She added another take: “I feel like he’s Cary Grant meets Zero Mostel.”

Hansberry saw just two of her works produced on Broadway before her death from cancer at 34 in January 1965. Her first, “A Raisin in the Sun,” which follows a Black family dealing with housing discrimination in Chicago, is widely considered one of the most significant plays of the 20th century. The other, “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window,” ran for a few months in the fall of 1964 until Hansberry’s death and has only been revived a handful of times since, all outside of New York. 

Now, the star power of Isaac and Brosnahan is driving renewed interest in the play, which deals with weighty questions about political activism, self-fulfillment in a capitalist world, and racial and ethnic identity — including mid-century Jewish American identity. 

The Brustein character, as Kauffman alluded to, is many things. A resident of Greenwich Village deeply embedded in that historic neighborhood’s 1960s activist and artistic circles, he is somewhat of a creative renaissance man. At the start of the play, his club of sorts (“it was not a nightclub” is a running joke) called “Walden Pond” has just shuttered and he has taken over an alternative newspaper. As the script reads, Brustein is an intellectual “in the truest sense of the word” but “does not wear glasses” — the latter description being a possible jab at his macho tendencies. Formerly an ardent leftist activist, he is now weary of the worth of activism and a bit of a nihilist. He’s in his late 30s and is a musician who often picks up a banjo.

Brustein is also a secular Jew, a fact that he telegraphs at certain key emotional and comedic moments. Others, from friends to his casually antisemitic sister-in-law, frequently reference his identity, too.

At the end of the play’s first half, for example, Brustein brings up the heroes of the Hanukkah story in talking about his existential angst — and his stomach ulcer. He has become belligerent to his wife Iris and to a local politician who wants Brustein’s paper’s endorsement.

“How does one confront the thousand nameless faceless vapors that are the evil of our time? Can a sword pierce it?” Sidney says. “One does not smite evil anymore: one holds one’s gut, thus — and takes a pill. Oh, but to take up the sword of the Maccabees again!”

Hansberry’s decision to center a white Jewish character surprised critics and fans alike in 1964 because many of them expected her to follow “A Raisin in the Sun” with further exploration of issues facing Black Americans, said Joi Gresham, the director of the Lorraine Hansberry Literary Trust.

“The major attack, both critically and on a popular basis, in regards to the play and to its central character was that Lorraine was out of her lane,” Gresham said. “That not only did she not know what she’s talking about, but that she had the nerve to even examine that subject matter.”

Hansberry’s closest collaborator was her former husband Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish New Yorker whom she had divorced in 1962 but maintained an artistic partnership with. Nemiroff was a bit Brustein-like in his pursuits: he edited books, produced and promoted Hansberry’s work, and even wrote songs (one of which made the couple enough money to allow Hansberry to focus on writing “A Raisin in the Sun”). But Gresham — who is Nemiroff’s stepdaughter through his second marriage, to professor Jewell Handy Gresham-Nemiroff — emphasized that his personality was nothing like Brustein’s. While Brustein is brash and mean to Iris, Nemiroff was undyingly supportive of Hansberry and her work, said Gresham, who lived with him and her mother at Nemiroff’s Croton-on-Hudson home — the one he had formerly shared for a time with Hansberry — from age 10 onward.

Instead, Gresham argued, the Brustein character was the result of Hansberry’s deep engagement with Jewish intellectual thought, in part influenced by her relationship with Nemiroff. The pair met at a protest and would bond over their passion for fighting for social justice, which included combating antisemitism. The night before their wedding, they protested the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and they would remain highly involved in the wave of activism that blossomed into the Black-Jewish civil rights alliance.

“Bob and Lorraine met and built a life together at a place where there was a very strong Black-Jewish nexus. There was a very strong interplay and interaction,” Gresham said. “I think Lorraine was very influenced by Bob’s family, the Nemiroffs, who were very radical in their politics. And so there was a way in which she was introduced to the base of Jewish intellectualism and Jewish progressive politics, that she took to heart and she was very passionate about.” 

Robert Nemiroff and Lorraine Hansberry were married from 1953-62. They are shown here in 1959. (Ben Martin/Getty Images)

Hansberry didn’t hesitate to criticize Jewish writers who said controversial things about Black Americans, either. When Norman Podhoretz wrote “My Negro Problem — And Ours,” an explosive 1963 article in Commentary magazine now widely seen as racist, Hansberry responded with a scathing rebuke. She also sparred with Norman Mailer, who once wrote an essay titled “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster.”

Gresham said Brustein’s nihilism represents what Hansberry saw in a range of Jewish and non-Jewish white writers, whom she hoped could be kickstarted back into activism. But Hansberry also nodded to the reasons why someone like Brustein could feel defeated in the early 1960s, a decade and a half after World War II.

“You mean diddle around with the little things since we can’t do anything about the big ones? Forget about the Holocaust and worry about — reforms in the traffic court or something?” Brustein says at one point in the play to a local politician running as a reformer.

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a Jewish scholar of literature who has written on Hansberry, said the resulting Brustein character is a very accurate depiction of a secular Jew at the time — both keenly attuned to prejudice in society and also lacking some understanding of the experience of being Black.

“I was just intoxicated that Hansberry could conjure that world, both so affectionately, but also so clear-sidedly that it seems like she can see the limitations of all of the characters’ perspectives,” he said. “But she also represents them with sympathy and humor.”

Kauffman, who also helmed a revival of the play in Chicago in 2016, is impressed with how “fully fledged” the Brustein character is.

“Who are the cultural icons who have sort of articulated the Jew in our culture in the last 50 years or 60 years, you know?” she said. “Brustein is not a caricature of a Woody Allen character, he’s not even ‘Curb your Enthusiasm’ or a Jerry Seinfeld character. He’s a fully drawn character.”

Isaac, who is of mainly Guatemalan and Cuban heritage, has played Jewish characters before, including a formerly Orthodox man in an Israeli director’s remake of the classic film “Scenes From a Marriage.” In the lead-up to this play, he has largely avoided getting caught in headlines focused on the “Jewface” debate, over whether non-Jewish actors should be allowed to play Jewish characters on stage and screen. 

But when asked about the responsibility of playing a Jewish character in a New York Times interview, Isaac referenced the fact that he has some Jewish heritage on his father’s side.

“We could play that game: How Jewish are you?” he said to interviewer Alexis Soloski, who is Jewish. “It is part of my family, part of my life. I feel the responsibility to not feel like a phony. That’s the responsibility, to feel like I can say these things, do these things and feel like I’m doing it honestly and truthfully.”

When Kauffman directed a version of the play at the Goodman Theater in Chicago in 2016, her lead actor had “not a single drop of Jewish heritage…in his blood,” and she said she had to convey “what anger looks like” coming from a Jewish perspective. Working with Isaac has been different — instead of starting at a base of no knowledge, she has been pushing for more of an Ashkenazi sensibility than a Sephardic one.

“I believe that his heritage leans, I’m guessing, more towards Sephardic. And mine is pure Ashkenazi,” she said. “We sort of joke: ‘[The part] is a little bit more Ashkenazi than that, you know what I mean?’ Like, ‘the violence is actually turned towards yourself!’”

The post Lorraine Hansberry’s second play had a white Jewish protagonist. Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan are reviving it. 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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