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Meet the 2 Jews of Guyana, a South American nation with a tradition of religious tolerance

(JTA) — When Janet Jagan, an immigrant from the United States, made history by becoming Guyana’s prime minister in 1997, she was thought to be the country’s only Jew.

In fact, another Jew had recently purchased an island off the coast of Guyana, and 25 years later, there are at least two Jews living in the tiny South American nation. One is a Guyanese-British-Israeli guesthouse operator who has been working in Guyana since the 1970s. The other is a former Madison Avenue marketing executive from Chicago who until recently ran the country’s largest tour operator.

Both offer a window into three dynamics that define Guyana: a government that embraces all faiths, an economy based on extractive industries and an expansive rainforest the country hopes will be a draw for its growing ecotourism industry.

Guyana, an English-speaking country of roughly 800,000, came to international prominence in 1978 as the site of the Jonestown massacre, in which more than 900 followers of cult leader Jim Jones were killed, either by suicide or murder.

These days, though, the country is drawing attention for the recent discovery of oil off its coast. ExxonMobil announced the discovery in 2015 and promptly began developing Guyana’s oil resources. With over 11 billion barrels of reserves and producing over 350,000 barrels per day, Guyana is on track to produce more than 1 million daily barrels by 2030, potentially transforming one of South America’s poorest countries.

It was an earlier extractive industry that first brought Raphael Ades to Guyana. Born in Tel Aviv in 1951 to an Italian-Jewish mother and a Syrian-Jewish father, Ades had a peripatetic childhood. The family moved first to Milan when Ades, who goes by Rafi, was 11, after his father Meyer entered the diamond trade, then two years later to southwestern Germany. They landed in Pforzheim, known at the time as Goldstadt because of the prominence of jewelry and precious stone trading locally.

But the family was not yet settled: In 1967, Meyer took the family to London, where Ades finished high school and took his university entrance exams, excelling in all of the languages he had picked up — English, French, Italian, German and Hebrew. As a psychology student at the University of London, Ades began helping his father, who maintained an office in London’s diamond district, at work. His father contracted out the polishing, and one of the polishers was Indo-Guyanese.

“That day, my dad took out the atlas and started to read up on Guyana,” Ades recalled. “‘This is somewhere I want to go,’ he told me.”

During a trip to visit an Israeli friend in Venezuela, Meyer went on a prospecting trip to Guyana, and registered the Guyana Diamond Export company. When he suffered a heart attack, Ades and his mother flew to Georgetown to be with him. Barely 21, Ades stepped in to take a larger role in the business. He flew with other diamond buyers into the rural mining areas, and learned the operations were producing thousands of carats of diamonds.

“I stayed in Guyana through the second half of 1972 and fell in love with the place,” Ades recalled. “I went to the [main] Stabroek market in Georgetown, seeing all of the iguanas and macaws. When my dad recuperated, I started going back to Guyana myself.”

His mining business thrived. In 1997, he bought Sloth Island, a 160-acre outpost about a two-hour journey from Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, requiring an hour-long car ride through the small villages that dot the Atlantic coast, and then an hour’s boat ride down the widening Essequibo River, passing pristine forests lined with mangroves and Indigenous villages.

When Ades bought the property, it was mostly underwater. He brought in workers from neighboring villages to pump out the water, build up the sand and retaining walls and add structures. Sloths were already there, but he brought ocelots and monkeys from neighboring islands, as well as other birds. (The ocelots, he said, used to eat the electrical wires and open the fridge.)

Now anchoring Sloth Island is a blue and white guesthouse, a series of covered huts for dining and hammock relaxation and a wooden walkway for nature walks through partially cleared forest. Indigenous guides identify the numerous species of plants and birds. The pandemic has receded as a threat to business, and the island hosts tourists every weekend — though climate change is presenting new issues.

“There are many times that the river floods part of the island and I lose sand and soil,” Ades said. “We have to keep on pumping out water and repairing damage to the buildings when that happens.”

The year after he bought the island, his widowed mother, then living in Belgium, broke her hip. When she was well enough to travel she moved to Guyana to be with her son, dividing her time between Georgetown and Sloth Island. When she died in 2009, Ades was at a loss given the lack of a Jewish cemetery, synagogue, and minyan required to say the Mourner’s Kaddish. He was interested in burying her across from Sloth Island, on a hill in the mining town of Bartica just across the river. But a Jewish friend from France facilitated a connection with the Surinamese Jewish community, who prepared the body for burial in the cemetery adjacent to Paramaribo’s main synagogue.

“That’s the last time I was in a synagogue, in 2010, after my mother passed,” Ades recalled.

A view of Raphael Ades’ resort on Sloth Island. (Seth Wikas)

The absence of Jews in Guyana is a notable lacuna in a country that otherwise boasts a broad range of religions. History records a colony of Dutch Jews who settled in northwestern Guyana in the 17th century to produce sugarcane, but the English destroyed that colony in 1666, dispersing the Jewish residents. Jews from Arab lands moved to Guyana in the late 19th and 20th centuries to escape persecution but then migrated elsewhere; Jews fleeing Europe came in 1939 but did not settle long enough to establish a sustained community.

Janet Jagan was an anomaly: Born Janet Rosenberg in Chicago, she married a Guyanese man in the United States and moved with him to Guyana in 1947. Her father Cheddi Jagan was trained as a dentist but entered politics as Guyana gained independence from Great Britain, serving as the first premier of the semi-independent colonial government in the early 1960s and then as the country’s fourth president in the 1990s. When he died in 1997, Janet Jagan was sworn in as his replacement and then won a term of her own later that year. She died in 2009.

According to the 2012 census, Guyana is about two-thirds Christian, a quarter Hindu, and less than 10% Muslim, with smaller populations of Rastafarians and Baha’is. Guyana’s cities and towns are dotted with churches, mandirs and mosques, and the country has enshrined freedom of religion in its constitution. Christian, Hindu and Muslim holy days are national holidays.

“We embrace all faiths and are always looking to build bridges across communities,” Mansoor Baksh, a leader within the country’s Islamic Ahmadiyya movement, told JTA. Omkaar Sharma, a member of the country’s Hindu Pandit Council, said something similar: “We have a long tradition of co-existence and celebrating each other’s holidays. It’s what makes Guyana special.”

On the occasion of the Hindu festival of Diwali last month, President Mohamed Irfaan Ali, South America’s only Muslim head of government, emphasized the country’s inclusivity when he told the nation: “Under the One Guyana banner, our people are coming together, rejecting the forces of division and hatred, and uniting in the pursuit of peace, progress and prosperity.”

The sentiments have had practical implications for the country’s two Jews. In 2017, when a Guyana Tourism Authority group was slated to travel to Suriname for a conference on travel catering to Muslim tourists, the Mauritanian organizer of the event protested the presence of Jewish participants. There were supposed to be two: Ades, and Andrea de Caires, then head of the country’s largest private tour operator, Wilderness Explorers.

“I got a call from the Guyanese Tourism Minister at 1 a.m., who asked me if I was Jewish, and he explained the situation. And I thought, this [antisemitism] is still going on in the world?” de Caires remembered.

The Guyanese tourism minister refused to abide by the ban, de Caires proudly said, and told the Surinamese hosts and conference organizers: “If Jews aren’t allowed, then none of us are going.” The Surinamese, long known for their religious tolerance, also refused to accept the prohibition, and said that all participants were welcome (in Suriname’s capital Paramaribo, a mosque stands next to a synagogue and they share a parking lot). Both de Caires and Ades attended the event.

“When I arrived at the conference, the Surinamese minister of tourism welcomed me, and the director general of Guyana’s tourism ministry gave me the microphone to open the conference. We [Rafi and I] went in with our heads held high,” de Caires said.

De Caires has lived in Guyana since 2010 but her path to Guyana took a different route from Ades’. Born Andrea Levine in Chicago as the granddaughter of a rabbi, she traveled extensively as a child with her physician father, who taught her the importance of creating a Jewish home.

“Judaism was always a part of my life — we celebrated the holidays, lit candles on Friday night, but my father would often say, ‘Going to temple doesn’t make you Jewish,’” Caires said.

De Caires moved to New Jersey and trained as a jeweler, working with clients that included Tiffany’s. She transitioned to working at Bloomingdale’s in sales and then management, and then she moved on to the cosmetic company Borghese, where she became vice president of sales and marketing.

“I got caught up in Madison Avenue, a single mom of three kids, and then I met Salvador,” she recalled. “And I knew there was no point in pursuing a relationship if I wouldn’t move to Guyana.”

Salvador is Salvador de Caires, her Guyanese husband whom she met through her sister. Visiting Guyana for the first time in 2008, she fondly recalled her first visit to the Karanambu Lodge in the country’s south, a former cattle ranch that is now a conservation hub sitting at the center of Guyana’s forests, rivers, and savannahs. The most accessible route is via airplane from Georgetown and then four-by-four vehicle. While based at the lodge, de Caires continued to take conference calls for her New York-based career, while learning more about Guyana and the business of running a tourist destination off the beaten path. She and Salvador moved permanently to Guyana in 2010 to take over the day-to-day management of the lodge.

“When we moved to Guyana, it never occurred to me there would never be a Jewish community here. There’s a Jewish community everywhere,” de Caires remembered thinking. “That was pretty startling.”

Andrea de Caires is shown with Guyanese President Irfaan Ali. (Courtesy of de Caires)

So when they moved from Karanambu in 2016 to work at (and eventually lead) Wilderness Explorers in Georgetown, de Caires was committed to opening her home to Guyanese friends and neighbors with Hanukkah parties and Passover seders.

“The first year we had a Hanukkah party, our invitation went out for latkes and black cake (a traditional Guyanese dish), and we had government ministers, ambassadors and local friends over,” she recalled. “I told the story of the holiday and we lit the candles.”

It wasn’t the first time de Caires had been single handedly responsible for the fostering Jewish traditions in Guyana. She recalled an incident in 2012 when a Colombian-Jewish tourist came to Karanambu Lodge during Passover and asked her to make matzah brei. Under a thatched roof, she was able to make the holiday delicacy for her visitor.

For Ades, too, it is hosting that makes him most appreciate his chosen home in Guyana.

“I will always remember Feb. 1, 1963, the day we left Israel. We had always planned to return,” he said. “But I’m still here. Between then and now I have lived in so many places, and Guyana has been my home for a very long time. One of the best parts of my week is meeting new people who come to Sloth Island — people of different backgrounds from around the world. It is wonderful to welcome them all.”

De Caires plans to share her Jewish traditions once again next month, hosting another Hanukkah party for her Guyanese friends and neighbors. And with the worst of the pandemic in the rearview mirror, both Ades and de Caires are looking forward to booming tourist seasons. De Caires and her husband are also ready to begin a new professional chapter: They recently accepted new positions with a Guyanese conglomerate to develop its tourism operations at a riverine resort.

Does de Caires feel like she has lost something by establishing roots in a place without an established Jewish community?

“If I left here, that would mean there’s one less person to support others [including Jews],” de Caires replied. “I think it’s interesting Rafi and I are both in tourism — you need to have a lot of tenacity, but it’s important that we welcome others to this beautiful country.”

The post Meet the 2 Jews of Guyana, a South American nation with a tradition of religious tolerance 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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