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Meet the Jewish world champion of Magic: The Gathering



(JTA) — There’s a good chance that right now, Nathan Steuer is playing, or thinking about playing, Magic: The Gathering. The trading card game, which Steuer used to play with friends at Jewish summer camp, has become the 20-year-old Berkeley native’s lifelong passion and full-time job. 

Steuer — who had a bar mitzvah in addition to attending the Union for Reform Judaism’s Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, California — competes in online tournaments every weekend for about 12 hours each on Saturdays and Sundays. He spends hours preparing and studying strategy, and also coaches other players in his spare time. He’s even currently taking a year off from his studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in order to focus on the game.

The obsession paid off when Steuer won the Magic World Championship on Oct. 30 in Las Vegas, beating the 31 other best players from across the globe.

“It felt honestly surreal, like a dream,” Steuer told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview this week.

He sounds very measured and reserved on the phone, and he thinks that calmness helps his game.

“When you’re playing versus such high-level players in a world championship setting, a lot of your edges in terms of trying to win a greater amount come from keeping a really level-headed approach to each game, and making sure to essentially not let nerves affect you,” Steuer explained. 

For the uninitiated, in “Magic,” as it is colloquially known, each player inhabits the role of a “Planeswalker,” a wizard who can traverse dimensions to battle others in turn-based combat using spells. The game, which hit the market in 1993, often draws comparisons to predecessor Dungeons & Dragons, and can now be played both online and with physical cards. It has been played by tens of millions of people worldwide.

Steuer, then 12 years old, playing Magic: The Gathering. (Courtesy of Steuer)

After the onset of the pandemic, the game largely transitioned online, especially for serious players. There’s an entire Pro Tour of players who compete in highly-competitive, international tournaments.

The World Championship comes with the hefty prize of $100,000 — but as a true Magic purist, Steuer is even more excited about the other part of the winnings: the opportunity to design his own Magic card with a fantasy illustration of himself that will be released in future decks.

“The prize money is awesome. But having that opportunity is really fantastic,” he said.

Steuer grew up attending synagogue every week for Shabbat services and religious school, an experience he remembers fondly. 

“I really enjoyed getting to do that with my family, and having that experience was super meaningful, probably from when I was four to around the time of my bar mitzvah,” he said.

But even though he played Magic at Jewish camp, Steuer said he hasn’t felt much overlap lately in those two aspects of his life.

It’s possible to earn a living as a Magic player: According to the official Magic site, around 150 players have amassed at least $100,000 career earnings, with the top player cracking $1 million. Steuer isn’t sure what his future holds, but for the time being, he’s devoted to his favorite game. 

“I decided to transition and see how far this career could take me because it had been probably my biggest passion growing up, I never stopped,” Steuer said. “And so once I saw the opportunity, I decided to pursue it and see it through.”

Going forward, Steuer said he will work to defend his world title at next year’s championship. He’s also interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of the game he loves, such as designing cards.

“Winning gave me that feeling that I have a lot that I can conquer outside of playing Magic if I set my mind to something, and I think it gave me a firm grasp that I can figure out my own path to success, whether it’s Magic or another pursuit.”

The post Meet the Jewish world champion of Magic: The Gathering appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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