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‘Mercenaries for Jesus’: Christmas is a busy time for Jews who sing in churches 

(New York Jewish Week) — “Jesus is a paycheck,” said Rob Orbach, one of the many classically trained Jewish vocalists who perform Christian sacred songs in churches across New York City.  

“There’s a lot of money to be made in churches, especially in New York,” Orbach, 30, who lives in West Harlem, told the New York Jewish Week. “It’s a competitive gig. It’s challenging. We have to be perfect.” 

It’s the Christmas season, which means churches throughout the city will be presenting holiday music during worship services and in concerts. And because churches don’t discriminate when hiring professionals for their choirs — and New York City has a surplus of Jewish musicians — many of the singers and instrumentalists bringing comfort and joy, comfort and joy, will be Jewish.

“There are lots of Jews all over the church scene,” Maya Ben-Meir, an Israeli singer who has nine years of experience singing in churches, told the New York Jewish Week. “These churches have stellar ensembles. They hire only professionals and perform magnificently beautiful music. Why wouldn’t I go for this type of job?”

While Christmas may be the busy season, singing in a church is one of the rare jobs for professional singers that is “a steady source of income for most of the year,” she added.

Jewish singer Rob Orbach, 30, performs as part of a church choir in 2021. (Courtesy)

David Gordon, 49, a singer who lives in Manhattan and has more than 20 years of experience singing professionally in churches, estimates that there are hundreds of Jewish singers in church choirs all across New York during this holiday season.

“My choir right now, there are a dozen paid members, and nearly half of them are Jewish, and so is the woman who plays the piano,” said Gordon, who, like other singers interviewed for this article, was hesitant to name the churches where he works.  

Gordon, who said that “he’s not very religious” but celebrates the Jewish holidays with his family, told the New York Jewish Week that just this week, he sang a jazz nativity scene and received a call “to ring for the ‘Messiah’” — that is, Handel’s “Messiah” oratorio, a staple of the Christmas season.

“Everybody I know talks about how many ‘Messiahs’ they’re going to have to pay their bills in December,” Gordon said. “It’s a huge part of the career at a certain level.” 

He added that he sees himself as “a mercenary for Jesus” — and the outsider angle of a Jew coming into a church to sing Christian worship music is not lost on him.  

“There were times where I did not feel welcomed,” Gordon said. “There’s this overlap of ‘We don’t really want you here because you’re a mercenary, you’re getting paid to be here.’”

He said he once heard a pastor say during a sermon that “it’s the fault of the Jews that Jesus was killed the way that he was killed,” Gordon said — a historic charge that the Catholic Church and other denominations have tried to quash.

“It’s something that occasionally comes up,” Gordon said. “Just the sort of standard institutional and relatively harmless antisemitism that’s just part of the Christian tradition.” 

Stephanie Horowitz, 41, a Reform Jew who has sung in churches for years on Long Island, told the New York Jewish Week about how she has heard “upsetting things” while working in church choirs.  

She described an experience of when the story of Jesus’ crucifixion was told during a service. “This particular church used a translation that was very incendiary towards the Jewish people,” Horowitz said. “It was very clear that they’re trying to send the message that the Jews of the time were responsible for his death, without clarifying that this doesn’t mean we need to hold Jewish people today responsible.” 

She added that in another experience, a pastor was giving a sermon about how “the Messiah will be a successful man.”

The pastor “said that, to a Jewish person, a successful man means a rich man,” Horowitz said. “I literally almost stood up and left. The musical director, afterwards, asked if I was OK.” 

Meanwhile, Ben-Meir, who grew up secular, said that she was “fortunate enough to work in churches where I didn’t feel antisemitism directed toward me.” 

“Everyone knew that I was Jewish,” Ben-Meir said, who is taking a break from singing in churches this season to travel with her partner. “It was never a secret.” 

Horowitz explained that when one studies classical music, all roads lead to the church, as Western composers such as Bach, Haydn and Handel led church ensembles and wrote through a Christian lens.  

“One of the few places that value musical tonality is the church,” Horowitz said. “I’m obviously not busy on Christmas anyway, so it works out.” 

(The custom, it should be noted, goes the other way as well: Some synagogues hire non-Jewish singers and instrumentalists for their choirs. One rabbi even weighed in on whether the practice was permissible.)

And yet, it may seem that for a Jewish person, who is somewhat religious, who celebrates holidays, who grew up around all the Jewish customs, may have trouble singing Christian worship music.  

Orbach, who identifies as culturally Jewish, said it is “very easy to separate” his Jewish religion from Christianity when he sings in churches. However, he recalled a time when a church leader asked him to read prayers outside of the rehearsed song.  

“As much as I’m not religiously Jewish, that was the line for me,” Orbach said. “I said to them in my interview that I am Jewish.” 

Ben-Meir said she never “considered myself to be Christian” while singing in churches. 

“It’s a job,” Ben-Meir said. “I always felt that what I was doing when I was singing was bringing joy to the congregants themselves. That, to me, is a form of service, and I don’t necessarily ascribe religiousness to the service.” 

Gordon, who is also an actor and teaches acting classes, said that when he performs Christian worship songs as a Jew, it’s similar to when he “checks his ethics at the door when playing a misogynist in an opera.” 

“I check my personal feelings aside,” Gordon said. “That’s what I’m paid to do. I just take on the character and the intention of the text, and I’m always glad when an audience is with me, and I’m able to affect them. I don’t really care how.”

He added that there are times when he’d prefer to sing other songs and play other characters that don’t “support the structure of the church.”

“We all have to make compromises as artists,” Gordon said.

Horowitz said that there are plenty of positive experiences involved with singing in the church, and looks forward to taking part in her professional Christmas carol trio, The Jewel Tones, that gets consistent work throughout the holidays. 

“Most of the time, it’s really nice,” Horowitz said. “I feel like I’m helping them practice their religion, and there is something beautiful in that. I’m helping them get closer to God.” 


The post ‘Mercenaries for Jesus’: Christmas is a busy time for Jews who sing in churches  appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Hating Israel Isn’t New; How the CIA and State Department Undermined the Jewish State

“Teddy Roosevelt’s great-great-great grandson is an anti-Israel protester at Princeton,” blared a New York Post headline on May 4, 2024.
The Post reported that Quentin Colon Roosevelt, an 18-year-old freshman, and descendant of the 25th President, is an anti-Israel activist at the Ivy League university. But far from being hip and new, Quentin’s brand of anti-Zionism is old hat — he is merely continuing a long family tradition of anti-Israel activism.
There is an abundance of literature on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s views on Jews and Zionism, the belief in Jewish self-determination. Both FDR and his wife Eleanor had made antisemitic remarks. In a private conversation in 1938, then-President Roosevelt suggested that by dominating the economy in Poland, Jews were themselves fueling antisemitism. And in a 1941 Cabinet meeting, FDR remarked that there were too many Jewish Federal employees in Oregon. In his final days, FDR promised Saudi leader Abdul Aziz Ibn al Saud that he would oppose the creation of Jewish state in the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland.
FDR is the president who led the United States to victory against Adolf Hitler. He also employed Jews in high-ranking positions in his government. But he is also the president whose administration failed to save more Jews fleeing Nazism, and who refused to bomb the railway tracks leading to Auschwitz and other death camps where millions of Jews met a ghastly end. Accordingly, it makes sense that his beliefs regarding Jews have been the subject of books and belated study.
Less examined, however, is the Oyster Bay branch of the Roosevelt clan, and their beliefs regarding Zionism. In part, this is easily explained by the unique place that FDR holds in American history. He is the only president to serve four terms, and presided over both the Great Depression, World War II, and arguably the beginning of the Cold War. His branch of the family, the Hyde Park Roosevelts, were Democrats and remained active in public life for decades after his 1945 death.
At first glance, the Oyster Bay Roosevelts were more of a turn of the 19th century affair. They were Republicans, and their scion was Teddy Roosevelt, a war hero turned governor of New York state who, thanks to an assassin’s bullet, found himself as the nation’s leader in 1901.
The famously ebullient Roosevelt helped redefine the country’s idea of a president, and served as an inspiration for his cousin Franklin. But Teddy largely presided over an era of peace and tranquility, not war and upheaval.
Teddy was a philosemite. He was the first occupant of the Oval Office to appoint a Jewish American to the Cabinet. He championed the rights of Jews, both at home and abroad, and was harshly critical of the numerous pogroms that unfolded in czarist Russia.
As Seth Rogovoy has noted, Roosevelt’s “special relationship with Jews was forged during his time serving as police commissioner in New York City, a post he assumed in 1904.” When an antisemitic German preacher named Hermann Ahlwardt gave speeches in the city, Roosevelt assigned a contingent of Jewish police officers to guard the man.
Roosevelt was also a Zionist. In 1918, shortly after the Balfour Declaration, he wrote: “It seems to me that it is entirely proper to start a Zionist state around Jerusalem.” He told Lioubomir Michailovitch, the Serbian Minister to the United States, that “there can be no peace worth having … unless the Jews [are] given control of Palestine.” Six months later Roosevelt died in his sleep.
Not all his descendants would share his belief in Jewish self-determination, however.
Two of Teddy Roosevelt’s grandchildren, Kermit and Archie, served their country in the CIA during the early years of the Cold War. Both were keenly interested in Middle East affairs, and were fluent in Arabic. Both were well read and highly educated, authoring books and filing dispatches for newspapers like the Saturday Evening Post, among others.
They were also prominent anti-Zionists.
Kermit Roosevelt, known as “Kim,” played a key role in anti-Zionist efforts in the United States and abroad. He was not, by the standards of his time, an antisemite. But he was ardently opposed to the creation of Israel.
As Hugh Wilford observed in his 2013 book America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East: “the anti-Zionism of the overt Cold War foreign policy establishment is well known” but “less widely appreciated is the opposition to Jewish statehood of the individuals responsible for setting up the United States’ covert apparatus in the Middle East.”
This began with the OSS, the CIA’s precursor. And it included men like Stephen Penrose, a former American University of Beirut instructor, and Kim Roosevelt’s boss during his wartime service in the OSS.
“Documents among Penrose’s personal papers reveal him engaged in a variety of anti-Zionist activities at the same time that he was commencing his official duties with the OSS,” Wilford notes.
Like many of his fellow Arabists, Penrose was the son of American missionaries who, failing to convert the native population to Christianity, sought to foster Arab nationalism instead. Penrose described himself as a “chief cook” who was “brewing” opposition to Zionism. He became one of Kim Roosevelt’s mentors.
In a January 1948 Middle East Journal article entitled, “Partition of Palestine: A Lesson in Pressure Politics,” Kim called the 1947 UN vote in favor of a Jewish state an “instructive and disturbing story.”
Roosevelt believed that the US media was unduly supportive of the creation of Israel, and claimed that almost all Americans “with diplomatic, educational, missionary, or business experience in the Middle East” opposed Zionism.
Kim’s pamphlet was reprinted by the Institute for Arab American Affairs, a New York-based group whose board he sat on. He also began working with the Arab League’s Washington, D.C., office and “turned elsewhere for allies in the anti-Zionist struggle, starting with the Protestant missionaries, educators, and aid workers.”
This nascent group soon received financial support from the American oil industry, which maintained close links to Kim’s OSS/CIA colleague, William Eddy.
As Wilford noted, the Arabian consortium ARAMCO “launched a public relations campaign intended to bring American opinion around to the Arab point of view.”
In addition to missionaries and big oil, Kim gained another important ally in the form of Elmer Berger, a rabbi from Flint, Michigan. Berger served as executive director of the American Council for Judaism, an anti-Zionist group that, among other things, opposed the creation of a Jewish army during World War II at the height of the Holocaust. Berger and Roosevelt became drinking buddies and close collaborators on their joint effort against the Jewish State.
Kim eventually became “organizing secretary” for a group called The Committee for Justice and Peace. The committee’s original chair, Virginia Gildersleeve, was both a longtime friend of the Roosevelts of Oyster Bay and the dean of New York City’s Barnard College, which today is part of Columbia.
Gildersleeve was “also a high-profile anti-Zionist” who “became involved with the Arab cause through her association with the Arabist philanthropist Charles Crane and the historian of Arab nationalism George Antonius.”
Crane, a wealthy and notorious antisemite, had lobbied against the creation of a Jewish state since the beginning of the 20th century, even advising then-President Woodrow Wilson against supporting the Balfour Declaration.
By 1950, the Committee had managed to recruit famed journalist Dorothy Thompson to their cause. Thompson was reportedly the basis for actress Katharine Hepburn’s character in the 1942 movie Woman of the Year. A convert to anti-Zionism, Thompson’s extensive network of reporters and celebrities proved crucial to Kim and Berger’s efforts to rally opposition to the Jewish State. In a 1951 letter to Barnard College’s Gildersleeve, Thompson wrote: “I am seriously concerned about the position of the Jews in the United States.” People, she claimed, “are beginning to ask themselves the question: who is really running America?”
Another ally emerged that year: the Central Intelligence Agency.
The CIA began funding the Committee, as well as its successor, the American Friends of the Middle East (AFME). Beginning in June 1950, Kim’s correspondence with Berger began making veiled references to the ACJ head taking on “official work” in Washington. This, Wilford believes, is a reference to working with the CIA. Indeed, the well-connected Kim and Archie Roosevelt had known top CIA officials like Allan Dulles since childhood.
With support from figures like Eddy, AFME also began encouraging Muslim-Christian alliances — ostensibly to counter Soviet influence, but also to attack the Jewish state. This led to some awkward alliances, including with Amin al-Husseini, the founding father of Palestinian nationalism and an infamous Nazi collaborator.
Husseini had ordered the murders of rival Palestinians, incited violence against Jews since the 1920s, and had led forces, equipped with Nazi-supplied arms, to destroy Israel at its rebirth in 1948. Now, along with the Secretary General of the Arab League, and Saudi King Ibn Saud, he was meeting with Eddy to discuss a “moral alliance” between Christians and Muslims to defeat communism. Kim himself knew Husseini, having interviewed him for the Saturday Evening Post after World War II.
AFME lobbied for the appointment of anti-Zionist diplomats and in favor of Eisenhower administration efforts to withhold aid from Israel. And both Berger and Thompson pushed for favorable coverage of the new Egyptian dictator, Gamal Nassar, who would wage war on the Jewish state for nearly two decades. Initially, they were successful, with TIME magazine writing that Nasser had the “lithe grace of a big, handsome, all-American quarterback.” Of course, there was nothing “all-American” about Nasser, who would become a Soviet stooge.
AFME officials like Garland Evans Hopkins would draw rebukes after claiming that Jews were bringing violence against themselves — a staple of antisemitism. Hopkins claimed that Zionists “could produce a wave of antisemitism in this country” if they continued acting against “America’s best interests in the Middle East.”
AFME itself would eventually lose influence, particularly after its boosting of figures like Nasser was revealed as foolhardy. Berger would go on to advise Senator J. William Fulbright (D-AR) in his efforts to get pro-Israel Americans to register as foreign agents.
In 1967, as Arab forces gathered to annihilate Israel, Berger blamed the Jewish State, accusing it of “aggression” and its supporters of “hysteria.” Top ACJ officials resigned in protest. That same year, Ramparts magazine exposed CIA support, financial and otherwise, of AFME.
Kim and Archie Roosevelt, however, would continue their careers as high-ranking CIA officers before eventually starting a consulting business and making use of their extensive Middle East contacts.
For some college protesters, attacking Israel — and American support for Israel — might seem new and trendy. Yet, both the CIA and big oil were precisely doing that, decades ago, forming alliances with anti-American dictators, antisemitic war criminals, the press, Protestant groups, academics, university administrators, and fringe Jewish groups claiming to represent “what’s best” for American Jewry.
As William Faulkner once wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
The writer is a Senior Research Analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis
The post Hating Israel Isn’t New; How the CIA and State Department Undermined the Jewish State first appeared on Algemeiner.comhttps://www.algemeiner.com/.

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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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