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Novel about Chinese rescuer of Jews raises questions about facts vs. fiction in Holocaust stories

TAIPEI (JTA) — Ho Feng-Shan, the Chinese diplomat stationed in Vienna who helped thousands of Jews escape from Europe during World War II, never met Adolf Eichmann.

But in “Night Angels,” a novel based on his life, Feng-Shan comes face to face with Eichmann several times — and his wife Grace’s Jewish tutor, Lola, tries to kill the architect of the Holocaust.

That detail is one of many that has spurred Ho Manli, Feng-Shan’s daughter, to speak out against “Night Angels,” the fourth novel by the Chinese-American author Weina Dai Randel. Manli says the book distorts elements of her father’s story, which was unknown before she spent decades documenting his heroic efforts to issue visas allowing Jews to escape to Shanghai.

“What I have found in doing this story is it’s very difficult to try to maintain the historical integrity of the facts,” Manli told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Countless people … want to use this for their own means, whether it be commercial like this novelist, whether it be political, or whatever. So over the two decades that I have been doggedly trying to uncover more and more, I’ve been constantly fending off these sorts of opportunistic assaults.”

The dispute is casting a shadow over the novel, released this month, and reinvigorating longstanding debates over the importance of truth in historical fiction — particularly in stories about the Holocaust.

“Night Angels” follows Feng-Shan and his wife, Grace, as they risk their lives by issuing visas that allow thousands of Jews escape Germany and Austria to Shanghai. Grace, one of the novel’s narrators and main characters, is based on Feng-Shan’s real second wife with the same name who was no longer in Vienna after the Anschluss — Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938, and the period in which the novel is set. By that time, Feng-Shan had already sent Grace away to Boston. She never witnessed Nazi rule or Feng-Shan’s efforts to save Jews, Manli writes. 

Several other events in the book, including Grace’s friendship with a Jewish woman who attempts to assassinate Eichmann and her development of a morphine addiction, are fully fictional.

Manli first took aim at the book in a column last month in China Daily. The novel, she wrote, “exploits real names, real people, real events and places, in what is essentially a Holocaust-themed melodrama.”

“In online reviews, readers say that they are thrilled to learn of my father and this history — except of course, what they have learned is not really history, my father’s, or anyone else’s,” she wrote.

Randel and her publisher, Amazon Publishing, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

Randel dedicated the novel to “Ho Feng-Shan, his family, and all the angels in Vienna and beyond.” The book includes a disclaimer disclosing that its contents are a work of fiction and a product of the author’s imagination. 

But that’s not satisfactory to some readers, including Tina Kanagaratnam, co-founder of the heritage group Historic Shanghai, whose book group read a previous Randel story set in Shanghai.

“If you’re talking about a historical character, you have to get the history right. Otherwise, just create a fictional character,” Kanagaratnam told JTA. “This is written for people who don’t know the history, but as Manli said, that’s dangerous, because then that’s what they remember. That’s what they take away.”

Ho Monto, left, and Ho Manli stand in front of the Righteous Among the Nations wall at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Jan. 23, 2001. (Isaac Harari/AFP via Getty Images)

“Night Angels” has accumulated thousands of positive reviews on Amazon and has been promoted by Jewish organizations across the country. On Wednesday, the Jewish Book Council, in collaboration with Tablet Magazine and the Jewish Museum in New York City, will hold an event with Randel and journalist Jonathan Freedland that will explore “fact, fic­tion, and the some­times blurred line between them.”

Randel’s book adds to a long list of Holocaust stories occupying that blurry territory, dating from the genre’s early days. Many readers believed, for example, that “The Painted Bird,” the pivotal work of Holocaust fiction from the 1960s, was based on author Jerzy Koszinski’s experience during the Holocaust; it was not. Scholars and booksellers have long agonized over whether to call Elie Wiesel’s “Night” a memoir or a novel, and whether the distinction matters when it is taught in American classrooms.

The fight has extended to questions over who can tell which stories from Holocaust. In 2014, Haaretz journalist Judy Maltz filed a lawsuit against Penguin Canada and author Jenny Witterick alleging that Witterick’s novel, “My Mother’s Secret,” copied Maltz’s documentary film about her family’s rescue during World War II. The court ruled in favor of Witterick on the grounds that copyright protection does not apply to historical events. 

“An author is only ever responsible to their own fiction. They have creative license. And fictionalization of other people against their will is part of the history of literature,” said Helen Finch, a professor at the University of Leeds who studies representations of the Holocaust in German literature. “But that doesn’t absolve the writer from criticism.”

Manli — a journalist who has worked for the Boston Globe and helped found the China Daily, a state-backed media outlet, in 1981 — has made it her mission to set the record straight on Feng-Shan’s story. She began researching her father after his death in 1997, while writing his obituary. One line in his memoir from 1990 that recalled “saving who knows how many Jews” piqued her interest and led to a 25-year quest to document the extent of what her father did during the war. 

His story of defying both his own government and the government of Germany to write Shanghai visas for thousands of persecuted Jews had been previously unknown, even to the refugees themselves — most of whom never met Feng-Shan. 

Manli’s research led to Feng-Shan’s recognition by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum and memorial authority, in 2000 as “Righteous Among the Nations,” an honor given to those who risked their own lives to help Jews during World War II. Since then, greater attention has been paid to his story, and memorials across the world, from Israel to China to Italy, bear his name today.

Manli said Randel reached out to her several times before her book was published but after it had already been written. According to Manli, Randel sought out her blessing on the book by phone and email, saying that “the Holocaust history and your father’s history is now being forgotten” and adding that she wanted to help spread that history. Manli, who is working on a book of her own about her father, said she refused to answer, “just from the tone of her letter and what she wanted.”

“I have been burned before by this,” Manli told JTA. “I knew immediately that this was not something that I wanted to participate in and certainly that I wasn’t going to endorse.”

In an email shared with JTA in response to Manli’s editorial, Randel wrote that she has “great respect for Dr. Ho Fenghan[sic] and his family. I’m surprised to hear such strong negative criticism. I’m puzzled to see my gesture of respect is viewed in such a hostile way. If Ms. Manli Ho wishes to speak to me, I’m here.”

Randel, according to a biography on her website, came to the United States from China at 24 and became “the first Asian American novelist who intertwined Chinese history with the Jewish diaspora in Shanghai during WWII.”

Her previous novel, “The Last Rose of Shanghai,” follows a Chinese woman who falls in love with a German Jewish refugee living in the Shanghai Ghetto, the restricted area in which over 20,000 displaced Jews lived during World War II, under brutal oversight by Japanese officials who occupied the area. In interviews before the book’s 2021 release, Randel recalled hearing about Jewish refugees while she was living near the district that housed the ghetto. 

After moving to the United States, she married an American Jew and is raising her children with both cultures in Boston. She has said “The Last Rose of Shanghai” was inspired by her interest in the history she saw in Shanghai and a desire to pay homage to her Jewish side of the family.

“I think it’s apt to say the survival of Shanghai Jews is also a story of how we as different races and as human beings shine and triumph over war and adversity,” she said in a January 2022 interview with World Literature Today

But other researchers and authors deeply familiar with Feng-Shan’s story and Jewish history in Shanghai told JTA that “The Last Rose of Shanghai” also contained historical inaccuracies, including misrepresentation of real people who appear as characters, such as Victor Sassoon, a Jewish businessman and member of the dynasty known as the “Rothschilds of the East,” and Laura Margolis, the first female Joint Distribution Committee representative. 

The book also includes a character named Goya, described as “a shameless Jew … who somehow had won the Japanese’s trust.”

The Jewish character is based on the real Kanoh Ghoya, who was not Jewish, but a notoriously cruel Japanese officer who had dubbed himself “king of the Jews” and “was infamous for his inhumane treatment of ghetto inhabitants,” according to the USC Shoah Foundation.

According to Publisher’s Marketplace, “The Last Rose of Shanghai” was sold to Lake Union Publishing — an imprint of Amazon Publishing — in 2021 as half of a two-book deal worth between $100,000 and $250,000. It was a finalist for a Jewish National Book Award that year. (The Jewish Book Council, which confers those awards, did not respond to multiple requests for comments about the “Night Angels” event.)

Kanagaratnam said Historic Shanghai’s book group read “The Last Rose of Shanghai” in 2021 and hosted Randel for an event. The group was unsatisfied by Randel’s response when factual issues were brought to her attention, particularly the characterization of Ghoya as Jewish, Randel dismissed them, Kanagaratnam said.

Randel’s novel is only part of a growing consciousness among the general public of the Shanghai Jewish refugee story. In recent decades, especially following the normalization of Israel-China relations in 1992 and Feng-Shan’s recognition by Yad Vashem, both governments have promoted the history, sometimes distorting facts to push different narratives about their wartime past. 

New books and other media adaptations about the Shanghai Jewish refugee story have proliferated, such as the musical “Shanghai Sonatas” (2022) and the novels “Someday We Will Fly” (2019),“The Lives Before Us” (2019), and “The World and All It Holds” (2023). Other films and books are forthcoming.

“The audience of people who are interested in, if you will, an ‘exotic’ Jewish story, I think has meant that we’re seeing more and more of these. Everyone’s heard the Holocaust story. But now here’s one in an exotic setting,” said Kanagaratnam. “I think authors need to take responsibility. But honestly, I also blame the publishing industry, because where are the fact-checkers? A lot of the stuff in this can be really easily googled.”

Finch said novels that are set during that period are “always a work of fiction about the present.”

“So the question is, why is this author writing this book now? What does that say about the current moment when she’s writing? And what is with Randel trying to reflect either consciously or unconsciously in contemporary politics as well?”

The post Novel about Chinese rescuer of Jews raises questions about facts vs. fiction in Holocaust stories 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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