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On stage and in the classroom, Mikhl Yashinsky is stoking the flame of the Yiddish revival

(New York Jewish Week) — In the Yiddish classes Mikhl Yashinsky teaches for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and the Workers Circle, he begins by asking students to explain why they decided to learn the language.

Often, a student will describe attending a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish,” the smash hit from the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene.

This is literally music to the ears of Yashinsky, who not only teaches conversational Yiddish, translates Yiddish literature and writes Yiddish plays and videos, but who also played a beggar and innkeeper in the latest run of “Fiddler” in Yiddish, which closed on Jan. 1. 

“Many thousands of people have seen Yiddish ‘Fiddler’ by now and it’s had a real impact on them and how they see the language,” he told the New York Jewish Week. “It makes me happy that one thing feeds into another.”

The 32-year-old Chelsea resident is in some ways the future of Yiddish, at least of the secular, artistic and academic variety that is spoken and studied outside of the haredi Orthodox community, where it is often the first language. While some Yiddishists bristle at the notion that the language of Ashkenazi Eastern Europe is undergoing a “renaissance,” figures like Yashinsky are making sure the language continues to flourish in communities beyond the yeshiva. 

”Mikhl has played a very big role in my Yiddish journey,” said Judith Liskin-Gasparro, a retired linguistics professor from the University of Iowa. Liskin-Gasparro had four grandparents who were native Yiddish speakers but who never spoke the language in front of her. She estimates that over the course of her career she’s watched 1,000 people teach a language class. After studying with Yashinsky remotely from Iowa City for five semesters, Liskin-Gasparro said: “I have rarely seen anybody as good as he is.” His YIVO course has been so popular that YIVO had to create a second section. 

Liskin-Gasparro now describes herself as obsessed with the language. In November, she made the trek to New York to see Yashinsky perform in “Fiddler.” During her visit she joined about 15 people from Yashinsky’s YIVO class to meet her teacher in person.

Yashinsky, who grew up outside of Detroit, credits his late maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Elkin Weiss, with putting him on the path to becoming a Yiddishist. Weiss and her husband Rube were veterans of Yiddish theater, performing on stage and the radio. His grandmother also performed in English-language radio dramas, and her ability to do accents and characters earned her the nickname “The Woman of 1,000 Voices.” A radio ad in which Weiss imitated the Hungarian Jewish actress Zsa Zsa Gabor convinced customers of an Italian restaurant in the Detroit area that Zsa Zsa herself had done the commercial.

Talent ran in the family, sometimes in unexpected ways: Yashinsky’s uncle, David Weiss, was one-half of Was (Not Was), a major funk-rock band in the 1980s and ’90s. David’s partner, Don Was, is celebrating his 30th year as a record producer for The Rolling Stones.

Yashinsky studied modern European history and literature at Harvard, attended the Vilna Yiddish Language Institute and in 2015-16 worked as a fellow at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass. In 2018, Yashinsky performed in the held-over runs of Yiddish “Fiddler “at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan, then left New York for a steady gig teaching Yiddish at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He rejoined the musical when it was staged in 2019 at Stage 43, the largest off-Broadway theater in the city.

Joel Grey, the director of Yiddish “Fiddler,” wrote in an email: “Mikhl is one of the most resourceful and delightful actors I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. He has more ideas for a moment than most actors do in a lifetime.”

Jackie Hoffman, the comedian and Broadway veteran who played Yenta the matchmaker in earlier runs of Yiddish “Fiddler,” said Yashinsky “is a truly Yiddish soul. He’s like someone who could’ve crept out of the 19th century. It’s like Yiddish is in his blood.”

Mikhl Yashinsky, center in gray apron, played Mordkhe the Innkeeper in “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish,” the smash hit from the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. (Jeremy Daniel)

Steven Skybell, who played Tevye in in the latest Yiddish “Fiddler,” attended Yashinsky’s classes for a few semesters, which enabled him to converse with Yashinsky in the mamaloshn (mother tongue) backstage. 

Yashinsky’s mother in Michigan, who did not grow up speaking Yiddish, has attended all five semesters via Zoom. Debra Yashinsky, who said she can’t begin to count the number of times she’s seen Yiddish “Fiddler,” used her maiden name in the Zoom interface for the first two semesters.

“Mikhl once asked me, ‘Mom, are you taking the class to learn Yiddish or do you just enjoy seeing me teach?’” she recalled. “I didn’t know the right answer. The truth is I love seeing his punim [face] for an hour and a half and kvelling [being proud] while I watch him teach.”

In addition to teaching and acting, translation has been a big part of Yashinsky’s devotion to the language (and need to earn a living).

He has a deadline looming at the end of January for his translation of the memoirs of Ester-Rokhl Kaminska, the Polish-Jewish actress considered the “mother of Yiddish theater.” He’s been working on the project for a few years and could often be found backstage at “Fiddlertranslating a couple of sentences at a time between scenes.

Yashinsky has also been translating short stories by the Nobelist Isaac Bashevis Singer for a forthcoming anthology of the author’s early works. He describes them as “little gems” Singer wrote when he was a young writer that have never been translated into English. Yashinsky said he has translated three or four of the short stories so far.

Yashinsky is also a playwright whose Yiddish play, “Vos Flist Durkhn Oder” (“Blessing of the New Moon”), was performed at the Lower East Side Play Festival last summer. One of six plays chosen from more than 100 submissions, it was the only non-English play in the festival. The one-act play, set in a Lower East Side yeshiva in 1912, deals with the tradition of pranks that take place during the month in which Purim falls. 


His full-length play “Di Psure Loyt Chaim” (“The Gospel According to Chaim”) will get a public reading this winter at the New Yiddish Rep in Manhattan. The play is based on the true story of Henry Einspruch, a Baltimore Jew who in the 1940s found Jesus and translated the New Testament into Yiddish for the purpose of converting his fellow Jews. Yashinsky said no Yiddish publisher would help Einspruch in his quest.

“I just thought that this was a very curious bit of history,” said the playwright. “It was really insidious in some ways. He was trying to convert Holocaust survivors in some cases. He would preach outside synagogues on Shabbos mornings.”

Yashinsky will be working on a Yiddish musical in 2023, thanks to a LABA Fellowship for Jewish artists. He plans to write the musical in collaboration with Mamaliga, a klezmer band based in Brooklyn and Boston. Yashinsky said he may write something about the underworld of Jewish life in Eastern Europe.

Another bright spot on the horizon: On Jan. 26 he’ll make his Carnegie Hall début, singing in a concert titled “We Are Here: Songs from the Holocaust,” which will feature Broadway stars Harvey Fierstein, Chita Rivera and Shoshana Bean. Yashinsky will perform “Zog nit keynmol(“Never Say”), the anthem of the Vilna partisans.

And somehow Yashinsky will make time to produce more videos for the Workers Circle #YiddishAlive series on YouTube. Among the 11 videos he’s done so far are a Yiddish rendition of Tom Lehrer’s song “Hanukkah in Santa Monica” and a music video shot in Michigan to celebrate the strawberry harvest. That video featured “Trúskafke-vals” (“Strawberry Waltz”), a Yiddish song he wrote, as well as a strawberry cake baked by his mother.

He also produces humorous Yiddish music videos, including one based on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ demented, spooky classic, “I Put A Spell On You.” In his version, Yashinsky performs in drag as Bobe Yakhne, a sorceress he played in Folksbiene’s 2017 revival of the classic Yiddish operetta “The Sorceress.” 

“This art form continues,” he said of Yiddish theater. “It’s a tradition that hasn’t evaporated and it’s nice to feel that I’m part of the continuity.”

The post On stage and in the classroom, Mikhl Yashinsky is stoking the flame of the Yiddish revival 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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