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Overdue or overdone? Two scholars hope to secure the legacy of ‘Jewish Renewal’

(JTA) — Rabbi Arthur Green gave the commencement address last week at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Conservative flagship where he was ordained 56 years earlier.

His talk was mostly a response to political turmoil in Israel, but he also urged the graduates to pioneer a “new Judaism.”

“I had the good fortune, as a young seeker, to run into the Jewish mystical tradition, especially the writings of the early Hasidic masters,” said Green, who taught Jewish mysticism and Hasidic theology at Brandeis, the University of Pennsylvania and Hebrew College. “I have been working for half a century to articulate what could simply be called a Judaism for adults living in freedom. I am now near the end of my creative course. But you young people are just at the beginning of yours. We need you to enroll — however you can — in the task of the generations, that of re-creating Judaism.”

That is the language of Jewish Renewal, with which Green, 82, is deeply identified. Renewal isn’t a denomination, really, but a movement that was born in and reflects the 1960s and 1970s counterculture. Baby boomer Jews disillusioned with the large suburban synagogues that they considered soulless embraced Jewish practice that was spiritual, egalitarian, environmentally conscious and largely lay-led.

Baby boomer Jews disillusioned with the large suburban synagogues that they considered soulless embraced Jewish practice that was spiritual, egalitarian, environmentally conscious and largely lay-led. Renewal’s signature institution was the havurah — intimate prayer, study and social fellowships. Its soundtrack were the liturgical melodies composed by the hippy-ish, “neo-Hasidic” Orthodox rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach. And its rebbe — to the degree that an egalitarian movement had a central figure — was Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (1924-2014), a refugee from Hitler’s Europe and former Lubavitcher Hasid whose Judaism channeled the spiritual “New Age” of the 1970s.

These ideas and approaches may be familiar to you even if you’ve never heard of “Renewal.” Rare is the synagogue that doesn’t try to offer a more intimate spiritual experience for its worshippers, to shrink the distance between pulpit and pew, to incorporate new Jewish music and, in non-Orthodox and a number of Modern Orthodox synagogues, to increase the participation of women in prayer and study.

Those prayer shawls with rainbow stripes? That was a Schachter-Shalomi innovation.

How a counterculture movement came to be absorbed by the mainstream is the subject of a paper in a new collection, “The Future of American Judaism,” edited by Mark Silk and Jerome Chanes. Chanes is the co-author, with Shaul Magid, of the chapter on “Renewal” that claims it as one of the most influential if not defining Jewish movements of the last 50 years.

“While Jewish Renewal has never boasted a large number of members, its influence on the larger American Jewish community has been significant, in terms of its liturgical experimentation, its revisions of ritual and its overall metaphysics,” they write. “It has also served as an ongoing conduit of information and inspiration from its own past — the havurah movement, radical politics, feminism — to the next generation.”

I came to the paper after giving a lecture at my own synagogue on “The Crisis of the American Synagogue.” I spoke of declining affiliation rates, plunging enrollment in supplementary schools, the shrinking number of non-Orthodox synagogues. Most of my adult life has been spent in synagogues, havurot and institutions heavily influenced by Renewal. If the Jewish Renewal movement revitalized synagogue life in the last century, could it also be blamed for its struggles in this one?

Magid, a fellow in Jewish studies at Dartmouth College, and Chanes, an adjunct professor of Jewish Studies at Baruch College, presented their chapter at a conference dedicated to the release of the book, held Tuesday and Wednesday at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Magid made the claim — considered bold, at this small gathering of Jewish historians — that the three most important Jewish figures of the 20th century were Mordecai Kaplan, Menachem Mendel Schneerson and Shachter-Shalomi.

Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, downplayed the supernatural element of Judaism and instead called it a “civilization” defined by its people and culture. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher rebbe, turned an insular Orthodox sect into an outreach movement that promotes ritual practice among secular Jews.

Rabbi Arthur Green delivers the commencement address at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan, May 18, 2023. (Courtesy JTS)

Schachter-Shalomi combined their visions and imagined a Judaism, said Magid, that “is no longer used as a tool for Jewish survival, but rather as a project for Jews to become part of the global community, to contribute to the global community.” Environmental awareness became a hallmark of Renewal, as did absorbing influences from other religions, especially Eastern ones. “He really did take Schneerson’s teaching about bringing Judaism to the streets and expanded it further to bring Judaism to the mosque, to bring Judaism to the monastery, to create another way of being Jewish which was not afraid of the world.”

In an interview with Magid before the conference, I asked if he and Chanes might be exaggerating Renewal’s influence.

“I’m sure there will be people who will claim that case but I don’t think so, no,” he said. Magid acknowledges that few people regard themselves as direct disciples of Schachter-Shalomi, and yet, like Kaplan, his influence is felt widely and deeply. “Each one of them had a futuristic vision,” he said. “They were able to cultivate a way of thinking about Judaism that was before their time and that eventually came into being in many ways.”

One of those skeptical of Schachter-Shalomi’s influence is Jonathan Sarna, professor of Jewish history at Brandeis, who gave the keynote talk at the conference. In his response to the panel on Renewal, Sarna doubted Schachter-Shalomi was as influential as Carlebach, the Conservative theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel or the Modern Orthodox philosopher Joseph Soloveitchik. “I don’t think we should delude ourselves into thinking that every innovator is a new Moses,” Sarna said.

Benjamin Steiner, a visiting assistant professor in religion at Trinity, also wondered if Renewal had spread “everywhere in the country, or only in large urban areas with critical masses of educated Jewish students.”

Listening to Magid’s response to such caveats, I thought of the quote often attributed to music producer Brian Eno: “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.” Renewal’s influence spread beyond its founding havurot because many of their principals went on to important positions in academia and Jewish organizations, including Green, Rabbi Everett Gendler, Sharon Strassfeld, John Ruskay and Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

Small but influential Gen X and millennial institutions also bear Renewal’s fingerprints: the “Jewish Emergent Network” of independent congregations; New York’s Romemu and B’nai Jeshurun synagogues; egalitarian, traditional-style yeshivas like Hadar. Bayit, with a number of principals associated with ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal, is an online artist’s collective and publisher of Jewish books, including a forthcoming Shabbat prayer book.

One of its contributors, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, who was ordained by ALEPH, has argued that the influence of Renewal is felt even within Orthodoxy. “If you look at the Open Orthodoxy movement, if you look at the ordination of women as ‘maharats’ [by Yeshivat Maharat, a women’s seminary], the future of women as rabbinic leaders in Orthodoxy is already here,” she said on an episode of the “Judaism Unbound” podcast. “It’s not everywhere, but someday it will be.”

Magid and Chanes similarly claim a number of leading Jewish feminists as products of Renewal — they mention Paula Hyman, Eva Fogelman and Judith Plaskow — although some in the audience at Trinity insisted they gave Renewal too much credit for a movement by and for women. In there essay in the Silk/Chanes Book, Sylvia Barack Fishman of Brandeis University offers a counter-narrative of Jewish innovation over the past 50 years. In her chapter, she credits the “active partnership” of women in revitalizing American Judaism: Women’s religious expressions, she writes, “create social contexts and are distinguished by a communal dynamic, quite unlike the isolated, personalized Jewish experience, which some have claimed defines contemporary Jewishness.”

I came away convinced that Renewal has had an outsize influence on Jewish life, especially for baby boomers like me. But I also wondered if its outward-facing, syncretic Judaism failed to instill a sense of obligation to Jewish forms, institutions and peoplehood — unlike, by contrast, Orthodoxy in all of its booming present-day manifestations.

I asked Magid in what ways Renewal might have fallen short.

“Part of its failure is that it is very, very anchored to a certain kind of American counterculture that no longer exists. It hasn’t really moved into a 2.0 phase,” he said. “There are students and staff members that are still very tied to [Schachter-Shalomi’s] vision, and then there’s a younger generation, Gen Z, who have read some of his work and they’re influenced by it, but they really are thinking much more about, well, how does this translate into a post-countercultural America?”

Magid also feels the ideas of Renewal will become more important as American Jews’ attachment to Israel wanes, and the living memory of the Holocaust recedes.

If Rabbi Green’s speech at the JTS graduation was any indication, then the ideals of Jewish Renewal still hold their appeal.

“We need a new Judaism in America… where we also have the fresh air needed to create it,” he said. “How do we move forward… in articulating a Jewish theology for today that is both intellectually honest and spiritually rewarding?”

The audience of future Jewish leaders and teachers leapt to its feet.


The post Overdue or overdone? Two scholars hope to secure the legacy of ‘Jewish Renewal’ 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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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

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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