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Prominent German rabbi resigns from leadership roles as report confirms allegations against him

BERLIN (JTA) – In a landmark step, investigators commissioned by Germany’s main Jewish organization have concluded that abuse of power and sexual harassment did occur at Germany’s liberal rabbinical seminary — and some of it, they say, may have crossed the line into illegality.

The 44-page “executive summary” of an investigation initiated by the Central Council of Jews in Germany is the latest and most damning report about the leadership of Rabbi Walter Homolka since accusations against him broke into public view last May.

Issued Wednesday after tense public conflict between the council and Homolka’s attorneys, the report concludes that structural changes are required to set Germany’s liberal rabbinical seminary, known as Abraham Geiger College, and other related Jewish institutions on the correct footing.

“A significant cause for the emergence of the problems identified by the investigators at the institutions under investigation is the personal misconduct of Rabbi Prof. Dr. Homolka in his function as a leader or person with great influence, which the investigators are convinced of,” the investigators wrote in their report.

Homolka announced Monday that he would withdraw from all functions in the seminary that he and a German-born American rabbi named Walter Jacob, founded in 1999. He also dropped out of the running on Tuesday for another term as chair of the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany.

A more comprehensive report including details about incidents in which investigators concluded that Homolka and his husband engaged in misconduct is due out in January, according to the Cologne-based law firm Gercke Wollschläger.

The preliminary report was welcomed in a joint statement by the Central Council, the German Interior Ministry and the Brandenburg State Ministry of Science, Research and Culture, which said they would “continue to fund the Abraham Geiger College to the same extent as before until the structural new beginning has been completed.”

It was also greeted with relief by the rabbinical student whose complaints kicked off the scandal.

“I think the report and the subsequent documents are a blessed development,” Itamar Cohen told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It seems to confirm many suspicions which I and others share. It does affirm that I did the right thing and [this] could be the beginning of a new chapter of liberal Judaism in Germany.”

The scandal that erupted publicly in May began after Cohen sought help from Jonathan Schorsch, a professor at the School of Jewish Theology, in dealing with unsolicited pornographic material allegedly received from Homolka’s husband, who was also an employee at the seminary. (Abraham Geiger College is part of the School of Jewish Theology, which itself is under the auspices of the University of Potsdam.)

A German newspaper’s report about the allegations and an apparent effort to obscure them opened the floodgates for criticism of Homolka from past and current students, employees and colleagues. Homolka took a leave of absence from the numerous leadership roles he held with liberal Jewish religious and educational institutions that he had helped found since the late 1990s.

The scandal has shaken the foundations of modern liberal Judaism in Germany, and the new report suggests that those foundations were weak because they rested largely on one individual.

Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of German Jews, said the report made it clear that Homolka could not continue in his previous roles.

Homolka has rejected the allegations against him throughout, and his attorneys told German news media Wednesday that they believed the entire investigation was politically motivated. They accused Schuster of wanting to see Homolka exit Germany’s liberal Jewish leadership and said the Central Council had failed to consider fully the statement Homolka had given to investigators.

Rabbi Walter Homolka. at left, with other leaders of Germany Jewry including Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, at far right, at an event in October 2019. (Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The report is the first to emerge from a third-party investigation into the allegations against Homolka. A separate investigation by the University of Potsdam, released in late October, found that some of the accusations regarding abuse of power to be justified, but did not find any criminally actionable behavior and thus confirmed Homolka’s ongoing employment there as professor. It did not investigate the sexual harassment accusations, as Homolka’s husband had left his job by then.

The new report did scrutinize those allegations. The investigators said they found 13 specific incidents involving allegations against Homolka’s husband. German libel law bars the publication of his name. Using what they called a “traffic light system,” the investigators classified nine of these incidents as “red” cases, in which 25 instances of misconduct could be identified. Two of these cases involved the “initial suspicion of a criminal offense,” they added.

Regarding allegations of abuse of power against Homolka himself, they found — after interviewing 73 individuals — a total of 45 concrete incidents, 14 of which they classified as “red,” involving a total of 23 instances of misconduct. A detailed account of those cases, including responses that Homolka delivered earlier this week, will be included in the final report in January, they said.

More broadly, they said, their interviews had illuminated a culture of misconduct in which unchecked, unlawful or arbitrary decisions could be made largely because of a consolidation of power under Homolka. He presided over an institution ruled by a “culture of fear,” the investigators found, leaving employees and students alike less likely to express criticism or concerns because of the possibility of reprisals.

The investigators said structural changes were needed if there was any hope of shifting the culture. “As long as institutions are in private hands or even in the hands of an individual, or at any rate within the essential sphere of influence of the person who, in the opinion of the investigators, practices and exemplifies misconduct himself, it is hardly conceivable that the causes of the deficits identified can be remedied,” their report says.

Cohen told JTA he wants to see “real change in the leadership” of all liberal Jewish institutions in Germany, and “an external compliance system set up.”

He said, “I hope to see the institutions Homolka founded take a life of their own, no strings attached.”

Anticipating the report, the Abraham Geiger College had announced its own restructuring plans on Monday, a day after ordaining four new rabbis and two cantors at a ceremony in Berlin.

In a statement, interim director Gabriele Thöne said a new foundation would become the provider of rabbinical training in Potsdam.

Gabriella Thoene, interim director of Abraham Geiger College, in Berlin’s Rykestrasse Synagogue on the occasion of an ordination ceremony, Dec. 1, 2022. (Toby Axelrod)

Further, Thöne said the “door is open to Zacharias Frankel College” — the Conservative movement seminary also under the umbrella of the School of Jewish Theology at the University of Potsdam —  “to join the new foundation on an equal basis while at the same time maintaining its independence.”

But in a scathing response issued Wednesday, the Conservative seminary said the Geiger College interim administration had not consulted them about the restructuring.

“A partnership between equal parties requires joint preparation, mutual trust, transparency and consensus. All this has been lacking so far, and continues to be lacking,” the statement said.

Signed by Rabbi Bradley Artson, dean of Zacharias Frankel College and the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, the Conservative seminary in Los Angeles among others, the statement also said the preliminary report released Wednesday “confirmed the asymmetrical constellations of power in the two Potsdam rabbinical training colleges.”

Zacharias Frankel College  “was in a state of dependency on the will of one person from the time it was founded in 2013. Our institution was deliberately pushed into invisibility and excluded from communication with funders in Germany,” the statement read in part.

“From the outset, the project of a Masorti rabbinical training in Potsdam was merely a makeshift means of being able to found the School of Jewish Theology [also in 2013] and give it the appearance of representing several denominations, and thus of being pluralistically positioned. Instead, however, the accumulation of power led to a monopolization of non-Orthodox Judaism in one person” – namely, Homolka.

For their part, the government and Jewish funding organizations said in their statement Wednesday that they were “committed to ensuring that there will continue to be both liberal and conservative rabbinical training in Potsdam in the future,” but that the proposals developed so far at the Abraham Geiger College do not meet the requirement of being “a clear cut from the previous structure and a comprehensive new beginning.”

The release of the Central Council-commissioned report was preceded by a volley of statements by lawyers for both parties.

On Monday, the council’s attorneys announced that their preliminary report would come out in two days. On Tuesday, Homolka’s attorneys issued a statement criticizing the impending “sudden” release of the report’s summary, suggesting it reeked of “prejudgment.”

The law firm representing Homolka — Behm Becker Geßner — noted that its client had received “a list of questions with serious accusations” from the council’s attorneys, and that he had responded in writing last Sunday. “Should the result not take into account the meaningful statement of our client, there would be a massive violation of personality rights,” warned the lawyers, who have successfully battled some critical press coverage of Homolka.

The Central Council criticized what it called Homolka’s delay tactics, saying its attorneys had asked Homolka in early September if he would respond to questions but had not gotten any response to questions sent Oct. 19 until late Sunday night, well after multiple previous deadlines. Still, the council confirmed, its investigators would take Homolka’s responses into account.

“This tactic is the main reason why the law firm will not be able to complete the final and detailed report of the investigation by the end of the year,” the Central Council said. “The courage of the numerous victims must not be sacrificed to Homolka’s delay tactics.”

Meanwhile, the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany is to meet next week in Berlin, after a three-month postponement. Board elections will be held for the position of chair, previously held by Homolka.

On Nov. 26, that group published a report from an investigation that it had commissioned, which concluded that there was no proof of abuse of power at Abraham Geiger College.

German rabbis who are part of the General Rabbinical Conference, Germany’s liberal rabbinical association, file into Berlin’s Rykestrasse Synagogue for an ordination ceremony, Dec. 1, 2022. (Toby Axelrod)

On Wednesday, a critic within the body, the State Association of Jewish Communities of Lower Saxony, said the Central Council’s commissioned report “supports us in our demand for the resignation of Walter Homolka from all his offices within the Jewish community, which we already made in May.”

And there is dissent within the General Rabbinical Conference, Germany’s liberal rabbinical association, as well. About a dozen members issued a statement in November, breaking from the official, cautious tone, saying that “the abuse of power proven against Rabbi Prof. Dr. Homolka [in the university’s report of Oct. 26] is not compatible with the values of Jewish and general ethics.”

The association, known as ARK, issued a statement at the end of November stating that, despite differences of opinion in their ranks, they join the call for a structural and personal new beginning, as “a chance for the next phase of rabbinical training in Germany.”

The post Prominent German rabbi resigns from leadership roles as report confirms allegations against him 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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