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Queer Jews fought to join the Celebrate Israel Parade. This year, I marched in drag.

(JTA) — “Look mom, he’s a beautiful butterfly,” a child shouted, pointing at me, as I marched up Fifth Avenue in drag on June 4 at the Celebrate Israel Parade.

I could only imagine how meaningful it would have been for me as a kid to see drag included as part of this annual Jewish communal celebration on Fifth Avenue. I didn’t know that boys were allowed to be beautiful. Worse, I thought that there was something shameful about my own longing to embrace my femininity. Certainly, growing up, there were many who seemed only too happy to reinforce that shame. Now, strutting proudly in the parade in a fabulous pink sundress and 9-inch heels is my way of creating a Jewish world where one’s whole self belongs.

Drag helps me find joy in not fitting neatly into boxes or binaries. As a queer Jew who grew up in an Orthodox family, non-binary identity is not just a helpful framing for my gender, it also best captures my approach to religion and my relationship with Israel. Not quite a man and not quite Orthodox, I am equally not quite a woman and kind of Orthodox. While I may not label myself a Zionist, I most certainly celebrate Israel and consider the nation central to my Judaism.

For me, these internal conflicts create the tension that energizes my art. The ability to hold seemingly opposing identities at once provides an authenticity that is both thrilling and freeing. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to drag. What better art form to express the full spectrum of identity with all its contradictions, complications, and kaleidoscopic colors? I find drag the most exciting and self-actualizing way to fully show up in a parade that celebrates the complexity of Jewish heritage and homeland.

My drag also pays homage to the unapologetic fighting spirit that allowed queer Jews into the parade in the first place. Today, the Jewish Community Relations Council-NY (the parade’s producers) fully embraces the LGBTQ marching cluster and makes us feel like valued members of the Jewish community. But queer organizations were not always welcome at this event. When New York’s gay synagogue attempted to March in the early 1990s, its invitation was rescinded when Orthodox day schools (which still appear to make up the majority of marching schools) threatened to pull out from a parade with an LGTBQ contingent.

As a closeted teen in yeshiva, I remember feeling crushed when I read about the parade’s gay ban. The internalized message was clear: I’m not wanted and there is no place for me in this Jewish community. I recall feeling angry that it seemed like queer Jewish organizations just gave up and gave in to homophobia without a fight. This fury became a drive that helped create JQY (Jewish Queer Youth), the organization I co-founded whose mission is to support LGBTQ youth from Orthodox homes.

It was not until years later, in 2012, when a 16-year-old JQY member named Jon asked if we could march in the Celebrate Israel parade, that I knew it was time to reopen the fight for queer inclusion. That year JQY organized a cluster of queer Jewish organizations and applied to march as an official LGBTQ contingent. At first there was little resistance and our application was accepted. But two weeks before the parade, I was contacted by the parade’s director, informing me that the banner for our marching group must have “no reference to a LGBT or Gay and Lesbian community.” Apparently, once again Orthodox schools were threatening to boycott the parade if queers were to be allowed to march under an LGBT banner.

This time, however, JQY would not back down. I made it clear to the parade director that his request to erase our community identity is unacceptable and that we intended to show up on parade Sunday ready to march with a banner that read “Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans Jewish Community.” I told the director that he was welcome to call the police and deal with the optics of arresting queer Jews attempting to celebrate Israel.

Soon after, I began getting phone calls from leaders of the largest queer Jewish organizations. To my surprise, instead of being encouraging, they pressured me to stand down and compromise. Their concern was that my position made queer Jews seem “divisive.” I nearly gave in to these calls for appeasement until I spoke with Larry Kramer, the gay activist, playwright and personal hero of mine. Larry’s words still ring true today. “They were wrong then and they are wrong now,” he said. “The pressure to not be divisive is just a convenient and cowardly device for professionals to hang their internalized homophobia [on].”

The JQY team devised a plan. Prior to the parade’s pushback, we had already received an invitation to a pre-parade wine-and-cheese reception hosted by Fox TV, which was televising the parade that year. I would attend the event with Jon, the JQY member who inspired this parade advocacy, and we would speak to every journalist in the room, letting them know how excited and thankful we were that, for the first time ever, there would be an LGBTQ marching cluster.

When we approached the parade director who was flanked by Fox TV execs, we shook his hand and loudly congratulated him on the incredible milestone for queer inclusion. Cornered and in the spotlight, his response could not have been more perfect. “Yes, we are so proud to have an LGBTQ cluster this year,” he said. We had won.

(Noam Gilboord, the chief operating officer of JCRC-NY, confirmed this account. He said he had not been aware of the pushback against JQY at the time and noted that a highlight of his parade experience this year was handing an Israeli flag to a friend’s trans daughter, who was marching with her community.)

That Sunday our LGBTQ Community cluster had more than 100 marching participants made up of queer Jews of all ages and denominations, as well as friends, family, and allies. We received an overwhelmingly supportive reaction from the crowd, made up of mostly Orthodox Jews. We felt like we were healing old wounds and breaking new ground. Most importantly, we demonstrated that Jewish unity means including the LGBTQ Jewish community by name.

The organizers of the parade were so impressed with our contingent that they awarded us the Most Enthusiastic Participation Award. With subsequent yearly participation, our LGBTQ cluster has become a parade staple and highlight for onlookers. It is one of JQY’s proudest accomplishments.

JQY leads the first-ever LGBTQ contingent in the Celebrate Israel parade in 2012. (Robert Saferstein)

I believe that it is precisely JQY’s focus on uplifting complex identities that made our case to join the parade so strong. For most of our teens, celebrating Israel is part of what it means to both be Jewish and part of the Jewish community (the nation of Israel). Participation in the parade for them is about belonging, not support for any political structure or agenda. It makes sense that Jewish queer youth want to experience communal belonging in an LGBTQ-affirming way. Yet there are still those on the extreme political right and left who refuse to see this nuance and put our participants at risk.

In 2017 our LGBTQ contingent was targeted, infiltrated and sabotaged by members of Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Israel activist group. The protesters physically pushed, surrounded and blocked terrified queer Jewish minors who were bravely marching in front of their Orthodox families. Little did our teens know that it was bigotry from the left that would come for them that day.

This year we were particularly wary of marching among a predominantly Orthodox crowd — not because the Orthodox community has gotten more religious or pious, but because of reports that the Orthodox community has become more influenced by a political right that increasingly targets the LGBTQ community. One of the most influential public figures on the right is Ben Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew who, besides being fixated on canceling companies that work with trans people, recently published an article blaming LGBTQ acceptance for the “failure of modern Orthodox Judaism.”

Our contingent this year was mostly met with smiles, cheers and applause. However, it was difficult to ignore the handful of people on nearly every block who covered their children’s faces, displayed angry thumbs down signs and even shouted homophobic or transphobic slurs as we passed. Over the last few years I have noticed an uptick in these kinds of negative responses. It would be negligent not to connect this change to the recent nation-wide scapegoating of trans youth, drag artists, and LGBTQ acceptance.

This week, for the first time ever, the Human Rights Campaign declared an LGBTQ state of emergency in the United States, after lawmakers in 45 states proposed anti-trans bills in 2023. Of those, 24 have proposed “Don’t Say Gay” laws that criminalize discussion of LGBTQ issues in public schools, and lawmakers in 14 states have proposed anti-drag laws. Politicians and pundits with huge platforms are openly describing queer advocates as “groomers,” conveying that there is a pedophilic sexual agenda to the call for LGBTQ human rights and dignity.

This is the environment that LGBTQ Jewish youth live in today and experienced while marching in front of the Jewish community at this year’s parade. This is why I chose to march in drag. Marching is an exercise in building resilience and self-esteem in the face of adversity. My message is to not be afraid, to never back down and to be as magnificent as possible. These principles are the foundations of drag.

Drag is a queer art form that empowers us to express ourselves with every color imaginable. Drag elicits joy and entertainment by subverting expectations and turning gender expression into theatrical performance. It is an artistic genre that can be innocent or scandalous. The form ranges from family-friendly fun like “Mrs. Doubtfire” and Drag Queen Story Hours, to hit TV shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the more adult fare found in late night bars.

At the Celebrate Israel parade, drag is as natural an aesthetic for queer marchers as Bukharan music and garb are to the Russian-speaking Jewish community cluster.  For many LGBTQ Jews, drag is as much a part of our culture and heritage as the celebration of Israel. This year, I was the first participant to march in drag. Next year, I hope many more will follow. Because let’s face it, nothing lights up a parade quite like a fabulous drag queen.

The post Queer Jews fought to join the Celebrate Israel Parade. This year, I marched in drag. 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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