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Rabbi arrested, banned from Cleveland universities over his anti-Palestinian activism

(JTA) – For days, students and police at Cleveland State University had been trying to figure out who stole a banner belonging to a campus Palestinian rights group.

The banner, which belonged to the student group Palestinian Human Rights Organization, read “CSU Solidarity for Palestinian Rights” and was illustrated with an outline of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip collectively emblazoned in the Palestinian flag. A dove holding an olive branch appeared on top of the image.

Then, on Jan. 19, police charged their top suspect: a local Orthodox rabbi, whose presence on campus had become all too familiar. A few days later the man confessed to the theft on Instagram, announcing that he had stolen the banner from the school’s student center “as an act of civil disobedience.”

“This incitement to annihilation of Israel should have never been permitted at CSU,” Rabbi Alexander Popivker, a 46-year-old Cleveland Heights resident whose neighborhood is six miles from the school, wrote on social media accompanied by a picture of the flag he stole. 

It was far from Popivker’s only recent run-in with local university students. 

A former Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Naples, Italy, who now works in the Cleveland area as a handyman and part-time rabbi for a Russian-speaking Jewish community, Popivker has become known around town as a vigilant and omnipresent pro-Israel advocate. He can often be spotted counter-protesting at local pro-Palestinian demonstrations, or putting on displays of his own, with his wife Sarah on hand filming every contentious encounter. 

One major theme of his protests, and his worldview, as he explained to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “Palestinians and Nazis are the same thing.”

For the last year, Popivker had been making weekly trips to Cleveland State, occasionally accompanied by other students or community members, to give public demonstrations that elaborate on that idea — sometimes with the aid of swastika-emblazoned props. In the early going, the university provided him with police protection and said his visits to campus were protected by free speech laws. 

But he also sought out students online and in-person whom he deemed to be “brainwashed” by anti-Zionist messaging. One such online campaign against a law student prompted the student to file an order of protection against Popivker last fall, an order supported by a prominent Jewish dean at the university. Popivker promptly violated the order by returning to campus.

Cleveland State University main campus, Cleveland, Ohio. (Getty Images)

In late January, university authorities had enough. They arrested Popivker and, following a hearing, declared him persona non grata on campus, banning him from the university grounds for at least two years. Popivker has also been banned from nearby Case Western Reserve University, where he had advocated before focusing on Cleveland State.

In the midst of a nationwide university climate in which pro-Israel advocates claim Jewish students face regular antisemitic harassment for their real or perceived Zionist beliefs, here was a documented case of the opposite: a Jew and outspoken Zionist, who has no affiliation with the schools at which he advocates, accused of harassing anyone he perceived as a threat to Israel, including students who had never sought him out directly. 

The Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has spoken out numerous times against Popivker and praised university police for arresting him; a petition the group backed, labeled “Stop harassment on campus” and mentioning Popivker by name, has garnered close to 700 signatures.

Jewish groups, including civil rights groups, have been less forthcoming about situation. Hillel International declined to comment for this story, and the directors of Cleveland’s regional American Jewish Committee and Jewish Community Relations Council offices did not return requests for comment. Jewish on Campus, a nationwide university antisemitism watchdog group that tracks what it defines as anti-Zionist social media harassment of Jewish students, also did not return a request for comment.

Jared Isaacson, the executive director of Cleveland Hillel, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the center was “not very familiar with this story.” Cleveland Hillel coordinates Jewish student life at a consortium of Jewish universities including Cleveland State and Case Western, where its student center is located, as well as at least one other school where Popivker has made his presence on campus known in some form. 

But, Isaacson said, “Cleveland Hillel is deeply committed to countering antisemitism and hate in all forms, and we believe that no student — Jewish or otherwise — should ever feel threatened or intimidated because of their identity.” 

Popivker says he has support from the New York-based Lawfare Project, which bills itself as an “international pro-Israel litigation fund.” He told JTA that the organization “is watching over my cases and providing guidance.”

In a statement, the Lawfare Project called Popivker “a Jewish civil rights activist” but did not confirm that it is backing him, saying only that the group is “currently reviewing the matter.”

The group, which frequently files lawsuits on behalf of students who allege antisemitism on their campuses, said in a statement to JTA that the order of protection was a “double standard” that “should be alarming to anyone who cares about the fight against Jew-hatred.”

Lawfar recently settled a multi-year lawsuit with San Francisco State University over student reports of antisemitic harassment on campus stemming from anti-Zionist activists disrupting an event featuring the mayor of Jerusalem. The settlement compelled the university to hire a coordinator of Jewish student life.

Popivker will have his work cut out for him if he fights the charges. He had exhibited “behavior detrimental to the university community” by stealing the Palestinian banner and separately affixing an Israeli flag to university property, Matthew Kibbon, Cleveland State’s associate vice president of facility services, wrote in the university’s decision declaring him persona non grata.

The rabbi “was not banned for the content of his speech, but how he chose to exercise it,” a Cleveland State spokesperson told JTA in a statement. The university also provided JTA a list of recent campus police interactions with him, including the initial Jan. 11 report of the banner’s theft; Popivker’s visit to campus on Jan. 18, during which police advised him that the student’s order of protection did not permit him to be there; and his return visit on Jan. 25, during which he was arrested.

From Popivker’s perspective, he is simply speaking out on Israel’s behalf for a campus that has a large pro-Palestinian activist presence but few Jewish students. (There are fewer than 200 Jewish undergraduates on Cleveland State’s campus out of 11,784 students, according to Hillel International.) His goal is to educate, he says, informed by his status as a Jewish refugee from the Soviet Union. And he believes he is being targeted by local pro-Palestinian activists, who, he said, have gone after his kippah and Israeli flags.

“I never attacked anyone. I never raised my hand up to anyone,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, saying that he was motivated by civil rights icons Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis. “I’m going to a public university. I’m staying in the free speech zone. And I raise awareness about what’s going on. There’s a bunch of students that have become my friends that come to study with me regularly.” 

One of those students, senior Tyler Jarosz, told JTA he became friends with Popivker after seeing him visiting campus to advocate for Israel. Not knowing much about Jews or Israel himself — “I thought Israel was a very peaceful state,” Jarosz said — the student was taken with Popivker’s demonstrations and said he learned a great deal from them. 

“He didn’t just lecture me like a teacher would,” Jarosz said. “He was actually very engaging. He asked questions.” 

Jarosz said he never witnessed the rabbi harassing anyone on campus, and said he always tried to engage people in peaceful dialogue, despite what he described as harassment directed at him by some Muslim students. He recalled one Popivker visit to campus for Israel’s independence day, when the rabbi was offering falafel to students, and said he witnessed one student throw the falafel back at him and threaten to “rape” him.

Other students tell a different story. One campus paper, the Cauldron, reported that the rabbi has targeted visibly Muslim and Arab students on campus, demanding to know their views on Israel. Popivker “makes me wary of coming into campus,” a student member of the Palestinian Human Rights Organization group told the Cauldron. “I’m forced to be on constant edge and take the longer way to class in order to avoid him.” Another student told a different campus newspaper, “It’s almost as though he deliberately looks for Palestinian individuals just to target them.” 

The chair of the law school’s National Lawyers Guild student chapter told the Cleveland Jewish News that their group’s efforts to engage Popivker in reasonable dialogue failed when he began using “racial slurs and insulting language.”

A swastika Alexander Popivker drew on a Palestinian scarf (alleged by some students to be a keffiyeh, or ritual Muslim prayer scarf) while mounting a pro-Israel demonstration on the campus of Cleveland State University. Popivker then shared the image to his Instagram, Feb. 3, 2023. (Screenshot)

In images from one Popivker demonstration, the rabbi can be seen drawing a swastika with a Sharpie marker on what the Cauldron reported was a keffiyeh, a scarf worn by Arabic men, but which Popivker told JTA was a Palestinian scarf with no spiritual significance. He has also yelled phrases including “Palestinians are Nazis” and “Palestinians are the KKK,” and constructed a stage with images further linking Palestinians to Naziism, according to reports. Popivker’s own Instagram videos show him approaching groups of students to argue about Israel as he films them, calling some of them “terrorists” when they go after his flags. One of his video captions mentions “a Middle Eastern looking student.”

Cleveland State increased its safety protocols as a result of Popivker’s activities, locking some additional entrances around campus. But much of his activities have been online, too.

Last fall Popivker trained his attention on a law student who was involved with campus Palestinian rights groups and had made some anti-Israel posts online, including sharing an image of a child whom pro-Palestinian groups claimed had been a victim of an Israeli bombing, and sharing a socialist group’s post quoting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” 

Documents show that Popivker emailed and called the student’s employer and law school seeking to have her disciplined for her beliefs, writing among other things that she was a “mouthpiece of terrorism and racism against Jews.” He also made Instagram posts targeting her. In response, the student filed for and received the order of protection against him, which Popivker later claimed was unwarranted because he had never met the student in person. 

In its statement to JTA, the Lawfare Project homed in on this sequence of events, saying that Popivker’s decision to email the student’s school and employer about what he believed to be antisemitic social media posts was “a tool routinely used by civil rights activists to fight discrimination.”

Popivker asked Jarosz to send a letter attesting to his character for the order of protection hearing, which he did. “Alex understands and respects everyone of every background that he comes across,” the student wrote in his letter. “I have personally witnessed the demonization they have done of him.” Speaking to JTA weeks later, Jarosz said the court case was “bogus,” but said he was unaware of the emails, social media records and phone transcripts reviewed by JTA showing that Popivker had contacted the student’s employer and school.

At the order of protection hearing, a transcript of which Popivker sent to JTA, a key witness who advocated for the restriction was law school dean Lee Fisher, a former attorney general and lieutenant governor of Ohio. Fisher is Jewish. 

“We share a hatred of antisemitism,” Fisher told Popivker during the hearing, according to the transcript. The dean also identified himself as “pro-Israel, very much so.” But Fisher made clear he was critical of Popivker’s activities on campus. Asked by Popivker about a specific social media post the student had made, Fisher responded, “Even if she made a mistake by posting it, it did not warrant the kind of reaction I believe that you had.”

Fisher had also met with Popivker previously, in a session mediated by a local rabbi who was a friend of Popivker. “I told him that I was concerned for the health and safety of our students,” the dean said during the hearing. He had implored Popivker to stop his campus activities, but the rabbi refused.

It’s the initial order of protection, which Popivker said had already effectively banned him from campus, that the rabbi says he truly opposes. He saw it as evidence that “they were basically working together with Palestinians” to “cover up the fact that they have an antisemitic group that openly propagates a destruction of Israel.” Popivker visited campus several times after receiving the order of protection but was permitted to stay with only a warning from campus police, Jarosz recalled.

This state of affairs lasted until the rabbi stole the Palestinian student group banner to, he said, “shine a light on this antisemitism.” Popivker described to JTA how he entered the student building, walked up to the third floor where he knew the banner was, and used scissors to remove it and take it with him: “Clip, clip, clip.” He was subsequently thrown in jail — his second such stint in Cleveland for pro-Israel activities, he said, criticizing local law enforcement for not providing him with kosher food while he was behind bars. 

Outside of campus, Popivker is active in other areas. Last year, he organized a GoFundMe to support the family of a former classmate of his who was killed by an Islamic State supporter in a terrorist attack in Beersheba, Israel. He also applied to fill a January vacancy on the Cleveland Heights city council, but later withdrew his application. 

After being barred from Cleveland State University, Rabbi Alex Popivker took to holding his anti-Palestinian protests on a street outside a local casino. (Courtesy Popivker)

While Popivker may preach nonviolence, his social media activity points to more radical ideologies, as well. On Instagram, he has shared an image of the flag of the Jewish Defense League, an extremist Jewish group that advocates violence against enemies of Jews, founded by convicted terrorist Rabbi Meir Kahane, as well as an image with a logo of Im Tirtzu, a right-wing Israeli group that has in the past been accused of inciting violence against Israeli human rights groups. Popivker told JTA he is not a member of either group, but that “if I think it’s aligned with what I believe in, I’ll share it.”

Popivker says that, for now, he’s done with his brand of “civil disobedience” and won’t be making his weekly visits to Cleveland State’s campus. “I do have five wonderful boys and a loving wife, and as much as Cuyahoga [County’s] jail is an educational experience in life in many ways, I do not want to go there every week,” he said.

Instead, days after his arrest and campus ban, Popivker posted a photo of himself with an Israeli flag to social media — this time outside a casino a mile away from campus.

The post Rabbi arrested, banned from Cleveland universities over his anti-Palestinian activism 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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