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The mysterious disappearance of Yemenite children in Israel is the focus of a new play

(New York Jewish Week) — Shortly after the State of Israel was founded, Shanit Keter-Schwartz was born on a dirt floor, in a hut made of aluminum siding outside the burgeoning town of Tel Aviv. She was the second of six children, the daughter of Yemenite Jews who had recently immigrated to the new country. They’d faced discrimination and violence in their country of origin, so when Jewish emissaries turned up in 1949 to bring 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel as a part of “Operation Flying Carpet,” they were all in.

Unfortunately, Keter-Schwartz’s upbringing in Israel was no magic carpet ride. “[Yemenite Jews] were seen as savages, primitive, inferior in the eyes of the Ashkenazi Jews,” Keter-Schwartz recalled in an interview with the New York Jewish Week. “They were not sophisticated or educated. It was a cultural domination, a collective trauma in Israel. They faced war, hunger, poverty, and living in very harsh conditions.”

The worst, though, wasn’t near-starvation due to rationing, or the harsh conditions of the shanty towns that these new immigrants were placed in, or the way European children wrinkled their nose at her and called her smelly. No, the worst was when the government stole her sister, Sarah, whom Keter-Schwartz never saw again.

In what has become known as the Yemenite Children Affair, more than 1,000 children of Yemenite, Mizrahi and Balkan descent were separated from their children during the first decade of Israel’s existence. The families and their advocates have long insisted, over denials by officials, that the children were taken from their families by the Ashkenazi government during the first decade of Israel’s existence. More often than not, parents were told their children had died when they had, in fact, been given to families of European descent for adoption, according to Amram Association, one of several organizations dedicated to documenting these abductions and advocating for victims’ families.

Now, Keter-Schwartz — a writer and performer who lives in Los Angeles, and a mother to two grown daughters —  has brought to life her family’s story and her search for her missing sister in the form of a one-woman show. Premiering on Thursday at New York City Center, and running through May 15, “Daughter of the Wicked” chronicles her family’s journey from the  Yemenite ma’abarot (refugee camps) to shikunim (government housing projects), where they lived in a tiny two-room apartment amid a melting pot of Jewish immigrants who were often at odds with one another.

“It is overcrowded, and the people who live here come from many different places. In their countries they were… respected by their communities,” she says in the show, which is named after one of the many Yemenite curses her mother would hurl at her when she’d done something wrong. “But here [in Israel] they are forced into stereotypes.”

“Israel had no choice but to bring the Jews from the Arab countries because the European Jews population had been greatly diminished after the Holocaust, but they didn’t want us,” Keter-Schwartz told the New York Jewish Week. “They took control of our lives, tried to assimilate us, wanted the whole country to be secular and uniform. They made all the decisions for us.”

One such “decision” made by the government, she said, was to remove her oldest brother, Yossi, from the family home to “re-educate” him at an Ashkenazi kibbutz. It worked: Yossi returned as a proud secular farmer, disdainful and ashamed of his spiritualist, religious family and their traditional ways.

The disappearance of her baby sister, Sarah, inspired Keter-Schwartz’s play, which is also informed by the kabbalistic teachings of her father. (Russ Rowland)

In the case of Keter-Schwartz’s sister, the abduction occurred directly after she was born. “When my father went to the hospital to pick up the twins, my siblings, he returned only with David. They told him that the girl, Sarah, was sick, and he should come back the following day. But when he came back, they told him that she had died,” Keter-Schwartz said. “Being naive, he didn’t question this. He didn’t ask to see a death certificate. He didn’t even know [a certificate] existed. He didn’t demand to see her body, didn’t think to bury her or give her funeral rites. He never suspected for a minute they could deceive him.”

This story, and others, is conveyed in “Daughter of the Wicked” through a series of monologues, each tied to an idea from Kabbalah,the Jewish mystical tradition. Keter-Schwartz defines each concept — like ahava (love), metsuka (hardship), busha (shame) — then tells a personal story that relates to the topic.

With this framework, Keter-Schwartz pays homage to her father, a spiritualist rabbi who spent his days poring over holy texts and divining the true meaning of the universe. She reads from his writings — which were collected and published towards the end of his life as a book, “Nachash HaNechoshet” — detailing her complex relationship to a man who was both an inspiration and, at times, inscrutable to all around him.

“The play is set in a hotel room, while I’m waiting for my sister to show up,” Keter-Schwartz explains. “As I wait, I tell my life. Behind me, on three screens, there’s archival footage from the 1950s that I got from Steven Spielberg’s archive. That footage tells the story, too, and so does the music.” The accompanying music, which transitions the audience from segment to segment, was written by Israeli composer Lilo Fedida, using traditional Yemenite melodies and instruments.

“We lived with this [tragedy] all my childhood, and I’ve been wondering all these years about my missing sister,” said Keter-Schwartz. “If I see her on the street, will I recognize her? Where does she live? Is she happy? I felt guilty that I never really tried to find her, I was so busy with my own life. But now I need to know.”

As a young woman, Keter-Schwartz said she went to great lengths to distance herself from her family’s tragedies. She lived in Amsterdam, London and New York, finally finding her footing in Los Angeles. She changed her name — from Shoshana to Shanit — and declared herself a new person in a new land. It was only when she lost all but one of her siblings, as well as both parents, that she felt an urge to revisit the past. When her last surviving sibling got so ill he almost died, she swore to search for Sarah. Initially, the idea was just to hire a private investigator to try to locate her. During her search, though, she began to feel an urge to share her story.

“I’d never written a play, so it took me two years [working] with coaches,” says Keter-Schwartz. “I’ve been an actress all my life, I’ve edited other people’s scripts, I produced movies, but to actually write — ha! I had amazing coaches. I’m especially grateful to Yigal Chatzor, the Israeli playwright. He brought the Israeli spice and the humor, which is wonderful now because now the play is balanced. It’s heart-wrenching and it’s hysterical. It’s everything, you know.”

The Yemenite Children Affair has never been formally confirmed by the state of Israel, which maintains the position that most of the babies died of malaria or malnutrition and were not, as some have proposed, sold to Ashkenazi families in exchange for donations to the young country. Several government-led commissions have claimed that there was no official wrongdoing, but testimonies continue to emerge that suggest otherwise. According to a 2016 article in Yediot Ahronot, a prominent Israeli news source, the government has sealed the official records of these disappearances until 2071, despite ongoing demonstrations and demands for actions.

In 2021, the Israeli government authorized tens of millions of dollars in reparations to families whose children disappeared while in government care. Nonetheless, no official admission of guilt or apology has been issued, a fact which caused many affected families to reject the plan, calling it “hush money.” Only a fraction of the affected families are eligible for these payments and, according to recent reporting, very few have claimed the money. Less than 1% of the allocated funds have been distributed thus far.

For  Keter-Schwartz, no amount of money could compensate for the loss of her sister. She’s more interested in creating connections with others who lost family members and bringing awareness to this chapter in Israeli history. “Going back to my roots, revisiting the past, is an act of forgiveness,” Keter-Schwartz said in a statement. “By writing this play, I was able to forgive and accept the past. I hope that when audiences see my play they come to terms with their own history, and that they feel a sense of what it means to be free, and the challenges that confront us in maintaining that freedom.”

That is a major throughline of “Daughter of the Wicked”: Keter-Schwartz does not forsake the country that gave her her identity and childhood; rather, she insists on loving it while demanding recognition of past wrongs. Towards the end of her show, Keter Ashkenazi raises both arms to the sky and screams at those who wronged her: “My country! I blame you, shame on you for forsaking us, shame on you!”

But then, she lowers her arms and says, voice cracking with heartbreak: “I love you, I blame you, I love you. My country, I love you.”


The post The mysterious disappearance of Yemenite children in Israel is the focus of a new play 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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