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The quest to replace Park East Synagogue’s 92-year-old rabbi is not going smoothly

(New York Jewish Week) — More than a year after it attracted attention for the abrupt termination of its popular assistant rabbi, Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue was again the scene of a heated squabble on Sunday. 

And like last time, the spat centered on who will succeed the Orthodox congregation’s 92-year-old spiritual leader, Rabbi Arthur Schneier.

In the time since the former assistant rabbi, Benjamin Goldschmidt, was ousted, no one has been appointed to take Schneier’s place after his tenure ends. The synagogue announced a search for a “worthy successor” to Schneier 11 months ago, and a public event on Sunday night was supposed to herald the next stage in that process. A candidate for the position, Rabbi Yitzchok Schochet, delivered an hour-long lecture to a crowd of 100 people, including members of the search committee. 

But following the talk, the event held in the synagogue’s Charles Brooks Ballroom devolved into a verbal sparring match between Schochet, the rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue, and Kalman Sporn, a political consultant who describes himself as a “human rights activist.” Sporn questioned Schochet’s past outspoken opposition to same-sex relationships. Schochet claimed that Sporn was engaging in “cancel culture.”

“Park East’s bimah is New York’s hallowed ground for human dignity,” Sporn told the New York Jewish Week. “It must not become a pulpit for prejudice.” 

Michael Scharf, who serves on the rabbinic search committee, told the Jewish Week in an emailed statement that Sporn’s comments were “disrespectful” to Schochet.

“Rabbi Schochet is a most distinguished Rabbi with a demonstrable record of great accomplishment, an incredible speaker, a true man of faith, and certainly not one who should be the subject of a smear and libelous campaign emanating from a group of nasty malcontents who obviously did not listen to Rabbi Schochet’s eloquent rejoinders to their issues,” Scharf wrote. 

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet spoke at Park East Synagogue on Sunday about the pursuit of happiness, when some synagogue members began to question him about his record on LGBTQ and Palestinian issues. (Zoom Screenshot)

The incident has prompted congregants to consider whether Schochet has the right temperament to lead a congregation that has hosted a succession of dignitaries, including Pope Benedict XVI. Critics say Schochet’s history of controversy, in addition to his response to being criticized on Sunday, do not accord with the synagogue’s self-image as a distinguished public forum. 

And the drama Sunday night has raised the same question that has nagged at the synagogue for more than a year: Who is a fitting replacement for Schneier, a longtime religious freedom activist and former U.S. alternate representative at the United Nations? 

Goldschmidt, who was popular among young congregants and was once seen by some as Schneier’s heir apparent, was fired in October 2021. He was subsequently derided by Schneier’s allies as lacking the education and gravitas needed to lead the synagogue. That dispute ended with Goldschmidt founding a breakaway congregation, the Altneu, which also meets on the Upper East Side and has attracted a growing membership.

“Park East has a problem where they really haven’t had a rabbi for many years,” said one member who, like several who discussed the synagogue’s internal debates, wished to remain anonymous. “We’re down on people coming on Saturday. The schools are a problem. Covid hurt us. [Rabbi Schnier] is 92, so on a day-to-day basis, he hasn’t really been involved.”

Schochet, 58, is a Chabad-affiliated rabbi who has held a number of prominent positions in British Jewish communal organizations. For three decades, he has been the rabbi of London’s Mill Hill United Synagogue, an 1,800-member Orthodox congregation in northwest London. According to a biography on the synagogue website, he has also served as the chairman of the Rabbinical Council of the United Kingdom’s United Synagogue, and as a member of the British Chief Rabbi’s cabinet. 

But Schochet has also faced backlash for his comments about Palestinians and their supporters. In 2018, the British Holocaust Memorial Day Trust condemned Schochet for referring to Jews who said Kaddish for Palestinians as “kapos,” or Jews who served in positions of authority in Nazi concentration camps. 

In 2015, Middle East Monitor, a pro-Palestinian media outlet, criticized Schochet for two tweets he had written four years earlier in response to a user called “Jew4Palestine.” In one, he wrote, “I have a spare Israeli flag if you want to hang yourself on it.” In the second, commenting on unemployment statistics in Gaza, he wrote, “Then again if you include terrorism as work, it’s 100% employed.” Soon afterward, Schochet was removed as a patron of a charity called Faith Matters.

At the meeting on Sunday, however, much of the criticism of Schochet revolved around his past public opposition to same-sex marriage. Jewish law has traditionally prohibited same-sex relationships, and refusing to conduct same-sex weddings remains normative practice among nearly all Orthodox rabbis.  

In 2011, Schochet said that “the time-hallowed sacredness of marriage should always be preserved.” In 2012, the rabbi called gay marriage “an assault on religious values.” That same year, he penned an essay for PinkNews, an LGBTQ-focused publication, called “Homosexuality is prohibited in Orthodox Judaism but so is eating bacon, everyone is welcome.”

In 2014, England, Scotland and Wales legalized same-sex marriage. The following year, Schochet wrote that the Torah prohibits homosexual acts, but does not condemn a person for having homosexual feelings.

Schochet did not respond to a New York Jewish Week request for comment.  

Sporn has posted tweets criticizing Schochet’s positions, and at the meeting on Sunday, brought up Schochet’s record of controversial statements during the question-and-answer portion of the event.  

“I personally have been troubled by some of the positions you have taken in the past,” Sporn said. “You have openly fought efforts for marriage equality, while you want gay people to in your words feel reassured that they are always welcome into synagogues.”

Sporn was eventually cut off from using the microphone. Schochet responded, saying he had seen Sporn’s tweets. He said he had been invited to write an essay for PinkNews in 2012  “precisely because I was deemed as being the more moderate amongst all the Orthodox rabbis on gay issues.” 

He added that the previous year, in a segment that aired on the BBC, he defended a gay couple who were denied access to a hotel room by a Christian owner. Schochet also said that a high-ranking member at his synagogue was gay.  

“To everyone’s surprise, other than my own and those who know me to be a liberal conservative, I argued that everyone has a right to uphold their religious convictions without compromise,” Schochet wrote in a blog post about the BBC broadcast. “However, what you cannot do is look to impose those on others. That’s religious fundamentalism.” 

In that same blog post, Schochet doubled down on his opposition to gay marriage. “If you choose to reject religion and lead a gay lifestyle, or conduct extra marital affairs, then frankly that is your business,” Schochet said. “That I choose to frown upon what you do because my G-d says it is wrong is very much my entitlement.” 

Schochet then began to criticize Sporn, mentioning Sporn’s involvement in a scheme to apportion Catholic papal knighthoods for cash.

“You and I can go on canceling each other all night long,” Schochet said. “Cancel culture, which is the scourge and the malaise of our 21st century is, in the words of Barack Obama, scorched earth, partisan politics, where people we disagree with are maligned.” 

(In 2019, regarding condemnations of people on social media, Obama said, “That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change, if all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.” A column on the Jewish website about Obama’s comments does criticize “this scorched-earth partisan politics – where people with whom we disagree are denied a fair hearing and a voice in public life.”)

Schochet continued, “it divides families, it divides society, it tears apart relationships, it polarizes and pits people against one another. We may always be two Jews as indeed we are with three opinions, but we should always maintain one heart. I invite you to join me in that mission statement.” 

When he finished, the crowd erupted into applause. The room became calm, until later, another member of the congregation, who did not use a microphone, stood up and confronted the rabbi about his exchange between him and Sporn — leading Schochet to apologize to Sporn.

“If I did embarrass you, I do genuinely apologize to you profusely and I hope you forgive me, and I mean that sincerely,” he said.

Addressing the crowd following the incident, Schneier — who has led Park East for more than 60 years — said, “When it comes to the selection of a rabbi, it is entirely up to the membership.”

“The purpose of Rabbi Schochet coming here with us, some of you did not have a chance to to hear him, to meet with him, and now I hope you get to know him a bit better,” Schneier said. “All kinds of rumors, forget about them.” 

Schochet’s reaction to Sporn was “a personal attack,” the member who wished to remain anonymous said. He added that Schochet’s conduct did not reflect the decorum the synagogue strives to maintain.

“He ganged [the crowd] up in a mob mentality where they cheered for him,” the member told the Jewish Week. “Instead of answering the question, he attacked him. [Schochet] had such a great opportunity to be diplomatic. This guy is not diplomatic on an interview. Could you imagine if he had a contract? This is almost beyond belief.” 

This member also said that Schochet is the only rabbi who has been brought to the synagogue by the search committee. 

Another synagogue member told the Jewish Week that Sporn’s tweets attacking Schochet provided critical context for their exchange.

“It did not come across to me as embarrassing to Kalman,” the member said. “It came across to me as Rabbi Schochet saying that what you’re doing is being unfair.”

He added that what is getting lost amidst the squabble is that Park East “is looking for a rabbi.” 

“Every member should have the opportunity to come and ask questions,” the member said. “The sense I had from people is that they got a really good understanding of where Rabbi Schochet stands on the issues. Yes, Kalman brought up an issue, and Rabbi Schochet apologized.” 

That member said no decisions have been made thus far as to who will be hired.

Meanwhile, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, the wife of Benjamin Goldschmidt, told the New York Jewish Week that the new synagogue they started is “only growing” and that she hasn’t followed developments at her husband’s old congregation. 

“I really don’t have anything to do with that place,” Goldschmidt said of Park East Synagogue. “We have moved on.” 

The post The quest to replace Park East Synagogue’s 92-year-old rabbi is not going smoothly 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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