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U. of Vermont agrees to improve antisemitism training, ending federal case and capping a tumultuous year

(JTA) – A year of strained relations between the University of Vermont and its Jewish community has led to the school resolving a federal antisemitism complaint and pledging to do more to protect its Jewish students — including from anti-Zionist rhetoric.

The university and the U.S. Department of Education announced Monday that they had reached a resolution to the complaint, which the department took up last fall after it was filed by students and pro-Israel groups. The complaint alleged that the institution had not properly responded to Jewish students’ allegations of antisemitic discrimination. Investigators determined that the university “received notice, but did not investigate” several claims of antisemitic behavior on campus, and that the steps it ultimately took did not adequately address students’ concerns. 

Notably, the department’s office of civil rights determined that one of the ways the university’s Jewish students had been discriminated against was through “national origin harassment on the basis of shared ancestry,” reflecting a controversial argument promoted by pro-Israel groups that anti-Zionist rhetoric is harmful to all Jews because the Jewish people share Israel as an ancestral homeland. The resolution of the complaint also reflects a sharp change in course for the school, which had initially denied wrongdoing and blamed the accusations on an orchestrated external campaign — a response that upset the campus Jewish community.

“This complaint was overwhelmingly dealing with the antisemitism that masks as anti-Zionism, and what the resolution demonstrates is how seriously [the office] is taking that kind of antisemitism,” Alyza Lewin, president of the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency after the ruling. A pro-Israel legal group that often involves itself in campus disputes, the Brandeis Center was one of the organizations that filed the initial complaint on behalf of mostly anonymous students. 

The Department of Education responded to a JTA request for comment by pointing to its letter of resolution with the university. Its civil rights office has fielded several challenges to anti-Zionist rhetoric since the Donald Trump administration expanded the department’s mandate around antisemitism in 2019 under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The office of civil rights is fast becoming a favorite tool for pro-Israel activists: It also announced this week it would open an investigation into allegations of a professor’s antisemitic behavior at George Washington University, a week after the university’s own investigation cleared the faculty member of charges brought by another pro-Israel group.

In the agreement, the University of Vermont pledged to revise its policies for reporting discrimination and to train its staff on how to specifically respond to discrimination complaints. The Department of Education will also review the university’s records regarding its response to last year’s allegations of antisemitism. One of the areas in which the university said it would train staff is on how to recognize “the Title VI prohibition against harassment based on national origin, including shared ancestry.” 

Among the allegations: cases of unofficial student groups denying admission to “Zionist” students (including a support group for sexual-assault survivors); one graduate teaching assistant who had mused on social media about lowering the grades of Zionist students; and a group of students who’d reportedly thrown an object at the campus Hillel building (the complaint claimed it was a rock; Hillel staff told JTA it was a puffball mushroom). More than 20% of the university’s student body is Jewish, according to Hillel International.

Evan Siegel, a Jewish junior at the University of Vermont, poses in his off-campus housing in Burlington, October 13, 2022. Siegel was initially critical of his school for its handling of a federal antisemitism investigation, but praised its eventual resolution. (Andrew Lapin/Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

The agreement marked a sharp change from how the university first responded when the government announced its intent to investigate the complaint last fall. Back then, the university’s president, Suresh Garimella, issued a combative statement in which he said the university “vigorously denies the false allegation of an insufficient response to complaints of threats and discrimination.” He also issued a point-by-point refutation of the allegations in the complaint. 

Garimella further charged that the complaint had been orchestrated by “an anonymous third party” that had “painted our community in a patently false light.” In addition to the Brandeis Center, the complaint was filed on behalf of students by the watchdog group Jewish On Campus, whose antisemitism-tracking methodology has been criticized by other groups. 

Garimella’s combativeness at the time was an unusual move for the leader of a university accused of violating Title VI law, which prohibits discriminatory behavior at federally-funded programs or institutions, such as public universities. Groups like the Brandeis Center have increasingly leaned on Title VI in federal complaints to argue that pro-Israel students face discrimination. Title VI cases have become a central component of litigating multiple kinds of Israel discourse on campus, ranging from a pro-Israel student body president being targeted at the University of Southern California to a resolution passed by pro-Palestinian law student groups at the University of California, Berkeley.

In Burlington, where the university is located, some liberal Jews were initially dubious of the complaint. Felicia Kornbluh, a history professor on campus who often teaches American Jewish history, told JTA she was concerned about “playing into the narrative” of a conservative, pro-Israel agenda set by the Brandeis Center, whom she described as “allies of the Trump wing of the Republican party.” (The center’s founder, Kenneth Marcus, served as assistant secretary of education for civil rights under Trump.)

But the complaint also landed in the aftermath of a contentious Burlington city council meeting at which, Kornbluh and others said, pro-Palestinian protesters became hostile to Jews. The meeting featured a council resolution to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel, and resulted in a raucous scene where pro-Palestinian groups shouted down Jewish students singing prayers for peace. Kornbluh described the atmosphere there as “really scary,” and “a little like Nuremberg.” Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, a local activist group, held multiple rallies on campus in support of the administration after the antisemitism complaint was publicized.

Against this backdrop, Garimella’s dismissiveness left the university’s Jewish community frustrated and angry. During a Jewish Telegraphic Agency visit to Burlington after the president’s initial statement, Jewish students and faculty said they felt like university administration was not taking their concerns seriously.

“I feel like we’re not being supported here,” Evan Siegel, a Jewish junior who is involved with student government, told JTA while sitting in off-campus housing adorned with Jewish summer camp memorabilia. “And that sucks.”

Employed as a campus tour guide, Siegel wondered, “How am I supposed to give tours and be like, ‘UVM is the best,’ when my president is being an ass?”

Other Jewish students told JTA at the time they had no intention of supporting the university financially or otherwise after they graduated, and wouldn’t advertise the fact that they were alums.

Matt Vogel, executive director of Hillel at the University of Vermont, where one of the alleged antisemitic incidents had taken place, also reluctantly played a role in the drama of the last year, after hoping he would be able to keep his focus on Hillel’s student programming. As the fall semester was starting, he sent an email home to parents reading, “Antisemitism keeps me awake at night.” Throughout the semester, Hillel also became more active in calling out antisemitism on social media.

“Just by default, we’re at the center of it,” Vogel told JTA last fall in the Hillel building, as student volunteers chopped vegetables for that evening’s Shabbat dinner in the next room. “I’ve overheard a student saying, like, a Hillel sticker on their water bottle might turn into a political conversation about Zionism in the first two seconds.”

Matt Vogel, executive director of Hillel at the University of Vermont, prepares for Shabbat in his Burlington office, October 14, 2022. Vogel praised the university for ultimately resolving its federal antisemitism complaint in April 2023 after months of tension. (Andrew Lapin/Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

Soon, Kornbluh decided that the administration’s response to the allegations was unacceptable, and penned a local op-ed opposing it that was later shared by her faculty union in a show of solidarity.

“I was stunned by the tone and content” of Garimella’s letter, Kornbluh wrote in the piece. Accusing the university of “gaslighting,” she added, “I do know that one persistent rhetorical strategy of antisemites in Europe and the United States has been to say that there is no antisemitism.” 

Garimella reversed course following weeks of criticism, a strongly worded letter from more than a dozen Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee and news of several high-profile antisemitic incidents nationally. In October, the university published a website intended to support Jewish students — accompanied by a new statement from Garimella, who now condemned antisemitism unequivocally.

“I have listened to members of our campus community who experience a sense of risk in fully expressing their Jewish identity,” he wrote. ”I want my message to be clear to the entire campus community: antisemitism, in any form, will not be tolerated at UVM.” 

This time, Garimella pledged not only to investigate individual reports of antisemitism, but also to work to change the campus community’s approach to the issue. He committed to further anti-bias training and building a streamlined bias reporting system for students, and said the university’s diversity office would work to build and maintain “meaningful actions that ensure our Jewish students and community members feel support and care.” 

After Monday’s resolution, Garimella was fully supportive of the findings of the Department of Education’s investigation.

“The resolution reflects an important step in UVM’s engagement with our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the surrounding community,” he wrote in a message to the campus. “It also reflects numerous conversations we have had with our campus Jewish community and important local and national voices on the consequential and complex issue of antisemitism.” 

In response to a JTA request for comment, a university spokesperson sent copies of the letters from the president and provost. (Throughout the year, the president’s office had declined multiple JTA interview requests.)

Jewish groups, including the university Hillel, celebrated the resolution. “The President and senior leadership’s new statements today represent tangible and accountable steps forward,” Vogel told JTA in a statement. “We hope this ensures that no Jewish student or any student at UVM experiences discrimination or harassment because of their identity.”

The Hillel building at the University of Vermont in Burlington, October 14, 2022. Hillel found itself at the center of a federal antisemitism complaint against the university. (Andrew Lapin/Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

Also celebrating the ruling was Jewish on Campus, a subsidiary of the World Jewish Congress and one of the groups that brought the initial complaint. “Today’s announcement is a victory for the safety and security of Jewish students,” Julia Jassey, the group’s CEO and a University of Chicago undergraduate, said in a statement.

Avi Zatz, the only University of Vermont student on the initial complaint who has made their identity public, is himself an employee of Jewish on Campus. Citing antisemitism in Vermont, Zatz recently transferred to the University of Florida — in a state that may soon pass legislation that, critics say, could harm Jewish studies on all its public campuses.

“I can’t have hoped for a better resolution,” Zatz, a junior, told JTA from his new school in Gainesville, Florida. While he said he was still glad to have left Vermont, he added, “I finally feel a sense of closure.”

Kornbluh, for her part, said the resolution was “a start,” but criticized the university for not voicing a stronger commitment to Jewish studies or meeting with Jewish faculty.

Reached by phone from Madrid, where he is studying abroad this semester, Siegel said he was “proud, determined, ready for more” following the university’s agreement. 

“This resolution was really, in a respectful way, a slap in the face to the university to do better,” he said. “I, for one, am ready to get back on campus and continue my work as hard as I can.”

The post U. of Vermont agrees to improve antisemitism training, ending federal case and capping a tumultuous year 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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