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Ugly Hanukkah sweaters brought this Washington power couple together

(JTA) — Years before they were a couple, Shelley Greenspan and Reuben Smith-Vaughan were just two Amazon employees wearing ugly Hanukkah sweaters to a company holiday party.

Both were working in Amazon’s Washington, D.C., office in 2017 when they each donned their sweaters — Greenspan in a hot pink number with a sparkly blue and gold dreidel; Smith-Vaughan with a blue and neon green Star of David emblazoned across his chest — for the annual holiday party. As they remember it, they were the only two attendees in Hanukkah sweaters.

But while they shared their amusement with each other, any sparks remained confined to Greenspan’s sweater.

“It did give her the knowledge that I was Jewish,” Smith-Vaughan said, noting that his ethnicity is not obvious from his name.

“And not someone just Jewish, but proud enough about it to wear a sweater to a holiday party,” Greenspan added.

Five years later, Greenspan is helping to plan Hanukkah gatherings of her own, as the White House liaison to the Jewish community. And she and Smith-Vaughan are married. But the path to both roles was hardly straightforward.

The year after the Amazon Hanukkah party, Greenspan took a job with the State Department and lost touch with her sweater buddy. That lasted until April 2020, when, isolated at home at the start of the pandemic, the pair matched on the dating app Bumble.

The kippah from their wedding included illustrations from D.C. (Emily Blumberg Photography)

For their first date, which happened over Zoom, Smith-Vaughan asked about her cocktail preference in advance, then dropped two small bottles of gin and tonic at her building’s lobby by bike. Back at home, he poured himself a bourbon, and they video-chatted over drinks.

There was an immediate connection, despite their very different Jewish upbringings. 

Greenspan, 32, is originally from Miami Beach. She attended a Reform synagogue, a Conservative overnight camp and an Orthodox day school growing up before spending the year after high school in Israel, through Young Judaea’s gap year program. After graduating from the University of Florida, she entered the corporate world and then politics, working on both Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and “Jewish Women for Joe” in the Biden campaign. 

Smith-Vaughan, 34, grew up on a coffee farm in Nicaragua, in a Jewish community so tiny “we were taken out of school when someone passed away to make a minyan,” or prayer quorum required for mourners, he recalled.

His bar mitzvah was held at the nearest functioning synagogue, 250 miles away in San Jose, Costa Rica. His father, Arturo Vaughan, serves as the Israeli honorary consulate in Managua, Nicaragua.

A graduate of American University, he is still at Amazon, now the director of Latin America public policy.

“Shelley is the most caring, loving, kind and elegant human being I’ve ever met,” Smith-Vaughan said. “She is kind to a fault, always wanting to help people.”

Their courtship followed the early-pandemic playbook, which Smith-Vaughan said “speeded things up really aggressively.” On their second date, they played tennis outdoors. On their third, he cooked dinner at her apartment, but they remained far away from each other. 

By the fourth date, at her apartment, they broached the conversation about whether to date exclusively — or, in the lingo of the moment, whether to “pod” together.

“No one knew how to date during Covid, there was this ‘let’s all figure it out together,’” Greenspan recalled. She added, “There was never any ‘What are you doing tonight?’ because no one ever had any plans then.”

Road trips became a favorite way to spend time. It was after a jaunt to Bar Harbor, Maine, that Greenspan realized she didn’t want to see Smith-Vaughan go home. Meanwhile, he said he knew she was the one when he found out that she always carries a Washington Nationals baseball cap in her bag — he is a major fan.

“Shelley is the most caring, loving, kind and elegant human being I’ve ever met,” Smith-Vaughan said. “She is kind to a fault, always wanting to help people.”

“Reuben is the most honorable person I know,” said Greenspan. “His presence feels like home to me. He’s so optimistic and joyous and positive, his energy is infectious.”

In November 2021, during a Thanksgiving trip to North Carolina, where Smith-Vaughan’s mother lives, he proposed on the tennis court.

While wedding planning can be all-consuming, Greenspan said she had a particularly “absurd” few months when it overlapped with her new job. The position requires someone knowledgeable about Jewish communal life and able to represent the disparate viewpoints held by American Jews to the White House, as well as represent the administration to American Jews.

“I’d be calling rental companies while going into briefings in the White House,” she said.

The couple were married Sept. 18 by Rabbi Aderet Drucker, executive director and community rabbi of the D.C.-based Den Collective, a nondenominational spiritual community organization, at the District’s Salamander Hotel.

Greenspan and Smith-Vaughan first met at an Amazon holiday party before eventually matching on Bumble years later. (Emily Blumberg Photography)

Their wedding weekend began with a Shabbat dinner at Compass Coffee’s roastery, which is co-owned by a Jewish veteran, and honored the groom’s coffee-farm upbringing.

On Saturday, guests could attend a Nationals game — against the Miami Marlins, the bride’s hometown team. The group was allowed onto the field before the game.

Their custom kippot featured a print of the D.C. skyline in the lining, and the groom and men in the wedding party all wore White House cufflinks with Biden’s signature (available at the White House gift shop). Their custom ketubah features coffee beans, the D.C. skyline and barbed wire, to honor the bride’s Holocaust survivor grandparents.

The reception didn’t only feature toasts and dancing; the bride offered a d’var Torah, and when the groom joined her to thank everyone for coming, he surprised her by singing “Eshet Chayil,” A Woman of Valor, that some Jewish men sing to their wives on Shabbat.

“Reuben has a beautiful voice and doesn’t really sing in public very much,” Greenspan said. “I wasn’t expecting it and it was so meaningful to me, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

Then she added, “He still sings it to me every Friday.”

This story is part of JTA’s Mazels series, which profiles unique and noteworthy Jewish life events from births to b’nai mitzvah to weddings and everything in between. 

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The post Ugly Hanukkah sweaters brought this Washington power couple together 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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