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Why a county in Utah could play a role in Israel’s judicial crisis

(JTA) — Aaron Davidson has never been to Israel. He isn’t Jewish. He began serving in his position, Utah County clerk, just two months ago.

But the policies he oversees in his office in Provo, Utah, could have an impact more than 7,000 miles away — in the halls of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in Jerusalem.

That’s because Davidson is the top local official in a county that has, improbably, caused a seismic shift in the way marriages are legally recognized in the Jewish state. An ensuing court battle over the issue — which the Israeli government just lost — could provide added motivation for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pass controversial judicial reform that has already thrown the country into crisis.

Let’s take a step back and break this down.

How does marriage work in Israel?

Although a large chunk of Israeli Jews are secular, legal marriage in the country is controlled by the Chief Rabbinate, which is haredi Orthodox. In other words, within Israel, the only way for a Jew to get legally married is through an Orthodox ceremony.

That means same-sex marriage, interfaith marriage and non-Orthodox weddings performed in Israel are not recognized by the Israeli government. Also left in limbo are hundreds of thousands of largely Russian-speaking Israelis, who are not Jewish according to traditional Jewish law and are therefore unable to get married in Israel.

But there’s a loophole of sorts: Marriages performed and recognized abroad also get recognized in Israel. So for decades, non-Orthodox Israelis have found a workaround to those restrictions by taking a short flight to Cyprus to tie the knot, or traveling farther afield for their weddings. They then bring their marriage certificate to Israel complete with a stamp of authentication (called an apostille), and voila: legally married.

What does that have to do with Utah?

Starting in 2020, Utah County, Utah, began recognizing marriages performed entirely via videoconference, as long as the officiant or one of the parties was in the county. The county encompasses the area surrounding Provo, which is home to Brigham Young University and has a tech scene. Officials saw the new remote marriage system as a way to make it easier to “execute a permission slip from the government for two consenting adults to get married,” as former County Clerk Amelia Powers Gardner told The New York Times,

The innovation coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and beginning later that year, Israelis realized they could now get legally married in Utah without having to leave Israel — in fact, without having to leave their living rooms. Since 2020, Davidson estimates that more than 1,000 Israelis have taken advantage of the remote weddings. The fees for the remote wedding total a maximum of $155.

“The technology now opens a window of opportunity for thousands of Israeli couples every year to quickly, simply, cheaply gain civil marriage without leaving their homes,” said Rabbi Uri Regev, CEO of Hiddush, an Israeli organization that advocates for religious pluralism. “That in and of itself is a real breakthrough.”

(Israelis aren’t the only foreign nationals to use the county’s remote wedding option. It has also been a boon for gay couples from China.)

How have Israeli officials responded?

They are not happy about it. The acting Israeli interior minister, Michael Malchieli, is a member of the haredi Orthodox Shas party, and had refused to recognize the Utah marriage certificates, as did a predecessor of his, arguing that the marriages took place in Israel. A predecessor of his had also refused to recognize the certificates, but last year, a court ruled that the government must recognize the Utah marriages.

That decision made its way to Israel’s Supreme Court which, on Tuesday, ruled unanimously in favor of the married couples. Henceforth, their marriages will officially be seen as valid in Israel. The court made a similar decision in 2006 that compelled the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad.

“It is the duty of the [Israeli] registrar to refrain from making decisions regarding the validity or invalidity of the marriages themselves,” the court wrote in a summary of its decision on Tuesday. “When the registrar is presented with a proper public document, he must, as a rule, register it accordingly and refrain from making decisions regarding complicated legal matters.”

How is this related to Israel’s current crisis?

Israel is currently in the throes of a raucous national debate over legislation being pushed by Netanyahu’s government that would effectively sap the Supreme Court of much of its power. One bill would allow a simple majority of Israeli lawmakers to override court decisions, meaning they could negate decisions like the one handed down this week.

Proponents of the court reform say the legislation will allow Israeli law to more effectively represent the will of the country’s right-wing majority. Another Shas lawmaker, Moshe Arbel, cited Tuesday’s decision as a reason why the court reform is urgent.

“The high court, in another political step, proved once again how necessary the judicial reform is,” Arbel said, according to the Israeli publication Ynet. The decision, he said, works to “erase the Jewish identity of the state.”

How do officials in Utah feel?

Initially, it seemed Davidson, the county clerk, might do away with the virtual marriages. His campaign website said that “This online option devalues the union of a marriage and Utah County should not be the entity that facilitates the marginalization of marriage.”

But since taking office, he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, he has changed his mind. His concern, he said, was that abusers could take advantage of the virtual weddings to facilitate underage marriage and human trafficking. Now he realizes that that has not been an issue, and he is working on upgrading the county’s facial recognition software to forestall that possibility.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s any controversial marriages that want to happen in Israel, so I’m totally open in keeping that open and alive,” he said. “We’re trying to avoid any hint of child marriages or forced marriages or trafficking. We want to make sure that we know who it is that’s getting married before we perform the marriage online.”

Alex Shapiro, the executive director of the United Jewish Federation of Utah, is likewise happy about the Supreme Court decision. “[I] fully stand behind the decision to make civil marriage available to all citizens,” Shapiro told JTA. “I’m further pleased that the state of Utah can play a role in these unions without the challenge of couples needing to travel out of the county to be married.”

Davidson’s county, however, has few Jews and a politically conservative population. It is the home of the flagship school of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which opposes same-sex marriage.

Davidson, who is a member of the LDS church, said that he has heard a few objections from residents about facilitating same-sex marriages abroad. But he told JTA that he feels the virtual marriages uphold another core conservative tenet: limited government.

“Government restricts who can live where, in what country, and I kind of feel the same thing about marriage,” he said. “Why do I feel like I have the power to prevent a couple — whether same-sex or traditional — [from] being able to be happy with their life, and do what they want? That’s kind of been a guiding principle: Why should I have the power to control the happiness of somebody else?”


The post Why a county in Utah could play a role in Israel’s judicial crisis 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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