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‘You’re on the path to sin’: A Florida rabbi faced antisemitic harassment after speaking up at a school board vote

(JTA) — Rabbi Adam Miller was exiting a school board meeting in his city of Naples, Florida, when two men approached him in the parking lot.

“Your prophet is not real, and Judaism is not a real religion,” they yelled at him, according to the subsequent police report. The rabbi recounted other colorful epithets, too: “Judaism is wrong.” “You’re on the path to sin.”

The encounter startled Miller, the senior rabbi of Temple Shalom since 2010. He knew that local students had experienced antisemitism at school and was aware that his city had a checkered past when it came to including Jews — but he had never before been accosted in this way.

“I was still wearing my kippah. I was clearly identified as the rabbi,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the incident, which took place in early May. “Their tone was very hateful and angry, and they would not stop following me.” 

Miller returned to the building to wait the men out. But he was shaken: They had been wearing badges supporting a viable candidate for district superintendent who was standing for election that evening — a man who had, during an interview for the position, argued that “unchurched, uncultured Americans” were a cause of the country’s “moral decline.”

Miller had come to the meeting that night because he was concerned about that candidate, Charles Van Zant, Jr., and felt the need to speak out against him. Van Zant is a military veteran who had been the superintendent of another district for four years until he was voted out in 2016. In his application for the post in Naples, he had said he was “encouraged to see traditional and conservative values returning to Florida Schools,” and during the meeting, his supporters echoed that ambition.

“We need to teach them Christian moral values,” one Van Zant supporter said during his public comment period, referring to schoolchildren. “I know that’s not a popular opinion.”

Van Zant would narrowly fall short in his bid to lead the district, losing out by a single board member’s vote. Yet the fact that he nearly won left local Jews rattled. That close result, coupled with the harassment of Miller, offered a stark illustration of how a rising tide of conservative activism in Florida politics — and surrounding local school boards across the country — can stoke antisemitism or otherwise come at the cost of Jews. 

Reflecting on that night, Miller said he feared his city was falling prey to “this bigger culture that’s been allowed to exist, of hate towards the other, of letting fear of things that we don’t know or don’t understand drive us to be hateful.”

“I’ve really come to believe that silence is oxygen for hate,” he said. “Not speaking out, not saying something, is just letting it get bigger and more out of control.”

The dynamic present in Naples, a city of about 20,000 on the Gulf Coast, has been pronounced across Florida, where Republican lawmakers have empowered the activism of conservative parents. Recently the state rejected Holocaust education textbooks in part because they contained “social justice” themes, and districts in the state have, on parents’ request, removed books about Anne Frank, queer Jewish families and other topics related to Jews and the Holocaust.

“I think many of the people that were in that room would see themselves as good Christians,” said Jeffrey Feld, executive director of the local Jewish federation, who likewise came to the school board meeting to protest Van Zant. “On the other hand, there are certain groups they don’t want to be inclusive of. They clearly do not want to include, for instance, the LGBTQ community. There were different statements that were made that way.”

Feld added, “So yes, I think it is a great concern for all of us to have to deal with. And it’s something that we look at every single day.”

Adam Miller is the senior rabbi of Temple Shalom in Naples. (Courtesy of Miller)

Local Jews say Naples has a history of antisemitism, and trouble started brewing at the Collier County school board during its election last year. Three of the five seats were up for grabs, and all went to conservatives. Two of those new board members seemed to hold, or associate with people who held, antisemitic views.

One, Jerry Rutherford, identifies as a Christian but attends a Messianic congregation — part of a movement that calls itself Jewish but believes in the divinity of Jesus and often has ties with Christian organizations. Messianic Judaism is roundly considered non-Jewish by actual Jewish groups, and its emphasis on proselytizing to Jews is seen as antisemitic. 

Rutherford is a former chairman of the local Christian Coalition and founder of a group that distributes free Christian Bibles to high school students, which he says is “in honor of Religious Freedom Day.” He told JTA he’s a proponent of school prayer and an increased focus on religion in the classroom, including putting replicas of the Ten Commandments in schools — measures many Jewish groups have long opposed.

Rutherford was the board member who prompted Van Zant’s “unchurched” comment, by asking him during the candidate interview process in April to diagnose “the reason for the moral decline in our country and in our schools.” 

Another new school board member, Tim Moshier, was elected after one of his campaign volunteers was revealed to have posted antisemitic videos to social media — including TikTok videos about Jews “using pornography as mind control” — and who also declared herself an antisemite on the platform, according to an article in the Naples Daily News. The volunteer also maintained an active account on Gab, a social network for far-right extremists, which she frequently used to post antisemitic messages about Jews and Israel.

Confronted with the videos by a reporter for the Naples Daily News, Moshier initially said he didn’t have a problem with them and did not condemn antisemitism. (According to the article, his campaign’s official Instagram account had responded to a message from a Jewish TikTok user by stating, “We recommend that you do some research into the topic as she is not wrong and we will not be reconsidering her position for anyone else.”) Days later, Moshier did condemn both the videos and antisemitism “in the strongest terms,” saying he was not aware of the volunteer’s social media history. 

The makeup of the new school board alarmed Feld, the Jewish federation executive who has been in his position for nearly a decade. He remains haunted by an antisemitic event that took place years before he even arrived in Naples: a  “Kick a Jew Day” that local public school students had staged in 2009.

The stunt resulted in the suspension of several students as well as critical news coverage from around the world. As part of its response, the federation launched a “Stand Up For Justice Committee” that gives out annual awards to people fighting hate in the local community. Recipients have frequently included teachers and other employees of the local school district; four Collier County teachers were awarded the prize this year.

But Feld said it’s unclear whether the federation’s awards and other anti-hate efforts had changed the culture in local schools. He and Miller both said Jewish students had recently experienced incidents of antisemitic bullying at school. One reported a classmate who had showed up to school dressed as Adolf Hitler; another student superimposed a Jewish student’s face onto a concentration camp uniform and sent the image to their entire class. 

Miller declined to share photographs of the alleged incidents, saying the students had asked not to share any further information about what had happened. Asked about the allegations, a spokesperson for the school district said that federal law prevents them from commenting on student discipline matters.

Feld said the recent manifestations of antisemitism are continuing a long local tradition of anti-Jewish bigotry. Jews who came to Naples up until recent decades, he said, “very definitely got the impression that it was not a friendly community to the Jewish community.” Today the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples serves around 10,000 Jews in the county, and the area has Conservative, Reform and Chabad congregations — though its Jewish infrastructure is far less robust than that of the Miami area, about 100 miles due east.

At the recent school board meeting he attended with Miller, Feld identified himself to the board as the Jewish federation president and made the case for Van Zant’s opponent as the better option for the Jewish community, saying she held the values of “sensitivity, civility, respect and inclusivity.” Those values were particularly important, he said, in light of the harmful legacy of “Kick a Jew Day.” 

“That day spoke to antisemitism and hate,” Feld said. “In our community, antisemitism continues to grow. Hate continues to grow.”

Ultimately, Van Zant lost his election for superintendent 3-2 to the Jewish community’s preferred candidate, a longtime district administrator widely liked by her peers. Van Zant’s two votes came from Rutherford and Moshier. 

Reflecting on the vote and its aftermath, Rutherford said the news of what had happened to the rabbi “saddens me, because I attend a Messianic Jewish synagogue. And actually, I blow the shofar at the synagogue.”

At the same time, he did not think that Van Zant’s comment about “unchurched” Americans indicated a threat to Jews. “I think he understands our background, as far as our Biblical background,” Rutherford told JTA. “He would not be opposed to anything Jewish.”

Rutherford seemed surprised to hear that his plan to distribute Bibles to students could be hostile to Jews.

“Well, what if we just gave out the Torah itself? Would that be satisfactory?” he said. Rutherford added he had not yet spoken to members of the local Jewish community about these matters but that he would reach out to the federation to have a conversation. (Weeks after this interview, Feld told JTA he had yet to hear from Rutherford.)

Moshier did not respond to multiple JTA requests for comment, both directed to him and to a spokesperson for the school board. But he does have at least one defender — Rutherford, who said that he did not believe Moshier was antisemitic, “because his wife is Jewish.”

Moshier’s campaign manager, Rutherford said, has “a free right to speak their mind. But that doesn’t mean [Moshier is] in agreement with it.”

A spokesperson for the Collier County school district declined to comment on the harassment of Miller, saying that the district does not comment on interactions between private citizens, adding that the district has a “zero tolerance” policy for “discriminatory and harassing misconduct by staff.”

In addressing the incident, Miller hopes law enforcement might be able to make use of a new law combating “ethnic intimidation” that was recently signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, which makes it a felony to spread antisemitic messages on private property. But other police departments in the state have so far failed to make use of the new statute, and a JTA public records request for the police incident report showed that as of about a month after the altercation, no charges have been filed.

But Miller doesn’t want to focus on what happened to him. His primary worry, he said, is about the increasingly uncertain environment that Naples’ Jewish community seems to find itself in. 

“There’s been a rising concern,” he said. “We keep seeing these things, and nothing’s really being addressed.”


The post ‘You’re on the path to sin’: A Florida rabbi faced antisemitic harassment after speaking up at a school board vote 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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