Jewish Journal

5767: News of the Jewish year in review

by Justin Sulsky

Posted on Sep. 13, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Here's a chronology of some of the top news items of the past year:

September 2006

  • Yeshiva University announced that its immediate past chairman, fertilizer and oil magnate Ronald Stanton, was giving $100 million to the school -- believed to be the highest amount of money ever pledged to a Jewish cause.
October 2006
  • The remains of more than 50 people, many of them children, were discovered in a mass grave in Menden, Germany. Experts suspected the dead were victims of the Nazis' so-called euthanasia program, in which disabled people were murdered.
  • Israel said it would continue air force flights over Lebanon. Defense Minister Amir Peretz said the surveillance flights over Lebanon were needed to track arms shipments to Hezbollah from neighboring Syria, two months after a cease-fire ended what would be later designated as Israel's Second Lebanon War.
November 2006
  • The Democratic Party won back the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 1994 and also gained control of the Senate. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the Orthodox Jew who was the Democrats' vice presidential nominee in 2000, kept his seat even though he lost in the Democratic primary to liberal Ned Lamont. Six new Jewish members of Congress and two new Jewish senators were elected. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who has close ties to many Jewish groups, was chosen as Speaker of the House.
  • The United Jewish Communities (UJC) refocused its annual General Assembly (GA) to focus on fundraising for rebuilding Israel's North after the country's war in Lebanon. By the time of the GA in Los Angeles, the UJC had raised $320 million for its Israel Emergency Campaign. By the end of the Jewish year, it has raised some $360 million.
  • Talks on forming a unity government in the Palestinian Authority were suspended. Palestinians had hoped that by bringing the more moderate Fatah into the government, a Western aid embargo imposed when Hamas came to power in March could be removed. But the Islamist terrorist group rejected donor nations' conditions that it recognize Israel and renounce terrorism.
December 2006
  • The Conservative movement's legal authorities approved a rabbinic opinion allowing ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis and sanctioning same-sex unions. The move followed years of internal debate over whether to reverse the traditional ban on gay clergy. The Jewish Theological Seminary's new chancellor, Arnie Eisen, later announced it would accept gay and lesbian students to its rabbinical and cantorial schools.
  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted a conference that brought together Holocaust revisionists including David Duke and members of Neturei Karta, an ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist group. Titled "The International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust," it sparked international outrage.
  • Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, made their first pledge of $5 million to help bankroll Birthright Israel trips. That gift was followed in February by an additional $25 million and another $30 million in August.
  • The U.N. Security Council voted to impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. The resolution demanded that Tehran end all research on uranium enrichment and halt research and development that can make or deliver atomic weapons. The resolution, watered down to meet Russian demands, did not permit the use of force if Iran does not comply.
January 2007
  • Longtime Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek died.
  • Former President Jimmy Carter discussed his controversial book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. The book, published in November, blamed Israel for the failure of Middle East peace. It sparked widespread debate and prompted 14 Jewish members of the Carter Center board to resign in protest. Democratic leaders had distanced themselves from Carter's views.
  • A Palestinian suicide bomber killed three in an Eilat bakery. Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aksa Military Brigades, a Fatah-linked group, claimed responsibility for the attack.
February 2007
  • Masorti Jews reached a compromise with the government over the freedom of men and women to daven together at an area of the Western Wall. Israel's Conservative movement dropped its Supreme Court appeal after the government agreed to enforce mixed groups' ability to worship for free at a site at the southern end of the Wall.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in Jerusalem. Olmert and Rice reiterated the international preconditions for the resumption of aid to the PA -- renouncing violence, recognizing Israel and adhering to past peace accords.
  • A Holocaust denier was arrested in New Jersey in connection with a Feb. 1 attack on Elie Wiesel, who was attending an interfaith forum in San Francisco. Eric Hunt apparently wanted to force Wiesel to recant his wartime memoir "Night." He was extradited to California, where he pled insanity and apologized to Wiesel in court.
  • Vandals sprayed neo-Nazi graffiti on a Jewish kindergarten in Berlin and attempted to set fire to the building. The incident marked a new level in attacks on Jews in Germany.
March 2007
  • An Israeli government report found that Israel's Muslim minority has a far greater birth rate than the Jewish majority. Data released by the Industry and Trade Ministry showed Jewish women had an average of 2.69 children, compared to Muslim women who give birth, on average, to 4 children.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney told the AIPAC annual policy conference that it was hypocritical for activists to demand tougher action on Iran while not supporting the Iraq War.
  • A German court sentenced Germar Rudolf to two and a half years in jail for anti-Jewish incitement and Holocaust denial. He claimed in a 1991 article that the Nazis did not gas Jews at Auschwitz. Rudolf was sentenced to 14 months by a German court in 1995, but fled the country. He was deported in November 2005.
April 2007
  • Liviu Librescu was one of 32 victims killed by a student gunman at Virginia Tech. The engineering professor, a Holocaust survivor who had moved to Israel, was shot while blocking the doorway to his classroom. He prevented the South Korean gunman from entering and enabled all but one of his students to escape through the window.
  • U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Fransico), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, delivered a message to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, saying Israel is ready to talk peace. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert immediately issued a "clarification" saying Syria must first end its backing for terrorism. Pelosi and her delegation say they conveyed that message, and Olmert called Pelosi later to smooth over the flap. The White House slammed Pelosi for what officials said was an attempt to conduct an independent foreign policy.
  • Federal Judge T.S. Ellis III rejected a government proposal to close the trial of two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee staffers. Ellis ruled the request unconstitutional. Former senior staffers Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman were indicted in August 2005 and now face a trial date of Jan. 14, 2008.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ban on late-term abortions. Most Jewish groups opposed the decision, which rolled back women's privacy protections established in the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
  • Russian Jews remembered President Boris Yeltsin, Russia's first democratically elected president, as the one who ended decades of state-sanctioned anti-Semitism.
  • An Israeli governmental report sharply criticized Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's management of the 2006 war in Lebanon. The Winograd Commission's report said there was a "serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence" in the government's handling of the war. Despite a 100,000 person rally against Olmert in Tel Aviv and a call from Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to resign, Olmert stood firm in his decision to stay in office.
  • The Jim Joseph Foundation announced the first of its long-awaited grants, designating four gifts, the largest, $2.5 million, to B'nai B'rith Youth Organization's Youth Professional Initiative. In July, the foundation announced an $11.2 million grant to the Foundation for Jewish Camping to target preteens in communities west of the Rockies.
May 2007
  • Edgar Bronfman, who served as president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) for nearly 30 years, resigned. The move came two months after Bronfman fired his close associate and a top WJC official, Rabbi Israel Singer. Bronfman claimed Singer stole money from the WJC, an allegation Singer denied. The WJC elected Ronald Lauder as its interim president in June, with officials voicing hope the organization could get past its years of legal and internal wrangling.
  • The Labor Party ousted Amir Peretz as its leader in an internal vote, which followed a government-appointed commission that cited his mishandling of the Second Lebanon War. In the June runoff, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak beat Ami Ayalon, whom Peretz ultimately backed, by a narrow margin.
  • The Museum of the History of Polish Jews broke ground in Warsaw. To be completed in 2009, the museum will be the largest Jewish institution of its kind in Europe, commemorating the 1,000 years of history of what was the largest Jewish community in Europe before World War II.
June 2007
  • The United Jewish Communities (UJC) passed a $40.2 million budget, allocating a significant portion to a restructuring plan aimed at boosting the sagging campaigns of the North American Jewish federations. According to the plan, the UJC will dissolve its pillar system, beef up its office in Israel to oversee Israel and foreign affairs and ramp up its domestic consulting services to help individual federations.
  • Human Rights First released a report concluding that anti-Semitism in Western Europe is at unprecedented levels, and European governments are woefully inept at measuring and thus prosecuting hate crimes.
  • Shimon Peres, 83, was elected Israel's ninth president, a largely ceremonial role, for a seven-year term. The Nobel Prize winner has held virtually every top civilian post in Israel during his 60-year career, including that of prime minister.
  • Hamas gunmen took over the Gaza Strip after routing the rival Fatah at a key Palestinian Authority security compound. Hamas declared victory after seizing the Preventive Security Service compound in Gaza City, a last stronghold of PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah in the coastal territory.
  • Israeli President Moshe Katsav confessed to sexual misconduct under a plea bargain that spared him more serious rape charges and possible prison time. He resigned his presidency early as part of the plea.
July 2007
  • The Catholic Church's decision to allow the use of the Latin Mass sparked a to-do between Jews and Catholics. Pope Benedict XVI issued a declaration authorizing wider use of the Latin Mass, an older form of Catholic worship that includes a prayer read only on Good Friday for the conversion of the Jews.
  • President Bush announced a major new initiative aimed at bolstering Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The plan included tens of millions of new funding for the Palestinian Authority, as well as $30 billion in new military aid to Israel and a reported $20 billion in arms sales to Saudia Arabia. The arms sale to Saudi Arabia was seen as a way to entice Riyadh to attend an American-hosted international peace conference on Israel and the Palestinians in the fall.
  • The Broward County School Board in South Florida approved two measures that effectively give a green light to the nation's only Hebrew-language charter school. The Ben-Gamla Charter School, to open for the new school year, will be operated by a private company, Academica, under the direction of Adam Siegel, an Orthodox rabbi.
August 2007
  • More than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter warning President Bush they would try to stop his proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
  • Jean-Marie Lustiger, a Jewish-born convert to Catholicism who became a top Vatican figure, died. A former archbishop of Paris, he was the son of Polish Jewish refugees but converted while hiding out in Catholic boarding schools during World War II. He said he always considered himself a Jew. Mourners recited Kaddish for him during his funeral at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral.
  • A youth village, sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which will serve 500 impoverished Rwandan orphans, was created. The village is the brainchild of Anne Heyman, a South African-born New York lawyer who was moved to help after learning that 15 percent of Rwandan children are orphans due to genocide.
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