Terrorists kill Chabad emissaries in Mumbai; Madoff’s Ponzi scheme leads to collapse; Franken elected to U.S. Senate
JTA Staff Report
NEW YORK (JTA) — With Rosh Hashana approaching, JTA has compiled a list of the biggest stories of the past Hebrew calendar year:
JERUSALEM — Tzipi Livni, who won Kadima Party elections in September following Ehud Olmert’s resignation, fails to assemble a coalition government and become prime minister. President Shimon Peres announces that Israel will hold new general elections.
BUDAPEST — An acid and feces attack at the Budapest Jewish Theater just before Rosh Hashana revives concerns about increasing anti-Semitism in Hungary.
NEW YORK — Rabbi Julie Schonfeld is named the new executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, becoming the first female rabbi to serve in the chief executive position of an American rabbinical association.
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama is elected the first black president of the United States with 78 percent of the Jewish vote, in line with previous Democratic nominees.
POSTVILLE, Iowa — Months after being the target of the largest immigration raid in American history, the embattled kosher meat producer Agriprocessors files for bankruptcy, leaving kosher consumers in the lurch and ushering in uncertain times for the Jewish community of Postville, Iowa. Subsequently the company is sold to a Canadian firm.
WASHINGTON — Three new Jewish members are elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but the Democratic tide is not strong enough to send Congress its first rabbi, Jewish Latina or Chinese Jew.
WASHINGTON — Rahm Emanuel is tapped to become White House chief of staff and will emerge as a key point person in the administration’s outreach to the Jewish community regarding Israel-related issues.
JERUSALEM — Secular businessman Nir Barkat is elected mayor of Jerusalem.
MUMBAI, India — Terrorists target the Chabad house in Mumbai, India, killing its directors, Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, and four others.
HEBRON — Israeli security forces forcibly evict Jewish settlers from a disputed house in Hebron, setting off a rampage of violence by some Jewish extremists against Palestinians in the West Bank.
NEW YORK — The collapse of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme leads to the immediate collapse of two Jewish organizations and sends shock waves through the Jewish philanthropic world.
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration makes a last-gasp push for Palestinian statehood — or the nearest it can get to it — with the apparent quiet encouragement of President-elect Obama.
EILAT — The deadliest road accident in Israeli history kills 24 Russian tour agents and casts a dark shadow over efforts to promote tourism to the southern Israeli city of Eilat.
JERUSALEM — Israel launches Operation Cast Lead to curtail Hamas rocket fire from the Gaza Strip onto southern Israel.
EUROPE — Enduring an onslaught of massive anti-Semitic and anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe, Jewish communities throughout the continent hold counterrallies to support Israel as it wages war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
CARACAS — The vandalism of a synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela, further unsettles the Jewish community, already on edge over the harsh anti-Israel rhetoric of President Hugo Chavez.
JERUSALEM — Operation Cast Lead ends after about 3-1/2 weeks and leaves some 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. Hamas rockets during the war reach as far as the Israeli cities of Yavneh, Beersheva and Kiryat Gat.
VATICAN — Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to revoke an excommunication order for a Holocaust-denying bishop sparks an uproar and prompts another round of anguish over the state of Catholic-Jewish relations.
WASHINGTON — Wading into what has emerged as a major partisan fight, Jewish organizations in Washington line up with Democrats in offering strong support for the $819 billion economic stimulus bill.
JERUSALEM — In the Israeli elections, Tzipi Livni’s Kadima emerges as the largest single party, but the right-wing parliamentary bloc, led by Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu, captures the majority of the Knesset seats.
JERUSALEM — Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu vaults over Labor to become Israel’s third-largest political party, with 15 seats in the Knesset. A month later, Yisrael Beiteinu becomes Likud’s first coalition partner, and the controversial Lieberman — who during the election campaign proposed mandating loyalty oaths to the Jewish state in a bid to curb Israeli Arab political power — is named foreign minister.
NEW YORK — Three of the largest Jewish federations in the country — New York, Atlanta and Cleveland — announce substantial cutbacks in staff, adding to concerns about the health of the primary American Jewish charitable network.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration organizes the first-ever seder at the White House.
JERUSALEM — Benjamin Netanyahu’s careful articulations in his inaugural address leave uncertain where he stands on the most contentious issue in Israel, and between Israel and governments overseas.
WASHINGTON — The United States decides to seek to join the U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing its policy of shunning the group and prompting concern among some Jewish organizations.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., a Jewish lawmaker in a fight for her political life following allegations that she agreed to intervene on behalf of two former AIPAC staffers charged with relaying classified leaks, sends a letter to the U.S. attorney general asking for the release of any tapes of classified conversations.
JERUSALEM — Jews across the denominational spectrum in Israel and the United States organize to say the Birkat Hachamah, a blessing over the sun that is recited every 28 years when, the Talmud says, the sun reaches the same spot in the firmament as when it was created.
CAIRO — The discovery of a Hezbollah terrorist network in Egypt highlights the divide between the pro-Western moderates in the Middle East and the Iranian-led radicals, as well as the regional interests Egypt and Israel share.
GENEVA — Jewish and Israeli activists descend en masse on the “Durban II” U.N. racism conference in Geneva. European delegates walk out of the main hall to protest an inflammatory anti-Israel speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
WASHINGTON — Arlen Specter switches to the Democratic Party, leaving the Senate without a Jewish Republican for the first time in decades.
CAPE TOWN — Jacob Zuma of the African National Congress is elected South Africa’s new president, though 80 percent of Jews vote for the opposition party.
TEL AVIV — Tel Aviv kicks off its centennial celebrations.
WASHINGTON — The government moves to drop charges against two former AIPAC staffers charged with passing classified information to Israel.
WASHINGTON — During speeches at the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. John Kerry pledge to confront Iran and protect Israel, but call on the Jewish state to freeze settlements. In the ensuing weeks, U.S.-Israel tensions mount as President Obama and other administration officials also press for a settlement freeze.
JERUSALEM — Pope Benedict XVI visits Israel and the West Bank. In Bethlehem he calls for a Palestinian homeland; leaves an interfaith conference in Jerusalem early after a Palestinian cleric accuses Israel of killing women and children, and destroying mosques; and prompts disappointment among some Israelis for remarks on the Holocaust seen as insufficient.
WASHINGTON — President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold their first meeting at the White House. Obama talks of putting a timetable on U.S. diplomatic outreach to Iran over nuclear weapons, while also emphasizing that Israel needs to take “difficult steps” such as freezing settlements. Netanyahu stresses his interest in achieving peace, but stops short of endorsing a two-state solution.
NEW YORK — The first Jewish historical doll in the American Girl series — a 9-year-old girl named Rebecca Rubin living on the Lower East Side in 1914 — goes on sale.
CAIRO — In a speech in Cairo billed as an address to Muslims worldwide, President Obama describes Israel and the United States as sharing an unbreakable bond, then criticizes Holocaust denial in the Arab world and the use of the Palestinian issue to distract Arab populations from other problems. Obama draws criticism from some corners of the Jewish community for reiterating his call for a settlement freeze and failing to talk tough on Iran. Some critics claim that the president appears to embrace the Palestinian understanding of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
CINCINNATI, Ohio — Alysa Stanton becomes the first African-American female rabbi after being ordained by the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
NEW YORK — The United Jewish Communities decides to change its name to the Jewish Federations of North America and hires Jerry Silverman, a key player in raising tens of millions of dollars for Jewish summer camps and a former business executive who helped popularize the Dockers brand, as its next president and CEO.
EUROPE — Far-right parties in Europe score significant gains in continent-wide elections for the European Parliament.
WASHINGTON — A security guard is killed when a gunman known for his anti-Semitic beliefs opens fire at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
RAMAT GAN — In a speech at Bar-Ilan University, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expresses conditional support for the eventual creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state. The Obama administration hails the speech as “positive movement,” while the Palestinian Authority condemns it.
JERUSALEM — Haredi, or fervently Orthodox, demonstrators in Jerusalem turn violent protesting the opening of a parking lot on Shabbat and the arrest of a haredi woman on charges of child neglect.
UNITED STATES — Camps across the country report outbreaks of the swine flu virus, forcing some to postpone their openings and others to implement sweeping measures to screen new arrivals for signs of the illness.
JERUSALEM — Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident and Prisoner of Zion, is formally elected chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
PRAGUE — At the close of a Holocaust Era Assets Conference in Prague, 46 countries sign the Terezin Declaration, a nonbinding set of guiding principles aimed at faster, more open and transparent restitution of art, and private and communal property taken by force or under duress during the Holocaust.
TEHRAN — With unrest mounting in Iran over official claims of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection, U.S. Jewish organizational leaders call for more American support for the protesters and more international action to stop the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
WASHINGTON — As the health care reform debate heats up, Jewish organizations back the Obama administration on several key points, including the creation of a government-run public insurance option and pushing for measures that would help the rapidly aging Jewish community.
MINNESOTA — With its decision in favor of comedian Al Franken, the Minnesota Supreme Court gives the U.S. Senate a 13th Jewish member.
WASHINGTON — Nearly 40 Jewish and evangelical Christian leaders meet in Washington for a groundbreaking dialogue session.
PARIS — The leader of the gang responsible for kidnapping, torturing and murdering French Jew Ilan Halimi in 2006 is sentenced to life in prison. Many French Jews are upset that the trial is held behind closed doors, as the crime’s anti-Semitic nature was in dispute.
WASHINGTON — President Obama has his first White House meeting with Jewish leaders, sitting down with representatives of 14 organizations. Jewish leaders offer no direct criticism of his calls for a settlement freeze, but say he appears to be putting more pressure on Israel than on the Palestinians and Arab states. The president says he will work to change that perception.
JERUSALEM — Some 8,000 athletes from around the world participate in the 18th Maccabiah Games, including U.S. Olympic swimmer Jason Lezak, who chooses the so-called Jewish Olympics in Israel over the World Championships. Lezak wins four gold medals, but Israel easily wins the medals competition.
NEW JERSEY — Five rabbis are among 44 people arrested as part of a public corruption and international money-laundering investigation in New Jersey that uses a prominent rabbi’s son as an informant. Also charged are the mayors of several New Jersey cities and other state politicians, as well as a Brooklyn man who is accused of acquiring and trading kidneys for transplants.
TEL AVIV — A masked gunman attacks a gay community center in Tel Aviv, killing two people and injuring a dozen. The tragedy sparks demonstrations throughout Israel in solidarity with the victims and the gay community.