Highlights of the Year 5743

During the remainder of the year 5743, the American Jewish community sponsored a memorable gathering in Washington for thousands of Holocaust survivors from the United States and Canada. The Central Conference of American Rabbis issued a controversial resolution on the status of Jewish-born children of mixed marriages. Jewish students at Harvard University were in an uproar over a new German-American scholarship program named after John McCloy, a former Assistant Secretary of War during the Roosevelt Administration. And American Conservative rabbis rejected the application of a Reform ordained woman rabbi.

THE AMERICAN SCENE:

MARCH 1983–A Gallup poll conducted for the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and published in the spring issue of Foreign Policy indicates that while there has not been “any substantial damage” to Israel’s support in the U.S. due to the invasion of Lebanon, there has been “a modest increase” in sympathy among Americans for the Arabs and in particular the Palestinians.

The Justice Department reverses an earlier position and announces it will conduct “a comprehensive investigation” into allegations that Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie was employed by U.S. government agencies after World War II and helped by them to escape from Europe.

New York State Senator Gary Ackerman wins a special election to obtain the House seat that was held by Benjamin Rosenthal, bringing the total of Jewish legislators back to 38.

Actor Robert Mitchum, in a letter to Herbert Luft, the JTA’s Hollywood correspondent, says he is sorry about an interview published in Esquire magazine in which the actor was presented as denying the Holocaust took place. Asked during the interview of the slaughter of six million Jews, Mitchum said: “So the Jews say.”

APRIL–Albert Spiegel, a Los Angeles businessman and long-time supporter of President Reagan, withdraws as an unpaid volunteer advisor to the President on Jewish affairs after a published article quotes Reagan as telling King Hussein of Jordan that he will lose the Jewish vote in 1984 by pressing a peace plan Israel opposes and predicting that he can win re-election “without that bloc.”

Thousands of survivors of the Holocaust and their children from throughout the U.S. and Canada converge on Washington for the four-day American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

American Conservative rabbis meeting at the Rabbinical Assembly convention reject the application of Reform-ordained woman rabbi Beverly Magidson. Approval of the application would have made Magidson the first Conservative woman rabbi.

The Central Conference of American rabbis approves a resolution permitting its member Reform rabbis to accept provisionally as Jewish any child of a mixed marriage whether or not the mother is Jewish, if the child validates his or her Jewish identity “through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish people.”

MAY–The month-long Memphis in May International Festival, which in each of its six years has honored a foreign country, honors Israel this year in a celebration of Israeli culture, art, music and cuisine.

Jewish student groups at Harvard University protest the university’s decision to name a new German-American scholarship program after John McCloy, a former Assistant Secretary of War during the Roosevelt Administration, because the students claim he was instrumental in persuading the Allied forces from bombing the Nazi death camps during World War II.

An estimated 180,000 people jam Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the United Nations for the 12th annual Solidarity Sunday for Soviet Jewry rally.

JUNE–Jewish groups are unanimous in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the proposed bill to amend the Constitution to allow prayer in the public schools constitutes a threat to religious minorities and would be a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution if it passed.

Sala Galant Burtan, the widow of Rep. Philip Burton, wins the Congressional seat in San Francisco left vacant by the death of her husband last April, bringing the number of Jews in the House to 31 and the number of Jewish women in the House to three.

The Supreme Court, in a case which renews the deep schism in the Jewish community between friends and foes of government aid to private schools, rules 5-4 that states may grant tax relief to parents for the cost of sending their children to such schools.

The New Jewish Agenda is denied membership in the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington when the delegate assembly votes 98-70 against admission. The Council’s executive board had earlier overwhelmingly approved membership for the Jewish Agenda.

JULY–A New York State law approved in 1982 to increase the penalty for acts of desecration against synagogue and churches is extended by new legislation to include damage to educational and residential premises. Governor Mario Cuomo signs the measure in August.

Resolutions are introduced in the Senate and the House urging the U.S. to express to relevant governments its concern for the Jews of Ethiopia and particularly “their right to emigrate.”

Reform-ordained woman rabbi Beverly Magidson, whose application to become the first Conservative woman rabbi was rejected last April at a convention of Conservative rabbis, is appointed rabbi of a Conservative synagogue in Clifton Park, N.Y.

Controversy surrounds a report released by the General Accounting Office in Washington assessing U.S. aid to Israel, followed by the subsequent release by an Arab group of portions claimed to have been censored from the report released to the public.

AUGUST–The Commerce Department announces that Bank America Corp., one of the nations largest banks, agreed, without admitting any wrongdoing, to pay a $108,000 fine stemming from charges it violated federal regulations banning aid to the Arab boycott of Israel. Just days earlier, the Bank of New York agrees to pay $24,500 for violations of the same law.

New York Governor Mario Cuomo signs into law a measure which obtains legislative relief for Jewish women refused a religious divorce (“Get”) by their husbands and thereby banned from marrying again. The bill was opposed by the American Jewish Congress and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

West Hartford’s Jewish community is the target of a series of attacks when two synagogues — one Orthodox and the other Conservative — and a rabbi’s home are damaged in separate incidents. Fires are set at the synagogue while a firebomb is thrown into the library of the rabbi’s home. No one is injured in the attacks.

(Continued Sunday)

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