NEW YORK (Dec. 28)
The surge for democratic reform in Eastern Europe and freer emigration of Soviet Jews were the most significant events for the Jewish people in 1989, according to the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.
They topped the list of 10 events deemed most vital to Jews during the outgoing year, a list compiled by Burton Levinson and Abraham Foxman, national chairman and national director, respectively, of the ADL.
The two observed that since Jews historically thrive in democratic societies, they should be among the main beneficiaries of events in Eastern Europe.
The departure of 60,000 Jews from the Soviet Union during the past year — exceeding the 1979 high — was another milestone, while inside the Soviet Union, Jews enjoyed more cultural and religious freedom.
But those Soviet Jews who remained also faced a serious menace in the rise of virulently anti-Semitic groups like Pamyat, which also have benefited from glasnost.
Third on the list of the ADL officials was Israel’s peace initiative toward the Palestinians, advanced with U.S. support.
But with Yasir Arafat’s ambiguous acceptance of Israel’s existence, the Palestinians remained intransigent, according to Levinson and Foxman.
They noted an alarming increase in anti-Semitic violence and vandalism in the United States, particularly on college and university campuses.
The Skinhead menace continued to proliferate, with acts of violence occurring in various parts of the country, but federal indictments have been forthcoming.
The ADL regretted strained Jewish-Catholic relations over a number of issues during the year, the most serious being the Carmelite convent on the grounds of the former Auschwitz death camp.
The election of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke to the Louisiana State Legislature was seen by the ADL as a gain for the forces of racism and bigotry.
Israel’s slow but steady gains in diplomatic relations with the Soviet bloc and black African nations was cited as a favorable development.
Another was the conviction and sentencing of political extremist and anti-Semitic propagandist Lyndon LaRouche.
Finally, the ADL saw significance for Jews in the U.S. Supreme Court’s seemingly contradictory decisions in two cases involving the separation of church and state.
The court ruled that a Nativity scene in a Pennsylvania county courthouse was unconstitutional.
At the same time, it upheld the display of a Chanukah menorah on the steps of the Pittsburgh City Hall, a block away, “delivering at best a mixed message,” the ADL said.