Menu JTA Search

Highlights of Jewish News in 5759

Compiled by JTA intern Marcelline Block October 1998

WASHINGTON — The Wye River Memorandum is signed after nine days of talks at the river plantation near Washington. It calls for an Israeli pullback from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank in exchange for Palestinian measures to prevent terrorism.

LONDON — Playboy magazine buys a long excerpt of Rabbi Shumley Boteach’s book, “Kosher Sex,” for a reported $200,000.

November 1998

JERUSALEM — The Birthright Israel initiative is announced during the UJA Federations of North America’s General Assembly. It creates a $300 million fund to provide a first visit to Israel to every Jew, aged 15-26.

WASHINGTON — As a result of the elections, the number of Jews in Congress shrinks from 25 to 23.

MOSCOW — The Communist-dominated Duma — the Russian Parliament’s lower house — refuses to censure a Communist politician for making anti-Semitic remarks. Instead, the Duma adopts a vague resolution condemning ethnic hatred.

NEW YORK — According to a survey released by the Anti-Defamation League, Americans’ attitudes toward Jews are improving, but African Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to hold anti-Jewish beliefs.

NEW YORK — A two-year-old religious court that annuls marriages to free Orthodox women whose husbands refuse to grant them a religious divorce comes under attack by almost every major Orthodox organization.

JERUSALEM — A ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court allowing Reform and Conservative representatives to join Orthodox Jews on local religious councils sparks a battle over religious pluralism.

December 1998

JERUSALEM — President Clinton lands at the recently opened Palestinian airport in the Gaza Strip and declares that the Palestinian people “now have a chance to determine their own destiny on their own land.”

WASHINGTON — International Jewish officials at a conference on Nazi gold call for an examination of the fate of Holocaust-era assets such as artworks, unpaid insurance claims and Jewish communal property.

JERUSALEM — A Jerusalem court orders Israel’s Interior Ministry to recognize as Jewish 23 people who underwent conversions by the Reform and Conservative movements.

BUENOS AIRES — An anti-terrorist squad arrests an Iranian woman on suspicion that she was involved in the bombings of the Israeli embassy and the AMIA Jewish community center in 1992 and 1994.

January 1999

LONDON — Ruth Dreifuss becomes the first Jew and the first woman to be named president of Switzerland, a country coping with anti-Semitism, particularly in the face of disclosures about the financial ties that existed between Switzerland’s leading banks and Nazi Germany.

FRANKFURT — Germany begins making monthly pension payments to Holocaust survivors living in Eastern Europe. However, due to eligibility restrictions and organizational glitches, as well as some governments attempting to tax the pensions, many payment problems remain unresolved.

FRANKFURT — Neo-Nazi and other extremist incidents in the German army increased in 1998, according to Germany’s defense minister.

JERUSALEM — Two Israeli Mossad agents denied spying charges brought against them as their trial began in Cyprus. The two possessed listening devices when they were arrested several months earlier near a Cypriot military institution.

JERUSALEM — Israel releases 30 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The prisoners were serving time for low-level anti-Israel crimes.

February 1999

JERUSALEM — King Hussein of Jordan dies. About 800,000 Jordanians line the streets of Amman as his coffin taken from the royal palace for burial. Four U.S. presidents are among the world leaders attending the funeral.

JERUSALEM — The period for implementing the Wye agreement ends with Israel and the Palestinian Authority blaming each other for failing to live up to the accord.

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government opens an inquiry into what an Israeli jet was carrying when it crashed in 1992, causing the Netherlands’ worst air disaster. The inquiry cleared El Al of any wrongdoing in the incident.

BERLIN — Twelve major German companies sign on to a proposed fund to compensate victims from the Holocaust era.

JERUSALEM — Anti-Semitic violence and propaganda around the world rose in 1998, according to an annual report on global anti-Semitism compiled by the Israeli government.

JERUSALEM — An Israeli general is among three soldiers killed by a roadside bomb planted by Hezbollah gunmen in Israel’s southern Lebanon security zone.

March 1999

BUDAPEST — About 200 Yugoslav Jews take refuge in Hungary during NATO’s bombing campaign against Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic.

NEW YORK — According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Jewish acts rose slightly in 1998, ending a three-year decline in reported anti-Semitic incidents.

JERUSALEM — Israeli prosecutors charge Maryland teen-ager Samuel Sheinbein with first-degree murder in a 1997 killing in the United States. Sheinbein had fled to Israel after the murder.

LOS ANGELES — Movies made by Jews or with Jewish themes are prominent in this year’s Academy Awards, led by “Life Is Beautiful,” which won for best foreign film. Its star and director, Roberto Benigni, won for best actor.

April 1999

JERUSALEM — A Jerusalem court sentences the leader of the fervently Orthodox Shas Party, Aryeh Deri, to four years in prison for taking bribes.

JERUSALEM — More than 100 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo arrive in Jerusalem on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

MOSCOW — Russia’s largest and best-organized far-right organization, the neo- Nazi Russian National Unity movement, is banned from Moscow by a court in the Russian capital. The leader of the group says it will ignore the ban.

STENKOVEC REFUGEE CAMP, Macedonia — The Israeli field hospital for refugees wins praise for its work in aiding refugees from the war in Kosovo.

BERLIN — The opening of the renovated Reichstag coincides with the official dedication of the new headquarters of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

JERUSALEM — The Knesset passes a law making it easier to extradite Israeli citizens charged with committing crimes abroad, a change spurred by the case of Samuel Sheinbein, a Maryland teen-ager accused of murder who fought extradition to the United States by claiming Israeli citizenship through his father.

LITTLETON, Colo. — Two students go on a shooting rampage on Hitler’s birthday in their high school, killing 14 students and teachers before committing suicide. The students had traded Nazi salutes with fellow “Trenchcoat Mafia” members.

WASHINGTON — Jewish groups start a campaign to oust Joseph Zogby, an Arab American who is critical of Israel, from a State Department bureau handling Mideast affairs. Zogby eventually resigns from the State Department.

May 1999

JERUSALEM — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat decides not to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state on May 4, as he had previously threatened to do.

JERUSALEM — Israel calls for the closure of Orient House, the Palestinians’ de facto headquarters in eastern Jerusalem.

PITTSBURGH — The Central Conference of American Rabbis, after close to two years of scrutiny and debate, approves a new “Statement of Principles” for Reform Judaism that reflects the movement’s growing acceptance of traditional practices.

WASHINGTON — The United States’ decision to soften criticism of Iran by dropping its designation of Tehran as “the most active” state sponsor of terrorism draws criticism from many pro-Israel activists.

LONDON — Five major European insurance companies taking part in an international commission make significant concessions that should open the way to progress on World War II-era claims.

OSWIECIM, Poland — Poland passes a law setting up protective zones around Auschwitz, allowing the government to remove nearly 300 crosses planted near the site of the former death camp.

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina’s Supreme Court rules that members of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad were responsible for the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.

WASHINGTON — A large coalition of Arab American organizations starts a campaign to change what it believes is the “imbalance” of American Jews working in the Clinton administration.

JERUSALEM — Ehud Barak is elected prime minister of Israel over Benjamin Netanyahu after a five-month campaign.

June 1999

LOS ANGELES — Three Sacramento, Calif.-area synagogues are firebombed. Anti- Semitic leaflets are found at the scene of the arsons.

NEW YORK — Thirteen Iranian Jews who were arrested in March in Iran are charged with spying for Israel and could face execution. Iranian Jews in the United States join governments and Jewish organizations around the world in calling for their release.

NEW YORK — Ronald Lauder becomes chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

JERUSALEM — The Israeli-allied South Lebanon Army withdraws its troops from the predominantly Christian enclave of Jezzine at the northern tip of Israel’s security zone in a move that some analysts say is a prelude to an Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passes legislation permitting states to allow the display of the Ten Commandments in schools and other public places.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Art Museum is the first American museum to return Nazi stolen art to its original owners.

July 1999

JERUSALEM — Ehud Barak forms a broad coalition government that includes the fervently Orthodox Shas Party and leaves Likud in the opposition.

JERUSALEM — More than 500 Jews from the Kwara region of Ethiopia, left behind in the 1991 mass airlifts, arrive in Israel.

CHICAGO — A white supremacist goes on a shooting spree that leaves two men dead and at least seven others — including six Jews in an Orthodox section of Chicago — injured before the gunman took his own life. Benjamin Nathaniel Smith belonged to the overtly racist and anti-Semitic group World Church of the Creator.

MOSCOW — A young man stabs a prominent Moscow Jewish leader, saying he wanted to combat the “evil” of Judaism.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s northern communities endure the deadliest rocket attacks in more than four years, launched by Hezbollah from across the Lebanese border.

BERLIN — More than half a century after the end of World War II, Germany’s Parliament votes to build a Holocaust memorial, a vast field of 2,700 cement slabs resembling giant gravestones.

LONDON — Syrian President Hafez Assad praises Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in what many see as an indication that he is ready to talk peace with Israel.

LONDON — The art collection owned by the Rothschilds of Austria and looted by the Nazis in 1938 is returned to the family by the Austrian government and is auctioned by Christie’s for $90 million.

WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) withdraws the appointment of Salam Al-Marayati, a prominent American Muslim leader, to a congressional commission on terrorism. The appointment had been criticized by Jewish groups because they said Al-Marayati condones terrorism against Israel.

WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak visits the United States and pledges his commitment to making peace with the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors. He also said that only after Israel makes peace can Israeli society engage in the dialogue necessary to find a balance between the role of religion and the rights of individuals.

UNITED NATIONS — A U.N. conference on whether Jewish settlements in the West Bank violate international law is adjourned 45 minutes after it convenes.

WASHINGTON — Jewish groups applaud the 306-118 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives approving legislation that would extend new protections for religious liberty.

NEXT STORY