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Highlights of Jewish News: 5764 October 2003

MOSCOW Belarus’ Jewish community protests a decision by the country’s Education Ministry to close a Jewish studies institute. NEW YORK Russian Jewish scientist Vitaly Ginzburg is awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. Ginzburg is honored “for pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids,” the Nobel Prize committee says.

JERUSALEM Twenty-one people are killed by an Islamic Jihad suicide bombing at Maxim’s, a Haifa restaurant. In retaliation, Israel bombs an empty terrorist training camp in Syria, where Islamic Jihad is headquartered.

TORONTO — Canadian media mogul Israel “Izzy” Asper, a staunch defender of Israel, dies in Winnipeg at age 71.

NEW YORK Malaysian officials defend the country’s prime minister, Mahathir Mohammed, who said Jews rule the world and called on Muslims to defeat them.

GAZA CITY — Three American security guards are killed when a U.S. diplomatic convoy is bombed in t! he Gaza Strip. The attack leads to a severe diplomatic rupture between the United States and the Palestinian Authority.

NEW YORK Jewish officials applaud the Canadian government for establishing April 18 as a national Holocaust Remembrance Day.

LONDON — An Oxford University professor resigns after he is suspended for rejecting a graduate student because he is Israeli.

JERUSALEM An Israeli raid in the Gaza Strip leaves more than 1,200 Palestinians homeless, the United Nations says. U.N. officials say the weekend operation was the largest demolition of houses since the Palestinians launched the intifada three years ago.

MOSCOW Some 1,000 people in Belarus mark the 60th anniversary of the liquidation of the Minsk Ghetto.

BERLIN A German court rules that Holocaust-related property claims may be valid even if original ownership documents cannot be found. The court’s decision overturns two lower-court rulings that blocked claims on property tak! en by the Nazis in the former East Germany on the basis of legal techn icalities, The Associated Press reports.

NOVEMBER 2003

NEW YORK More than half of Europeans think Israel is the greatest threat to world peace, according to a poll published by the European Union. Some 59 percent of about 7,500 Europeans polled named Israel as the gravest threat to world peace.

JERUSALEM — David Bar-Illan, a concert pianist, editor of the Jerusalem Post and aide to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu, dies in Jerusalem at age 73.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pro-Palestinian activists converge on Ohio State University for a conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, while Jewish groups stage counterdemonstrations.

NEW YORK — Financier and philanthropist George Soros creates controversy when he says that the actions of Jews and the Israeli government contribute to anti-Semitism.

RAMALLAH — Ahmed Qurei is sworn in as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, two months after his predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas, resigned aft! er a power struggle with P.A. President Yasser Arafat.

KRAKOW, Poland An event billed as the first Jewish film festival in Central Europe opens in Poland. The Warsaw Festival of Films on Jewish Themes features 52 documentaries on Jewish themes.

LONDON Michael Howard is named leader of Britain’s Conservative Party. Howard’s election makes him the first Jew to lead a major British political party.

SYDNEY Australia outlaws Hamas as a terrorist group.

KRAKOW, Poland The Polish government honors a woman who smuggled 2,500 children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Irena Sendler, 93, receives Poland’s highest honor, the Order of the White Eagle.

ISTANBUL Two Istanbul synagogues are bombed, killing 24 people, mostly non-Jews. An organization affiliated with Al-Qaida claims responsibility.

NEW YORK — Laurence Tisch, former president of the UJA-Federation of New York, dies in New York at age 80.

WASHINGTON — Under pressure following a JTA inve! stigation of its support for virulently anti-Israel groups, The Ford F oundation announces new funding guidelines for its grant recipients.

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — A small Holocaust museum in Indiana is destroyed in a suspected arson.

WASHINGTON — The United States deducts $289.5 million from loan guarantees to Israel because of construction in Israeli settlements and on the West Bank security barrier.

LONDON — A caricature of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon eating a Palestinian baby is named the best political cartoon of the year in England.

PRAGUE The Czech Republic’s lower house of Parliament approves a national Holocaust memorial day on Jan. 27.

DECEMBER 2003

PRAGUE A 10-foot bronze statue commemorating writer Franz Kafka is unveiled in Prague. The monument, close to the city’s Spanish Synagogue, features a small man sitting on the shoulder of a giant, empty suit.

GENEVA — Israeli and Palestinian political activists and former Cabinet ministers launch the “Geneva Accord,” an unofficial peace propos! al. The Israeli government rejects the document, saying the activists have no authority to propose concessions in Israel’s name, but the initiative receives wide support across Europe.

NEW YORK An American Jewish jurist is elected to the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture. Claudio Grossman, dean of American University Washington College of Law, receives 87 of the 120 votes cast by countries that have ratified the Convention Against Torture.

PARIS Most French Jewish leaders back a presidential commission’s recommendation to ban visible religious insignia in French state schools. Roger Cukierman, president of CRIF, an umbrella organization of French Jews, tells JTA that the recommendation represents “a body blow to Islamic fanaticism.”

WASHINGTON President Bush signs into law a bill imposing sanctions on Syria unless it cracks down on terrorism. The Syria Accountability Act imposes trade sanctions on Syria and offers the president a range of other! possible punitive measures if Syria doesn’t meet certain conditions.

BERLIN — The E.U. Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia commissions but then suppresses a report that shows the majority of anti-Semitic attacks are committed by young Muslims of North African origin. Under pressure from Jewish groups, the center ultimately releases the report, but says it considers the report flawed.

MONTREAL — Law professor Irwin Cotler, a staunch defender of Israel, is named justice minister in Canada.

HERZLIYA, Israel — In a landmark speech, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says Israel will have to leave its Gaza Strip settlements in a process of unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians.

JERUSALEM — Thirteen reservists from Israel’s elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit refuse to serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The judge presiding over the investigation of the 1994 bombing of Argentina’s main Jewish community center is dismissed for bribing a witness.

BAGHDAD, Iraq A Chanukah meno! rah is lit at Saddam Hussein’s former palace. The menorah was made by Oded Halahmy, a Baghdad-born artist who now splits his time between Israel and New York.

NEW YORK — The United Nations’ General Assembly asks the International Court of Justice in The Hague to issue an advisory opinion on the legality of Israel’s West Bank security barrier.

JERUSALEM Human remains found near Jerusalem’s Cinematheque theater are dated to Second Temple times. Some of the remains are believed to be from a member of a well-off family, perhaps a member of a priestly caste, who suffered from leprosy.

JANUARY 2004

JERUSALEM Israeli Orthodox rabbis hold an unprecedented public debate about homosexuality. The discussion, part of a conference on rabbinic training by the Jerusalem-based Amiel Institute, surfaces in response to a growing openness among gay Orthodox Jews.

NEW YORK Fifty percent fewer Israelis are killed in terrorist attacks in 2003, according to a ! report issued by the Shin Bet security service. Some 213 Israelis die in Palestinian attacks in 2003, compared to 451 in 2002, the report finds.

JERUSALEM A national memorial day for Ethiopians who died trying to immigrate to Israel is set for Jerusalem Day in late spring.

ATHENS, Greece Greece’s Parliament unanimously passes a bill declaring a memorial day for Greek Jews who died during the Nazi occupation. The bill sets the memorial for Jan. 27, the day Auschwitz was liberated.

BERLIN Compensation is paid to 1,778 victims of Nazi medical experiments in a one-time installment from Germany. The Claims Conference identifies the victims who, under an agreement with the German government, receive payments of about $5,400 each.

JERUSALEM A suicide bomber kills 11 people aboard a Jerusalem bus.

FEBRUARY, 2004

JERUSALEM Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announces a plan to evacuate most Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip.

NEW YORK Birthright israel holds its first trip for developmentally dis! abled youth.

NEW YORK U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan endorses Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to uproot Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip.

JERUSALEM An Israeli judge finalizes compensation payments to victims of the 1997 Maccabiah bridge tragedy. Judge Shmuel Berliner of Haifa District Court orders the Phoenix insurance company to pay the final $440,000 on 70 claims that amount to $15.5 million overall.

WASHINGTON The Bush administration announces its support for Israel’s Gaza withdrawal plan.

JERUSALEM Conservative rabbis from around the world approve a resolution supporting Israel’s West Bank security barrier. The resolution passes with an overwhelming majority at the close of the Conservative movement’s annual Rabbinical Assembly.

JERUSALEM Thousands of pro-settler activists rally in Israel against the plan to withdraw from Gaza.

JERUSALEM A Palestinian suicide bomber kills eight people aboard a Jerusalem b! us. The Al-Aksa Brigade, the terrorist wing of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah f action, claims responsibility for the blast.

NEW YORK Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” debuts nationally, despite fears that it may inflame anti-Semitism. The $30 million epic about the death of Jesus opens in more than 2,500 theaters on the Christian holy day of Ash Wednesday.

MARCH 2004

NEW YORK Venezuela’s Coro Jewish Cemetery, considered to be the oldest active Jewish cemetery in South America, is declared a historic landmark.

PARIS The French Senate passes a bill banning all conspicuous religious signs in state schools. Students in state schools will be barred from wearing Muslim veils, yarmulkes or large crosses from the start of the new academic year.

JERUSALEM Nine victims are killed in a double suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Ashdod. Sixteen people are wounded in attacks at the southern Israeli port city. Hamas and the Al-Aksa Brigade claim responsibility for the blasts.

NEW YORK Syria buries terrorist masterm! ind Mohammed Abu Abbas, who died in Baghdad, after Israel refuses to allow his body into Palestinian-populated areas.

BERLIN — The E.U. Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, which suppressed an earlier report showing that most anti-Semitic attacks in Europe were committed by young Muslims of North African origin, publishes a new report that highlights the role of neo-Nazis and other right-wing elements in such attacks.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina Argentine Jews mark the 12th anniversary of the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.

NEW YORK The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association endorses civil marriages for same-sex couples.

MADRID, Spain Spanish investigators say evidence suggests that the Muslim terrorists who carried out a string of bombings on Madrid trains also had plans to bomb Jewish sites near the Spanish capital.

JERUSALEM Israel assassinates Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

NEW YORK Several U.S. Je! wish federations give financial aid to Ethiopians claiming Jewish ance stry. The $248,000 grant comes in the wake of the death of Lloyd Rigler, a major Los Angeles-based funder of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry.

SYDNEY Australian lawmakers pass a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. The resolution calls on Australian diplomats around the world to combat anti-Semitism in the countries where they’re based.

WASHINGTON Jewish leaders dedicate a Torah at the U.S. Capitol to memorialize U.S. and Israeli victims of terrorism.

APRIL 2004

NEW YORK Thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch Jews rally in Brooklyn on what would have been the 102nd birthday of their rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994.

BERLIN The German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg bans the wearing of Muslim head scarves in public schools. The law arises after Germany’s high court ruled last year that Muslim head coverings are allowed unless states act otherwise.

WASHINGTON U.S. officials and Jewish leaders testify to the Senate a! bout the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. Witnesses appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations committee emphasize the troubling convergence of traditional anti-Semitism with modern militant Islamism.

NEW YORK The Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus performs before a sold-out crowd of 19,000 Orthodox Jews at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. No women are allowed to perform, the organizers bring their own kosher food and separate seating is provided for men and women.

WASHINGTON President Bush offers historic assurances recognizing some Israeli claims to the West Bank and rejecting a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees.

NEW YORK The European Union cautiously backs Israel’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. However, the E.U.’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, says the union will not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders unless arrived at by agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

JERUSALEM — Mordechai! Vanunu is released from prison after serving 18 years for spilling Is rael’s nuclear secrets to a British newspaper.

BUDAPEST, Hungary Israel’s president stresses Hungarian participation in the Holocaust at the opening of the country’s first-ever Holocaust center. The museum will serve as a symbol of Hungary’s readiness to accept responsibility for the extermination of more than half a million Jews.

BERLIN — The Organization for Security and Cooperation holds its second conference against anti-Semitism. Support at a high political level sends a signal of the seriousness of combating anti-Semitism.

JERUSALEM Israel assassinates the new leader of Hamas, Abdel Aziz Rantissi. Mahmoud Zahar replaces him as Hamas leader.

INDIA A new Jewish educational center is built in northeastern India to serve a group that believes it is one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The center in the Indian state of Manipur aims to serve the local community of Bnei Menashe.

MAY 2004

PARIS More than 100 Jewish tombs are desecrated! at a cemetery in eastern France. Swastikas and other Nazi insignia are scrawled on 127 gravestones at the Herrlisheim-Hasttatt cemetery near Colmar.

JERUSALEM Likud Party members overwhelmingly vote against Ariel Sharon’s plan for withdrawal from Gaza, but the Israeli prime minister and Likud head vows to press on.

JERUSALEM An Israeli mother and her four children are killed in a drive-by shooting in Gaza.

PARIS Israel Singer receives the Legion of Honor from French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress, receives the honor for his work cementing ties between the United States and France and for fostering relations between Catholics and Jews.

MADRID, Spain Lisbon’s Jewish community inaugurates the first Jewish sports center in Portugal.

LONDON Rabbi Julia Neuberger, a health care activist from the Liberal Democrat Party, becomes the first female rabbi to serve in Britain’s House of Lords.

! BERLIN Germany pledges to help pay for home health care for needy Ho locaust survivors. Following negotiations between the Claims Conference and the German Finance Ministry, the German government agrees to allocate an initial sum of $7.2 million in 2004 for survivors.

LONDON The East-West Divan Orchestra, founded by Jewish conductor Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian academic Edward Said and composed of Israeli and Arab music students, is named best large ensemble at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards in London.

ROME Romania declares Oct. 9 Holocaust Remembrance Day. The establishment of the memorial day is one of several measures Romania takes after officials initially denied that the Holocaust had taken place on Romanian soil, sparking outrage from Israel and Jewish groups.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina Maimonides is commemorated at a Buenos Aires museum on the 800th anniversary of his death.

NEW YORK A Jewish civilian contractor from the Philadelphia area is beheaded in Iraq. Nick Berg, 26, of West Chester,! Pa., is shown having his throat slit by masked captors in a video posted on a Web site known for ties to Al-Qaida.

JERUSALEM Many fervently Orthodox married women in Brooklyn and Israel burn their wigs of Indian human hair after a leading Israeli rabbi rules the wigs violate Jewish law because the hair was used in Hindu ceremonies deemed idolatrous.

JERUSALEM Ethiopian immigrants born during Operation Solomon become B’nai Mitzvah. Six 13-year-olds, born within the two days that the Israeli government airlifted nearly 15,000 Ethiopian refugees to Israel on May 24-25, 1991, celebrate in Jerusalem.

JUNE 2004

JERUSALEM Palestinian militia leader Marwan Barghouti is sentenced to 165 years in prison. The Fatah leader is found guilty of planning shootings in which five people were killed, being a member of a terrorist organization and ordering a failed bombing in Jerusalem.

JERUSALEM Israel’s Cabinet approves a revised version of Ariel Sharon’s Ga! za withdrawal plan.

BUDAPEST, Hungary The 100th anniversary of the death of Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, is marked in Budapest.

JERUSALEM Housing Minister Effi Eitam and Yitzhak Levy, a deputy minister, both from the National Religious Party, resign from the government to protest Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Gaza withdrawal plan.

NEW YORK — The United Nations holds its first-ever conference on anti-Semitism.

NEW YORK — Followers of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, converge on his grave in New York on the 10th anniversary of his death.

NEW YORK — President Clinton’s autobiography, “My Life,” includes an account of his attempts to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace during eight years in the White House.

WASHINGTON — Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader says the U.S. Congress and White House are “puppets” of Israel.

JERUSALEM Israel’s high court rules that a stretch of the West Bank security fence causes undue hardship to Palestinians and must be rerouted, even if ! it means less security for Israelis.

OSWIECIM, Poland — A trove of Judaica is found buried near the site of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland.

JULY 2004

JERUSALEM The International Court of Justice in The Hague says Israel’s West Bank security barrier is illegal wherever it crosses the pre-1967 boundary and must be dismantled. Israel says it will ignore the U.N. court’s decision, which is an advisory opinion and not binding, because the court lacks jurisdiction in the matter.

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Two Israelis accused of being Mossad agents plead guilty to unlawfully trying to obtain New Zealand passports, and the country’s prime minister imposes diplomatic sanctions against Israel. In the days after the verdict, several anti-Semitic attacks are carried out against Jewish cemeteries in New Zealand.

JERUSALEM Israel reroutes part of its West Bank security fence closer to the Green Line, as the pre-1967 boundary is! known, to conform with a ruling of the country’s High Court of Justic e.

BERLIN — The Central Council of Jews in Germany reaches an agreement to provide funding for the Reform movement, ending a Reform threat to sue the German federal government.

NEW YORK — Some American victims of terrorism in Israel sue the Arab Bank in New York, claiming it helps finance terrorist attacks.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina Swiss authorities suspend a probe related to a bribe former Argentine President Carlos Menem allegedly took from Iran to cover up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — In a landmark move, Vatican leaders sign onto a document identifying anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentine President Nestor Kirchner joins thousands of people attending a memorial for the 10-year anniversary of the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and injured 300. Similar ceremonies are held in New York and Jerusalem.

NEW ! YORK — The Presbyterian Church USA calls for divestment from companies doing business with Israel and for proselytizing of Jews.

ATHENS, Greece — The first kosher restaurant in Greece since World War II opened ahead of the Athens Olympic Games.

JERUSALEM — Yasser Arafat’s dominance of the Palestinian Authority is challenged by unprecedented protests and chaos in the Gaza Strip.

ATLANTA — Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), who was considered one of the most anti-Israel legislators in Congress until she was unseated in 2002, wins a primary election to recapture her old seat.

MADISON, Wisc. — A controversial motion to twin Madison with the Palestinian city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip fails after Jewish groups protest.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard University returns a multi-million dollar gift from the president of the United Arab Emirates because of his past support for a think tank that has funded anti-Semitic speakers.

PARIS — French offi! cials are irate after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon calls on Fre nch Jews to move to Israel to escape growing anti-Semitism at home.

NEW YORK The U.N. General Assembly votes overwhelmingly to order Israel to dismantle its West Bank security barrier.

JERUSALEM Tens of thousands of Israelis who oppose Ariel Sharon’s Gaza withdrawal plan form a human chain between the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.

JERUSALEM — The first of three plane-loads of North American immigrants expected this summer lands in Israel. Some 1,500 North Americans are expected to move to Israel over the summer thanks to the efforts of Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

BOSTON — 12-year-old Ilana Wexler, head of Kids for Kerry, gives a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

AUGUST 2004

NEW YORK — The second and final installments of payouts is made from a $1.1 billion fund to compensate Nazi-era slave laborers.

NEW YORK — Arye Mekel, Israel’s deputy permanent representative at the United Nations, is appo! inted consul general in New York, replacing Alon Pinkas.

ISTANBUL, Turkey — The Neve Shalom synagogue, damaged in a suicide bombing, reopens in Turkey’s capital.

NEW YORK — New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey resigns after admitting to a homosexual affair with an Israeli man he employed as the state’s director of homeland security and later as a liaison to the Jewish community.

NEW YORK — Former Israeli Consul General Alon Pinkas is appointed CEO of the American Jewish Congress, but can’t take the job because it runs counter to Israeli civil service regulations that mandate a cooling-off period for former diplomats.

ATHENS, Greece — Wind surfer Gal Fridman wins the first Olympic gold medal in Israel’s history, and judoka Arik Ze’evi wins a bronze.

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon official is investigated on suspicion of passing classified material to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which may then have passed the material to Israel. Both Israel! and AIPAC deny any wrongdoing.

JERUSALEM — The grandson of Mahatma Gandhi urges the Palestinians to turn to non-violent resistance against Israel and to provoke confrontations that will elicit a violent Israeli response.

BEERSHEBA, Israel — Sixteen people die in a double suicide bombing aboard Israeli buses, the first time Palestinian terrorists have managed to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel in six months.

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