Highlights of Jewish News: 5766 September 2005

JERUSALEM — Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians hold rallies calling for a return to peace talks and an end to violence in Jerusalem and Ramallah. Some 10,000 people attend the Ramallah rally and 7,000 assemble in Jerusalem. VIENNA — Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor of Nazi death camps who went on to found an eponymous human rights center dedicated to tracking and prosecuting Nazi war criminals and to promoting justice and tolerance, dies at 96.

WASHINGTON — President Bush awards the nation’s highest military honor to Tibor Rubin, a Holocaust survivor who served with U.S. forces in Korea and was a prisoner of war. Rubin singlehandedly held off attackers on several occasions, and after his capture he helped as many as 40 U.S. POWs survive by smuggling food and medicine to them.

AMSTERDAM — The head of Dutch Railways apologizes for the company’s role in deporting Jews during World War II at the launch of an anti-racism campaign, a collaboration between Dutch Railways and the Central Jewish Organization for External Relations.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s population rises by nearly 1.8 percent in 2004 to more than 6.8 million. Some 5.2 million Israelis are Jewish, with 1.3 million Arabs and 300,000 others, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The growth rate among Muslims was 3.3 percent, more than double the rate among Jews.

NEW YORK — Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, addresses representatives of the Jewish and Pakistani-American communities at a meeting convened by the American Jewish Congress.

October 2005

NEW YORK — Iran’s president calls for Israel’s destruction. Addressing a Tehran conference titled “The World Without Zionism,” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad voices hope that Palestinian terrorism “will wipe off this stigma from the face of the Islamic world,” a reference to Israel. In response to Ahmadinejad’s comments, Israel calls for Iran to be ousted from the United Nations.

JERUSALEM — The Jewish Agency for Israel compensates Israeli Arab terror victims for the first time. Four families who lost relatives in a gun attack by an extremist Jew in the Arab town of Shfaram last August are each given a check for $5,000.

JERUSALEM — Qatari officials contribute $10 million toward a sports complex in the Israeli Arab town of Sakhnin, home to Bnei Sakhnin, which won Israel’s soccer championship last year.

KRAKOW — The city of Krakow, Poland, gets its first full-time rabbi since World War II from the Israel-based Shavei Israel organization following a request from Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich. Rabbi Avraham Flaks will serve 200 community members, descendants of mixed marriages and those who covered up their Judaism during World War II and the subsequent Communist era.

JERUSALEM — Robert Aumann of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics along with Thomas Schelling of the University of Maryland for contributions to game theory, the science of strategy.

JERUSALEM — Israel offers aid to Pakistan after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake kills nearly 40,000 and leaves millions homeless. Pakistan, which has no formal ties to Israel, accepts the aid on the condition that it be channeled through a third party.

November 2005

JERUSALEM — Shimon Peres is ousted as leader of the Labor Party by union leader Amir Peretz.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court lets stand a $116 million judgment against the PLO and Palestinian Authority. The high court chooses not to block the judgment in favor of the family of an American citizen and his Israeli wife who were killed in a 1996 terrorist attack in the West Bank.

NEW YORK — The U.N. General Assembly passes a Holocaust commemoration resolution with more than 100 co-sponsors, establishing a Holocaust memorial day at the United Nations and calling on member states to incorporate Holocaust education into their missions.

NEW YORK — UNESCO, world leaders and Israelis mark the 10th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s death.

HOUSTON — The Union for Reform Judaism becomes the first Jewish denomination to speak out against the Iraq war at its biennial, passing a resolution criticizing the handling of the war and seeking a partial troop withdrawal.

BERLIN — German Reform Jews will receive federal funding after the Central Council of Jews in Germany votes to admit liberal Jewish associations.

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Ariel Sharon quits the Likud, paving the way to form a new centrist party, Kadima, a few weeks later.

December 2005

JERUSALEM — Shimon Peres quits Israel’s Labor Party, his political home for decades, to join Kadima and help Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pursue peace with the Palestinians.

KIEV, Ukraine — Vladmir Matveyev, JTA’s correspondent in Ukraine, suffers head injuries and a broken clavicle when unidentified men attack him in the entrance of his apartment building and take valuables, press cards and some of his recent JTA articles. The attack happens days after the translation of Matveyev’s JTA story on the anti-Semitic activities of a university in Kiev was widely circulated in Ukraine.

JERUSALEM — The number of Israelis taking charity increase from 11 percent last year to 17 percent, according to a survey by the Latet lobby. One in two Israelis cites poverty as the country’s No. 1 problem, ahead of education and terrorism.

PRAGUE — Austria begins the process of compensating Holocaust victims. Payments to Austrians stripped of their assets after the Nazis assumed control in 1938 had been delayed by lawsuits, but a federal court in New York cleared the last of the lawsuits in November.

JERUSALEM — Ariel Sharon is admitted to the trauma ward of Hadassah-Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem after suffering a light stroke.

NEW YORK — With concern growing over Saudi influence on American education, Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud donates $40 million to finance Islamic studies at Georgetown and Harvard universities.

NEW YORK — Seventy percent of American Jews disapprove of the war in Iraq and the way the United States is handling the campaign against terrorism, according to the American Jewish Committee’s annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion.

January 2006

NEW YORK — Iran says it would resume research and development on its “peaceful” nuclear energy program that was suspended in late 2004, drawing international criticism.

JERUSALEM — Abbas Al-Sayed, mastermind of the 2002 “Passover massacre” bombing at Netanya’s Park Hotel, receives 35 life sentences for his role in the bombing, which killed 30 people.

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffers a second, massive stroke that leaves him in a coma. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Ehud Olmert becomes acting prime minister.

PRAGUE — The Jewish community of Poland dedicates its first community offices in Lublin since World War II on the premises of the Yeshiva Hachmei Lublin, the most famous yeshiva in Europe before the Holocaust.

NEW YORK — A new study produced by the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa finds that 40 percent of Ashkenazi Jews are descended from just four women who lived somewhere in Europe during the last 2,000 years, but not necessarily in the same place or the same country. The four women left a genetic signature that is detectable in some 3.5 million Ashkenazi Jews today.

NEW YORK — An Austrian court orders the return of Gustav Klimt paintings seized by Nazis when Germany annexed Austria in 1938 to the heir of their original Jewish owner. Maria Altmann, 89, the niece of Czech-Jewish sugar industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, wins the return of paintings after a seven-year battle.

JERUSALEM — Hamas wins a resounding victory in Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections, taking 76 seats in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council. Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says there will be no negotiations with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

NEW YORK — Philanthropist Andrea Bronfman, co-chair of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and major supporter of birthright israel, dies at 60.

NEW YORK — Playwright Wendy Wasserstein, known for her wry portrayal of strong, conflicted women, dies of lymphoma at 55.

February 2006

JERUSALEM — Ehud Olmert says Israel would have to unilaterally withdraw from much of the West Bank, the clearest indication yet of his plans since taking over as Israeli prime minister after Ariel Sharon went into a coma.

JERUSALEM — Hamas chooses Ismail Haniyeh as Palestinian Authority prime minister.

JERUSALEM — Israel will release tax revenues to the Palestinians amounting to $55 million in monthly customs duties that had been frozen after Hamas won Palestinian elections.

NEW YORK — Betty Friedan, whose book “The Feminine Mystique” launched the feminist revolution in the United States, dies at age 85.

JERUSALEM — Scores of Israelis are injured as settlers scuffle with police trying to dismantle the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona.

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch Culture Ministry announces that 202 of 267 paintings claimed by the survivors of Jacques Goudstikker, a Dutch Jewish art dealer whose paintings were looted by the Nazis, would be handed over after a decades-long reclamation battle. Many of the paintings mentioned in the suit were hanging in 17 museums throughout the Netherlands.

PARIS — At least 1,200 people demonstrate to show their anger at the murder of 23-year-old French Jew Ilan Halimi, who was kidnapped by French and other Muslims and tortured to death. The French government initially says anti-Semitism played no role in the murder, but later says it was indeed motivated by hate.

JERUSALEM — An Israeli lesbian couple wins state recognition as joint parents of their children. In a ruling hailed by gay-rights activists, Israel’s Family Affairs Court allows Tal and Avital Yaros-Hakak to legally adopt three boys they had borne after being artificially inseminated.

March 2006

JERUSALEM — Ehud Olmert’s centrist Kadima Party wins Israeli elections, garnering 28 seats in the 17th Knesset. Center-right Likud, which dominated the 16th Knesset with 40 seats, falls to 11, and center-left Labor wins 20.

NEW YORK — The Association of Reform Zionists of America wins elections for the American slate to the 35th Zionist Congress, with just more than 38 percent of 75,686 votes cast. This gives ARZA 55 delegates to the June congress in Israel.

NEW YORK — The World Bank approves $42 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority. This decision comes shortly after the European Union announced it would release $143 million in emergency funding for the Palestinian Authority, despite the victory of Hamas, a terrorist group, in P.A. elections.

NEW YORK — More than 150 rabbis representing the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist movements gather outside United Nations headquarters to urge international action in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

NEW YORK — Harold Ostroff, who helped launch the Russian and English editions of the Forward newspaper and saved the Yiddish paper from extinction, dies March 2 at age 82.

April 2006

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration bans U.S. officials from contacting Palestinian Authority officials associated in any way with Hamas.

WASHINGTON — Anti-Semitism on college campuses is a “serious problem” that merits a campaign to inform Jewish students of their rights, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says.

WASHINGTON — Israel and the Palestinian Authority had poor human rights records in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2005, the U.S. State Department says.

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic announces that it completed its compensation of individual Czech victims of the Holocaust, disbursing $4.23 million over the past five years to 516 people who requested compensation.

WASHINGTON — Germany agrees to drop its resistance to the opening of one of the world’s largest Holocaust archives from the International Tracing Service, the arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

NEW YORK — Fewer than one-fifth of non-Jews who marry Jews convert to Judaism, according to a study by the American Jewish Committee.

NEW YORK — The number of ex-Nazis convicted of war crimes more than tripled in the past year, the Simon Wiesenthal Center says.

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands rally in Washington to advocate action on the humanitarian situation in Darfur, Sudan. The event is organized by the Save Darfur Coalition, a collection of 150 faith-based advocacy and humanitarian aid organizations initiated by two Jewish agencies.

May 2006

JERUSALEM — Israel’s new coalition government led by Kadima and joined by the Labor Party, Shas and the pensioners’ party Gil is sworn in.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s top court upholds a controversial law that prevents Palestinians who marry Israeli Arabs from gaining automatic Israeli citizenship.

WASHINGTON — Resolutions introduced in the U.S. Congress call for any reference to Palestinian refugees to be matched by similar references to Jewish refugees.

NEW YORK — Sweden breaks with E.U. policy by granting a visa to a Palestinian Authority Cabinet minister from Hamas.

JERUSALEM — Millions of dollars in foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority were used to buy weapons, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency says.

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Cabinet decides to free $11 million in tax and customs levies that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority but had frozen since Hamas won elections in January.

WASHINGTON — Reform Jews lead a lobbying effort for Darfur, with more than 300 people meeting with U.S. senators from more than 30 states.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s population tops 7 million. Seventy-six percent of the population is Jewish, 20 percent is Christian or Muslim Arab, and the remainder is made up of immigrants or foreign workers without religious classification.

NEW YORK — Investment guru Warren Buffett invests $4 billion in an Israeli manufacturing firm. In what Israeli media hails as the “deal of the decade,” Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway corporation buys an 80 percent interest in Iscar, an international metalworks consortium based in Tefen, Israel.

TORONTO — The Canadian Union of Public Employees, a large public-sector union, votes to back a boycott against Israel until it “recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination.”

NEW YORK — JDate, the world’s largest Jewish dating Web site, takes top prize in the 10th annual Webby Award competition for outstanding social/networking site, beating out MySpace.com.

NEW YORK — Stanley Kunitz, a former U.S. poet laureate who made metaphoric use of the Talmud and other Jewish images in his poetry, dies at age 100.

June 2006

WASHINGTON — The diplomatic “Quartet” overseeing the Mideast peace process approves a program to funnel emergency assistance to the Palestinians, bypassing the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government declassifies more than 8 million pages of files related to Nazi war crimes, including documents relating to the CIA’s employment of suspected Nazi war criminals after World War II.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives approves $2.34 billion in military aid and $120 million in economic assistance to Israel, with another $40 million approved for the absorption of former refugees.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Presbyterian Church declares suicide bombing and terrorism as crimes against humanity during their General Assembly, during which the Church also replaces a call for divestment from Israel with a policy of peaceful investment in Israel, the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

NEW YORK — Israel’s emergency services agency is formally admitted into the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, ending 58 years of exclusion of Magen David Adom.

NEW YORK — The birthright israel program celebrates the arrival in Israel of its 100,000th participant.

NEW YORK — A Holocaust-era looted painting is auctioned to cosmetics magnate and philanthropist Ronald Lauder for a reported $135 million, the highest sum ever paid for a painting. The 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt had been returned recently to Bloch-Bauer’s niece, Maria Altmann. It is to be displayed at the Neue Galerie, a New York museum of German and Austrian art that Lauder owns.

NEW YORK — Anti-Jewish sentiment is nearly universal in Jordan and Egypt, the two Arab countries to sign peace treaties with Israel, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project for 2006.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approves legislation that would end direct aid and contact with the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority. The Anti-Terrorism Act allows humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people but not to the Palestinian Authority until Hamas renounces violence, recognizes Israel’s right to exist and abides by previous diplomatic agreements.

NEW YORK — Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, declares a boycott of Israeli President Moshe Katsav over his refusal to refer to Reform rabbis as “rabbis.”

JERUSALEM — Gunmen from Hamas and other terrorist groups attack a military post inside Israel, killing two soldiers and taking captive Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

JERUSALEM — Palestinian terrorists abduct and kill West Bank settler Eliyahu Asheri, 18.

July 2006

NEW YORK — The United Nations’ new Human Rights Council passes an anti-Israel resolution, the only country-specific resolution passed at the council’s inaugural meeting. The resolution makes Israel’s alleged human rights violations and the “occupation” of Palestinian and other Arab territories a talking point in all future meetings, a disappointment to reformers who hoped the council would avoid the obsession with Israel that discredited its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission.

NEW YORK — Israelis mark the 30th anniversary of the Entebbe operation to free more than 100 Jewish hostages held by pro-Palestinian plane hijackers in Uganda.

JERUSALEM — The women’s section at Jerusalem’s Western Wall is to be expanded to make it equal in size to the men’s section.

NEW YORK — The first woman in Israel to be ordained a rabbi also became the first to head a Conservative seminary when Einat Ramon, 47, a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s rabbinical school, is appointed dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Israel.

WASHINGTON — The speaker of Iraq’s Parliament blames Jews for violence in his country. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a member of the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front, said Jews were driven by a desire to see their “agents” assume leadership positions.

PARIS — France marks the 100th anniversary of the rehabilitation of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus in a ceremony led by President Jacques Chirac at the Ecole Militaire, the site where Dreyfus was stripped of his military honors in 1895. Dreyfus was falsely convicted of treason in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War on anti-Semitic pretenses.

JERUSALEM — Hezbollah guerrillas stage a cross-border raid into Israel, killing eight soldiers and kidnapping two, setting off a war that would last for 34 days.

NEW YORK — Red Buttons, the Catskills cutup who earned an Oscar for his performance as a lovelorn serviceman in the 1957 film “Sayonara,” dies at age 87. Born Aaron Chwatt in New York, Buttons stood out with his bright red hair and diminutive stature.

JERUSALEM — Jerusalem’s gay pride parade is canceled due to insufficient police protection. Police informed organizers of the WorldPride 2006 parade that security could not be provided due to the war with Hezbollah.

JERUSALEM — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan accuses Israel of deliberately targeting U.N. forces after four peacekeepers are killed in Lebanon by an Israeli airstrike. Hezbollah had been firing rockets into Israel from near the U.N. position.

NEW YORK — U.S. museums still may contain many Nazi-plundered artworks, a report from the Claims Conference finds.

WASHINGTON — Germany, Israel and the United States sign an agreement that would open millions of Holocaust-era files, raising to eight the number of countries who have signed the April pact devised by the International Tracing Service, the arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

NEW YORK — The Executive Council of Australian Jewry withdraws from the World Jewish Congress after the congress refuses to withdraw its defamation suit against one of its former senior vice presidents, Isi Leibler. The lawsuit is later withdrawn.

BUENOS AIRES — Interpol issues arrest warrants for Hezbollah members believed to be in South America in connection with the 1994 bombing of an Argentine Jewish community center, which killed 85 people and hurt more than 300. In March, the Argentine government admitted that it was at fault for not preventing the bombing and for botching the investigation of it afterward.

JERUSALEM — Israel agrees to suspend its airstrikes in southern Lebanon for 48 hours after an Israeli airstrike kills at least 28 civilians in the Lebanese town of Kana.

SEATTLE — A Muslim gunman attacks the Seattle Jewish federation, killing one woman and injuring five people.

August 2006

NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council says it will sanction Iran if it does not suspend uranium enrichment by Aug. 31.

JERUSALEM — At least 12 Israeli reserve soldiers are killed in a Hezbollah rocket attack on Kibbutz Kfar Giladi in the Upper Galilee, the most deadly barrage on Israel since the war with Hezbollah began in mid-July.

NEW YORK — Reuters admits it altered a photograph of an Israeli airstrike on Beirut, making the bombardment appear more intense.

NEW YORK — More than 50 Holocaust scholars send a letter to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez condemning his statements comparing Israel to the Nazis.

BERLIN — German Nobel Prize-winning author Gunther Grass admits he was a member of the Waffen SS during World War II.

NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council approves a resolution calling for an Israel-Hezbollah cease-fire. The resolution authorizes an increase in the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebabon to 15,000 and calls on the force to assist the Lebanese army in keeping the South free of Hezbollah gunmen and preventing arms smuggling into Lebanon.

JERUSALEM — A rocket fired by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip reaches deeper than ever into Israel, hitting the marina of Ashkelon, 15 miles from northern Gaza.

JERUSALEM — Three planeloads carrying 800 immigrants from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom arrive in Israel on the same day in flights sponsored by Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

NEW YORK — Israel’s government freezes plans to pull out from parts of the West Bank because of the war with Hezbollah.

JERUSALEM — Sixty-three percent of Israelis want Ehud Olmert to resign because of his handling of Israel’s war with Hezbollah, according to a Yediot Achronot poll.

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