Highlights of Jewish news in 5760


September 1999

JERUSALEM — The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial breaks ground for a Hall of Names that will house millions of pages of testimony about Shoah victims.

October 1999

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Israel exhibit at Walt Disney World’s Millennium Village opens, making no explicit mention of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital after protests by Arab and Muslim groups.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court sidesteps several church- state issues by upholding Maine’s school voucher program, leaving intact a ruling striking down New York’s attempt to create a special school district for a community of Chasidic Jews and refusing to let Pennsylvania exempt religious publications and Bibles from sales taxes.

JERUSALEM — Former South African President Nelson Mandela visits Israel for the first time. Mandela had canceled previously scheduled visits to the Jewish state because of his criticism of Israeli policies.

JERUSALEM — An Israeli court gives a 24-year prison sentence to Samuel Sheinbein, a Maryland teen-ager who fled to Israel after a 1997 murder.

JERUSALEM — Israel opens a safe-passage route for Palestinians between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

VIENNA — The New York-based Ronald S. Lauder Foundation opens Jewish schools in Berlin, Vienna and Warsaw as part of its efforts to promote Jewish education and support the Jewish revival in Central and Eastern Europe.

JERUSALEM — News emerges that since 1995, some 400 Jews have arrived from Cuba with the assistance of the Jewish Agency for Israel, a quasi-governmental agency responsible for aliyah, or immigration to Israel. Cuban dictator Fidel Castro apparently gave his blessing to the exodus, code- named “Operation Cigar.”

November 1999

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passes a bill to fund a special aid package to help implement last year’s Wye agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican shelves plans to beatify Pope Pius XII, instead beatifying Pope John XXII. Some Jewish groups had protested Pius XII’s proposed beatification because of his silence during the Holocaust. Newly discovered documents reveal that Pius XII told the United States in 1942 that he believed reports of German atrocities against Jews were exaggerated and did not think the Allies would win the war.

JERUSALEM — Visiting U.S. first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton fails to respond immediately to allegations made by Suha Arafat, wife of the Palestinian Authority president, that Israel poisoned the Palestinian population’s water supply. Clinton later said she did not receive a proper translation of Arafat’s remarks.

ATLANTA — U.S. Vice President Al Gore speaks at the opening of the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities.

BUDAPEST — Hungarian police confiscate copies of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a century-old anti-Semitic treatise, from bookstores in three Hungarian towns.

MOSCOW — The Russian branch of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement launches an umbrella organization, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia. The federation, founded by some 200 delegates from several dozen Jewish communities across Russia, establishes as its goal the representation of Jews from “all walks of life in Russia in all matters.”

December 1999

WASHINGTON — Israel and Syria sit down for high-level peace talks, but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa do not shake hands for the cameras. The talks later collapse after the two sides become deadlocked.

MOSCOW — The Russian government returns 10 Torah scrolls, looted by the Nazis or confiscated by the state during the Soviet era, to the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations of Russia. The government originally promised to return 61 scrolls, but lowered the number after arguments within the Russian Jewish community.

NEW YORK — The Reform movement announces the creation of a new prayer book, to be published in 2005.

JERUSALEM — Israeli courts sentence travel agent Shlomo Nour to 16 years in prison for raping the former Miss Israel, Linor Abargil, last year in Italy, seven weeks before Abargil was crowned Miss World.

WASHINGTON — A number of countries reach agreements or issue reports concerning the compensation of Holocaust survivors and their families, including France, Germany and Switzerland.

January 2000

JERUSALEM — Israeli Sigal Gilboa gives birth to twins born in different millennia. Dr. Yinon Gilboa, an obstetrician, assists in his wife’s Caesarean section as she gives birth New Year’s Eve to a daughter two minutes before midnight and a son born just after midnight.

JERUSALEM — Leading fervently Orthodox rabbis issue a religious ruling banning their followers from using the Internet out of concern it could lead to “sin” and “destruction” and lead the young astray.

STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s prime minister, Goran Persson, admits that his country acted wrongly during World War II, dropping the defense that Sweden was a neutral nation during the war.

MIAMI — Attorney Spencer Eig, an Orthodox Jew, heads the 10- member team of lawyers representing 6-year old Cuban boy Elian Gonzales.

February 2000

VIENNA — Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, led by Jorg Haider, forges an agreement to join the country’s government, in a pact with conservative People’s Party leader Wolfgang Schuessel, despite the United States’ threats to join the European Union in isolating Austria. Haider, whose anti-immigrant platform and past praise for Nazi employment policies worry many, later steps down as official leader of the party.

JERUSALEM — Months of meetings involving Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and their negotiators end amid Palestinian declarations that the talks have reached a crisis.

LOS ANGELES — Federal prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against Buford Furrow Jr., the white supremacist accused of killing a Filipino American mail carrier after wounding five people at a Jewish community center last August.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s interior minister, Natan Sharansky, says his ministry will recognize civil marriages performed in foreign consulates based in Israel.

March 2000

JERUSALEM — Pope John Paul II arrives in Israel, the first papal visit in 36 years.

NEW YORK — The Reform movement passes a resolution affirming the right of its movement’s rabbis to officiate at gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies.

JERUSALEM — The Knesset passes a law granting equal rights to women, including equality in the workplace and the military, the right of women over their bodies and protection from violence and sexual exploitation.

NEW YORK — The Birthright Israel program announces plans to send 2,000 Jews to Israel this coming summer after sending 6,000 students during the winter. The program, sponsored by Jewish philanthropists, the Israeli government and Jewish communities worldwide, had more would-be travelers than space available just weeks after it began accepting applications toward the end of 1999.

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II beatifies Sister Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad, a Swedish nun who helped save Jews during World War II.

NEW YORK — Two online booksellers, Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, post disclaimers about a 19th-century anti-Semitic book, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” while online civil liberties groups call the move an infringement on free speech. Earlier in the year, the Internet portal Yahoo! vowed to remove racist and anti-Semitic clubs that it was hosting online, and eBay banned the sale of hate material on its online auction site after pressure from groups including the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

PRAGUE — A compromise is reached involving the Prague Jewish community, the government and the country’s biggest insurance company that will allow for the construction of an office complex above one of Europe’s oldest Jewish burial sites. But Orthodox Jews from abroad continue to protest the planned building.

April 2000

NEW YORK — Right-leaning Forward editor Seth Lipsky is forced to resign from the Jewish newspaper after ideological differences with the newspaper’s board. He is later replaced by a more liberal editor, J.J. Goldberg.

NEW YORK — Holocaust denier David Irving loses his libel lawsuit against American academic Deborah Lipstadt and publisher Penguin Books.

NEW YORK — After the United States Justice Department contends that alleged Nazi war criminal Aleksandras Lileikis, 92, was faking illness to avoid trial, Lithuania plans to restart the previously adjourned trial. The nation’s laws are changed to let the elderly defendant monitor proceedings from outside the court.

WASHINGTON — Receiving the Most Valuable Player award at the 27th Annual Reebok Classic basketball game, Orthodox Jewish high school student Tamir Goodman is slated to play for Towson University in Maryland in the fall, after earlier turning down the University of Maryland’s offer, in part because of friction over his refusal to play basketball on Shabbat.

JERUSALEM — In a reversal of an earlier decision allowing women to serve in combat units, the Israeli army announces it will not open its air force rescue unit to women until it can be determined whether women can meet the unit’s physical demands.

PITTSBURGH — Richard Scott Baumhammers goes on a shooting spree, killing five minorities, including one Jewish woman.

May 2000

JERUSALEM — The Jewish Agency for Israel flies 100 Falash Mura — Ethiopians whose ancestors converted from Judaism to Christianity — from Ethiopia to Israel. The group is the first to arrive since Interior Minister Natan Sharansky visited Ethiopia a month before to assess the situation of the thousands of Falash Mura who have amassed in transit camps hoping to emigrate to Israel.

NEW YORK — Jews mourn the death of New York’s Cardinal John O’Connor, heralded for helping to improve Catholic-Jewish relations.

WASHINGTON — Members of synagogues, Jewish organizations and Jewish mothers from across the United States join the Million Mom March in Washington to press for gun control legislation.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s High Court of Justice rules that women can pray at the Western Wall while wearing prayer shawls, marking a victory in an 11-year effort by the group Women of the Wall.

JERUSALEM — After formally notifying the United Nations of its intention to withdraw its forces from southern Lebanon by July, Israel accelerates its withdrawal from southern Lebanon when it becomes evident that its ally in the region, the South Lebanon Army, has collapsed. More than 5,000 South Lebanon Army members and their families are granted asylum in Israel.

NEW YORK — Israel accepts an invitation to join the United Nations’ Western Europe and Others Group, giving the country a stronger voice in U.N. affairs. Israeli leaders and their backers say they are concerned about some of the membership conditions — that Israel can only participate in WEOG activities coming out of the U.N.’s New York headquarters and that Israeli representatives will be barred for two years from running for positions on U.N. councils.

June 2000

JERUSALEM — A Tel Aviv court sentences four of five defendants to up to 21 months in jail for their role in the bridge collapse at the 1997 Maccabiah Games, which killed four Australian athletes.

CAIRO — Syrian President Hafez Assad dies at age 69. His son, Bashar Assad, succeeds him, and vows to pursue his father’s policies toward Israel, including a hard line on a return of the Golan Heights.

MOSCOW — Authorities arrest Vladimir Goussinsky, a media tycoon who also serves as the president of the Russian Jewish Congress. He is later released, saying that pressure from the international Jewish community helped secure his freedom.

NEW YORK — Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, pulls out of the American Zionist Movement, saying that the group “no longer serves the best interests of Hadassah’s Zionist goals or the future of American Zionism.”

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court rules that students cannot lead prayers at high school football games, prompted by a lawsuit from Mormon and Catholic students in Santa Fe, Texas. Earlier in the year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution backing school prayer at school sporting events.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate passes an amendment that could lead to hate crimes legislation, covering victims targeted for their sexual orientation, gender or disability.

NEW YORK — The Orthodox Union creates an independent commission to investigate how the organization handled complaints that high-ranking professional Rabbi Baruch Lanner sexually harassed and molested teen-agers in the O.U.’s youth group.

NEW YORK — New Jersey Rabbi Fred Neulander could face the death penalty after a grand jury indictment accuses him of having contracted to murder his wife, Carol, who died in November 1994. The charges come after two men pleaded guilty in the alleged murder-for-hire case earlier this month.

MOSCOW — Twenty-six Lubavitch rabbis elect Rabbi Berel Lazar the chief rabbi of Russia. The election comes just a week after Russia’s chief rabbi for the past decade, Adolph Shayevich, accused the Russian government of seeking his ouster. Russia now has two chief rabbis.

July 2000

IRAN — Ten Iranian Jews held in Iran since the beginning of 1999 are convicted of spying for Israel and sentenced to prison terms of four to 13 years. Three others are acquitted.

JERUSALEM — Israel cancels plans to sell military technology to China in a move seen as an effort to placate the United States before Middle East peace talks at Camp David.

JERUSALEM — President Clinton and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat meet at Camp David for a new round of Middle East peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The talks break down after two weeks without an agreement.

August 2000

JERUSALEM — The Knesset elects Moshe Katsav Israel’s eighth president in a surprise victory over former Prime Minister Shimon Peres. The victory by the Sephardi politician is seen as a rebuke to Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

LOS ANGELES — Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore names Joseph Lieberman as his running mate, making the Connecticut senator the first Jew to run on a major party ticket in the United States. Lieberman, an observant Jew, makes religion a central part of his campaign.

JERUSALEM —Three Israeli soldiers are killed and another wounded by “friendly fire” in the West Bank. The troops were on a mission to capture Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, an alleged Hamas terrorist who is later captured and sentenced by the Palestinians to 12 years in prison.

NEW YORK — The Anti-Defamation League sends a letter to Sen. Joseph Lieberman calling on the U.S. Democratic vice presidential candidate to keep religion out of the presidential campaign. The Connecticut senator says, “I respect the ADL, but I respectfully disagree,” adding that he thinks faith can play a “constructive role” in the United States.

September 2000

NEW YORK — A panel of three Iranian judges delays their decision on the appeals of 10 Iranian Jews convicted on charges they spied for Israel. Meanwhile, Jewish and Iranian exile groups protest Iranian President Mohammad Khatami as he arrived in New York for the U.N. Millennium Summit.

ROME — Pope John Paul II beatifies the 19th-century Pope Pius IX, who ordered the kidnapping of a Jewish boy, despite widespread Jewish protests. The 20th-century Pope John XXIII, admired by Jews and Catholics, was also beatified.

GAZA STRIP — The mini-Parliament of the PLO postponed a declaration of statehood until at least Nov. 15.

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