5768 A look back at an eventful year

5768 A look back at an eventful year

Chronology of highlights


HOLLYWOOD, Fla. ““ The Ben Gamla Charter School in Hollywood, Fla., the nation’s first Hebrew-language charter school, is allowed to resume teaching Hebrew after a unanimous vote by the Broward County school board.


WASHINGTON ““ Michael Mukasey, an Orthodox Jew, is appointed U.S. attorney general by President Bush.


NEW YORK ““ Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the United States. The Iranian president speaks at Columbia University in New York City, instigating much protest by Jewish groups.


NEW YORK – Debbie Friedman begins teaching at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion cantorial school, heralding an official stamp of approval of her sing-along style of synagogue music.


JERUSALEM ““ Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faces his third investigation, this time into criminal allegations that he tried to advance the interests of a foreign investor during the privatization of Bank Leumi in 2005.


French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Oct. 22, 2007, in Paris. Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/BPH Images

JERUSALEM ““ The United Arab Emirates refuses to grant visas to Israelis to attend two conferences.


JERUSALEM ““ Israel launches a high-profile diplomatic initiative to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions following President Bush’s warning that a nuclear Iran could produce World War III, with Israeli leaders traveling to member countries of the U.N. Security Council.

JERUSALEM ““ Israel cuts power and fuel to Gaza to deter Palestinian rocket attacks in response to unceasing attacks by Hamas on Israeli towns, cities, and kibbutzim near the Gaza Strip.


WASHINGTON ““ Seven of the eight Jewish members on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs vote in favor of a resolution recognizing the World War I-era Ottoman massacres of Armenians as genocide.



ANNAPOLIS, Md. ““ President Bush convenes the Annapolis summit. Bush, Olmert, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, along with leaders of the Arab League and the European Union, discuss how to jump-start stalled Israel-Palestinian negotiations. The Maryland conference ends with the issuing of a joint statement by all parties, despite an underlying expression of differing goals by all sides.



WASHINGTON ““ The National Council of Jewish Women calls on the United States to withdraw from Iraq, becoming the second Jewish group to make the call.


The aid compound in Gondar, Ethiopia, includes a school and synagogue where Ethiopians learn Jewish prayers. Ron Csillag

WASHINGTON ““ U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) endorses then-presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain.


NEW YORK ““ “The Torah: A Women’s Commentary,” a massive, 14-year effort by Jewish female scholars and rabbis, is unveiled at the Union for Reform Judaism biennial.


JERUSALEM ““ President Bush visits Israel and affirms his ties to the Jewish state while urging a freeze on settlements. During a visit with Abbas, Bush says he understands why Israel needs roadblocks as a protective measure.


NEW YORK ““ World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder writes a letter to Olmert urging him to allow diaspora Jews to have a say in decisions on Jerusalem’s future.



JERUSALEM ““ Israel decides to build a security fence to separate the Negev Desert and the Egyptian Sinai to prevent the passage of arms smugglers and terrorists.


WASHINGTON ““ The Orthodox and Reform movements back legislation that would protect religious rights in the workplace.


WASHINGTON ““ The Republican Jewish Coalition launches an ad campaign titled “I Used to be a Democrat,” to be placed in major Jewish newspapers across the United States.


LOS ANGELES ““ Limmud, the lay-led Jewish learning experience launched 30 years ago in Britain, expands its U.S. presence with the first Limmud LA here, followed by Atlanta in March and Denver in May.


NEW YORK ““ The U.N. Security Council places a third round of sanctions on Iran that includes financial blacklisting and an expanded ban on selling technologies to the Islamic Republic that can be used for military purposes.


WASHINGTON ““ Daniel Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, endorses U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for the presidency and becomes a Jewish surrogate in the Democratic primary battle.


JERUSALEM ““ A terrorist attack on the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem leaves eight students dead. The shooter, who is killed by an off-duty soldier, eventually is discovered to have been a driver for the yeshiva.


WASHINGTON ““ The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes a resolution strongly defending Israel’s repelling of rocket attacks.


NEW YORK ““ The collapse of the Wall Street giant Bear Stearns sends shock waves through the Jewish community, prompting concerns over layoffs and future philanthropy.


NEW YORK ““ Acrimony continues at the University of California at Irvine when an off-campus Jewish group suggests the school is too anti-Semitic for Jewish students to attend – a charge hotly contested by the university’s Hillel and Jewish student groups. Later in the spring, Mark Yudoff becomes president of the $18 billion University of California system. Yudoff keeps a kosher home, lectures on Maimonides, and is a vocal supporter of Israel.

JERUSALEM ““ McCain, after becoming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, visits Israel on a congressional fact-finding mission and reaffirms his strong support for the country.


NEW YORK ““ New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is implicated in a prostitution scandal and resigns.


SAN FRANCISCO ““ The National Center for Jewish Policy Studies releases a study of intermarried couples in four U.S. cities suggesting a correlation between rabbinic officiation at their intermarriages and the couples’ later involvement in Jewish life.


WASHINGTON ““ As Israel at 60 events take place throughout the world, both houses of the U.S. Congress unanimously congratulate Israel on its 60th anniversary.


WASHINGTON ““ Former President Jimmy Carter meets a top Hamas representative, Khaled Meshaal, prompting condemnation from many corners.


NEW YORK ““ Ben-Ami Kadish, a former U.S. Army engineer, is accused of spying for Israel by the U.S. Justice Department. Kadish allegedly borrowed documents from an Army library in Dover from 1979 to 1985 and shared them with the New York Israeli consulate’s science affairs consul.


NEW YORK ““ The Jim Joseph Foundation invests $25 million in programs to promote Jewish involvement among Birthright Israel alumni.


WASHINGTON ““ Pro-Israel doves launch J Street, an initiative to promote support in the U.S. Congress for the peace process and moderate Palestinians.


TEL AVIV ““ Yossi Harel, who brought 24,000 European Jewish Holocaust survivors to the shores of Palestine between 1945 and 1948, including on the Exodus, dies at the age of 90.



POSTVILLE, Iowa ““ The kosher slaughterhouse Agriprocessors is raided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in what the federal government calls the biggest raid of undocumented workers. The raid spurs a litany of complaints by workers about conditions at the plant, invigorates calls for ethical considerations in kashrut, and in July, an interfaith rally on behalf of the displaced workers and their families. Iowa authorities recommend charging the company with violating child labor laws.


LOS ANGELES ““ Ugandan Gershom Sizomu is ordained as a Conservative rabbi by American Jewish University, making him the first official rabbi of Uganda’s Abayudaya community.

JERUSALEM ““ The governments of Israel and Syria announce they will resume peace talks brokered by Turkey.


NEW YORK ““ A cyclone hits Myanmar, prompting Jewish groups to organize relief efforts to aid victims.



WASHINGTON ““ U.S. presidential contenders Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and John McCain are among the featured speakers at the annual AIPAC policy conference. Olmert also speaks, urging a blockade of Iranian imports. Days after the conference, Clinton concedes the Democratic candidacy to Obama.


JERUSALEM ““ A truce between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt, is announced.


PARIS ““ French President Nicolas Sarkozy visits Israel, bolstering his desire to be a regional peace broker. Sarkozy is the first French president since Francois Mitterrand to speak at the Knesset.


BOSTON ““ Hebrew College ordains its first class of 11 transdenominational rabbis.


WARSAW ““ Nine rabbinical students from the Chabad-Lubavitch Yeshiva of Warsaw become the first rabbis ordained in Poland since World War II.


Barack Obama visits Yad Vashem, July 23.
Brian Hendler/JTA

JERUSALEM ““ As part of a prisoner swap between Lebanon and Israel, the bodies of slain Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are returned to their families in exchange for five jailed Hezbollah terrorists. The freed terrorists received a hero’s welcome.


JERUSALEM ““ Olmert announces he will not run for re-election in the wake of numerous corruption charges and strong political opposition, though he maintains his innocence.


JERUSALEM ““ Obama visits Israel, including the embattled southern city of Sderot, in an effort to shore up his foreign policy credentials and his image as a friend to Israel.

NEW YORK ““ The Conservative movement released its guidelines for a Hekhsher Tzedek kashrut certification, outlining the social justice standards companies must meet if their foodstuffs are to qualify.



WASHINGTON ““ The McCain presidential campaign asks Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the only Jewish Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, to provide personal documents, leading to speculation that Cantor may be the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate.


Victims of the Georgia-Russia conflict adjust to their new surroundings in a Russian refugee camp in Alagir, on the border of South Ossetia, on Aug. 11, 2008. Photo courtesy of American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

JERUSALEM ““ Mass Ethiopian aliyah of the Falash Mura ends after nearly five years of 300 new immigrants per month. However, advocates vow to continue to fight to bring an additional 8,700 Ethiopians.


MOSCOW ““ More than 200 Jewish residents flee fighting near the Georgian border, most from Gori, a city where Russian bombers destroyed several apartment blocks, according to the Jewish Agency.


NEW YORK ““ Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf resigns, leaving Jewish observers uneasy, as control of the world’s only nuclear-armed Muslim state is left up in the air.


ST. PAUL ““ McCain taps Sarah Palin, Alaska’s governor with a scant foreign policy record on Israel, to be his running mate. The decision comes after Obama announces his selection of U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), the chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. Biden has sparred frequently with the pro-Israel community but has a pro-Israel voting record.



TEL AVIV ““ Israel’s stock exchange opens sharply down, reacting to the bankruptcy of the Jewish-owned investment bank Lehman Brothers and smaller losses after the U.S. governmental takeover of mortgage banks Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.


JERUSALEM ““ Olmert officially resigns as the prime minister of Israel days after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni narrowly defeats Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz to succeed Olmert as the head of the Kadima Party. Livni has 42 days to assemble a coalition government or new general elections will be held.



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