This Past Year In The Jewish World

From wars and elections to scandals and triumphs, a look at some of the more dramatic events of the Jewish year 5773.

September 2012
• Islamists throw a homemade grenade into a Jewish supermarket near Paris, injuring one. The incident is part of a major increase in attacks on Jews in France in 2012.

October 2012
• William Herskowitz, a member of an internship program in Israel for American Jews, shoots dead a hotel employee in the Israeli resort city of Eilat and then kills himself following a standoff with police.

• Arlen Specter, the longtime moderate Jewish Republican senator from Pennsylvania whose surprise late-life party switch back to the Democrats helped pass President Barack Obama’s health-care reforms, dies at 82 following a long struggle with cancer. During his time in the Senate, Specter offered himself as a broker for Syria-Israel peace talks and led efforts to condition aid to the Palestinian Authority on its peace-process performance.

• Jewish groups pull out of a national interfaith meeting meant to bolster relations between Jews and Christians following a letter by Protestant leaders to Congress calling for an investigation into U.S. aid to Israel.

• Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley, American economists with ties to Israeli universities, win the Nobel Prize for economics.

• The Israeli Knesset votes to dissolve, sending Israel to new elections for the first time since 2009.

• Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman is arrested at the Western Wall and ordered to stay away from the site for 30 days after attempting to lead a women’s prayer group at the holy site in violation of Kotel rules. The incident, which is witnessed by dozens of American participants in town for the centennial celebration of the women’s Zionist group Hadassah, stokes outrage among liberal American Jewish groups.

• Israel, a heated issue throughout the U.S. presidential campaign, is mentioned 31 times by President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney at the final presidential debate, which was devoted to foreign policy and held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Both candidates sought to score points on the issue, but actual policy differences seemed to be in short supply.

• With a charter flight of some 240 Ethiopian immigrants, the Israeli government launches what it says is the final stage of mass immigration from Ethiopia to Israel. The following summer, the Jewish Agency announces that the last Ethiopian aliyah flight will take place in August 2013.

• Hurricane Sandy hits the East Coast, killing more than 100 people and causing an estimated $50 billion in damages. The populous Jewish areas of New York and New Jersey see extreme damage, and a Jewish man and woman are killed by a falling tree in Brooklyn. Synagogues and Jewish organizations nationwide join efforts to raise money to help victims of the super storm.

November 2012
• Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center opens to great fanfare.

• President Obama is re-elected, with exit polls giving the incumbent about 68 percent of the Jewish vote — down from the estimated 74 percent to 78 percent in 2008. Many of the campaign battles between Jewish surrogates were fought over Middle East issues, but
surveys suggested that, like most other voters, American Jews were most concerned with
economic issues.

• Major League Baseball player Delmon Young pleads guilty to misdemeanor charges related to an incident in New York in which the Detroit Tigers’ designated hitter yells anti-Semitic slurs at a group of tourists talking to a homeless panhandler wearing a yarmulke. Young is sentenced in Manhattan Criminal Court to 10 days of community service and ordered to participate in a mandatory restorative justice program run by the Museum of Tolerance in New York.

• After days of stepped-up rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel launches Operation Pillar of Defense with a missile strike that kills the head of Hamas’ military wing in Gaza, Ahmed Jabari. In all, six Israelis and an estimated 149 to 177 Palestinians are killed during the weeklong exchange of fire. Egypt helps broker the cease-fire between the two sides.

• A constitutional court in Poland bans shechitah, Jewish ritual slaughter, along with Muslim ritual slaughter. An effort in July to overturn the ban fails.

• The decision by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to grant himself near absolute powers dismays U.S. and Israeli observers just days after Morsi is lauded for helping broker a Hamas-Israel cease-fire. Morsi backtracks in December, but the move helps stoke popular discontent in Egypt with the country’s first democratically elected president.

• The U.N. General Assembly votes 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, to recognize Palestine as a state. Passage of the resolution, which does not have the force of law, prompts condemnations from the United States and warnings of possible penalties, but none are invoked. Israel responds with its own dire warnings and announces new settlement constriction in the West Bank. Over the course of months, the change in status in the United Nations proves largely irrelevant.

December 2012
• After months of occasional cross-border fire on the Golan Heights, including errant Syrian and rebel shells landing in Israel, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the Syrian government is violating a 1974 disengagement agreement with Israel by deploying military equipment and troops over the cease-fire line.

• Ahmed Ferhani, 27, an Algerian immigrant living in New York, pleads guilty to planning to blow up synagogues in New York City.

• In a case that ignites passions in the Haredi Orthodox community in Brooklyn, Satmar hasid Nechemya Weberman, an unlicensed therapist, is found guilty on 59 counts of sexual abuse. Days later, a Chasidic assailant throws bleach in the face of a community rabbi, Nuchem Rosenberg, who advocates for victims of sex abuse. In January, Weberman is sentenced to 103 years in prison.

• German lawmakers pass a bill enshrining the right to ritual circumcision but regulating how circumcisions are to be conducted. The law displaces a ban on Jewish ritual circumcision imposed by a court in Cologne in June.

• Yeshiva University President Richard Joel apologizes for alleged instances of sexual misconduct and harassment by two former faculty members — Rabbis George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon — at the university’s high school more than two decades earlier.

• Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the leader of one of London’s largest congregations and a former chief rabbi of Ireland, is named Britain’s chief rabbi-designate. This fall he is to succeed Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who has served in the post since 1991.

• Numerous Jewish groups call for stricter gun-control regulations after a gunman kills 20 first-graders and six adults in Newtown, Conn. The youngest victim is a 6-year-old Jewish boy, Noah Pozner.

• New York businessman Jacob Ostreicher, who has been jailed in Bolivia without charges for 18 months, is released on bail but still barred from leaving the country. A Haredi Orthodox father of five and grandfather of 11 from Brooklyn, Ostreicher was arrested in June 2011 by Bolivian police over allegations that he did business with drug traffickers and money launderers.

• A Paris court orders Twitter to monitor and disclose the identities of users from France who posted anti-Semitic comments online, including Holocaust denials. Twitter later appeals the decision but loses, and the U.S.-based company complies with the demand in July.

January 2013
• Video emerges from 2010 of Egyptian President Morsi — then a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood — calling Jews “bloodsuckers” and “descendants of apes and pigs.” Morsi tells U.S. senators that he gets bad press because “certain forces” control the media.

• President Obama nominates Jacob Lew, his chief of staff and an Orthodox Jew who frequently serves as an intermediary with Jewish groups, to be secretary of the treasury.

• Binyamin Netanyahu wins re-election as Israel’s prime minister, but his Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu faction suffers significant losses at the polls, falling to 31 seats. The big winners are two newcomer parties: Yair Lapid’s centrist, domestic-focused Yesh Atid, which comes in second with 19 Knesset seats, and Naftali Bennett’s nationalist Jewish Home, which wins 12 seats. Both later opt to join Netanyahu’s coalition government, which takes nearly two months to assemble.

• Iran and Argentina sign an agreement to form an independent commission to investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and was blamed on Iran. Argentinian and American Jews denounce the agreement as a farce. Iran’s parliament has yet to sign off on the pact.

• Amid concerns that Syrian President Bashar Assad may be transferring chemical weapons to Hezbollah, Israeli planes bomb a Syrian weapons transport on the Lebanese border. It is one of several Israeli strikes in Syrian territory during the year.

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