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Year in Review: The highs and the lows of 5774

 

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In October, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was named the first recipient of the Genesis Prize, a $1 million award for a renowned professional capable of inspiring young Jews.

By JTA Staff

NEW YORK (JTA) - Read about the highs and lows of 5774 - and everything in between.

September 2013

In his address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama says the U.S. focus in the Middle East will be keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg becomes the first U.S. Supreme Court justice to preside over a same-sex marriage, the wedding ceremony of Michael Kaiser and John Roberts.

October 2013

A landmark study of U.S. Jews by the Pew Research Center finds the Jewish intermarriage rate has risen to 58 percent and that among the 22 percent of American Jews who describe themselves as having no religion, two-thirds are not raising their children as Jews. The survey also estimates the U.S. Jewish population at 6.8 million, roughly the same estimate arrived at by Brandeis University researchers analyzing 350 separate population studies.

A day after meeting with President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells the U.N. General Assembly that Israel is ready to go it alone against Iran should it come close to obtaining a nuclear weapon.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is named the first recipient of the Genesis Prize, a $1 million award for a renowned professional capable of inspiring young Jews.

Israeli forces discover a "terror tunnel" running from Gaza to an Israeli kibbutz. The tunnel is full of explosives and ends near an Israeli kindergarten.

Janet Yellen is named head of the U.S. Federal Reserve, becoming the third American Jewish central banker in a row and the first woman to hold the post.

November 2013

German authorities begin taking steps to identify the provenance of more than 1,400 words of Holocaust-era art found in the Munich home of Cornelius Gurlitt.

The United States and a coalition of world powers reach a six-month agreement with Iran to curb the country's nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief while negotiations for a final settlement on Iran's nuclear program are conducted. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pans the deal as a "historic mistake." The deal goes into effect on Jan. 20.

December 2013

Gal Gadot, an Israeli actress who is a former Miss Israel, is cast as Wonder Woman in the upcoming film "Batman vs. Superman."

Swarthmore's Hillel chapter becomes the first to join the so-called Open Hillel movement, which challenges Hillel International's guidelines prohibiting partnerships with groups it deems hostile toward Israel. Hillel boards at Vassar and Wesleyan soon follow suit.

The membership of the American Studies Association endorses a boycott of Israeli universities. The controversial decision prompts several American schools to withdraw from the association in protest and dozens more to condemn the move.

Philanthropist Edgar Bronfman dies in New York at 84. An heir to the Seagram's beverage fortune, Bronfman was a longtime advocate on behalf of Jewish causes, serving as the head of the World Jewish Congress and financing many efforts to strengthen Jewish identity.

January 2014

Brooklyn Hasidic real estate developer Menachem Stark is kidnapped, his lifeless body later found in a dumpster. The New York Post provokes outrage among many Jews with a cover calling him a slumlord and a headline asking, "Who didn't want him dead?" Months later, a construction worker is arrested for the killing.

Ariel Sharon, the controversial warrior-turned-statesman who served as Israel's prime minister from 2001 until 2006, when he was rendered comatose by a stroke, dies at age 85.

Actress Scarlett Johansson comes under criticism for serving as a spokeswoman for the Israeli company SodaStream, which has facilities in the West Bank. Johansson, who is Jewish, stands by SodaStream and resigns as a global ambassador for the British-based charity Oxfam, saying she and Oxfam have "a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement."

Longtime California congressman Henry Waxman announces his retirement. Waxman had represented California's 33rd District since 1975 and was considered the dean of Jewish lawmakers.

February 2014

Staff at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem go on strike as the hospital, facing a huge deficit, teeters on the edge of bankruptcy and fails to pay its workers.

Abraham Foxman announces he is stepping down in July 2015 as national director of the Anti-Defamation League after 27 years in the post.

March 2014

In one of many low-level skirmishes over the course of months, Israeli aircraft strike several targets in the Gaza Strip after Palestinians fire rockets into Israel, sending Israelis into bomb shelters.

April 2014

Casino magnate and conservative backer Sheldon Adelson buys another Israeli newspaper, Makor Rishon, making him the owner of several of Israel's major right-wing media outlets and two of the country's four major newspapers.

White supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller, 73, kills a man and his grandson outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and then shoots to death a woman at a Jewish assisted-living facility a few blocks away. None of the victims are Jewish, highlighting the diverse constituency served by America's Jewish institutions.

After weeks of near breakdowns in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel suspends all negotiations after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party signs a unity accord with Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. President Obama responds by saying it may be time for a pause in Middle East peacemaking. Kerry later expresses regret for saying that Israel risks becoming an "apartheid" state or a non-Jewish one if the two-state solution is not implemented. U.S. negotiators blame Israel for the talks' collapse.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations rejects J Street's bid for membership. J Street, the liberal Washington group that lobbies for increased American pressure to bring about a Mideast peace deal, lost its bid for membership in the main communal group on foreign policy issues by a vote of 22-17.

Genealogical research reveals that the late archbishop of New York, Cardinal John O'Connor, technically was Jewish. O'Connor's mother, Dorothy Gumple O'Connor, was born Jewish but converted to Catholicism before she met and married O'Connor's father.

May 2014

New York's 92nd Street Y, a Jewish center for arts and culture, names its first non-Jewish executive director, Henry Timms.

An Anti-Defamation League anti-Semitisim survey finds "deeply anti-Semitic views" are held by 26 percent of 53,000 people polled in 102 countries and territories covering approximately 86 percent of the world's population. Critics say the survey's 11 questions are not accurate gauges of anti-Semitism.

Novelist Philip Roth receives an honorary doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Now considered one of the greatest living American writers, Roth had caused outrage early in his career with his sometimes stinging portrayals of Jewish life.

Pope Francis travels to Israel and the West Bank, visiting the Western Wall, Yad Vashem and the West Bank security fence, among other sites.

June 2014

Former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin of the Likud party is elected president of Israel, defeating Meir Sheetrit of Hatnua in a 63-53 runoff vote. Rivlin formally succeeds Shimon Peres and becomes Israel's 10th president in late July.

Rep. Eric Cantor, the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives and the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in American history, is upset in the Republican primary for Virginia's 7th Congressional District by a Tea Party challenger Dave Brat, an economics professor. Days later, Cantor resigns his post as majority leader.

Three Israeli teenagers, later identified as Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, are kidnapped in the West Bank from a hitchhiking post. Israel responds with three weeks of intensive searches, including mass arrests in the West Bank of Hamas members and the rearrest of dozens of Palestinians released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner-exchange deal. Three weeks on, Israeli authorities find the teens' bodies and announce that the boys were believed to have been killed the night they were kidnapped.

Israel announces that the suspect in the April 14 killing of Israeli Police Superintendent Baruch Mizrachi is Ziad Awad, a West Bank Palestinian released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) votes 310-303 to divest from three American companies that do business with Israeli security services in the West Bank.

July 2014

Israel launches its third major Gaza operation in six years. Dubbed Operation Defensive Edge, the campaign begins with 10 days of intensive airstrikes in Gaza. After several failed cease-fire attempts, a ground invasion of Gaza follows. Hamas fires thousands of rockets into Israel, striking as far away as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and a Haifa suburb. In four weeks of fighting before a 72-hour cease-fire in early August, some 1,800 Palestinians are reported killed. Israel comes under heavy criticism for attacks that kill children, strike U.N. facilities and damage civil infrastructure. Israel blames Hamas for using civilians as human shields and schools, hospitals and U.N. facilities as weapons depots. The death toll in Israel includes 64 soldiers and three civilians. Several of Israel's casualties are due to Palestinian infiltrations of Israel through tunnels burrowed under the Israel-Gaza border. Israel's prime minister says destroying the tunnels is one of the war's main objectives.

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Israelis demonstrating against the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, Oct. 28, 2013.

Iran and the major powers, led by the United States, agree to extend negotiations over Iran's nuclear program for another four months, citing progress in a number of areas. But the potential deal breaker remains: Iran does not want to reduce its number of its centrifuges, and the world powers say they won't accept Iran maintaining its existing capacity for uranium enrichment.

August 2014

As the fighting in Gaza wanes and Israeli troops begin to pull back, Israel experiences several terrorist attacks inside the country perpetrated by West Bank Palestinians, including a tractor attack in Jerusalem.

The 72-hour cease-fire that brought Operation Protective Edge to a halt expires, and Gazans resume intensive rocket fire against Israel. The Israeli military responds with airstrikes inside Gaza. The sides then agree to another 72-hour cease-fire.

 

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