Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

The Jewish year in review: #MeToo, the embassy move, and a growing gap between Israel and the Diaspora


September 14, 2018

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Alex Bregman makes a play in Game 7 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Nov. 1, 2017.

(JTA)-For North American Jews, the Jewish year 5778 began with tensions between Israel and the Diaspora over egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall and ended with more tension over a controversial nationality law. In between, North American Jews grappled with the impact of the #MeToo movement, the Trump administration relocated the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and actress Natalie Portman made headlines for turning down a chance to collect a top prize in Israel.

September 2017

Edie Windsor, whose landmark Supreme Court case paved the way for gay marriage in the United States, dies at 88. Windsor's 2013 lawsuit resulted in the court's overturning part of the Defense of Marriage Act that had defined marriage for federal purposes as the union between a man and a woman.

Rabbi Ari Berman is installed as the fifth president of Yeshiva University. A graduate of the university and its rabbinical seminary, Berman succeeds Richard Joel, who had led the Modern Orthodox institution through a turbulent economic period.

Disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner is sentenced to 21 months in prison for transferring obscene material to a teenage girl. The former House of Representatives member from New York had pleaded guilty in the case, which followed multiple instances of sharing sexually explicit material online.

October 2017

The United States announces its intention to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization over its anti-Israel bias. The decision, which will go into effect at the end of 2019, reflects concerns about the general need for reform of the organization as well as "continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO," the State Department says.

Harvey Weinstein is fired from the film production company he founded in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Weinstein, who co-founded Miramax (later The Weinstein Company) with his brother Bob, also is expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that awards the Oscars. The Weinstein revelations spur similar allegations against numerous powerful men, leading to the #MeToo movement.

S.I. Newhouse Jr., the billionaire media mogul who ran dozens of magazines and newspapers, dies at 89 in New York. The grandson of Russian immigrants, whose initials stand for Samuel Irving, since 1975 had run the magazine division of Advance Publications, known as Conde Nast, which publishes Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.

Monty Hall, host of the long-running television game show "Let's Make a Deal," dies at 96 in Los Angeles. Born Monte Halperin in Winnipeg, Canada, Hall hosted thousands of episodes of the show over more than two decades.

November 2017

Alex Bregman stars as his Houston Astros win their first World Series championship. The Jewish infielder hits two home runs and in Game 5 becomes the first Jewish player to win a Series game with a walk-off hit. On the losing side, outfielder Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers breaks the record for most homers in a Series by a Jewish player with three, beating the mark of two set by Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg in 1934. Eight months later, Bregman is named the All-Star Game MVP for slugging the tie-breaking homer in the American League's victory.

The umbrella group of North American Jewish federations demands Israel reverse its "divisive and damaging" steps to freeze an agreement on egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, warning that ignoring the concerns of non-Orthodox Jews could undermine the Zionist vision. A resolution slamming Israel's moves on pluralism is adopted by the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America at its annual General Assembly in Los Angeles.

Israeli actress Gal Gadot is named GQ magazine's 2017 Woman of the Year. Gadot soared to international celebrity as the star of the blockbuster film "Wonder Woman."

Stephen Bannon, the former chief strategist for Donald Trump, calls himself a "Christian Zionist" in an appearance at the Zionist Organization of America's annual dinner. Bannon had long been the target of liberal Jewish protests due to links between the "alt-right" movement and Breitbart, the right-wing news website that Bannon led before joining Trump's presidential campaign and rejoined after leaving the White House. Bannon received a standing ovation at the ZOA dinner.

The U.S. Department of Justice begins distributing $772.5 million in recovered funds to some victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. The sum, which was returned eight years after the Jewish investment adviser pleaded guilty to committing one of the largest fraud schemes in U.S. history, represents only a fraction of the more than $4 billion in assets that U.S. law enforcement is able to recover for Madoff's victims.

Far-right marchers in Warsaw, Poland, shout "Jews out" and other racist slogans at an Independence Day march by 60,000 people, constituting one of the largest nationalist gatherings anywhere in Europe.

December 2017

President Trump commutes the sentence of the former chief executive of the kosher meatpacker Agriprocessors, who had been convicted of bank fraud and money laundering. Sholom Rubashkin had served eight years of a 27-year sentence. In making the move, Trump cites appeals from across the political spectrum as well as former top-ranked Justice Department officials.

Sen. Al Franken announces he will resign from Congress following accusations of sexual misconduct by several women. The Minnesota Democrat had faced increasing calls to step down by leading members of his own party.

Trump signs a proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and directing the State Department to begin planning for a U.S. Embassy in the city. Soon after, the president signs a waiver delaying the embassy move for another six months.

Billionaire philanthropist Barry Sherman and his wife, Honey, are found murdered in their Toronto-area home. Sherman, chairman of the drug maker Apotex, was the 15th richest Canadian with an estimated net worth of over $4 billion Canadian. The Shermans gave tens of millions of dollars to Jewish causes and sat on the boards of several Jewish groups.

A Brooklyn woman and three of her children are killed in a house fire sparked by a Chanukah menorah. Aliza Azan, 39, and children Moshe, 11; Yitzah, 7; and Henrietta, 3, are buried in Israel. Yosi, three other children and a cousin sustain injuries in the blaze.

January 2018

A Pew Research Center poll finds that the split between Democrats and Republicans over Israel is the greatest since 1978. The survey reports that 79 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians.

Singer Neil Diamond announces he will cease touring following a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. The Jewish singer and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee has 10 No. 1 singles to his credit and starred in the 1980 remake of "The Jazz Singer," in which he played a synagogue cantor who pursues a pop music career.

A photograph of former President Barack Obama with the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan surfaces, prompting the Anti-Defamation League to ask Obama to again denounce Farrakhan, who has drawn regular criticism for anti-Semitic rhetoric. The photo was taken in 2005 during a Congressional Black Caucus meeting in Washington, D.C., when Obama was a senator representing Illinois.

Poland's parliament passes a controversial law that criminalizes blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes. The law triggers a diplomatic row with Israel, prompting the law's amendment to remove criminal charges against would-be offenders.

Anti-Semitic incidents reach a record high in Britain and Ukraine.

February 2018

The Anti-Defamation League reports a spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2017. The 1,986 acts recorded in the U.S that year represents a 57 percent increase over the 1,267 in 2016, representing the largest one-year rise ever. The ADL says the jump is due in part to an increase in people reporting incidents of anti-Semitism.

Ten Jewish organizations urge the Trump administration not to reinstate a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census, saying it will raise fears among immigrants. Among the signers of a letter sent to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross are the Anti-Defamation League, the Union for Reform Judaism, Jewish Federations of North America, Hadassah and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Iceland and Denmark each draft precedent-setting legislation proposing a ban on nonmedical circumcision of boys under 18. Amid protests and intense lobbying by international Jewish organizations, politicians from the ruling parties in each country express opposition to both projects.

March 2018

The president of the World Jewish Congress issues a rare rebuke of Israeli government policies. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Ronald Lauder excoriates Israeli actions that threaten the two-state solution and enshrine Orthodox control of various aspects of Israeli life, including marriage and organized prayer at the Western Wall.

The Canadian House of Commons unanimously passes legislation establishing the month of May as Canadian Jewish Heritage Month. The bill had previously passed the Senate.

The heads of 139 Jewish day schools sign an open letter urging Trump and federal and state legislators to take action on gun violence following a deadly shooting at a Florida high school. The letter calls for "common sense legislation that addresses all factors contributing to a safe and secure educational community, including restrictions and safeguards related to guns."

Tens of thousands of Gaza demonstrators approach the Israeli border in the so-called March of Return, launching months of protests on successive Fridays that turn violent and result in the deaths of some 156 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier shot dead by a sniper. In one protest in May, 62 protesters are killed; Hamas claims 50 as members. Israel's actions prompt international outrage, with the U.N. General Assembly condemning Israel for an "excessive use of force." Gaza Palestinians later turn to sending incendiary airborne objects into Israel, resulting in the destruction of thousands of acres of farmland and natural forest.

April 2018

B'nai Brith Canada reports a record number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2017. Its annual audit shows 1,752 incidents of harassment, vandalism and violence, which is a 1.4 percent increase over the 1,728 from the previous year. The vast majority take place in Ontario and Quebec, the nation's two largest provinces.

Dov Hikind, an outspoken New York state assemblyman who has represented Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn for more than three decades, announces his retirement. A former follower of the right-wing Rabbi Meir Kahane, Hikind, a conservative Democrat, was first elected in 1983. Hikind did not give a reason for his retirement.

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, publicly advises Jews to avoid wearing kippahs in some urban settings following the assault of an Arab-Israeli man who is trying to prove to his friend that wearing a yarmulke is safe in Germany.

May 2018

In a speech he deems a "history lesson," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says that Jews caused the Holocaust with their "social behavior," including money lending, prompting swift condemnation from both liberal and conservative groups in Israel and across the Diaspora.

President Trump declares he will not waive sanctions on Iran, effectively pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal reached by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Israel had been pressing Trump to withdraw from the agreement, which trades the removal of economic sanctions for a rollback of Iran's nuclear program. Germany, France and the United Kingdom all urge Trump to remain in the deal.

Philip Roth, the towering literary figure and legendary chronicler of the American Jewish experience, dies at 85 in New York. An immensely celebrated novelist, Roth won virtually every major literary accolade, including two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle awards, three PEN/Faulkner Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Man Booker International Prize.

Israel wins the Eurovision song contest, with the song "Toy" by Netta Barzilai securing the victory in the finals in Portugal. "You have brought the State of Israel a lot of pride. Next year in Jerusalem!" Netanyahu writes on Twitter, referencing Israel's duty as the previous year's winner to host the 2019 competition. It is Israel's fourth Eurovision victory.

The United States dedicates its newly established embassy in Jerusalem in a high-profile ceremony attended by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trump's daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. The embassy move, mandated by a 1995 law but delayed on national security grounds by successive presidential administrations, is widely condemned by other world leaders.

Shoshana Cardin, the first woman to chair the powerful Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, dies at 91. Cardin, a Baltimore philanthropist, also was the first female president of her city's federation and the first woman to lead the national umbrella body of Jewish federations.

Rabbi Aaron Panken, the president of the Reform movement's rabbinical seminary, dies while piloting a small aircraft in upstate New York. Panken, a licensed commercial pilot, was 53 and had led the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion since 2014.

Ken Livingstone, a former mayor of London and harsh critic of Israel, resigns from Britian's Labour Party amid a review of his claims that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism. Livingstone's membership exposed the party to allegations that it tolerates anti-Semitism under the leadership of its hard-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

June 2018

Twenty-six Jewish groups sign a letter calling the U.S. policy of separating children from their migrant parents "unconscionable." The signatories included three major Jewish religious movements-Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist-as well as the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, HIAS, Jewish Women's International, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Uri L'Tzedek, an Orthodox social justice organization.

"The Band's Visit," a musical based on an Israeli film about an Egyptian band stranded in a hardscrabble Negev town, dominates the 72nd annual Tony Awards, winning 10 awards, including best musical. The play also takes home trophies for best actor in a musical, best direction of a musical and best original score.

An Israeli court convicts a 19-year-old American Israeli of making hundreds of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and schools across the United States. Michael Kadar is convicted on several counts, including extortion, conspiracy to commit a crime, money laundering and assaulting a police officer. Kadar's threats in the first three months of 2017-along with eight made by a St. Louis man-had forced widespread evacuations of American Jewish institutions and sparked fear of resurgent anti-Semitism.

The United States withdraws from the U.N. Human Rights Council, citing the body's bias against Israel. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says the council is "not worthy of its name" and that the decision to withdraw had come after a "good faith" effort to reform the body had failed.

Czech President Milos Zeman announces that he will work to move his country's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem-the first such public pledge by a European head of state.

July 2018

Continued incendiary kites and balloons launched from Gaza by Palestinian protesters ignite countless fires in Israel, with one of the largest burning in southern Israel's Kibbutz Or Haner.

Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Jared Kushner speaking while U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman looks on at the opening ceremony of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travels to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders discuss Syria, Iran, Israel's security needs, and the 2018 World Cup.

The Knesset passes a controversial nationality law that cements Israel as the "nation-state of the Jewish people" and recognizes Hebrew as the sole official language, among other proclamations. The measure prompts anger from Jewish and Arab groups in Israel and Jewish groups in the Diaspora that view the bill as discriminatory.

Israeli police detain a Conservative rabbi in Haifa for performing a non-Orthodox wedding under a 2013 law that deems all weddings performed outside of the haredi Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate. Rabbi Dov Haiyun tells JTA that he is disappointed "that this is what's happening in my country."

JTA's Europe correspondent Cnaan Liphshiz and editorial fellow Charles Dunst also contributed to this report.


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