JTA Year in Review

[By JTA Staff]
NEW YORK (JTA) — The following is a review of the news highlights of the Jewish year 5770.


JIMENA, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, launches a visual history project in which former refugees now living on the West Coast can share their stories. Meanwhile, the American Sephardi Foundation is conducting similar interviews of New York-area residents.

Experts on intolerance suggest to the U.S. Helsinki Commission that schools adopt more curriculum that promotes tolerance of minorities, including Jews. 

The U.N. Human Rights Council votes to reopen the Goldstone report, which accuses Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during their confrontation in the winter of 2008-09. http://www.jta.org/news/article/2009/10/13/1008465/ban-supports-reopening-of-goldstone-debate


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces a 10-month freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton describes the move as “unprecedented” and says it would help advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Some Palestinians reject the freeze because it does not include construction in eastern Jerusalem and allows for the continuation of construction projects already in place. 

In Rio de Janeiro, a diverse crowd of 800 Jews, homosexuals, Afro-Brazilians, Gypsies, students, human rights activists and members of several other groups protest Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Brazil. 


The European Union officially calls for a divided Jerusalem, which would serve as the capitals of both a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. The Israeli Foreign Ministry condemns the EU’s move and calls for more pressure on the Palestinians to resume talks. 

Cuban authorities arrest Alan Gross, a contractor who works with Cuban Jewry and was in the country to visit Jewish non-profit organizations, and accuse him  of being a spy. American officials insist that the charges against Gross, who was in Cuba on U.S. business, are false. In July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would urge the Jewish community to work for his release.

President Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize and scientist Ada Yonath receives the chemistry prize, becoming the first Israeli female Nobel laureate. 

Yuri Foreman, a rabbinical student, becomes the first Orthodox Jewish boxer in more than 50 years to win a world championship when he decisions Daniel Santos for the World Boxing Association super-welterweight crown. In June, Foreman, a Belarus native living in Brooklyn, N.Y., via Israel, would lose in his first title defense and for the first time as a pro when he is stopped in the ninth round by four-time champion Miguel Cotto before a crowd of more than 20,000 at Yankee Stadium.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces the construction of a border fence with Egypt to help prevent illegal immigration, saying that illegal immigration is a huge threat to Israel’s economic and social livelihood.

President Obama delivers his first State of the Union address. Many Jewish groups are upset over his lack of specifics on health care and the threat of Iran. 

After a devastating earthquake in Haiti, Jewish nonprofits mobilize to provide aid. Israeli volunteers, officials, nongovernment organizations and industries maintain a long-term presence in Haiti to help with rebuilding and relief efforts. 

Uganda proposes legislation outlawing homosexuality, prompting the American Jewish World Service to mobilize against the bill.


In a speech at the University of California, Irvine, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, is interrupted continually by protesters and ultimately forced to prematurely conclude his remarks. The school eventually recommends a one-year suspension for its Muslim Student Association, which is named as the group behind the heckling. In between, at a three-hour meeting in March of the University of California Board of Regents, hundreds show up to decry the recent spate of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic violence plaguing University of California campuses from Davis to San Diego; UC President Mark Yudof calls the unrest “the worst incidents of racism and intolerance I’ve witnessed in 20 years.”

Due to Israel’s stringent standards for competing, Israel sends just three of its athletes to the Olympic Winter Games — its smallest delegation in 12 years. At the Vancouver Games, a U.S. Jewish ice dancer, Charlie White, teams with Meryl Davis to win a silver medal.

The assassination of a Hamas operative at a Dubai hotel by agents thought to be from Israel and bearing forged passports from European Union countries and others friendly with Israel prompts outrage among many of Israel’s friends and results in the expulsion of Israeli diplomatic personnel from a variety of countries.


Israel’s half-century jinx at the Oscars continues when “Ajami,” a gritty film about the Jewish-Arab tensions in the mixed quarter of Jaffa, loses out for best foreign language film. Three Jewish-themed films vying for the best picture nod — “Inglourious Basterds,” “A Serious Man” and “An Education” — also are passed over. Christoph Waltz takes the Oscar for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Hans Landa, aka “The Jew Hunter,” in “Inglourious Basterds.”

On the day of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s arrival in Israel for talks, Israel announces plans for 1,600 new housing units in eastern Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the announcement takes him by surprise as well and he offers an apology — which Biden accepts, but other U.S. officials continue to press the issue. http://www.jta.org/news/article/2010/03/09/1011007/biden-blasts-housing-starts-as-undermining-trust

With tensions still high over the Jerusalem building flap, AIPAC speakers at the organization’s annual policy conference call on the Obama administration to keep disagreements with Israel behind closed doors — an approach rejected in an otherwise friendly speech by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

President Obama’s massive overhaul of the U.S. health care system draws praise from most Jewish groups.


A plane crash in Russia kills Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 96 other members of the Polish elite. Amid weeks of condolences and reflections sent by heads of state, including Israeli President Shimon Peres, many  reflect on Kaczynski’s positive impact on Polish-Jewish relations. 

Olympic swimmer Jason Lezak and wrestler Bill Goldberg are among seven prominent Jewish sports figures inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

The volcanic ash cloud over Iceland effects 6.8 million passengers, including 48,000 people stranded traveling between Europe and Israel. British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks found himself stuck in New York.

The Israeli author Amos Oz is the first recipient of a new literary prize awarded at the 2010 International Book Fair in Turin. 

President Obama announces the nomination of solicitor general Elena Kagan to fill a vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Her confirmation by the U.S. Senate in August marks the first time that three women and three Jewish members serve on the high court at the same time.

Indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians begin. 


Kosher meatpacking executive Sholom Rubashkin is sentenced to 27 years in a federal prison for his conviction on federal financial fraud charges. Earlier in the month, Rubashkin was acquitted on 67 counts of child labor violations. 

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the longtime leader of the Reform synagogue movement, announces that he will be stepping down in two years. 

Nine Turkish passengers on board a flotilla of ships seeking to break the international blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza are killed after attacks on Israeli soldiers who boarded the ships. An estimated 36 additional rioters, as well as seven Israeli soldiers, are injured in the confrontation. Many political, religious and cultural leaders worldwide condemn Israel’s actions, but Israeli officials and pro-Israel groups defend the raid as a legitimate attempt to thwart Hamas. 

Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas says that Jews living in Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine.” Thomas later issues an apology and resigns. 

The U.N. Security Council passes new and stronger sanctions against Iran, with 12 of its 15 members voting in support. The new sanctions package isolates the regime until the country’s nuclear development becomes more transparent. AIPAC applauds the sanctions and urges organizations such as the European Union to adopt similar policies. http://www.jta.org/news/article/2010/06/24/2739779/congress-passes-new-iran-sanctions

The Israeli Supreme Court’s decision that segregationist practices against Sephardic girls in a haredi Orthodox school are discriminatory adds to the tension between secular and religious Jews.


President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet at the White House, capping months of tensions between the two administrations over settlements and the timing of construction in eastern Jerusalem. Meant to heal the rift, the meeting is reported by both sides as overwhelmingly positive.

Israeli Knesset member David Rotem introduces a conversion bill that would consolidate ultimate authority over conversions in the office of the Chief Rabbinate. Diaspora Jewish leaders from the North American federation umbrella group and the Conservative and Reform movements say the measure would be disastrous for the unity of the Jewish people and could disqualify converts from the Diaspora as Jews or render them ineligible to make aliyah. Netanyahu concurs, and a deal is reached to postpone any vote on the bill for at least six months.

In one of the most-watched interfaith marriages ever, Chelsea Clinton marries Marc Mezvinsky, a Jewish hedge-fund trader, in a ceremony that includes a chupah and ketubah, as well as the Jewish tradition of the breaking of the glass. A minister and rabbi co-officiate. The groom wears a tallit and kipah. 


Thirteen Jews are among the 40 mega-philanthropists to sign the Giving Pledge — a program by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to get the super-rich to give away more than half their wealth during their lifetimes.

A brouhaha erupts over plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in lower Manhattan. As protesters and counter-protesters take to the streets and to the airwaves — alternately describing the imam behind the center as a model moderate or a potential fellow traveler of terrorists — Jews come down on both sides of the issue. The Anti-Defamation League raises eyebrows by calling on the center’s leaders to relocate the mosque even as the organization affirms the Muslims’ right to build near Ground Zero. http://www.jta.org/news/article/2010/08/03/2740327/jewish-groups-uphold-muslim-rights-but-shy-from-alliances

President Obama organizes a summit meeting in Washington with Israel’s prime minister and the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt to kick-start a one-year program of direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Ahead of the White House summit scheduled for Sept. 1, the contours of the talks remain vague.

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