The year that was 5772
(From JTA and CCJN reports)
As the Jewish year 5772 draws to a close, we at the Crescent City Jewish News and JTA, the news service of the Jewish people, are compelled to review some of the highlights on the local, national and international fronts.
Rabbi David Polsky begins his tenure as the spiritual leader of Congregation Anshe S’Fard, the area’s only remaining Modern Orthodox (non-Chabad) synagogue in Orleans Parish. “He has invigorated our congregation with a new direction towards being a full service synagogue,” reported Ben Berman, president. “He has brought to Anshe S’Fard a new level of professionalism and compassion that has everyone happy that he is our rabbi.”
An Egyptian mob breaks into the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and Israeli personnel are stuck inside for hours until Egyptian commandos arrive at the scene. Israeli Air Force jets evacuate the Israelis from the country. The attack exacerbates fears in Israel that it is losing a once-reliable ally to the south.
The Palestinians submit their bid for statehood recognition to the U.N. Security Council. In speeches at the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama rejects the Palestinians’ unilateral approach, saying that Israel’s security concerns are legitimate and must be addressed. In dueling speeches in the same forum, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas trade charges of ethnic cleansing.
Lauren Bush, granddaughter of the first President Bush and niece of the second, marries Ralph Lauren’s son in a ceremony presided over by an ordained rabbi.
Turkey expels Israel’s ambassador to the country and downgrades diplomatic and military ties.
A California court finds 10 students affiliated with the Muslim Student Union at the University of California, Irvine, guilty of two misdemeanor counts for disrupting a speech in February 2010 by Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.
Some 15 countries announce before the Durban Review Conference known as Durban III that they will boycott the proceedings. The one-day session receives little attention amid all the goings-on at the United Nations.
Bob Berk, head of school, holds sway over the fundraiser for the New Orleans Jewish Day School where librarian Debbie Schlackman is honored for 15 years of service.
Turkey agrees to accept Israel’s help after initially rejecting assistance during an earthquake there that kills 430 people and injures 1,000.
The terrorist organization Hamas releases Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after the Israeli Cabinet approves a deal in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Cheering crowds greet Shalit when he finally returns to his family home in Mitzpe Hila after five years in captivity. Less than a week after the Shalit deal, Egypt agrees to release dual American-Israeli Ilan Grapel in exchange for 25 Egyptians and he reunites with his mother.
The Jewish Children’s Regional Service hosts its annual Chanukah “wrapathon” at the Metairie JCC. Hundreds of donated Chanukah presents will be given to deserving children at Chanukah time as a result of the mostly young volunteers.
The United States stops paying its dues to UNESCO following the U.N. cultural and scientific agency’s vote to grant full membership to the Palestinians. A month later, UNESCO calls for emergency donations because of the loss of U.S. funding. Israel also cuts tax payments to the Palestinian Authority.
The New York Times reports that President Obama is considering granting clemency to convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, but Vice President Joe Biden objects, telling the president that Pollard would be released “over my dead body.” Biden subsequently agrees to meet with Jewish leaders to press the case for Pollard, a U.S. Navy civilian analyst who was convicted in 1987 and has been serving life sentence in a federal prison.
Five Jewish scientists win 2011 Nobel Prizes: Israeli professor Daniel Shechtman, chemistry; University of California physicist Saul Perlmutter, physics, with Johns Hopkins astronomer Adam Riess; and immunologists Ralph Steinman and Bruce Beutler, medicine.
American Jewish clergy and organizational leaders condemn an arson attack on a mosque in northern Israel by extremist West Bank Jewish settlers.
A protest encampment in Lower Manhattan takes on an increasingly Jewish flavor as services are organized for Yom Kippur and a succah is installed for the holiday of Succot. Critics charge that the so-called Occupy movement, motivated largely by anger over corporate greed and income inequality, harbors anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist undertones — charges that are vigorously disputed by Jewish participants in the protests.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney marries American Jewish heiress Nancy Shevell in London, the day after the couple attend Yom Kippur services at a British synagogue. McCartney’s former wife, Linda Eastman, also was Jewish; she died in 1998.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy calls Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “liar” in a private exchange with President Obama during a summit meeting. Obama responds by saying, “You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day.” Sarkozy subsequently meets with French Jewish leaders in an effort to make amends.
Penn State ousts its Jewish president, Graham Spanier, following reports of a child sex scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at the university. The scandal, in which an alleged pattern of sexual abuse by Sandusky was brushed under the carpet by university officials, also leads to the firing of the school’s iconic football coach Joe Paterno, who dies shortly after his ouster.
The ACLU sues a Michigan bus agency that refuses to post an advertisement calling for a boycott of Israel.
Israeli President Shimon Peres meets in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah to discuss bilateral issues, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and new developments in the region.
Three cars are set ablaze in a heavily Jewish neighborhood of Brooklyn and anti-Semitic graffiti is found painted on nearby sidewalks and benches. The incident is the first in a string of anti-Semitic incidents in New York and New Jersey that include the firebombing of a rabbi’s home. Two suspects are arrested in the New Jersey incidents.
Evelyn Lauder, pioneer of the pink ribbon as a symbol of breast cancer awareness, dies. Lauder, the wife of cosmetics heir Leonard Lauder and mother of Jewish leader Ronald Lauder, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989 and founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which raised $350 million to fight the disease.
Veteran Jewish congressman Barney Frank announces he will not run for re-election in 2012. Frank, a Democrat who represented his Massachusetts district since 1980, made the decision following a redistricting move that would have substantially altered the makeup of his constituency outside Boston.
The Southeast Louisiana Council’s Ten Commandments Hike, sponsored by the Jewish Committee on Scouting, begins its trek at Tulane Hillel’s Goldie and Morris Mintz Center for Jewish Life on Broadway. Rabbi Yonah Schiller addressed the crowd of Scouts, parents, siblings and leaders, who also stop at the JCC for kosher lunch and Touro Synagogue.
Chasidic reggae star Matisyahu shaves his signature beard. Matisyahu announces the new look with a picture posted to his Twitter feed and explains that he was “reclaiming himself.”
Local philanthropist and longtime community leader Sara Stone is honored at the annual regional banquet of the Anti-Defamation League at the New Orleans Riverside Hilton.
Christopher Hitchens, the iconoclastic author, journalist and prominent atheist, dies after a lengthy battle with cancer. Hitchens discovered as an adult that his maternal grandmother was Jewish.
Thousands rally in the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh following a report that 8-year-old Na’ama Margolis was spat on by haredi Orthodox extremists on her way to school for supposedly wearing immodest dress. The incident sets off a broad campaign to rein in religious extremism in Israel. Haredi rioters remove signs calling for the separation of sexes on city streets and clash with police.
Chabad Lubavitch of Louisiana holds its annual “Chanukah at the Riverwalk” celebration on the first Sunday night, December 9, the second night of the celebration.
Israel releases 550 Palestinians prisoners in the second stage of the prisoner swap for captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulls an Israeli ad campaign to lure home expatriates in the United States that angered American Jews.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pleads not guilty to corruption charges after being indicted for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes during the construction of the Holyland apartment project when he was mayor of Jerusalem and later Israel’s trade minister. In July, following his acquittal, he says he will not return to politics.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson announces that he is donating $5 million to a Super PAC supporting the Republican candidacy of Newt Gingrich for president. The gift is the first of several multimillion-dollar donations announced by Adelson and his wife, Miriam, to support Gingrich, who will ultimately withdraw from the race in May. Adelson, saying he will donate “whatever it takes” to defeat President Obama, later gives $10 million to a political action committee backing presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
President Obama names Jacob Lew, an Orthodox Jew from New York, as his new chief of staff. Lew replaces William Daley, who had replaced Rahm Emanuel, who is Jewish and later wins the race for Chicago mayor.
Aryeh Ralbag, the chief rabbi of Amsterdam, is suspended from his post after signing a document on “curing” homosexuality. Ralbag is later reinstated, saying he was wrong to use his Amsterdam title and that the document did not fully reflect his position on the matter.
Rabbi Ed Paul Cohn is honored with a special dinner commemorating his 25th anniversary at Temple Sinai on January 22. “That was clearly the highlight of our year,” said executive director EllenRae Shalett.
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords announces she is resigning from Congress to recuperate from a shooting a year earlier. The Jewish Democrat from Arizona was shot in the head during a campaign event in Tucson.
Chabad Lubavitch of Louisiana holds a special dinner at the Chabad Center in Metairie in honor of the 36th year of the organization’s operations in Louisiana under the leadership of Rabbi Zelig Rivkin. “The fact that we celebrated 36 years of service to the New Orleans Jewish community, that was definitely a highlight for Chabad this year,” said Rabbi Mendel Rivkin, the eldest of his siblings.
The owner of the Atlanta Jewish Times finds himself under fire after penning a column speculating that Israel might assassinate President Obama. Andrew Adler apologizes and, within days, resigns his post.
The breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure says it is cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, a move that sparks widespread outrage, including among a number of Jewish groups that are vocal supporters of the organization. Within days, Komen CEO Nancy Brinker, a prominent Texas Jewish Republican, announces that the organization is reversing course.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the outspoken author of several best-selling books including “Kosher Sex,” announces his intent to run for Congress in New Jersey. Boteach says he wants to bring Jewish values into the race.
Rabbi Gunther Plaut, the author of a commentary on the Torah that has become the standard text in Reform congregations, dies at 99.
The Associated Press reports that Alan Gross, an American Jew being held in Cuba on suspicion of espionage, gave sophisticated equipment capable of providing untraceable Internet access to Cuban Jews. The revelation is expected to hamper Jewish communal efforts to secure Gross’ release.
Anne Frank and Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl are discovered to have been posthumously baptized by members of the Mormon Church. The controversial practice has long irked some Jews, who find it an insult to the memory of departed relatives. Church leaders respond with measures to eliminate “unauthorized” baptisms.
A car bomb attack in the Indian capital of New Delhi injures the wife of an Israeli diplomat. Indian police arrest a journalist in connection with the attack who reportedly had ties to Iran. India also announces it has discovered evidence linking the attack to attempted strikes on Israeli targets in Thailand and the republic of Georgia.
French Jewish director Michel Hazanavicius wins an Academy Award for his film “The Artist,” while Woody Allen takes home the Oscar for best original screenplay for “Midnight in Paris” at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. Israel’s hopes for a statuette are dashed again when its entry for best foreign film, “Footnote,” loses to the Iranian film “A Separation.”
After threatening a lawsuit and making national headlines, a Jewish high school in Texas is permitted to reschedule a state basketball tournament game that conflicts with Shabbat. The Robert M. Beren Academy team goes on to prevail in its semifinal tournament game before losing in the final. The tournament’s organizer, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial schools, had denied Beren’s requests to reschedule.
President Obama tells the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that there is still time to use diplomatic means to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. Obama adds that that the military option remains on the table.
In a New York Times Op-Ed, journalist Peter Beinart calls for a boycott of Israeli goods produced in the West Bank, or what he calls “undemocratic Israel.” Beinart, the author of “The Crisis of Zionism,” launches a bitter debate while coming under withering criticism for his proposal despite repeated assertions that he loves Israel and was acting in the country’s best interest.
A Brooklyn cooperative grocery rejects an effort to boycott Israeli products. The Park Slope Food Co-op votes overwhelmingly to reject the measure, which had been championed for years by members who wished to protest Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
A gunman on a motorcycle opens fire on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, killing four people: Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two young sons, and the young daughter of the school’s principal. The shooter, Mohammed Merah, later dies in a standoff with French police. The massacre shocks the French community and thousands march in memory. Two months later, three Jews are attacked in southeast France, and a report by the French Jewish community’s protection service comes out saying that the massacre encouraged more French anti-Semitic attacks.
“An Evening with Tory” is the theme for Congregation Gates of Prayer’s fundraiser dinner on April 21. Cantorial soloist Victoria Cohen May is honored for her 25 years of continuous service to the synagogue. She sings songs with Rabbi Robert Loewy, her two sons and does solo work culled from Broadway composers. “We had a huge crowd and it was a tremendous event,” said executive director Louis Geiger. “She was honored by the congregation and she, in turn, honored the congregation by her singing.”
The owners of the Washington Jewish Week submit the winning bid for the Baltimore Jewish Times, a venerable Jewish publication that had gone bankrupt. Route 95 Publications bid $1.26 million for the Baltimore paper.
Mike Wallace, the veteran correspondent for the CBS news program “60 Minutes,” dies at 93. Wallace was born Myron Leon Wallace to Russian Jewish parents who had shortened their name from Wallechinsky.
The Beastie Boys are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The pioneering New York rap trio’s members — Mike D (Michael Diamond), MCA (Adam Yauch), and Ad-Rock (Adam Horowitz) — are all Jewish. Yauch dies the next month at 47.
John Boutté, one of the local luminaries of singing and a star of the cable series “Treme,’ appeared as the star of the 20th annual Jazz Fest Shabbat at Touro Synagogue.
Benzion Netanyahu, a noted historian and the father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dies at 102. Netanyahu was an expert on the history of Spanish Jewry whose hawkish views were said to have a significant influence on his son’s policies.
Community Yom Ha’Shoah event is held at the Uptown JCC. Leon Bass, an African-American who helped liberate concentration camps, was the keynote speaker. Just two days later, the joint Yom Hazikaron and Yom H’Atzmaut celebrating the memory of fallen Israeli soldiers and the independence of the State of Israel is also held at the JCC.
Netanyahu forms a broad unity government with the Kadima Party, avoiding the prospect of early elections. The new coalition includes 94 lawmakers, the largest governing coalition Israel has had since 1984.
Celebrity hairstylist Vidal Sassoon dies at 84. Sassoon, who grew up in a Jewish orphanage and fought in Israel’s War of Independence, established a global network of hair salons and was committed to fighting anti-Semitism.
A sellout crowd of 40,000 haredi Orthodox Jewish men gather at a New York City baseball stadium to hear rabbinical leaders decry the corrosive impact of the Internet. In speeches in English and Yiddish, the rabbis from haredi communities describe the Internet as impure, a threat to modesty and a distraction from Torah study.
Maurice Sendak, author of the beloved children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are,” dies at 83. The son of immigrant Polish Jews, Sendak had said that he spent his childhood thinking about the children who died in the Holocaust in Europe. “My burden is living for those who didn’t,” he told The Associated Press.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and widows of the murdered athletes and coaches at the 1972 Munich Olympics launch a one-minute video campaign after the International Olympic Committee officially rejects a request to hold a moment of silence for the Munich 11 at the London Games this summer.
President Obama awards the Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, Madeleine Albright and Bob Dylan, all Jewish, among other recipients.
Israeli protesters attack Africans and smash windshields at an anti-migrant demonstration in Tel Aviv and a week later, violent demonstrations continue. U.S. Jewish groups condemn anti-African violence and the riots, which end with 17 arrests.
Obama proclaims May as Jewish Heritage Month and discusses the perseverance of Jewish Americans in overcoming adversity and hostility in order to reach success in America.
After the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak during an uprising more than a year ago, Egypt holds the first round of voting in presidential election. Mohamed Morsi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood goes on to win the presidency.
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Proser appears at the Uptown JCC to speak on a number of subjects of interest to area Jews.
The Crescent City Jewish News goes live. Its dedicated mission is to provide timely news to the Jewish community of New Orleans and wheresoever dispersed.
At a concert in Israel launching her world tour, Madonna appeals for peace in the Middle East and beyond. The American singer donates 600 tickets to Israeli and Palestinian peace activists. Madonna has performed twice before in Israel and has visited personally with her children as part of her devotion to the study of Jewish mysticism.
Union for Reform Judaism community worship services begin at Temple Sinai. Services are hosted there for a month before being run by Touro Synagogue in July and later Gates of Prayer in August.
A New York Times report confirms long-held suspicions that Israel and the United States collaborated to develop a computer virus to derail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The Stuxnet virus was jointly developed by the Israeli military and the U.S. National Security Agency, according to the Times.
Israeli President Shimon Peres calls for the renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians after being awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Obama says Peres embodies Israel’s need to simultaneously defend itself and to seek peace.
The Genesis Prize, which is being touted as a “Jewish Nobel Prize,” is established to award Jews who win global recognition for their professional achievements, including in the world of science and the arts.
Anti-Israel billboards calling for a stop to U.S. foreign assistance to Israel are taken down in Los Angeles, and StandWithUs launches a pro-Israel ad campaign to counter the billboards.
Vandals damage a synagogue days after repeated attacks by Jewish extremists on mosques. Palestinian cars are also vandalized in price tag attacks to protest the evacuation of several apartment buildings in the Ulpana neighborhood of the West Bank.
Some 200 Israelis ride buses on Shabbat to show that public transportation is needed and wanted on the Jewish Sabbath.
Yitzhak Shamir, former Israeli prime minister, dies at 96. Israel’s leaders praise Shamir’s dedication and service.
Israelis protesting the absence of affordable housing and the high cost of living in Israel stage massive demonstrations. Moshe Silman, a protester who had set himself on fire during a rally in Tel Aviv while blaming the State of Israel for leaving him homeless and helpless, dies several days later from second-and third-degree burns.
An Israeli draft committee formulates a new law on haredi Orthodox military service to replace the Tal Law, which the Israeli Supreme Court voided. Netanyahu later disbands the committee and the draft law is rejected by Israel’s Knesset. In August, the Tal Law expires, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak orders the army to come up with a plan for drafting haredi recruits.
Israel brings in remaining Ethiopian immigrants and builds a new absorption center in southern Israel.
The International Olympic Committee rejects an international call for a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Games.
A terrorist attack in Bulgaria kills five and wounds 33 Israeli tourists; Netanyahu says all signs point to Iran as the culprit.
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, considered the most important authority of Jewish law for the non-Chasidic haredi Orthodox community, dies at 102.
Germany’s government calls for a circumcision law after a district court in Cologne rules that the non-medical circumcision of a minor is a criminal act.
U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney, later the Republican nominee, visits Israel.
At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, American Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman wins a bronze medal and two golds, including an individual gold for her floor routine set to “Hava Nagila.” Israeli athletes fail to earn any medals.
Some 90,000 Jews pack New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium for the largest Siyum HaShas celebration in Jewish history. Celebrations throughout the world mark the completion of the Daf Yomi study cycle — the 7 1/2-year term needed to complete the Talmud’s 2,711 pages at the rate of a page a day.
A group of Jewish teenagers attacks an Arab youth in downtown Jerusalem in an incident police describe as a lynching. The attack comes amid other violent attacks by Israeli Jews against Arabs.
Kipah-wearing teen Edon Pinchot is eliminated in the semifinals of “America’s Got Talent.”
Congregation Beth Israel holds its dedication weekend and a jazz procession under chuppahs escorts their five sefer Torah scrolls from their previous meeting place at Gates of Prayer synagogue to their new sanctuary next door at 4004 West Esplanade Avenue. A host of politicians congratulate Beth Israel including U.S. Senator David Vitter, Jefferson Parish president John Young and Jefferson Parsish Sheriff Newell Normand. Noted Jewish speakers included Rabbi Avi Weiss of Yeshiva Chevivah Torah and Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb of the Orthodox Union.
A district court in Haifa dismisses all charges against Israel in a civil suit brought by the parents of Rachel Corrie, the American pro-Palestinian activist killed in Gaza in 2003 after being run over by an Israeli military bulldozer.
Hurricane Issac makes landfall on the seventh anniversary of the landing of Hurricane Katrina. Unlike Katrina, no major damage was sustained by area institutions, although some members of the Jewish community outside of the levee protection system needed to be rescued.
At the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney accepts the GOP nomination and warns that President Obama’s approach to the Iranian nuclear issue has left Americans “less secure.” Romney accuses Obama of having “thrown allies like Israel under the bus.” Rabbi Meir Soloveichik delivers the opening invocation.
In a diplomatic coup, Iran hosts a conference of the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement in the biggest international gathering in the Iranian capital since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Among the attendees are Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, and the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.
Amid some booing during a hastily called floor vote, the Democratic National Convention amends its party platform to reinsert language recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The language had appeared in the party’s platform in 2008 but disappeared in 2012. Later, addressing the convention, President Obama says the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security “must not waver” and that the world must unite against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Rabbi David Wolpe delivers the invocation and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords recites the Pledge of Allegiance.
Canada closes its embassy in Tehran, lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and expels all Iranian diplomats from the country.
At its opening luncheon, the Greater New Orleans Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women honors former president Ina Weber Davis with its 2012 Harold Salmon, Sr. Award.
Young Jews, Christians and Muslims, including local celebrities and politicians, don yarmulkes to participate in a flashmob on the streets of Berlin in response to an attack on a local rabbi and his 6-year-old daughter.