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WORLD NEWS 2015

JANUARY

Streit’s announces it is closing its historic, six-story matzah factory on New York’s Lower East Side, where the company produced the Passover staple for 90 years. It will relocate operations to New Jersey.

hyper cacherFour Jewish men are killed by an militant Islamic gunman during a hostage siege at a kosher supermarket in Paris, two days after a pair of Islamic gunmen storm the Paris offices of a satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, killing 11. The events in Paris stoke fears of French Jews about their future in the country.

Alberto Nisman — the Argentine prosecutor collecting evidence of culpability in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires — is found shot to death in his apartment, just hours before he is to present evidence to Argentina’s congress that may implicate his country’s president and foreign minister in a scheme to cover up Iran’s role in the bombing. At first investigators call the death a suicide, then a murder, while protesters hold rallies in Buenos Aires demanding justice in the Nisman case.

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is arrested on federal corruption charges. One of the state’s most powerful politicians and high-profile Orthodox Jews, he soon steps down as speaker but retains his Assembly seat. The following November, Silver is found guilty on all seven corruption charges against him.

Portugal’s government adopts legislation that offers citizenship to some descendants of Sephardic Jews, making Portugal the second country in the world after Israel to pass a law of return for Jews.

FEGS, a Jewish charity and one of the largest social service agencies in the United States, abruptly shuts down after losing $19.4 million in 2014. The 3,000-employee agency, which is a major beneficiary of UJA-Federation of New York, had said it served 12,000 people daily in such areas as home care, job training and immigrant services.

While gathered in Miami for the Miss Universe beauty pageant, Miss Lebanon accuses Miss Israel of photobombing a selfie of them together and posting it on social media. The photo causes an uproar in Lebanon.

The Ruderman Family Foundation announces that it will devote $1 million to a partnership with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in order to help “create a culture of inclusion” for people with disabilities in about 4,200 communities around the world.

 

FEBRUARY

jon stewartComedian Jon Stewart announces he is leaving “The Daily Show,” the mock news program he anchored for 16 years and built into a political and cultural touchstone.

Europe’s Jewish population is pegged at 1.4 million, down from 2 million in 1991 and 3.2 million in 1960, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Overall, European Jews account for about 10 percent of the world Jewish population, compared to 57 percent in 1939, the eve of the Holocaust.

A gunman attacks the main synagogue in Copenhagen, killing a security guard. The attack is seen as a wake-up call for Danish Jews to the threat of Islamic terrorism.

The Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film goes to “Ida,” a Polish movie about a Catholic novitiate who learns she is the daughter of Jewish parents killed by the Nazis.

A New York jury orders the PLO and the Palestinian Authority to pay more than $218 million in damages to American victims of six terrorist attacks that took place in Israel between 2002 and 2004 and were attributed to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Hamas. The Palestinian Authority pledges to appeal.

An Israeli journalist, who walked around Paris for hours while wearing a kippah to test attitudes to Jews, documented multiple threats and insults hurled at him.

 

MARCH

Amid lingering controversy, Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress to warn of the emerging Iran nuclear deal. Obama says the speech offers “nothing new,” and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., calls it an “insult to the intelligence of the United States.”

In a surprising political upset, Bibi Netanyahu wins a fourth term — his third in a row — as Israel’s prime minister, roundly defeating his main challenger, Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union.

Seven children, ages 5 to 16, are killed in a Brooklyn house fire reportedly caused by a malfunctioning Sabbath hot plate. The children’s mother, Gayle Sassoon, and her daughter Tziporah sustain injuries in the blaze but survive. The children are buried in Israel.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is found guilty of fraud under aggravating circumstances and breach of trust for accepting cash-filled envelopes from U.S. Jewish businessman Morris Talansky and using it for personal gain. Olmert’s lawyers later appeal the verdict.

michael douglasActor Michael Douglas receives the 2015 Genesis Prize in a ceremony in Jerusalem emceed by Jay Leno. The $1 million award is meant to recognize accomplished Jews who demonstrate commitment to Jewish values. Also, in March, the actor speaks out against antisemitism in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.

“Woman in Gold,” a film starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds that tells the story of Maria Altmann’s years-long effort to reclaim the works of art stolen by the Nazis from her Austrian-Jewish family, opens in theaters.

An Austrian government advisory board recommends against returning “The Beethoven Frieze,” a 112-foot artwork by Gustav Klimt, to the heirs of the Jewish art dealer who sold it.

National Geographic rates Tel Aviv one of the world’s top seaside cities.

 

APRIL

Women of the Wall, a group that promotes women’s religious rights at the Western Wall, for the first time reads from a full-size Torah scroll during its monthly prayer service at the Kotel, contravening regulations there.

The White House acknowledges that a U.S. drone strike in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area in January accidentally killed Warren Weinstein, the Jewish-American government contractor who had been held hostage by al-Qaida since 2011.

bernie sandersSen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, announces that he intends to run for the U.S. presidency. A self-described “Democratic socialist,” Sanders, is running as a Democrat.

 

MAY

Ed Miliband, the first Jewish leader of Britain’s Labour Party, fails to become his country’s first Jewish prime minister (Benjamin Disraeli was born Jewish but became an Anglican at age 12), as the incumbent, David Cameron of the Conservative Party, handily wins reelection. Miliband resigns immediately after the defeat.

Rabbi Barry Freundel is sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison for voyeurism for secretly filming 52 women in the shower room of the mikvah adjacent to his former Washington synagogue.

The U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passes a bill providing for its approval of any Iran nuclear deal.

American Pharaoh, a three-year-old colt owned by Ahmed Zagat, an Orthodox Jew from Egypt, becomes the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

rabbi shlomo riskinShlomo Riskin, rabbi of the West Bank city of Efrat, is summoned to a hearing by the Chief Rabbinate’s governing body on the future of his position. An Orthodox progressive on women’s issues and conversion, Riskin vows not to go, suspecting the Chief Rabbinate is looking for a pretext to dismiss him. The Rabbinate later backs down and renews Riskin’s position.

A Jewish Montana man shoots a bartender several times, wounding him and killing his dog, in retaliation for being served a non-kosher drink. Monte Hanson, 60, told police he had become angry when 29-year-old Joseph Lewis served him “red beer” with Clamato, a beverage containing clam broth. Hanson plead guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in state prison.

 

JUNE

The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a 2002 law allowing U.S. citizens to list Jerusalem as their place of birth. The case was brought by the parents of 12-year-old Menachem Zivotofsky, whose parents sought the passport listing not long after his birth.

David Blatt, the first Israeli to serve as head coach of an NBA team, guides the Cleveland Cavaliers to the league finals. Blatt’s club loses to the Golden State Warriors.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict finds that Israel’s military and Palestinian armed groups committed “serious violations” of international human rights law during their 2014 summer war. But its findings focus more on what it considers Israeli wrongdoing. Israel, which refused to cooperate with the investigation, slams the outcome.

Days before the U.S. Supreme Court endorses the right to same-sex marriage, the Public Religion Research Institute finds that American Jews are among the country’s most supportive religious groups of same-sex marriage.

The Pine Bush Central School District in upstate New York agrees to pay nearly $4.5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging widespread antisemitic harassment. The 2012 suit by five former and current students was due to go to trial in July.

allyMember of Knesset Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States and a respected historian, causes a stir with a new book, Ally, suggesting that President Obama purposely damaged U.S.-Israeli relations.

The United Church of Christ adopts a resolution calling for the entities of the church to divest holdings from a list of companies “that profit from the Israel occupation of Palestinian land and people” and to “boycott products made by companies that operate in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

 

JULY

epa03963123 British Foreign Secretary William Hague (L), Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (3-L), EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton (2-L), Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif (5-L), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (4-R), US Secretary of State John Kerry (3-R), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (2-R), are seen during a ceremony at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, November 24, 2013. Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough agreement early on Sunday to curb Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a first step towards resolving a dangerous decade-old standoff.  EPA/MARTIAL TREZZINIIran and six world powers led by the United States reach an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of sanctions. President Obama says the deal cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb. Prime Minister Netanyahu calls the deal a “stunning historic mistake.” AIPAC quickly launches an all-out effort to have Congress scuttle the deal.

A 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard, Oskar Groening, is sentenced by a German court to four years in prison for his role in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews in the concentration camp.

Hebrew University is listed among the world’s top 25 schools by the Saudi Arabia-based Center for World University Rankings.

El Al Israel Airlines opens a new nonstop flight route from Boston’s Logan International Airport to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

 

AUGUST

Several Jewish Congressional Democrats, including New York’s Senator Chuck Shumer and Reps. Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey, and California’s Rep. Brad Sherman, announce their opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. But several others, including Connecticut’s U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz of Florida, come out in favor of the deal.

matisyahuReggae singer Matisyahu performs at the SunSplash music festival in Spain, while protesters wave Palestinian flags and boo his performance. Festival organizers had scrapped the singer from the roster of performers under pressure from the BDS movement, after Matisyahu, the Festival’s only Jewish performer, refused its demand that he issue a statement in support of Palestinian statehood. The cancellation sparked condemnation from Jewish organizations and the government of Spain. Organizers then apologized and put him back on the roster.

J Street U – the campus wing of the liberal lobby group whose tag- line is “pro-Israel, pro-peace” – elects as its new president Amna Farooqi, a self-described “Pakistani American Muslim.”

 

SEPTEMBER

jeremy corbynThe election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new head of Britain’s opposition Labour Party generates concern among British Jews, owing to his anti-Israel views and his endorsement of terror groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, whom the publicly refers to as “friends.”

The City Council of Reykjavik, Iceland passes a resolution to boycott all Israeli products, not just those manufactured in the territories. Israel officially reopens its embassy in Cairo, Egypt, exactly four years after a mob ransacked the building and forced its closure, during the presidency of the Muslim Brother’s Mohammed Morsi.

Conservative political pundit Ann Coulter causes a stir in the wake of her tweet slamming Republican candidates for pandering to “f—-ing Jews.”

At his first-ever concert in Israel, Jon Bon Jovi tells the audience “I’ll come here any time you want” – a swipe at the BDS movement and its supporter Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, who pressured him to cancel the Tel Aviv gig.

Spain grants citizenship to 4,302 Sephardic Jews as part of a new law granting citizenship to the descendants of Jews who were exiled during the Spanish Inquisition.

Russia begins airstrikes targeting the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

 

OCTOBER

nyt_branded_product_size2The New York Times amends an article written by its foreign editor Rick Gladstone that questioned whether two Jewish temples ever existed on the site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In a clarification published the next day, the Times notes that the correct question concerns the location of the temples, and not whether or not they existed.

A daughter-in-law of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal who masterminded the near-annihilation of Hungarian Jewry, withdraws her mayoral candidacy in the Argentinian village of Garupa following a television interview in which she defends his actions.

A town in northern Spain held an official ceremony to mark its name change from “Castrillo Matajudios – “Kill Jews Town” – to its original name, “Mota de Judios” – “Castrillo Jews’ Hill.” The name was changed during the Spanish Inquisition.

 

NOVEMBER

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a Tel Aviv rally marking the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

sondheim-spielberg-streisandJewish celebrities Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Stephen Sondheim and Itzhak Perlman are among 17 Americans who receive the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Hungary calls “irrational” the European Union’s decision to approve guidelines calling for its member states to label products made in Israel’s West Bank or Golan Heights, and refuses to go along with the plan. Germany’s ruling party also speaks out against the guidelines, but the U.S. State Department says the labeling requirements are not tantamount to a boycott. Israel calls the move “discriminatory” and pulls out of several EU forums.

Harvard University establishes the Julis-Rabinowitz Program in Jewish and Israeli Law.

It is suspected that the crash of a Russian passenger airplane over the Sinai Peninsula was caused by a bomb. ISIS claimed responsibility for the downing of the plane that killed all 224 passengers.

Several Jews, including Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are among 73 people on Forbes magazine’s 2015 list of the “World’s Most Powerful People.” Russian President Vladimir Putin tops the list. Yellen comes in at No. 7; Zuckerberg, 10; Netanyahu, 21. Other Jews in the top 50 are Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, 26; Google co-founder Sergey Brin, 30; and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 44.

Students for justice in palestineThe Anti-Defamation League reports a 30 percent jump in anti-Israel activity on college campuses this year, pointing specifically to the growth in boycott campaigns against Israel and a call for a day of action by American Muslims for Palestine, which the ADL describes as the “leading organization providing anti-Israel training and education” on American campuses.

Jonathan Pollard, the former Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel, is freed from a federal prison in North Carolina after serving 30 years of a life sentence.

Four Jewish women, ages 87 to 95, playing mah jongg in Florida, have their weekly game interrupted by police who stopped them from playing in their condo clubhouse, on suspicion that the group was illegally gambling. The bubbes’ mah jongg game caps the winner’s earnings at $4. One of the women blamed the bust on a “troublemaker” in the building.

Turkey shoots down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border, accusing it of violating Turkish airspace. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the incident will have “serious consequences” for Russian-Turkish relations.

Israel’s Knesset votes unanimously to bring into the country some 9,000 Ethiopians known as Falash Mura over the next five years. Falash Mura claim links to descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago but now seek to return to Judaism and immigrate to Israel. Their permanent entry into Israel will be dependent on completing the conversion process. About 135,000 Jews of Ethiopian descent are living in Israel. Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel during Operation Moses in 1984 and Operation Solomon in 1992.

Tel Aviv has the world’s best vegetarian food, according to a newly published article in Conde Nast Traveler. The article by Raphael Kadushin describes the Israeli city as an “herbivore smorgasbord.” According to the activist group Vegan-Friendly, Israel is home to approximately 300,000 vegans, the highest per capita vegan population anywhere in the world.

 

DECEMBER

A British-American Jewish academic tells a 13-year-old Israeli girl seeking information for a school project that she would not help her “until there is peace and justice for Palestinians in Palestine.” The girl sent an email to Marsha Levine, a former academic at the University of Cambridge, to learn about the early history of horses. Levine responded by identifying herself as a member of the Jews for Justice for Palestinians organization and a supporter of the BDS movement against Israel. She directed the girl to the organization’s website. Levine told the Telegraph newspaper, “The fact is, I don’t want to help Israelis, and if you don’t start with children where do you start?”

The father of San Bernardino killer Syed Rizan Farook says his son was obsessed with Israel, which shaped his Islamisist worldview. “I told him he had to stay calm and be patient because in two years Israel will not exist anymore,” said the father.

Irving Picard, the trustee appointed to liquidate the assets of convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff and return money to his victims, files a $95 million lawsuit against some of Israel’s largest educational and medical institutions, including Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Weizmann Institute, and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Picard alleges that while the institutions unknowingly benefited from stolen money gained through their investments in an Israeli foundation, they have subsequently refused to return it to the victims.

Officials at the Haifa port seize a shipment of thousands of plush dolls with raised hands holding toy rocks. The shipment came from the United Arab Emirates and was on its way to the Palestinian Authority. The dolls are clad in kaffiyehs and wearing scarves with the Palestinian colors, a picture of the Dome of the Rock, and the words “Jerusalem is ours” and “Jerusalem, we are coming.”

Donald Trump cancels plans to visit Israel this month after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Republican presidential candidate’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

The Vatican issues a document that says the Catholic Church must not try to convert Jews to Christianity. The document discusses how Christianity is rooted in Judaism; “This means,” it says, ”that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.”

Government officials in Lakewood, N.J. – where more than half the population is made up of Orthodox Jews — remove a Chanukah menorah from the town square, while allowing a Christmas tree to remain, after a resident threatens to sue the town if her request to add a nativity scene to the holiday display is denied. To avoid costly litigation, the township’s attorney recommended removing the menorah displayed in the square, as well as another at the town hall. The nativity scene request was denied.

A federal judge calls on the U.S. Parole Commission to explain why it has imposed overly strict conditions on Jonathan Pollard’s parole. The decision came in response to an appeal of the parole conditions filed by attorneys for Pollard,. The restrictive conditions for Pollard’s five-year parole include wearing an electronic ankle bracelet with GPS tracking and surveillance of his and any employer’s computers. He also is confined to his New York home between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. — a condition, Pollard’s attorneys argue, that has interfered with his ability to observe the Jewish Sabbath and certain holidays, and could preclude him from holding down a job.

Adam-Sandler2-e1419275365504-1940x1091Adam Sandler criticizes Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), in an appearance on the Howard Stern Show. “I’m very pro-Israel … and when you go off on Roger Waters I love that you do that,” Sandler said. In October, Stern ripped Waters, a major proponent of BDS, in a seven-minute rant, which was motivated by an open letter Waters published in Salon criticizing rocker Jon Bon Jovi for performing in Tel Aviv. Sandler told Stern that he is “proud of being a Jew and that’s what I am.”

More than 200 South African scholars pledge support for an academic boycott of Israel. In its declaration, the group associates itself with recent initiatives by 600 academics in the United Kingdom and 120 Irish academics.

The Israel Medical Association’s Ethics Committee issues new guidelines calling for paramedics at the scene of a terrorist attack to triage the wounded according to the severity of the injury, even if that means treating a terrorist first. A spokesperson for Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency response organization, said the group has always treated victims solely on the basis of the severity of their injures. Nevertheless, medical professionals and politicians slammed the new guidelines. “In all cases of terrorist attacks, the medical teams should treat the victims and only thereafter the attacker,” Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of the Ethics Committee of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization and a leading Israeli ethicist, said.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology lays the cornerstone for a research center in Shantou, China.The Guandong Technion Israel Institute of Technology is the product of a $130 million gift from investor Li Ka Shing and will be a joint venture between the Technion and Shantou University.

A federal prosecutor asks an Argentine court to reopen the complaint filed by the late special prosecutor Alberto Nisman charging that former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing.

U.N. Security Council sanctions monitors release a 10-page report saying Iran violated a U.N. Security Council resolution with the October test of a ballistic missile that had a nuclear capability. The findings could lead to expanded sanctions against Tehran. Additional launches in 2012 and 2013 also violated the resolution’s ban, the report said.

Elton-John_4533British singer-songwriter Elton John announces plans to return to Israel this spring for his fourth concert there. At a concert in Ramat Gan stadium in 2010, John addressed attempts by the BDS movement to have the singer cancel his performance in Israel. “Shalom, we are so happy to be back here! Ain’t nothing gonna stop us from coming, baby,” John said. “Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together. That’s what we do. We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.”

Brandeis University announces the appointment of Ronald D. Liebowitz as its next president. A native of New York and resident of Newton, Mass., Liebowitz is the former president of Middlebury College in Vermont. He will take over on July 1, 2016, from interim president Lisa Lynch, the first non-Jew to lead the Jewish-sponsored nonsectarian university and Brandeis’ stopgap choice following the resignation of its previous president, Frederick Lawrence.

The lower house of the Czech Parliament calls on the government to reject European Union guidelines for the labeling of products from Israeli settlements. In two separate votes, Czech lawmakers approve resolutions criticizing the European Commission’s decision as politically motivated, describing it as non-binding and urging the Czech government not to abide by it.

Manhattan-based Cogswell Realty files tentative plans with the New York attorney general’s office to build 45 residential condo units, a commercial condo and 26 storage units on the property, on the historic former street of Streit’s Matzo factory in Manhattan.

The United Auto Workers International Union strikes down a boycott resolution against Israel, stating its “unanimous belief” that BDS “espouses discrimination and vilification against Israelis and UAW members who are of Jewish lineage.”

The University of California Student Workers Union, UAW Local 2865, which represents more than 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors and other student workers in the UC system, had approved a resolution in December 2014 to join the BDS movement against Israel. Informed Grads, a UC student group that had opposed the resolution, said the UAW had set a national precedent by denying the local organization the right to adopt such a measure.

Ben-carsonRepublican presidential candidate Ben Carson cancels a trip to Israel, citing “security concerns.” Carson had been scheduled to travel to Israel on Dec. 27 and meet with Israeli government officials, and then travel to Kenya, Zambia and Nigeria, returning to the U.S. on Jan. 2. Carson traveled to Jordan last month and visited two Syrian refugee camps.

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