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2017 A Year in Review

JANUARY

Rabbi Marvin Heir, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, offers a prayer at President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

 

President-elect Donald Trump appoints his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner as senior adviser to the president.

 

Composer Justin Hurwitz takes home a Golden Globe award (and, in March, an Academy Award) for the song “City of Star,” written for the film “La La Land.”

 

Michael Chabon and Daniel Gordis are among the winners of the 2016 National Jewish Book Awards.

 

JCCs across the country – including two in Connecticut – receive phoned-in bomb threats, forcing their facilities to be evacuated and causing all JCCs to re-evaluate their security protocols.

 

Yuri Foreman, a former junior middleweight boxing champion and an ordained Orthodox rabbi, loses his bid for the World Boxing Association super welterweight world title.

 

Germany’s national memorial to the Holocaust becomes a popular place for sophomoric, insensitive selfies. That is, until the selfie-takers start seeing their antics appear online.

 

President Trump’s failure to specifically mention Jews in his International Holocaust Day message leads to an outcry throughout the Jewish community – a reaction press secretary Sean Spicer calls “pathetic.”

 

 

FEBRUARY

Julian Edelman’s miraculous catch during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI plays a crucial role in the New England Patriots thrilling – and historic – come-from-behind victory.

 

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism – the umbrella body of the Conservative movement – prepares to vote on a measure that would allow congregations to admit non-Jews as members.

 

Artist Ansh Kapoor is named winner of the 2017 Genesis Prize – aka the “Jewish Nobel.” He joins past recipients, violinist Itzhak Perlman, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor Michael Douglas.

 

“Joe’s Violin,” a short film that tells the story of a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor, a 12-year-old Hispanic girl and a violin, is nominated for an Academy Award for short documentary.

 

A PEW Research Center releases a survey that found Jews to be the best-liked religious group in America.

 

Author Abigail Pogrebin spends a year immersed in the Jewish calendar, and comes away with a blueprint for life – a new book called My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew.

 

Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia are hit with major acts of vandalism.

 

Jewish leaders in New York dispute the police finding that 42 headstones in a Brooklyn cemetery toppled as a result of neglect, maintaining instead that it was an act of vandalism.

 

 

MARCH

For the first two weeks in March baseball fans around the world are mesmerized by team Israel, an unlikely entrant in the World Baseball Classic who keep on winning.

 

An Israeli-American teenager with mental issues is arrested on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats to JCCs and Jewish institutions across the U.S.

 

A homework assignment asking students in an upstate New York school district to argue for or against the Final Solution from the perspective of a Nazi official is withdrawn after an outcry from the Jewish community.

 

Speaking at the annual AIPAC conference, U.S Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley says the Trump administration will not allow a repeat of last year’s UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel.

 

Singer/songwriter Bob Dylan (finally) receives his Nobel diploma and gold medal at a private ceremony in Stockholm.

 

Three well-known American humorists write Haggadah for the wise guys, cutups and punsters called For This We Left Egypt?

 

 

APRIL

Lawmakers from 20 states pledge to mandate Holocaust education.

 

Two of Israel’s most renowned authors – Amos Oz and David Grossman – are shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Grossman goes on to win the award for his novel A Horse Walks Into a Bar.

 

 

MAY

NYC Council candidate Thomas Lopez-Pierre says he is not an anti-Semite – he just believes a cabal of “greedy Jewish landlords,” funded by money from Israel, is conspiring to conduct “ethnic cleansing” of black and Latino residents from Harlem. And, the Jewish media are covering it up.

 

Two members of Congress introduce a bipartisan bill to commission a bust of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, who died last year.

 

French Jews vote en masse for Emmanuel Macron in the final round of France’s presidential elections. But that doesn’t make him their dream candidate.

 

Jewish groups criticize the House for its passage of “Trumpcare” – a health care bill intended to gut major parts of the Affordable Care Act – aka “Obamacare.”

 

NBA champ and former UConn Husky Ray Allen visits Auschwitz and other Polish sites related to the Jewish experience on a mission to promote Holocaust education.

 

Following a vote by UNESCO on May 2 denying Israel’s sovereignty over its capital city of Jerusalem, Israel announces that it will cut funding to the world body.

 

A study by Israeli researchers concluded that smiling does not make you look younger, spilling a popular misconception. Put on a happy face anyway.

 

Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler runs into Ambassador David Freidman at the Old City’s Western Wall.

 

A report that the President shared highly classified information with Russian leaders that could possibly reveal the source of an ally’s intelligence regarding ISIS left several Middle East countries with frayed nerves – especially Israel.

 

On Yom Yerushalayim Israelis and Jews around the world celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem…and three former Israeli paratroopers re-create the iconic photo taken at the newly liberated Kotel.

 

Speaking in Israel, while on his first whirlwind trip abroad, President Trump tells Israelis, “Making peace will not be easy,” but he’s up to the task.

 

The Islamic state claims responsibility for a terror attack during an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 people and injuring dozens.

 

After a White House official says Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner received special rabbinic dispensation to fly on Air Force One on Shabbat, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the prominent modern Orthodox rabbi who oversaw her conversion to Judaism, says it was not him.

 

The Israeli film “The Women’s Balcony,” about the rift caused in a modern Orthodox Jerusalem community in Jerusalem when a Hasidic rabbi takes over temporarily, is a surprise hit overseas.

 

The legendary actor/writer/director Carl Reiner releases a new HBO documentary called “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast,” which reveals the secrets of longevity. At the age of 95, he should know.

 

The mother of Ezra Schwartz, the 18-year-old Massachusetts native who was killed in a Palestinian terror attack in 2015, speaks out at the UN against the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists and their families.

 

In the commencement speech he delivers at Harvard U, Mark Zuckerberg uses the Jewish prayer “Mi Shebeirach” to inspire the class of 2017.

 

 

JUNE

A new book on baseball legend Hank Greenberg looks at the life of the Jewish Hall of Famer as he was trying to make baseball history at the same time that antisemitism was reaching a murderous boiling point in Europe.

 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declares Sunday, June 4 “Shimon Peres Day” – just in time to join thousands of people for the march up Fifth Avenue in the “Celebrate Israel” parade.

 

President Trump signs an order to renew the six-month waiver that allows the U.S. embassy to remain in Tel Aviv rather than moving it to Jerusalem.

 

A nine-month old Palestinian baby seriously injured in a car accident is breastfed by a Jewish nurse when he refused to take a bottle.

 

Clothing with slogans calling to “Free Palestine End Israeli Occupation” are included on the Sears website, offered for sale by a company called Spreadsheet Collection.

 

Israeli actress Gal Gadot becomes an instant superstar when she opens as “Wonder Woman” in the blockbuster film of the same name. Lebanon immediately bans the film.

 

“Oslo,” a play about the 1993 Oslo Accords, wins the Tony Award for best new play; lead actor Michael Aronov wins for best featured actor.

 

Around 200,000 people take to the streets to celebrate LGBTQ pride in Tel Aviv’s annual Gay Pride Parade, the biggest event of its kind in the Middle East.

 

In response to a deadly attack by three Palestinian terrorists in which a 23-year-old border policewoman is stabbed to death, two others are injured, and the terrorists are subsequently killed by Israeli troops, the BBC runs a headline that reads: “Three Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem.”

 

Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who died after being imprisoned by the North Koreans for stealing a propaganda poster, was remembered by the campus Hillel rabbi as being as caring deeply about the Jewish community.

 

New York City names a street in honor of Elie Wiesel.

 

Eighteen pro-football Hall of Famers visit Israel on a week-long goodwill visit sponsored by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

 

Israeli author David Grossman wins the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for his latest novel, A Horse Walks Into a Bar.

 

Alon Day, 25, becomes the first Israeli to compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – the sport’s highest league of competition. He goes on to win.

 

 

JULY

A group of more than 60 artists call on Lincoln Center to retract a play called “To the End of the Land” from New York’s Lincoln Center Festival because it is co-produced by the Camera Theater of Tel Aviv and the Habima National Theater of Israel. The request is rejected.

 

London’s Muslim Mayor Sadiq Kahn asks Great Britain to make support for all factions of Hezbollah illegal.

 

Jewish groups are incensed when three Jewish lesbian women are ejected from the Chicago Dyke March for waving a rainbow star emblazoned with a Jewish star. And the journalist who first reported the story is relieved of her reporting duties.

 

Al Franken, the Democratic senator from Minnesota, tell the story of his metamorphosis from the halls of Saturday Night Live to the halls of Congress in his new book Al Franken: Giant of the Senate. In it Franken says he learned about justice from his childhood rabbi. In December, charges of sexual harassment force Franken to announce plans to resign his seat

 

A New York lawmakers says allowing BDS proponent Roger Waters to perform at a long Island arena violates a local law against the anti-Israel BDS movement.

 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announces that he is battling brain cancer, garnering well wishes from around the world.

 

The government of Israel tells the Israeli Supreme Court that it plans to expand and upgrade a space for non-Orthodox prayer at the Kotel near Robinson’s Arch. But it later reverses that decision.

 

Senator Charles Shumer says in a speech on the Senate floor that anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism.

 

New York’s West Side Judaica which opened in the 1930s and quickly became a pillar of Manhattan’s Jewish community, gets set to close – a victim of the internet and rising rent.

 

A kosher food stand opened up at the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field for the first time in the ballpark’s 103-year-old ball history.

 

The ADL sends a petition with close to 5,000 signatures to the U.S. State Department, calling on President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to fill the vacant position of special envoy to monitor antisemitism, a position mandated by the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2004.

 

 

AUGUST

A “Unite the Right” rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia shocks the country with the vehemence of its blatant antisemitic and racist message. But the President’s silence is deafening.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union calls on senators to oppose a measure targeting boycotts of Israel and its settlements.

 

A touching new film “Menashe” gives its audience a rare – and authentic – on-screen depiction of Hasidic Judaism.

 

President Trump nominates Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback as his envoy on religious freedom. A former U.S. Senator, Brownback has a close relationship with many Jewish communal organizations.

 

Supreme Court Justice David Souter settles the long-argued legal debate over which Jewish congregation owns Rhode Island’s historic Touro Synagogue. And the Sephardic community wins.

 

Polish soccer fans attack an Israeli team after a game; two Israelis are injured.

 

President Trump responds to Senator Richard Bumenthal’s criticism of him on CNN with a tweet Connecticut’s Jewish senator a liar, a baby and a con artist.

 

Film producer Harvey Weinstein announced that he will adapt a novel about Warsaw Ghetto uprising for the silver screen.

 

The New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston is vandalized for the second time in less than two months.

 

 

SEPTEMBER

No Room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination, and the Making of Modern Israel, the inspiring memoir by former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres, a Nobel Laureate, is published posthumously.

 

Three streams of American Judaism decline to participate in the traditional annual pre-High Holidays call with the President.

 

A team of volunteers from Israel’s Zaka search-and-rescue organization heads for Houston to help with cleanup in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

 

A week after the violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, singer Billy Joel makes a political statement by wearing a yellow star of David on his jacket during a Madison Square Garden concert.

 

Forty-five years after the murderous PLO attack on the 1972 Israeli Olympic team, a memorial dedicated to the victims opens in Munich.

 

“The Dybbuk,” a documentary film about a Polish-Jewish filmmaker receives the Venice Classics Award for Best Documentary on Cinema at the Venice Film Festival.

 

The Israeli film “Foxtrot” wins the second-place Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, and draws criticism from Israel’s Minister of Culture Miri Regev for its purported negative portrayal of the IDF.

 

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posts a photo on his social network of himself holding his daughter Max while she drank from he kiddish cup he says belonged to her great-great-grandfather, also named Max; on the table are two lit Shabbat candles and challah under a white cover.

 

The estranged wife of ex-congressman Anthony Weiner pleads with a federal court to show leniency when her husband is sentenced for sending sexual materials to a 15-year-old girl. He is sentenced to 21 months in prison.

 

In his new book, Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years, David List dishes on his days as President Obama’s speechwriter for all things “kishke-related.”

 

 

OCTOBER

Israeli actress Gal Gadot, known the world over as Wonder Woman, hosts Saturday Night Live.

 

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tells Rosh Hashanah worshippers at a Washington, D.C. synagogue that being Jewish has helped her have empathy for other minority groups.

 

Talk show host and comedian Conan O’Brien gots to Israel…and gives the world a glimpse of an extremely appealing and otherwise normal Jewish state.

 

The film “Marshall,” written by a Connecticut Jewish lawyer and starring Josh Gad, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, opens to rave reviews.

 

Michael Orsbash of Brandeis University, the son of a cantor whose parents fled Nazi Germany, wins the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

 

On the PBS series “Finding Your Roots,” Senator Bernie Sanders gets emotional when he discovers a relative was killed while standing up to the Nazis during World War II.

 

American Jewish leaders denounce plans by an NYU-affiliated theater to host a play that portrays Palestinian terrorists as heroes, created by the Freedom Theater of Palestine.

 

Mark Cuban, the Jewish owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, says he’s considering a run for president.

 

An Al Jazeera editor acknowledges planting an undercover reporter inside pro-Israel organizations last year in Washington, D.C.

 

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin announced his plans to step down from his role as chancellor of Our Torah Stone, the network of liberal Orthodox school and seminaries he founded. Rabbi Kenneth Brander, an administrator at Yeshiva University – and the father of the Young Israel of West Hartford spirit leader Rabbi Tuvia Brander – will take over.

 

President Trump announces his intention to “decertify” the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

 

The Boston-based Ruderman Foundation, which promotes inclusion of people with disabilities (and also works on Israeli and American Jewish issues), takes Hollywood to task.

 

Israeli judokas participating in the Grand Slam event in Abu Dhabi are barred from competing under their country’s flag and if they win a place on the podium they will not hear their national anthem. The team goes on to win 5 medals.

 

 

NOVEMBER

“1945,” one of just a handful of movies every produced in Hungary about the theft of Jewish property during the Holocaust, opens to rave reviews.

 

City officials in Dickinson, a suburb of Houston hard hit by hurricane Harvey, require any applicant for reief grants to verify that he or she does not and will not boycott Israel. And the ACLU objects.

 

A Lithuanian publisher withdraws the books of a best-selling author over her criticism of a nationalist accused of Holocaust-era crimes. Did her relationship with the head of the Wiesenthal Center have anything to do with it?

 

Famed talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey is the recipient of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity’s first-ever Legacy Award for her “unwavering commitment to humanity and to giving voice to the voiceless.”

 

Jewish communities throughout the world mark the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, in which British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour wrote a letter promising that Britain would support establishment of a home for the Jewish people in Palestine.

 

Far-right marchers in Warsaw, Poland shout “Jews out” and other racist slogans at independence day events attended by 60,000 people.

 

Six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman reveals that she was sexually abused by the women’s gymnastics national team doctor.

 

A 1986 letter is revealed, in which Prince Charles suggests the “influx of foreign, European Jews” was a cause of turmoil in the Middle East and called for a U.S. president to “take on the Jewish lobby.”

 

A made-up rerporter named “Bernie Bernstein,” claiming to be from the Washington Post, calls an Alabama pastor searching for women to provide “damaging remarks” against Roy Moore.

 

Chabad’s 44th annual Kinus Hashluchim (gathering of emissaries) draws a record-setting attendance of 5,600 – a reflection of the movement’s growing popularity.

 

The Conservative movement launches a hotline for reporting sexual impropriety in response to an allegation by a former member of its youth movement that he was inappropriately touched by a staff member.

 

 

DECEMBER

Roy Moore, the controversial Alabama Senate candidate endorsed by President Trump, suggests Jewish billionaire George Soros is headed for hell. But he’s not an anti-Semite because, according to his wife, one of his lawyers is “a Jew.”

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