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2013 I Top Stories from Around the World




Poland institutes a ban on ritual slaughter, deeming a 2004 exemption that legalized kosher slaughter – shechita – unconstitutional.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle, as well as Jewish leaders, criticize President Obama’s nomination of former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel to serve as Secretary of Defense.

Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel


The Florida Dept. of Corrections agrees to reinstate its kosher food program, following a five-year struggle by Jewish groups that included a federal lawsuit.

Southeby’s auction house in New York announces plans to sell an enormous art and culture collection assembled by Jewish philanthropist and former Wall Street money manager Michael Steinhardt.

Two of the five documentary features nominated for the Academy Awards are Israeli submissions. But not everyone was kvelling, because they say the nominated films – “The Gatekeepers,” which features candid interviews with retired Israeli spymasters, and “5 Broken Cameras,” which tells the personal story of amateur Palestinian cameraman Emad Burnat – both cast Israel in a negative light.

the gatekeeprs

The Gatekeepers


President Obama nominates his chief of staff, Jack Lew, as the next U.S. treasury secretary. Lew is an Orthodox Jew and one of Obama’s closest advisers.

Jack Lew

Jack Lew


The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention deems Cuba’s detention of Jewish-American contractor Alan Gross “arbitrary” and calls for his immediate release. Dec. 3 marked the four-year anniversary of Gross’s arrest in Cuba for helping that country’s Jewish community access the Internet while he was a subcontractor for the US Agency for International Development.  He was sentenced to 15 years for “crimes against the state.”

Alan and Judy Gross

Alan and Judy Gross


The travel publication Lonely Planet names Tel Aviv as one of its top beach cities.

In an interview with a Lebanese TV station, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claims Zionist leaders collaborated with the Nazis to kill Jews in order to gain leverage to claim the land of Palestine and establish the State of Israel.


Rabbi Dov Lipman, an American-born Orthodox rabbi living in Beit Shemesh, becomes a Member of Knesset when the new Yesh Atid party led by Yair Lapid rises to the number two spot in Israel’s 2013 election.

Actress Drew Barrymore, who recently married art consultant Will Koppelman, announces plans to raise her newborn daughter in the Jewish faith.

Drew Barrymore and baby Olive

Drew Barrymore and baby Olive


Two young Jews are attacked in France – one in Marseille and one in the same Toulouse school where a gunman killed a rabbi and three Jewish children in March 2012.


Secretary of State John Kerry bypasses Israel on his first official trip to the Middle East.

The Jewish Museum of Vienna admits that many of the items in the 25-year-old museum’s possession were looted from Jewish families during the Holocaust.

Jewish Museum of Vienna

Jewish Museum of Vienna


The European Union continues in its refusal to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

A New York federal judge rejects a lawyer’s request to exclude Jews from a jury in an upcoming terrorism trial because the accused is a Muslim.

The Netherlands passes an initiative requiring Dutch businesses to label products originating in Judea and Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as separate from those produced in other parts of Israel.

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb calls for the release from prison of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, saying Pollard’s punishment is “disproportionate.”

IDF Northern Command Maj. Gen. Yair Golan warns that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army has likely already used chemical weapons against rebel forces.


Israel’s Tamar offshore gas field starts production after four years of exploration and drilling.

A new study conducted by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry reveals an alarming 30 percent rise in antisemitism in Europe and related attacks against European Jews.

Pop superstar Justin Bieber is criticized for a note he wrote in a guestbook following a visit to the Anne Frank House, which read: “Anne was a great girl.  Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

A new plan emerges for the creation of an egalitarian prayer section at the Kotel, intended to end a dispute between Orthodox Jews in Israel and those seeking egalitarian practices there, mainly a group made up primarily of Conservative and Reform Jews from the U.S. known as Women of the Wall.

Women of the Wall

Women of the Wall


The head of the IDF’s military intelligence research branch says there is proof that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used lethal chemical weapons several times against armed rebels.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, investigators look into extremist ties between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his mother – including a suggestion by his mother that he travel to “Palestine” to conduct terrorist activities there.

Boston Marathon Bombing

Boston Marathon Bombing



An Iowa judge denies unemployment benefits to two women who were fired from a manufacturing plant after workers saw them with a toy oven filled with gingerbread men, as they wished their colleagues a happy Chanukah, saying “We’re burning the Jews.”

After completing his acquisition of Israel’s Iscar tool-making company, billionaire investor Warren Buffett tells an interviewer that Israel is “a nation of entrepreneurs with amazing abilities.”

Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet


An Israeli trauma team arrives in Watertown, Mass. to help residents recover from the massive shootout and manhunt that took place as police searched for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

Noam Chomsky, a leader in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), urges famed British physicist Stephen Hawking to boycott the fifth annual Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.

On May 8, more than three years after the discovery of fraudulent activity at the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (“Claims Conference”), former Claims Conference Director of Hardship Semen Domnitser and two co-conspirators are found guilty of mail fraud charges.

Israel and China sign a $400 million trade agreement on May 15.

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu admirestechnological innovations during visit to China.

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu admires technological innovations during visit to China.


The State Department’s newly released International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 finds an increase in antisemitism, as well as persecution of Christians and other minorities.

Donald Trump announces plans to build a world-class golf course in Ashkelon, Israel.

Los Angeles elects Eric Garcetti as the city’s first Jewish mayor.

Eric Garcetti

Eric Garcetti

The Birthright Israel Foundation announces a new $40 million gift from Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson that continues their commitment to fund free, 10-day educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26.

The Conference of European Rabbis honors German Chancellor Angela Merkel with the Lord Jakobovits Prize for European Jewry for her denunciation of European antisemitism and her support of the German Jewish community.

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel 


The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) launches a new website geared towards helping pro-Israel students battle anti-Israel activities on campus.

Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) apologizes for antisemitic statements made by Nation of Israel leader Louis Farrakhan in a speech Conyers attended at a Detroit Baptist church on May 17.

Louis Farrakhan

Louis Farrakhan


On May 31, pop superstar Alicia Keys announces plans to perform in Tel Aviv on July 4 – despite pressure from the BDS movement to cancel the event.


According to reports, the IRS, already the subject of an ongoing national scandal due to its targeting of conservative groups, may have also targeted at least five pro-Israel organizations in the auditing process.

A federal judge dismisses a lawsuit filed in 2012 against the U.S. government by Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.

Yiddish experts raise questions over the correct spelling of “knaidel,” after 13-year-old Arvind Mahankali of New York spells the Yiddish word, to take the win in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Arvind Mahankali

Arvind Mahankali


The University of Bologna in Italy discovers in its library what it claims to be the oldest complete Torah scroll known to exist.

Israeli researchers at the Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikva say that the thickness of a layer of fat around the heart can predict heart disease.

The Russian government, which has refused to return a collection of more than 4,000 Jewish religious manuscripts to the New York-based Chabad-Lubavitch descendants of the collection’s last private owner, agreed to give part of the so-called “Schneerson Collection” to the Moscow Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center.

Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rohani is linked to a secretive government council responsible for a global assassination campaign that included the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Hassan Rouhani

Hassan Rohani


At the June 19 President’s Conference in Jerusalem, actor Robert De Niro says, “I always enjoy coming to Israel. Israelis are warm, they’re energetic people. Forthright. Very smart. They’re nice people. Aggressive, and I respect that aggressiveness because you need it in their situation.”

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro


On June 28, Andrew Driscoll Pochter, a Jewish  student at Kenyon College in Ohio, is fatally stabbed in Alexandria during clashes between government supporters and protesters trying to oust Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

Yeshiva University Chancellor Rabbi Norman Lamm, 85, retires.

Palestinian supporters accuse Brad Pitt’s latest apocalyptic movie “World War Z” of pro-Israel bias by depicting Israel as one of the few countries in the world not immediately destroyed by zombies.


Barbra Streisand receives an honorary doctor of philosophy degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Hebrew University President Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson says, “Barbra Streisand’s transcendent talent is matched by her passionate concern for equality and opportunity for people of every gender and background. Equally important, her love of Israel and her Jewish heritage are reflected in so many aspects of her life and career.”


Barbra Steisand

Omri Casspi, the first Israeli-born player in National Basketball Association history, agrees to a two-year, $2 million contract with the Houston Rockets.

Omri Casspi

Omri Casspi

n Close to 7,000 ultra-Orthodox seminary girls turn out at the Kotel to prevent the monthly prayer session of the controversial activist group Women of the Wall.

The London Jewish Museum opens an exhibit on British-Jewish singer Amy Winehouse, who died in 2011 at the age of 27.

Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Israel is ranked fourth among the 25 best museums in the world.

NBA star Amare Stoudemire, who famously visited Israel in 2010 to explore his family’s Jewish roots, is part of a group that purchases the Israeli professional basketball team Hapoel Jerusalem.

Four Israeli teens win gold, silver and bronze medals at the International Olympiad in Informatics, held over the course of four days in Brisbane, Australia.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, accompanied by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, meets with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, while on his first visit to Israel with his family.

Dr. Oz in Israel

Dr. Oz in Israel


Aly Raisman lights the torch at the opening ceremony of the 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel, which features a record number of nearly 9,000 athletes. Also participating in the Games: NBA basketball star Amare Stoudemire.

Aly Raisman

Aly Raisman



Hassan Rohani is inaugurated president of Iran – a week after calling Israel “a wound on the body of the Islamic world.”

Prof. Daniel Kahneman, 79, who received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics, is named one of 16 recipients of the 2013 U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Israeli government releases a plan to oversee the development of a new, temporary egalitarian space at the Kotel.

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, the former Most Valuable Player of Major League Baseball’s National League, for the first time admits to using performance-enhancing drugs.


In light of tensions in Syria, the award-winning TV series “Homeland” decides to shoot scenes originally slated for Israel in Morocco instead.

Richard Allen (center), head of JCC Watch, holds a burning check at a rally on Sept. 12 during which his group as well as Americans for a Safe Israel urged the cessation of Jewish donations to the UJA-Federation of New York, due to Federation’s lack of funding guidelines that prevent funding of anti-Israel activities. Credit: JCC Watch/AFSI.

JCC Rally

JCC Rally


Film director Steven Spielberg and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel are among a group of seven selected to receive the Israel Presidential Medal of Distinction.

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg



Wonder Bread gets kosher certification in the New York area from the Orthodox Union (OU).

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe states that Jewish ritual circumcision is a “clear human rights violation” and calls for a ban on the practice.

Two American Jews, along with their German partner, are awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine; and a Belgian-Jewish physicist, along with his British partner, receive the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Facebook announces the acquisition of the Israeli mobile analytics start-up Onavo.

New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg is named recipient of Israel’s first ever Genesis Prize.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg



The Claims Conference accuses Germany of being morally complicit in the theft of 1,500 works of art discovered in a Munich apartment owned by the son of a wartime art dealer.

Former Major League Baseball catcher Brad Ausmus, who is Jewish, is named manager of the Detroit Tigers.

Brad Ausmus

Brad Ausmus


Congressmen and Senators on both sides of the aisle, as well as American Jewish and Israeli leaders, slam the deal reached in Geneva under which Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond five percent and dilute all existing stockpiles already enriched to 20 percent, in exchange for $7 billion in sanctions relief. “Sanctions that required many years to put in place contain the best chance for a peaceful solution,” says Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “These sanctions have been given up in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be canceled in weeks.”

Top American Jewish leaders blast Secretary of State John Kerry for comments suggesting that Israeli construction beyond the 1967 lines are illegitimate and could lead to a third intifada.

Sodastream, the popular Israeli carbonated drinks company, announces that it will kick off its 2014 advertising campaign with a $4 million Super Bowl ad.

Israel's Sodastream

Israel’s Sodastream

Israel breaks the Guinness world record for donating the most hair to cancer victims in a single drive, producing 117 lbs on Nov. 11.

An exhibit of Jewish books and ancient documents that were recovered in the basement of the Iraqi intelligence ministry during the U.S. invasion of Iraq goes on display at the U.S. National Archives. The U.S. plans to return the “Iraqi Jewish Archive” to the Iraqi government when its restoration is complete; but the Iraqi Jewish community says the documents were confiscated from a synagogue and protested their eventual return to the Iraqi government.

Former Israeli cabinet minister Rafi Eitan, the ex-Mossad agent who operated Jonathan Pollard in the mid-1980s, reveals that he handed over incriminating information about Pollard because the U.S. had promised Israel that Pollard would serve no more than 10 years in prison.

An Israeli team of 125 doctors, nurses and logistics officers arrive in the Phillipines on Nov. 14 to help treat victims of Typhoon Haiyan – and immediately deliver a baby, later named Israel. The impressive team caught the attention of the world, including NBC Today Show medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who made the Israel effort the focus of one of her onsite reports.


Israeli Doctors in Phillipines


In light of the once-in-a-lifetime convergence of Thanksgiving and Chanukah, Boston’s retiring Mayor Thomas Menino proclaims Nov. 28 to be “Thanksgivukkah” in the city.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s one-year-old granddaughter is admitted to an Israeli hospital on Nov. 17 for emergency treatment.

On Nov. 21, convicted spy Jonathan Pollard enters his 29th year in an American prison. Pollard, now 59, is the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an American ally.

Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan Pollard



After the activist group Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) called out Newton school officials over the anti-Israel texts, ADL New England Region (ADL) said its “careful review” of the situation showed that APT’s allegations were “without merit.” But when ADL refused to make public its report, The Jewish Journal of the Massachusetts North Shore reacted with an editorial, saying that ADL’s “unwillingness to publish investigative details and findings perpetuated the conflict and impeded progress.”

Time magazine’s selection of Pope Francis as its “Person of the Year” draws praise from Jewish groups. The Pope, who has made Catholic-Jewish relations a priority, recently met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time. He is expected to visit Israel in May 2014.

Time's Man of the Year

Time’s Man of the Year


Alan Dershowitz, the famed law professor, vocal supporter of Israel, and civil liberties advocate, says that he is retiring from Harvard Law School. A native of Brooklyn, Dershowitz, 75, joined the Harvard law faculty in 1964 and became the youngest full-time professor in the school’s history. The author of The Case for Israel. Dershowitz accused former President Jimmy Carter of anti-Israel bias for his controversial 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, writes a letter to Hillel’s Swarthmore College chapter, criticizing the decision by its student board to disavow the Jewish campus umbrella’s guidelines forbidding engagement with groups or speakers that “delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel.”

Israeli ingenuity earns a coveted spot on Time magazine’s “The 25 Best Inventions of the Year” with ReWalk – a device that allows paraplegics to stand, walk and even climb stairs.

Radi Kauf walks with the help of Rewalk

Radi Kauf walks with the help of Rewalk

A student group at University of Michigan places mock eviction notices on student doors, threatening “dorm demolition in three days.” The fake notices described how “excessive uses of force by Israeli forces during evictions has led to Palestinians being injured and killed.” Created by the student group Students Allied for Freedom & Equality (SAFE), the notices were followed by an article in the Michigan Daily student newspaper describing the prank as “a tool of political satire intended to emulate a situation that thousands of Palestinians confront on a regular basis.” The school’s Housing Department, in an email to students, condemned the action. It is unclear whether or not SAFE will be penalized for its actions.

Actor Sean Penn was with Jacob Ostreicher, following a “humanitarian operation” to free the Jewish businessman “from the corrupt prosecution and imprisonment he was suffering in Bolivia.” Ostreicher, 54, traveled to Bolivia in December 2010 to oversee rice production and was arrested in June 2011 on suspicion of money laundering and criminal organization. No formal charges were brought, but he spent 18 months in prison before being released on bail in Dec. 2012 and placed under house arrest. In May, Penn testified on Ostreicher’s case in a hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee. “I thank Sean Penn for his tireless work to free Jacob,” U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who held the hearing in May, said.






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