From Nazi gold to conversions… a chronology of Jewish news worldwide in 5758

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October 1997

JERUSALEM — Labor Party head Ehud Barak apologizes for the discriminatory treatment that Sephardi Jews claim they received at the hands of the Israeli government during the early years of the state.

PARIS — The French Roman Catholic Church issues a "statement of repentance" for its silence during the persecution of Jews in Nazi-occupied France. Many Jewish leaders praise the apology, but some aspects of the statement are called into question by Jews and non-Jews alike.

WASHINGTON — Nearly 1-1/2 years after an anti-terrorism law was enacted, the U.S. government designates 30 groups as foreign terrorist organizations.

NEW YORK — The Reform movement captures 47.7 percent of the vote in the elections for the 33rd Zionist Congress.

NEW YORK — A dozen leading Jewish philanthropists jointly create an $18 million fund to establish 25 Jewish day schools across the United States during the next five years.

NEW YORK — Swiss banks release the names of an additional 14,000 dormant accounts opened before the end of World War II.

November 1997

DALLAS — The Reform movement's lay leaders, attending the Union of American Hebrew Congregations' biennial, reaffirm their support for the official rabbinic stance on interfaith marriages, which discourages interfaith marriage but leaves the decision to officiate those marriages up to each rabbi.

JERUSALEM — Israelis are divided over how to mark the second anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. Leaders call for harmony and reconciliation

WASHINGTON — Citing limited progress in peace talks, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announces that she would meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat individually in Europe in an attempt to push the peace process forward.

RIGA — About 80 Latvian Jews are the first Holocaust survivors to receive payments from a fund set up by Switzerland's three largest banks to aid survivors worldwide.

FRANKFURT — Bowing to public pressure, Germany terminates disability pensions to World War II veterans suspected of being war criminals.

JERUSALEM — Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein becomes first Israeli government minister to visit Jonathan Pollard in prison in North Carolina, where he is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel.

December 1997

JERUSALEM — The Israeli cabinet approves a further redeployment in the West Bank but does not spell out the extent of the withdrawal or a timetable for carrying it out.

LONDON — At an international conference on Nazi-looted gold, the United States and Britain establish an international fund to help Holocaust survivors worldwide.

TEL AVIV — Five Israelis are charged with negligent homicide in connection with a fatal bridge collapse at the Maccabiah Games in July 1997. The accident killed four Australian athletes and injured hundreds of other athletes.

JERUSALEM — Hundreds of delegates from around the world gather for the 33rd Zionist Congress to mark 100 years of Zionism.

January 1998

JERUSALEM — Foreign Minister David Levy resigns, leaving Netanyahu with a one-vote majority in the Knesset.

FRANKFURT — Germany will for the first time compensate Holocaust survivors living in Eastern Europe under an agreement signed with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's handling of an invitation to Arafat causes uproar; Arafat cancels a visit at the last minute.

WASHINGTON — President Clinton holds separate meetings at the White House with Netanyahu and Arafat.

JERUSALEM — Seven years after the Persian Gulf War, Israelis prepare for possible Iraqi Scud attacks as tensions heat up between the United States and Baghdad.

February 1998

JERUSALEM — Israel's Chief Rabbinate angers the Reform and Conservative movements by accepting only part of the government committee's recommendations for resolving the crisis over a conversion bill.

BERLIN — The American Jewish Committee opens an office in Berlin.

JERUSALEM — A government-appointed committee clears Netanyahu of responsibility for the Mossad's failed assassination attempt of a Hamas leader in Jordan in September 1997.

BUDAPEST — Survivors in Hungary receive payments from a humanitarian fund set up last year by Switzerland's largest banks.

WASHINGTON — The ouster of Walter Reich, the director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, raises questions about the politicization of the institution.

CLEVELAND — A federal court restores the citizenship of alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk.

March 1998

ROME — An Italian military appeals court, revising earlier verdicts, sentences two former Nazi officers to life in prison for their part in Italy's worst World War II massacre.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court decides not to hear a case challenging a lower court's ruling upholding the right of Syracuse, N.Y., to sponsor a Nativity scene in a public park.

WASHINGTON — A federal court orders Iran to pay $247.5 million to the family of Alisa Flatow, a student from West Orange, N.J., who was killed in a suicide bombing in the Gaza Strip in April 1995.

ROME — The Vatican issues "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah," a document repenting for individual Catholic failings during the Holocaust, but absolving the church itself from any responsibility and defending the wartime pope, Pius XII.

April 1998

BORDEAUX — Former Vichy France official Maurice Papon is sentenced to 10 years in prison for complicity in crimes against humanity for deporting French Jews during World War II.

RIGA — A bomb seriously damages the only synagogue in Latvia's capital city.

NEW YORK — New York's mayor apologizes to the Jewish residents of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights after the city agrees to pay $1.1 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed after the 1991 riots.

WASHINGTON — Clinton's executive order banning all imports of certain types of assault weapons places an obstacle in the way of Israel's attempt to sell thousands of rifles to the United States.

JERUSALEM — Israel marks its 50th anniversary; religious-secular conflicts mar jubilee celebrations.

May 1998

LONDON — Albright meets separately with Netanyahu and Arafat. She urges them to resolve their differences over a reported U.S. proposal for a further Israeli redeployment in the West Bank.

WASHINGTON — First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's call for a Palestinian state sets off a fury in Israel and among many American Jewish groups.

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina extradites Dinko Sakic, the former commander of the Jasenovac concentration camp. He will face trial in Croatia for war crimes.

JERUSALEM — Israel admits for the first time that Pollard was an agent for the Jewish state when he was arrested in Washington in 1985.

MOSCOW — A Lubavitch synagogue is severely damaged by a bomb. It is the third attack on the Marina Roscha synagogue in five years.

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes the Freedom From Religious Persecution Act, though the bill stands little chance of being adopted in the Senate.

BERN — A report commissioned by the Swiss government concludes that Swiss National Bank officials knew they were buying looted gold from Nazi Germany during World War II.

June 1998

WASHINGTON — The American Israel Public Affairs Committee claims victory after the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, chooses not to rule on the pro-Israel lobby group's status and sends the case back to the Federal Election Commission.

WASHINGTON — The State Department, in its second report on the Nazi gold issue, details how Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and Argentina provided materiel that the Nazis used to keep their military effort alive.

JERUSALEM — The conversion crisis erupts anew as Netanyahu accedes to Orthodox demands to revive legislation that would codify the Orthodox monopoly over conversion. The Conservative and Reform movements vow to continue their court cases.

JERUSALEM — A plan to expand Jerusalem's municipal boundaries sparks international criticism.

July 1998

NEW YORK — The United Jewish Appeal and the Council of Jewish Federations cement a partnership and move in together.

WASHINGTON — Clinton signs a bill restoring food stamps to some legal immigrants, including thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union.

NEW YORK — U.S. public finance officials lift a moratorium on sanctions against Swiss banks after settlement talks with Jewish groups collapse.

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly expands the rights of the Palestinian delegation in the world body, but stops short of giving them the right to vote.

BERLIN — Volkswagen agrees to compensate Jewish slave laborers who worked for the company during World War II.

JERUSALEM — The Knesset rejects proposals to impose a military draft on fervently religious yeshiva students.

August 1998

NAIROBI — Israeli reservists play prominent role in rescue efforts at the bombed U.S. Embassy in Kenya.

NEW YORK — Switzerland's two leading banks agree to a $1.25 billion settlement of Holocaust-era claims.

NEW YORK — Italian insurance giant Assicurazioni Generali agrees to pay $100 million to settle a class-action suit filed by Holocaust survivors and heirs of victims.

WARSAW — Fundamentalist Catholics in Poland erect more than 130 crosses near Auschwitz, prompting an outcry by the Polish government, Polish clergy and Jewish groups.

JERUSALEM — Israel decides to continue peace talks with the Palestinians after the murders of three West Bank settlers and a bombing in Tel Aviv.

NEW YORK — Seeking compensation as former slave laborers, Holocaust survivors launch lawsuits against Volkswagen and other German firms.

September 1998

MOSCOW — Russian President Boris Yeltsin, speaking at dedication of a new synagogue, becomes the first Russian leader to acknowledge the role of Jews during World War II.

JERUSALEM — Israel prepares for a possible new wave of Russian Jewish immigration as the political and economic crisis in the former Soviet Union worsens.