Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. May 24, 2019

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Aleksander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO

Dear Friend,

The strength of relations between Poland and the Jewish community are being tested once again, this time by comments from Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki regarding the issues of restitution and compensation. Speaking at a rally in the Polish city of Lodz last Friday, Morawiecki said that as long as his Law and Justice party was in power, Poland would refuse to compensate Jews for property taken from them during World War II, when the country was occupied by Nazi German forces. “If it ever got to this point, to this horrible injustice, if the victim and the executioner switched places, it would be an abuse of all of the basic principles of international law and would also be Hitler’s posthumous victory,” Morawiecki said.

The issue of compensation has become a flash point for nationalist Polish protests, taking place in both Poland and the United States, and some protestors have invoked anti-Semitic stereotypes. Poland's Association of Jewish Religious Communities has expressed concern about growing anti-Semitic speech amid the restitution debate, and has appealed to Polish politicians to “abandon hate speech towards Jews.” An op-ed by political scholar Dr. Daniel Schatz in Newsweek argues that Poland needs to do much more to provide fair compensation for private property seized by individual Poles and the Polish state.

On Tuesday, Ukraine inaugurated 41-year-old Jewish comedian Volodymyr Zelensky as its sixth president. As predicted, Zelensky scheduled snap parliamentary elections (now set for July 21, three months ahead of schedule), seeking to capitalize on his strong mandate in April’s presidential election runoff against incumbent Petro Poroshenko. Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman resigned from the cabinet the same day. Zelensky now hopes to win a strong parliamentary majority to support his rule. NCSEJ will continue to monitor the political situation in Ukraine closely.

I want to draw your attention to a Jerusalem Post article, authored by six former U.S. ambassadors to Romania, which argues that Romania’s local and national governments’ “commitment to combat anti-Semitism appears to be weakening.” The authors cite efforts by the Bucharest mayor’s administration to block development of a proposed National Museum of the History of Romanian Jewry and the Holocaust in the city’s center, proposals to construct a monument glorifying Ion Antonescu, Romania’s wartime dictator who allied Romania with Nazi Germany, and other signs of a regressive attitude toward combating hatred against Jews.

Please register online at www.ncsej.org/board_meeting for our biannual Board of Governors Meeting on Tuesday, June 4. U.S. Congressmen Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), two of the co-chairs of the Congressional Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, will discuss how Congress fights hate. Other speakers include U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr and Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Yaakov Bleich. For more information or to register by phone, call us at (202) 898-2500 or email dshulman@ncsej.org.

I wish everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. May 24, 2019

Polish PM upsets Jews calling compensation pay 'victory for Hitler'
By Alan Charlish and Joanna Plucinska
Reuters, May 21, 2019

WARSAW - Poland’s prime minister has outraged the Jewish community by saying compensation for property seized during World War Two would represent a posthumous triumph for Adolf Hitler.

The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) argues that as a victim of invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany in the 1939-1945 war, Poland should not be saddled with financial obligations in providing restitution payments to Jews.

“If it ever got to this point, to this horrible injustice, if the victim and the executioner switched places, it would be an abuse of all of the basic principles of international law and would also be Hitler’s posthumous victory,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday.

Read the full article here.

Jewish group warns that Polish debate over property claims has turned anti-Semitic
By Katarzyna Markusz
JTA, May 23, 2019

WARSAW, Poland — Jewish leaders are warning about anti-Semitic speech here amid a debate over the fate of property seized from or abandoned by Jews during the Holocaust.

The Association of Jewish Religious Communities has appealed to Polish politicians to “abandon hate speech towards Jews.”

Politicians on the extreme right raised the topic of property restitution ahead of this week’s elections for the European Parliament. The vote in Poland is being held Sunday.

Poland Must Deal With Its Past—and Return Stolen Property
By Daniel Schatz
Newsweek, May 23, 2019

It is estimated that there are more than 170,000 private properties held in Poland, wrongfully seized from Jewish victims of the Holocaust terror and nationalized by the Polish Communist government. They have an estimated value of billions of dollars, according to a report drawn up by experts from the business sector and nongovernmental organizations at the request of the Israeli government.

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, no viable solution has been found to resolve the restitution issue, despite a strong commitment from the U.S., the EU, Israel and the international community to support Holocaust survivors in their quest for justice. In contrast, Warsaw’s governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party as well as the centrist and liberal opposition, have downplayed the JUST Act, insisting that it will have no impact on Poland.

Despite diplomatic rift, Jewish studies programs in Poland are thriving
By Dan Lavie
Israel Hayom, May 22, 2019

Despite the ongoing tension between Israel and Poland, Polish students are signing up in droves for Jewish studies programs in the eastern European country.

Dr. Ewa Węgrzyn, a faculty member in Jagiellonian University’s Institute of Jewish Studies in Kraków, told Israel Hayom that courses on Jewish history and culture, as well as Hebrew courses, have become popular in Poland because Jews have been part of the nation’s history for many generations.

She said that many students came from Catholic families and had a dream of visiting the Holy Land.

As Ukraine’s New Jewish President Takes Office, Challenges Mount
By Vladislav Davidzon
Tablet, May 22, 2019

Yesterday, after an intensely hard fought and nasty presidential campaign that included accusations of drug abuse, treasonous corruption, and one candidate accusing the other of being a secret agent of Russian President Putin, Ukraine inaugurated 41-year-old Jewish comedian Volodymyr Zelensky as its sixth president. It was a stunning victory and augured a popular revolt against the professional political class.

Zelensky had ascended to the presidency with about three-quarters of all votes cast, having defeated the sitting president in 23 out of Ukraine’s 24 regions, beating the fantastical score predicted in his fictional television show by several percentage points.
The simulacrum of reality being overtaken by television had reached its logical denouement. Predictably enough, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not put in a congratulatory phone call to Kiev.

From Russia – with love
By Stewart Weiss
Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2019

I knew this trip to Moscow would be far different than my last one. When I first traveled to the Soviet Union in the mid ‘80s to visit refuseniks, there was no cheering as the plane landed on Russian soil – as often happens today when El Al planes safely arrive at their destination. That trip was before perestroika and glasnost – the “restructuring” and “openness” of the Soviet system that would ultimately lead to the free emigration of Soviet Jewry. Back then, of course, there were no El Al flights to Russia, as there were no diplomatic relations between the USSR and the Jewish state; they had been broken following the 1967 Six Day War and would not resume until 1991, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Jewishly, Moscow is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance. Though the vast majority of the city’s Jews have departed – Russia’s loss is Israel’s miraculous gain – there are small yeshivot and batei midrashim (“houses of learning”) popping up around the city. The iconic Choral Synagogue – where Golda Meir’s dramatic, unauthorized visit in 1948 both enraged the government and helped to jump-start the Soviet Jewry movement – is still reasonably well-attended, with a full-time cantor from Bnei Brak.

6 former U.S. envoys in 'Post' op-ed: Romanian antisemitism on the rise
By James Roseapepe, Michael Guest, Alfred Moses, Nicholas Taubman, J.D. Crouch, and Mark Gitensteein
Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2019

Fifteen years ago, Romania earned praise for establishing an international commission, chaired by the late Elie Wiesel, to study and confront the country’s wartime enabling of the Holocaust. Now, the country’s commitment to combat antisemitism appears to be weakening.

Based on a Wiesel committee recommendation, the government agreed in 2016 to establish a National Museum of the History of Romanian Jewry and the Holocaust. With support from Bucharest city authorities, a prominent building in downtown Bucharest was designated for this purpose.

But last week, after taking up the issue again over a technicality, the city rescinded the site designation. And the debate leading to that decision summoned up strikingly antisemitic pronouncements that only highlight the very real need for such a museum.

Jewish life in Budapest is enjoying a renaissance
By Adam LeBor
Financial Times, May 20, 2019

Much media coverage of Jewish issues in Hungary has focused on the row over the government’s campaigns against George Soros, the Hungarian-born financier and philanthropist. Critics decried them as dog-whistle politics. Government officials strongly denied such claims, pointing to Mr Soros’s call for Europe to admit 1m refugees during the migrant crisis.

That row aside, something far more interesting — and encouraging — is unfolding. Jewish life in Budapest is enjoying a renaissance. Schools, community centres, social and welfare organisations and synagogues catering for all levels of observance are flourishing. Estimates of the numbers vary. Depending on definitions there may be between 100,000 and 200,000 Hungarian Jews, or people with Jewish ancestry, the vast majority living in Budapest — one of the largest communities in Europe.

Remains of over 1,000 Holocaust victims uncovered during construction work reburied in Belarus
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, May 21, 2019

Volunteers in Belarus reburied the remains of more than 1,000 Holocaust victims whose bodies were discovered recently during construction work in the city of Brest.

The burial Tuesday was conducted by volunteers from the Zaka Jewish search-and-rescue organization and overseen by a local Chabad rabbi, the news website Jewish.ru reported. The remains were put into several coffins and interred in a Jewish ceremony.

In Belarus, Jews helped build a restaurant next to Stalin-era graves. Protests against it have turned anti-Semitic.
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, May 21, 2019

MINSK, Belarus — The new roadside restaurant near gas station No. 65 here looks more like an army base than a fancy eatery.

The fact that some of the owners are Jews has complicated a conflict that is shaping up to be a major challenge to this nation’s authoritarian government led by President Alexander Lukashenko, who is often called Europe’s last dictator.

But for local Jews, it is also an inconvenient reversal of roles in which prominent members of their community are accused of desecrating the graves of non-Jewish murder victims. Non-Jewish contractors and officials are regularly accused of desecrating the many Jewish places of burial that dot the region.

[Link to pdf of full articles]
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 Founded in 1971, the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry represents the organized American Jewish community in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including the 15 successor states of the former Soviet Union.