Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. October 27, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

NCSEJ has begun an overseas leadership mission to Poland and Kazakhstan. I am in Warsaw with Chairman Daniel Rubin and other NCSEJ senior leaders. We will next travel to Krakow, and in a few days, to Astana and Almaty in Central Asia.

In Warsaw, we have already met with senior officials in Poland’s government, the U.S. Ambassador, and Jewish community leaders, to discuss Poland’s proposed restitution legislation for Holocaust survivors and their families, U.S.-Poland bilateral relations, and issues of concern to the Jewish community.

In our meetings with the Polish government, we expressed concerns about the proposed restitution legislation’s scope of eligibility, which would sharply limit who could receive compensation. The World Jewish Restitution Organization (of which NCSEJ is an active member) is leading the effort to ensure that any legislation introduced contains appropriate language. The update includes several stories on the bill that outline these concerns.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. October 27, 2017

Polish Jews protest legislation blocking their right to claim family lands
By Hagay Hacohen
Jerusalem Post, October 21, 2017

The Polish government, currently led by the right-wing Peace and Justice Party (PiS), published on Friday a proposed legislation that addresses the issue of private property that was confiscated in Poland after World War II.

The government bill, if passed, would determine who should own properties that were nationalized by the People's Republic of Poland (PRL), which was established in the wake of the war.

Israel launches multi-tier objection to draconian Polish restitutions bill
By Itamar Eichner
YNetNews, October 26, 2017

The Foreign Ministry submitted an official complaint to Polish Ambassador to Israel Jacek Chodorowicz on Thursday, objecting to a new Polish bill that would greatly impede Holocaust survivors' and their relatives' ability to reclaim property that had been confiscated during World War II, or under post-WWII Soviet rule in Poland.

Israel's objections will be presented through several diplomatic channels: first, the Foreign Ministry's European Department Deputy Dir. Gen. Rodica Radian-Gordon submitted the complaint together with several other top ministry officials. Israel's Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari will submit a similar letter of protest to the Polish Foreign Ministry.

Deputy Foreign Ministry Tzipi Hotovely has tasked her chief of staff to immediately fly to Warsaw and speak to Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who is among the parliamentarians promoting the bill.

Read the full article here.

Ukrainian nationalist to Jews: ‘Get used to our rules’ or be punished
By Sue Surkes
Times of Israel, October 23 2017

A firebrand Ukrainian nationalist last week called for Jews to “get used to our rules” or be punished, in an escalating tiff over a new statue of Symon Petliura, who is blamed for the murder of tens of thousands of Jews during the Russian Revolution.

The statue was unveiled earlier this month by officials in Vinnitsa, in an area of the city once known as Yerusalimka (Jerusalem), just some 200 meters from a small functioning synagogue.

Read the full article here.

Turning Tables in Magnitsky Case, Russia Accuses a Nemesis of Murder
By Andrew E. Kramer
New York Times, October 22, 2017

MOSCOW — The case of Sergei L. Magnitsky, the Russian tax lawyer who was imprisoned in 2008 on false charges and died in jail, began as a tragedy. But now, after years of sanctions, countersanctions, bitter feuds and one noteworthy meeting in Trump Tower, the case seems to be entering the realm of farce.

A powerful law enforcement organization, the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office, is investigating Mr. Magnitsky’s death as a murder, presenting as evidence what it says are intercepted communications from Western intelligence agencies.

Read the full article here.

Ukrainian president mistakenly tweets photo of Jews deported by Nazis
JTA, October 24, 2017

On Friday, Poroshenko, who rose to power in 2014 following a revolution fueled by anti-Russian sentiment and dissatisfaction over corruption, wrote on Twitter: “Today is the 70th anniversary of the mass deportation of the population of Ukraine’s western regions to Siberia and the northern regions of the former USSR.”

The tweet included a photograph from the U.S. Holocaust Museum archive taken in 1942 that shows Lodz Jews in Poland advancing toward an assembly point for deportation to the Chelmno death camp, the website Defending History noted.

Read the full article here.

Poland just honored a historian who said the Nazi invasion wasn’t so bad for the Jews
JTA, October 24, 2017

WARSAW, Poland — A Polish historian who said the country’s Nazi invasion was initially not so bad for Jews received a medal from the Polish education minister “for special merits for education.”

The minister, Anna Zalewska, presented Tomasz Panfil with the honor at a ceremony Oct. 16 in Warsaw.

Read the full article here.

Flying High in Ukraine with Limmud FSU
By Dan Brown
EJewishPhilanthropy, October 24, 2017

They came from as far away as Toronto. Just under 1000 strong, across multiple generations, they gathered in Odessa – “The Pearl of the Black Sea” this past Shabbat for Limmud FSU’s 11th Ukrainian festival of culture, creativity and learning.

Many sessions focused on history but also the richness and diversity of Ukrainian Jewish life; others on “very current events.” Sessions included “How the Nazis punished Ukrainians for aiding Jews during the Holocaust” to “The French Presidential Election – how the young Emmanuel Macron came to power” to “Odessa in literature and Yiddish folklore” and so much more.

Read the full article here.

New Czech leader rules out coalition with far-right party

Times of Israel, October 23 2017

Czech vote winner Adrej Babis said Saturday he did not want to form a government with an extremist parties, attempting to calm fears he may seek a coalition with a far-right faction.

Babis’s centrist ANO movement won a landslide, capturing 29.6 percent of the vote, or 78 of the 200 seats in the lower house of Parliament, the Czech Statistics Office said Saturday.

The party is seen as aligned with other far-right anti-EU parties to make major gains across Europe in the past year, including France’s National Front, Germany’s AfD and Austria’s FPOe. Many of those parties have been accused of anti-Semitism.

Read the full article here.

European Populism Is Here to Stay
By Matthew Goodwin
New York Times, October 20, 2017

As center-left parties embraced the middle-class liberal consensus, a coalition of working-class voters and social conservatives were cut adrift and defected to the populist right. Many countries in the West are now feeling the full force of their counterrevolution.

This is what gives populists staying power and makes them relatively immune to changing economic cycles. Americans were shocked by the election of Donald Trump, but in Europe campaigns similar to his have been attracting major support for nearly 40 years.

Read the full article here.

An abandoned pre-WWII Hasidic synagogue gets a second life as a kosher jazz club
By Yaakov Schwartz
Times of Israel, October 21, 2017

ORADEA, Romania — On a neglected stretch of road not far from the compound housing the bulk of Oradea’s Jewish infrastructure lies a dull brick building. Above the entrance is a small sign in stereotypical “Jewish” typeface. “Kosher,” it reads meekly, and below that, “Wine. Coffee. Jazz.”

The city of Oradea, with a Jewish population hovering somewhere around 400, might not have the numbers to necessitate a kosher jazz bar, or to keep one afloat, but Jews don’t seem to be its niche audience: The handful of grungy-looking hipsters lounging in the courtyard are likely not familiar with the ancient dietary laws.

Report: Russia, Former Soviet Region Largest Source For Foreign Fighters In Syria, Iraq
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, October 24, 2017

More than 40,000 foreigners from more than 110 countries are estimated to have traveled to the region to join Islamic State (IS) fighters after they declared a caliphate in June 2014.

Two years ago, the Soufan Group estimated that Tunisia and Saudi Arabia were the largest sources of fighters in Syria and Iraq, followed by Russia.

Now, the group says, more than 8,700 from the former Soviet Union have traveled to the region, and an estimated 3,417 from Russia alone, primarily from the troubled North Caucasus, where Chechnya is located.

Read the full article here.

More people should visit Yad Vashem, says Romanian foreign minister

By Greer Fay Cashman
Jerusalem Post, October 24, 2017

If more people visited Yad Vashem, negative attitudes toward Jews and Israel might change. This was the view expressed on Monday by Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu when he and his delegation called President Reuven Rivlin immediately after visiting Yad Vashem.

There is a tendency in the world towards xenophobia, racism and antisemitism said Melescan, who warned that such bias could evolve into a tragedy similar to that of World War II unless quickly curtailed. This why Romania promotes the combating of antisemitism, he said.

Read the full article here.

Trump Administration Sends Congress List of Possible Russia Sanctions
By Nicolas Fandos and Michael D. Shear
New York Times, October 26, 2017

WASHINGTON — Under pressure from Republicans and Democrats, the Trump administration on Thursday turned over to Congress a list of Russia-connected entities it will use to determine new sanctions meant to rebuke Russia for actions in Eastern Europe, Syria and the 2016 United States presidential election.

Administration officials made clear to lawmakers that they intended to impose sanctions on individuals in the United States and elsewhere who did “significant” business with the Russian entities, sending an early warning that such deals must soon end.

Bomb Wounds Ukrainian Politician as Assassination Plots Mount
By Andrew E. Kramer
New York Times, October 25, 2017

The Ukrainian authorities have mostly blamed the Russian secret services for plotting the killings — which were carried out with bombs and in one case by an assassin who got close to his targets through a sophisticated ruse — although the police suggested that one recent bombing was related to an organized crime dispute.

The politician wounded on Wednesday, Ihor Mosiychuk, a populist member of Parliament with the far-right Radical Party, had just stepped out of a television studio after giving an interview; the explosives were set off as he exited the building. A political commentator, Vitaliy Bala, who had appeared with Mr. Mosiychuk in the interview, was also wounded.

Ban Richard Spencer from Polish Independence Day event, Jewish group says
JTA, October 26, 2017

WARSAW, Poland  — The American Jewish Committee Central Europe office in Warsaw has appealed to Polish authorities to prevent the visit to Poland of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer as part of the celebration of the National Independence Day.

Spencer was invited to a meeting organized for Nov. 10 by the National Social Congress, a national organization that posted a photo on its Facebook page with the message: “All different all white.”

Poland objects to visit by US nationalist Richard Spencer
By Vanessa Gera
Associated Press, October 27, 2017

WARSAW, Poland — The Polish government said Friday that it objects strongly to plans by American white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak at a far-right conference in Warsaw in November, but did not say if it would prevent him from entering the country.

Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski described Spencer as someone “who defames what happened during World War II, defames the Holocaust.” “He should not appear publicly, and especially not in Poland,” Waszczykowski said.

It was not clear Friday if the ministry’s objection meant action would be taken to ban Spencer from entering the country. A spokeswoman for the Polish Border Guard told The Associated Press that she could not divulge whether Spencer was put on a list of people who would be denied entry to the country, citing privacy regulations.

Former Ukrainian PM: Free world should back us
By Seth J. Frantzman
Jerusalem Post, October 26, 2017

When Arseniy Yatsenyuk became prime minister of Ukraine, the country was in a major crisis. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich had fled after massive protests in Kiev, and the country soon faced a military confrontation with pro-Russian rebels in the east.

In his recent visit he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and various factions in the Knesset, as well as with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin.

The Israeli expatriates building a new link with Poland
By Shira Rubin
Jewish Chronicle, October 26, 2017

Roughly 500 mostly young and secular Israelis live in Warsaw, and a few hundred live in smaller cities like Krakow. They are a percentage of the thousands more who hold Polish passports through a law that enables Jews with Polish-born parents or grandparents to obtain national citizenship.

According to a 2012 study conducted for the Business Opportunities in Poland Conference, about 20,000 Israeli citizens hold a Polish passport, roughly half of whom applied for citizenship after Poland joined the EU in 2004.

D.C Judge to Request Israel’s Assistance In Dispute with Russia Over Chabad Books

By Aaron Bandler
Jewish Journal, October 26, 2017

Judge Royce Lamberth, a federal judge of the District of Columbia, will request Israel for their assistance in a dispute with Russia over religious texts.

The dispute involves the Chabad-Lubavitch movement demanding that Russia relinquish a collection of texts that are invaluable to the movement. So far, Russia has refused to hand them over.

All 100 U.S. senators have called for Russia to release the texts. The Department of Justice has also sided with Chabad, although they are wary of further sanctions that may result in Russia taking retaliatory measures.

Georgian parliament chairman: What’s BDS? Discussing trade ties with an emerging ally.
By Max Schindler
Jerusalem Post, October 26, 2017

While much of Europe has seen a rise in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions buzz, political leaders from the Republic of Georgia seem not to have heard of the anti-Israel movement.

“What’s BDS?” shrugged Irakli Kobakhidze, the chairman of Georgia’s parliament, as he turned to aides on Thursday. It is a sign that ties between Israel and Georgia remain undisturbed by the conflict with the Palestinians.

The two countries are celebrating a quarter-century of diplomatic ties this year, and Georgia and Israel have seen a flurry of political leaders travel back and forth in recent months to discuss trade ties and geopolitical uncertainty in the region. Meeting with The Jerusalem Post at the ornate Waldorf-Astoria hotel near Jerusalem’s Old City, Kobakhidze listed industries where the two countries could cooperate, including in hi-tech innovation, cybersecurity, and agricultural technology.

[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.