Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. October 20, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

The undeserved honoring of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists with ties to anti-Semitic violence from the early 20th century through the Holocaust remains a significant issue in Ukraine. This week, a statue of Symon Petliura, the head of the short-lived Ukrainian People's Republic (1918-1921), was unveiled in the city of Vinnytsia. This continues an unfortunate pattern of recognizing individuals who should not be honored through the renaming of streets and erection of monuments.

The government of Bulgaria has appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev national coordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism. NCSEJ commends Bulgaria on this decision and looks forward to working with Mr. Georgiev on the global fight to stamp out anti-Semitism.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Israel this week to meet with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu affirmed Israel's opposition to an Iranian presence in Syria. So far, both Iran and the Kremlin have supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. October 20, 2017

Ukraine honors nationalist leader blamed for Jewish pogroms

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 16, 2017

Ukraine unveiled a statue for a nationalist leader who guided a regime that killed tens of thousands of Jews in pogroms during the Russian Revolution.

The memorial for Symon Petliura was unveiled Saturday in Vinnitsa, a city in the western part of the nation, on Defender of Ukraine Day, a national holiday, the RT news site reported. It is located in an area once known as Yerusalimka, or Jerusalem, and located next to a small synagogue that is still in operation.

The statue, which RT calls the first official monument to Petliura, though there is a bust of the early 20th-century leader in the capital, shows him sitting on a bench with a map of the country in his hands.

Honoring of anti-Semites a ‘problem,’ says Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 20, 2017

In a rare public statement on the honoring of anti-Semites in Ukraine, Israel’s ambassador to that country called the phenomenon a “problem” that is “not in line” with Israel’s interests.

Eliav Belotzercovsky said this Friday during a conference of the Limmud FSU group in the southern city of Odessa, according to a translation of his remarks provided by a spokesperson for the organization, which organizes Jewish learning conferences for Russian speakers across the former Soviet Union and beyond.

His comments followed a wave of condemnations by several Jewish groups for the unveiling in the western city of Vinnitsa of a statue for Symon Petliura. During Petliura’s time as head of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, 35,000 to 50,000 Jews were killed in a series of pogroms between 1918 and 1921. In recent years, various honors have been paid in Ukraine to several nationalists who are admired locally for fighting Russian domination, but also reviled over accusations of hatred of Jews and complicity in atrocities against them.

Read the full article here.

Israel Declares Ukraine Safe, Removing Hurdle to Rejecting Citizens’ Asylum Requests

By Ilan Lior

Haaretz, October 16, 2017

Israel will now be able to reject Ukrainian citizens' asylum requests more rapidly because of new guidelines from the Population and Immigration Authority, which deem Ukraine a safe state.

The guidelines, which go into effect on Tuesday, come after a sharp rise in applications for asylum from Ukrainians; under the new rules, there will be no impediment to returning Ukrainian citizens back to their country.

The last two years have a seen a spike in the number of asylum requests by Ukrainians, who can enter Israel without a visa. Many are brought here by middlemen who promise them work and lodging and advise them to request asylum. Due to the heavy volume, these requests can take years to process and until they are denied, the seekers cannot be deported.

There are currently 20,000 Ukrainian citizens in Israel, 15,000 of whom have applied for asylum. Around 7,000 applications have been filed since the beginning of this year alone. The new guidelines will allow for a more speedy denial of these applications, with no need for a thorough review – the process will now take only a few weeks.

Read the full article here.

Bulgarian government appoints national coordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Sofia Globe, October 18, 2017

Bulgaria’s Cabinet has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and has appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev as national co-ordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism.

This was announced after the Cabinet held a regular weekly meeting on October 18 2017.

The adoption of the IHRA’s definition is an important step towards Bulgaria becoming a full member of the alliance. The IHRA decided in July 2017 to accept Bulgaria as a liaison country, making it the first country since 2009 to take this step towards full membership. Bulgaria was admitted as an observer country in December 2012.

Read the full article here.

PM to Russian defense minister: Israel won’t allow Iranian presence in Syria

By Judah Ari Gross

Times of Israel, October 17, 2017

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian defense chief Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday that Israel will not tolerate the presence of Iran on its borders, his office said.

Netanyahu also repeated his view that without a renegotiation of the Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic would be in possession of an atomic weapon within the next decade.

Shoigu arrived in Israel on Monday for his first official visit.

“Iran needs to understand that Israel will not allow it” to militarily entrench itself in Syria, Netanyahu said during the meeting.

Shoigu’s Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, was also present at the meeting.

Read the full article here.

The Lubyanka Keeps Its Secrets: Russia and the Wallenberg Case

By Andrei Kolesnikov

Carnegie Moscow Center, October 19, 2017

The mystery surrounding the death of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg in Moscow in 1947 may not be solved even seventy years on. Last month, a Moscow court dismissed a lawsuit in which Wallenberg’s niece Marie Dupuy sought to obtain documents regarding the circumstances of his death. The court agreed with Russia’s domestic intelligence service, the FSB, that the petition should be denied under the pretense of “privacy” and “lack of legal jurisdiction.”

The verdict, of course, is ludicrous. It demonstrates a modern Russian state still refusing to come to terms with its troubling Stalinist legacy. If the FSB—heir of the KGB and the Stalinist NKVD—bears no responsibility for Stalin’s crimes, why won’t it disclose the whole truth in this high-profile case? Instead, the security services use the cloak of secrecy to mask the country’s shameful history and uphold a morally compromised system.

Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who famously saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II. After the Red Army entered Budapest, the Soviet counterintelligence agency, SMERSH, arrested him on suspicion of espionage for either the Germans or the Americans—perhaps even for being a double agent. When it became evident that Wallenberg presented no value for the intelligence services, the NKVD decided to eliminate him.

Read the full article here.

Get ready for the smoke and mirrors of Putin 2018

By Adam Taylor

Washington Post, October 19, 2017

Next March, Russians will go to the polls to elect their next president. Almost two dozen people have put their names forward as candidates so far. The latest, according to The Washington Post's Andrew Roth, is Ksenia Sobchak. She isn't your standard politician: a 35-year-old socialite with 5.2 million Instagram followers, she was once infamously dubbed “Russia's Paris Hilton.”

Sobchak is also the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, the late mayor of St. Petersburg. She is part of a Kremlin-linked elite by birth, though she has aligned herself with Russia's embattled opposition since the disputed 2011 elections for the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament. In a slick promotional video announcing her candidacy, Sobchak said she is running as the “against all” candidate for disaffected Russian voters.

Read the full article here.

Poland to partially compensate for property looted under Nazis and communists, official says

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 13, 2017

The World Jewish Restitution Organization cautiously welcomed a Polish official’s announcement of plans to offer partial compensation for property confiscated from private owners under communism.

Countless properties that belonged to Poland’s 3.3 million-strong Jewish population before the Holocaust were seized by the Nazi occupation forces and then nationalized under communism.

Polish Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki announced plans for the legislation on Wednesday, marking a break from the government’s previous reliance on individual court rulings to determine restitution rather than through legislation.

At former Nazi death camp Sobibor, a post-Holocaust construction boom

By Matt Lebovic

Times of Israel, October 17, 2017

For the first time since SS men dismantled and plowed over Sobibor in 1943, significant construction is underway in the most sensitive parts of the former Nazi-built death camp, where up to 250,000 Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.

On the heels of a decade-long archeological dig, ground was broken this spring on a long-anticipated museum and visitor center. The structure is emerging atop former barracks in which Jews of all ages were forced to hand over their belongings, undress, and run toward “showers” that were actually gas chambers.

Set to open in 2019, the museum-memorial complex will contain an unprecedented precise map of Sobibor’s Holocaust-era features based on new research. The prisoner revolt that took place on Sukkot in October of 1943 will be recounted, along with the Nazis’ efforts to obliterate evidence of genocide following that escape 74 years ago.

Read the full article here.

Protests by Polish Anti-Fascist Group Lead to Withdrawal of Antisemitic Figurines from parliament Gift Shop in Warsaw

By Ben Cohen

Algemeiner, October 17, 2017

One of Poland’s leading anti-racist organizations has successfully prevented the continued sale of antisemitic figurines at a gift shop inside the Polish Parliament building in Warsaw, following several weeks of quiet protest.

Rafal Pankowski — a Warsaw-based scholar and cofounder of the anti-fascist organization “Nigdy Wiecej” (Never Again) — told The Algemeiner on Thursday that his group had raised the issue earlier this year, after he noticed that the figurines — which depicted Jews as wealthy moneylenders and financiers — were on sale at the shop. Among those with whom the issue was raised was Warsaw’s deputy mayor, Michał Olszewski. However, a subsequent visit to the shop by one of Pankowski’s associates revealed that the figurines were still on sale.

Read the full article here.

No, Chabad is not ‘feuding’ with Jewish leaders in Poland

By Mayer Stambler and Sholom B. Stambler

Forward, October 19, 2017

A recent article in the Forward claimed that by accepting an invitation to a meeting with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s ruling conservative party, Chabad is “feuding” with Jewish organizations. This is not true. Chabad violated no understanding, explicit or implicit, nor any relationship with the other Jewish representatives by taking this meeting. In fact, it was our duty to the Jewish community to attend this meeting. Here’s why:

As was reported in the article, in July, representatives of two of Poland’s Jewish organizations — Mr. Leslaw Piszewski and Ms. Anna Chipczynska — published an open letter to Mr. Kaczynski about their fears of rising anti-Semitism.

Their letter went unanswered. But several weeks later, we at Chabad, along with other Jewish representatives, were invited to meet with Mr. Kaczynski.

An Ambitious Project ID’d 80% of Hungarian Jews Murdered in the Holocaust

By Ofer Aderet

Haaretz, October 20, 2017

Only a few years ago no one knew anything about Samuel (Shmuel) Lederer. Even his name was undocumented. The farmer and public figure, one of the 13 Jews who lived in the remote Hungarian village of Magyarmecske, disappeared without a trace.

Statistically, he was only a number, just one person out of the million anonymous Holocaust victims, whose names remained unknown some 70 years after the end of World War II.

Recently, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem completed a unique documentary project, giving Lederer his name back – along with his life story. Yad Vashem now knows not only that Lederer existed but also his birthdate (July 31, 1864), where he grew up (in the small village in southwestern Hungary’s Baranya district), his parents’ names (David Lederer and Fanni nee Honig), his younger brother’s name (Rudolph “Reszo” Lederer), his wife’s name (Gizella Fleischer) and how many children he had (two daughters).

The people responsible for turning Lederer from a number into a name with a story and life are the team behind the Names Recovery Project, which has collected the names of Hungarian Jews murdered in the Shoah for Yad Vashem for the past decade. Dr. Haim Gertner, the director of Yad Vashem’s archives division, told Haaretz last week that the team’s work is revolutionary.

Read the full article here.

Teens arrested in vandalism at Jewish cemetery in Romania

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 18, 2017

Police in Romania arrested three teenagers accused of destroying 10 headstones at a Jewish cemetery.

The incident occurred over the weekend, police said in a statement Monday about the arrests near the northern city of Reghin, located 200 miles north of Bucharest, the capital.

The suspects allegedly smashed the headstones and drew a swastika on two gates, though police said the swastikas may have been painted on the gates months ago, the Agepres news website reported.

On Monday, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania said it was “shocked by this new anti-Semitic act of vandalism.”

Read the full article here.

A Trove of Yiddish Artifacts Rescued From the Nazis, and Oblivion

By Joseph Berger

New York Times, October 18, 2017

In one of their odder and more chilling moves, the Nazis occupying Lithuania once collected Yiddish and Hebrew books and documents, hoping to create a reference collection about a people they intended to annihilate.

Even stranger, they appointed Jewish intellectuals and poets to select the choicest pearls for study.

These workers, assigned to sift through a major Jewish library in Vilna, Vilnius in Lithuanian, ended up hiding thousands of books and papers from the Nazis, smuggling them out under their clothing, and squirreling them away in attics and underground bunkers.

In 1991, a large part of the collection was found in the basement of a Vilnius church, and were hailed as important artifacts of Jewish history.

But months ago curators at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in Manhattan, the successor to the Vilnius library, were told that another trove, totaling 170,000 pages, had been found, somehow overlooked in the same church basement.

Read the full article here.

Jeenbekov Wins Kyrgyz Presidential Election Outright, Preliminary Vote Count Shows

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, October 15, 2017

Kyrgyz election officials say preliminary results from Kyrgyzstan's presidential vote indicate that Sooronbai Jeenbekov, a political ally of incumbent President Almazbek Atambaev, has won more than 54 percent of the vote, appearing to negate the need for a second-round runoff.

With 97 percent of the votes tallied, Jeenbekov’s main rival, Omurbek Babanov, gained just short of 34 percent, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said on October 15. Preliminary figures showed voter turnout at just over 50 percent.

A total of 11 candidates, including one woman, were listed on the ballot to replace Atambaev, who is constitutionally barred from running for a second consecutive six-year term. The three leading contenders -- Babanov, Jeenbekov, and Temir Sariev -- were all prime ministers during Atambaev's term in office, raising expectations of policy continuity in a country that has to balance the often-competing interests between neighbors Russia and China.

Read the full article here.

[Link to pdf of full articles]
1120 20th Street NW, Ste. 300N Washington, DC 20036-3413
Telephone: +1 202 898 2500  |  ncsej@ncsej.org
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.