Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. June 7, 2019

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

On Tuesday, June 4, NCSEJ held its Spring Board of Governors meeting in Washington, D.C. The day’s discussions included a range of topics, with a strong focus on combating anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Our featured speakers were: 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; U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr; Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister and National Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism Georg Georgiev; Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine Yaakov Dov Bleich; and Faina Kukliansky, Chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania. We were also honored to have with us Yosef Begun, a true hero of the Soviet Jewry movement. Please see below for pictures from the event.

The same day in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the unveiling of the city’s first major Holocaust monument, which commemorates Jewish resistance fighters, at Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center. Soviet authorities rarely specifically acknowledged the Holocaust as such, and any monuments they erected mentioned only “Soviet citizens” killed in World War II. Putin called the Holocaust one of the “greatest tragedies” and “most extraordinary chapters in history,” during the unveiling Tuesday. Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of the museum’s board of trusties, funded the monument’s construction.

On Wednesday, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) agreed to appoint advisors to an international board advising the House of Fates Holocaust Museum and Educational Center in Budapest. The announcement followed a presentation of the museum’s project to an IHRA delegation by Rabbi Shlomo Koves, chief rabbi of the EMIH (Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation). The museum, which was initially scheduled to open in 2014 for the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Hungarian Jews, had previously drawn criticism for the involvement of Maria Schmidt, a controversial figure who promoted a historical narrative equating Nazi crimes with those of Communist regimes. But Schmidt, an ally of nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is no longer responsible for the development of the museum, Rabbi Koves told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

I want to draw your attention to an opinion piece by Sam Sokol, a longtime reporter on the Eurasian region and Jewish issues, that details the dangers of weaponizing anti-Semitism as a political tool. He writes about Russia’s attempts, since its 2014 invasion of Eastern Ukraine, to portray Ukraine as an anti-Semitic, fascist state. This attempt, he says, is part of Russia’s online campaign using internet “trolls” to influence political discourse. He warns that the United States must be on guard against similar efforts by Russia in the 2020 elections.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
(l-r) Rep. Ted Deutch, CEO Mark Levin, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Chairman Daniel Rubin (Ron Sachs/CNP)
(l-r) President Aleksander Smukler, Chairman Daniel Rubin, U.S. Special Envoy Elan Carr (Ron Sachs/CNP)
(l-r) Georg Georgiev (Bulgaria), Rabbi Yaakov Bleich (Ukraine), Faina Kukliansky (Lithuania) (Ron Sachs/CNP)
(l-r) President Aleksander Smukler, CEO Mark Levin, Yosef Begun (Ron Sachs/CNP)
Washington, D.C. June 7, 2019

Ukrainian ultranationalists set off smoke grenades outside Jewish community building
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, June 6, 2019

Ultranationalists in Ukraine protested outside a Jewish community building.

Men from the National Corps group, a namesake of a unit of the Azov Battalion militia set up in 2014 by the Ukrainian government, set off smoke grenades Monday in front of the building in Kharkiv.

Separately, the Israeli and Polish ambassadors to Poland signed a joint letter to the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankisvsk protesting the unveiling there of a monument honoring Roman Shukhevych, a collaborator with the Nazis who is implicated in the murder of countless Jews and ethnic Poles.

Read the full article here.

Moscow gets first major Holocaust monument
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, June 4, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the unveiling of a memorial seen by some as Moscow’s first Holocaust monument.

The monument, depicting hands pulling open a door’s shutters, was unveiled at Moscow’s Jewish museum. It commemorates Jewish resistance fighters.

Putin called the Holocaust one of the “greatest tragedies” and “most extraordinary chapters in history,” during the unveiling Tuesday at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center.

IHRA to advise on Budapest Holocaust Museum
Controversial historian Maria Schmidt is no longer involved in the project.
Jerusalem Post, June 6, 2019

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance will appoint a group of experts to advise the international advisory boards of Budapest’s House of Fates Holocaust Museum and Educational Center, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

The museum, which was initially scheduled to open in 2014 for the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Hungarian Jews, had previously come under fire for the involvement of Maria Schmidt, a controversial historian who promoted a historical narrative equating Nazi crimes with those of Communist regimes.

But Schmidt, an ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban who owns a pro-government weekly according to Reuters, is no longer involved in the House of Fates, Rabbi Koves told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Uzbekistan nixes Israeli photo exhibit over the word ‘Jerusalem’
Times of Israel, June 6, 2019

An exhibit of photographs depicting residents of Jerusalem’s Old City by Israeli photographer Dmitry Brickman has been nixed by the Uzbek government because its title includes the word “Jerusalem.”

The exhibit of 120 photographs, which show the broad spectrum of religious and cultural heritages represented in the city, has toured the world, going on display in Russia and the neighboring Muslim nation of Kazakhstan.

But when the Israeli embassy invited Brickman to bring the exhibit to the Uzbek capital Tashkent in early 2018, things got complicated, the Ynet news site reported Thursday.

Weapons-Grade Anti-Semitism: What Russia's gotten away with in Ukraine and how Putin could use those tactics in the United States.
By Sam Sokol
The Bulwark, June 4, 2019

Just more than four years ago, Russia’s popular television news program Vesti ran a segment claiming that Ukrainian Jews were streaming out of the country in a mass exodus brought about by harsh government repression. The report cited a fabricated letter attributed to a senior Jewish figure in Belgium that described “cases of compulsory closures of Jewish organizations and schools” and alleged that Ukraine was experiencing an “outrageous revival of Nazi … traditions.”

While many Jews were indeed fleeing Ukraine (more than 32,000 have moved to Israel since 2013), this migration was primarily due to damage caused by Russian military intervention in the east of the country and the subsequent economic downturn. The Russians, however, did not let this reality get in the way of their narrative. Indeed, the instrumentalization of anti-Semitism and recurrent allegations that Ukraine had become a fascist state were a familiar leitmotif in Russian propaganda during the first years of the conflict.

Lithuanian town honors late chaplain of Holocaust-era death squad
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, May 31, 2019

Lithuanian soldiers and officials attended the unveiling of a plaque honoring the late chaplain of what Nazi hunters say was a local unit of Holocaust-era murderers of Jews.

The municipality of Vitkija hosted the unveiling of the plaque for Zenonas Ignatavičius, who was born in that town and served in 1941 in the 12th Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Battalion. In October that year, its troops were responsible for the murder of more than 15,000 Jews in Belarus, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

In Lithuania, multiple individuals implicated in mass murder of Jews are celebrated as fighters against communism.

Poland honors conservative philosopher fired by UK government over Soros rant
Times of Israel/AP, June 6, 2018

Poland’s president bestowed a prestigious state honor Tuesday on an English philosopher for his contributions to Poland’s anti-communist struggle in the 1980s.

It came two months after the British government fired Roger Scruton as head of a public housing body after he was quoted in a British magazine making statements about Muslim asylum seekers, billionaire George Soros and China.

Scruton has said that his words were twisted and has denied the bigotry ascribed to him by critics.

Herzog: ‘Moral obligation’ to remove Chicago monument of Nazi collaborator
Jewish Agency Chair discussed issue with the Chicago Jewish leadership to seek action.
Jerusalem Post, June 2, 2019

The Jewish Agency’s chairman of the Executive, Isaac Herzog, expressed his support last Wednesday for the efforts of Jewish leaders in Chicago and elsewhere who have protested the recently erected monument in the city honoring a Lithuanian World War II-era commander who collaborated with the Nazis.

Earlier last month, Lithuanian-Americans unveiled a monument in Chicago to Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, a Lithuanian war hero for his leadership of Lithuania’s resistance to Soviet occupation.

According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Ramanauskas mentions in his memoirs that he led a gang of vigilantes that persecuted the Jewish community of Druskininkai, Lithuania.

Read the full article here.

The Soviet Union’s Jewish Tolstoy — Censored in Life, Now Revived
By Alexandra Popoff
New York Times, June 5, 2019

On Feb. 14, 1961, Vasily Grossman’s novel “Life and Fate” was arrested. K.G.B. agents confiscated several copies of the manuscript in Grossman’s Moscow apartment, as well as others in his friends’ apartments and the editorial offices of two journals. Grossman himself, a famous war correspondent and author of other celebrated novels, was not arrested. But “Life and Fate” was not published in the Soviet Union until 1988, 24 years after Grossman died at the age of 58, and even then only in an abridged version…It was the first Soviet work to equate Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the two totalitarian regimes that confronted each other as enemies in the war. The pairing of late Stalinist anti-Semitism with Hitler’s extermination of the Jews was devastating.

The story of “Life and Fate,” as told in “Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century” by Alexandra Popoff, a former Soviet journalist, is gripping. Equally revealing is the rest of Grossman’s biography: He was a celebrated Soviet writer who turned against the Soviet regime but tried to express his doubts within the limits it allowed. He was neither an apologist nor a dissident; like so many Soviet intellectuals, he led an often tormented “double” life.

Read the full article here.

Poland’s soccer team honors Holocaust victim who scored its 1st international goal
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, June 7, 2019

Ahead of a match-up between Israel’s national soccer and Poland’s, the Polish Football Association honored a Jewish player murdered in the Holocaust.

The two teams are to face each other Monday night in Warsaw in a qualifying match for the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship. Relations between the two countries have suffered following the eruption of a diplomatic crisis over a Polish law making it illegal to blame Poland for the Holocaust.

The Polish association’s president, Zbigniew Boniek, is scheduled to present a jersey bearing the name and number of Jozef Klotz to his Israeli nephew, Yoav Dekel. In 1922, during a match in Sweden, Klotz scored the first-ever goal for a Polish team in an international match.

Russian man gets 2.5 years in jail for anti-Semitic graffiti
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, June 7, 2019

A Russian court handed a 2 ½-year prison sentence to a young man for writing anti-Semitic graffiti on a residential building.

A district court in the city of Kurgan near Russia’s border with Kazakhstan earlier this week upheld the unusually-harsh sentence, which the 23-year-old man received from a lower court last year, Kommersant reported Wednesday.

The man, who was not named in the report, was drunk when he broke the law against inciting racial hatred by calling for extremist activity, the court said. But his sentence reflects the fact that the perpetrator has previous convictions for the hijacking of a car and theft, the report also said. It did not say what the man wrote or drew.

[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.