Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. November 21, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend, 

We hope you can join us for the NCSEJ Board of Governors taking place on Tuesday, December 4, from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm, in Washington, D.C. We are pleased to announce that U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant of State for Europe and Eurasia Elisabeth Millard will be our luncheon keynote speaker. In addition, Moldovan Ambassador to the United States Cristina Balan and Jacek Chodorowicz of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will address the board meeting. To RSVP and receive additional information, visit www.ncsej.org/board_meeting or contact David Shulman at (202) 898-2500 or dshulman@ncsej.org. 

NCSEJ wishes you and your family a happy Thanksgiving!

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. November 21, 2018

Jews of Former Cossack Fort Irkutsk Mark 200 Years of Prosperity and Persecution
By Rossella Tercatin
Times of Israel, November 17, 2018

Today, this frigid city of just over half a million in eastern Siberia is best known for being a convenient starting point from which to visit Lake Baikal — a popular destination for hiking and winter sports a short 70 kilometers (43 miles) away that contains one-fifth of the world’s unfrozen fresh water.

But Irkutsk also holds the key to an unexpected piece of Jewish history spanning back over two centuries.

Irkutsk’s first Jew on record, a merchant named Israel Fershter, arrived in the city located off the silk road in 1818.

Founded in 1661 as a Cossack garrison, at the beginning of the 19th century Irkutsk was a cultural and intellectual hub for elites sent into exile for their part in the Decembrist revolt against Tsar Nicholas I. The city was also well on its way to becoming a prominent commercial center.

Yad Vashem Hosts Lithuanian Jewish Leadership
Jerusalem Post, November 16, 2018

In less than a week, the Nazi regime ruthlessly captured Lithuania from Soviet control. The results for Lithuanian Jewry were devastating: nearly 180,000 Jews (about three-quarters of Lithuanian Jewry) had were murdered by the invading Nazi troops.

Most of the ones that remained were relegated to the ghettos and eventually to their deaths in deaths camp. On Nov.19, Yad Vashem's conference entitled, "Jewish Leadership in the Lithuanian Ghettos" sponsored by its Moshe Mirilashvili Center for Research on the Holocaust in the Soviet Union of Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research, will shed light on life in those ghettos. 

The conference will bring esteemed scholars from around the world who will discuss an often overlooked aspect of the Holocaust - how, the Jewish leadership endeavored to ward off the inevitable deportation to the death camps and had to comply with the orders of the murderous German Nazi demands.

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo Pledges Continued Support in Meeting with Ukraine’s Klimkin
By Askold Krushelnycky
Kyiv Post, November 17, 2018

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has pledged his country’s continued support for Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression and said that U.S. sanctions will continue until Moscow returns all Ukrainian territory to Kyiv’s control.

Pompeo made the remarks on Nov. 16 after two days of meetings in Washington, D.C. with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin during the 10th annual session of the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission.

The two officials met “to breathe new life” into the partnership, Pompeo said. He also hailed progress made on the three pillars of the relationship: security and countering Russian aggression, rule of law and humanitarian issues, and economic and energy security.

Nothing Divides Russians Quite like the Past
By Vladimir Kara-Murza
Washington Post, November 16, 2018

November is heavy on historical dates. As world leaders gathered in Paris last week to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War, Russians were remembering the 101st anniversary of the Bolshevik coup d’état that some still refer to as the “great October socialist revolution.”

Two rival commemorations were held in Moscow on Nov. 7. While the Communists rallied on Revolution Square, steps away from the Kremlin, brandishing red flags and the portraits of Lenin and Stalin, activists of the liberal Yabloko party brought flowers and a makeshift commemorative sign to the former Alexander Military Academy that served as the headquarters of the anti-Bolshevik resistance during the fighting in October and November 1917. “Our goal is to overcome the absence of memory and honor those who fought against dictatorship,” said Sergei Mitrokhin, one of Yabloko’s leaders. “A nation cannot forget its past and its heroes. If it does, it will cease to exist as a nation.”

Holocaust Researcher Files Libel Lawsuit against Polish Group that Accused Him of Falsifying History of Poland
By Katarzyna Markusz
JTA, November 18, 2018

A historian and Holocaust researcher has filed a lawsuit against a Polish organization for libel after it publicly accused him of ruining Poland’s good name and charging that his Holocaust research falsifies the history of Poland.

Professor Jan Grabowski of the University of Ottawa filed a lawsuit for libel against the Polish League Against Defamation on Thursday at the District Court in Warsaw.

The historian’s lawsuit proposes that each person who in June 2017 signed a defamatory statement published by the organization, purchase and donate to one Polish high school a copy of the book “Night Without an End. Fate of Jews in selected counties of occupied Poland.”

Synagogue Confiscated by Soviets Now a Jewish Orphanage
By Mussi Sharfstein
Chabad Lubavitch, November 15, 2018

In a place where Jewish activities-were once conducted in secret, the Jewish community of Dnipro, Ukraine celebrated the renovation and reopening of its orphanage for boys on November 11.

The orphanage is housed in the historic synagogue of the Kabbalist Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and chief rabbi of the city from 1909. After his arrest in 1939 for his activism on behalf of Judaism in the Soviet Union, the synagogue was confiscated by the Soviets and turned into apartments and offices.

After the building was returned to the Jewish community in 1995, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, the city’s current chief rabbi, teamed up with Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson, of Tzivos Hashem in New York, and supporter Alexander Koganovski, opening Chabad’s Esther and William Benenson Home For Boys in the building (a sister orphanage for girls is housed elsewhere).

New Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan Appointed
AzerNews, November 16, 2018

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has announced about the appointment of George Deek as a new ambassador to Azerbaijan, the Israeli media reported on Nov. 16.

Deek will replace Dan Stav, who has headed the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan since August 2015.

Previously, Deek served as a senior adviser to director general of Israel’s foreign ministry Yuval Rotem.

Reportedly, for the first time in Israeli history, an Arab Christian has been appointed to the post of ambassador.

Meet Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Israel—Doulat Kuanyshev
By Greer Fay Cashman
The Jerusalem Post, November 10, 2018 

During the Communist era, people in the West were brainwashed into believing that citizens of the Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries were members of the world’s great downtrodden – oppressed and depressed.

True, they did not enjoy the rights and privileges that went hand in hand with Western lifestyles. They often suffered from food shortages and their clothes were hardly fashionable, but they laughed and they danced, wrote books, composed music, got married, raised families and, in many respects, were not much different from human beings anywhere else the world.

The interesting thing is the speed and the extent to which they adapted to Western norms once the Soviet Union was dismantled.

UN Agency Teams with Jewish Group to Launch a Holocaust Education Website
JTA, November 19, 2018

UNESCO, the United Nations agency that has rejected Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, and the World Jewish Congress have launched a website dedicated to Holocaust education and memory.

The website, called Facts about the Holocaust, was unveiled Monday at UNESCO headquarters in Paris by the scientific and cultural agency’s director-general, Audrey Azoulay, who is Jewish, and WJC President Ronald Lauder. Some 150 presidents of Jewish communities worldwide were on hand to sign a commitment to the preservation of Holocaust memory and to fighting anti-Semitism worldwide.

The interactive website is available in English and is expected to be launched in dozens of languages, including Chinese and Arabic, according to WJC. It provides answers to frequently asked questions and common misconceptions about the Holocaust.

Putin Plays with the Holocaust
By Ben Cohen
JNS, November 19, 2018

Back in January, the unlikely figure of Paddington Bear—the cuddly, bright-eyed cub much adored by young children down the years—ran afoul of the Russian government. As part of its policy of limiting the influence of foreign culture on Russia’s citizens, Vladimir Putin’s regime delayed the release of the movie “Paddington Bear 2” by two weeks to prevent it from competing with locally produced films that hit the screens at the same time. 

That decision was enabled by legislation from 2015 that also permits Russia’s rulers to—in the words of culture minister Vladimir Medinsky—“set financial, political or ideological priorities” for Russia’s own film industry. Nine out of every 10 films produced in Russia are funded by the regime, under regulations that forbid movies “defiling the national culture, posing a threat to national unity and undermining the foundations of the constitutional order.”

Russia’s use of film as an instrument of propaganda is nothing new; the same policy prevailed in its Soviet predecessor. That doesn’t mean that the films lack artistic merit—Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin,” about a 1905 mutiny of Russian sailors, is regarded by some critics as the greatest film of all time—but it does mean that Western audiences should understand that their fundamental purpose goes far beyond entertaining or informing. According to culture minister Medinsky—a Russian nationalist and admirer of the late Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin—the goal of films, art and other media in Russia is to “consolidate the state and society on the basis of values instilled by our history.”
[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.