Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. June 29, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

After judicial review, Poland's parliament this week passed, and President Andrzej Duda signed into law, an amended version of a controversial Polish anti-defamation law, which had made it a crime to allege that the Polish state or nation was in any way complicit in the Holocaust. NCSEJ and its member agencies and partners had pushed for changes to the law. We welcome this change, which eliminates criminal penalties; however there are still some outstanding issues.

Ukraine saw a disturbing incidence of anti-Semitic rhetoric and more ultra-nationalist violence this week. In an interview published on Monday, Ukraine's chief military prosecutor said that Jewish financiers are behind all wars, and implied that Jews want to drown ethnic Slavs in blood. And on Saturday night, attackers assaulted a Roma camp in the Lviv region, killing one man and wounding a woman and children. Ukraine later arrested seven of the attackers. As RFE/RL reports,  “since April, Roma have been targeted in at least four high-profile attacks -- apparently by members of far-right organizations, including some with close ties to Ukraine's government and law enforcement bodies.”

Bulgaria is seeking to strengthen its relations with the Jewish community and Israel. After a visit earlier this month to Israel, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has announced his country would open an honorary consulate in Jerusalem.

On Wednesday night, NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss attended a reception at the Austrian Embassy celebrating Austria's accession to the EU presidency for the second half of 2018. On Thursday, she participated in a meeting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum with Austrian National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka (the speaker of Austria's lower house of parliament). The group discussed issues including European Union relations with Israel, Jewish heritage issues, anti-Semitism, and Iran.

The update also includes two longer pieces: an update from a Moscow sociologist on “passive” versus “active” anti-Semitism in Russia, and an in-depth report on the health and welfare of Ukraine's Jewish community since the 2014 Maidan revolution

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss with Austrian National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka and Jewish NGO representatives, discussing policy issues at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Washington, D.C. June 29, 2018

Poland’s Holocaust Law Weakened After ‘Storm and Consternation’
By Marc Santora
New York Times, June 27, 2018

WARSAW — Just a few months after making it illegal to accuse the Polish nation of complicity in the Holocaust, Poland backpedaled on Wednesday, moving to defang the controversial law by eliminating criminal penalties for violators.

The United States and other traditional allies had excoriated the Polish government over the law, passed in February, condemning it as largely unenforceable, a threat to free speech, and an act of historical revisionism.

Both houses of Parliament voted on Wednesday to remove the criminal penalties, after an emotional session that saw one nationalist lawmaker try to block access to the podium. President Andrzej Duda later signed the measure into law, his office said.

Jews Want to Drown Ukraine in Blood, Ukraine's Military Prosecutor Says Amid Wave of Racist and Anti-Semitic Attacks
By Cristina Maza
Newsweek, June 27, 2018

In an extensive interview with the Ukrainian news outlet Insider, Anatoliy Matios, Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor, espoused anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in which he implied that Jews want to drown ethnic Slavs in blood.

Referring to Alexander Parvus, a Belarussian-born Marxist theoretician who was active in Germany’s Social Democratic Party in the late 19th century, and who also happened to be Jewish, Matios claimed that Jews can be found financing all great conflicts.

“In each war, there is always a Parvus, who brought Lenin money for a revolution which flooded Slavs with blood for decades. Parvus was also Jewish. In this case, they want to do the same to Ukraine,” Matios told the Insider.

Capturing a historic journey: Documentary film 'From Slavery to Freedom' reveals the obstacles Sharanksy and other refuseniks overcame to escape the Soviet Union
By Noa Amouyal
Jerusalem Post, June 26, 2018

The space is cramped and the walls are drab. The wooden slabs that are only a few feet long are makeshift mattresses. Those were the conditions that Natan Sharansky and other refuseniks endured while they served time in a Soviet prison.

Their crime? Wanting what Jews have yearned for thousands of years – to live in the Jewish homeland, Israel.

“I’m glad that I visited the prison and thought it was good to make the film, because people forget,” Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post the day after a film documentary of the refusenik struggle for freedom was screened at the Knesset last week.

Latvia school language reform irks Russian minority, backed by Jewish community
By Imants Liepinsh and Anna Maria Jakubek
Agence France Presse, June 24, 2018

RIGA, Latvia — Riga’s plans to impose Latvian as the main teaching language in minority schools has created tension among some of its ethnic Russian population, resurrecting a long-running dispute with Latvia’s former Soviet masters.

None of the other — considerably smaller — minorities have expressed concern over the new legislation, which is actively supported by Jewish groups and the Congress of Ukrainians in Latvia.

Speaking to AFP, Riga’s Chief Rabbi Menachem Barkahan said the language reform would definitely help students from minority groups when it came to higher education.

Bulgaria will open honorary consulate in Jerusalem
JTA, June 24, 2018

JERUSALEM — Bulgaria will open an honorary consulate in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the weekly Cabinet meeting that he spoke the previous night with his counterpart, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who informed him of the decision.

Borisov visited Israel earlier this month, meeting with Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem.

Romania’s laws on anti-Semitism ‘meaningless’ without enforcement, activist warns
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, June 25, 2018

Romania’s parliament passed a law to help combat anti-Semitism, according to its author, but a leading activist in the field said more enforcement, not legislation, was needed.

The measure passed last week bans disseminating material that falls under the government’s definition of anti-Semitism and creating anti-Semitic organizations. It mandates prison terms of three months to 10 years.

“Clear, direct and firm measures need to be enforced,” said Silviu Vexler, a Romanian Jewish lawmaker who initiated the law. “This is the main purpose of this law.”

Putin-Trump Summit Set For Helsinki On July 16
RFE/RL, June 28, 2018

The first summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be held on July 16 in Helsinki, the Kremlin and the White House have said in synchronized announcements.

"The two leaders will discuss relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues," the White House said in a statement on June 28.

Putin and Trump will discuss U.S.-Russia relations as well as international issues, the Kremlin said, according to Russian news agencies.

Controversial priest is behind Polish museum highlighting Christian rescuers of Jews
JTA, June 25, 2018

WARSAW, Poland – A new museum in Poland will exhibit over 40,000 accounts of Polish Christians who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

The Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage will donate $22 million to the Saint John Paul II Memory and Identity Museum. Its goal is to present the over 1,000-year history of Christian Poland with particular emphasis on the teachings of Pope John Paul II and its impact on the fate of Poland, Europe and the world.

The museum, located in Toruń, will be run by the Lux Veritatis Foundation associated with the controversial Roman Catholic priest Tadeusz Rydzyk, who for years ran a radio station that espoused anti-Semitic views.

Part of the exposition will feature the accounts by witnesses on the rescue of Jews by Poles during World War II. Rydzyk and the Lux Veritatis Foundation have collected the accounts since 1995.

Dozens of headstones rescued from under Lviv street; had been used as paving
Jewish Heritage Europe, June 26, 2018

Volunteers from the L'viv Volunteer Center (LVC) of the Hesed Arieh All-Ukrainian Jewish Charitable Foundation have been working this week to remove dozens of Jewish headstones that were found to be paving Barvinok street in downtown L'viv.

"The whole street is made from matzevot," Sasha Nazar, the director of the LVC told JHE. He was notified about the discovery last week, after city workers began opening the street to carry out repairs. Nazar estimated that there could be 100 stones there, and maybe more.

The stones will be transported to the Yanovskoye Jewish cemetery, to join the matzevot rescued previously.

Passive Anti-Semitism Widespread in Russia But Active Kind Almost Nonexistent, Levinson Says
By Paul Goble
Windows on Eurasia, June 25, 2018

Staunton, June 25 – Aleksey Levinson, a Levada Center sociologist who had been measuring anti-Semitism in Russia since the late 1980s, says that passive anti-Semitism is almost universal in Russia but the active kind is almost unheard of and is unlikely to emerge unless prominent leaders start to promote it.

In the new Neprikosnovenny Zapas, he points out that many have been surprised by and some have even challenged the findings of sociologists and pollsters like himself that there is very little anti-Semitism in Russia compared to what many, given the country’s history, might expect.

The main reasons for that, Levinson suggests, are that active anti-Semitism, support for actions intended to exclude or destroy the Jewish ethos, “has achieved these goals” – there are few Jews left and most are assimilated -- and state anti-Semitism “as a policy of excluding Jewry not as an ethnic but as a social category has also achieved its goals.”

Jewish Ukraine after Maidan
By Josh Tapper
eJewishPhilanthropy, June 27, 2018

Sparked by a surge of pro-Western protests on Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti in late 2013, violence quickly migrated eastward by the following spring, engulfing Ukraine’s eastern regions in a deadly slow-burning conflict between Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatists that simmers to this day. When armed separatists entered Mariupol’s synagogue after a prayer service and asked if the community needed security, [Aaron] Kaganovskiy and his fellow worshippers politely declined, explaining to the men with guns that they could take care of themselves.

“When the situation started, we didn’t want to leave,” Kaganovskiy, 32, said of his wife, Chaya, and three children, all under ten years old. His confidence dissipated, however, even as the Ukrainian army fought back separatist forces and seized control of Mariupol in June 2014. Kaganovskiy recalled the day the Ukrainian army decisively pushed the separatists out of the city. As a group of rebel fighters retreated in the direction of his house, bullets flew underneath one of his windows. Kaganovskiy’s children hid inside. When they asked “Daddy, are we going to die today?” he knew it was time to leave.

[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.