Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. May 03, 2019

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

This week, the world commemorated Days of Remembrance of the Holocaust. On Wednesday, NCSEJ Deputy Directory Lesley Weiss and I attended a joint event hosted by the U.S. Department of State and Belorussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs commemorating the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Minsk ghetto. On Thursday, we met with Belorussian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko, Charge d'Affaires Pavel Shidlovsky, and Director of Multilateral Diplomacy for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Larysa Belskaya. 

Earlier this week, NCSEJ organized meetings for President of the Russian Jewish Congress Yuriy Kanner. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I joined Mr. Kanner for his meetings at the State Department, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Kennan Institute. 

On Wednesday, researchers at Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry released its annual report on global anti-Semitism. This year, the report found that 2018 featured the largest reported number of Jews killed in anti-Semitic acts in decades, leading to an “increasing sense of emergency” among Jewish communities worldwide. The Kantor Center researchers also noted increased anti-Semitic vitriol online and in newspapers.

I would like to bring your attention to Tzvi Fishman's interview with Yosef Mendelevich. Mr. Mendelevich was a prisoner of conscience sentenced to twelve years in prison for his participation in the Soviet Jewry movement. His new book, A Hero of Jewish Freedom, translated by David Herman, recounts his ordeals.

Please do not forget to register for our biannual Board of Governors Meeting on Tuesday, June 4. U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr and Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Yaakov Dov Bleich will both make presentations. To register, please go to www.ncsej.org/board_meeting


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
From left to right: Belorussian Director of Multilateral Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Larysa Belskaya, NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Oleg Kravchenko, NCSEJ CEO Mark Levin, and Charge d'Affaires Pavel Shidlovsky.
Washington, D.C. May 03, 2019

U.S. Special Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr to Visit Ukraine 
Ukrinform, May 1, 2019

May 1-15, United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr will travel to Israel and European countries, including Ukraine.

The U.S. Department of State said this in its statement released on April 30.

From May 1-5, Special Envoy Carr will be a member of the U.S. delegation attending the International March for the Living, held in Poland and Israel. The March for the Living is an annual event to educate participants on the history of the Holocaust and the roots of prejudice, intolerance, and hatred.

Belarus Building Site Yields the Bones of 1,214 Holocaust Victims
By Andrew Higgins
The New York Times, April 27, 2019 

Tatyana Lakhay, a cheerful fitness instructor in the Belarus city of Brest, returned to her apartment after a morning exercise class when she glanced out a window and came face to face with the horrors of the Holocaust.

“My God! What is going on? Something is obviously not right,” Ms. Lakhay, 26, recalled thinking as she watched a ghoulish spectacle unfold on the building site below.

Instead of the construction workers who for weeks had been preparing the foundations for a new luxury apartment project, soldiers in masks and gloves were pulling human skeletons from the earth. So many bones were coming out of the ground, she said, it was immediately clear this was no ordinary crime scene.

As Survivors Dwindle, US Still Pursues Holocaust Restitution
By Ron Kampeas
JTA, May 1, 2019 

 The number of survivors may be dwindling, but the State Department’s envoy on Holocaust issues says the issue of restitution still lingers.

Thomas Yazdgerdi, the special envoy for Holocaust issues, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Wednesday that he is preparing a report to Congress due in November that assesses what countries in Europe have done to complete their obligation to restore properties stolen during the Holocaust.

Israel Marks Holocaust Remembrance Day with Solemn Ceremony
By Isabel Debre and the Associated Press
Washington Post, May 1, 2019

Israel ushered in its Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday in memory of the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators in World War II, as leaders voiced concerns about a rising tide of anti-Semitism worldwide.

In moving speeches to hundreds of Israeli politicians and Holocaust survivors at the country’s national Holocaust memorial, Israel’s ceremonial president warned the government against warming up to far-right parties in Europe, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed to last weekend’s deadly synagogue shooting in San Diego as evidence of growing anti-Semitic hatred.

Effigy of Late Polish Jewish Communist Hung on Gallows at Former Lodz Ghetto
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, May 1, 2019

An activist who says he is working to “liberate Poland from American Jews’ occupation” unveiled an effigy in Lodz of a Jewish politician hung on a gallows.

Sławomir Dul presented the display featuring the late communist politician Jakub Berman, captioned “Jew,” outside the headquarters of the city’s police station
Tuesday, Gazeta Wyborcza reported. The building stands in what used to be the Lodz Ghetto.

Dul shouted “I did it, I hung a Jew,” the report said.

Report: Anti-Semitic Attacks Spike, Killing Highest Number of Jews in Decades  
Times of Israel, May 1, 2019 

Tel Aviv University researchers say governments on 3 continents promoted anti-Semitism in 2018, single out officials in Venezuela, Turkey, Poland, Ukraine.

Israeli researchers reported Wednesday that violent attacks against Jews spiked significantly last year, with the largest reported number of Jews killed in anti-Semitic acts in decades, leading to an “increasing sense of emergency” among Jewish communities worldwide.

Capped by the deadly shooting that killed 11 worshipers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, assaults targeting Jews rose 13 percent in 2018, according to Tel Aviv University researchers. They recorded nearly 400 cases worldwide, with more than a quarter of the major violent cases taking place in the United States.

A Tale of Jewish Valor
By Tzvi Fishman
Arutz Sheva, May 2, 2019

When speaking about the Holocaust, one doesn’t immediately think of the Jews of Russia, but they were victims of Nazi atrocities. In fact, it was his encounter with the horrors of the Holocaust, as a young assimilated Russian student, which sparked Yosef Mendelevich’s decision to become a fighter for the freedom of Soviet Jewry.  

Just a hundred years ago, Russia was the center of world Jewry, with many great yeshivot and famous Torah Gedolim. But under a cruel Communist dictatorship which was determined to eradicate Judaism, Torah learning was banned, and Torah scrolls were burnt, along with tefillin, prayer books, and holy Jewish texts. Synagogues and yeshivot were closed. Any Jew caught observing the Torah’s holidays and commandments could be imprisoned for years.

Two European Politicians Made A ‘White Power’ Sign As They Were Sworn in As Government Ministers
By Alberto Nardelli 
Buzzfeed News, April 30, 2019

Two ministers in Estonia’s new coalition government made a hand gesture interpreted as a symbol for “white power” during a swearing-in ceremony.

Former Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves tweeted a picture of Mart Helme and his son Martin on Monday, after they were sworn in as the country’s interior minister and finance minister respectively.

Mart and Martin Helme are from the far-right nationalist Estonian Conservative People's party (EKRE). The party, led by Mart Helme, claims to defend the interests of ethnic Estonians. It has adopted a fierce anti-LGBT and anti-migrant rhetoric and platform.

Read the full article here.

Holocaust Survivor Edward Mosberg To Be Awarded Poland’s Highest Honor
By Ilanit Chernick
The Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2019 

Polish President Andrzej Duda will award Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg, 93, with the Order of Merit, his country’s highest civilian distinction, From the Depths has announced. 

The medal will be awarded Wednesday in Krakow, the philanthropist and educator’s birthplace.

Returning to the city where he was born to “receive such a decoration is an amazingly moving event for me,” Mosberg said.

Read the full article here.

We Are Here Because the Bielski Brothers Fought Back
By Tamara Vershitskaya and Leslie Bell
Times of Israel, May 1, 2019

Novogrudok is a small city in the rolling hills of western Belarus, surrounded by lush forests full of lakes and streams, with wolves, bears, wild boars and bison prowling around the trees. Once the hunting grounds of European aristocrats, the area was also an important and well-known center of Jews since the 15th century.

From Belarus came three presidents of Israel — Chaim Weizmann, Zalman Shazar, and Shimon Peres — and three prime ministers — Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. From Novogrudok and its surrounding region also came the largest detachment of Jewish fighters in German-occupied Europe during World War II.

David Bielski and his younger brother Zelig were born in a rural Belarusian village, part of tsarist Russia towards the end of the 19th century. Their paths diverged in the beginning of the 20th century when Zelig moved to Novogrudok. However, they found themselves together again when, in the freezing winter of 1942, they were forced to undress with their families and hundreds of fellow Jews, and machine-gunned into pre-dug ditches by Nazi extermination, supported by enthusiastic Lithuanian collaborators.

[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.