Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. November 10, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

This week, we commemorate two centenaries of events that drastically changed the lives of Jews around the world; the Balfour Declaration and the 1917 Russian Revolution. The Balfour Declaration was the first major expression of support for a Jewish state in Palestine made by a world power, the British government. It ultimately led to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. In the case of the Russian Revolution, the rise of Bolshevism briefly led to social liberation for the then largest Jewish population in the world. As we know, however, the Soviet system that would follow brought decades of persecution and suffering for Jews. We share with you two articles on the Revolution, one from Joint Distribution Committee CEO David Schizer, and another from JTA about a special exhibition in Moscow documenting Jews in the Revolution.

NCSEJ concluded its leadership mission to Poland and Kazakhstan on Sunday, November 5. In light of our visit to Kazakhstan, we share with you a piece about possible future Israeli investment in Central Asia.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell is scheduled to visit Kyiv early next week at the end of a major trip to Europe that began in Brussels on Monday. He is expected to meet with Ukrainian officials to encourage them to continue critical government reforms and reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine.

We also share with you an op-ed by writer Lev Golinkin on the Ukrainian government's continued glorification of Nazi collaborators as nationalist heroes and the rise of neo-Nazi groups. Lev will be a featured speaker at our next Board Meeting, to be held here in Washington on Tuesday, December 5.

For more information about the meeting and to register, please visit our website or contact David Shulman at dshulman@ncsej.org or call 1-202-898-2500.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. November 10, 2017

What the Bolshevik Revolution Meant for Russian Jews

By David Schizer

Newsweek, November 6, 2017

When Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik followers seized power in Russia one hundred years ago this week, they did more than eliminate private property, establish a new secret police, and execute the Tsar.

Indeed, their "Red October" revolution -- which fell in November on the Gregorian calendar -- set off a chain of events that reverberates today in former Soviet states, in our geopolitics, and more personally, in my own family.

I am named for a grandfather who was born in western Ukraine, where the Revolution triggered a civil war between communists and monarchists. Although the other David Schizer was not political, he was nearly executed because he was a Jew. When monarchists came to his village and couldn’t find any “Reds” to shoot, they rounded up Jews instead.

What was the Jewish role in 1917 Russian Revolution? This Moscow museum gives a full picture.

By Cnaan Lipshiz

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 6, 2017

Of all the many loaded issues tied to the bloody history of Jews in the former Soviet Union, none is as sensitive today in that part of the world as their role in the 1917 revolution that brought the communists to power.

The outsized prevalence of Jews in the ranks of the revolution that broke out a century ago on Nov. 7 has remained a mainstay of anti-Semitic vitriol in the area.

During the Holocaust, it served as a pretext for the murder of countless Jews across Eastern Europe by self-proclaimed enemies of communism and Russia. And it’s still being used today to incite hatred against local Jews, including among devout Christians who were persecuted by the anti-religious Soviet authorities.

Living in religious societies that by and large feel victimized by communism or its effects, many Russian-speaking Jews and their leaders have either remained silent on communism or downplayed the Jews’ role in it.

Read the full article here.

The reality of neo-Nazis in Ukraine is far from Kremlin propaganda

By Lev Golinkin

The Hill, November 9, 2017

As the Trump administration mulls sending weapons to Ukraine, the question of far-right forces employed by the Kiev government has returned to the forefront. Some Western observers claim that there are no neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine, chalking the assertion up to propaganda from Moscow. Unfortunately, they are sadly mistaken.

There are indeed neo-Nazi formations in Ukraine. This has been overwhelmingly confirmed by nearly every major Western outlet. The fact that analysts are able to dismiss it as propaganda disseminated by Moscow is profoundly disturbing. It is especially disturbing given the current surge of neo-Nazis and white supremacists across the globe.

The most infamous neo-Nazi group in Ukraine is the 3,000-strong Azov Battalion, founded in 2014. Prior to creating Azov, its commander, Andriy Biletsky, headed the neo-Nazi group Patriot of Ukraine, members of which went on to form the core of Azov. Biletsky had stated that the mission of Ukraine is to “lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival … against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”

Read the full article here.

Ukraine Invented a ‘Jewish Ukrainian Nationalist’ to Whitewash Nazi-era Past         

By Jared McBride

Haaretz, November 9, 2017

For a practical lesson in nationalism that whitewashes an inconvenient past, including ties to the Nazis, racism, anti-Semitism, involvement in the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing and other violence against a country’s own citizens – look no further than Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Institute of National Memory (UINP) and its patrons in the Poroshenko government in Kyiv are allowing us to study the process of nationalist myth-making in real-time.

President Poroshenko has enabled nationalist activists like Volodymyr Viatrovych, head of the Institute, to sculpt Ukraine’s history and memory policies. Part and parcel of the Institute’s "decommunization" campaign to remove remnants of a Soviet past simultaneously has been to lionize 20th century Ukrainians who fought for Ukraine’s independence no matter how problematic their backgrounds.

In particular, the Viatrovych and the Institute have made whitewashing the image of World War Two Ukrainian nationalists a priority, not a small feat considering their documented ties to, and complicity with, the Nazis.

Read the full article here.

U.S. Official Set to Visit Kyiv, ‘Reaffirm’ U.S. Commitment to Ukraine, Press for Reform

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 6, 2017

A top U.S. diplomat will visit Ukraine at the end of a 10-day trip to Europe that starts this week, the State Department says.

A statement on November 5 said Wess Mitchell, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, will arrive in Brussels on November 6 to begin the trip, which will also take him to Paris, London, Berlin, and Warsaw.

It added that Mitchell will meet with senior Ukrainian officials on November 14-16 at the end of the trip.

The assistant secretary of state will "reaffirm the United States’ commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and encourage Ukraine to continue implementing critical reforms," the statement said.

Read the full article here.

Foreign Ministry Asked Ukraine to Bring Rabbi Nachman’s Remains to Israel

By Tamara Zieve

Jerusalem Post, November 6, 2017

Israel has been making covert efforts to bring the remains of the venerated late Rebbe Nahman from Uman, Ukraine, to Israel.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely instructed Ambassador to Ukraine Eliav Belotzercovsky to raise the issue with the appropriate officials in Kiev half a year ago, Hotovely’s spokeswoman, Lena Bakman, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

The efforts are ongoing, but thus far they have been in vain, she said.

“In the past, the issue was broached with us, and we agree that it is the right thing to do,” Bakman said, adding that the ambassador will continue with the effort.

Read the full article here.

Think most asylum seekers in Israel are African? Try Ukrainian.

By Melanie Lidman

Times of Israel, November 7, 2017

The line starts early in the afternoon at 53 Salome Street in south Tel Aviv. Across the street from a sleek new residential complex, around the corner from a discount supermarket, dozens of people wait behind a metal barricade.

As the afternoon progresses, the line grows. By midnight, the line might have swollen to hundreds of people. Mostly they wait patiently, checking cellphones, resting their forehead on their hands, leaning against the wall. Police make regular patrols every 20 minutes to ensure it’s quiet, but every once in a while a fight breaks out over a spot in the line.

Snippets of Ukrainian and Russian pepper the air along with broken English, and sometimes there’s a bit of shoving. And then they settle down to wait through the night for the Population Immigration and Borders Authority to open its doors at 8 a.m. the following day.

Welcome to the new face of illegal immigration in Israel.

Read the full article here.

Central Asia Could Be Entryway for Israel to Join One Belt, One Road Initiative

By Ariel Ben Solomon

Jerusalem Post, November 7, 2017

As US President Donald Trump is in Asia this week, a topic of conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping could be his ambitious multi-billion- dollar plan to create the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) – a modern Silk Road of trade and infrastructure connecting Asia to Europe and the Middle East.

 Israel has a great opportunity to expand relations with Central Asian countries, which are the linchpin in the project, to tap into this bonanza.

By expanding Israel’s strong ties with the largely secular moderate Muslim states in Central Asia, and particularly with Kazakhstan, the “buckle in the belt” that serves as a hub through which East-West rail lines run, Israel could tap into this economic epicenter that would be connecting Europe and China.

Read the full article here.

The dismal politics of one of Europe’s smallest nations

The Economist, November 7, 2017

IF RECENT events in Moldova, a tiny former Soviet republic, were used as the basis for a political-cum-gangster thriller, critics might find the storylines a bit far-fetched. In recent weeks, highlights of the drama have included the following episodes. President Igor Dodon, who has little power but wants his country to align its economy and foreign policy with Russia, refused for ten months to sign off on the appointment of a new minister of defence. The government, which claims to be pro-Western and in favour of co-operation with NATO, insisted on its choice. On October 24th, a new minister was sworn in only after the constitutional court suspended Mr Dodon from the presidency for just long enough for the new minister to be appointed.

The next day, prosecutors indicted seven men for conspiring to assassinate Vlad Plahotniuc (pictured), the head of the Democratic Party. He is a wealthy oligarch and, many believe, by far the most powerful man in the country. The chief conspirator is an alleged gangster known as “the Bulgarian”, who is believed to be in Russia. Mr Plahotniuc says he aims to anchor Moldova safely to the West.

Read the full article here.

The Holocaust Activist Who’s Warning Poland – About Danger Posed by Jews

By Larry Cohler-Esses

Forward, November 5, 2017

In Poland these days, the head of the country’s highest-profile Holocaust remembrance group is warning Poles that attacks on their country are coming from the “leftist Jewish media.”

He says that the stories of Poles who actually helped Jews during World War II were not told until he arrived, despite decades of work in this field by institutions as significant as Yad VaShem in Jerusalem.

He says that Poland should demand reparations from Germany, citing the reparations Israel got from that country after the Holocaust.

And he seems to be receiving public and even financial support from the right-wing Polish government, which many Polish Jewish leaders accuse of turning a blind eye to growing anti-Semitism in the country.

Jonny Daniels, a British-born Israeli, is a public relations man whose clients include Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But it’s as head of his Warsaw-based Holocaust remembrance charity, From the Depths, that he has been stirring controversy among researchers, scholars and activists devoted to teaching the Shoah’s lessons.

Russian government official wrongly claims her country saved Bulgarian Jews from deportation

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 6, 2017

Condemning an anti-Semitic attack on a Soviet Army monument in Bulgaria, a Russian government official erroneously said her country’s soldiers saved the Jews of Bulgaria from deportation to Nazi camps.

The graffiti spray-painted on the Soviet Army monument in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia on Oct. 31 read “100 years Zionist occupation.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said two days later in Moscow that the defacing of the monument provoked anger in Moscow.

“Vandals, and I cannot call them anything else, attacked the monument literally a week ago, but now have outdone themselves, placing slogans of blatant anti-Semitic character on the memorial,” she said. “This escapade is especially cynical in view of the fact that during the Second World War, it was thanks to our soldiers that the deportation of Jews from Bulgaria was prevented and thus about 50,000 people were saved from certain death.”

Read the full article here.

Russia Threatens to ‘Retaliate’ As RT Says It Will Register As Foreign Agent in U.S.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 10, 2017

Russian officials say Moscow will adopt new legislation targeting U.S. media in the country as soon as next week.

State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said on November 10 that the legislature would amend its existing law on "foreign agents" to include foreign media. Deputy Duma speaker Sergei Neverov said the changes could also affect Western social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

The move came after the state-funded Russian television channel RT said the previous day that it would meet what it claims is a U.S. demand to register its American division as a foreign agent, but also vowed a court challenge.

RT, which used to be known as Russia Today, said in a statement on its website on November 9 that it had been given a November 13 deadline by the U.S. Justice Department to register under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Read the full article here.

[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.