Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. October 14, 2016

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties
FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Dear Friend,

Last night, I had the privilege to moderate an important event at the United Nations in New York, sponsored by the Ukrainian, Israeli, and U.S. Missions to the UN, commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Babi Yar massacres in Ukraine. 

The speakers included the UN representatives from the three countries, and it was attended by hundreds of dignitaries. The full video of the program is available online at http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/

On Saturday the country of Georgia held its parliamentary elections, with the Georgian Dream party winning a plurality of votes, just shy of a majority. Georgian Dream, in power since 2012, is a pro-Western party that also favors closer ties with Russia, The OSCE declared that the election, despite some problems, was competitive and was free and fair.

On Monday, Romania announced it would open the country’s first state-run Jewish museum, set to be completed in 2018. Until 2003, the Romanian government had rejected any responsibility in the Holocaust. Some 800,000 Jews lived in the country in the 1930s, but fewer than 3,000 remain today.

Also this week, Russia completed delivery of its S-300 air defense missiles to Iran, ending years of delays. Russia had canceled its contract to deliver the missiles in 2010, under international pressure, but restarted delivery in April 2016, following the January implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.

Yesterday, in a deplorable 24-6 vote (with 26 abstentions), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) approved a motion that would deny Jewish ties to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. 

NCSEJ joins with many of our member organizations in condemning this vote. Of the countries we follow, both Lithuania and Estonia voted against the measure; Russia supported it, and Ukraine abstained. Please see the update for more articles on this story.

Also in the update this week is a JTA piece about Central Asia’s dwindling Bukharian Jewish community. Following the Soviet Union’s collapse, most Bukharian Jews emigrated to Israel and the United States, where, as the story relates, Bukharian communities are now thriving and continuing to uphold their traditions. 


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. October 14, 2016

NCSEJ Moderates UN 75th Anniversary Commemoration of Babi Yar Massacres
NCSEJ, October 14, 2016

On Thursday evening, NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO Mark B. Levin moderated an evening of commemoration at the United Nations in New York City to remember the massacres at Babi Yar seventy-five years ago.

Hundreds of government and civic leaders attended the event, sponsored by the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of Ukraine, Israel, and the United States.

Read the full article here.

Rabbi Brutally Beaten in Zhitomir, Ukraine
Chabad.org, October 7, 2016

A rabbi was found badly beaten in the western Ukrainian city of Zhitomir this morning. With the onset of Shabbat there, Jewish community leaders are asking for prayers.

Rabbi Mendel Deitsch, a longtime Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in France and more recently in Israel, was brutally attacked at Zhitomir’s central train station early Friday morning, where he was discovered and transported to a local hospital. The Jewish Community of Zhitomir, headed by Chabad Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, was alerted to the attack hours after Deitsch was admitted to the hospital.

Rabbi beaten in Ukraine airlifted to Israeli hospital
JTA, October 9, 2016

A Chabad rabbi who was severely beaten in a train station in the western Ukrainian city of Zhitomir was airlifted to Israel by emergency medical transport.

Rabbi Mendel Deitsch is in serious but stable condition at Tel Hashomer Medical Center near Tel Aviv. He had emergency surgery at a hospital in Zhitomir before being airlifted to Israel. His injuries remain life threatening, according to the Chabad website.

Georgian Dream Declares Victory In Parliamentary Elections
RFE/RL, October 8, 2016

The Georgian Dream party has declared victory in parliamentary elections shortly after polls closed on October 8 in the former Soviet republic.

Deputy Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze, a member of Georgian Dream, told Reuters after the October vote, that data gathered by the ruling coalition suggested Georgian Dream had won at least 58 percent of the vote.

Ukraine Detains Alleged Russian Spy
RFE/RL, October 10, 2016

Ukrainian authorities say a Ukrainian citizen with permanent residence in Russia has been detained in the northwestern city of Rivne.

Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) said on October 9 that the man, whose identity was not disclosed, is suspected of attempting to obtain classified information by offering a large sum of money and Russian citizenship to a Ukrainian military officer.

The suspect was detained on October 8, one day after Russian authorities officially charged Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko, who was detained in Russia on September 30, with espionage.

Read the full article here.

Romania to open first state-run Jewish Museum
AFP/The Times of Israel, October 10, 2016

Romania, which denied its role in the Holocaust for years, is to open the first state-run museum dedicated to the country’s Jewish community, once one of the largest in Europe before World War II.

The museum, due to open in 2018 in the capital Bucharest, will focus on the persecution of Jews and the Roma, said Alexandru Florian, the director of the National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust.
Read the full article here.

Polish right-wing groups seek to deny that Kielce pogrom was motivated by anti-Semitism
JTA, October 13, 2016

Representatives of right-wing organizations have applied to the Institute of National Remembrance to resume investigation of the Kielce pogrom, saying its cause was not anti-Semitism.

In the application submitted this week, they claim the murders in the 1946 pogrom, which killed 42 Polish Jews, were committed by Communist officials and not city police and residents.

According to the groups, most of the victims died from shots fired by military weapons, which they say means that the responsibility for the massacre should not be borne by the residents of Kielce.

Read the full article here.

Russia completes delivery of S-300 air defense missiles to Iran: RIA
Reuters, October 13, 2016

Russia has completed the delivery of S-300 air defense missile systems to Iran, RIA news agency quoted Russia's state arms export agency as saying on Thursday.

Russia's agreement to provide Iran with S-300 has sparked concern in Israel. Moscow canceled the contract to deliver S-300s to Iran in 2010 under pressure from the West.

Read the full article here.

Human Rights Commissioner Cancels Russia Visit
The Moscow Times, October 11, 2016

The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights has canceled his planned visit to Russia.

In a statement published on the Council of Europe's website, Commissioner Nils Muiznieks cited “unacceptable restrictions imposed on his program” as the reason for the cancelation.

The Commissioner also wrote that Russian authorities wanted to restrict his October visit to just 48 hours in Moscow alone, which he believed “would not have allowed sufficient time to carry out a substantive country visit.”

Right-Wing Azov Battalion Enters Ukraine's Political Arena
RFE/RL, October 14, 2016

Ukraine's far-right Azov Battalion has officially created a political party.

Greeted by chants of "Death to enemies!" at an inaugural party congress in Kyiv on October 14, Azov's new political head, Nazar Kravchenko, told some 300 attendees, many in military fatigues, that the party would work to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression.

The gathering coincided with traditional nationalist events marking the creation of the controversial World War II-era Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and to celebrate Ukrainian Cossacks.

Read the full article here.

UNESCO votes: No connection between Temple Mount and Judaism
The Jerusalem Post, October 13, 2016

In a 24-6 vote, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a resolution that denies Jewish ties to its most holy religious sites: the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

The six countries that voted in support of Israel were the United States, Great Britain, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Germany and Estonia.

Rabbi Lazar criticizes Russia for supporting UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem
Interfax-Religion, October 14, 2016

Russia's Сhief Rabbi Berel Lazar has criticized the UNESCO Executive Committee, which has recently voted for a resolution not mentioning the connection between Jews and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

"The recent UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem is an insult to the feelings of all believing Jews and it fully undermines in our eyes the authority of this organization," the rabbi was quoted as saying by his press service on Friday.

Read the full article here.

Hillel Makes History in Warsaw, Poland
By Rabbi Yossie Goldman
eJewishPhilanthropy, October 13, 2016

The ‘Blue skyscraper’ on Tlomackie Street is an imposing high rise office building that dominates the skyline of Warsaw, Poland. It was built in 1980 on the ruins of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw, one of the greatest buildings built in Poland in the 19th century and, at the time of its opening, the largest synagogue in the world.

The synagogue was opened on September 26, 1878 on Rosh Hashanah. It was personally blown up by SS-Gruppenführer Jürgen Stroop on May 16th, 1943, which was the last act of destruction of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw by the Nazis.

Dwindling at home, Central Asia’s Bukharian Jews thrive in Diaspora
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, October 10, 2016

As a new immigrant with little savings and no guaranteed income, Mikhail Davidov had no hope of getting a mortgage to buy the $900,000 house in Queens, New York, he now calls home.
Luckily for Davidov, a 42-year-old hairdresser who immigrated to New York six years ago from Uzbekistan, he never needed a mortgage.

Instead, he borrowed the money, interest free, from his extended family of Bukharian Jews – a tight-knit community whose members have excelled both in making money and preserving their traditions even after most of them left their ancestral homelands in Central Asia.

Babyn Yar: A site of massacres, (dis)remembrance and instrumentalisation
By Yuri Radchenko
New Eastern Europe, October 11, 2016

A century ago, Babyn Yar (also often referred to as “Babi Yar”) was a vast ravine on the edge of the city of Kyiv. Today, this place is actually located in the centre of the Ukrainian capital and is now built up with roads, an underground, parks and apartment blocks. Initially the Babyn Yar hillslopes were rather steep and in some places its depth ranged from 10 to 50 metres. In the 19th and the first half of the 20th century there were several cemeteries here: Orthodox, Jewish, Karaim and Muslim. At that time, in a nearby settlement called Syrets, there were barracks with firing ranges which belonged to the Russian imperial army. After the Soviet regime came to power, a summer camp for the Red Army soldiers soon appeared.

Before the Second World War, Babyn Yar was not used as a burial site for the victims of the Holodomor famine or political repressions of the Soviet totalitarian regime, as some people in Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora tend to think. Bodies of the victims of the Stalinist regime were buried in secret mass graves at nearby cemeteries.

Read the full article here.

Revealed: Nearly Half The Adults In Britain And Europe Hold Extremist Views
By Alberto Nardelli
BuzzFeed, October 7, 2016

Almost half of the adults in 12 European countries now hold anti-immigrant, nationalist views, according to major new research that reveals the spread of fringe political views into the mainstream.

BuzzFeed News has been given exclusive access to new data from YouGov, which polled more than 12,000 people across the continent to measure the extent of what it termed “authoritarian populist” opinions – a combination of anti-immigration sentiments, strong foreign policy views, and opposition to human rights laws, EU institutions, and European integration policies.
Read the full article here.

Russia has 'playbook' for covert influence in Eastern Europe: study
By John Walcott and Warren Strobel
Reuters, October 13, 2016

Russia has mounted a campaign of covert economic and political measures to manipulate five countries in central and eastern Europe, discredit the West's liberal democratic model, and undermine trans-Atlantic ties, a report by a private U.S. research group said.

The report released on Thursday said Moscow had co-opted sympathetic politicians, strived to dominate energy markets and other economic sectors, and undermined anti-corruption measures in an attempt to gain sway over governments in Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Serbia, and Slovakia.

Read the full article here.
Will the West Ever Stand Up to Putin?
Atlantic Council, October 13, 2016

German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that the Normandy Four—leaders from France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine—gather on October 19 to discuss the war in Ukraine.

But this is premature. Nothing will come out of this meeting without a detailed roadmap for a real ceasefire and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adherence to fully implement the Minsk agreements.

Read the full article here.
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Founded in 1971, NCSEJ 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.