Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. December 14, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

Earlier this week, the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency released a groundbreaking report that found that the majority of Jews surveyed expressed their fear about the resurgence of anti-Semitism. 89% of those polled stated that they considered online anti-Semitic expressions a major problem in their country, while 47% worry about anti-Semitic verbal insult or harassment and 40% about physical attack in the next 12 months. The EU’s findings support those found in CNN’s “Shadow over Europe” report from several weeks ago, which also detailed a significant rise in anti-Semitic beliefs in expressions.

Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Joel Lion on December 7 protested the country’s reverent treatment of individuals like Stepan Bander and Roman Shukhevych due to their role as collaborators in the Holocaust. Ambassador Lion said that although Ukrainians see these men as “heroes who fought for Ukraine’s independence...we see them as the killers of Jews.”

This week, a delegation of senior IDF officers traveled to Moscow to help repair the rift between Israel and Russia caused by the Syrian downing of a Russian military aircraft in September. This development followed a call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday December 8, during which they discussed improving bilateral military cooperation in Syria.

NCSEJ works to promote and protect the well-being of Jewish communities in the second largest Jewish diaspora. Please remember to support our work as part of our yearly Chanukah Appeal by clicking HERE.  

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. December 14, 2018

State Department Names the World’s Worst Violators of Religious Freedom
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, December 12, 2018

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomed the State Department’s announcement that it had named 10 “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs) for particularly severe religious freedom violations, including, for the first time, Pakistan. The naming of Russia and Uzbekistan to a “Special Watch List” elicited a mixed response, said USCIRF Chair Tenzin Dorjee.

“We are gratified that, after years of reporting systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom in Pakistan, the State Department has finally added that country to the list of the world’s worst violators,” said Dorjee. “While we welcome the addition of Russia as a severe violator on the Special Watch List, USCIRF recommended in April 2018 that Russia be named a CPC. USCIRF made the same recommendation for Uzbekistan. We question whether Uzbekistan has sufficiently improved to be moved from the CPC list to the Special Watch List.”

The Geopolitics of Ukraine’s Newly Independent Church
By Emil Avdaliani
The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, December 11, 2018

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is experiencing troubles in Ukraine. Areas once considered to be the uncontested territory of the Russian Patriarchate are now becoming autocephalous (independent), adding yet another dimension to the geopolitical challenges Russia is facing in the borderlands of the former Soviet space. 

Russian history over the past several centuries was marked by battles over territories running from the Baltic to the Black Sea in the south, then towards the South Caucasus in the east. These are the lands for which the Russians fought the Swedes, the Poles, the Turks, the armies of Napoleon, the Nazis, and the Iranians. The Russians succeeded in fighting off their geopolitical challengers, stalling European advances into the arc of lands around the Russian heartland where most of its industrial and human potential lay.

Congress Backs Bill Targeting Hamas and Hezbollah for Using Human Shields
Times of Israel, December 12, 2018

The US House of Representatives has approved a bill that would target for sanctions Hezbollah and Hamas for using civilians as human shields, guaranteeing that it will become law.

“This critical and timely legislation mandates new sanctions against Hamas, Hezbollah and foreign state agencies that use civilians as human shields or provide support to those doing so,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a statement Tuesday after the House passed the bill. The Senate passed the measure in October.

The bill castigates Hezbollah, a terrorist Lebanese militia backed by Iran, and Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip, as “repeated” practitioners of an action that violates international law. It notes reports that Hezbollah is concealing missiles in villages in Lebanon and that Hamas routinely launches missiles at Israel from densely populated areas.

Ukraine Jewish Cemetery Gets Protective Fence with German Funds
By Tobey Axelrod
JTA, December 10, 2018

One of Ukraine’s largest Jewish cemeteries has a new protective fence built with German federal funds.

The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative, or ESJF, based in Germany announced Monday that the fencing of the late-16th century Buchach Cemetery in western Ukraine has been completed. Among the town’s illustrious progeny were Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon and Austrian Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. The parents of Sigmund Freud also were born there.

The site, located in a region that was part of Poland before World War II, has some 2,000 gravestones over about three hectares, or some 7.5

acres, making the fencing project the largest of all 107 fencing projects undertaken by the ESJF to date. Several more projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

Soviet Immigration, Once a Bane of Germany’s Jews, Has Become Their Salvation
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, December 10, 2018

Weeks after they emigrated from Russia and moved to Germany, the Nedlin family sought to join the local Jewish community.

Registering for membership in a Jewish community — a practice common in European countries — was a significant step for the Nedlins, who before emigrating in 1992 had grown up in the repressive Soviet Union. There they were forced to hide or downplay their Jewish identity due to state anti-Semitism and discrimination against religion.

But the local community didn’t reciprocate the family’s desire for contact.

“At first they told us we can’t join,” Anna Nedlin, who was 5 at the time, recalled in an interview with JTA. “They didn’t want anything to do with us.”  But at her parents’ insistence, “they sent our documents to Frankfurt to check if we’re really Jewish.”

Senior IDF Officers to Visit Moscow Amid Ongoing Spat over Downed Russian Plane
By Judah Ari Gross
Times of Israel, December 10, 2018

A senior Israeli military delegation will travel to Moscow this week amid an ongoing rift between the two countries over the downing of a Russian spy plane by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli airstrike over Syrian airspace in September, which Russia blames on Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces announced Monday that the decision to send the officers, including operations chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, was made following a phone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladmir Putin on Saturday.

During the call, Putin told Netanyahu that Israel and Russia must improve their military cooperation in Syria.

According to the military, the officers will discuss the IDF’s newly launched operation to find and destroy Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels, which Israel says the Iran-backed terror group has dug into Israeli territory from southern Lebanon.

Anti-Semitism Pervades European Life, Says EU Report
By Paul Kirby
BBC, December 10, 2018

Hundreds of Jews questioned by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency said they had experienced a physical, anti-Semitic attack in the past year, while 28% said they had been harassed.

France is identified as having the biggest problem with anti-Semitism.

Germany, the UK, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands also saw incidents.

On the day the report was released, the Italian police said they were investigating the theft of 20 memorial plaques commemorating the Holocaust.

The small brass plaques - dedicated to members of a Jewish family, De Consiglio - were dug out from Rome's pavements during the night.

Israeli Ambassador Tells Ukrainians Their National Heroes Were ‘Horror for Jews’
By Sam Sokol
Times of Israel, December 07, 2018 

Israel’s new ambassador to Ukraine described that country’s nationalist heroes as “historically a horror for the Jews.”

Joel Lion spoke out harshly against Ukraine’s rehabilitation of various World War II-era figures in an interview with local radio.

Figures such as Stepan Bander and Roman Shukhevych are widely seen as “heroes who fought for Ukraine’s independence,” but “we see them as the killers of Jews,” Lion said in an interview with Radio Svoboda.

Israel has largely remained silent over recent Ukrainian efforts to rehabilitate figures seen as complicit in the Holocaust and refrained from condemning a 2015 law codifying their status as national heroes.

Read the full article here.

400-Year-Old Jewish Cemetery in Ukraine Restored
By Jeremy Sharon
Jerusalem Post, December 11, 2018

An historic Jewish cemetery in Buchach, Ukraine, home of Shmuel Yosef (“Shai”) Agnon and Simon Weisenthal, has recently been restored and walled-off by the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (ESJF).

The cemetery in the western Ternopil region of the country, contains some 2,000 gravestones dating back as early as the 1590s, but has been badly neglected and overgrown, like many Jewish cemeteries in eastern and central Europe since the decimation of European Jewish communities in the Holocaust.

The ESJF not only restored the cemetery, which covers some three hectares of land, but also established a wall and iron-fence barrier, over one kilometer in length around the site at a total cost of 80,000 euros. 

Jewish Agency Leaders Meet in Cyprus to Strengthen Diaspora Communities
Jerusalem Post, December 14, 2018

Ahead of next week's trilateral summit between leaders and governments of Israel, Greece and Cyprus, slated to take place in Beer Sheba, the Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog, met in Nicosia, Cyprus, with Greece’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Terens Quick, and with the Presidential Commissioner for the Cypriot Diaspora, Photis Photiou, to expand the cooperation between the countries’ diaspora communities. 

The project of collaboration between the Jewish communities and other diaspora communities was launched in 2017 by The Jewish Agency’s previous Chairman of the Executive, Natan Sharansky, and has dovetailed the process of strengthening strategic ties between the governments of Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

[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.