Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. March 22, 2019

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

On Tuesday, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation in a televised address. His country’s ruler for 30 years, Nazarbayev led Kazakhstan during the final years of the Soviet Union and was elected President in 1991. NCSEJ worked closely with President Nazarbayev and his administration during his tenure. Speaker of the Kazakh Senate Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who was sworn in on Wednesday, will serve as acting President until elections in April 2020. Dariga Nazarbayeva, Nazarbayev's daughter, was unanimously elected as Tokayev's successor in the Senate. 

This week, the Jerusalem Post launched a new website, “Seventy Russian-Speaking Jews Who Shaped Israel," in coordination with the Genesis Philanthropy Group.  The goal of the site is to educate as many people as possible about the contributions of Russian-speaking Jewry throughout history. The project highlights the monumental contributions of 70 Russian-speaking Jews who helped create modern Israel, including artists, intellectuals, political and military leaders, and other personalities whose legacies and influence can still be felt throughout the world today.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Jewish communities around the world celebrated the Festival of Purim. To see photos from Purim Shpils from our region, please click HERE or visit our Facebook and Twitter pages. 

Yesterday, NCSEJ and B'nai B'rith International hosted U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr for a meeting to discuss the resurgence of global anti-Semitism. Representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, Hadassah, and HIAS also participated. 

Also on Thursday, I had the opportunity to address a U.S.-Ukraine Foundation program, with civil society leaders from Ukraine, to discuss NCSEJ's work in the region and the state of the Jewish community in the country. 

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
(l-r) NCSEJ CEO Mark B. Levin with U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr and B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin.
Washington, D.C. March 22, 2019

A New Kazakh President Is Sworn in After Soviet-Era Strongman Nursultan Nazarayev Steps Down
By Associated Press
Time, March 20, 2019

The speaker of Kazakhstan’s parliament was sworn in as interim president on Wednesday, a day after longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbayev abruptly resigned.

Nazarbayev surprised many by announcing in a televised address Tuesday that he would step down after nearly 30 years in office that has included the whole of Kazakhstan’s time as an independent nation.

The 78-year-old Nazarbayev attended Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s inauguration Wednesday, entering to lengthy applause from assembled dignitaries before taking a seat on a podium behind the lectern where Tokayev gave an address.

Minutes after Tokayev was sworn in, he suggested that the Kazakh capital Astana be renamed Nursultan to honor the outgoing president.

Tokayev in his speech praised Nazarbayev as “an outstanding reformer” who is widely expected to continue to wield influence as chairman of the security council and head of the ruling party.

Nazarbayev Resigns As Kazakhstan’s President; Was First Elected in 1991 
By Bill Chappell and Dariya Tsyrenzhapova
NPR, March 19, 2019

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev says he will resign the post he has held for nearly 30 years, abruptly announcing the end of an era that began in the early 1990s. But Nazarbayev, 78, also said he'll keep several key official posts, in a speech that aired on national TV Tuesday.

In the former Soviet bloc, formerly comprised of 15 countries, Nazarbayev is the only longstanding leader to sustain power for three decades. The president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, died in 2016 after his presidential reign of 26 years.

Despite resigning the presidency, Nazarbayev will maintain control of the ruling Nur Otan Party. He'll also remain a member of a powerful government council.

"In accordance with our laws, I'm given a status of the first president - the nation's leader ... I will remain the Security Council's chairman, who has serious powers to determine the country's domestic and foreign policy in line with the laws," Nazarbayev said, in a translation by Russia's Tass news agency.

The Russian-speaking Jews Who Shaped Israel
By Alan Rosenbaum
Jerusalem Post, March 17, 2019

A new website, “Seventy Russian-Speaking Jews Who Shaped Israel,” has been launched by The Jerusalem Post with GPG’s support.

Luminaries such as Josef Trumpeldor, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Natan Sharansky, Hayim Nahman Bialik, Chaim Weizmann, Moshe Sharett and Levi Eshkol were some of the best-known pioneers who shaped modern Zionism and the State of Israel. What do all of these soldiers, linguists, poets, scientists and politicians have in common? They all represent the community that today is called “Russian-speaking Jews.”

Few people are aware of the vital and transformative contributions that Russian-speaking Jews have made to modern Zionism and the establishment of the Jewish state. For many, the connection between Russian Jewry and the State of Israel didn’t begin until the 1990s, when close to a million Jews emigrated from Russia to Israel. Now, Genesis Philanthropy Group, a global foundation that works to develop and enhance a sense of Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide, is trying to correct the record about this common misconception.

Man Shouts ‘Heil Hitler’ At Estonian Chief Rabbi and Children on the Way to Synagogue
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, March 18, 2019

Estonia’s chief rabbi and two of his children were accosted on the street on their way to synagogue by a man who shouted anti-Semitic insults at them.

Police arrested the man, who is 27 years old and was not named in Estonian media, on Sunday at a shopping mall in the capital Tallinn, the Estonian Public Broadcasting Service reported on Monday.

Rabbi Shmuel Kot said the man shouted “Sieg Heil” and “Heil Hitler” at him on Saturday while Kot was walking to synagogue with two of his children ages 7 and 12. Kot filed a complaint with police, who used security camera and other footage to identity a suspect and arrest him ahead of an indictment, Kot said. He added that such incidents are “very rare” in Estonia, the northernmost Baltic state, located just south of Finland, on the other end of the Gulf of Finland.

Polish Prosecutors Will Not Reopen Case into 1941 Jedwabne Pogrom
By Katazyna Markusz
JTA, March 19, 2019

The Polish National Prosecutor’s Office has decided that there are no grounds for re-exhuming the victims of the 1941 pogrom in Jedwabne and resuming the proceedings in the case.

The decision was first reported on Monday. The director of the Institute of National Remembrance earlier had declared that it was ready to start exhumation work.

The prosecutor’s office said that exhuming the bodies of the Jewish victims would not provide any new evidence that could lead to the reopening of the case.

In February, the director of the Institute of National Remembrance, Jaroslaw Szarek, announced that his institution was ready to conduct an exhumation in Jedwabne, a town in northeast Poland. A previous investigation into the 1941 crime was discontinued in June 2003 after it was determined that all the guilty parties had been identified.

Hitting Campaign Trail, Lithuanian PM Says He May Move Embassy to Jerusalem
By Associated Foreign Press and Times of Israel Staff
Times of Israel, March 19, 2019

Saulius Skvernelis would consider relocating mission if he wins May election, calls Jerusalem one of Vilnius’ closest allies; Israel declines to comment.

Center-right Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said Tuesday he would consider moving Lithuania’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, should he win May’s presidential elections.

Skvernelis said that moving the mission could lead to closer ties with Israel and the United States, which Lithuania sees as a key security buffer against Russia.

The embassy transfer “could bring new impetus for relations with Israel, both in the areas of security and trade,” Skvernelis told reporters as he hit the presidential campaign trail to outline his foreign policy priorities.

Hungary Opens Embassy Branch in Jerusalem. Is Recognizing City As Israel’s Capital Next?   
By Marcy Oster
JTA, March 19, 2019

Hungary opened a diplomatic trade mission in Jerusalem, which is considered a branch of the Hungarian Embassy located in Tel Aviv.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a visit to Jerusalem in February had announced that his government would open a trade office with “diplomatic status. So we will have an official presence in Jerusalem as well.”

Why it matters: The opening of an official branch of the Hungarian Embassy in Jerusalem puts the country on a path toward recognizing the city as Israel’s capital, as President Donald Trump did in December 2017. The EU does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital and its officials have rejected the U.S. recognition. Hungary is one of only two European Union countries to have an official diplomatic mission in Jerusalem. (The Czech Republic opened its culture office there a few weeks ago.)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said three Hungarian diplomats will be assigned to the office for trade purposes.

Read the full article here.

Benjamin Netanyahu to Meet with Donald Trump 2 Weeks before Israel’s Election 
By Ben Sales
JTA, March 20, 2019

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel will meet with President Donald Trump at the White House at the end of March, just two weeks before the Israeli elections.

The March 25-26 visit overlaps with the national conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

The two leaders “will discuss their countries’ shared interests and actions in the Middle East during a working meeting” on the 25th and will have dinner the next day, according to an announcement from the White House Press Office.

In the past, American presidents have been reticent to meet with Israeli leaders close to elections for fear of implicitly influencing the vote. In addition, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is currently visiting Israel.

Israel Urges Poland to Deny Entry to British Holocaust Denier David Irving 
By Times of Israel Staff
Times of Israel, March 20, 2019

Israel on Wednesday urged the Polish government to deny entry to British Holocaust denier David Irving, who is planning to lead a tour of Nazi death camps in the country later this year.

Irving’s website is taking deposits for the tour of Nazi historical sites scheduled for September, the UK Jewish News reported Monday.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett said he had subsequently sent a letter to Poland’s ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski.

“Given Irving’s record of abhorrent statements and outright lies about the history of the Holocaust, it is quite clear that he intends to use this opportunity to spread further falsehoods and vitriolic narrative,” he wrote. “In so doing, he will doubtless cause deep offense to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and to all the Jewish people, as well as stoke the already raging fire of hatred and anti-Semitism we are witnessing around the world today.

EJC’s Security and Crisis Centre Holds Unprecedented Conference on Security and Resilience
European Jewish Congress, March 19, 2019

The European Jewish Congress’ Security and Crisis Center (SACC) held an unprecedented conference in the Belgian Senate today bringing together heads of security and Jewish community leaders with high ranking law enforcement, judicial, political and security experts from 24 countries across Europe.

Major European partners and authorities, including EUROPOL, CEPOL, DG Home, EU CTC, EJTN, European Parliament, Federal Belgian Police, were among those in attendance.

The two-day event, titled “The Circle of Security and Resilience”, was hosted by the President of the Belgian Senate Mr. Jacques Brotchi and the participants studied the case of the Brussels attacks of March 22nd 2016 (Zaventem Airport and Metro Station Maelbeek) from different angles: Intelligence, Law Enforcement, Technology, Education, Crisis Management, Legislative and Political, Hate Crime and Antisemitism. Through panels and presentations, the speakers and the attendees shared their experience, challenges and best practices.

Europe’s Ghosts: The Bloody History of a Myth
By James Chappel
The Nation, March 21, 2019

When studying the past, it is tempting to explore what men and women aspired to: what sorts of societies they envisioned, and what sorts of measures they undertook to make them real. This is a hopeful approach, but often the wrong one. As Thomas Hobbes pointed out long ago, and as current events affirm once again, fear is often a more effective motivator than idealism. The more important questions, therefore, can be the more dismal ones: What are people’s fears? And what crimes are they willing to countenance in their name?

Paul Hanebrink’s magisterial new book, A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism, applies this insight to the history of 20th-century Europe. Not long ago, studies of that ill-starred time and place tended toward cautious optimism. They often focused on the rise and fall of the communist dream. That story of utopian hopes and bloody realities, confined to the past by the end of the Cold War, was well suited to a new Europe that styled itself as a beacon of freedom and human rights. Hanebrink’s book offers us a history more appropriate for our moment. It asks what the story of modern Europe looks like if we take the racist fearmongering of the present as our end point, rather than the heady proclamations of justice and dignity streaming from Brussels.

[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.