Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. March 16, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

This week, Deputy Director Lesley Weiss and I had the chance to meet President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili. We also joined the leaders of several other Jewish organizations for a meeting with U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. We discussed the importance of appointing a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and several other challenges affecting Jewish communities around the world.

Next week, I will be in Israel participating in the sixth Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Israel. We share with you an article highlighting the rise in anti-Semitic speech across Europe, an issue I will highlight at the Global Forum.

Congressmen Steny Hoyer (D-MD), David Price (D-NC), and Brad Schneider (D-IL) co-authored a piece in Time Magazine on Poland's Anti-Defamation Law. As the controversy surrounding the law continues, Poland announced that March 24 will be marked as a national holiday to honor Poles who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Several members of Congress reacted to President Putin's comments regarding the possible involvement of Jews and other ethnic and religious minorities in interfering in the U.S. presidential election. You can read their statement here.

We also share with you a report in The Guardian about Ukraine's National Militia group, an offshoot of the Azov Battalion, which we have been tracking for its connections to neo-Nazism. A member of the group interviewed for the article said, "There's nothing inherently wrong with national socialism as a political idea." NCSEJ continues to raise its concerns regarding far-right groups in Ukraine with the Ukrainian government, the State Department, and partner organizations.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
(L-R) NCSEJ CEO Mark Levin, President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, and NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss at the Embassy of Georgia.
Leaders of Jewish organizations with U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, pictured in the center to the right of NCSEJ CEO Mark Levin. 
Washington, D.C. March 16, 2018

Poland’s Censorship Law Ignores Its History and Undermines Its Future
Representatives Steny Hoyer, David Price, and Brad Schneider
Time, March 15, 2018

In recent months, we have seen a dramatic and troubling rise in anti-Semitism across the globe. Even more alarming, it has spread after being promoted by leaders of far-right parties. Just this week, Vladimir Putin absurdly suggested that Jews could be behind his government’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Comments like these make clear that the world needs to be vigilant against anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions, and to strengthen democratic institutions around the world. That’s why we are deeply concerned by Poland’s new Holocaust censorship law. We are calling on President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the National Assembly to repeal the law.

Read the full article here.

Poland was a world leader in the cause of Holocaust remembrance. It can be again.

By Sara J. Bloomfield

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 13, 2018

Recent alarming events in Poland, most notably a law “protecting the reputation of the Polish nation” by criminalizing certain speech regarding the Holocaust, have led me to reflect on my own relationship with that country. It’s a relationship that spans three decades, dozens of visits, various negotiations — and the cultivation of many cherished friends and colleagues.

I made my first visit in the summer of 1987 as a midlevel professional working for a project to build a Holocaust museum on the National Mall here. Upon seeing my first communist country, I was struck that everything was gray – the buildings, the interiors, the clothing. That turned out to be a somewhat superficial impression.

Poland to Mark New Holiday Honoring Poles Who Saved Jews During Holocaust

By Ofer Aderet

Haaretz, March 15, 2018

Polish lawmakers approved a new bill on Wednesday that would make March 24 a national holiday of remembrance honoring Poles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. On that date in 1944, members of the Polish Ulma family, a father, pregnant mother and their six children, were summarily executed by the Nazis in the village of Markowa after it was discovered that they were hiding Jews in their home.

According to the Polish news agency, the new holiday is designed to commemorate the memory of Poles who saved their Jewish neighbors from extermination during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The bill states that the holiday will honor Poles who displayed courage and compassion and were "faithful to the highest moral values." Polish President Andrzej Duda is expected to soon sign the bill, which he himself initiated.

Read the full article here.

White House Penalizes Russians Over Election Meddling and Cyberattacks

By Peter Baker

New York Times, March 15, 2018

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on a series of Russian organizations and individuals on Thursday in retaliation for interference in the 2016 presidential election and other “malicious cyberattacks,” its most significant action against Moscow since President Trump took office.

The sanctions came as the United States joined with Britain, France and Germany in denouncing Russia for its apparent role in a nerve-gas attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil, calling it a “clear violation” of international law. But the joint statement said nothing about any collective action in response.

Read the full article here.

Why some Jews in Russia don’t think Putin’s comment about them was anti-Semitic

By Cnaan Lipshiz

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 12, 2018

When Boruch Gorin, a well-known rabbi in Moscow, traveled for the first time from Russia to the United States, a U.S. Customs officer asked him whether he was Russian.

“I said, ‘No, I’m not Russian — I’m Jewish,’” Gorin recalled Monday, 27 years after the exchange at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

The semantics behind the exchange, Gorin said, are the reason that local Jewish groups remained largely indifferent to a remark about Jews aired Sunday by Russian President Vladimir Putin that to foreign ears sounded anti-Semitic.


Read the full article here.

From Graffiti to Politics, Anti-Semitic and Neo-Nazi Speech is Becoming More Visible in Eastern Europe

By Filip Stojanovski

GlobalVoices, March 13, 2018

Recent events in Eastern Europe show a rise in antisemitism rhetoric, including in European Union (EU) members like Bulgaria and other EU candidate countries.

In November, monuments to the Soviet army in the cities of Plovdiv and Sofia, Bulgaria, a country that was a close ally of the USSR during its existence, were vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti. Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson, instead of condemning the graphic show of anti-Semitism, used the fact to try to revise the history of the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews during World War II.

Read the full article here.

Ukraine’s Nationalist Militia: ‘We’re not neo-Nazis, we just want to make our country better’

By Marc Bennetts

The Guardian, March 13, 2018

Just past midnight in a snow-covered forest near Kiev, four men dressed in black with truncheons strapped to their waists listen carefully for the telltale buzzing of chainsaws that belong to illegal loggers. “The police in our country are ineffective, corrupt or drunk,” says Zhenya, one of the men. “That’s why we have to deal with this problem ourselves.”

These woodland vigilantes, all in their early to mid-twenties, are not your typical environmental activists. They are members of the National Militia, an ultranationalist organisation closely linked to Ukraine’s Azov movement, a far-right group with a military wing that contains openly neo-Nazi members, and its political spin-off, the National Corpus party.


Read the full article here.

Q&A: Tillerson Out, Pompeo In. What Does It Mean for Russia and Ukraine?
By Melinda Haring

Atlantic Council, March 13, 2018

On March 13, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was sacked. US President Donald Trump plans to replace him with former CIA director Mike Pompeo.

UkraineAlert asked its experts the following: What does Pompeo think about Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aggressive foreign policy? What does the leadership change mean for US policy toward Ukraine and Russia? Do you expect any changes? Will he support US Special Representative for Ukraine Ambassador Kurt Volker’s efforts to bring peace to Ukraine?

Read the full article here.

A Letter from Budapest

By Susan Rubin Suleiman

Tablet, March 14, 2018

I recently returned from a three-month stay in Budapest, where I was a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study of the Central European University—a splendid graduate school of social sciences and philosophy founded by George Soros, which the government of Viktor Orbán has been trying to hound out of Hungary. My research is in literature and history, with occasional forays into film, but if you spend any time in Budapest or hang around the CEU these days, you cannot remain indifferent to the political climate. For one thing, the government’s steps against the university have been accompanied by a scurrilous ad-hominem campaign against Soros, whose anti-Semitic overtones are clear to all; for another, parliamentary elections are coming up in April.


Hundreds march with Nazi SS veterans in Latvia

By Cnaan Lipshiz

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 16, 2018

Police arrested a man for displaying a poster of soldiers killing Jews at the annual march by local veterans of two SS divisions that made up the Latvian Legion during World War II.

The man was arrested Friday morning on the margins of the annual march of the Remembrance Day of the Latvian Legionnaires — soldiers from the 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS and the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (the 1st and 2nd Latvian, respectively). A handful of veterans, flanked by hundreds of supporters waving Latvian flags, gathered around Freedom Monument for the march under heavy police guard.

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.