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

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

It has been reported that President Trump has selected former Governor of Utah and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman as the new U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation. If confirmed, Ambassador Huntsman will succeed John Tefft in the post. Ambassador Tefft, a career Foreign Service Officer who also served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, is an icon in the field of post-Soviet American diplomacy.
The update also includes highlights from an interview with former Ambassador Dan Fried, who retired late last month after a distinguished forty-year career at the State Department. Both Ambassadors Tefft and Fried are longtime friends of NCSEJ and have provided us with invaluable guidance for many years.

I also want to recommend an interesting article by veteran Ukrainian observer and journalist Sam Sokol, about issues related to Ukraine’s World War II history and Ukraine’s Special Representative for preventing and combating anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia, appointed last April.

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Vladimir Putin in a visit to Moscow on Thursday. The two presidents discussed the fight against ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism. President Netanyahu urged President Putin to work to block Iran from increasing its military influence in Lebanon and Syria.

Finally, we include a JTA story about a renewed call to restore citizenship to Jews who fled Poland in the wake of violence and resurgent anti-Semitism in March 1968, when the Soviet Union condemned Israel as a result of the Six-Day War and broke off diplomatic relations.

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

Fan of Nazi collaborator to represent Ukraine at Paris Holocaust symposium
JTA, March 6, 2017

Ukrainian Jews protested the attendance at an international symposium on the Holocaust by a state historian who praised a Nazi collaborator whose troops killed Jews.

Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, last week condemned the planned attendance of Volodymyr Vyatrovych, director of Ukrainian National Memory Institute, at a conference planned for Paris this week under the title: “Holocaust in Ukraine – New Perspectives on the Evils of the 20th Century.” 

NYC Festival Mulls Russian Jewish Culture in America
By Hana Levi Julian
JewishPress, March 6, 2017

Academia gathered ‘en force‘ Sunday (March 5) to discuss the impact of Russian-speaking Jews in America, and the impact of America on the Jews who arrived on America’s shores.

Said Ilia Salita, president and CEO of Genesis Philanthropy Group which offered its support to the day-long festival, “Just as generations of immigrants have before them, young Russian Jews who came to the United States in the 1980s and 90s are today driving American literature and American art from strength to strength.

Read the full aricle here.

In Arkhangelsk, two musicians to be tried for an anti-Semitic song (in Russian)
Meduza/Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, March 6, 2017

In Arkhangelsk [North-West Russia] the case of two musicians who are accused of extremism for the song at a concert is submitted to the court. The criminal case was opened under the article on inciting hatred against a group of persons on the grounds of nationality.

Netanyahu praises Putin’s fight against radical Islam in Russia visit
JTA, March 9, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Russia’s contribution to the fight against the Islamic State and Al Qaida during a one-day visit to Moscow.

In a statement issued prior to his meeting Thursday in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu stressed that it is important to make sure that Iran does not step in to fill the vacuum left by those terror groups.

Read the full article here.

Netanyahu urges Putin to block Iranian power corridor on Israel’s border
By David Filipov and Ruth Eglash
Washington Post, March 9, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow on Thursday seeking reassurance from Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country’s presence in Syria would help Israel block arch-nemesis Iran from taking advantage of the chaos to position itself permanently on Israel’s northern border.

Polish Jews call for restoration of citizenship to those expelled in 1968
JTA, March 8, 2017

Forty-nine years after Polish authorities expelled about 20,000 Jews from the country, representatives of Polish Jewry point out that most of these people have not yet received back their citizenship.

Golda Tencer, director of the Jewish Theatre in Warsaw, and the Shalom Foundation, organized a ceremony on Wednesday commemorating the anti-Semitic campaign of March 1968, when the Polish authorities forced several thousand Jews who survived the Holocaust to leave the country, which was then under the influence of the Soviet Union. At that time, the Soviet Union condemned Israel as a result of the Six-Day War and broke off diplomatic relations.

Read the full article here.

Hollywood film on couple who saved Jews premiering in Poland
AP/YNetNews, March 7, 2017

Hollywood actress Jessica Chastain and crew members of a movie telling the real-life story of a Warsaw woman who saved dozens of Jews from the Holocaust are in the city for the movie's gala screening.

In "The Zookeeper's Wife," Chastain portrays Antonina Zabinska, the wife of the former Warsaw zoo director, Jan Zabinski. During World War II, the coupled saved up to 300 Jews, hiding them in their home and in animal enclosures, risking their own lives and those of their children.

Read the full article here.

Czech Republic is one of Israel’s leading allies in Europe and the world
European Jewish Press, March 8, 2017

A conference organized this week in Prague seek to inform a Czech audience of current foreign policy and strategic challenges faced by the State of Israel, including security threats, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, BDS, anti-Semitism and how to increase support for Israel in Europe.

The event was hosted by the Czech Friends of Israel Association under the title “Israel and Europe 2017: Challenges, Opportunities and Moving Forward,” with the support of the Israeli Embassy, the Israeli-Jewish Congress (IJC) and the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic.

Read the full article here.

Khamenei Tells Aliyev Israel Seeks To 'Weaken' Iran-Azerbaijan Ties
RFE/RL, March 5, 2017

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has told visiting Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that Tehran believes Israel is working to weaken ties between the two countries.

“The evil Zionist regime is making efforts more than all enemies to weaken the brotherly relations between Iran and Azerbaijan,” Khamenei said in a March 5 meeting with Aliyev.

Read the full article here.

Putin pardons woman sentenced to seven years in penal colony for text message
Reuters, March 7, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday pardoned a 46-year old woman who was sentenced to seven years in a penal colony for sending a text message to a Georgian acquaintance about the movement of Russian military equipment.

An order from the president published by the Kremlin said Oksana Sevastidi, sentenced for treason in March 2016, would be relieved from completing the rest of her sentence, citing humanitarian principles.

Read the full article here.

Russia 'Not Ready' for Law Uniting Nation's Ethnic Groups, Says Expert
Moscow Times, March 7, 2017

Russia isn’t ready for a new law which would unite the country’s ethnic and regional minorities in a “national state,” an academic working on the bill has said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in October 2016 that he wanted a new law to clarify the government’s understanding of the "Russian nation,” in a bid to streamline and coordinate the federal response to wide-ranging ethnic issues.

Read the full article here.

Russia Introduces Free Visas for Country's Far East
Moscow Times, March 8, 2017

Russia is set to introduce a new e-visa scheme for tourists visiting the country's Far East. The new visas will be issued free of charge for the Primorye, Khabarovsk, Sakhalin, Chukotka and Kamchatka regions.

Jon Huntsman Is Said to Accept Post as Ambassador to Russia
By Mark Landler
New York Times, March 9, 2017

Jon M. Huntsman Jr. has accepted President Trump’s offer to be ambassador to Russia, people with knowledge of the matter said on Thursday, taking on a diplomatic assignment that would be challenging in the best of times but is more so now, given the questions swirling around the Trump campaign and its links to Russia.

Read the full article here.
Ukrainian FM Says Tillerson Pledges U.S. Support Against 'Russian Aggression'
RFE/RL, March 7, 2017

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin says U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has assured him that Washington will continue to support Kyiv in its standoff with Russia. Klimkin made the comments outside the State Department on March 7 following a meeting with Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO who now serves as President Donald Trump's top diplomat.

Read the full article here.
Belarus suspends 'parasite' tax after record protests
Reuters, March 9, 2017

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday a tax on those not in full-time employment should not be enforced this year, after widespread public opposition to the levy led to the biggest protests in years. Popularly known as the "law against social parasites" it requires those who work less than 183 days per year to pay the government $250 in compensation for lost taxes.

Read the full article here.
Russia should stop calling my grandfather a Nazi, says Canada’s foreign minister
By Alan Freeman
Washington Post, March 9, 2017

Canada’s chilly relations with Russia have taken a nasty turn with charges of disinformation leveled by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland against Russia over allegations that her long-dead, Ukrainian-born grandfather was a Nazi collaborator in occupied Poland.

Read the full article here.
‘Don’t Be So Desperate to Rub up Against Russia’
By Susan B. Glasser
Politico, March 6, 2017

America’s most senior diplomat just hit the exits from President Trump’s melting-down State Department after 40 years of being the man in the room when Russia was involved.

And now Daniel Fried, a career Foreign Service pro who spent decades holding his tongue publicly while serving six presidents of both parties, is speaking out forcefully for the first time amid an escalating scandal here in Washington over the new administration’s Russia entanglements, warning about the threats posed by President Vladimir Putin’s aggression – and Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.

Read the full article here.
Ukraine’s leader in the fight against Jew-hate bends Holocaust history
By Sam Sokol
The Jewish Chronicle, March 9, 2017

Borys Zakharchuk has been appointed by Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry as its first Special Representative for preventing and combating antisemitism, racism and xenophobia.

Last week, a statue went up in Kiev. Such an occurrence would not normally be worth noting but, in this case, the statue was a state memorial to Olena Teliha and the site of its erection was at Babi Yar, the ravine in which more than 33,000 Jews were shot dead in 1941.

Read the full article here.
How a single mom revolutionized Moldova’s Jewish community
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, March 8, 2017

Olga Levus didn’t set out to revolutionize the Jewish community of her native Moldova when she opened its first-ever support group for single mothers.

Unemployed and living in the city of Chisinau, she was mostly concerned 17 years ago with feeding and clothing her three boys in one of Eastern Europe’s poorest countries. The club she had established in 2000 “was mostly to survive,” she told JTA in a recent interview ahead of International Women’s Day, on March 8.

Read the full article here.
WSJ: Rabbi Brings Kosher to Birobidzhan, Stalin’s Siberian ‘Zion’
Chabad, March 2, 2017

There’s only one place in the world where Yiddish is an official language, and that’s the Jewish Autonomous Region in the far reaches of Siberia, Russia. Established by Stalin in the late 1920s, the region was presented as the Communist answer to the Jewish Question. But in the region’s capital of Birobidzhan, The Wall Street Journal reports, the top concern of its 3,000 Jews is kosher food.

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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.