Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. April 13, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

Yesterday, the world marked Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Holocaust remembrance is more important now than ever; a survey released yesterday found that 31% of American adults believe two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust. The actual figure is six million, most of them in countries and communities NCSEJ works to support today. May their memories be for a blessing.

The U.S. government held a series of commemorative events for Yom HaShoah this week, including a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday and a joint commemoration hosted by the State Department and the Embassies of Poland and Israel on Wednesday. NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss attended both events; her mother, Irene Weiss, an Auschwitz survivor, participated in the U.S. Capitol ceremony.

This week, President of the Russian Jewish Congress Yuri Kanner visited Washington, D.C. The Russian Jewish Congress and NCSEJ have had a strong relationship since RJC was founded in 1996. We coordinated a series of meetings for Mr. Kanner with U.S. Government officials and Jewish community leaders.

The Senate held its confirmation hearing for Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo yesterday. Pompeo is currently Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and previously represented Kansas in the House of Representatives.

On Sunday, President of Hungary Viktor Orban was reelected and his party Fidesz earned a parliamentary super-majority. Orban and Fidesz have espoused xenophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric and have waged a campaign defaming Jewish-Hungarian philanthropist George Soros. NCSEJ will continue to monitor developments in Hungary as Orban begins his next term.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke this week about escalating violence in Syria. Iran threatened Israel with a retaliatory strike on Tuesday after Israel struck a Syrian air force base. President Trump has also threatened to fire missiles at Syria in response to a chemical weapon attack this week.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Irene Weiss, mother of NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss, is seen at the front of a procession of Holocaust survivors in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center for the annual Yom HaShoah commemoration.
Washington, D.C. April 13, 2018

Holocaust Is Fading From Memory, Survey Finds

By Maggie Astor

New York Times, April 12, 2018

For seven decades, “never forget” has been a rallying cry of the Holocaust remembrance movement.

But a survey released Thursday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, found that many adults lack basic knowledge of what happened — and this lack of knowledge is more pronounced among millennials, whom the survey defined as people ages 18 to 34.

Thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million. Forty-one percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was. And 52 percent of Americans wrongly think Hitler came to power through force.

Read the full article here.

In Sobibor, where a Soviet Jew led the escape, Russia is shut out of new museum

By Julie Masis

Times of Israel, April 11, 2018

The Polish government is building a museum on the grounds of the former Sobibor death camp, home to one of the most daring escapes of the Holocaust. But despite the fact that the uprising was organized by a Soviet prisoner of war, the Russian government has been excluded from participating in the design of the new museum.

The rebellion began on October 14, 1943, when a group of Jewish inmates lured about a dozen Nazi guards into sheds and murdered them one by one with axes and knives. The group then cut the telephone lines and the electricity, collected the dead Nazis’ weapons, and took aim at the guard towers as 300 prisoners escaped over the barbed wire fence and ran through the surrounding minefield towards safety.

The plan was masterminded by a Jewish Red Army officer who had been taken prisoner, Alexander Pechersky.

‘It is like we have regressed 100 years’: Report warns of resurgent global anti-Semitism

By Rick Noack

Washington Post, April 11, 2018

Jewish life around the world is under attack once again by “classic traditional antisemitism,” according to a report by an Israeli university released Wednesday.

While acts of violent anti-Semitism dropped by 9 percent between 2016 and 2017, other incidents such as abuse and harassment are on the rise and have led to a “certain corrosion of Jewish life.” The study blames the surge on “the constant rise of the extreme right, a heated anti- Zionist discourse in the left, accompanied by harsh antisemitic expressions, and radical Islamism.”

In its latest annual, global assessment of anti-Semitic incidents, the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University concludes that “Europe’s largest Jewish communities are experiencing a normalization and mainstreaming of antisemitism not seen since the Second World War.”

Read the full article here.

Polish President says new Holocaust law will not silence survivors’ stories

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 12, 2018

The presidents of Poland and Israel met in Oświęcim, near the Auschwitz Nazi death camp, where they held talks together and then led the March of the Living.

Polish President Andrzej Duda assured his Israeli counterpart, Reuven Rivlin, on Thursday afternoon prior to the two-mile march from the Auschwitz barracks to the Birkenau death camp that the amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance, which makes it illegal to suggest that Poles or the country were complicit in Nazi crimes during the Holocaust, is not about blocking the survivors’ accounts. Duda also said he is “not afraid” to talk about difficult elements of the past.

Read the full article here.

How a small pogrom in Russia changed the course of history

By Matt Lebovic

Times of Israel, April 9, 2018

The terror lasted for less than three days, and “only” 49 Jews were killed, but the Kishinev pogrom of 1903 had surprisingly far-reaching ramifications. Within weeks of the pre-Easter massacre, the town’s name became synonymous with the worst horrors of Diaspora persecution, and political movements around the world took notice.

Although the pogrom was meticulously documented, mythology played a key role in shaping Kishinev’s aftermath. In his new book, “Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History,” Steven J. Zipperstein outlines some of these distortions, as well as the role Kishinev played in spurring — for instance — the alignment of American Jews with Leftist politics. The Jews’ enemies, too, drew conclusions from the pogrom, widely disseminating “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in the years that followed.

Read the full article here.

Trading Snarl for Smile, Pompeo Makes Case to Lead State Dept.

By Gardiner Harris and Eileen Sullivan

New York Times, April 12, 2018

President Trump has in his first year marginalized American diplomats, sought to slash the State Department’s budget and reversed crucial pieces of his predecessor’s economic and diplomatic opening to Cuba. But Mike Pompeo promised on Thursday to reverse nearly all of that if he becomes the next secretary of state.

In five hours of testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Pompeo, now the C.I.A. director, said he was hoping for a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis, still believed that the Iran nuclear deal could be saved, disagreed with the president’s assertion that poor relations with Russia had been caused by the special counsel’s investigation and, perhaps most remarkably, promised to defend gay rights around the world.

Read the full article here.

In Hungary’s election, the far right scores even as an extremist party fizzles

By Cnaan Lipshiz
Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 9, 2018

The extremist Jobbik party may have come up short in Sunday’s election in Hungary, but that doesn’t mean the country’s far right isn’t celebrating.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party won in a landslide, riding a wave of rhetoric and policies that have set Hungary apart from the rest of the European Union for its veneration of pro-Nazi collaborators, anti-Semitic politicians and propaganda campaigns that critics say amount to racist incitement against Jews and other minorities.

Orban has taken Fidesz out of centrist blocs and partnerships. In a campaign speech last month, Orban inveighed against an “enemy” that is “not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world.”

Read the full article here.

Orban Blamed All of Hungary's Problems on a Jew – and Won, Big Time

By Michael Colborne

Haaretz, April 9, 2018

Viktor Orbán’s resounding victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Hungary shows that, even in the 21st century, you can win an election by blaming all your country’s problems on a Jew.

Orbán’s right-wing Fidesz party secured nearly 49 percent of the vote, an increase of approximately 4 percent from 2014. Fidesz also looks to have secured yet another parliamentary supermajority, which would enable Orbán and Co. to amend the country’s constitution and further consolidate a regime that one commentator, Princeton University politics Prof. Jan-Werner Müller, has called an “electoral autocracy.”

It’s the culmination of a hate-filled campaign that, for Orbán, was focused on only one issue: Muslim migrants and the apparent threat they pose to Hungary and Europe’s existence.

Read the full article here.

In Call to Netanyahu, Putin Urges Israel Not to Take Action in Syria

Haaretz and Reuters, April 12, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday, and the Russian leader urged Israel not to take action in Syria and to threaten its security. Israeli officials confirmed the call took place and said that Netanyahu told Putin that Israel will not permit Iran to set up a military presence in Syria.

The news of the telephone call between Netanyahu and Putin appeared as Netanyahu took the stage in Israel's main Holocaust memorial event and issued a threat to Iran not to "test Israel's resolve." The Russians announced the call in statement on the website of the Kremlin, which specified that Putin insisted it is "important" to maintain Syria's sovereignty.

Israel is on high alert for any Iranian retaliation after Tehran's direct threat Tuesday, as well as any possible U.S. strike against Syria's Assad regime in retaliation to the chemical attack at Douma. 

A Needless Rivalry? Russia and the EU in Central Asia

By Rafael Sattarov

Carnegie Moscow Center, April 11, 2018

Since the 2014 Ukraine crisis, both Russia and the European Union have reevaluated their goals and priorities in Central Asia. This strategic rethink has come as Central Asian nations have begun to move away from the inflexible foreign policy choice of either/or.

Yet Moscow still declares that the actions of the EU and the United States are a potential threat to its interests in Central Asia and an attempt to wrest the region from Russia’s sphere of influence. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in a recent statement, decried what he called the false geopolitical choice that Central Asian nations are being asked to make between Russia and the West. The visit by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Washington and the launch of the “C5+1 Platform” for cooperation between all five Central Asian states and the United States has also stoked fears in Moscow.

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.