Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. November 23, 2016

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

Like many families who gather for Thanksgiving, we go around the table before the serving of the meal and ask everyone what they are thankful for this year. It is a way for our family and friends to remind each other what makes this uniquely American holiday so special. We reflect on the accomplishments and challenges of the current year, and express our hopes for the upcoming year.
Thanksgiving also is a time for all of us as citizens to reflect on the state of our country. As Americans, we enjoy freedoms that so many others around the world aspire to and do not possess today. Yes, we face difficult problems in our own country, but this doesn’t mean we turn our backs on those who continue to see the United States as a beacon of freedom and democracy.

Moral equivalency is an unacceptable argument when confronting rising ultra-nationalism, extremism, xenophobia or anti-Semitism. Our country and government cannot stand on the sidelines in combating these evils; we must provide the leadership and continue to set an example for the rest of the world. Take time tomorrow to be thankful, but also think how individually and as part of a community we can make a difference in making our world a more tolerant and free place to live.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. November 23, 2016

Poland to clamp down on anti-Semitism: PM
Radio Poland, November 22, 2016

Poland is determined to clamp down on anti-Semitism, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło said on Tuesday after talks in Jerusalem with her Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.

Szydło was speaking during a two-day visit in Israel, where intergovernmental consultations were held. Szydło and Netanyahu discussed using modern technologies, development, youth exchanges and social issues.

UNESCO awards tolerance prize to Moscow Jewish museum
JTA, November 23, 2016

UNESCO gave Moscow’s main Jewish museum an award for its promotion of tolerance.

The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, a $50 million state-of-the-art institution that opened in 2012, received UNESCO’s Madanjeet Singh Prize for the promotion of peace and non-violence last week, Interfax reported.

US opposes UN resolution against glorifying Nazism
JTA, November 20, 2016

The United States voted against a United Nations resolution that condemned the glorification of Nazism.

The resolution titled “Combating glorification of Nazism, Neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” was passed by the U.N. Human Rights Committee Friday by a vote of 131 to 3 with 48 abstentions, the Associated Press reported.

The other two countries that voted against the resolution were Ukraine and Palau.

Russian Jews thank Patriarch Kirill for his position against anti-Semitism and xenophobia
Interfax-Religion, November 20, 2016

President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia Alexander Boroda congratulated Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on his 70th birthday.

Chabad rabbi, followers ejected from prayer space in Lithuania
JTA, November 18, 2016

Leaders of Lithuania’s small and fractious Jewish community hired security guards to prevent a local Chabad rabbi and his supporters from attending communal activities in Vilnius.

The guards prevented Rabbi Sholom Ber Krinsky, who settled in Vilnius in 1994, from entering a Jewish community center on Oct. 28, which functioned on that day as a house of worship due to renovations at the city’s main synagogue, according to Kalev Krelin, who earlier this year was appointed the chief rabbi of Lithuania. They also called police, who ejected several of Krinsky’s supporters.

Read the full article here.

Holocaust Victims' Memorial Stone Vandalized In Belarus
RFE/RL, November 21, 2016

Vandals have desecrated a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in the eastern Belarusian city of Mahileu. Authorities said on November 21 that unknown perpetrators had poured black paint on the stone over the weekend.
Read the full article here.

Polish man sentenced for burning effigy of Haredi Jew
JTA, November 21, 2016

A Polish man was sentenced to prison for burning an effigy of a Haredi Orthodox Jew at a demonstration against Muslim refugees in western Poland.

Piotr Rybak received a 10-month jail sentence on Monday for burning the effigy in the Wroclaw central market in November 2015. The decision by the Wroclaw municipal court will be reviewed by a second court.

Read the full article here.

Europe’s Jews are divided on Trump, Moscow’s chief rabbi says
By Adam Taylor
Washington Post, November 23, 2016

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has provoked a "mixed reaction" among European Jews, said Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow and the current president of the Conference of European Rabbis, the primary Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe.

Goldschmidt's comments came during a wave of debates about what a Trump presidency means for the world's Jewish community. While Trump has a close relationship with his Orthodox son-in-law and has spoken in strong pro-Israel terms, his campaign has frequently been linked with anti-Semitic fringes.

Read the full article here.

Russia Says More Ukrainian 'Saboteurs' Apprehended In Crimea
RFE/RL, November 21, 2016

Two more suspected members of a Ukrainian "saboteur group" have been arrested in Russian-annexed Crimea, Russian law enforcement officials say.

A video of the two suspects' questioning was aired on the Rossia 1 television channel on November 20.

Russia's Putin: will keep Western food ban as long as possible
Reuters, November 22, 2016

Russia will make sure that its ban on some food imports from the West lasts as long as possible, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

Russia banned imports of some fresh food from countries that imposed sanctions over Moscow's role in the Ukrainian crises in 2014.

NATO criticizes new Russian missiles near Poland, Lithuania
AP, November 22, 2016

NATO is criticizing Russia's deployment of anti-ship missiles in its westernmost Baltic region as "aggressive military posturing," and is urging dialogue to cool escalating tensions.

NATO said in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday that the missile deployment near the alliance's borders "does not help to lower tensions or restore predictability to our relations." NATO called for more transparency on military activities "to avoid incidents and the risk of misunderstandings."

2 Russians probed in Montenegro coup attempt
AP, November 21, 2016

Two Russian citizens are among those suspected of involvement in an alleged election day plot in Montenegro to assassinate the country's prime minister and take power because of the government's NATO membership bid, prosecutors said Monday.

A prosecutors' spokeswoman confirmed media reports that 21 people are being investigated, including the two Russians and three Serbian citizens. She spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Read the full article here.

First Ukrainian President Says Sanctions Not Enough, Must Negotiate For Peace
RFE/RL, November 19, 2016

Ukraine's first president, who helped usher in the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union 25 years ago, said Ukraine's leaders today must find a similarly peaceful resolution of the separatist conflict in the east.

"We heeded our peoples then and signed the [dissolution] accords, and so why can't the country leaders today tap a solution consonant with the aspirations of their nations, which don't want a war?" Leonid Kravchuk said at an Atlantic Council event in Washington on November 18.

MEPs sound alarm on anti-EU propaganda from Russia and Islamist terrorist groups
European Parliament, November 23, 2016

Propaganda pressure on the EU from Russia and Islamist terrorist groups is growing, MEPs warn in a resolution voted on Wednesday. It seeks to distort the truth, incite fear, provoke doubt and divide the EU. To counteract anti-EU campaigns, MEPs suggest reinforcing the EU’s tiny “strategic communication” task force and investing more in awareness raising, education, online and local media, investigative journalism and information literacy.

Georgia, U.S. Criticize New Russia-Abkhazia Military Force
RFE/RL, November 23, 2016

Georgia has joined the United States in criticizing a new joint military force that has been established by Russia and Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia.

The Foreign Ministry in Tbilisi said the agreement signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 21 is "a provocative step" that promotes "the definitive annexation of the occupied regions of Georgia."

Read the full article here.

Defense hawk Skvernelis to be new Lithuanian prime minister
By Andrius Sytas
Reuters, November 22, 2016

The Lithuanian parliament appointed Saulius Skvernelis, a defense hawk and former interior minister affiliated to the Lithuanian Peasants and Greens Union, as prime minister on Tuesday.

The move comes after the party emerged as surprise winners of last month's general election in which voters rejected established political parties.
Read the full article here.

Estonia’s New Premier Comes From Party With Links to Russia
New York Times, November 20, 2016

Juri Ratas, the new leader of a party whose strongest support comes from the country’s ethnic Russians, has been named the next prime minister of Estonia.

Despite having the second-largest number of seats in Estonia’s Parliament, the Center Party had long been shut out of power for its links to the United Russia party of Vladimir V. Putin.

Read the full article here.
Russians rediscover their Jewish identity
By Alexander Chernyshev
RBTH, November 18, 2016

Starting in the late 1980s, a flood of Russian Jews left the country for new homes around the world. Nearly three-quarters of Russia’s Jewish population emigrated. One nation to benefit from this immigration was Israel.

Today more than a quarter of the population of the Jewish state is Russian-speaking. Although few of these immigrants spoke Hebrew and many of them were not particularly religious, once they were on the ground in Israel, active work by Jewish organizations helped them establish a new identity. Now Jewish cultural organizations have expanded their work to Russia, helping young Russians of Jewish ancestry discover their Jewish heritage.

Read the full article here.
Will Romania buck the Visegrad trend?
By Flavia Constantin
New Eastern Europe, November 22, 2016

On December 11th, Romania will hold a parliamentary election, which will determine the fate of caretaker prime minister Dacian Cioloș - a former European Commissioner who took power in the wake of a deadly Bucharest club fire last year. In other parts of Central and Eastern Europe, recent elections have brought to power nativist parties (like Poland’s Law and Justice) or pro-Russian leaders (like in the recent Moldovan and Bulgarian presidential elections) that have shaken Europe’s internal unity to its core. Will Romania follow suit or will Bucharest buck this increasingly Europhobic trend plaguing its neighbourhood?

Read the full article here.
Holodomor Remembrance Day: Why the Past Matters for the Future
By Victor Rud
Atlantic Council, November 21, 2016

As Americans sit down to their Thanksgiving meals on the last Thursday in November, Ukrainians will be commemorating the memory of millions who were murdered in 1932-33. The last Saturday in November is Holodomor Remembrance Day in Ukraine, a time to mark the anniversary of Joseph Stalin’s engineered starvation of the nation. In the West, the date should also be remembered as a pivotal event that ensured the viability of the Soviet Union, with its consequent implications for hundreds of millions in the free world.
Kremlin Power Struggle Intensified: Liberals Under Attack
By Anders Åslund
Atlantic Council, November 21, 2016

The Kremlin power struggle intensifies. On November 15, Russia’s Investigative Committee arrested Minister of Economic Development Alexey Ulyukaev, the first time since 1991 that a sitting minister has been arrested. Ulyukaev is accused of corruption, but nothing seems to be as originally stated. Rather, this is a high-level political struggle between President Vladimir Putin’s confidant, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, and the remaining liberals in the government. This major political scandal has attracted enormous Russian publicity.
Eastern Europe Must Prepare for the Worst about Trump
By Alexander J. Motyl
Atlantic Council, November 22, 2016

President Barack Obama’s advice to the world that it shouldn’t “assume the worst” about Donald Trump may apply to countries whose existential interests cannot be threatened by the president-elect’s policies, but those that face a possible Russian invasion must assume and prepare for the worst.
Get Ready for the Most Violent Détente Ever
By Ivan Krastev, Stephen Holmes
Foreign Policy, November 21, 2016

Some American presidents have foreign-policy doctrines. Others are inclined to trust their gut. For a very few, their gut is their foreign-policy doctrine. Donald Trump seems to belong to this latter and most rare type. He poses an extraordinary challenge to anyone attempting to imagine how visceral instincts and dispositions can be translated into actionable policies, for good or ill.
League of nationalists
Economist, November 19, 2016

After the sans culottes rose up against Louis XVI in 1789 they drew up a declaration of the universal rights of man and of the citizen. Napoleon’s Grande Armée marched not just for the glory of France but for liberty, equality and fraternity. By contrast, the nationalism born with the unification of Germany decades later harked back to Blut und Boden—blood and soil—a romantic and exclusive belief in race and tradition as the wellspring of national belonging. The German legions were fighting for their Volk and against the world.
1120 20th Street NW, Ste. 300N Washington, DC 20036-3413
Telephone: +1 202 898 2500  |  ncsej@ncsej.org
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.