Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. February 3, 2017

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

Dear Friend,

Please see below for this week's stories.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. February 3, 2017

Poland publishes names of former Auschwitz guards
Radio Poland, January 30, 2017

The unprecedented move was taken by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) as part of efforts to stamp out the use of historically inaccurate terms like “Polish concentration camps”. The president of the IPN, Jarosław Szarek, told a press conference in Kraków, southern Poland: "Today is historic because this is just the beginning - with this database we are starting the implementation of a large project.

Holocaust Victims’ Mass Graves Looted Across Ukraine
By David Israel
Jewish Press, February 2, 2017

In recent years, dozens of grave of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust have been dug up and robbed on the outskirts of Ukrainian cities like Zhytomyr and Berdychiv. The robbers are looking for gold teeth, jewelry and even children’s skulls.

Some in the Ukraine are calling this grave-robbing a criminal epidemic, but the grave-robbers have not been caught. The gruesome crimes were first discovered when skulls from Jewish mass graves were discovered being sold at the marketplace in towns and cities.

Read the full article here.

Russia’s PM Visits Moscow’s Largest Jewish Museum
Hamodia, January 29, 2017

Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev paid a visit to Moscow’s largest Jewish museum in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day last week. The Prime Minister was welcomed by the founder and initiator of the museum, Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berl Lazar, together with the President of the Jewish Federation of Russia, Rabbi Alexander Boroda.

Two New Synagogues open in Ukrainian Prisons
FJC, January 30, 2017

The FJC of Ukraine opened two new synagogues in Ukrainian penitentiaries last month, one in Kharkov and one in Vinnitsa. The facilities will also serve as Jewish centers allowing inmates to come in contact with their heritage and learn more.

Read the full article here.

Russia says invite to Israeli, Palestinian leaders to meet in Moscow still open
Reuters, February 1, 2017

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to meet in Moscow was still in force.

Lavrov said at a conference in Abu Dhabi that Russia was grateful that the two sides had in principle accepted the invitation. No date has been given for the meeting, which Russia's Foreign Ministry first announced in September.

Read the full article here.

Polish Jews send matzah to TV boss who read poem deemed anti-Semitic
JTA, February 1, 2017

The Jewish Community of Warsaw sent matzah to a public television official accused of anti-Semitism after he mentioned the Jewish food on air while denouncing anti-government protesters.

Marcin Wolski, the director of the TVP2 state-funded channel, read a poem that he wrote saying protesters outside the Polish parliament were “handing out matzah” during anti-government protests, suggesting Jews were behind the demonstrations against proposed curbs on the media by Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party.

Read the full article here.

Kazakh Jewish community honors Holocaust victims at special event
World Jewish Congress, February 2, 2017

A memorial was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan by the Jewish umbrella organization 'Mitsva' on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In collaboration with the Consulate-General of Hungary in Almaty a reception was hosted at the House of Friendship of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, at which more than 100 persons took part, including politicians from Kazakhstan, senior diplomats accredited there, and leaders of other faith communities.

Read the full article here.

Limmud FSU 1st-ever Pan-European Conference Opens Friday
eJewishPhilanthropy, January 29, 2017

650 Russian-speaking Jews from more than 20 European countries will gather in Windsor (U.K.) for the first-ever Limmud FSU Europe regional conference, Feb. 3rd-5th. More than 250,000 Russian-speaking Jews currently reside in Europe, making it one of the world’s largest Russian-speaking Jewish communities.

Read the full article here.

Poland’s WWII museum caught in political crosshairs
Times of Israel, January 30, 2017

Poles on Sunday got their first — and possibly last — glimpse of a new Museum of the Second World War, a project slammed by Poland’s right-wing government as underplaying the country’s harrowing wartime fate.

Conceived by EU President Donald Tusk during his time as Poland’s premier, the museum offers a sweeping panorama of the war focused primarily on civilians who made up the majority of its victims.

Read the full article here.

Jews With Soviet Background Protest Trump's Ban on Muslim Refugees
Haaretz/JTA, January 30, 2017

Hundreds of American Jews with roots in the former Soviet Union signed a petition protesting U.S. President Donald Trump’s order that blocks the arrival of refugees from some Muslim countries to the United States.

The online petition was published on Thursday following reports that Trump was planning to issue executive orders temporarily barring U.S. admission of asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Jerusalem Post, February 2, 2017

The future of Ukraine's Jewish community "doesn't look very bright" and is in danger of disappearing altogether, according to one of its leaders, who ended a four-day visit to Israel on Thursday.

Eduard Dolinsky, Executive Director of the Kiev-based Ukrainian Jewish Committee painted a bleak picture of a struggling and scattered community, during an interview with The Jerusalem Post at the David Citadel hotel in Jerusalem on Tuesday afternoon.

Kremlin says Putin and Trump could meet before G20 in July
Reuters, January 30, 2017

The Kremlin said on Monday it was too early to talk about any possible deals with the United States over sanctions on Russia, but that President Vladimir Putin could meet U.S. President Donald Trump before the G20 in July.

Putin and Trump spoke by phone on Saturday and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Monday the exchange had been a good one.

Read the full article here.

Ukraine clashes rage for third day, sparking EU concern
AFP, January 31, 2017

Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels were locked in fighting for a third straight day Tuesday at a flashpoint town that left thousands shivering without power and sparked renewed EU concern about security in its backyard.

The industrial hub of Avdiivka came under an unexpected assault on Sunday from insurgents seeking to wrest back territory controlled by Kiev during the nearly three-year war.

Russia Federal Agents Suspected of Treason Reportedly Passed Secrets to the CIA
Moscow Times, January 31, 2017

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agents arrested for treason and illegal hacking reportedly passed confidential information to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, sources close to the investigation told the news agency Interfax.

Sergei Mikhailov, a top cybersecurity specialist in the FSB, and his deputy Dmitry Dokuchaev are being accused of “breaking their oath and working with the CIA,” Interfax reported, citing an anonymous source that did not specify if Mikhailov and Dokuchaev worked directly with the CIA or through intermediaries.

Read the full article here.

Trump Ready to 'Move Forward' With Russia, Says Foreign Policy Campaign Aide
Moscow Times, February 1, 2017

Donald Trump understands the misgiving some members of the Congress might have about the current state of U.S.-Russia relations, but is ready for both countries to “move forward”, a Trump foreign policy advisor during the election campaign told RIA Novosti, a Russian state-owned news agency.

Read the full article here.

Poland Taking Russia to UN Court Over Late President's Crash
AP/NYT, February 1, 2017

Poland's government says it is taking Russia to the United Nations' principal court over the continuing probe into the 2010 death of Poland's president in a plane crash in Russia and Moscow's refusal to turn over the wreckage.

The twin brother of late President Lech Kaczynski leads Poland's ruling party. Jaroslaw Kaczynski blames the crash on Moscow. He has made finding those responsible and recovering the plane's pieces for Poland's own investigation part of his political agenda.

Anti-Kremlin Activist Hospitalized Again in Moscow
Moscow Times, February 2, 2017

The head of one of Russia's most prominent anti-Kremlin organizations has been hospitalized in Moscow. Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr., the head of opposition group Open Russia, has been placed on life support and is in a medically-induced coma.

Poroshenko Says He Plans To Hold Referendum On Ukraine Joining NATO
RFE/RL, February 2, 2017

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told German media that he is planning a referendum on whether Ukraine should join NATO now that polls show 54 percent of Ukrainians favor such a move.

"Four years ago, only 16 percent favored Ukraine's entry into NATO. Now, it's 54 percent," Poroshenko told Germany's Funke Mediengruppe newspaper chain in an interview published on February 2.

Read the full article here.
European Parliament Approves Visa-Free Schengen Travel For Georgia
By Rikard Jozwiak
RFE/RL, February 2, 2017

The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to approve visa liberalization for Georgia, paving the way for Georgians to travel to the European Union's Schengen zone without obtaining visas.

European lawmakers backed visa liberalization, long anticipated in Georgia, by a vote of 553 to 66, with 28 abstentions.

Romanians rally in biggest anti-corruption protest in decades
By Radu-Sorin Marinas and Luiza Ilie
Reuters, February 2, 2017

More than 250,000 Romanians demonstrated on Wednesday against a government decree decriminalizing some graft offences, seen as the biggest retreat on reforms since the country joined the European Union in 2007.

Romania's top judicial watchdog, the Superior Magistrates' Council (CSM), earlier in the day filed a constitutional court challenge to the decree unveiled by the new Social Democrat government of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu.

Trump Team Aims to Test Russia's Alliance With Iran
By Eli Lake
Bloomberg, January 24, 2017

As the Trump administration begins planning its outreach to Moscow, one question for the new president will be whether he can persuade Russia to turn away from Iran.

The two countries have grown closer since 2015, when a group of nations lifted some sanctions on Iran in exchange for more transparency about its nuclear program. Russia sells Iran advanced air defense systems, and Iran provides its officers and militias to conquer the Syrian towns and cities indiscriminately bombed by Russian aircraft.

UN Ambassador Haley hits Russia hard on Ukraine
By Nicole Gaouette and Richard Roth
CNN, February 3, 2017

The US ambassador to the United Nations offered a strong condemnation of Russia in her first appearance at the UN Security Council on Thursday, calling on Moscow to de-escalate violence in eastern Ukraine and saying that US sanctions against Moscow would remain in place until it withdraws from Crimea.

Letter from Ukraine: Don’t Let Refugee History Repeat Itself
By Benjamin Cohen
Forward, January 31, 2017

The abandoned 428-year-old synagogue in Sharhorod, Ukraine stands as a powerful reminder of why millions of Jews in the world now call themselves Americans. I traveled there last week from my home in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, to better understand where my family comes from. Six of my eight great-grandparents fled villages like Sharhorod – places with names like Vishnevets, Kalius, Mielnica-Podolska - in the first quarter of the twentieth century, planting roots on America’s East Coast.

How Israel sold Russia drones to stop missiles from reaching Iran
Jerusalem Post, February 3, 2017

Russia’s interest in Israeli drones was sparked during the war it fought with Georgia in South Ossetia in the summer of 2008. The war lasted five days, and while Russia ultimately won, the fighting exposed a severe decline in the Russian military’s technological capabilities, particularly when it came to drones.

‘Our Work Has Never Been More Important’
The Jewish Week, January 31, 2017

After serving 10 years as the youngest dean of Columbia Law School, David Schizer, 48, formally assumed his new duties last month as CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Jewish community’s global humanitarian aid program. He succeeds Alan Gil, who returned to Israel, where he worked for JDC for many years. Schizer, a Brooklyn native, has a law degree from Yale and clerked for Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. He headed a $353 million capital campaign at Columbia, doubling its traditional fundraising and expanding its faculty. Among his activities in Jewish communal life, he served on the board of the 92nd Street Y, the Ramaz School, Natan and the Columbia-Barnard Hillel, and he was a senior advisor to The Tikvah Fund.

Solovey on the Shape of the Emerging Putin-Trump ‘Big Deal’ on Ukraine and Much Else
By Paul Goble
Window on Eurasia, January 30, 2017

Staunton, January 30 – Valery Solovey, one of the best connected and most thoughtful of Moscow’s foreign policy commentators, says that the telephone call between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin was the “first step toward ‘a big deal’” between the two not only over bilateral ties but also over a re-division of the world that will leave many countries at Russia’s mercy.

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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.