Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. June 2, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

This week, the European parliament adopted a working definition of anti-Semitism, and called on European Union member states to protect their Jewish citizens and Jewish institutions from hate crime and hate speech through broad law enforcement efforts and educational campaigns. With this strong and sorely needed step, EU institutions are moving towards creating greater awareness of the dangers of anti-Semitism. NCSEJ strongly supported the adoption of this definition, which was proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Seventy-five years after the Nazis declared the country “Jew free,” Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid, Chabad Chief Rabbi Shmuel Kot, and philanthropist Alexander Bronstein celebrated the community’s rebirth at a joyful ceremony at Tallinn’s Beit Bella Synagogue. NCSEJ enjoys a very strong relationship with Rabbi Kot and the rest of the Estonian Jewish community.

The Forward has a long piece chronicling the rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric under nationalist Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, particularly in his crusade against billionaire George Soros, who he paints in classical anti-Semitic terms.

I want to remind you that NCSEJ's Spring Board of Governors meeting, on Wednesday, June 7 in New York City, is less than a week away.

We've organized a terrific program, featuring the U.S. State Department Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues and the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations, reports from Jewish community leaders in the region and Jewish Federation representatives, and a special book presentation on the history of the Soviet Jewry movement by NCSEJ President Aleksander Smukler.

There's still time to join us by calling 202-898-2500 or registering at http://ncsej.org/board_meeting.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. June 2, 2017

European Parliament approves resolution to adopt working definition of anti-Semitism

JTA, June 1, 2017

The definition adopted by the IHRA in May 2016 reads: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The European Parliament resolution passed on Thursday calls on member states to protect their Jewish citizens and Jewish institutions from hate crime and hate speech, to support law enforcement efforts to identify and prosecute anti-Semitic attacks, to appoint national coordinators on combating anti-Semitism, systematically and publicly condemn anti-Semitic statements, to promote education about the Holocaust in schools, and to review schoolbooks regarding content related to Jewish history and contemporary Jewish life.

Read the full article here.

Slovakia prosecutor general wants to ban far-right party

Associated Press, May 26, 2017

The spokeswoman for Jaromir Ciznar says the party Kotleba, or The People’s Party Our Slovakia, is an extremist group whose activities violate the country’s constitution.

The prosecutor general says the party’s goal is to destroy the country’s democratic system. The Kotleba party openly admires the Nazi puppet state that the country was during World War II. Party members use Nazi salutes, consider NATO a terror group and want the country out of the alliance and the European Union.

Read the full article here.

Estonian Jewry celebrates revival 75 years after Nazis declared it extinct

JTA, May 26, 2017

Seventy-five years after the Nazis declared that Estonia was “Jew free,” the Baltic country’s president celebrated the return of Jewish life there at an event attended by Israeli politicians and rabbis.

President Kersti Kaljulaid received the guests, including Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, David Lau, at a ceremony Thursday in Tallinn, the capital, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the first Jewish community in Estonia after the Holocaust.

Read the full article here.

Estonian politician vows to legalize Holocaust denial

JTA, June 2, 2017

An Estonian nationalist politician vowed in his election campaign to decriminalize Holocaust denial and instead penalize those who would downplay the Soviet domination of the country.

Georg Kirsberg, who is running for a lawmaker’s seat for the Conservative People’s Party in Estonia’s elections in October, was quoted Wednesday by the Estonian National Broadcasting Company. “We will decriminalize Holocaust denial and enter a correct teaching of the history of the Third Reich,” Kirsberg said.

Read the full article here.

Among Lithuania’s Jews, a fight for communal control takes a nasty ethnic turn

By Cnaan Liphshiz

JTA, May 26, 2017

On Wednesday…a statement on the official website of the LZB umbrella group of Lithuanian Jewish communities [flagged] Russian speakers as foreign agents who are merely claiming to be Jewish.

The statement, by one group of Jews directed at another, was later pulled offline amid concerns that it reinforces anti-Semitic and anti-Russian sentiments. But it nonetheless marked a nadir in an acrimonious election in one of Europe’s most fractious Jewish communities, where incumbent leaders control millions of dollars’ worth of restitution money and critics frequently accuse them of corruption.

Read the full article here.

Lithuanian Jewish leader sorry for insulting Russian-speaking Jews

JTA, May 29, 2017

The contested leader of Lithuania’s Jewish community apologized for the publication of an article on the community’s website accusing her opponents of being Russians claiming to be Jews.

The apology Friday by Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of the LZB umbrella group of Lithuanian Jewish organizations, followed the publication Wednesday of an article on the LZB website about an election that day for the board of the Jewish community of Vilnius, the capital — LZB’s largest affiliate. Kukliansky declared the election void after a critic of her administration, Simonas Gurevicius, won the vote in Vilnius.

Read the full article here.

Russia Expels Moldovan, Estonian Diplomats In Retaliatory Moves

RFE/RL, May 31, 2017

Moscow has ordered five Moldovan and two Estonian diplomats to leave Russia following the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the two countries.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on May 31 that five Moldovan diplomats in Moscow were declared "personae non grata" and ordered to leave Russia within three days.

Read the full article here.

Vucic Sworn In As Serbian President Amid Protests

RFE/RL, May 31, 2017

Aleksandar Vucic has been sworn in as Serbia's president, taking office amid protests against his increasingly tight grip on power in the Balkan state.

Vucic, 47, took the oath of office to succeed outgoing President Tomislav Nikolic at a brief ceremony at parliament on May 31, hours after "Against Dictatorship" protesters, supported by the majority of opposition parties and leaders, tried to make their way to the front of the building in Belgrade before briefly skirmishing with police who blocked their way.

Read the full article here.

Ukraine’s Past Isn’t Going Away Without a Fight

By Tatiana Kozak

Transitions Online, May 30, 2017

KYIV - The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and between Ukraine’s past and present, erupted into clashes and arrests in cities across the country on 9 May, the day chosen by Soviet-era leaders to mark the end of World War II.

In 2014, Ukraine joined much of Europe in adopting the red poppy as a memorial to those killed in the war (no longer called here by its Soviet-era moniker, the Great Patriotic War). The next year, President Petro Poroshenko proclaimed 8 May a National Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation, and 9 May was declared the Day of Victory over Nazism in World War II. A bill before parliament would make 8 May, instead of the day after, an official holiday. But clashes on 9 May suggest it will be painful for some Ukrainians to break with a “heroic” past.

Read the full article here.

Resurgent Anti-Semitism Takes Hold In Hungary Under Viktor Orbán

By Lili Bayer and Larry Cohler-Esses

Forward, May 30, 2017

For over a year now, Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orbán, has been waging an increasingly shrill campaign against billionaire George Soros, using classical anti-Semitic imagery to signal to his listeners that the Hungarian-born American businessman is a shadowy foreign Jew exercising sinister influence over their country. Another frequent trope is Orbán’s portrayal of Soros as a globalist carnivore honing in on a defenseless Hungary.

Orbán’s rhetoric on Soros over the past months has raised new concerns about government-sponsored anti-Semitism.

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.