Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. December 1, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

On Monday, a Russian Justice Ministry official reiterated baseless claims that Jews murdered Czar Nicholas II and his family in a ritual murder. She also stated plans to use a government commission to investigate the murder as such. A Russian Orthodox Bishop also voiced his belief in the claims. NCSEJ issued a press release denouncing these anti-Semitic blood libel claims and called on the Russian government to distance itself from those who propagate such rhetoric.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin visited Israel this week and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and other high-level Israeli officials. He also visited Yad Vashem and thanked Israel for not recognizing the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula at the United Nations.

NCSEJ's annual Board of Governors meeting will be held next Tuesday, December 5, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. The event will feature presentations by Bulgarian Ambassador Tihomir Stoytchev, author Lev Golinkin, Robert Grey of World ORT, and a keynote address by Kathleen Kavalec, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. For more information and to register for the event, please visit our website. Please contact David Shulman with any questions at 202-898-2500 or dshulman@ncsej.org

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. December 1, 2017

‘Ritual Killing’? Probe Into Murder of Tsar’s Family Spotlights Old ‘Anti-Semitic’ Conspiracy Theory

By Tom Balmforth

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 28, 2017

Russian investigators say they are probing the possibility that Tsar Nicholas II and his family were murdered in a "ritual killing," appearing to give new life to an old conspiracy theory criticized by Jewish community members as blatantly anti-Semitic.

The revelation echoes a conspiracy theory that the Bolshevik Revolution 100 years ago and the murder of Nicholas II were a Jewish plot. It came to light at a conference at Moscow's Sretensky Monastery on November 27 attended by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, that was called to discuss a new investigation into the tsar's murder.

Marina Molodtsova, a senior investigator at the Investigative Committee, a Russian equivalent of the FBI, told the conference that a commission examining the death would conduct a "psychological-historical examination" to check the claims of a ritual murder.

In the former Soviet Union, statues and hero worship for leaders of pogroms

By Julie Masis

Times of Israel, November 29, 2017

Since toppling statues of Joseph Stalin, post-Soviet Russians have taken to building monuments to a different national hero in recent years: Tsar Nicholas II, the last emperor of the Russian Empire.

More than 25 shrines honoring Nicholas II have been erected since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Declared a saint and a martyr by the Russian Orthodox Church seven years ago, the tsar has been depicted in stone embraced by an angel; descending the steps of the execution room; in the company of his beloved wife and children; or just standing tall in full military regalia, sword in his hand.

But for Russia’s Jews, Tsar Nicholas II was far from a beloved ruler.

Read the full article here.

Nobody’s Revolution: The Russian State and the Fight for Memory

By Alexander Baunov

November 27, 2017

The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution is being discussed so little on its centenary in Russia that there is speculation abroad that it’s being hidden from the public, because they don’t know how to commemorate it. And indeed, how can it be commemorated, when Russian people are hiding it from themselves?

The problem is that the Bolshevik Revolution does not have a simple, unifying story, like the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II or its conquest of space. The revolution doesn’t unite, but it doesn’t really divide, either. There is no demand for hate, or reconciliation, or even remorse.

The authorities would like to definitively condemn the revolution, but they can’t. In their dictionary, the word “revolution” is obscene. It represents the destruction of stability, order, and the state, and embodies dreaded regime change. Yet the revolution also gave Russia universal education, workers’ rights, and gender and racial equality. Post-revolutionary Russia was victorious in war and a pioneer in space, and the modern Russian regime continues that legacy, alongside those of pre-revolutionary Russia and her medieval predecessors.

Read the full article here.

Nobody’s President? Putin Enters the Era of Transition

By Gleb Pavlovsky

Carnegie Moscow, November 28, 2017

The Russian political scene is entering a new phase. The official candidate for president in the election of March 2018 has not declared himself and is increasingly absent, while most discussion within the ruling elite focuses not on the next stage of the Putin era but on what will constitute the post-Putin era.

Political life has returned to Russia. Who would have expected last fall that Alexei Navalny, best known hitherto as an anti-corruption campaigner, would be able to launch a juggernaut of a pre-electoral campaign a full fifteen months before polling day? I didn’t. We had gotten so used to the idea that nobody can influence a Russian electoral campaign that we forgot that someone might simply try to fight one.

By the middle of the year it was clear that Navalny’s public meetings were more than civic activism, and that an active political election campaign was underway. Russia’s political stage was full of life, which made Putin’s absence from it all the more noticeable and his silence louder. The problem for the Kremlin is that the importance of the election of March 2018 that many were dismissing as a formality or an irrelevance has grown, while the comparable stature of President Putin has not. Navalny is posing a challenge and a double question to the Kremlin: What will you do with me? And what will you do with this election?

Read the full article here.

Russia’s Entanglement in Syria: A Protracted, Extreme Stress Factor for the Russian Navy

By Pavel Baev

PONARS Eurasia, November 2017

On Russian Navy Day, July 30, 2017, a high-profile naval parade was held in St. Petersburg to demonstrate the power of the Russian Navy both to the world and to President Vladimir Putin. The ardent commander-in-chief reassured the spit-and-polished admirals that the navy is a key guarantor of Russia’s great power status. However, praise and fresh marine paint cannot hide acute fissures: the Russian Navy is seriously over-stretched and under-resourced. Despite putting on a perfect show for the president (who clearly felt more at ease next to the statue of Peter the Great than Lenin’s Tomb), the Russian Navy is confronting austerity measures. Russia’s open-ended intervention in Syria has been placing significant pressure on its operations. This abridged analysis examines the impact of the Syrian operation on the near-term prospects for the modernization (and the lack thereof) of the Russian Navy. The overall deduction is that Russia’s submarine and cruise missile programs are best positioned to be successful while other naval programs appear destined to face technical and financial challenges.

Read the full article here.

After Fleeing Anti-Semitism in Russia, Finding Hope and a Home in the U.S.

By Emily Palmer

New York Times, November 30, 2017

Anatoliy Krongauz has two patents and eight inventions registered in Russia.

From a plastic bag, Mr. Krongauz, 80, pulled out black-and-white photographs of the projects, including a submarine transformer and an apparatus to destroy external tumors through a radiation process. One by one, he tossed records of his accomplishments onto a table at his home in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

He started describing the scientific process of his medical apparatus in English, pointed to a picture, looked at his interpreter and returned to Russian.

Russia acknowledged much of Mr. Krongauz’s work in 1993, a year before he emigrated to the United States. By that time, Mr. Krongauz, a Holocaust survivor, had built his career amid anti-Semitism in Russia. He had met his wife and helped raise their family there. But at age 57, Mr. Krongauz was among those departing after Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s government eased emigration restrictions in the late 1980s.

Read the full article here.

A 30th Anniversary, Soviet Jews, and the Making of History

By David Harris

Huffington Post, November 29, 2017

On December 6, 1987, 30 years ago, more than 250,000 people gathered in Washington to call on the Kremlin to open the gates and let Soviet Jews emigrate. Freedom Sunday, as it came to be known, was the largest Jewish-organized gathering in American history.

The timing was not random.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was scheduled to meet with U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the White House the very next day. It was to be the Soviet leader’s first official visit to the U.S. since he assumed office in 1985, following the death of Konstantin Chernenko.

In 1987, the number of Jews allowed to leave the USSR was pitifully low. Many Soviet Jews continued to languish in the Gulag for their activism, while some refusenik families had been living in limbo behind the Iron Curtain for years, if not longer.

Read the full article here.

Why Ukraine’s Future Could Look a Lot Like Moldova

By Mieczyslaw P. Boduszynski and Christopher K. Lamont

Foreign Affairs, November 27, 2017

If you want to a glimpse into the future of Moscow’s proxy statelets in eastern Ukraine, come to Bender, a so-called “demilitarized” city on the border between the Republic of Moldova and the breakaway entity of Transnistria. The city sits only about 60 miles from the nearest European Union border with Romania and provides important lessons about the risks of allowing festering conflicts to freeze on Europe’s borders. If the statuses of the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics likewise remain unresolved, those territories are poised to be plagued by corruption, criminality, and dysfunctional politics.

Bender became a demilitarized city in 1992. A year earlier, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a military conflict broke out between Moldova and the Russian-backed region of Transnistria, which sought independence. In July 1992, the two sides concluded a ceasefire agreement, which included the establishment of a Joint Control Commission to supervise security arrangements in a demilitarized zone consisting of 20 towns on both sides of the river. One of those is Bender.

Read the full article here.

‘I am certain Ukraine will fight anti-Semitism uncompromisingly.’

Arutz Sheva Israel National News, November 27, 2017

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday morning, held a working meeting at his residence with Ukraine Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin who was visiting Israel.

In their meeting, the two discussed the strengthening ties between the two countries, and the importance of Ukraine's Jewish community as an important part of the Ukrainian people. Rivlin stressed that the State of Israel viewed with concern the phenomena of the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, and in Europe in particular.

“Never again is an imperative for the whole world, not just for the Jewish People,” he said. “We are close friends, while we cannot forget, as we are sure neither can you. I am certain you will continue to fight uncompromisingly against anti-Semitism and all racism.”

Read the full article here.

22,000 Ukrainian, Georgian Refugees Enter Country Via Internet Scam

By Daniel K. Eisenbud

Jerusalem Post, November 27, 2017

As the government continues to demonize the 38,000 African asylum-seekers in Israel who fled war-torn Sudan and Eritrea, a recent report claims that more than 22,000 Ukrainian and Georgian refugees have fraudulently entered the country through human-trafficking scams.

The report, titled “Through Hidden Corridors: New trends in human trafficking which exploit the asylum system in Israel,” was compiled by the African advocacy NGO Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.

On Monday, Sigal Rozen, public policy director for the NGO, said companies are charging large fees to Ukrainian and Georgian asylum- seekers via websites to arrange safe passage to Israel without being labeled “infiltrators,” like their African counterparts.

In Eastern Europe, Populism Lives, Widening a Split in the E.U.

By Steven Erlanger

New York Times, November 28, 2017

The populist surge that threatened this year to engulf Western Europe and created existential worries for Brussels seems to have slowed, if not crested.

Nigel Farage, the populist who helped engineer Britain’s vote to exit the European Union, is now a mostly marginalized talk-show host. Marine Le Pen, who terrified the French establishment as the presidential candidate of the National Front, was soundly vanquished. Geert Wilders, who came in second in the Dutch election in March, was sidelined in the four-party coalition that finally emerged.

But there is a different story going on in the east, which has become a showcase for populism in its many varieties, widening a fissure in the bloc.

The four countries of the European Union’s east that make older members anxious — Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — are all led by populists of one stripe or another.

Read the full article here.

Israeli envoy defends calls for Europe’s Jews to immigrate in wake of terrorist attacks

By Cnaan Lipshiz

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 24, 2017

Despite protests by some European Jews, Israel will continue its policy of urging them to immigrate to the Jewish state after terrorist attacks, Israel’s ambassador to Macedonia said.

A strong Israel “is the only thing that will guarantee that Jews can continue to enjoy such good life in Europe,” Dan Oryan said this week at a conference in Montenegro. “I don’t agree that we should not call them. We should call all the Jews if they are ready and if it’s good for them.”

He defended what he called a “strong Israel that tells them: there is another option.”

Oryan spoke in response to a speech by the director of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, Menachem Margolin, who said it was “counterproductive” for Israeli officials to call for Jews to move to the Jewish state in the immediate wake of terrorist attacks. Margolin and Oryan spoke during the Mahar conference on the Jewry of the former Yugoslavia region, organized earlier this month in the Balkan nation of Montenegro with support from the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.

Read the full article here.

The Archaeologists Excavating Nazi Death Camps in Search of Holocaust Victims’ Untold Stories

By Ofer Aderet

Haaretz, November 25, 2017

On November 12, two shots of Bimber, high-proof Polish moonshine, were poured in a hotel room in a central part of this city. Yoram Haimi, from Israel, and his Polish colleague, Wojciech Mazurek, archaeologists of a rare breed who have harnessed the skills of their profession to go in a completely new direction, wished each other “Lehayim” and “Na zdrowie,” and smiled.

Within a few hours, their life project, launched 10 years ago, was set to record one of its highlights and to resonate far and wide internationally. But Haimi and Mazurek, whose usual habitat is generally full of soil or sand, aren’t used to luxury hotels, suits and ties, handshakes with VIPs or microphones pointed at them by reporters. The alcohol, in this case, was meant to partially help dissipate the tension ahead of the big event awaiting them.

At 10 A.M. the next day, some 35 people gathered at 10 Thomasius Street, a small side street in the big city that serves as Germany’s financial center. They’d come specially for the event from three continents. In some cases, the impetus for the trip to Germany was the revelation of a huge secret: the fact that they are descendants of a Jewish family. Most of them didn’t know they were relatives of each other; some of them didn’t even know they were Jewish.

Read the full article here.

Poland, Israel Honor Righteous Gentiles

By Gil Hoffman

Jerusalem Post, November 27, 2017

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, and Zionist Union MK Hilik Bar took part at an event in Torun, Poland, on Sunday honoring righteous Poles who endangered their lives to save Jews in the Holocaust.

Bar, who heads the Israel- Poland parliamentary friendship caucus, lost two-thirds of his mother’s family in the Holocaust. His grandfather Ya’acov Kotovsky Pedahtsur, who lived in Poland, survived the war.

“What is more honorable than endangering yourself for someone who is not connected to you and is not even the same religion?” Bar asked a crowd that included Polish ministers and parliamentary members. “The courageous Poles we honor today risked their lives, and many of them were killed. Courage is not merely a lack of fear Courage can also be to fear and yet still do the right thing. That is what these righteous Poles did.”

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.