Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. November 16, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend, 

Estonian President of Parliament Eiki Nestor is in Israel this week at the invitation of the Speaker of the Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein to discuss the success of the Israeli entrepreneurial community and participate in a meeting of the Estonia-Israel Parliamentary Group. Nestor commented that "Relations between Estonia and Israel are becoming ever closer in the fields of culture and economy as well as technology, and we are really happy about it.”

On Sunday, Polish authorities held a march in Warsaw commemorating the 100th anniversary of the country’s independence. Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki walked in the front of the march on Sunday. Unfortunately, far-right groups from Poland and around the world joined the celebration despite a ban by the Polish government. Participants in the March included the National Radical Camp, which has engaged in Holocaust denial, as well as the Independence March Association, whose leader recently called Polish Jews a “fifth column.” Self-avowed fascist groups from other European countries were also present. 

An article in this week’s update features a story about the Jewish community of Krakow’s continuing renaissance. International Jewish students who traveled to Krakow noted that many young Polish Jews in Krakow are learning Hebrew and studying with the local university’s Jewish Studies Department. They also highlighted the city’s Jewish Community Center’s programming, which includes a Shabbat dinner for over 100 people every Friday and a kindergarten. 

On November 13, the French government awarded Chief Rabbi of Moscow and President of the European Conference of Rabbis Pinchas Goldschmidt its highest award, the Légion d’Honneur at a ceremony led by French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian. NCSEJ extends its congratulations to our friend Rabbi Goldschmidt for this achievement.  

Also, today NCSEJ hosted a meeting with Fuad Muradov, Chairman of the Republic of Azerbaijan State Committee on Diaspora Affairs, and a member of Azerbaijan's parliament (Milli Mejlis). We discussed best practices for youth engagement and building a community in the diaspora. We also discussed the important strategic relationship between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the State of Israel.

As a reminder, the NCSEJ Board of Governors will take place on Tuesday, December 4, from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm, in Washington, D.C. We are pleased to announce that U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant of State for Europe and Eurasia Elisabeth Millard will be our luncheon keynote speaker. In addition, Moldovan Ambassador to the United States Cristina Balan and Jacek Chodorowicz of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will address the board meeting. To RSVP and receive additional information, visit www.ncsej.org/board_meeting or contact David Shulman at (202) 898-2500 or dshulman@ncsej.org

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. November 16, 2018

Riigikogu President on Official Visit to Israel
ERR News, November 14, 201

President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor (SDE) is on a visit to Israel this week at the invitation of Speaker of the Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein. During his visit, he will visit the Knesset in Jerusalem as well as learn about the success stories of Israeli startups in Tel Aviv.

"Relations between Estonia and Israel are becoming ever closer in the fields of culture and economy as well as technology, and we are really happy about it," Nestor said according to a Riigikogu press release.

This year, the State of Israel is celebrating its 70th and the Republic of Estonia its 100th anniversary.

"Innovativeness is one thing we have in common with our 30-years-younger friend, as well as the knowledge that a free, democratic country is not to be taken for granted," Nestor emphasised. "It is a value that has to be kept and defended daily."

Far-Right Groups Join Massive March Marking Polish Independence
By Drew Hinshaw and Natalia Ojewska
Wall Street Journal, November 11, 201

Poland—Far-right movements from across Europe joined a march here to celebrate Poland’s 100th anniversary of independence, in what has become an annual gathering point for Europe’s political fringe.

Faced with a rally that has become too large to ban—more than 200,000 joined Sunday’s march—and too politically charged to ignore, President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki walked in front of Sunday’s march. In return for their involvement, they asked organizers to refrain from hate speech and violence.

It was a tacit admission that Poland’s Catholic conservative government can’t entirely expunge such extremists.

Messages in Stone: A New Study of Old Jewish Cemeteries Finds the Epithets Whispering at Us
By Gavriel Savit
Tablet Magazine, November 14, 201

It can even feel tempting to cast these cemeteries as artifacts of a kind of hubris: You believed the Germans, the Poles, the Hungarians, and Romanians when they said you were equal, and this is what you got. Because not even the splendid monuments of the well-to-do religious reformers escaped the ravages of the 20th century—an entire chapter of Klein’s book is devoted to “damages caused by wars, Nazi or Communist destructions, neglect … and profiteering.”

But this line of thinking—this kind of internalized gaslighting—is what Hitler (one “t,” this time) and his eugenicists wanted. The Jews buried in Klein’s cemeteries were fully German, Austrian, Polish, Romanian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, and Russian, and no one’s hate—no matter how thoroughly they legislate it—can change that.

In Russia, A Jewish Director’s Trial Marks a New Threat to Freedom
By Talya Zax
Forward, November 14, 201

At the Cannes International Film Festival in May, Kirill Serebrennikov was everywhere.

His nametag on a table at a press conference. His film “Leto” mentioned as a top contender for the Palme d’Or. His eyes looking out from square-frame glasses, printed on a paper bag the actress Franziska Petri wore over her head. On a red carpet know for its rigid, gendered dress code, Petri’s outfit was remarkable; in addition to the bag, she wore a T-shirt reading “I have to stay at home.”
Because despite the many markers of Serebrennikov’s presence at Cannes, that was exactly where he was: At home in Moscow, under house arrest.

Now Serebrennikov, one of Russia’s most renowned directors and a vocal opponent of President Putin, is on trial for financial fraud. That trial, in which initial hearings against Serebrennikov and his three co-defendants were held on November 7, is widely seen as a referendum not on Serebrennikov’s financial dealings but rather on the limits of artistic freedom in an increasingly authoritarian Russia.

Top Russian Rabbi Awarded France’s Highest Honor
UK Jewish News, November 13, 201

A Swiss-born Russian rabbi who heads a Brussels-based rabbinical group has been France’s highest award, the Légion d’Honneur – Legion of Honour.

Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, was bestowed with the award in a Paris ceremony by Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Goldschmidt, who helped re-establish Soviet Jewry after the fall of the Berlin Wall, said he was “honoured” to receive the award, which was established by Napoleon 216 years ago, and is the highest French decoration for military and civil servicemen.

Bukharian Jews: A Vital Part of the Austrian Jewish Mosaic
By Liam Hoare
E Jewish Philanthrop

The Austrian Jewish community is in many ways a mosaic, whose strength is derived from the sum of its parts. A community rebuilt by Holocaust survivors after the Second World War has been augmented over the decades by immigration from Hungary, Poland, and the former Soviet Union. Some of its most notable cultural figures like the novelists Doron Rabinovici and Julya Rabinowitch were not born in Austria. But perhaps the most significant influx in terms of its impact on communal life has come from what the Austrian daily Die Pressecalled the ‘unknown Jews’: Bukharian Jews who, beginning in the late 1970s, left Soviet Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and established a new community in Vienna that is today integral to Jewish life in the Austrian capital.

Bukharian Jews, who globally number around 200,000, have millennia-deep roots and can trace their origins to the conquest of Babylonia by Cyrus, the King of Persia, in the sixth century BC. For centuries, Bukharian Jewish life was concentrated in what is today Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan and experienced largely under Muslim rule beginning in the ninth century AD. Bokhari, the language of Bukharian Jews, is a dialect of Tajik derived from classical Farsi that is also influenced by Hebrew, Aramaic, and Uzbek loanwords. Around 1800, as the result of a visit by the Maghrebi Rabbi Yosef Maimon, Bukharian Jews adopted the Sephardic religious tradition, to which they still hold.

Lozhkin: In Dnipropetrovsk Region, The Streets Will Be Renamed in Honor of The Righteous Among the Nations
UkrInform, November 12, 201

The initiative of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine 'The Righteous People of My City has been supported in the Dnipropetrovskregion,and naming the streets in honor of the Righteous Among the Nations has been planned by the city and village councils throughout the region.

This has been shared in the Facebook by the President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine Boris Lozhkin.

The title of the Righteous Among the Nations is awarded to those persons who saved Jews during the Nazi occupation of Europe, risking their own lives.

A Community Reborn: Jewish Life and Culture in Krakow, Poland
By Dana Arschin
Fox 5, November 8, 2018

A burst of Jewish life and culture can be found on the streets of Krakow, Poland.

Old traditions have seen a resurgence in Kazimierz, which is the name of Krakow's Jewish quarter and where we found Jonathan Ornstein, a native New Yorker. Born and raised in Queens, Ornstein is now a leading force behind this rebirth in Poland.

"Before the war in Poland, there were 3.5 million Jews. That was about 10 percent of the population," Ornstein said. "So big cities like Warsaw was a third Jewish. Krakow was a quarter Jewish. 60 percent of the lawyers in 1939 on the eve of World War II were Jewish, 40 percent of the doctors."

Russia’s Chief Rabbi Says Jews There Comfortable and Confident
By David Israel
The Jewish Press, November 09, 201

Russia’s Chief Rabbi, Berel Lazar, described the interfaith situation in that country as “favorable,” stressing that Jews in Russia feel “comfortable and confident,” TASS reported Thursday. Rabbi Lazar was speaking at the inauguration ceremony of a synagogue in the city of Kaliningrad (formerly Koenigsberg), in the province by the same name, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania along the Baltic Coast.

“No one builds a synagogue if one is ready to leave the country,” the chief rabbi said. “That means that we feel confident here, the government ensures stability here. When people feel comfortable, they know that they can attend synagogue, that they enjoy respect and have good relations with their neighbors. The interethnic atmosphere is very good today, and the interfaith relations are unique.”

Deborah Lipstadt Wrote a New Book on anti-Semitism. Then Pittsburgh Happened.
By Ben Sales

JTA, November 13, 2018​​​​​​​

The advance copies of Deborah Lipstadt’s new book, “Antisemitism Here and Now,” display a cover photo of a white supremacist carrying a tiki torch.

But that iconic image of the August 2017 white power rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, could now be replaced by another one: Police tape cordoning off the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. Or perhaps the row of cut-out stars displaying the names of that massacre’s 11 victims.

“Antisemitism,” written earlier this year and due out in February, offers a concise and comprehensive overview of the various forms of Jew-hatred that have reappeared or intensified during the past few years. And before Pittsburgh, there already was plenty to write about: anti-Semitic attacks in Europe; the “alt-right” in the U.S.; the persistence of Holocaust revisionism and denial; whether and when criticism of Israel qualifies as anti-Semitic; and of course Charlottesville.
[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.