Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. May 17, 2019

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

On Thursday, May 16, the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) voted to schedule President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s inauguration on May 20. Because Zelenskiy will come to power over six months before the next parliament is regularly scheduled to take office, he will have the opportunity to dissolve the parliament and schedule a snap election, which he has said he would consider. The parliament’s regular term ends in six months, with an election scheduled for October 27. 

This week, the Polish government announced that it would not agree to any changes in Polish law to allow for the restitution of property owned by Jews before the Holocaust. During a speech in the town of Myślenice, Polish President Andrzj Duda also protested the U.S. Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, which requires the U.S. State Department to report to Congress on progress in countries on the restitution of Jewish assets seized during World War II and its aftermath. These statements follow a decision by Polish authorities to cancel an Israeli delegation's visit to the country to discuss the issue of restitution. 

On Tuesday, May 14, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the city of Sochi to discuss bilateral relations, the conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela, and arms control agreements. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who also met with Pompeo, expressed hope that the two countries can "fully restore" ties. 

Earlier this month, the government of Azerbaijan marked the 25th Anniversary of the country's partnership with NATO. Since signing the Partnership for Peace Agreement in 1994, Azerbaijan has transformed its military, with Azerbaijan's soldiers participating in NATO-led peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

I would like to direct your attention to two articles written by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency's Cnaan Liphshiz. The first discusses the reaction of Ukraine's Jewish population to the Revolution of Dignity, five years later. Many of those interviewed expressed concern about the increasing incidence of popular anti-Semitism in the country. Others were cautiously optimistic about Ukraine’s future with the election in April of Jewish President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who did not experience any attacks due to his heritage during the campaign. The other article provides a brief background on the history of Jewish life in Ukraine, as well as its current conditions. 

Finally, please see the interview conducted by the Jewish Press's Elliot Resnick with Professor David Fishman, an expert on Eastern European Jewish history, about the recent election in Ukraine and broader conditions of anti-Semitism throughout the region. 

Please register for our biannual Board of Governors Meeting on Tuesday, June 4. U.S. Congressmen Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), two of the co-chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, will give the keynote address. Other speakers include U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr, and Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Yaakov Bleich and Jewish Community of Lithuania Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, who will discuss issues facing their communities. 



Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. May 17, 2019

Polish President Rules Out Restitution for Jews
Radio Poland, May 16, 2019

At a meeting with residents in the southern town of Myślenice on Wednesday, Duda said he would not agree to any changes in Polish law to make such restitution claims possible.

He referred to the US Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, which requires the US State Department to report to Congress on progress in countries including Poland on the restitution of Jewish assets seized during World War II and its aftermath.

Moscow Synagogue Donates Torah to Struggling Tel Aviv Yeshivah
By Yehuda Sugar
Chabad News, May 14, 2019 

A prominent Chabad-run Moscow synagogue, itself a target of 21st-century anti-Semitic hate and destruction, has donated a Torah scroll to the yeshivah in Tel Aviv that was launched and led by terror victim Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger. The 47-year-old father of 12 was fatally shot on March 17 at a junction near the Ariel settlement, heroically attempting to save others after being severely wounded.

The Bolshoya Bronnaya Synagogue, directed by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Yitzchok Kogan, donated the Torah to the yeshivah, which was established by Ettinger intentionally in an impoverished neighborhood of south Tel Aviv, Neve Sha’anan, where most Jewish residents had moved away from over the past decade.

In Sochi, Pompeo, Lavrov Disagree over Election Meddling, Venezuela 
RFERL, May 14, 2019

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Russia against interference in next year's U.S. presidential election, as Russia's foreign minister likened Washington's push for a new government in Venezuela to the U.S. war in Iraq.

Тhe comments by Pompeo and Sergei Lavrov came at a joint news conference on May 14 in the Black Sea city of Sochi as the two sought to rebuild bilateral relations that have been badly eroded by U.S. assertions of Russian election meddling, the conflict in Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, and other matters.

U.S. President Donald Trump has renewed his efforts to build a rapport with Moscow, now that the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller has concluded.

5 Years After the Ukrainian Revolution, Jews There Say It Was a Mixed Blessing
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, May 13, 2019 

Walking on the scorched and scarred sidewalks of this capital city’s main square five years ago, Eduard Dolinsky felt hopeful and proud.

A member of Kiev’s large Jewish population and a longtime activist for its communal causes, Dolinsky had hoped that the bloody street fights of the Maidan Revolution several years ago would free his country of its rampant corruption and dependency on Russia – two of the main issues that sparked the unrest.

Despite sorrow for the lives lost and damage sustained in the fight between protesters and police, Dolinsky, 49, was proud of the unity and dignity on display at Maidan.

Who Are the Jews of Ukraine?
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, May 13, 2019 

Jews have lived in Ukraine for such a long time that their arrival here predates even the first recorded use of the country’s name.

Starting in the ninth century, Jews began settling between Uzhgorod and Lugansk — respectively the westernmost and easternmost cities of what is now Ukraine, a landmass four times the size of New York state with 45 million residents.

Historically, though, Jews haven’t had an easy life in Ukraine for most of that time. In the 17th century, thousands were brutally butchered by the Cossack army of Bohdan Khmelnytsky.

Debating How to Fight Anti-Semitism, Then and Now
By Rafael Medoff
The Jerusalem Post, May 15, 2019

Which is the more effective way to fight antisemitism: focusing on attacks against Jews in particular, or broadening the response to encompass a wide range of aggrieved minority groups? 

This question was dramatized in the recent controversy over whether the US Congress should specifically condemn the anti-Jewish “dual loyalty” accusations expressed by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), or broadly denounce bigotry in all its various forms.

But this debate is not new. Seventy-five years ago this spring, president Franklin D. Roosevelt was confronted by a similar dilemma.

Azerbaijan and NATO Mark 25 Years of Partnership
By Ilgar Gurbanov
Jamestown Foundation, May 15, 2019 

On May 4, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release to mark the 25thanniversary of the country’s partnership with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), calling it “one of the important directions” of the Azerbaijan’s “foreign and security policy” (Mfa.gov.az, May 4). Additionally, the Ministry of Defense named the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program “one of the most successful engagements” between Azerbaijan and the North Atlantic Alliance (Mod.gov.az, May 3). In turn, top NATO officials commended Azerbaijan for being a “close, trusted and valued partner” in the Alliance’s missions in Afghanistan (Mod.gov.az, May 3; Nato.int, April 4, 23). Moreover, the United States ambassador to Baku, Lee Litzenberger, noted that Washington looks forward to finding “new ways” for the two countries to continue to cooperate within NATO to promote global “peace and stability” (Az.usembassy.gov, April 5).

Parliament Sets Date for Zelenskiy’s Inauguration
By Kyiv Post
Kyiv Post, May 16, 2019

Volodymyr Zelenskiy will be inaugurated president of Ukraine on May 20.

The parliament voted on May 16 to schedule Zelenskiy’s inauguration. The president-elect himself wanted it to take place on May 19, which met some criticism due to it being the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions in Ukraine.

An inauguration on May 20 means that Zelenskiy will be able to dissolute the parliament and schedule a snap election, which he said was something he considers doing. The parliament’s term ends in six months, with election scheduled for Oct. 27. The parliament can be dismissed no later than six months before that, making May 27 the deadline for that.

Six Parties Win Seats on Ukrainian Parliament—Poll
Ukrinform, May 16, 2019

Six parties in Ukraine would win seats on the Verkhovna Rada if the parliamentary elections were held this Sunday, according to a survey conducted by the Rating Sociological Group, the Social Monitoring Center and the Ukrainian Institute for Social Research from April 30 to May 10.

The head of the Rating group, Oleksiy Antypovych, presented the results of the survey at a press conference on Thursday.

It’s Time to Rethink Russia’s Foreign Policy Strategy
By Dmitri Trenin
Carnegie Moscow Center, May 16, 2019 

It has been just over five years since the Ukraine crisis began, drastically reorienting Russia’s foreign policy and destroying the two main pillars of Russia’s post-Soviet course in just a few months: Moscow’s integration into Western structures on terms acceptable to Russia (plan A) and the reintegration of the post-Soviet space with an eye to creating a Russian-led power bloc (plan B). Soon thereafter, the hope of forming a close alliance with China (plan C) faded, too. Today, Russia’s relations with the West are characterized by alienation and confrontation. Post-Soviet states regard Russia as at worst a hostile power and at best a pragmatic partner, accepting at most elements of integration. Relations with China, for their part, are increasingly close, mostly to Beijing’s benefit.

Eastern Europe: Pro-Israel, But Not Pro-Jewish?—An Interview with Professor David Fishman
By Elliot Resnick
Jewish Press, May 11, 2019

Late last month, Ukraine elected its first Jewish president. Russia is led by a man widely regarded as a friends of the Jews. Romania and Hungary may move their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem. How are we to understand all these developments in countries that were deeply anti-Semitic only a short while ago?

To gain some perspective, The Jewish Press recently spoke with Professor David Fishman, an expert on Eastern European Jewish history and the author of three books, including, most recently, The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures from the Nazis. This award-wining has been translated into several foreign languages, including Lithuanian, Italian, Dutch, Czech, Japanese, and Chinese.

[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.