Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. January 6, 2017

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

On January 1, a march took place in Kyiv commemorating Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera’s 108th birthday. A column of the march began shouting anti-Semitic slogans and holding up banners with symbols associated with the Nazis and the SS. 

NCSEJ Joined leaders of the Ukrainian Jewish community urging the government to repudiate the march and prosecute those responsible. NCSEJ also issued a statement condemning the hateful messages, urging the Ukrainian government to speak out and ensure the safety of the Ukrainian Jewish community, and we have consulted with U.S. Government officials. In the last few days, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has reached out to Ukrainian national and local officials to express their deep concerns and urge action to be taken.

Also in Kyiv, Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny and the European Union of Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) celebrated 25 years of Progressive Judaism in Ukraine. The celebration started on the Shabbat before Chanukah at the Progressive Community Center in Kyiv, Hatikvah. Community leaders and their congregations from the U.S. and Ukraine made the trip to Kyiv to attend the celebration.

In Russia, the SOVA Center, a prominent think tank that conducts sociological research, was listed as a “foreign agent” by the Russian Justice Ministry, after a surprise inspection of its offices, and without any further details. The SOVA Center was first established in 2002 by human rights activists from the Moscow Helsinki Group and the “Panorama” Center.

On January 5, heads of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Russian hacking. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reaffirmed his October statements that Russia did hack the DNC and post the information on Wikileaks. Clapper said Russia has “clearly assumed an even more aggressive cyber posture by increasing cyber espionage operations, leaking data stolen from these operations, and targeting political infrastructures systems.” Director Clapper and his colleagues are set to brief President-Elect Donald Trump on Friday.

I would like to highlight two articles this week. First an article from the San Diego Jewish Journal about the rebirth of the Bulgarian Jewish community. Julia Dandalova, who is the director in Bulgaria for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), leads this effort. An article by Steven Pifer, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, discusses the challenges Ukraine will face in 2017. With Brexit, French and German elections looming, and a new American president, Ukraine, according to Pifer, has a difficult year ahead.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. January 6, 2017

NCSEJ Condemns Anti-Semitic March in Kyiv, Ukraine
January 3, 2017

On January 1, 2017, over a thousand Ukrainians participated in a torchlight march in Kyiv, organized by the “Svoboda” political party, for the 108th birthday of Stepan Bandera. Bandera headed the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists during World War II.

NCSEJ’s Kyiv Representative, Ilya Bezruchko, reported that a column of the marchers began chanting "Juden – Out.” One of the banners had a symbol commonly used by Nazis and the Waffen SS on it with the slogan "We will destroy the second Khazar Khanate." In far-right circles, the “second Khazar Khanate” refers to the notion that Jews secretly control the country.

Nazi hunter calls for legal action over antisemitic Kiev march
Jerusalem Post, January 5, 2017

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called on the Ukrainian government to take legal action against marchers who yelled antisemitic slogans, in an event held on New Year’s Day to mark the birthday of Ukrainian Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, whose followers murdered thousands of Jews at the beginning of the Holocaust.

Record of over 2 million people visited Auschwitz museum in 2016
JTA, January 2, 2017

More than 2 million people from all over the world visited the Auschwitz Museum in 2016. The 2,053,000 visitors is a record number in the history of the Museum, which this year will mark the 70th anniversary of its creation, the museum said in a statement on its website.

Israeli man arrested in Uman, Ukraine for desecrating cross
JTA, January 4, 2017

Police in the city of Uman in Ukraine arrested an Israeli man they suspect of defacing a large crucifix as payback for the desecration of a synagogue last month.

The suspect, Netanel Shimon, is said to have dismantled on Dec. 31 the Jesus icon from a crucifix that locals in 2013 set up near the bank of a lake where many Jews go to perform tashlikh – a ritual associated with Rosh Hashanah, the holiday when thousands of Jews descend on Uman, the newspaper Gazeta reported Tuesday.

Netanyahu, Putin speak for second time in a week
By Herb Keinon
Jerusalem Post, December 31, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Saturday night with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the evolving situation in the Mideast, the second time the two leaders have spoken this week.

According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office, the two talked about regional developments “with an emphasis on Syria and a continuation of security coordination on that front, coordination that has already proven itself in the prevention of misunderstandings.”

Read the full article here.

PLO Official: Russia to host Hamas-Fatah meeting
By Adam Rasgon
Jerusalem Post, January 2, 2017

Russia is going to make an effort to advance the Fatah- Hamas reconciliation process, a Palestinian official said.

“The Russians will host a meeting of Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian officials in Moscow in the middle of January to discuss reconciliation,” Wasel Abu Yousef, a PLO Executive Committee member, told The Jerusalem Post, clarifying that the members of the delegations have yet to be determined.
Read the full article here.

Kiev Celebrates 25 Years of Growing Progressive Judaism in Ukraine at Hatikvah Center
World Union for Progressive Judaism, January 5, 2017

In 2016, at the biennial of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) in London in April, Rabbi Alex Dukhovny suggested that Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue (NPLS) in London sponsor a weekend seminar in Kiev, bringing together leaders from the various Progressive Communities scattered over Ukraine. For the past twenty years, the Reform Movement in Ukraine has grown tremendously owing to the support and dedication of NPLS who have facilitated the development of several Progressive communities in Ukraine and activities within the movement across the region in general.

Read the full article here.

Polish Jewish museum, Warsaw community bury hatchet in bid for unity
JTA, January 6, 2017

Warsaw’s Jewish community and Poland’s main Jewish museum resolved their legal dispute over copyright in a bid to promote better relations based on unity between two of Poland’s most prominent Jewish institutions, the groups said in a joint statement.

The joint statement last week follows a lawsuit filed last year by the community against the Polin museum, which opened in Warsaw in 2014, remove fragments of translations of historical texts from the museum’s website, pay the Warsaw Jewish community $7,500 and issue a written apology.

Read the full article here.

Russian Justice Ministry Blacklists Prominent Anti-Racism Research Center
Moscow Times, December 30, 2016

Russia’s Justice Ministry has added another prominent NGO to the federal government’s list of “foreign agents.” According to an official announcement on the ministry’s website, the SOVA Center, a think tank that conducts sociological research primarily on nationalism, xenophobia, and racism in Russia, is the latest organization to be blacklisted.

Kazakhstan Introduces Visa-Free Travel For EU, OECD Countries
RFE/RL, January 3, 2017

Kazakhstan says it has lifted visa requirements for citizens of countries of the European Union (EU) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as well as a number of other states.

The Foreign Ministry said that starting January 1, citizens of EU and OECD countries, as well as Malaysia, Monaco, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore could travel to Kazakhstan for up to 30 days without a visa.

New Moldova, Transdniester Leaders To Meet
RFE/RL, January 3, 2017

Moldovan President Igor Dodon has said he will meet with the de facto head of the breakaway Transdniester region on January 4.

Dodon wrote on Facebook that he will hold a working meeting with Vadim Krasnoselsky, the leader of the self-styled Transdniester Republic, in the separatist-controlled city of Bendery.

Ukraine moves to blacklist Le Pen over Crimea comments
Reuters, January 4, 2017

Ukraine indicated on Wednesday it would bar French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen from entering the country after comments she made that appeared to legitimize Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Kiev is nervous about the shifting political landscape in 2017. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has adopted a friendlier tone toward Russia while another French presidential candidate, Francois Fillon, favors lifting sanctions against Moscow.

Read the full article here.

Romania Chooses Left-Leaning Government
NYT, January 4, 2017

The Romanian Parliament approved a new left-leaning coalition government on Wednesday, ending weeks of uncertainty about who would lead a country that has been a staunch member of the European Union and NATO.

Sorin Grindeanu, 43, a former minister of communications and a compromise candidate, was named prime minister. He beat his Social Democratic Party’s first choice, Sevil Shhaideh, a member of the country’s Tatar minority who would have become the country’s first female and first Muslim prime minister.

Senator McCain says U.S. 'must stand up to Vladimir Putin'
By Margarita Antidze and Sergei Karazy
Reuters, January 1, 2016

Republican Senator John McCain said on Sunday the United States could only improve its relations with Russia by taking a tough stance with President Putin, calling for stronger sanctions against Moscow.

On a tour of the Baltic states, Ukraine and Georgia, McCain and other senators assured the former Soviet-dominated countries that the United States would support them, despite President-elect Donald Trump's praise of Putin and expressions of doubts about NATO.

Steven Pifer: Ukraine’s difficult year ahead in 2017
By Steven Pifer
Kyiv Post, January 6, 2017

As the new year begins, Ukraine faces two fundamental questions. Can it put an end to Russia’s aggression and reassert sovereignty over its territory? And can it put in place the critical mass of reforms and anti-corruption measures to launch a sustained period of high economic growth?

Ukraine has made progress on both challenges since the EuroMaidan Revolution that ended President Viktor Yanukovych’s rule, but it has resolved neither. Unfortunately, developments in 2017 will likely make things more difficult for Kyiv.

Read the full article here.

Why Poroshenko cannot win a second term
By Taras Kuzio
New Eastern Europe, January 3, 2017

Is history repeating itself in Ukraine? After popular mass protests, a president comes to power promising reforms and European integration but does not provide the political will to fundamentally change the kleptocratic coalition of clans that rule the country. The president maintains the criminal old guard in power and corrupt oligarchic system in place. The public becomes increasingly angry that no “bandits” are being sent to jail.
Read the full article here.

Rebirthing Bulgaria’s Jewish Community
By Sharon Rosen-Leib
San Diego Jewish Journal, January 3, 2017

In matrilineal Judaism, Jewish women birth Jewish children. In Bulgaria, young Jewish women are rebirthing Jewish communal life.

Bulgaria’s two-millennia-old Jewish community lay dormant between 1944 and 1989 while the ruling Communist regime imposed a strict secular ideology forbidding religious practice. When the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) returned to Bulgaria in 1990, after being expelled by the Soviets in 1949, it began resuscitating the country’s culturally and financially impoverished Jewish community. The JDC continues to support and guide Bulgaria’s 6,000 Jews through an unprecedented renaissance.

Read the full article here.
U.S. intercepts capture senior Russian officials celebrating Trump win
By Adam Entous and Greg Miller
Washington Post, January 6, 2017

Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.

Read the full article here.
The rise and shine of Visegrad
By Eszter Zalan
EU Observer, December 30, 2016

The name of a quiet medieval town in Hungary – Visegrad – has in recent times become synonymous with the word “rebellion” in Brussels. Others, particularly if they are from one of the four countries in the loose association of the Visegrad Group, might argue that it stands for “alternative”.

Read the full article here.
Russia’s New Favorite Jihadis: The Taliban
By Thomas Joscelyn
Daily Beast, January 3, 2017

More than 15 years into America’s war in Afghanistan, the Russian government is openly advocating on behalf of the Taliban.

Last week, Moscow hosted Chinese and Pakistani emissaries to discuss the war. Tellingly, no Afghan officials were invited. However, the trio of nations urged the world to be “flexible” in dealing with the Taliban, which remains the Afghan government’s most dangerous foe. Russia even argued that the Taliban is a necessary bulwark in the war against the so-called Islamic State.

​​​​​​​Read the full article here.
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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.