Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. July 13, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

After several tumultuous days at the Brussels NATO summit, President Donald Trump is preparing to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16.

A successful meeting may bolster each man’s prestige with their respective domestic audiences, as well as strengthen their personal relationship. President Putin may be hoping that better relations with President Trump will facilitate the removal of political and economic sanctions. Putin may also want to revive arms control talks with the United States, as securing new non-proliferation agreements or extending existing ones would play well with the Russian people by reconfirming their country’s place as a global power. On Monday, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace will sit down with President Putin for an exclusive interview following the summit. We will keep you informed of any new developments with this story.

President Putin this week met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a sign of their strengthening relationship, Netanyahu requested that Putin exert his influence to reduce Iran’s presence in Syria. Putin has already signaled some willingness to accept this proposal as demonstrated by the Russian military’s passive response to Israeli air strikes against Iranian positions in Syria in the past several months. The meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin occurred one day before a visit by a senior advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Moscow.

During his visit to Moscow, Netanyahu commented on continued criticism of the Joint Israeli-Polish Holocaust Declaration on Poland’s Holocaust Denial Law. Netanyahu explained that he understood why many are concerned about the declaration and insisted that he will take the comments of historians and others into account.

In Uzbekistan, a government decision to renovate the cemeteries of Holocaust survivors met with commendation by the Uzbek Jewish community and other Jewish organizations. On July 5, Nuriman Abulhasan, the Uzbek Minister of Religious Affairs, and Eduard Shapira, the Israeli Ambassador to Uzbekistan, held a special event to mark the occasion.

Jews and non-Jews came together this week to promote Holocaust education in the first conference of its kind in the Ukrainian city of Lvov. Sponsored by the Nadav Foundation and other Jewish groups in Ukraine and from Israel, the conference included guided tours of local sites where atrocities against the Jews of Ukraine occurred. The conference concluded on a positive note as the organizers proposed the creation of joint groups of Israeli, Jewish Ukrainians, and non-Jewish Ukrainians who would work together to educate Ukraine’s youth about the Holocaust.

The update also includes a longer piece on the experience of a young American Orthodox Jewish high school student in Europe and his decision to wear a yarmulke on the trip. He describes the mixed reaction he received while traveling to different European cities. He viewed the trip as an overall positive experience.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. July 13, 2018

Surprising Promise of Trump-Putin Summit: Opportunity Behind the Media Spectacle
By Michael Kimmage
Foreign Affairs, July 11, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet for a frenetically anticipated summit on July 16 in Helsinki. Their encounter—coming amid cascading revelations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, unnerving questions about Trump’s admiration for his Russian counterpart, and U.S.-Russian tensions around the globe—is certain to be a media spectacle. But as its location subtly implies, the real importance of the meeting may have little to do with the theatrics at the top. Unglamorous, largely unnoticed diplomatic processes could prove more consequential.

In Helsinki in 1975, the United States, the Soviet Union, and various European powers devised a security architecture for Europe that was controversial at the time but ultimately crucial to the Cold War’s peaceful end. Without the Helsinki Accords, which fostered agreement on Europe’s borders and enshrined a nominal commitment to human rights in the Eastern bloc, the revolutions of 1989 may never have come and almost certainly would not have been as peaceful as they were. The lessons of that previous U.S.-Russian encounter in Helsinki are worth remembering now.

At NATO, Trump claims allies agree to new defense spending after he upends summit
By Michael Birnbaum and Philip Rucker
Washington Post, July 12, 2018

BRUSSELS — President Trump upended a summit here to admonish leaders and demand they quickly increase their defense spending, although he ultimately reaffirmed U.S. support for NATO on Thursday.

Trump’s ambush jolted the transatlantic alliance, and some diplomats perceived his comments as threatening a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. But Trump later declared in a news conference, “I believe in NATO,” and, as he prepared to depart Brussels, he reiterated that the United States is committed to its Western allies.

“I told people that I’d be very unhappy if they did not up their commitments very substantially,” Trump told reporters after the meeting. “Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment. They are going to up it at levels never thought of before.”

Trump Derides NATO as ‘Obsolete.’ Baltic Nations See It Much Differently.
By Marc Santora
New York Times, July 10, 2018

As President Trump joins his second NATO summit meeting — having called the alliance “obsolete,” derided its members as deadbeats and suggested that American military protection is negotiable — there is deep unease on the alliance’s eastern flank. And that sense has only been heightened by Mr. Trump’s scheduled one-on-one meeting next week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The United States ambassador to Estonia, James D. Melville Jr., became so exasperated with the constant statements from Mr. Trump disparaging the alliance and the European Union that late last month he quit in disgust.

For the nations of Latvia and Estonia, nestled between Russia and the Baltic Sea and with large ethnic Russian populations, NATO is no abstraction.

Israeli leader says he understands criticism of Poland deal
By Aron Heller
Associated Press, July 8, 2018

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he understands the criticism of his compromise agreement with Poland over its disputed Holocaust speech law, as he tried to tamp down an uproar at home in which critics have accused him of whitewashing history for political considerations.

Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart issued a joint statement last week praising Polish resistance to the Nazi occupation and distancing Poland from the Holocaust. The move came after Poland agreed to scrap prison terms for those who criticize its wartime conduct.
In a rare rebuke of the Israeli government, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial slammed the statement, saying it contained "highly problematic wording" and "grave errors and deceptions."

Yad Vashem’s top historian says ‘we can live with’ joint Israel-Poland declaration
JTA, July 10, 2018

Yad Vashem’s chief historian said Tuesday that “we can live with” much of the joint Holocaust declaration by Israel and Poland that has come in for criticism, including from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Dina Porat in an interview with Israel’s Kan national broadcaster said the declaration should be changed but not canceled.

Porat told Kan that she consulted privately with both sides working on the declaration, though on a “voluntary, personal and confidential basis,” and not as a representative of Yad Vashem. She said she thinks she was able to “minimize the damage.”

Israeli Leader Tells Putin That He Should Urge Iran To Leave Syria
RFE/RL, July 12, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he should encourage Iranian forces to leave Syria.

Netanyahu said on Facebook late on July 11 that he conveyed this message during a meeting with Putin at the Kremlin during which they discussed the long-running civil war in Syria and the role Iran has played supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The meeting between Netanyahu and Putin occurred one day ahead of a scheduled meeting between Putin and a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, who on July 11 hailed what he called Tehran's "strategic relationship" with Russia.

Jews and non-Jews come together in Lvov to promote Holocaust education
By Iris Georlette
Jerusalem Post, July 8, 2018

A Holocaust education conference in Lvov this month is confronting Ukrainians with their history of violent events against Jews.

Ukrainian Jews and non-Jews came for the first conference of its kind that is open to the public on July 1-3. The NADAV Foundation, the main sponsor of the conference, joined together with a number of Jewish organizations in Israel and Ukraine to organize this conference.

The timing of the conference is not coincidental: The extermination of Ukraine's Jews began on June 30, 1941 and heinous and murderous pogroms were carried out in villages throughout the country on July 3.

Uzbekistan To Renovate Holocaust Survivors Cemeteries' After Request By Rabbi Lau
Yeshiva World, July 5, 2018

The Uzbek government on Wednesday decided to renovate the cemeteries of Holocaust survivors buried in the country, in light of the special request of Israel’s Chief Rabbi, HaGaon HaRav Dovid Lau Shlita.

Rabbi Lau, who is currently on a journey among the Jewish communities in Uzbekistan, participated this morning in a special session held in his honor with the participation of the Minister of Religious Affairs of Uzbekistan Mr. Nuriman Abulhasan, the local Mufti, Mr. Osmonkun Elimov and the Ambassador of Israel in Uzbekistan, Mr. Eduard Shapira.

U.S. Senators Protest Planned Desecration of Vilna Cemetery
By Rafael Hoffman
Hamodia, July 10, 2018

NEW YORK -  Amid continuing threats to one of Jewry’s sacred sites, the Snipisek Jewish Cemetery in Vilnius (Vilna), three U.S. senators have sent a letter to Lithuania’s president, protesting plans to build on the spot.

“This historic cemetery is culturally significant to Jewish communities both locally and around the globe,” reads the letter addressed to Lithuania’s President, Dalia Grybauskaitė. “We respectfully urge the relevant Lithuanian authorities to reconsider plans to begin renovating the Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports in 2021, and instead to dismantle and move the facility to another site without disturbing the remains of those buried in the cemetery.”

The letter, signed by Senators, Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and James Risch (R-Idaho) makes note of a proposal made by the Lithuanian authorizes to include a wing in the building that would memorialize the cemetery, but notes that the planned renovation is still likely to desecrate many of the remains interred at the site.

What It’s Like To Wear A Yarmulke In Europe
By Andrew Altman
Forward, July 5, 2018

As I finished some last-minute packing for my high school graduation trip to Europe last month, I shoved my navy Red Sox baseball hat into the backpack I was taking with me — not so much out of pride for my favorite team, but because I knew my personal safety and possibly even my life could depend on that hat during my upcoming travels.

Along with my mother, I was about to spend two weeks touring Berlin, Germany and Krakow, Poland with a day visit to Auschwitz. Unfortunately, there had been recent reports of tension as relates to Jews in both locales. In particular, in Poland in February, a newly legislated “Death Camp” law, which made it a crime to blame the Polish nation for the crimes of Nazi Germany, had caused severe controversy between Poland and Israel. Many Israelis and Jews viewed the law as Holocaust revisionism and potentially a catalyst for Polish anti-Semitism. Similarly, in Germany there was an attack in Berlin in April on a young man wearing a yarmulke by a Syrian asylum seeker. This attack was caught on video, went viral and was roundly condemned around the world. Shortly thereafter, there was a solidarity rally of 2,000 participants in Berlin under the motto “Berlin Wears Kippah” to protest anti-Semitism and intolerance.

[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.