Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. November 30, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

On Sunday, November 25, Russian naval forces captured two Ukrainian Navy warships and a tug as they traveled through the Kerch Strait in the Sea of Azov. In response, the Ukrainian government declared a 30-day period of martial law in regions bordering Russia and Moldova. Russia has yet to release the imprisoned Ukrainian sailors or their ships despite international outrage. NCSEJ is following the recent increased tension between Russia and Ukraine closely and will continue to provide you with up-to-date information. 

On Wednesday, November 28, Salome Zurabishvili won Georgia's Presidential Election. During the campaign, the opposition used anti-Semitic language, which was condemned by Zurabishvili and her party. NCSEJ also condemned the use of anti-Semitism has reached out to the Georgian government to discuss the issue. We will continue to work with the Georgian government to address the appearance of anti-Semitism during the election. 

NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss participated in a State Department roundtable on combating anti-Semitism hosted by Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback for representatives of American Jewish organizations.

NCSEJ also congratulates Lesley and Fred Israel for receiving from Temple B’nai Israel in Easton, Maryland its first Humanitarian Award, in recognition of their longtime commitment to the Jewish community. In a citation recognizing the Israels, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen expressed his appreciation for the Israel’s “visionary leadership and engagement in our community,” and his gratitude “for all that they do to touch the lives of others.”

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. November 30, 2018

A Shadow over Europe
By Richard Allen Greene
CNN, November 27, 2018

Anti-Semitic stereotypes are alive and well in Europe, while the memory of the Holocaust is starting to fade, a sweeping new survey by CNN reveals. More than a quarter of Europeans polled believe Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Nearly one in four said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars across the world.

One in five said they have too much influence in the media and the same number believe they have too much influence in politics.

Meanwhile, a third of Europeans in the poll said they knew just a little or nothing at all about the Holocaust, the mass murder of some six million Jews in lands controlled by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s.

From Kiev to Croatia, Jewish Teen Life Is Thriving Against the Odds
By Ezra Moses
New York Jewish Week, November 27, 2018

In a suburb of Kiev, Ukraine, on a recent weekend, I turned to a colleague in a conference hall and said, “If someone were to spend just one minute in this room, they would no longer need to be convinced that European Jewry isn’t dead or dying, but would see that it’s strong and getting stronger.”

I was at an Active Jewish Teens (AJT) convention that brought together nearly 450 Jewish teenagers from 15 countries, mostly in the former Soviet Union, to celebrate being Jewish and learn about their traditions and history.

On Friday evening, we packed the teenagers, staff and teachers into an auditorium for Kabbalat Shabbat services. There were not enough siddurim (prayer books) for all the teenagers. I again looked around the room and saw that the kids without siddurim were participating in the service as much as those who had. Each knew the verses of the traditional prayers and melodies, each turned and bowed at the appropriate junctures of the service and each experienced a vibrant connection to the global Jewish people.

Five Countries Slow to Address Nazi-Looted Art, U.S. Expert Says
By William D. Cohan
New York Times, November 26, 2018

In 1998, confronted by the fact that so much of the art stolen by the Nazis during World War II had yet to be returned to its rightful owners, 44 nations agreed to the Washington Principles, a treaty of sorts that committed its signers to making best efforts to return the looted art. But speaking Monday in Berlin at a conference convened to measure progress in that undertaking on the agreement’s 20th anniversary, the man who negotiated the principles on behalf of the United States delivered a blunt rebuke to what he characterized as foot-dragging by five countries.

“We have made giant strides,” said Stuart E. Eizenstat, an adviser to the State Department, “toward achieving the goals of identifying, publicizing, restituting and compensating for some of the looted art, cultural objects and books, and in so doing, providing some small measure of belated justice to some victims of the Holocaust or their heirs.”

Ukraine, Israel to Sign Free Trade Agreement During Poroshenko’s Visit
Ukrinform, November 22, 2018

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will soon make a visit to Israel during which, in particular, the two countries will sign an agreement on a free trade area.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said this in a blitz interview with Ukrinform during his working visit to Austria.

"The agreement is almost complete, and technical preparations are coming to an end. I think the Ukrainian president will soon visit Israel and the agreement will be signed during this visit," he said, commenting on the possibility of signing the free trade agreement with Israel.

Klimkin said that the partnership with Israel is universal, "and there are many innovative things."
"Therefore, we will not stop on the goods, but will move further on services, investment, so that this agreement could be as effective as possible," he added.

Zeman Opens Czech House in Jerusalem, Possible Forerunner to Embassy
By Herb Keinon
Jerusalem Post, November 27, 2018

Czech President Milos Zeman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurated a Czech House just outside the Old City walls in Jerusalem on Tuesday, with both saying they hoped it was a precursor to moving the Czech Republic’s embassy to the capital.

“In near future, I firmly believe – and deep in my heart I do believe – we shall overcome, there will be not only the embassy, but also a nice Czech tavern with good Czech beer,” Zeman said at the ceremony at the Cinematheque building in Jerusalem.

“I firmly believe that my fourth visit to Israel will be the opening of the Czech Embassy,” he continued.

Since he arrived on Sunday, Zeman – whom Netanyahu referred to as an “unsurpassed friend” of the Jewish state – made clear that he would like to move the embassy, but was being constrained by the Czech government.

New Documentary Series Explores Centuries of Russian Jewish Life
By Ben Harris
JTA, November 23, 2018

In 1894, a Jewish military officer in France, Alfred Dreyfus, was sentenced to life imprisonment for treason for allegedly passing state secrets to the enemy.

When evidence came to light proving his innocence, the government covered it up and slapped the accused with additional charges based on falsified evidence. Dreyfus was tried again and found guilty, framed for no other reason than the fact that he was a Jew. Years passed before he was finally retried, pardoned and his name cleared.

Today, the incident that came to be known as the Dreyfus Affair stands as a famous case of anti-Semitism.

Not long after — in a case that bears striking similarities to Dreyfus’ but is far less well-known in the United States — Menachem Beilis was tried in Ukraine for murdering a 13-year-old boy. That case also bore the stain of anti-Semitism, including the charge that Beilis had killed the child for Jewish ritual purposes.

Visiting Vilnius, the Home of the Vilna Gaon
By Greer Fay Cashman
Jerusalem Post, November 27, 2018

Many Israelis visit Eastern Europe in search of their roots, seeking what’s left of places once teeming with Jewish life which were destroyed by the Nazis and the Soviets.

While Jewish culture in Eastern Europe will never return to its glory before the Russian Revolution and the Holocaust, Jewish communities across the continent are engaged in a revival. This is obvious in Vilnius – known in Yiddish as Vilna – the legendary city of Yiddishkeit once called the Jerusalem of Lithuania.

2018 marks an auspicious time to visit Vilnius. Lithuania’s history-soaked capital is marking both the 100th year of independence from Czarist rule, which for Jews also meant freedom from Russian restrictions, and the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Vilna Ghetto.

First-Ever Concrete Proposals and Recommended Legislation to Fight Anti-Semitism Presented at High Level Event in Austria
European Jewish Congress, November 21, 2018 

The most comprehensive and detailed proposals and recommendations, including legislative, to combat antisemitism were presented in Vienna today to high-level European officials, including President Alexander van der Bellen and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, during a conference held by the Austrian Presidency of the European Council.

The “Catalogue of Policies to Combat Antisemitism”, initiated and commissioned by European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Dr. Moshe Kantor, is an intensive joint effort by senior experts and academics from the universities of Vienna, Tel Aviv and New York, to develop concrete policies to be undertaken by governments, public and private institutions, religious communities and those involved with combatting hate online.

“Today, on European streets, people are being killed again simply for being Jewish.” Dr. Kantor said at the conference ‘Europe beyond antisemitism and anti-Zionism – Securing Jewish life in Europe’ hosted by the Austrian Federal Chancellery in Vienna. “Jewish communities in Europe are increasingly concerned about their security and pessimistic about their future.”

Reviving Jewish Life in Lviv
By Diane Slawych
Canadian Jewish News, November 28, 2018

When three entrepreneurs decided to open a Jewish restaurant on Staroyevreyska street in Lviv, Ukraine about 10 years ago, they were denounced – at first.

At the time, the area was sorely neglected and filled with trash, explained Taras Masselko who works with Fest, the company that operates the Golden Rose restaurant and several other unique eateries in the city. “People were saying ‘you’re crazy guys, there was a synagogue here and you want to open a Jewish restaurant.’ It was scandalous,” said Masselko. “The Jews were saying ‘how could you. You don’t know anything about it.’”

Hungarian Government Steps Up to Battle Anti-Semitism
By Dan Lavie
JNS, November 28, 2018

Hungary plans to invest €1.5 million ($1.7 million) annually to fight anti-Semitism across Europe starting in 2019.

The move was set to be announced on Wednesday afternoon at the weekly press conference by the Prime Minister’s Office Chief of Staff Gergely Gulyas, who initiated it.

The funds will be permanently earmarked toward the fight against anti-Semitism.

Activities will include comprehensive evaluations of the legal framework in every E.U. country to consolidate steps to fight anti-Semitism on the legal policy level; initiatives to introduce and amend legislation to better fight anti-Semitism; the establishment of a 24-hour, seven-day hotline for the reporting of anti-Semitic incidents; and a comprehensive evaluation of school curricula in every European education system.
[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.