Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. February 17, 2017

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

Dear Friend,

This week Russian lawmaker Vitaliy Milonov said “Christians survived despite the fact that the ancestors of Boris Vishnevsky and Maksim Reznik boiled us in cauldrons and fed us to animals,” in reference to two Jewish St. Petersburg city council members. The anti-Semitic comments were made after protesters gathered in front of St. Isaac’s Cathedral to protest the cathedral’s transfer of control to the Russian Orthodox Church. NCSEJ issued a press release condemning these vulgar remarks. We are deeply disturbed that dangerous myths about Jews are still being promulgated in Russia.

Also in Russia, Chief Rabbi of Sochi Ari Edelkopf has been notified that he will be deported for “disrupting the constitutional order and fostering threats to the Russian Federation.” The nature of these alleged threats remains unknown. All attempted appeals by the Rabbi and his family have been denied. Alexander Boroda, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR), reported that FEOR is in contact with the authorities and trying to resolve the issue.
A new state-of-the-art Jewish museum is set to open in Lithuania in 2019, on the site of a former shtetl near the small town of Seduva, and across from the restored Jewish cemetery. The museum’s architect said his design was inspired by ancient Lithuanian architecture, by the neighboring Jewish cemetery, and by the rural landscape surrounding the site.

Hungarian Prime minister Viktor Orban met with the Hungarian Jewish Communities chairman Andras Heisler on Tuesday. Orban had promised to work to ban future neo-Nazi rallies following a mass demonstration last weekend. Heisler told Orban that neo-Nazi rallies were unacceptable, and the prime minister agreed that the ministry of the interior must find a legal solution to hinder such demonstrations. Orban also promised to help Heisler with his request to restore Budapest’s Zuglo synagogue, which sustained heavy damage in an October 2016 fire.
Over the weekend, London hosted the first-ever pan-European Limmud FSU conference. Almost 700 participants from Britain, Germany, Albania, France, the Netherlands, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and the U.S. attended sessions covering Russian history and culture, and presentations by high-profile politicians, journalists, and rabbis from every Jewish denomination, including Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar. 

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. February 17, 2017

Russian lawmaker: Ancestors of Jewish politicians ‘boiled us in cauldrons’
JTA, February 3, 2017

A Russian lawmaker in President Vladimir Putin’s party said the ancestors of two Jewish opposition politicians had killed Christians.

“Christians survived despite the fact that the ancestors of Boris Vishnevsky and Maksim Reznik boiled us in cauldrons and fed us to animals,” Vitaly Milonov said Sunday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Jewish groups and leaders condemned Milonov’s statement.

In unusual criticism, Israeli envoy blames Russia for blocking international anti-Semitism definition
JTA, February 15, 2017

Israel’s ambassador in Moscow criticized Russia for blocking the international adoption of a definition of anti-Semitism, which he linked to a recent string of allegedly racist statements about Jews by Russian politicians.

Gary Koren made his unusual statement on anti-Semitism in Russia in an interview with Interfax, the news agency reported Wednesday. Koren singled out Russia for blocking the definition’s adoption by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an intergovernmental group of 57 member states.

Read the full article here.

Jewish Nazi survivor's opera premiers at Russian Bolshoi theater
Reuters/Jerusalem Post, February 12, 2017

Russia's Bolshoi theater is set to premiere Mieczyslaw Weinberg's opera 'Idiot', based on the world renowned masterpiece of Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

The famous story of the 19th century impoverished Russian aristocrat Prince Myshkin misunderstood and outcast from the society drove the inspiration of the artists around the world.

State of the art Jewish museum to open outside a former shtetl in Lithuania
JTA, February 12, 2017

The architects of Warsaw’s award-winning POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews will design a state of the art Jewish museum outside a former shtetl in Lithuania.

The museum, slated to open in 2019, will be part of the Lost Shtetl memorial complex inaugurated in 2015 in and around the small town of Šeduva. It will be located across the road from the town’s restored Jewish cemetery, which is part of the complex.

Read the full article here.

Hungarian PM promises community leader to work to ban neo-Nazi rallies
WJC, February 15, 2017

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met Tuesday with chairman of the Hungarian Jewish Communities Andras Heisler, and promised to work to ban neo-Nazi rallies in the future, following a mass demonstration of the kind the previous weekend.

Read the full article here.

Trump expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine: White House
Reuters, February 14, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump made it clear he expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine and reduce violence in Ukraine, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Tuesday.

Read the full article here.

Putin says Russian, U.S. intelligence agencies should restore ties
Reuters, February 16, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday it was in the interests of both Russia and the United States to restore communications between their respective intelligence agencies.

Read the full article here.

Ukraine's economy grows nearly 5%
By Dmitry Zaks
AFP, February 14, 2017

Ukraine said Tuesday its economy expanded at a surprisingly fast pace of nearly five percent in the fourth quarter as it continued its steady climb out of a two-year recession.

The State Statistics Service said gross domestic product (GDP) growth reached 4.7 percent between October and December 2016 compared to the same period a year earlier.

Read the full article here.

Ukraine Says Russian Hackers Targeting Kyiv's Power Grid, Financial System
RFE/RL, February 16, 2017

Ukraine has accused Russian hackers of targeting its power grid, financial system, and other infrastructure with thousands of attacks and a new type of virus that attacks industrial processes.

Read the full article here.

Turkmen president wins new 7-year term with nearly 98% of vote
By Anton Lomov with Anna Malpas
AFP, February 13, 2017

Turkmenistan's reigning strongman Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov bagged a new seven-year term with nearly 98 percent of a weakly contested vote, electoral officials said Monday, following a preliminary count.

The election commission claimed at a press conference in the capital Ashgabat a turnout of over 97 percent for the poll, in which eight men viewed as token opponents for Berdymukhamedov also competed.

Anti-Semitism on the Rise in Russia and Moscow Sends the Wrong Message about This Trend
By Paul Goble
Window on Eurasia, February 13, 2017

Given the rise in xenophobia in Russian society following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and his increasingly repressive authoritarianism at home, many have pointed to the danger that anti-Semitism, one of the ugliest plagues of Russian history, is making a comeback.

Rabbi’s expulsion rattles Russian Jews fearful of Kremlin crackdown
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, February 13, 2017

Three years ago, Rabbi Ari Edelkopf and his wife, Chana, worked around the clock for weeks to show off their community and city to the many foreigners in town for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The Chabad emissaries from the United States came to the city on Russia’s Black Sea coast in 2002. By the time the Olympics opened, they could offer three synagogues, five information centers and 24/7 kosher catering to thousands of people in the city, which has only 3,000 Jews.

Read the full article here.

Limmud FSU: from Seedlings to a Forrest
eJewishPhilanthropy, February 12, 2017

They came from Britain and Germany; and from Albania, France and the Netherlands. Israel, Russia, Ukraine and the U.S. too. In all, almost 700 participants (representing 18 countries!) from across the generational landscape disembarked – just a short drive from Windsor Castle – for the first-ever pan-European Limmud FSU Conference. And like the 1st events held in Los Angeles, New York and Ontario over the past decade, it was a smashing success.

In Ukraine, Finding Home and Rewriting History
By Elissa Katz
eJewishPhilanthropy, February 12, 2017

When I was younger, it took me a long time to realize that my parents were actually the ones with the funny accents, countering my belief that all of my childhood friend’s parents sounded a bit strange.

Rukhi Verh and Verka Serduchka, the famous Russian-language singers, were often played on full volume during long car rides, red beet borscht was served with a dollop of sour cream, and we always fasted on Yom Kippur. In our family, that’s what it meant to be Ukrainian Jews.

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.