Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. May 4, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

This week, NCSEJ addressed two anti-Semitic incidents that occurred in Ukraine: a march to commemorate a Nazi battalion in Lviv last weekend, and anti-Semitic statements at a nationalist demonstration in Odesa on Wednesday.  NCSEJ issued statements in response to both incidents.

NCSEJ has repeatedly called on the Ukrainian government to address anti-Semitism and to take action against it. Earlier today, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko released the following statement:


"I strongly condemn any manifestations of intolerance and anti-Semitism. I consider as unacceptable any attempts to bring these shameful things in Ukraine, as it happened recently during the actions in Lviv and Odesa. Ukrainian authorities will resolutely respond to any attempts to sow hostility in our society. The reaction of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies to such unlawful actions will be immediate. Ukraine is not a place for discrimination and intolerance on any ground, since respect for life and dignity of every person is the highest value for the Ukrainian state." 

Ukrainian Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov also spoke out against the incident in Odesa, calling the anti-Semitic remarks "unpatriotic." NCSEJ appreciates the President's expression of solidarity with the Ukrainian Jewish community and his promises to address anti-Semitism in Ukraine. NCSEJ looks forward to seeing the government implement concrete steps to fight anti-Semitism and intolerance.

On Tuesday, NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss and I attended the premier of the film Sobibor at the Russian Embassy. The film depicts the 1943 Sobibor extermination camp rebellion, led by Soviet soldier Alexander Pechersky. Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited survivors of the Sobibor Uprising to participate in Moscow's May 9 Victory Day parade, which commemorates the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. 

This week, we share two pieces on Poland. One profiles non-Jewish Poles who work to preserve Jewish heritage in small towns across the country. The other is an interesting and insightful profile of Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, including his views on Poland's anti-defamation legislation.

We also share with you a piece on Georgian-Russian relations and Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili's calls for "strategic tolerance" of the Russian Federation.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. May 4, 2018

NCSEJ Condemns Anti-Semitic Remarks at May 2 Demonstration in Odesa, Ukraine

NCSEJ, May 3, 2018

Yesterday, Tatyana Soykina, the head of the Odesa chapter of Right Sector, a far-right Ukrainian political group, made anti-Semitic statements at a large demonstration. The demonstration was held to mark the fourth anniversary of clashes in Odesa between pro- and anti-Maidan protesters. The May 2014 clashes resulted in over 40 deaths and 200 injuries. NCSEJ condemns Soykina's anti-Semitic remarks and hopes a pending investigation into whether Soykina violated Ukraine's law on inciting hatred against a religious group will reinforce efforts to fight intolerance nationwide. 

Video surfaced of Soykina's remarks in which she declared that, "We will restore order in Ukraine, Ukraine will belong to Ukrainians, not Jews and oligarchs," using a highly offensive pejorative for Jews, zhid.

Read the full article here.

Nazi symbols and salutes on display at Ukrainian nationalist march

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 29, 2018

Hundreds of people in the Ukrainian city of Lviv attended a nationalist march featuring Nazi symbols that commemorated a Waffen SS unit with many local volunteers.

Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, condemned Saturday’s march honoring the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, or the 1st Galician, as “a scandalous event that should not be allowed to happen in Ukraine in which murderers of Jews and others are glorified.”

Andrew Srulevitch, the director of European affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, on Twitter wrote on Sunday that “Ukrainian leaders need to condemn such marches, where Ukrainian extremists celebrate Ukrainian Nazi SS divisions (1st Galician), giving Nazi salutes in uniform in the middle of a major Ukrainian city.”

Ukraine’s democracy is approaching ‘make or break’ — and the West is missing in action

By Michael McFaul

Washington Post, May 1, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin is waging a global ideological war against Western liberal, democratic values. It has been underway for many years, and it extends from his own immediate neighborhood to Western Europe and, of course, the United States, where he intervened in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

The front line of this ideological war between Putinism and democracy, however, remains Ukraine.

Having spent the last week in Kiev, I can see why Ukraine today frightens Putin. This Slavic nation with some shared historical and cultural legacies with Russia is building democracy. Over lunch one afternoon, I listened to members of Parliament argue vigorously over the pluses and minuses of a draft law. That doesn’t happen in Russia anymore.

Read the full article here.

Putin invites descendants of Sobibor rebellion to celebration marking Nazis’ defeat

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 2, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited to the Moscow parade commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany the families of Jewish partisans who rebelled at the Sobibor death camp.

Putin’s office invited 12 people related to seven rebels at Sobibor to the Victory Day march May 9 in his nation’s capital. His office is paying travel and accommodation expenses for the visitors from Israel, according to one of the guests, Lea Hirsch.

This will be the first time that descendants of the Sobibor Uprising are invited to the official parade in Moscow.

Read the full article here.

The Self-appointed, non-Jewish ‘Guardians of Jewish Memory’ in Poland

By Judy Maltz

Haaretz, May 3, 2018

While flipping through the pages of a book a friend had recommended on Jews in this town who survived the Holocaust, Narcyz Listowski was startled to find a picture of his own house.

That is how he discovered he was living in the home of the last rabbi to have served the local Jewish community here, before it was decimated in the Holocaust.

Listowski had always wondered about the strange room with the steps leading to a small empty pool in the basement. As he was to discover, that underground space had served as the town mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) – conveniently located in the rabbi’s house.

Read the full article here.

Amid raging Holocaust law controversy, Poland’s chief rabbi urges nuance

By Yaakov Schwartz, Raphael Ahren, and Amanda Borschel-Dan

Times of Israel, May 1, 2018

Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich has recently mastered the art of juggling.

On a given day, he makes sure new Polish legislation doesn’t end up banning kosher slaughter (Schudrich himself is a longtime vegetarian). Or, perhaps he’s playing devil’s advocate to a Jewish community member or politician  –or both — at loggerheads over a controversial recent law that could impact Holocaust education.

After the Polish legislature recently passed a law that could see people doing hard time for the crime of accusing the Polish government or nation of complicity in the Holocaust, the US-born Schudrich has had to explain the implications of said law to miffed Poles and infuriated Jews around the world.

Read the full article here.

Russian Asylum Applications In U.S. Hit 24-Year Record

By Carl Schreck
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The number of asylum applications by Russian citizens in the United States hit a 24-year high in 2017, jumping nearly 40 percent from the previous year and continuing an upward march that began after Russian President Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012.

U.S. authorities received 2,664 new asylum applications from Russian nationals in the fiscal year ending on September 30, a 39-percent increase compared to 2016.

RFE/RL obtained the 2017 statistics, which have yet to be released publicly, under a Freedom Of Information Act request filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Read the full article here.

Georgian President Calls For 'Strategic Tolerance' Of Russia

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 2, 2018

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has lashed out at the country's government on domestic issues and urged it to stick to what he called a "policy of strategic tolerance" in relations with Russia, which remain strained a decade after the neighbors fought a five-day war.

In his annual speech to parliament on May 2, Margvelashvili said that such a policy "is important for Georgia in current circumstances," suggesting that Moscow could be seeking a pretext for fresh conflict.

"Georgia must not follow any of [Russia's] provocations and do its best not to give Russia a chance to use force against Georgia," Margvelashvili said.

Read the full article here.

European Rabbis Conclude Meetings at Riga’s Only Surviving Synagogue

By Tamara Zieve

Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2018

Dozens of prominent rabbis from across Europe gathered this week at Riga’s only shul to survive the Holocaust, the Peitav Synagogue, to attend meetings of the Conference of European Rabbis’ Standing Committee.

The three-day program, which ended on Wednesday, included discussions by some 50 rabbis from Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Russia and Ukraine, on issues faced by Jewish communities across Europe. These include attempts to ban brit mila and kosher slaughter, as well as the rising antisemitism on the continent.

The Peitav Synagogue survived the Holocaust due to its location in Riga’s Old Town, adjacent to other buildings including a church.

Austrian Chancellor, Whose Deputy's Party Has anti-Semitic Roots, Expected to Visit Israel in June

By Noa Landau

Haaretz, May 2, 2018

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is expected to visit Israel in early June.

The 31-year-old head of state, who is chairman of the conservative Austrian People's Party, met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference – the first meeting between the two since Kurz was elected and formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party. The Freedom Party's leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, was appointed deputy chancellor. Critics of the far-right party claim that it has never gotten away from its anti-Semitic and Nazi roots.

Read the full article here.

[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.