Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. August 24, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Vilnius, Lithuania to meet the Presidents and Prime Ministers of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia to discuss the situation in the Middle East. During Netanyahu's meeting on Friday with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas, Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis, and Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, Ratas stated that "the activities of Russia in Syria are worrying, and we are following these developments closely." Ratas also praised Israel for its contribution to cyber security and the struggle against global terror. Netanyahu is the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit Estonia. Netanyahu especially thanked Lithuania for its support of Israel in the European Union and United Nations.  

On August 21, the United States deported
former Nazi concentration camp guard Jakiw Palij, to Germany. Born in what is now Ukraine, Palij served at the Trawniki concentration camp in German-occupied Poland outside of the city of Lublin.

On Sunday, Estonian authorities discovered that multiple Holocaust memorials in the town of Kalevi-Liiva were vandalized by unknown individuals. Kalevi-Liiva was the site of mass executions of thousands of Jews and other victims of Nazism. Estonian officials and police quickly responded to the attack and are seeking assistance from the local community in tracking down the vandals. Urmas Krull, the Operations Manager for the Police and Border Guard Board, said that "this is a very unfortunate case" and that "we will do everything we can to identify the culprits, because there is no justification for this behavior." NCSEJ is in contact with the local Jewish community's leadership and government authorities.

Ukraine's 2019 presidential election season has begun with numerous billboards and television ads appearing throughout the country supporting various candidates. Ukraine incumbent President Petro Poroshenko faces a multitude of opponents, including Yulia Tymoshenko, who is considered the current front runner. None of the candidates, however, have polled over 20 percent. If there is no clear winner in the March election, there will be a second round of voting between the top two candidates. Tymoshenko is favored to be among the two.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO

Washington, D.C. August 24, 2018

Ratas Meets with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu

ERR, August 24, 2018

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Baltic counterparts that the European Union needs "peace and stability" in its neighbouring regions, and seeks to contribute to the peace process in the Middle East.

Netanyahu and Ratas as well as Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis and Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis met in Vilnius on Friday to discuss relations between the European Union and Israel, the security situation in the Middle East and the Baltic Sea region, and Russia's activities near the EU. "The activities of Russia in Syria are worrying, and we are following these developments very closely," Ratas was quoted in a government press release.

Read the full article here.

Nazi Camp Guard Jakiw Palij Deported from U.S. to Germany
JTA, August 21, 2018

A former guard at a Nazi concentration camp was deported to Germany overnight from the United States, where he had lived for decades.

Jakiw Palij, 95, had lived in Queens, New York. He served as a guard at the Trawniki concentration camp near Lublin, Poland, during World War II, and may face prosecution in Germany for his actions.

Members of New York’s congressional delegation last year urged the Trump administration to deport Palij, whose citizenship was revoked in 2003 based on his wartime activities, human rights abuses and immigration fraud, NBC reported. A federal court also ruled that he had assisted in the persecution of prisoners at the camp, though it stopped short of finding him responsible for deaths.

Read the full article here.

Trump Names Jewish Security Expert to Senior Intelligence Post

JTA, August 22, 2018

President Donald Trump chose a Jewish national security expert as the deputy chairwoman of the intelligence advisory board.

Samantha Ravich is well known in the pro-Israel national security community.

She was named to the board, which helps shape intelligence policy, on Tuesday.

Ravich, a former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, is a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an influential hawkish pro-Israel think tank. She is also a senior adviser to the Chertoff Group, founded by Michael Chertoff, a Homeland Security secretary in the George W. Bush administration. She has worked with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. One of her specialties is combating extremists.

Read the full article here.

Holocaust Victim Memorials Vandalized at Kalevi-Liiva
ERR, August 21, 2018

Sometime Saturday overnight or on Sunday, just days ahead of the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, unidentified individuals vandalized multiple Holocaust memorials at Kalevi-Liiva, Harju County, the execution site of thousands of victims of Nazism.

The memorials were tagged with a swastika, penises and anti-Semitic and Nazi messages as well as burned, likely using a blowtorch.

The vandalism was discovered by local residents, who notified the police, the municipal government and Estonia's Jewish community about it.

Read the full article here.

From the Fires of Revolution, Ukraine Reinventing Government
By Rowland Manthorpe
Wired, August 19, 2018

Since the 2014 revolution, Ukrainian activists have set about using technology to prevent abuses of power – by building the world's most transparent platform for government spending.

At the gate of Mezhyhirya, the estate Viktor Yanukovych built with the money he stole from the people of Ukraine, a stall is selling rolls of toilet paper printed with the face of Vladimir Putin. Beside them are three large, flat, plastic loaves of bread, painted gold. Viktor Nestulia, director of innovation projects at Transparency International Ukraine, taps one with his finger. “When they came here after the revolution of dignity, they found a loaf made of solid gold, so this is a copy,” he says. “That’s what it is here. You will see.”

Read the full article here.

Meet the Catholic-Born Polish Orthodox Jew Who's Reviving Yiddish Tango
By Larry Luxner
JTA, August 20, 2018

She’s a Catholic-born Polish woman now living as a Modern Orthodox Jew in Israel.

As if that weren’t unusual enough, Olga Avigail Mieleszczuk’s life’s work is reviving the musical genre of Yiddish tango — two words rarely uttered in the same breath.

Mieleszczuk, known simply as Olga in her native Poland and Avigail in her adopted Israel, began piano lessons at the age of 6, when she was plucked from kindergarten to pursue a career in classical music.

Raised as a devout Catholic, Olga set out on a journey of Jewish transformation during an interfaith visit to Auschwitz, a five-day retreat where she and other Poles met American and Israeli Jews as well as some German grandchildren of Nazi officers.

Read the full article here.

Ukraine's Political Season is about to Begin. Here's What You Need to Know.
By Taras Berezovets
Atlantic Council, August 20, 2018

The hot summer of 2018 has been unusually calm in Ukraine, where in the absence of other news, a scandal or a crisis catches the media spotlight. This is a stark contrast to 2009, when the Ukrainian presidential campaign was in full swing, which on February 7, 2010, ended in victory for Viktor Yanukovych. In March 2019, exactly nine years later, Ukrainians will choose their sixth president.

Today, numerous billboards and TV ads remind us of the beginning of the election campaign, or to be more precise, of presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The word “new” is abundant in all of her advertising: “The New Deal,” “New People’s Constitution,” and even “New Peace Plan.” The word “new” seeks to evoke the most positive associations in voters and make them forget that she is far from a novice. Tymoshenko was first elected from the Kirovohrad district to the parliament in 1997 with a fantastic 92.3 percent of votes.

Read the full article here.

OSCE Expresses Concern over Russian Forces Actions in Transdniester
Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, August 16, 2018

The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) has expressed concern about Russian forces’ "river-crossing military exercise" in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniester and said its team was blocked from monitoring the maneuvers.

The OSCE said in a statement on August 15 that in accordance with a 1992 agreement designed to seek a settlement to the longstanding dispute, military exercises in the zone must be authorized by the Joint Control Commission (JCC) and the OSCE Mission, “which was not done in this instance."

"The OSCE Mission urges all parties involved in the fulfillment of the 1992 Agreement on Principles of a Peaceful Settlement to fully respect its provisions and the regime of the Security Zone, as well as the relevant JCC decisions and regulations," the OSCE statement said.

Read the full article here.

Anonymous Entrepreneur Restores Jewish Cemetery in Poland
JTA, August 20, 2018

An anonymous Polish entrepreneur has spent hundreds of thousands of zlotys to restore the Jewish cemetery of Żywiec, a town of 32,000 residents in southern Poland near the Czech and Slovak borders.

The cemetery had fallen into ruin following World War II and was among several under the care of the Jewish community of Bielsko-Biała, which has only several dozen members, Wyborcza.pl reported.

The community, which maintains responsibility for a dozen such cemeteries, was unable to pay for the upkeep of the 19th-century graveyard, which was overgrown with weeds.

The philanthropist, who asked to remain anonymous, expects the work to be completed by September. He hired 10 workers to repair the fence and restore tombstones, many of which had toppled. Some weigh several hundred pounds.

Read the full article here.

Nazi guards weren’t the only ones killing Jews during the Holocaust. Some — but not all — communities did it themselves first. Why?​​​​​​​
By Jeffrey Kopstein & Jason Wittenberg
Washington Post, August 22, 2018

As the United States deports a former Nazi concentration camp guard to Germany, the world has been reminded again of the popular image of the Holocaust as one of impersonal mass slaughter. In the death camps, Jews and other victims died at the hands of murderers who didn’t know their victims but were filled with anti-Semitic hate.

But by the time that the death camps’ gas chambers became operational, approximately half of the Jews who would perish in the Holocaust were already dead. Many of these Jews were tortured or killed by “ordinary” non-Jews at close quarters: in apartments, in streets, in the woods and anywhere else Jews could be found. The perpetrators often knew or knew of their victims, and the means were often primitive: guns, axes, crowbars, bricks, fire, beating and drowning.

[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.