Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. May 12, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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


Dear Friend,

It’s been a busy week in Washington. At the White House, President Trump and Vice-President Pence met with senior government leaders from the Eurasian region, including Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The New York Times published a moving story about the plight of Polish Holocaust survivors, who in the last years of their lives, are seeking restitution for the property they lost in the war. Nearly three-quarters of a century after the horrors of World War II, Poland is the only European Union nation that has not established formal procedures to resolve claims made by individuals whose property was seized during the Holocaust.

The European Jewish Congress, in concert with the Federation of Russian Jewish Communities held a series of events this week across Western and Central Europe for Russian Jewish youth. At the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, over 1,000 Jewish students from over forty communities took part in a March of the Living commemoration, and lit candles in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.

On June 7 in New York City, NCSEJ holds its Spring Board of Governors meeting, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., with presentations by U.S. Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Thomas K. Yazdgerdi, Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Amb. Volodymyr Yelchenko, and reports from Jewish community leaders from the Eurasian region. For more information and to RSVP, visit http://ncsej.org/board_meeting or call 202-898-2500.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO

Washington, D.C. May 12, 2017

Holocaust Survivors in Poland Find Restitution Claims ‘Like a Carousel’
By Nina Siegal
New York Times, May 10, 2017

AMSTERDAM — Hania Rosenberg was born in 1934 in Oswiecim, an industrial town in the Galicia region of southern Poland. The concentration and extermination camp the Germans built there after their 1939 invasion, called Auschwitz-Birkenau, would take the lives of 1.1 million people.

Her grandparents had a three-story house and a general store, farmland and two garden plots in the nearby town of Ledziny. During the Communist era, the house and store were expropriated. A shopping mall and new houses stand on what was once farmland. But two garden plots — still in the name of her grandfather — remain, and Ms. Rosenberg is fighting for their ownership, so that she can give them to the family who saved her.

Some 10% of Eastern Europeans don’t want Jews as citizens, study finds
JTA, May 10, 2017

More than 10 percent of Central and Eastern Europeans do not accept Jews as citizens of their countries, according to a new study.

The study, released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, surveyed the residents of 18 countries and found that 80 percent of respondents would accept Jews as fellow citizens. The remainder was not sure or declined to answer.

More than 1,000 to attend Limmud FSU in New York
Limmudfsublog.com, May 9, 2017

Some 1,000 people are expected to gather the weekend of May 12 for Limmud FSU New York, the biggest event geared towards the Russian-speaking community in the area, which will include a ceremony opening an exhibition on Leonard Cohen’s life and Jewish roots.

Currently, there are an estimated 200,000 Russian Jews in the Tri-State area and 700,000 nationally. Limmud FSU New York will take place at the Hilton Westchester and will feature an array of world-class programs and speakers from around the world, including Israel’s minister of tourism, Yariv Levin. Also slated to attend is Representative Nita Lowey.

Ukrainian general calls for destruction of Jews
By Sam Sokol
Jewish Chronicle, May 11, 2017

In the latest of a series of highly public antisemitic statements by prominent figures in Ukraine, a retired Ukrainian general affiliated with the country’s intelligence services this week called for the destruction of his country’s Jewish community.

In a post since deleted from Facebook, Vasily Vovk - a general who holds a senior reserve rank with the Security Service of Ukraine, the local successor to the KGB - wrote that Jews “aren't Ukrainians and I will destroy you along with [Ukrainian oligarch and Jewish lawmaker Vadim] Rabinovych. I'm telling you one more time - go to hell, zhidi [kikes], the Ukrainian people have had it to here with you.”

Read the full article here.

U.S. Criticizes Russian Buildup In Baltics, May Temporarily Deploy Patriot Missiles
RFE/RL, May 10, 2017

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has criticized what he called a "destabilizing" Russian military buildup near the Baltic states, as officials said the United States was considering deploying Patriot missiles in the region for military drills later this year.

Mattis was speaking on May 10 at a joint press conference with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite in Vilnius.

Georgian PM: Trump Offers 'Full Support' In Standoff With Russia Over Breakaway Regions
RFE/RL, May 8, 2017

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili's office said that U.S. President Donald Trump expressed Washington's "full support of Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity" during a May 8 meeting at the White House.

Tbilisi continues to be locked in a standoff with Russia over Georgia's Moscow-backed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Pence Expresses 'Unwavering' U.S. Support For Ukraine's Sovereignty
RFE/RL, May 11, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence expressed the Trump administration's "unwavering support" for Ukraine's sovereignty in a meeting with the country's foreign minister on May 10.

A White House statement said Pence met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin as President Donald Trump was meeting with Klimkin's Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

The statement said Pence stressed America's support for Ukraine's "territorial integrity" while urging Kyiv to "peacefully resolve the conflict" with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Kremlin 'Cautiously Optimistic' After Lavrov-Trump Meeting
RFE/RL, May 11, 2017

The Kremlin expressed "cautious optimism" about the prospects for an improvement in relations with the United States following a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the comment on May 11, adding: "We have a lot of work ahead of us."  Trump and Lavrov met at the White House on May 10, the highest-level meeting the U.S. president has had with a Russian official since taking office in January.

Before Conference of European Rabbis, Timmermans defends Jewish practices
World Jewish Congress, May 10, 2017

A top European Union official said on Tuesday that there was "no Europe without the Jewish community”.

“Europe is faced with a huge surge of anti-Semitism, which is inspired by people coming from elsewhere, who were raised with anti-Semitism. Our society should be helping them to get it out of their system and signs of anti-Semitism should not remain unaddressed. But sadly, we also face the eternal European anti-Semitism, which is live and kicking.”

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, told the dinner guests, adding: "Freedom of religion is essential and we will defend the principle that one should not be questioned how they practice religion.

Jewish youth from Russia will light candles in Auschwitz to commemorate prisoners and soldiers-liberators
Interfax-Religion, May 4, 2017

Moscow - Delegation of Jewish youth from Russia on May 7 will participate in the March of Life action in Auschwitz camp in Poland.

The delegation will light the candles to commemorate perished prisoners and soldiers-liberators. Special attention of the youth will be focused on Russian part of the exposition, press service of Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar told Interfax-Religion.

EJC brings together over 1000 Jewish students to Auschwitz-Birkenau
May 10, 2017

The European Jewish Congress together with the Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar and the President of the Federation of Russian Jewish Communities Alexander Boroda organised the 'March of the Living' at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial on 7 May 2017.

Over 1000 Jewish students from over 40 communities took part in the March of commemoration at the former Nazi concentration camp.

Russian visitors give Monaco its largest-ever Jewish gathering
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, May 7, 2017     

The city state of Monaco, which is sandwiched between France and Italy, saw the largest Jewish gathering in its history during a visit to the principality by more than 1,000 Russian Jews.

The celebration Thursday, which was hosted by the tiny Jewish community of Monaco, was organized by one of its leaders, Aaron Frenkel, and Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar as part of the Eurostars program of Lazar’s Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia.

EU official: Hungarian prime minister’s crusade against George Soros is anti-Semitic
JTA, May 5, 2017       

A leading official in the European Commission — one of the European Union’s governing bodies — implied that efforts by Hungary’s prime minister to shut down a university founded by George Soros are anti-Semitic.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long harbored animosity toward Soros, a Jewish financier billionaire who was born in Hungary and has donated millions of dollars to liberal causes. Orban is now defending controversial legislation that many see as an attempt to shut down the Central European University in Budapest, a highly respected university Soros founded in 1991.

Jews Among 70,000 Slaughtered By Nazis In Channel Island Camps
By Dave Goldiner
Forward, May 8, 2017

A shocking new report says up to 70,000 prisoners — including many Jews — may have been murdered by the Nazis in slave labor camps on the Channel Islands — a toll that British intelligence covered up.

 “Thousands upon thousands of Russian prisoners of war and forced laborers, men and boys [were] dragged from their villages in Russia and Eastern Europe, Jews from France,” the report stated.

240 Ukrainian immigrants arrive in Israel
JTA, May 9, 2017

A plane carrying 240 Ukrainian immigrants landed in Israel. The flight that landed on Monday was chartered by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

The group of immigrants is made up of 62 families, including 60 children and adolescents and 10 immigrants above the age 70, as well as 14 cats and dogs.  The new immigrants plan to settle in 26 different cities and towns across Israel, including Bat Yam, Katzrin, Haifa, Netanya, Eilat and Rishon L’Zion, according to the Fellowship.

50 arrested in Ukraine Victory Day clashes
Associated Press, May 09, 2017

KIEV, Ukraine –  Police in Ukraine say about 50 people have been arrested after clashes involving nationalists angry with demonstrators observing Victory Day, the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Several thousand people took part in a march Tuesday in the capital, Kiev, to honor Red Army soldiers who fought the Nazis and seized Berlin in a grueling offensive.

How Russian Kids Are Taught World War II
A new history curriculum is raising concern among teachers.
By Ola Cichowlas
May 8, 2017

Russian students play a central role in the patriotic celebrations: popular Victory Day merchandise for children ranges from mini Red Army uniforms to toy guns. They also lead the Immortal Regiment, a march where participants carry portraits of relatives who fought and died in World War II. Entire classrooms are taken to the event.

Amid the euphoria surrounding the event, however, Russia’s history teachers are finding themselves under pressure to conform to the Kremlin’s interpretation of the war.

In September 2016, three history textbooks were sanctioned by the Ministry of Education, all of which gloss over Stalin’s crimes and his initial alliance with Nazi Germany. “My main issue with the textbooks is that they do not reveal the whole truth,” says historian and teacher Leonid Katsva.

Is Trump Setting Up Next Anti-Semitism Envoy For Failure?
By Shai Franklin
Forward, May 5, 2017

Responding to American Jewish anxieties, the Trump administration has indicated it will be filling the post of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism (SEAS). Before popping Champagne corks, we should understand the severe limitations of such a role amid a retrenchment of U.S. diplomacy and serious challenges to civil rights by our own government.

The entire SEAS cachet was predicated on U.S. moral leadership, as an example at home and a force for democracy abroad, applying over two centuries of painful lessons learned. At this time, the best channel for globally combating anti-Semitism is to insist that our government recommit to upholding minority rights domestically and to demanding other countries respect fundamental freedoms and civil society. Without that, SEAS won’t be much more than a trophy on a Trump donor’s shelf.

In a Ukraine forest, terrible events of 75 years ago given resonance by survivors
Jews, Christians near Uman unveil monument to Jewish children murdered by Nazis
By Sue Surkes
Times of Israel, May 9, 2017

UMAN, Ukraine — As veterans across Europe turned out this week for annual ceremonies to commemorate the end of World War ll, some 70 Christians and Jews gathered Monday in a forest clearing in central Ukraine to unveil a memorial to 1,000 Jewish children murdered by the Nazis in April 1942.

The event – on the outskirts of the city of Uman — was an ode to reconciliation. A German pastor from Heidelberg, Johannes Zink, asked forgiveness on behalf of “fathers and grandfathers who may have been involved” in Nazi atrocities. A Jerusalem rabbi, Chaim Eisen, spoke about the importance of building bridges.

Local and district authority representatives lauded the twinning between Uman and the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon and promised that local pupils would look after Jewish graves. Ukrainian schoolchildren lit memorial candles and recited poetry.

[Link to pdf of full articles]
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Telephone: +1 202 898 2500  |  ncsej@ncsej.org
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.