Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. January 27, 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 Duma Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy made anti-Semitic comments during a press conference. When discussing recent stalled legislation on St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, he blamed the delay on “the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who pulled down our temples, and jumped out from the Pale of Settlement to the revolver in 1917, and [who] today are working in very respectable places – on the radio, in the legislatures, [to] continue the work of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers.”

In response NCSEJ has sent a letter to the Russian Ambassador, condemning Mr. Tolstoy’s comments and asking for an appropriate response against the Deputy-Speaker’s remarks.

Unbelievably, given his anti-Semitic remarks, it was announced today that the Duma appointed Mr. Tolstoy to head the Russian Federation delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

In a related development, the Head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJC), Rabbi Alexander Baroda, said that he had met with Deputy-Speaker Tolstoy and the MP apologized for his statement. “We discussed the situation. Pyotr Tolstoy apologized and said that he did not mean any anti-Semitism, had nothing negative in mind against any faiths or nationalities,” said the Rabbi.

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to speak via telephone on Saturday. They will likely discuss sanctions imposed on Russia, said a senior White House aide.

On Monday, Ukraine’s presidential administration announced a series of commendations. The list included Vasil Kvasnovsky, a Ukrainian author of anti-Semitic books, to receive the Order of Freedom, Ukraine’s highest civilian honor. NCSEJ wrote to President Petro Poroshenko urging him to rescind the award. The President’s office claimed it was a technical error and a draft of the decree rather than official announcement. Any mention of Kvasnovsky receiving the Order on the president’s website has since been removed.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and nations around the world are holding remembrance services including at the U.S. Holocaust Museum where NCSEJ was represented. The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has joined together with the Auschwitz Museum in Poland on a Holocaust memory campaign “We Remember.” More than 250,000 people have participated in the social media campaign. More information can be found on the WJC website.  I also want to bring to your attention an op-ed piece by World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) chief Gideon Taylor, on taking action and pursuing justice for survivors and their families.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor, in a speech before the European Parliament, called the absence of a definition of anti-Semitism in the EU “absurd.” He urged the European Union to adopt the definition that was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the UK earlier in the year.

Ukraine’s Uman airport is set to receive a $140 million investment. An old army airport near the city will open for commercial flights to accommodate visitors. The investment comes from unnamed U.S. parties. The new airport will alleviate crowds in the airports in Kyiv and Odessa. Nearly 50,000 pilgrims visited Uman in 2016, 25,000 during Rosh Hashanah alone.

This week, we have included a piece by Michael Kaminer on kosher restaurants in Moscow. Also of interest, a piece in Foreign Policy on the diverging views on Stepan Bandera by Poland and Ukraine.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. January 27, 2017

A dispute over St. Petersburg’s grand Orthodox cathedral stirs up Russia’s anti-Semitic conspiracies
The Washington Post, January 24, 2017

St. Isaac’s Cathedral is one of the most impressive buildings in St. Petersburg, Russia's grand second city that was the country's Europe-facing capital for more than 200 years. Completed in 1858, it's not only the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the world but an important tourist spot in the city, drawing almost 2.3 million visitors last year.

Yet despite its heritage, recently announced plans to transfer the ownership of the cathedral from the state to the Russian Orthodox Church have sparked protests in the city, and that dispute turned uglier Tuesday, with comments from a prominent politician leading to allegations of anti-Semitism in Orthodox-majority Russia

Anti-Semitism Spikes in Poland — Stoked by Populist Surge Against Refugees
The Forward, January 24, 2017

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Poland, a country with almost no Jews.

A new national study conducted by the Center for Research on Prejudice at the University of Warsaw finds a significant increase in negative attitudes toward Jews since 2014. The research, covering the years 2014-2016, shows that anti-Semitic hate speech is becoming increasingly acceptable and enjoys a growing popularity on the Internet and on Polish television.

The study took actual examples of anti-Semitic statements found in different media and asked respondents if they found these statements offensive. In all cases, the statements were found to be less offensive in 2016 than in 2014. The difference was most pronounced among young people

Read the full article here.

In Kharkiv, there is preparation for the publication of Goebbels' diary (Article In Russian)
Kharkiv Today, January 25, 2017

Large Kharkiv publisher "Folio" will publish a diary of one of the leaders of Nazi Germany, Joseph Goebbels in the Ukrainian language.

Memoirs will cover the last years of Nazi ideology - 1944-1945. "The main ideologue of the Nazi Ministry of propaganda kept diaries for years. Prior to 1945 there were about 15,000 pages. Today, they are a number of such documents, without the knowledge and understanding it is impossible to create a more or less complete picture of German National Socialism. The diaries of 1944-45 are the most valuable part of the records of Goebbels ", - stated the summary for the publication.

Nazarbaev Says He'll Devolve Some Powers As He Becomes 'Supreme Arbiter'
RFERL, January 25, 2017

Kazakhstan's long-ruling President Nursultan Nazarbaev says he will delegate some of his sweeping powers to parliament and to government ministers as he transforms his own leadership into a role he described as "supreme arbiter."

Nazarbaev made the remarks on January 25, saying that constitutional amendments and other legislation had been drafted by a working group he appointed earlier in January.

Read the full article here.

Estonia Supports Russian Sanctions, Visa-Free Travel For Ukrainians
RFERL, January 24, 2017

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has told visiting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that she supports continued sanctions against Russia over its involvement in eastern Ukraine.

Kaljulaid said following a meeting with Poroshenko in Tallinn on January 23 that the economic sanctions should remain until "the full implementation of the Minsk agreements and until Russia observes all its international obligations."

Read the full article here.

EU must adopt definition for anti-Semitism, European Jewish Congress head says
JTA, January 25, 2017

The absence of a European Union definition for anti-Semitism is an “absurd” situation that needs correcting, which also would honor Holocaust victims, the president of the European Jewish Congress told European lawmakers.

During his address Wednesday at the European Parliament ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, EJC president Moshe Kantor referenced the 2013 removal from the website of the E.U.’s anti-racism agency of a “working definition” of anti-Semitism. Pro-Palestinian activists opposed it because it also mentioned the demonization of Israel as an example of the phenomenon.

Read the full article here.

Trump will raise settlements at meeting with Netanyahu
JTA, January 24, 2017

President Donald Trump wants to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about recent settlement expansion plans when they meet next month.

“He wants to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and we’ll discuss that,” Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said Tuesday at the daily briefing for reporters when asked about the announcements.

Netanyahu and Trump spoke over the weekend, and Trump invited Netanyahu to the White House next month.

Read the full article here.

U.S. Senate confirms Pompeo to be Trump's CIA director
Reuters, January 23, 2017

The U.S. Senate confirmed Representative Mike Pompeo as President Donald Trump's CIA director on Monday, after a delay tied to some lawmakers' worries he might expand surveillance or allow the use of certain interrogation techniques widely considered torture.

Sixty-six senators backed Pompeo and 32 voted against. All the opposition was from Democrats, except for Senator Rand Paul, a leading Republican advocate for strict control of surveillance. Shortly afterward, Pompeo was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.

Read the full article here.

Croatian Jews to boycott state Holocaust remembrance event
EJC, January 24, 2017

Croatian Jews said on Monday they would boycott the country's main Holocaust remembrance event this week, accusing the authorities of playing down crimes perpetrated under the Nazi-backed Ustasa regime during The Second World War.

Three months ago, rightist veterans of Croatia's 1991-95 independence war raised a commemorative plaque in the town of Jasenovac to comrades killed there at the beginning of the conflict Zagreb fought to secede from Serbian-led Yugoslavia.

Read the full article here.

Russia Is a Terrible Ally Against Terrorism
The New York Times Op-ed, January 23, 2017

Since early in his campaign, President Trump has made counterterrorism cooperation a pillar of his argument for improving relations with Russia. On the face of it, that idea might seem attractive: two of the world’s largest militaries and intelligence communities working together against the Islamic State and other jihadist networks to achieve progress that neither could alone.

But it’s a bad idea. A partnership with Russia of the kind Mr. Trump proposes has the potential to profoundly undermine the United States’ counterterrorism progress and shred our relationships with Sunni Muslims around the world. Moreover, it’s doubtful such an alliance could actually be forged.

Moldovan President Says 'Strategic Partnership' With Russia Essential
RFERL, January 23, 2017

Moldovan President Igor Dodon has said he does not believe his country will ever be part of the European Union and that in order to be fully unified, it is necessary "to find common ground with Russia."

Speaking to Russia’s state-run RT television on January 23, Dodon said that people in Moldova's Transdniester and Gagauzia regions overwhelmingly opposed European integration.

He said that for that reason "we will not succeed in uniting the country if we do not build a strategic partnership with Russia."

In Odessa, Everyone Has a Jewish History — And They’re Not Keeping it Secret Anymore
The Forward, January 20, 2017

Once, Odessa was very much a Jewish city.

Before World War II, a third of those living in the Ukrainian port city were Jewish. According to the latest census, the Jewish population today is roughly 1%.

And yet, during a recent trip to Ukraine, I was surprised to find that nearly everyone I met in Odessa had Jewish roots.

I had gone to Ukraine to explore the city’s rich Jewish heritage and improve my Russian language skills through a 2-week program offered by the Odessa Language Study Center. My journey began at the second annual Polyglot Conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, a similarly vibrant former center of Jewish civilization in Europe. Accompanied by my polyglot partner-in-crime, Yankl Peretz Blum, we embarked on an arduously long bus ride from Greece to Moldova and Odessa.

Read the full article here.

Trump invites Netanyahu to Washington for visit: White House
Reuters, January 22, 2017

President Donald Trump invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Washington in early February during a phone call in which they discussed the importance of strengthening the U.S.-Israeli relationship, the White House said on Sunday.

In his first call with Netanyahu since taking office on Friday, Trump stressed his "unprecedented commitment to Israel's security."

"The president and the prime minister agreed to continue to closely consult on a range of regional issues, including addressing the threats posed by Iran," the White House said in a statement.

Putin and Trump likely to discuss Ukraine sanctions: White House aide


Reuters, January 27, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump are likely to discuss the sanctions that Washington imposed on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine when the two leaders speak by telephone on Saturday, a senior White House aide said.

Trump has said in the past that, as part of a rapprochement he is seeking with Russia, he is prepared to review sanctions that his predecessor, Barack Obama, imposed on Russia over its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula.

Read the full article here.

Ukraine’s Uman airport to service pilgrims thanks to $140M investment
JTA, January 20, 2017

Ukrainian officials have agreed to renovate an old army airport near the city of Uman and open it to commercial flights, including from Israel.

The renovation, reported Monday by the news site Life, is being made possible thanks to a $140 million investment by unnamed parties from the United States.

The opening of an airport near Uman, situated 120 miles south of Kiev, has the potential of redirecting from the international airports of Kiev and Odessa tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims who visit Uman to be near the gravesite of the 18th-century luminary Rabbi Nachman of Breslav, a spiritual father of the Breslav Hasidic movement. Some 25,000 pilgrims come on Rosh Hashanah alone.

Read the full article here.

How to Open a Kosher Restaurant in Moscow

By Michael Kaminer

January 23, 2017

Asian and Mediterranean cuisines are the stars at Jaffa, a new kosher restaurant in a high-end Moscow mall. The menu also dives into what’s known as Odessa cuisine — “traditional dishes of Eastern European Jews,” according to general manager Semen Boguslavsky.

“Moscow has just a few kosher restaurants, so people who keep kosher have to settle for the same dishes: grilled meat, hummus, falafel,” he said. “We wanted to provide the largest possible choice.”

Can Nikki Haley Change Trump’s Mind About Russia and Putin?
Foreign Policy, January 25, 2017

President Donald Trump has pledged a new era in U.S.-Russian relations. But his recently confirmed U.N. envoy, outgoing South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, is having none of it.

In a Senate hearing and in written responses to questions from Foreign Relations Committee members, Haley has made it clear that Russia could never be a fully trusted friend of the United States as long as President Vladimir Putin remains in power.

Ukraine and Poland’s History Wars Are a Gift For Putin
Foreign Policy, January 24, 2017

KIEV, Ukraine — Since 2014, when it began its war against better-equipped and better-funded Russians and their proxies, Ukraine has been in desperate search of heroes to inspire the country. At least one of those national inspirations is now threatening a critical, but increasingly fragile, international relationship when Ukraine can least afford it.

The Ukrainian hero is Stepan Bandera, and the relationship in question is Ukraine’s partnership with Poland. In Ukraine, Bandera is mainly remembered as the founder of nationalist groups that fought the Soviet army in western Ukraine from World War II to the 1950s, when he was in exile and later assassinated by the KGB in Germany.

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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.