Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. March 8, 2019

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

On Thursday afternoon, the House of Representative overwhelmingly passed (407-23) H. Res. 183 condemning anti-Semitism and intolerance towards other groups and religious denominations. The resolution was initiated in response to Representative Ilhan Omar’s (D-MI) use of the anti-Semitic “dual loyalty” trope during an event. Some American Jewish organizations and members of Congress were disappointed that the resolution did not solely focus on anti-Semitism. 

This week, Politico reported on the myriad causes of the contemporary surge of anti-Semitism around the world. William Echikson, the author and Director of the European Union of Progressive Judaism Brussels office, explores the role of nationalist governments in Eastern Europe in spreading anti-Jewish propaganda, leftist movements in Western Europe engaging in popular demonstrations against Jews, and the ideological confrontations in the United States between supporters and detractors of Israel. Echikson concludes by warning of continued repercussions for the Jewish community if this new hate grows unchecked. 

On Tuesday, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the leader of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Shas party, disparaged hundreds of thousands of former Soviet Jews who immigrated to Israel for not being halachically Jewish, and threatened to change Israel’s Law of Return to exclude some immigrants from the region. Having worked for the liberation of Soviet Jewry for decades and for their right to make aliyah, NCSEJ is disappointed with Deri for his comments. Jews from the former Soviet Union now living in Israel have and continue to make important contributions to the country's society and culture. 

Please see the article below on the return of the descendants of Chernobyl's Jewish dynasty, over thirty years after the disaster that befell the city. Rabbi Sirkis Leibel of New York has led ten groups to Chernobyl to visit the Old Synagogue and the grave of Hasidic movement's early leaders.

On Thursday, NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss and I arranged for Chief Rabbi of Moscow and President of the Conference of European Pinchas Goldschmidt to meet with the State Department  Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism Elan Carr.

Today, I am joining a small group of Jewish leaders to meet with Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to discuss issues concerning the Jewish community in his country. 

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
From left to right: Senior Advisor for Combating Anti-Semitism and Unit Chief for Europe Stacy Davis, NCSEJ CEO Mark Levin, Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt, US Special Envoy to Monitor & Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr, and NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss.
Washington, D.C. March 8, 2019

What’s Behind Europe’s Surge in Anti-Semitism?
By William Echikson
Politico, March 4, 2019

Anti-Semitism is back in Europe. Cries of “dirty Jew” during Yellow Jackets protests in France, anti-Semitic posters condemning Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros in Hungary, a row over anti-Semitic remarks that threatens to tear the Labour Party apart in the U.K. — these are all part of the same worrying trend.

This particularly European pathology never truly went away, of course, but it had been confined, after the Holocaust, to the far-right fringes of society. Now the numbers of high-profile incidents and violent attacks are multiplying. Not only is this disease back; it is being weaponized by nationalist governments and parties on both sides of the political spectrum.

So what explains this alarming resurgence?

Here’s How Young European Jews in Far-Flung Cities Are Connecting to Jewish Studies 
By Ben Harris
JTA, March 4, 2019

When Jewish physicist Vladimir Osipov emigrated from his native Moscow 13 years ago, he first moved to Holon, a city in central Israel.

But it wasn’t until Osipov relocated with his family three years later to a mid-size city in Germany that they felt part of a vibrant Jewish community.

It wasn’t because of the preponderance of Jews in Duisburg, a city of about half a million people in Germany’s western Rhineland region. On the contrary, there are only about 2,500 Jews spread out across Duisburg and two neighboring cities.

Netanyahu: Russia Shares Goal of Removing All Foreign Troops from Syria
By Herb Keinon
The Jerusalem Post, March 3, 2019

Russia and Israel share the goal of removing all foreign troops from Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu, discussing his meeting in Moscow last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that Iran was the focus of the talks, and that he and Putin agreed on the need to remove all foreign forces that arrived in Syria after the start of the civil war there in 2011.

Diplomatic sources said last week that this would exclude Russia, which had a military presence in Syria even before the beginning of the civil war.

World Mayors Unite against Anti-Semitism
By Itamar Eichner
YNet News, March 4, 2019

In response to the recent uptick in anti-Semitism around the world, a coalition of mayors of cities around the world are pledging to combat hate, anti-Semitism and the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement targeting Israel.
The initiative is headed by Modi’in Mayor Haim Bibas, Mayor of Bal Harbour (Florida) Gabriel Groisman and Mayor of Frankfurt Uwe Becker.

They intend to release a statement signed by the mayors of 40 cities to combat anti-Semitism. They will commit to a number of steps including conducting an annual gathering to discuss dealing with the issue, taking concrete steps to raise awareness in the educational system, examining the possibilities for applicable legislation and exploring ways in which to unite against the rise in extremism around the world.

Europe’s Jews Caught in a Pincer Movement of Hate
By Jamie Dettmer
Voice of America, March 5, 2019

They sang “La Marseillaise,” France’s rousing national anthem, on a gray day in the recently desecrated Jewish cemetery in the Alsace village of Quatzenheim, where 96 gravestones were spray-painted last month with Nazi slogans.

The gathering Sunday of hundreds wanting to mark their disgust at the desecration was somber.

And it was made even more mournful by news of another act of vandalism a day earlier in nearby Strasbourg, where anti-Semites vandalized a memorial marking the site of a synagogue that was was razed by the Hitler Youth in September 1940, after the region was annexed by Germany’s Third Reich.

Meet the Heroes Who Ensured the Holocaust Would Never Be Forgotten  
By Francine Wolfisz
Times of Israel, March 5, 2019

From first-hand accounts and diaries to drawings, posters and scribbled notes, the members of the Oyneg Shabbos organisation diligently recorded life from inside the Warsaw Ghetto for posterity.

Hidden in milk cans and metal boxes, which were then carefully secreted away in basements and within the foundations of buildings, some 6,000 documents provided a trove of evidence about the atrocities of the Holocaust and later helped pave the way for the pursuit of justice.

Now the substantial efforts of these individuals and others have been brought to the fore in a fascinating new exhibition, Crimes Uncovered: The First Generation of Holocaust Researchers, which opened at The Wiener Library last week.

Poland Considering Exhumations at World War II Massacre Site
Times of Israel, March 6, 2019

The Polish government said Wednesday it is considering carrying out exhumations at a World War II-era site where Jews were burned alive in a barn by their Polish neighbors, something which would violate Jewish religious law.

The matter concerns the 1941 pogrom in the Polish town of Jedwabne, where Poles burned alive more than 300 Jews during the German wartime occupation of the country.

An exhumation began in 2001 but was stopped at the time by then-justice minister Lech Kaczynski out of respect for Jewish law, which objects to disturbing buried remains.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told private broadcaster Polsat News on Tuesday that authorities are considering starting the exhumations again and that prosecutors will have the final say.
Read the full article here.

Descendants of Chernobyl’s Jewish Dynasty Return to the Exclusion Zone
By Christina Blau
National Geographic, March 6, 2019

For 30 years, New York native Yitz Twersky spent all his time and money researching his genealogy, connecting eight generations and over 50,000 people to their roots in Chernobyl, the site of catastrophic nuclear disaster in 1986. He funded hundreds of genetic tests to confirm distant relations, while combing through historical records of a prominent Jewish dynasty. Once satisfied with his life pursuit, Yitz traveled to the birthplace of his family in Ukraine for the first time, breathing fresh life into the surrounding contamination. 

Long before clouds of highly radioactive particles were released across Europe, sparking fascination and instilling fear of humanity’s fragility, Chernobyl consumed the region with a spiritual fervor. During the 18th century, this town around 100 miles northeast of Kiev became the cradle of a prominent Hasidic movement started by Yitz’s direct ancestor, Rebbe Menachem Nahum Twersky, a disciple of the founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Visit Israel Ahead of Elections
By Marcy Oster
JTA, March 6, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Israel this month with the country in the throes of an election campaign.

Pompeo will be in Israel on March 20 for a summit involving Israel, Greece and Cyprus, Axios reported.

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters that Pompeo’s visit was not meant to influence the April 9 election.

“Israel is an ally. We’re not going to get involved in the domestic politics of another country,” he said.

Israel Interior Minister Ripped As Racist for Tirade Against Soviet Immigrants
By Marcy Oster
JTA, March 6, 2019

Israel’s haredi Orthodox interior minister was accused of racism after saying that he regrets the immigration of Israelis from the former Soviet Union because many are not Jewish.

“Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of Israelis who immigrated from the former Soviet Union in accordance with the Law of Return aren’t Jews according to halacha and they are here, to my great regret,” Aryeh Deri, who heads the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party, said at a campaign event Tuesday in the coastal city of Ashdod.

Halacha refers to rabbinic Jewish law, which holds that in order to be recognized as Jewish a person must have a Jewish mother or have been converted to Judaism.

[Link to pdf of full articles]
1120 20th Street NW, Ste. 300N Washington, DC 20036-3413
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.