Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. January 13, 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 the U.S. Senate held confirmation hearings for President-Elect Donald Trump’s nominations for Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson), Defense (General James Mattis), and Director of the CIA (Rep. Mike Pompeo). The nominees were questioned on Russia, cyber-attacks, Ukraine, and Israel among other issues related to U.S. interests and security. All three nominees expressed views differing from those of the President-Elect. See attached, our summary of Tillerson’s hearing.

In the case of Gen. Mattis, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 24-3 to waive a measure requiring defense secretaries to be at least seven years retired from military service before assuming the role.

Also this week, a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate called for further sanctions on Russia for their cyber-intrusions, aggression, and destabilizing activities here in the United States and around the world. The bill would impose mandatory visa bans, freeze assets, and/or sanction individuals who undermine the cybersecurity of public or private infrastructure and democratic institutions; assist, sponsor, or provide financial, material, or technological support for such activities; and have transactions with the Russian defense or intelligence sectors, including the FSB and GRU.

In Lithuania, a gameshow was taken off the air after a contestant performed a Nazi salute and shouted “Jew” to describe a Jewish composer. The show was not aired live, but was recorded several days earlier. “Guess the Melody” will no longer air as a result of the incident.

In response to a report of an anti-Semitic incident in a Warsaw café, former Polish Ambassador the U.S., Ryszard Schnepf organized and led an event as a show of solidarity. 50 people, all of them non-Jews, entered Café Foksal wearing kippahs to defuse tensions and show support for tolerance. Café Foksal’s management expressed its satisfaction with the event, sharing a picture of it on their Facebook page.

The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, jointly with UNESCO, started a project to improve attitudes towards migrants. “The joint international project aimed at forming a positive image of a migrant is launched today. At the first stage of the project, children from different countries of the world will draw the pictures calling for human attitude to migrants,” Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar said in an interview with Interfax-Religion.

A little over 50 years ago, on December 11, 1966, Martin Luther King addressed a national Jewish audience on the plight of Soviet Jewry. At the end of a memorable and morally stirring speech, he concluded: “In the meantime, let us continue to make our voices heard and our righteous protests felt. We cannot sit complacently by the wayside while our Jewish brothers in the Soviet Union face the possible extinction of their cultural and spiritual life. Those that sit at rest, while others take pains, are tender turtles and buy their quiet with disgrace.”

This Monday, January 16th, the nation will remember and honor Dr. King for his relentless efforts in fighting bigotry and prejudice.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. January 13, 2017

Lithuanian game show taken off the air over Nazi salute and ‘Jew’ clue
JTA, January 10, 2017

A Lithuanian game show in which a contestant performed a Nazi salute and shouted “Jew” to describe a Jewish composer was taken off the air.

Actress Asta Baukute, a former lawmaker, made the gesture on the “Guess the Melody” episode that aired Friday, Delfi reported. In the charades-style game, contestants act out songs and other music trivia without explicitly naming them.

Rabbi Lazar condemns Soviet past, calls to bury body of Lenin
Interfax-Religion, January 6, 2017

Before the start of the year marking the 100th anniversary of the revolution Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar said that Lenin and Stalin have soaked the country in blood and he stood for the reburial of the body of Lenin and refurbishing the mausoleum into a museum.

Moscow Center of Tolerance carries out international children action to back up migrants
Interfax-Religion, January 6, 2017

The Jewish Museum and the Moscow Center of Tolerance jointly with UNESCO initiated an international action dedicated to human attitude to migrants.

German Holocaust archive publishes inventory online
AP, January 9, 2017

The International Tracing Service says it has published its Holocaust-era inventory online, offering an overview of holdings that include some 30 million documents on Nazi persecution, forced labor and the fates of survivors.

The archive, located in Bad Arolsen, Germany, said Monday that parts of the holdings that had undergone only preliminary indexing were also included. More detailed descriptions will be added gradually.

Police says criminal investigation opened into Huta Peniatska WWII monument defacement
Kyiv Post, January 10, 2017

A criminal investigation into the defacement of a monument commemorating World War II victims in Huta Peniatska (Polish Huta Pieniacka) in Lviv region has been opened. The probe is looking into whether the act violates laws against racial, ethnic or religious enmity.

Read the full article here.

Poland's far-right Radio Marya channel slammed for anti-Semitism
European Jewish Congress, January 9, 2017

Members of Poland’s 'NEVER AGAIN' Association participated in a series of meetings in Israel in late December and early January, including the international conference of senior educators on ‘The Shoah and Jewish identity’ held at Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem.
Read the full article here.

Non-Jewish Poles don yarmulkes to protest anti-Semitism
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, January 9, 2017

On a quiet Thursday evening, Café Foksal in central Warsaw suddenly filled up with about 50 people wearing kippahs. The event was unusual for a city with very few observant Jews and an insignificant number of Israeli tourists. What made it exceptional is that almost none of the yarmulke wearers were Jewish.

Read the full article here.

Uzbekistan postpones plan to liberalize entry visa rules
Reuters, January 9, 2017

Uzbekistan announced on Monday that it was delaying by four years a plan to allow tourists from dozens of countries to visit without an entry visa, with security cited as one of the reasons for the postponement.

A presidential decree easing visa rules, signed on Dec. 2, had been welcomed inside and outside Uzbekistan as a sign the new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, was opening up the country.

Read the full article here.

U.S. sanctions Russia's top investigator, four others for rights abuses
Reuters, January 9, 2017

The United States on Monday blacklisted Alexander Bastrykin, Russia's top investigator and a close aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and four other Russian officials for human rights abuses. The sanctions, announced by the U.S. Treasury Department, are not tied to U.S. hacking allegations against Russia but to the 2012 U.S. Magnitsky Act for human rights abuses, U.S. officials said.

Russia slates 'baseless, amateurish' US election hacking report
By Shaun Walker
Guardian, January 9, 2017

The Kremlin has hit back at a US intelligence report blaming Russia for interference in the presidential election, describing the claims as part of a political witch-hunt.

US intelligence agencies released the joint report on Friday, a day after a Senate armed forces committee hearing on foreign cyberthreats, convened over fears of Moscow’s interference in the election. The report assessed that the Russian president had ordered a multifaceted campaign to influence the election, with a clear preference for a Donald Trump victory.

Hungary's Jobbik ditches far-right past to challenge Orban in 2018
By Marton Dunai
Reuters, January 11, 2017

Hungary's main opposition Jobbik party is moving from its roots as a far-right, anti-Semitic radical group to target the mainstream, and plans to challenge ruling Fidesz for power in 2018 elections, its leader Gabor Vona told Reuters.

Jobbik has openly vilified Jews, gays and foreigners, and its paramilitaries used to march through areas where Roma people live. It also favored forging ties with Russia, Iran and Turkey rather than the European Union, of which Hungary is a member.

Soros to keep funding NGOs in Hungary despite government hostility
Reuters, January 12, 2017

Billionaire George Soros' Open Society Foundations will keep working with and financing NGOs in Hungary despite the Hungarian government saying that any civil society group they should be "swept out", the head of the Foundations said on Wednesday.

Read the full article here.

Freeland, tough Putin critic, becomes Canada’s foreign minister
By Bermet Talant
Kyiv Post, January 11, 2017

Canadian writer and politician of Ukrainian descent Chrystia Freeland was on Jan. 10 named as foreign minister of Canada, as that country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, shuffled his cabinet. The appointment comes just over a week ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20.

U.S. Vice President Biden to make swansong visit to Ukraine
Reuters, January 12, 2017

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will fly to Kiev on Sunday on a farewell visit by one of Ukraine's strongest political supporters, as the country looks forward with apprehension to the new administration of Donald Trump.

Biden, whose visit was announced by the office of President Petro Poroshenko, has been the front man for U.S. policy towards Ukraine since street protests in 2013-2014 forced a Russian-backed leader to flee and the pro-Western opposition took over, promising sweeping reforms whose delivery has been patchy.

Russian TV Channel Dozhd Suspended in Ukraine
By Katie Davies
Moscow Times, January 12, 2017

Independent Russian television channel Dozhd has been suspended in Ukraine, the Telekritika media news website reported on Thursday. Ukraine's National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting voted unanimously to remove Dozhd from the airwaves, ruling that the channel's broadcasts broke Ukrainian law.

Read the full article here.

As Xenophobia Rises, Kremlin Wages ‘Illusory’ Fight against Extremism by Charging People for Internet Likes and Posts
By Paul Goble
Window on Eurasia, January 11, 2017

Moscow is doing almost nothing to fight the rising tide of xenophobia among the Russian population, experts say; but it is working hard to “ create the illusion” that it is doing so by increasing the number of publications classified as extremist and charging people with extremism for posts and likes on the Internet.
Read the full article here.

Lithuania Is Building a Convention Center Over Vilna’s Jewish Cemetery. Here’s How You Can Protest.
By Yair Rosenberg
Tablet, January 9, 2017

For centuries, the city of Vilna (today Vilnius) was the center of Jewish life in what was then known as Polish-Lithuania. By the turn of the 20th century, the Lithuanian capital boasted over 100 synagogues, an array of Jewish newspapers, and scores of other cultural and religious institutions. It played host to the famed Gaon of Vilna, one of Judaism’s spiritual giants, and also to the socialist Bund, the secular Jewish labor movement.

Read the full article here.
Diplomats: Iran to get natural uranium batch
USA Today/AP, January 9, 2017

Iran is to receive a huge shipment of natural uranium from Russia to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant, diplomats say, in a move approved by the outgoing U.S. administration and other governments seeking to keep Tehrancommitted to a landmark nuclear pact.

Read the full article here.
Controversial Dossier on Trump Alleges That Russia Targets Jewish-American Businessmen
By Allison Kaplan Sommer
Haaretz, January 11, 2017

Russian intelligence has been targeting Jewish-American businessmen with Russian backgrounds for use as operatives in criminal cyber activity, alleges one of the documents in the controversial dossier published by Buzzfeed on Tuesday. The unverified documents in the dossier, which claim that the Russians have compromising personal and financial information on President-elect Donald Trump, have been presented both to Trump and President Barack Obama. Trump has condemned the documents as being “fake news” and representing a “total political witch hunt” against him.

Read the full article here.
There are Jews in Macedonia?
By Maayan Hoffman
eJewishPhilanthropy, January 8, 2017

Law student Rebeka Levi is trying to learn how a Jewish minority can influence their local politics and economy. That’s because Levi is one of only 250 Jews living in Macedonia, located in the southern Balkan region. Ninety-eight percent of the Macedonian Jewish community was wiped out in the Holocaust, including most of Levi’s relatives.

Read the full article here.
Can Kyiv Defend Itself? Illusions About and Options for Securing Ukraine’s Future
By Andreas Umland
Krytyka, January 9, 2017

When and how will Ukraine become secure in the wake of continuing threats from Moscow? There is an idea – widely held in Ukraine and also popular with many in the West – that Ukraine can and should become militarily, economically, and politically strong enough to deter further Russian aggression. A combination of smart modernization, resolute reform, and deep transformation is seen by many as a panacea to Ukraine's many problems, including its fundamental security issue. Throughout 2014-2016, Ukraine’s army has shown that it can fight. What the Ukrainian state needs to do now, however, is to generally reinvent itself and make its military, in particular, more solid, better trained, and truly combative in order to be able to contain Russian imperialism on its own.

Read the full article here.
Why are Jews, gays, and other minorities in Europe increasingly voting far-right?
By Sara Miller Llana
CS Monitor, January 12, 2017

Leon de Winter, a Jewish bestselling novelist in Amsterdam, says supporting the Dutch political figure Geert Wilders, who seeks to “de-Islamify” the Netherlands, is “politically incorrect” and “not civilized.” But he defends the controversial leader anyway, calling him “a necessity in today’s political landscape.”

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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.