Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. April 7, 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, U.S. Representative Chris Smith (NJ) and seven House colleagues below) introduced H.R. 1911, the “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act,” a bill "to monitor and combat anti-Semitism globally" and strengthen U.S. international leadership in the fight against threats to Jewish communities. NCSEJ and other major Jewish organizations have endorsed this legislation. The Congressman’s press release on the bill is included below.

Also this week, NCSEJ Senior Program Officer David Shulman participated in the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s “2017 Appropriations Lobby Day.” As a coalition member, NCSEJ joined other internationally-focused non-profits and businesses to educate Congressional offices. During meetings with Congressional staff, David discussed how a strong U.S. foreign affairs budget promotes good governance and religious tolerance abroad, creating civil societies where Jewish communities can thrive.

In Ukraine and throughout the former Soviet Union, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and other Jewish organizations on the ground are helping needy Jews prepare for Passover, delivering thousands of boxes of matzah and hosting seders. The Jerusalem Post highlights their efforts.

NCSEJ condemned the terrible attack on the St. Petersburg metro Monday in Russia, where terrorists killed fourteen and injured many more. We sent condolences to the victims’ families and sympathy to the Russian people.

JTA reports on New York’s Bukharian Jewish community. After the Soviet Union’s fall, Bukharan Jews emigrated from Uzbekistan and across Central Asia, seeking freedom. Many settled in Queens, where the tight-knit community is thriving, holding fast to tradition while embracing the future.

I want to wish you a chag pesach sameach, and I hope you enjoy the time with family and friends.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. April 7, 2017

Benefit program for Holocaust survivors launched in Serbia
AP, April 4, 2017

A program to provide direct funds to Serbian Holocaust survivors all over the world has been launched in Serbia, an international Jewish group said Tuesday.

The program results from laws passed last year in Serbia allowing for the restitution of heirless and unclaimed Jewish property seized during the Holocaust to the Jewish community, The World Jewish Restitution Organization said in a statement.

Scores help reach out to elderly, needy Jews in Ukraine
By Tamara Zieve
Jerusalem Post, April 3, 2017

Ahead of Passover this year, the American Joint Distribution Committee is distributing matzot to elderly Jews in Odessa, Ukraine, at the Beit Grand Jewish Cultural Center’s Hesed Shaarei Tzion Welfare organization.

The organization is delivering more than 50,000 boxes of matza to needy Jews throughout the former Soviet Union, as well as offering seder meals, volunteer opportunities, cooking workshops and cultural performances.

Read the full article here.

Navigating High-Stakes Chess Between Israel, Russia and Syria
By Yaakov Lappin
Algemeiner/JNS, April 4, 2017

Just a single day had passed since Israel’s new ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren, presented his credentials to President Vladimir Putin before Koren was called in by the Russian government for a “clarification” meeting.

The unusual diplomatic event occurred after the Israeli Air Force struck a target deep in northern Syria, likely involving weapons destined for the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Putin rebukes Netanyahu for blaming Assad regime for chemical attack
JTA, April 6, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin scolded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for blaming Syria’s Assad regime for a devastating chemical weapons attack on civilians.

Russian media Thursday quoted Putin as saying “it was unacceptable to make groundless accusations against anyone without conducting a detailed and unbiased investigation.” Reports cited a Kremlin statement that said Netanyahu initiated the call to Putin.

Read the full article here.

Moscow surprisingly says west Jerusalem is Israel's capital
No other country in the world recognizes any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
By Herb Keinon
Jerusalem Post, April 6, 2017

Russia recognizes west Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated in a surprise announcement on Thursday, obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post.

The announcement comes as US President Donald Trump's administration is agonizing over whether to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that would constitute recognizing west Jerusalem as the country's capital. No other country in the world recognizes any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

JDC, partners deliver 10 tons of matzah in former Soviet Union
JTA, April 7, 2017

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has provided Jews in the former Soviet Union with at least 10 tons of matzah ahead of Passover, the organization said.

JDC has also organized through its various branches and with partners volunteer activities, Seder meals, matzah-baking classes and concerts marking Passover, JDC said in a statement earlier this week.

Read the full article here.

Smith Introduces Bill to Help Combat Anti-Semitism
U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, April 5, 2017

After recently chairing his ninth hearing on anti-Semitism, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) today introduced the bipartisan “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act” (H.R. 1911) to strengthen U.S. international leadership in the fight against threats to Jewish communities.

Smith authored the provisions of law that created the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and the Special Envoy to lead it in 2004.

Read the full article here.

Eleven killed in suspected suicide bombing on Russian metro train
By Denis Pinchuk
Reuters, April 4, 2017

A blast in a St Petersburg train carriage on Monday that killed 11 people and wounded 45 was carried out by a suspected suicide bomber with ties to radical Islamists, Russia's Interfax news agency cited a law enforcement source as saying.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was in the city when the blast struck, visited the scene of the explosion late on Monday night and laid a bunch of red flowers at a makeshift shrine to the victims.

Read the full article here.

Israel sends condolences, support to Russia following deadly subway bombing
JTA, April 3, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin after at least 10 people were killed in a bombing attack on a St. Petersburg subway.

Read the full article here.

Poland accuses Russian air traffic controllers over Smolensk plane crash
By Marcin Goettig
Reuters, April 3, 2017

Polish prosecutors said on Monday they would press charges against two Russian air traffic controllers of deliberately contributing to a 2010 plane crash that killed Poland's president and 95 other people.

The crash near Smolensk in western Russia killed the Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, as well as the central bank chief, top army commanders and several lawmakers.

Read the full article here.

Lithuania says Russia has ability to launch Baltic attack in 24 hours
By Andrius Sytas
Reuters, April 3, 2017

Russia has developed the capability to launch an attack on the Baltic states with as little as 24 hours' notice, limiting NATO's options to respond other than to have military forces already deployed in the region, Lithuania's intelligence service said on Monday.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, annexed by the Soviet Union in the 1940s but now part of both NATO and the European Union, have been increasingly nervous since the Russian takeover of Crimea in 2014.

Read the full article here.

Tillerson Moscow Visit Set For April 11-12
RFE/RL, April 5, 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Moscow on April 11-12 for talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced the trip -- Tillerson’s first to Moscow since becoming the top U.S. diplomat -- on April 4. It was unclear whether Tillerson will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

European Parliament Approves Visa-Free Travel For Ukrainians
RFE/RL, April 6, 2017

The European Parliament has approved visa liberalization for Ukraine, a crucial step toward enabling Ukrainians to travel to the European Union without obtaining visas. The measure passed on April 6 by a vote of 521 to 75, with 36 EU lawmakers abstaining.

Read the full article here.
Aleksandar Vucic scores solid victory in Serbian election
By Andrew Byrne
Financial Times, April 2, 2017

Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic won an emphatic victory in Sunday’s first round presidential elections, according to election analysts, avoiding a second round run-off and underlining his dominance of the country’s political scene.

Read the full article here.
Ruling Republican Party Wins 'Tainted' Armenian Elections
RFE/RL, April 3, 2017

Official results indicate that President Serzh Sarkisian's ruling Republican Party of Armenia has won about half the votes cast in parliamentary elections that international observers said were "tainted" by reports of vote-buying and pressure on voters.

Read the full article here.
Hungary passes law targeting Soros-founded university, U.S. 'disappointed'
By Gergely Szakacs and Marton Dunai
Reuters, April 4, 2017

Hungary approved a new law on Tuesday that could force a university founded by financier George Soros out of the country despite protests against the plan in Budapest and condemnation abroad.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a critic of liberal civil organizations funded by Soros, said last week the Central European University had violated regulations in awarding diplomas, an allegation the college rejects.

Read the full article here.
Watchdog report: 'Breakdown of democracy' in Poland, Hungary
By Vanesa Gera
AP, April 4, 2017

U.S.-based pro-democracy group Freedom House said Tuesday that a "spectacular breakdown of democracy" has been taking place in Poland and Hungary, two countries that stood as models of democratic change after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

Read the full article here.
Could Israel's Actions Mean Russian Jews End Up as Putin’s Hostages?
By Lev Stesin
Haaretz, April 2, 2017

Israel may face an unexpected constraint to its attacks on Hezbollah weapons convoys in Syria: Fear of a backlash against Russia’s always potentially vulnerable Jewish community.

Read the full article here.
Is Russian the new Yiddish?
Time of Israel, April 7, 2017

Once upon a time, hearing Yiddish on the street corners of the Lower East Side was as ubiquitous as a chocolate egg cream. Not any more.

“Russian is becoming the Yiddish of now. Russian is the global lingua franca of the Jewish Diaspora,” said Dr. David Shneer, the Louis P. Singer Chair in Jewish History, at University of Colorado, Boulder.

Read the full article here

Bukharian Jews face new, uniquely American challenges
By Rachel Delia Benaim
JTA, April 5, 2017

The restaurants are packed on the wide boulevard in the Queens borough of this city known as the Bukharian Broadway.

At Da Mikelle, one of many kosher eateries featuring Bukharian cuisine, families crowd the dining rooms to mark the occasion of a yushvo, the anniversary of a loved one’s death.

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.