Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. January 18, 2019

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

On January 13, B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin and I published an Op-Ed on Foxnews.com on the need for the United States to fill the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. This issue has gained greater urgency due to the global resurgence of anti-Semitism.

On Monday, President Donald Trump signed into law House Resolution 672, “The Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017,” which expresses the sense of the Congress that it is in America’s national interest to confront anti-Semitism at home and abroad. NCSEJ joined a wide coalition of Jewish organizations in support of this law. The President also signed the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, a bipartisan bill that commits the United States to fighting genocide. 

You may find the piece below on shtetl revival in Ukraine of interest. Increased tourism to previously dilapidated shtetls has precipitated increased investment in their infrastructure. Many of the visitors travel to these shtetls for religious or personal reasons. Hasidim from Israel in particular have helped the redevelopment of towns like Uman as many come to the formerly Jewish town during the High Holidays.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. January 18, 2019

US Envoy Needed to Fight Global Anti-Semitism 
By Mark Levin and Daniel S. Mariaschin
Fox News, January 13, 2019

By any measure, anti-Semitism is on the rise globally. Physical assaults, verbal harassment and online vulgarity and threats have reached alarming levels.

Despite this, the United States is still lacking an appointee for a key position to identify, expose and combat this scourge: the State Department special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.

In March 2017 we noted in a Fox News op-ed that the White House had not acted to fill this position. It’s now 2019 and there is still no one in the job, while over this timeframe the situation has become markedly worse for Jews across the world.

A survey of more than 16,000 Jews in European Union member nations by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights uncovered some truly frightening statistics. Released in December, the survey found nearly 90 percent of respondents say anti-Semitism has increased in the past five years.

Trump Signs Anti-Genocide Act, Anti-Semitism Resolution into Law
JNS, January 15, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed new bipartisan legislation committing the United States to preventing genocide, named in honor of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel.

The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, introduced by Congressman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), and Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) makes the prevention of genocide and other crimes a matter of national security, and aims to improve and increase the U.S. response to potential and emerging genocides.

It establishes a Mass Atrocities Task Force to provide training to U.S. Foreign Service officers on detecting early signs of atrocities and will mandate the director of national intelligence to report on atrocities in an annual crime report to Congress.

Lithuanian Judge Postpones Trial over Reputation of Deceased Nazi Collaborator 
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, January 16, 2019

A Lithuanian judge postponed a precedent-setting trial in which a U.S. citizen is demanding that a state museum end its glorification of a deceased Nazi collaborator.

The case is thought to be the first in which civil servants intend to publicly defend in court the actions and good name of an alleged collaborator. Lawyers representing the museum said they needed more time to review materials relevant to the case, which involves the late Jonas Noreika. The postponement was announced Tuesday in Vilnius.

The state-funded museum, known as the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania, focuses primarily on the persecution of Lithuanians under Soviet occupation. Last year, a Jewish wealth management professional from California named Grant Gochin sued the museum for erecting a plaque honoring Noreika, a local anti-Communist hero who died while in Soviet custody.

Librarians and Researchers Are Finally Making Strides Returning Nazi-Looted Books
By PJ Grisar
Forward, January 15, 2019

If you wander the stately stacks of a European library, you may very well encounter books that were looted by the Nazis in World War II.

During the 1930s and 40s, Alfred Rosenberg, the leader of the Nazi’s Office of Foreign Policy led the eponymous Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg task force in pillaging over 6,000 archives and libraries across war-rattled Europe. Now, The New York Times reports, the group’s meticulous record keeping is helping to reunite these stolen books with their owners and their heirs, a task that has been sidelined for decades in favor of valuable works of art.

Are Israeli-Armenian Relations Warming Up?
By Iris Georlette
Jerusalem Post, January 9, 2019

Armenians are proud of their small country, which has a rich culture and history, and love to point out the many similarities between Israel and Armenia. Another topic they never seem to tire of discussing is the Armenian Genocide, and how many countries have yet to recognize it as a fact of history.

Nana Makaratchian, director of an Armenian tourism company that organizes flights to Israel, says they were disappointed when the vote in the Knesset to recognize the Armenian Genocide was canceled. “I would expect that the people of the Jewish State would understand how important this is to us,” she said.

Many people picture Armenia as a poor country with inferior infrastructure. It’s true that tourists won’t encounter many highways, gas pipelines in small villages are an eyesore, and cows are often seen wandering around aimlessly. One of the most common sights is of elderly women baking traditional flatbread, called lavash. Food in Armenia is simple and cheap. While almost no one speaks English, nonetheless, several luxury hotels have popped up in the capital Yerevan. The country is hoping its tourism sector will pick up speed, despite the conflict with its neighbors, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Now that Armenia Air is operating twice weekly flights to Ben-Gurion, the country is hoping for increased tourism from Israel.

Ukraine Shtetls Make a Comeback
By Dr. Yoel Rappel
YNet News, January 12, 2019

Many famous Jewish writers have devoted themselves to bringing back to life the colorful shtetl, the Eastern European towns that were home to local Jews for hundreds of years. Today, following booming tourism in the footsteps of Hasidic sages, some have decided to revive the shtetl and bring Jews back to living in these towns, 77 years after the Holocaust decimated them and their long-time communities.

In his famous book the Death of the Shtetl, Yehuda Bauer, one of the greatest Holocaust researchers of our time, describes seven famous shtetls that represent a mere fraction of the 3,000 and more towns—all of which have disappeared entirely. Others described daily life in the shtetl: Sholem Aleichem’s Boyberik in Tevye der Milkhiker resonated with us for more than a century, as well as famous works by Shmuel Yosef Agnon (from the town of Buchach), Isaac Bashevis Singer (from Bilgoray) and Elie Wiesel (from Siget)—all Nobel Prize winners who brought the Jewish town to life.

Putin Rehabbed Stalin, Now He’s Burnishing the Rep of Ivan the Terrible  
By Anna Nemtsova
The Daily Beast, January 14, 2019

A few days before the New Year, Sofiya Timofeyeva, a 20-year-old opposition activist from the provincial city of Cheboksary, asked her father to carve a wooden stake like the one used in the Middle Ages to impale the victims of the first Russian tsar, Ivan the Terrible. Timofeyeva and her friends from the human rights group Vesna (Spring) were struggling to stop their city hall’s plans to unveil a monument to the tyrant in the center of their city.

The initiative to erect the statue was coming from the ministry of education as part of an increasingly popular heroization of Russian tsars and Soviet leaders, with authorities using history as a tool for state ideology. So the young activists had come up with their own idea and preemptively installed the freshly carved stake in Cheboksary’s Republic Square with the legend: “Monument to Ivan the Terrible from Vesna.”

Elie Wiesel’s Family Welcomes Signing of Anti-Genocide Act Named after Late Nobel Laureate
By Barney Breen-Portnoy 
The Algemeiner, January 15, 2019

The signing on Monday of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act by President Donald Trump was welcomed by the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate’s family.

The new law — passed with bipartisan support — determines that it is US policy to “regard the prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes as a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility.”

It also mandates the establishment of a Mass Atrocities Task Force to “strengthen State Department efforts and assist other agency efforts at atrocity prevention and response.”

“My family and I are deeply moved that my father’s name and life’s mission will be enshrined in this important piece of legislation,” Wiesel’s son, Elisha, told The Algemeiner on Tuesday. “My father loved this country and believed in it as a powerful moral force in the world. We are grateful on his behalf to the many in Congress who sponsored and invested in passing this law.”

Read the full article here.

Two New Holocaust Films Depict Tiny, True Details to Portray Life under Nazis
By Jordan Hoffman
Times of Israel, January 17, 2019

I’ve never much cared for the phrase “The Chosen People.” It just strikes me as a little braggy. My preferred nickname has always been “People of the Book.” It sounds serious and studious, and lends itself to the type of interpretation you might find — with lengthy footnotes — in a very important book.

I’d like to think that early 20th century Polish-Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum had this double-meaning in mind when he first implored his colleagues, likewise trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto, to “get everything down on paper.” But as the remarkable film “Who Will Write Our History” shows, levity wasn’t exactly his top priority.

Ringleblum’s group, code-named “Oyneg Shabes” (Enjoyment of Sabbath), was a collection of writers, artists, social critics, economists, teachers, rabbis, statisticians and others that lived in (or were brought to) the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. Ringelblum recognized the enormity of what was happening and felt the best thing he could do was to keep a record — a true record — and hope that some day it could be of use to mankind.

Who Are the Illegal Jews Who Have Come to Israel under the Law of Return
By Shlomo Riskin
Jerusalem Post, January 12, 2019

A headline in the Jerusalem Post (January 3, 2019) informed us that a “Majority of 2018’s immigrants are not legally Jewish,” and the article went on to state that “there are approximately 400,000 Israelis, mostly from the former Soviet Union, who immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return but who are not Jewish, and this number is growing every year, due to both natural growth and continued immigration.” 

The article continues, suggesting that “one approach to solve the problem of Jewish intermarriage has been to push for a higher rate of conversion and to make conversion easier,” by citing an independent Orthodox system of Courts called Giyur K’Halacha established in 2015. And finally the article concludes by quoting the Chief Rabbi of Kiev who describes such solutions as “disastrous,” saying that by bringing such non-legal Jews into Israel “we, with our own hands, are facilitating intermarriage and assimilation in the State of Israel.” 
[Link to pdf of full articles]
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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.