Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. March 9, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

This week, I attended the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, where I moderated two panels, one on Russia, Israel and geopolitics in the Middle East, and another on Israel’s relationship with Azerbaijan and Central Asia. NCSEJ was also featured in a video introduction for mainstage speaker Natan Sharansky on Monday morning, focused on the Soviet Jewry movement and the 1987 March on Washington.

At the conference, Deputy Director Lesley Weiss and I met with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs to discuss regional issues and ongoing efforts to secure restitution for Jewish communal property. She and I also participated in a meeting with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius at the Lithuanian Embassy on Thursday. I also attended a ceremony and musical performance at the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria last night, celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the rescue of Bulgarian Jews from the Holocaust.

NCSEJ and other Jewish organizations continued this week to press the Polish government on its controversial anti-defamation law. U.S. Jewish groups strongly oppose the law, which may have a chilling effect on free and open discussion on the role of individual Polish citizens’ complicity in the Holocaust. See below for an article by Tad Taube, a Polish Honorary Consul in San Francisco, which talks about his work in supporting Polish-Jewish relations, and his concerns about the law.

JTA reported today that Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev has announced the creation of Russia’s first Jewish university, which will educate 200 students at a northern Moscow campus and thousands more online.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. March 9, 2018

Strength of the Lioness: Ukraine’s Heroic Jewish Mothers Lead Their Families Home To Israel
By Ayala Young
Jewish Press, March 5, 2018

Mothers in the Ukraine rarely have the luxury of watching their children grow due to an unrelenting crisis in the region that has stripped away all sense of normalcy and routine.  Instead, they fight for survival daily, shielding their children from the worst rather than helping them become their very best selves.

Despite having the odds stacked against them, two Jewish mothers from the Ukraine refused to allow their children’s development and happiness to become casualties of the crisis.  With a steel resolve, they battled internal and external forces to give their children the best possible chance at leading fulfilling lives.

Read the full article here.

Discussion on Azerbaijan held at annual conference of influential U.S.-based Jewish organization
News.Az, March 5, 2018

A seminar on the theme “New Borders: Israel’s Strategy in the Caucasus and Central Asia,” dedicated to Azerbaijan-Israel partnership, was held on the sidelines of the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC), a leading U.S.-based Jewish organization.

About 250 public and political figures, academicians, representatives of business circles and diplomatic corps, including Azerbaijani Ambassador to the U.S. Elin Suleymanov, Executive Vice-Chairman of the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry (NCSEJ) Mark B. Levin, Professor of Georgetown University Brenda Shaffer, and Director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center Svante E. Cornell took part in the seminar, Azerbaijan’s Embassy in the U.S. told APA.  

Read the full article here.

More women are in charge of Jewish groups in the former Soviet Union, thanks to a communist legacy
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, March 8, 2018

Throughout the former Soviet Union, the communist revolution instituted far-reaching gender equality at a time when women in some Western countries, including the United States, were not yet allowed to vote.

With the collapse of communism, so did government enforcement of gender equality in the workplace, resulting in Western-style wage gaps. Although overshadowed by its grim human rights record and repressive state machinery, communism’s feminist agenda seems to have had a particularly strong and lasting effect in unexpected places — including on the leadership of the sizable Jewish minority of the former Soviet Union, or FSU.

Read the full article here.

Polish lawmakers slam 1968 purge of Jews, praise protest
Associated Press, March 6, 2018


Poland’s lawmakers approved a resolution Tuesday to honor mass anti-communist protests that occurred 50 years ago and to condemn an anti-Semitic purge that ensued. Both the right-wing ruling party and the opposition backed the resolution on the 1968 events in communist-ruled Poland. The lower house of parliament voted 424-3 with two abstentions to approve it.

Some 13,000 Jews were forced to leave Poland and were stripped of Polish citizenship that year. The purge has continued to weigh on relations between Poles and Jews, which generally have been good since Poland became a democracy in 1989. The resolution mentioned respect for those who “fought for freedom and democracy” and condemned anti-Semitism and the “communist organizers of anti-Semitic persecution.”


Read the full article here.

Putin feels vulnerable with an election looming
By the Editorial Board
Washington Post, March 3, 2018

Seventeen days from a presidential election, what do you say as a candidate if your country’s economy is little better than stagnant, chafing under sanctions from abroad; you have stifled the opposition, rendering politics sterile; and the youngest voters were born the year you took office? If you are President Vladimir Putin seeking a fourth term, you promise to make Russia great again with snazzy video animations showing supposedly new nuclear weapons zooming toward the United States.

No one familiar with real democracy is surprised to see a candidate exaggerate. But Mr. Putin does not run in a real democracy, which he dismantled. Nevertheless, despite the certainty of his victory, it seems he is suffering some anxiety. What could haunt a president who supposedly has 80 percent approval ratings, who has only token opposition, who sits atop the apex of a personalized, authoritarian fiefdom of elites that answer to him and feed from his hand?


Read the full article here.

The Future of Jewish Life in Russia
By Monica Osborne
Jewish Journal, March 7, 2018


In Maxim D. Shrayer’s study “With or Without You: The Prospect for Jews in Today’s Russia,” the complicated nature of what it means to live as a Jew in Russia is delicately addressed. Shrayer was born in Moscow in 1967 and, with his family, spent nine years as a refusenik before emigrating to the U.S. in 1987. Having written and translated numerous books, including two memoirs, Shrayer has become an expert in Russian-Jewish literature and culture.

This newest study details his trip to Russia in 2016 with his fifth-grade daughter, Mira. Like most good Jewish works, Shrayer’s begins with a question that compels us to ask further questions. In the prologue, Shrayer asks Oleg Dorman, a Jewish filmmaker living in Russia, a complicated question: “Why do you stay here?”


Read the full article here.

Tad Taube, Poland’s man in S.F., ‘distressed’ by Holocaust speech law
By Rob Gloster
Jewish News of Northern California, March 6, 2018


Philanthropist Tad Taube is distressed by the acrimony between Poles and Jews over Poland’s controversial new Holocaust speech law, likening his reaction to a parent whose kid has gotten into trouble at school.

Taube is a native of Krakow and Poland’s honorary consul for the San Francisco Bay Area. Through his Jewish Heritage Initiative in Poland, the real estate magnate has helped fund the recent Jewish renaissance in Poland, which had had the world’s largest Jewish population before 90 percent of it was wiped out in the Holocaust.

The new legislation criminalizes any suggestion of Poland’s complicity in the Holocaust on its soil, and it’s a law Taube decries as an “unfortunate misstep taken by the Polish government,” though he also thinks international condemnation of the law has been overblown.


Read the full article here.

Saving Bulgarian Jewry: 75 years later
By Daniel S. Mariaschin
Times of Israel, March 5, 2018


In March 1943, Nazi Germany demanded of its Bulgarian allies that it deport the country’s 48,000 Jews. For months, the Nazis and their Bulgarian collaborators had discussed the means for the transfer of Bulgarian Jews to the death camps that already had taken the lives of millions of other European Jews.  Two years before, the Sofia government adopted the anti-Semitic Law for the Defense of the Nation, which foreshadowed the ultimate decision to deport Bulgaria’s Jews.

For those Jews inside Bulgaria’s borders, the plans for their round-up and demise were thwarted by an unlikely coalition of leaders of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, members of parliament, intellectuals and everyday citizens, whose sense of justice and revulsion over the notion of sending their neighbors to their deaths was unacceptable.

Read the full article here.

Cone Of Contention: 'Racism' Furor In Tatarstan Over 'Poor Jew' Ice Cream
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, March 7, 2018


The Jewish community in Russia's Tatarstan region has expressed outrage about the name and packaging design of a new ice cream called Poor Jew. The Slavitsa company in Tatarstan's second-largest city, Naberezhnye Chelny, announced the new ice-cream product on February 28.

The ice cream's wrapper features an image of Israel's flag. Leonid Shteinberg, a leader of the Jewish community in Naberezhnye Chelny, has demanded that production and sale of the ice cream be halted on grounds that it is "racist." The city prosecutor's office says it has launched a preliminary investigation into the complaints.


Food Riots in Turkmenistan Have Now Spread to the Capital
By Paul Goble
Windows on Eurasia, March 7, 2018


Serious food shortages and even food riots have been a feature of rural areas of Turkmenistan since the end of last year; but the situation now has deteriorated to the point that it has reached the major cities, including the capital Ashgabat, thus posing a direct challenge to one of the most repressive regimes on earth.

Since the end of last year, the Fergana news agency reports, the few independent agencies that cover Turkmenistan have described the food situation in that country “in terms that recall wartime,” with empty shelves, crowds attacking delivery trucks, and hunger a real threat to the impoverished rural population…Up to the end of last week, all the food riots had been in difficult to reach rural areas. But now, the Alternative News of Turkmenistan is reporting that food shortages have reached the capital.


Read the full article here.

[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.