Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. November 3, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

NCSEJ leadership is traveling through the Eurasian region. Earlier this week, we finished the first part of our mission in Poland, visiting Warsaw and Krakow. The delegation is now in Almaty, Kazakhstan, after three days in the capital city of Astana.

Above: NCSEJ delegation at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw with Undersecretary of State in the Polish Presidential Administration (Oct. 26). Below left: Chairman Daniel Rubin and CEO Mark Levin with Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary of State Marek Magierowski (Oct. 27). Below right: CEO Mark Levin with Deputy Speaker of the Polish Senate Adam Bielan (Oct. 26).

Attached are stories about our meetings with top government leaders in Kazakhstan, including the Kazakh Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Religious Affairs and Civil Society, and the lower and upper houses of the Kazakh parliament. We will update you with a more extensive report after we return.

Above: NCSEJ meets with Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov. Chief Rabbi of Kazakhstan Yeshaya Cohen and Rabbi Karnauch of Astana were also present.

Left: NCSEJ Chairman Daniel Rubin presents U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol with a tzedakah box (Oct. 31)
Today in Washington, NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss was part of a World Jewish Restitution Organization delegation that met with Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary of State Marek Magierowski at the Embassy of Poland, in a follow-up to NCSEJ’s meeting with the Undersecretary in Warsaw earlier this week, to discuss Poland’s proposed restitution legislation for Holocaust survivors and their families.

(l-r) Polish Ambassador Piotr Wilczek; Eric Fusfield, B'nai B'rith International; Gideon Taylor, WJRO; Marek Magierowski; Lesley Weiss; Rabbi Andrew Baker, American Jewish Committee; Evan Hochberg and Eric Gallagher, WJRO (photo: Polish Embassy)
And on October 19, NCSEJ President Alexander Smukler joined new U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation Jon M. Hunstman, Jr. at a gallery opening in Moscow, the Ambassador’s first public appearance in his new post.

(l-r) Former Russian Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoy, ABA Gallery Anatoly owner Bekkerman, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, and Aleksander Smukler at the grand opening of the exhibition "Russian Art from Western Collections."
A reminder, the NCSEJ Board of Governors meeting will take place in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, December 5 at 10:00 a.m. Our speakers will include new Moldovan Ambassador to the United States Aureliu Ciocoi, noted author Lev Golinkin, a community report from World ORT, and more to be announced. Please visit www.ncsej.org/board_meeting to register.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. November 3, 2017

Secretary Abdykalikova, NCSEJ Chairman discuss Jewish community in Kazakhstan
KazInform, November 2, 2017

The Secretary of State of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Gulshara Abdykalikova, has held a meeting with the Chairman of the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, Daniel Rubin, Kazinform correspondent reports.

At the meeting, the sides discussed the activities of the Jewish community in Kazakhstan, the joint efforts in tackling contemporary challenges, and Kazakhstan's model of interreligious accord.

Nurlan Yermekbayev met with the chairman of the National Coalition in Support of the Jewish Communities of Eurasia
Kokshetau Asia, November 2, 2017

Minister of Religious Affairs and Civil Society of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nurlan Yermekbayev received a delegation of the National Coalition in support of the Jewish Communities of Eurasia, led by its Chairman Daniel Rubin, the press service of the Ministry for Religious Affairs and Civil Society of the Republic of Kazakhstan reported.

Daniel Rubin briefed on the activities and plans of the National Coalition in Support of the Jewish Communities of Eurasia. He also positively characterized the Kazakhstani model of interethnic and interdenominational harmony and measures to strengthen secularism in society. In turn, Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev shared information on the main directions of the state policy in the sphere of religion and noted the importance of joint efforts of the international community in countering religious radicalism.

In Kazakhstan today there are 7 Jewish religious associations and 6 synagogues (religious buildings).

K. Tokayev received a delegation of the NCSEJ
Egemen Kazakhstan, November 2, 2017

Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev has received a delegation headed by the head of American non-governmental organization "National Coalition for the Support of Jewish Community in Eurasia" (NCSEJ) D. Rubin, the press service of the Senate of the Kazakh Parliament reports.

K Mr. Tokayev informed the American delegation about the policy implemented in our country aimed at protecting the rights and legitimate interests of all ethnic and religious groups. The Senate Speaker noted that representatives of Judaism were actively involved in all five Congresses of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

D. Rubin thanked Kazakhstan for its peaceful foreign policy and its fruitful work on the UN Security Council. According to the NCSEJ leader, Kazakhstan is "a model for the whole world on issues of ethnic, religious and cultural freedoms".

Lessons of the world: Kazakhstan's experience in preserving peace and harmony in a multi-ethnic society is worthy of wide study.
By Lilia Syzdykova
KazPravda, November 2, 2017

Darkhan Mynbay, the head of the Secretariat of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, met with representatives of a large non-profit human rights organization, the National Coalition for Supporting Jewish Communities in Eurasia (NCSEJ), including its chairman Daniel Rubin and executive director Mark Levine.

Darkhan Mynbay described in detail how the assembly was created and what a status this unique structure has for today.

As noted by Daniel Rubin, the Kazakhstani model can and should become an example for other countries…

Hasidic Judaism founder’s meditation cave purportedly discovered in Ukraine
JNS, November 2, 2017

Hasidic Jewish researchers claimed that they have discovered the meditation cave of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, who founded the broader Hasidic movement.

The famed rabbi, known as “the Baal Shem Tov,” lived from 1698-1760 and is known to have spent much of his time meditating, praying and studying Torah in the mountains and a cave near the Ukrainian city of Kuty.

WJC, NCSEJ co-host screening of 'Operation Wedding', the true story of Soviet Jews’ plot to hijack empty plane escape USSR
World Jewish Congress, November 3, 2017

NEW YORK - The World Jewish Congress co-hosted this week a special screen of “Operation Wedding”, the true story of young Jewish dissidents who plotted to hijack an empty plane to escape the USSR in 1970. The screening was followed by a discussion with American activists who worked to free Jews trapped in the U.S.S.R.

The discussion was organized in partnership with the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry (NCSEJ), the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC), and Generation R of the JCC of Manhattan.

Operation Wedding director Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov, Susan Green of JCRC, Soviet Jewry activist Richard Stone, WJC NA Executive Director Betty Ehrenberg, whose parents were among the dissidents who plotted to hijack an empty plane in Leningrad...A discussion with the filmmaker followed the movie screening.

Marc Chagall’s Belarus hometown celebrates first synagogue opening in a century
JTA, November 3, 2017

The Jewish community of Vitebsk, which is located 155 miles northeast of the Belarusian capital of Minsk, last month celebrated the inauguration of the new synagogue at an event attended by city officials and faith community leaders from the Christian Orthodox and Catholic churches, the Belta news agency reported.

Separately, the Jewish community of the city of Simferopol in Crimea celebrated the inauguration of its first chief rabbi after its annexation in 2014 by Russia. The new rabbi is Yehezkel Lazar, who is a son of Berel Lazar, a Russian chief rabbi.

Jewish organisations abroad praise Bulgarian government’s adoption of IHRA definition of anti-Semitism
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer
Sofia Globe, October 28, 2017

Several Jewish organisations in foreign countries have welcomed the Bulgarian government’s decision on October 18 to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism and to appoint a National Co-ordinator to Combat Anti-Semitism.

The NCSEJ also commended Bulgaria’s adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, and congratulates Bulgaria on the acceptance as a liaison country within IHRA.

“These important steps place Bulgaria in a leadership role among European nations in the fight against anti-Semitism and hate speech, and in favor of respect for human rights”, the letter said. “As the American Jewish organization whose central focus is Eastern and Central Europe, the NCSEJ offers its assistance and support of this important work.”

Read the full article here.

Publisher recalls books by Lithuanian writer who triggered debate about the Holocaust
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, October 30, 2017

One of the oldest publishing houses in independent Lithuania withdrew the books of a best-selling author over her criticism of a nationalist who is accused of complicity in Holocaust-era crimes.

The recall of Ruta Vanagaite’s books came one day after she revealed that she is in a relationship with Efraim Zuroff, an Israeli hunter of Nazis whom many Lithuanian nationalists despise.

The Alma Littera publishing house on Friday said it began recalling from book stores all the books it published by Vanagaite, whose 2016 book “Our People” about the Holocaust is credited with breaking some taboos in Lithuanian society about collaboration during War World II.

Read the full article here.

Prime Minister sees no need for Lithuania to review its stance on Lithuanians' role in Holocaust
Baltic Times, November 2, 2017

VILNIUS - Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis says that Lithuania does not need to review its attitude toward Lithuanians' role during the Holocaust.

"We have nothing to review. We have made all the steps as a state and we continue to have an excellent dialogue with the Lithuanian Jewish community and with the global (Jewish) community," Skvernelis told the Ziniu Radijas radio station on Thursday. "We are not saying that no discussion is needed on these painful issues that do exist. Such discussions are taking place in the government and representatives of the (Jewish) community come (to take part in these discussions). Thus, there is nothing to be reviewed," he said.

Skvernelis commented on a statement by the European Jewish Congress (EJC) which calls on Lithuania to "seriously examine the role of Lithuanians during the Nazi occupation, to cease honoring (those) who took part in collaborating with the Nazi occupation and who played an active role in the murders of Lithuanian Jews". According to the prime minister, Lithuania, as a state, has done everything to ensure good relations between the state and the Jewish community.

Read the full article here.

Bulgarian Jewish organisation Shalom condemns anti-Semitic daubing of Soviet Army monument in Sofia
Sofia Globe, October 31, 2017

Painted at the base of the monument were the words, in Bulgarian: “100 years Zionist occupation”. Shalom said that it severely condemns such vandalism and sees the message as deliberate anti-Semitism.

“We are strongly opposed to the representation of the presence of the Soviet Army in Bulgaria as a ‘Zionist occupation’, especially in the context of the extreme ideological differences between the political trends of Bolshevism and Zionism,” the organisation said.

On November 1, the embassy of Israel in Sofia added its condemnation. “Zionism is a national movement of Jews to return to their homeland in the lands of their ancient patriarchs and leaders, and the Jewish leaders who for decades have been active in this cause can be compared to the efforts of the Bulgarian Enlighteners we honour today,” the embassy said in a Facebook post.

Read the full article here.

Ukrainians Ask: Was Their Hero an Anti-Semite? And Should His Statue Be Removed?
By Vladislav Davidzon
Tablet, October 27, 2017

The Limmud FSU conference gathers Russian speaking Jewry from across the former Soviet Union and is typically a convivial setting for hummus-making workshops and lectures about the Yiddish theater. This year’s gathering took place in Odessa—I took part in a pair of panels and presentations of a special Jewish-Ukrainian relations themed issue of my magazine, The Odessa Review—and gathered almost a thousand Russian speaking Jews of the Russian speak Jewish world, from Haifa to Minsk and Moscow. What the conference typically is not, however, is a forum for international political scandals. That was not the case this year, as the conference kicked off with Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, Eliav Belotzercovsky, denouncing the Ukrainian state for the erection of a statue to Symon Petliura, leader of the short lived Ukrainian People’s Republic. The estimates of Jews killed in pogroms during Petliura’s 1918 and 1921 reign run from 35,000 to 50,000.

On October 16th, the Ukrainian city of Vinnitsa (incidentally the home town of Ukraine’s Jewish Prime Minister) erected the statue to the former journalist and statesman leader in the middle of the former Jewish quarter of the city. The World Jewish Congress and numerous other Jewish bodies also expressed their unhappiness with the statue. Belotzercovsky expressed his own opposition at the Limmud conference’s opening, stating that the Israeli state was bothered by the monument, which he judged to be an indicator of a rising wave of nationalism in Ukraine. A Russian speaking member of the Knesset wrote a public letter.

Read the full article here.

Amid Controversy, Putin Unveils Monument To Victims Of Political Repression
RFE/RL, October 30, 2017

Amid controversy over his own methods of maintaining control over Russia, President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to appear at the unveiling of a memorial dedicated to victims of state repression during the Soviet era.

The Wall Of Sorrow will be unveiled on October 30 as part of the official Day of Remembrance for Victims of Political Repression, an event that was first held in 1991 -- the year the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

The monument will be located at the intersection of Moscow's Garden Ring road and an avenue named after Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet-era physicist and dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.

Read the full article here.

Netanyahu Allies Putin and Aliyev Visit Iran This Week. Here's the Message They'll Relay From Israel
By Anshel Pfeffer
Haaretz, October  31, 2017

For his part, Putin has worked since coming to power in 2000 on improving Russia’s historically poor relationship with Israel. In the last two years, since Russia deployed its military forces to Syria, in support of the failing Assad regime, these ties have acquired a new urgency, with Putin holding the keys to Syria’s postwar fate.

Putin is interested in keeping both the interests of Israel and Iran in check. Netanyahu has demanded that Tehran not be allowed to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, and that any forces loyal to Iran, such as those of its proxies Hezbollah, not be allowed to operate near the Golan border.

Read the full article here.

Kiev’s American-style JCC gives low-income Jews the millionaire treatment
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, October 30, 2017

Located in an accessible office district downtown, the Halom center, which has an annual budget of more than $500,000, features what is probably this city’s only subsidized “luxury” kindergarten, allowing working-class parents amenities that used to be the exclusive domain of this city’s wealthiest.

The children are fed kosher, high-quality food, but parents may also bring their own food from home to be reheated. The curriculum features Hebrew studies, holiday programs, dancing, pottery classes, treasure hunts, matchstick model building classes, gymnastics and even rock climbing.

The opening of Halom (the name means “dream” in Hebrew) in November was a watershed moment for other age groups, too. The center, which greets 1,000-2,000 users monthly, instantly became a hit with the golden age population.

Read the full article here.

European ambassadors hear testimony on anti-Semitism in Knesset
By Mordechai Sones
Arutz Sheva, October 30, 2017

The Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee today (Monday) heard testimony about the violent atmosphere against Jews in the United States and Europe. Ambassadors to Israel from the European Union, Germany, and Austria, and diplomatic representatives from the UK, France, and Russia listened as Becky Sebo, former President of Bobcats for Israel at Ohio University tearfully recounted being arrested on campus for speaking about Israel.

Speaking to the committee, which was attended by Knesset members from across the political spectrum, along with heads of leading Jewish organizations and think tanks, Borowich-Ya’ari said: "Anti-Semitism should have died with the liberation of Auschwitz. Today, the sense of security felt by many Jewish communities around the world remains unstable. History has taught us that the Jewish people cannot outsource the security of our people. It is the responsibility in Israel to support our brethren who have remained in the Diaspora. When we say 'Never again' it should not be with a question mark but with an exclamation point. I call upon the distinguished Chairman, Members of Knesset, and Ambassadors to take action.”

Bolshevik centennial: The world should remember the Bolshevik Revolution, for it changed history.
Jerusalem Post, November 1, 2017

At this time of centennials and other commemorations, a cataclysmic historic event a century ago that still impacts the Jewish people has passed largely unnoticed. Israel still suffers the direct effects of the Bolshevik Revolution that began with the storming of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on October 25, 1917.

It is notably curious, first of all, that in Russia of all places this centennial event is not being marked by massive state observances, but relegated to provincial events organized locally. At this era of Russian ascendancy, especially in the Middle East, one wonders whether President Vladimir Putin’s playing down of the Bolshevik centennial has to do with guilt over Russia bringing the devastation of communism upon the world.

Revolutionary violence unleashed decades of catastrophic suffering for millions of that country’s population, particularly Ukrainians and Jews. Incredible violence was perpetrated by the regimes of Lenin and Stalin against their own people, let alone countries that yielded to communist domination.

Read the full article here.

New York Attack Turns Focus to Central Asian Militancy
By Andrew E. Kramer
New York Times, November 1, 2017

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Islamist insurgencies have erupted throughout the region, most notably in the Caucasus and the suspect’s native Uzbekistan. While those insurgencies have been mostly suppressed, often with unflinching brutality, analysts have grown increasingly concerned about Islamist radicalism spreading out of the region as young men leave in search of work.

This is particularly true, analysts say, of Uzbekistan, where a blend of repressive politics and economic failure has generated a steady outflow of both migrants and militants. Many of the immigrants have come to the United States — nearly 60,000 as of 2013, the American Community Survey said, with about half of them going to New York City.

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.