Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. November 4, 2016

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties
FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Dear Friend,

I just returned from a three-day conference, sponsored by the Russia Jewish Congress (RJC), entitled “Protecting the Future: The Moscow International Conference on Anti-Semitism.” The event featured expert discussion about the history and current state of anti-Semitism. The conference was attended by hundreds of people, including government and NGO representative from fifteen countries. I co-chaired one of the plenary sessions: “Modern Forms of Anti-Semitism: Countering Techniques.”

During the conference, the RJC unveiled a survey on the level of anti-Semitism in Russia. According to the survey, conducted over the last year, 8% of respondents in Russia expressed a negative attitude toward Jews, and 90% of Russians are aware of the Holocaust. These results contrast with another study by the Levada Center, a leading Russian polling firm, which finds large numbers of Russians hold anti-Semitic or xenophobic attitudes or opinions. The update has stories on both surveys.

After years of negotiation, the governments of Israel and Russia have signed but not yet ratified a treaty that will grant Russian pensions to olim who immigrated to Israel before the fall of the Soviet Union. Once ratified, the treaty will improve the financial well-being of olim from Russia. 

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the local Jewish community jointly dedicated a new Jewish community center in Kyiv this week. This new facility, “Halom JCC,” will provide a range of important services to Ukrainian Jews of all ages.

Ex-world chess champion turned opposition leader Garry Kasparov wrote an op-ed in last Sunday’s New York Times. As a former candidate for Russia’s presidency, he writes about what it means to experience a stage-managed electoral process, as opposed to elections in the United States – an interesting perspective to read before our elections next Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Lithuania’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and other officials dedicated a memorial to Holocaust victims at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas. The Seventh Fort was the site of the first concentration camp in Nazi-occupied territories, established in June 1941. Up to 5,000 people, mostly Jews living in Kaunas, were murdered at the Seventh Fort in less than two months. 

Other stories worth noting this week include updates on presidential elections in Moldova and Bulgaria and parliamentary elections in Georgia, a piece describing a visit to Poland by Israeli religious leaders, and an op-ed about the strategic relationship between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the State of Israel.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO

(l-r) OSCE Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism Rabbi Andrew Baker, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, and NCSEJ CEO Mark Levin at the Moscow International Conference on Anti-Semitism.
Washington, D.C. November 4, 2016

World Jewish Congress head lauds Russia for fighting anti-Semitism, slams UNESCO resolution support
JTA, November 2, 2016

The president of the World Jewish Congress praised Russia for protecting its Jewish community against anti-Semitism but also slammed the country for voting in favor of a UNESCO resolution that ignored Jewish ties to Jerusalem holy sites.

Ronald Lauder made his remarks at the first Moscow International Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism, which was organized by the Russian Jewish Congress under the auspices of Moscow’s mayor.

Lauding President Vladimir Putin, Lauder said he “has made Russia a country where Jews are welcome. And that’s not just a good thing for Jews. It is good for Russia as well.”

Read the full article here.

Russia-Israel treaty will entitle olim to pension funds
The Jerusalem Post, October 31, 2016

Russia and Israel have signed a treaty that will enable immigrants from Russia who were previously employed there to receive pension payments, the National Insurance Institute announced Monday. The treaty was discussed at a meeting of the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee.

The treaty, which was signed in recent months, is the result of years of discussion between the two countries. It applies to every immigrant who worked for at least one year in Russia or Russian territory, even if they had to later give up their citizenship. Attorney Jacob Sasporte, director for international agreements at the National Insurance Institute, said that an estimated 60,000 people will benefit from the new treaty.

Historian May Face Charges in Poland for Writing That Poles Killed Jews in World War II
By Ofer Aderet
Haaretz, October 31, 2016

The prominent Polish-born American historian Jan Tomasz Gross, who revealed the crimes committed by Poles against the Jews during the Holocaust, is gearing up for a legal battle over the “historical truth” against Polish authorities who, it now turns out, are still considering putting him on trial for harming Poland’s reputation.

In a surprise move in October, the Polish public prosecutor general decided to reconsider closing the investigation of Gross and instead to pursue it further until a final decision is made on whether to charge him. Conviction would carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

Moscow's stance on UNESCO resolution on monuments in Jerusalem remains unchanged - Russian Foreign Ministry
Interfax-Religion, November 1, 2016

Moscow confirmed support for the UNESCO resolution on the status of religious and historical sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem of October 14, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and special presidential representative for the Middle East and African countries Mikhail Bogdanov said.

His comment was in response to the question of why Moscow supported this document despite the fact that the text of the resolution is entirely devoted to the Muslim holy sites.

Russian college questionnaire asks students if Jews are responsible for the "National Crisis"
European Jewish Congress, October 26, 2016

Students at the small Moscow State Education College were recently handed a questionnaire with six simple, increasingly bizarre questions. The first question simply asked individuals to identify themselves as a school or college student, or as a teacher. The next question was a bit more personal: “What’s your ethnicity?” And then: “How do you feel about persons of other ethnicities?”

Things started to go off the rails a bit with the fourth question: “How do you feel about the Jews who live in Moscow?” The final two questions were even stranger: “How willing are you to talk to them [Moscow’s Jews]?” and most shockingly “Are Jews involved in the nation’s current crisis?”

Read the full article here.

Moscow Authorities Permit Russian Nationalist March
The Moscow Times, November 1, 2016

Moscow authorities have granted permission to hold the nationalist Russian March in southern Moscow's Lublino neighborhood on Nov 4, TV Dozhd reported. According to Yuri Gorsky, one of the march's organizers, the authorities finally granted the nationalists a permit after refusing their previous four applications.
Read the full article here.

Patriarch Kirill, leaders of Russian Jews discuss problems of fighting extremism
Interfax-Religion, October 28, 2016

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and the leaders of Russian Jews have agreed to join their efforts to oppose religious extremism in the Middle East.

After his meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Moscow on Friday, Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar drew the attention of Jewish community representatives to Russia's peacekeeping role in the Middle East and called for joint efforts to fight religious extremism that threatens Christian communities in the region, the chief rabbi's spokesperson told Interfax-Religion.

Read the full article here.

New JCC Dedicated Today in Kiev
eJewishPhilanthropy, November 1, 2016

Despite ongoing challenges in Ukraine, Jewish life is thriving and will be given new expression with the official dedication today of the Halom Jewish Community Center (JCC), a new 17,000 square foot facility located in central Kiev. The center – a project of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Kiev’s Jewish community – serves as a multi-generational hub for Jewish cultural, educational, community, and social service programs and activities. Ukrainian, American, and Israeli government representatives are expected to join local municipal and JDC leaders including, President Stan Rabin, CEO Alan H. Gill, CEO designate David Schizer, and FSU Regional Director Michal Frank, for the ceremony and celebration.

Read the full article here.

Monument to the murdered Jews is unveiled at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas
MFA of the Republic of Lithuania, November 2, 2016

On 2 November, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Mantvydas Bekešius took part in an event to commemorate the memory of the murdered Jews and in the unveiling ceremony of the monument to them at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas.

Lithuania’s Foreign Vice-Minister also stressed that the Lithuanian young generation had to know the history of the Holocaust well and to understand that the country had lost almost all of its Jewish community due to the genocide.

Georgia's Ruling Party Wins Constitutional Majority
RFE/RL, October 31, 2016

Georgia's ruling political party, Georgian Dream, has secured a constitutional majority in the second round of parliamentary elections held on October 30.

The party garnered 115 of the 150 seats in Georgia's parliament, the Central Election Commission said on October 31.

The United National Movement, founded by self-exiled former President Mikheil Saakashvili, won 27 seats, and the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia won six seats in parliament.

Read the full article here.

Russia has one of lowest rates of anti-Semitism in the world, survey conducted by Russian Jewish Congress finds
Word Jewish Congress, November 3, 2016

Russia today has one of the lowest levels of anti-Semitism in the world and the lowest in Europe, according to a survey conducted in 2015-2016 by the Russian Jewish Congress ahead of the first Moscow International Conference on Combating anti-Semitism, co-sponsored by the World Jewish Congress.

The survey found that only 8 percent of respondents expressed a negative attitude toward Jews and that 90% of Russians today are aware of the Holocaust. The study found that Gypsies and Chechens evoked the most antipathetic attitude among respondents, as well as xenophobia toward Americans, Arabs and Azerbaijanis.

Russian Society Far from Free of Anti-Semitic Stereotypes and Clichés, New Study Finds
By Paul Goble
Window on Eurasia, November 2, 2016

Even though the number of anti-Semitic actions in Russia has fallen and anti-Semitism has been marginalized, Russian society is far from free of anti-Semitic stereotypes and clichés; and there is the danger that the current economic crisis could reignite this ancient plague, according to a new study by the Levada Center.

That study, being presented today at a Moscow conference on combatting anti-Semitism, was summarized yesterday by Elena Mukhametshina in “Vedomosti.” The journalist stressed it is “a mistake” to think that “antipathy to the West has been able to weak hidden inter-ethnic conflicts inside Russia.”

Read the full article here.

Moscow office of Amnesty International sealed off
Reuters, November 2, 2016

The Moscow office of rights group Amnesty International has been sealed off by municipal officials without warning and staff cannot get inside, the group said on Wednesday.

Alexander Artemyev, a staff member, told Reuters that official seals had been placed on the entrances to the office, the locks had been changed, and that power to the office had been cut off.

Russia Loses Seat on U.N. Human Rights Council
The New York Times, October 28, 2016

Russia narrowly lost its seat on the main United Nations body devoted to human rights on Friday, signaling international dismay over the military power’s conduct in Syria.
The vote was to select countries to represent Eastern Europe on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Russia lost by two votes to Croatia and by 32 votes to Hungary. All 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly voted, and when the results were announced, there was a “small intake of air” in the large hall, said the New Zealand envoy, Gerard van Bohemen.

Putin Supports law on Russian Nation
By Alexander Verkhovsky
The Moscow Times, November 2, 2016

President Vladimir Putin has suddenly supported the idea of passing a special law on the Russian nation. To be precise, the new law would be called “On the Russian Nation and the Management of Interethnic Relations.”

What kind of law would this be? Knowing how the concept of the state functions in the minds of Russian officials today, the law could potentially serve three purposes.

Read the full article here.

Religious leaders in Israel visit Poland, meet with Jewish and Catholic leaders
JTA, November 1, 2016

Leaders of several religious groups in Israel visited Poland together

On Sunday they met with representatives of Warsaw’s Jewish community at the Nozyk synagogue. On Monday they visited Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Later they will travel to Krakow to meet with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz and the members of the local Jewish community. On Wednesday, the delegation will visit Auschwitz and will meet with Polish bishops.
Read the full article here.

Poll Shows More Ukrainians Support NATO, Dislike Russia
RFE/RL, November 1, 2016

The number of Ukrainians who support their country becoming a member of NATO has increased while their feelings toward Russia are "cold," according to a new opinion poll.

The survey showed that 43 percent of respondents would vote "yes" in a referendum on Ukraine's accession to NATO, up from 39 percent in a June poll.

Some 29 percent said they were against Kyiv joining the military alliance, with 17 percent saying they were undecided and 11 percent indicating they would not vote.

Read the full article here.
Moldova to hold runoff election for president
The Guardian/AP, October 31, 2016

Moldova’s presidential election will go to a runoff after a pro-Russia candidate narrowly missed winning a majority of votes.

With almost all ballots counted early on Monday, Igor Dodon won 48.26% while pro-Europe rival Maia Sandu scored 38.42%, the top finishers among the nine candidates.

With no one securing a majority, a second round of voting will be held on 13 November to decide between Dodon and Sandu.

Read the full article here.
Moldova at a Crossroad
Atlantic Council, October 28, 2106

Moldova will hold a historic presidential election on October 30 that could determine whether this country of less than three million tilts toward Europe or Russia.

It is Moldova’s first presidential election in twenty years in which voters will get to directly decide the outcome. In March, a court ruled unconstitutional a revision of the constitution in 2000 that called for indirect election of the president through parliament. Under the revised presidential election process, if no candidate receives 50 percent plus one vote on October 30, a runoff will be held between the top two vote getters on November 13.

Read the full article here.
Beyond oil and arms: Israel and Azerbaijan enjoy a successful partnership
By Diana Cohen Altman
The Washington Times, October 30, 2016

That intriguing, but seeming odd couple of the East — Israel and Azerbaijan — cannot be explained by oil and arms alone. Even the menacing glare toward both countries from nearby Iran does not illuminate how these two came to be partners with deep trade ties.

The modern Israel-Azerbaijan bond began with Israel’s recognition of Azerbaijan after the latter’s 1991 declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. Some 25 years later, friendships, substantive cultural and educational exchanges, and extended business ties belie expectations of how a Muslim-majority country might interact with Israel. A surprising number of Azerbaijani young people have traveled to and studied in Israel.
250 Ukrainian immigrants arrive in Israel
Arutz Sheva, November 2, 2016

Earlier today, about 250 immigrants from the Ukraine landed in Ben-Gurion airport in Israel.
This renewed wave of immigration comes following a hiatus during the High Holidays of Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur.

Among the immigrants who participated in the flight there are 117 families, which will all settle in the north and center of Israel. The immigrants of the upcoming flight will receive assistance from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).
Ukrainians shocked as politicians declare vast wealth
By Alessandra Prentice
Reuters, October 31, 2016

An anti-corruption reform requiring senior Ukrainian officials to declare their wealth online has exposed a vast difference between the fortunes of politicians and those they represent.

Some declared millions of dollars in cash. Others said they owned fleets of luxury cars, expensive Swiss watches, diamond jewelry and large tracts of land - revelations that could further hit public confidence in the authorities in Ukraine, where the average salary is just over $200 per month.
Bulgaria warns of Russian attempts to divide Europe
By Gordon Corera
BBC News, November 4, 2016

Rosen Plevneliev warned of Russian influence in his country and across the continent and said Europe needed to take a stronger line.

Elections to pick a new president take place in the country on Sunday, with a run-off a week later if no candidate wins an outright victory. Mr Plevneliev, who is not standing for re-election, will step down in January.

He also said his country had come under a cyber attack during a referendum and local elections last year, which he said was almost certainly linked to Russia.
Is Jewish Oligarch the Cyber Link Between Donald Trump and Russia?
By Larry Cohler-Esses
Forward, November 1, 2016

Is a Russian Jewish oligarch with Israeli citizenship and close ties to both Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu running a secret cyber-communications channel between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian authorities?

That question, about billionaire Mikhail Fridman, is at the heart of a new and detailed investigative report by Franklin Foer, the former editor of The New Republic, published Tuesday on the news website Slate.
What Will Ukraine Do Without Uncle Joe?
Foreign Policy, October 30, 2016

No one in the U.S. government has wielded more influence over Ukraine than Vice President Joe Biden. As the Obama administration’s point person on Ukraine policy, he has rallied support for Kiev in the face of Russian military intervention and cultivated a personal rapport with its leaders. But he has delivered tough love as well, delaying financial aid more than once over concerns about rampant corruption.

With Biden’s tenure as vice president about to expire, the next U.S. president will have to decide who will take up his unique role as Kiev’s go-to guy. The transition comes at a pivotal moment for the festering war in Ukraine, America’s increasingly tense rivalry with Russia, and Europe’s growing fatigue with Kiev’s incessant corruption.
America, Your Election Is Not Rigged
By Garry Kasparov
The New York Times, October 28, 2016

For the last few weeks, the Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has been talking a lot about how the Nov. 8 election is rigged against him. In fact, he sounds convinced that the entire campaign season is rigged in favor of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. These are serious charges, or they would be if Mr. Trump had any idea what he was talking about.

Nobody in the American political establishment is happy about Mr. Trump’s wild-eyed accusations of voter fraud and media conspiracies because they understand that it undermines their own credibility as leaders in a democracy. This is exactly why my country’s leader, Vladimir V. Putin, is so delighted by Mr. Trump’s charges.

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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.