Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. May 25, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

On Wednesday, during testimony to the House Appropriations Committee, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo affirmed that he would fill the vacant office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. His response came after the chairs of the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism gathered signatures from 120 members of Congress on a letter urging Secretary Pompeo to address the issue. A bill has also emerged in the House that would elevate the position of Special Envoy to Ambassador and, if passed, require President Trump to fill the position within three months. NCSEJ has worked with members of Congress and other national agencies to advocate for the appointment of a Special Envoy.

On Monday, Secretary Pompeo met with Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili at the annual U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership summit in Washington, DC. In addition to discussing U.S.-Georgia relations, Secretary Pompeo called for Russia to withdraw its troops from the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

On Wednesday, I attended the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Conference at the U.S. Institute of Peace and Deputy Director Lesley Weiss and I attended a reception celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the First Georgian Republic. Also on Wednesday, Lesley Weiss attended the opening of an art installation at Washington's Union Station to honor the 100th anniversary of modern Lithuanian statehood. 

This week, the annual Saint Petersburg Economic Forum is convening in Russia. A large delegation of U.S. business leaders attended this year's summit, signaling a bright spot in U.S.-Russia ties. 

Our June 5 Board of Governors meeting is fast approaching. We look forward to welcoming you and hearing from Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblet, Chief Curator of the Core Exhibition at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jewry in Warsaw, Poland; Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute; Gideon Taylor, Chair of Operations at the World Jewish Restitution Organization; and H.E. Ambassador Erzhan Kazykhanov of Kazakhstan. If you have not already, please RSVP to David Shulman at dshulman@ncsej.org, or 202-898-2500.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. May 25, 2018

Secretary of State promises appointment of special envoy to monitor anti-Semitism

Jewish News Syndicate, May 24, 2018

At a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised that he would work towards an appointment of a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

During testimony in front of the House committee, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.H.), a senior member of the committee, had asked the Pompeo to act on the appointment of the vacant Special Envoy position. “And in 2004, I authored the Anti-Semitism Special Envoy. That, too, has not been filled,” Smith said to Pompeo of the vacancy. “And I know that you care deeply about combating the scourge of anti-Semitism, which is rising all over the globe. Please move on that as well.”

 “You have my word,” Pompeo told Smith in response.

Read the full article here.

Pompeo Calls For Russian Troop Pullout From Georgia

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 21, 2018

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for Russia to withdraw its troops from breakaway regions in Georgia while also pledging deeper security and economic support for Tbilisi.

"The United States unequivocally condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgian soil," Pompeo said in opening remarks to the annual U.S.-Georgian Strategic Partnership in Washington on May 21. "Russia's forcible invasion of Georgia is a clear violation of international peace and security."

Russia has troops stationed in Georgia's Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions that remained after a 2008 war in South Ossetia between Russian and Georgian troops.

Despite sanctions, some Americans still want to do business in Russia

By Amie-Ferris Rotman

Washington Post, May 25, 2018

Russian poetry was quoted. Jokes were made about flying to Mars. One American chief executive even lauded his company’s relationship with Russia for outlasting his own marriage.

Ties between Russia and the West may be at their worst since the days of the Cold War, but that did little to stop a slew of American business leaders from speaking at a panel at the country’s annual lavish investment summit on Friday.

They were part of the largest international attendance in four years, when Russia was hit with U.S. and European Union sanctions for annexing Crimea from Ukraine. Since then, Moscow’s ties with Washington have only further deteriorated over allegations of election interference.

Read the full article here.

Know your oligarch: A guide to the Jewish machers in the Russia probe

By Ron Kampeas

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 22, 2018

The special prosecutor’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election offers an unsettling journey for anyone steeped in Russian Jewry, and the transition from the repression of the former Soviet Union to the relative freedoms of the Russian Federation.

Of 10 billionaires with Kremlin ties who funneled political contributions to Donald Trump and a number of top Republican leaders, at least five are Jewish. (The Dallas Morning News has a handy set of interactive charts.)

There’s Len Blavatnik, the dual British-American citizen who dumped huge amounts of cash on Republican candidates in the last election cycle, much of it funneled through his myriad investment firms. (The same Len Blavatnik funds scholarships for IDF veterans and who is friends with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.) Alexander Shustorovich is the president of IMG Artists, a titan among impresarios, who gave Trumps’ inauguration committee a cool $1 million. He arrived in 1977 with his penniless family in New York at age 11, fleeing Soviet persecution of Jews.

Read the full article here.

Respecting Migrants: A New Approach for Conflict Resolution in Eastern Europe

By Maxim Samorukov

Carnegie Moscow Center, May 23, 2018

Times have changed in the way conflicts are viewed and resolved. It is almost impossible to imagine that any international mediator would propose that two warring countries undertake an exchange of populations, as they did in the 1920s or the 1940s. Even a democratic referendum on changing borders is not considered to be a humane way of resolving a conflict.

The individual and his rights, rather than vague conceptions of national community, now stand at the heart of conflict resolution efforts. The idea that people have a right to live and be integrated in the territory where they were born continues to have a disproportionate influence on negotiation processes.

Read the full article here.

The Paradoxes of Polish-Ukrainian Relations

By Wojciech Kononczuk

Kennan Institute Focus Ukraine Blog, May 23, 2018

The narrative that Polish-Ukrainian relations are in crisis is too simplistic. An obvious problem lies in the two countries’ different perceptions of the tragic past and the politicization of history, but less recognized is that they are engaging in an unprecedented level of cooperation in other spheres. Poland’s support of Ukraine in matters of strategic importance is undeniable but goes largely unnoticed. Part of the problem is that confidence has been undermined and there is poor communication between the sides.

From media reports and various experts’ opinions about the current state of affairs between Poland and Ukraine, one could easily conclude that historical issues dominate all else. Traditional news media and websites in both countries are replete with stories pointing up deteriorating relations between Warsaw and Kyiv as a result of disputes over the interpretation of historical events shared by the two countries. If we limited bilateral relations just to the assessment of events from the World War II era, they would certainly seem to be at a critical juncture. But a broader perspective yields a different diagnosis.

Read the full article here.

WWII-era Polish cardinal who was hostile to Jews is on the path to sainthood

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 24, 2018

A World War II-era Polish cardinal who was hostile to Jews was recognized by Pope Francis as having “heroic virtues,” the first step to sainthood.

Cardinal August Hlond was one of 12 sainthood cases to be advanced last week by the pope.

In a letter to the Vatican, the American Jewish Committee warned that putting Hlond on the track toward sainthood “will be perceived within the Jewish community and beyond as an expression of approval of Cardinal Hlond’s extremely negative approach towards the Jewish community.” Rabbi David Rosen, the AJC’s director of international interreligious affairs, wrote the letter.

Read the full article here.

Hungary’s ‘missing’ Jews come out of hibernation to take community’s helm

By Yaakov Schwartz

Haaretz, May 18, 2018

Peter Berenyi found out he was Jewish when he was 8 years old, over a bowl of matzah ball soup.

“At the time, we were just like kids in any regular Jewish Hungarian family,” Berenyi says. “That is, we had no idea we were Jewish. And then my parents gave us this soup, and my brothers and I asked what it was. They told us it was a Jewish soup, and that they grew up with it as a tradition in their homes.”

Though Berenyi’s parents let the children in on the family secret, they cautioned them not to speak about it in public. It was the mid-1980s, and then, as today, Hungarian Jews were anxious about displaying any outward signs of their heritage. Many didn’t even speak of it among themselves.

Read the full article here.

Knesset to Debate Recognizing Armenian Genocide Amid Spat With Turkey

By Jonathan Lis

Haaretz, May 23, 2018

The Knesset voted on Wednesday evening to hold a debate on recognizing the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish government a century ago.

Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg submitted the motion earlier on Wednesday. The debate will be held at an unspecified date in the future.

Only 16 Knesset members participated in the session and a mere two MKs from the coalition, alongside Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, attended the session.

As Tensions With Iran Mount, Officials From Neighboring Azerbaijan Visit Israel

By Noa Landau

Haaretz, May 23, 2018

Last Monday, the world’s eyes were cast mostly on southern Jerusalem, where the U.S. was inaugurating its new embassy in Israel’s capital, and on Gaza, where the list of dead grew by the hour in tandem with the festive ceremony. Immediately afterward, condemnation from Muslim nations began pouring in, led by Turkey, which declared an acute diplomatic crisis with Israel. But at the same time, under the radar, a new milestone was reached in Israel’s relations with a Muslim friend of Turkey and neighbor of Iran: the Republic of Azerbaijan.

That day, May 14, on the backdrop of the tensions, senior Azeri officials visited Israel for the first meeting of the inter-governmental economic committee established to tighten ties between the two countries. The delegation, headed by the Azeri tax minister accompanied by deputy ministers, stayed in Israel for three days, from Sunday to Tuesday. The purpose of the meeting, where the Israeli government was represented by Minister Zeev Elkin, was to examine ways to promote economic, commercial and business ties, as announced during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the country in December 2016.

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.