Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. September 30, 2016

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

This week, a leadership mission of over twenty NCSEJ officers, Executive Committee and Board members traveled to Ukraine, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the massacres at Babi Yar. We participated in the official government remembrance ceremony on Thursday night, as well as activities throughout the week.

The delegation also had the opportunity to meet with numerous government leaders, including President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. Please see our press release, below, and the included news articles for more details on the remembrance ceremony, and how Ukraine is remembering this tragedy.

This week, we lost a towering figure of Israeli statesmanship in former President Shimon Peres (z"l). An oleh from a small Polish town (now part of Belarus), President Peres was present at the nation's founding, and for over half a century, was a stalwart of the Israeli politics. He was also a fighter for the right of Soviet Jews to make aliyah, advocating for emigration directly with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during the 1980s.

Finally I want to wish everyone who is celebrating Rosh Hashanah this coming week a good and sweet new year.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO

Washington, D.C. September 30, 2016

NCSEJ in Ukraine: Remembering the Babi Yar Massacre, 75 Years Later
NCSEJ, September 29, 2016

KYIV, UKRAINE - Today, NCSEJ joined with government leaders from the U.S. and Europe, and members of the Jewish community from around the world at an official ceremony to remember the 1941 massacre of Jews by Nazi forces at the Babi Yar ravine in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A delegation of over twenty NCSEJ officers and board members traveled to Ukraine this week to participate in the ceremony and attend commemorations relating to the Babi Yar anniversary.

 Read the full article here.

NCSEJ Mourns Israeli Statesman Shimon Peres
NCSEJ, September 28, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry (formerly NCSJ) mourns the passing of statesman and former President of Israel Shimon Peres. He died Tuesday at the age of 93, succumbing to the effects of a stroke suffered weeks earlier.
Peres was born Szymon Perski in Wiszniew, Poland (now Vishnyeva, Belarus), and emigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1934. Throughout his life, he fought in government, in the halls of the Knesset, and in the international arena for the welfare of the State of Israel, and for the ideal of peace.
Peres was a strong advocate for the cause of Soviet Jewry, and especially for Soviet Jewish emigration to Israel. In 2012, as President, he helped inaugurate the Russian Jewish museum and tolerance center in Moscow.
On behalf of the NCSEJ Board of Governors, our condolences go to his children, his entire extended family, and the people of Israel. May his memory be for a blessing.

IFCJ, JDC to distribute $52 million in humanitarian aid to Jews in former Soviet Union
JTA, September 26, 2016

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has pledged $52 million to provide food and medicine to elderly Jews living in the former Soviet Union through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
The Food and Medicine Lifeline, a four-year, $13 million per year commitment, was announced Monday by the IFCJ. Many of the tens of thousands of recipients of the aid are elderly and impoverished Holocaust survivors, according to the IFCJ.
The assistance will be delivered through the JDC’s local network of humanitarian services throughout the states of the former Soviet Union.

OSCE announces action plan to combat anti-Semitism
JTA, September 30, 2016

The 57 European and Eurasian countries that comprise the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are embarking on a three-year initiative to promote education and awareness about anti-Semitism and to address Jewish community security.
The initiative, titled “Words into Action to Address Anti-Semitism,” was announced Wednesday. It was launched by the parliament of Germany, which currently chairs the OSCE, and is being spearheaded by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

Mournful Ukraine marks 75 years since Babi Yar massacre
The Times of Israel, September 29, 2016

KIEV — Ukraine on Thursday marked the 75th anniversary of the single largest single mass shooting by Nazi forces during the Holocaust in a somber ceremony attended by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and other world leaders.
The massacre of nearly 34,000 Jews on September 29-30, 1941 in Kiev’s Babi Yar ravine was unprecedented in its scope — even for Nazi Germany’s notoriously brutal genocide of European Jewry — and has been a source of controversy over the participation of local Ukrainian collaborators in the mass killing.
At the ceremony, Poroshenko addressed the sensitive issue, saying “there have been those [in Ukraine] for which one felt shame. And this, too, cannot be erased from our collective memory.
“No Ukrainian has the right to forget this tragedy,” he said.
Earlier, Poroshenko tweeted that “we Ukrainians very well understand the grief of the Jews and take it as our own.”

Read the full article here.

Complicity debate looms over Ukraine’s largest Holocaust memorial event
September 29, 2016

A senior state historian of Ukraine accused Israel’s president of repeating a Soviet “myth” about Ukrainians’ complicity in the Holocaust as the Eastern European country held the largest event in its history commemorating the genocide.
Volodymyr Vyatorovych, director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, leveled the accusation against Reuven Rivlin on Thursday as hundreds of guests from dozens of countries were preparing to convene at Babi Yar for a ceremony to commemorate the murder 75 years ago of at least 33,000 Jews at the Kiev ravine.

Read the full article here.

Malaysian flight MH17 downed by Russian-made missile: prosecutors
By Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch
Reuters, September 28, 2016

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a missile fired from a launcher brought into Ukraine from Russia and located in a village held by pro-Russian rebels, international prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The findings counter Moscow's suggestion that the passenger plane, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, was brought down by Ukraine's military rather than the separatists. All 298 people on board, most of them Dutch, were killed.
The conclusions were based on thousands of wiretaps, photographs, witness statements and forensic tests during more than two years of inquiries into an incident which led to a sharp rise in tensions between Russia and the West.
Among the key findings were: the plane was hit by a Russian-made Buk-9M38 missile; the missile was fired from the rebel-held village of Pervomaysk in eastern Ukraine; and the launcher was transported into Ukraine from Russia.

 Read the full article here.

Ronald S. Lauder: Why Holocaust remembrance matters today
WJC/Die Welt, September 29, 2016

On 29 and 30 September 1941, in less than 36 hours, SS units shot dead more than 33,000 Jews at a ravine near Kiev. Since then, the name ‘Babi Yar’ is a synonym for one of the worst massacres ever committed in the history of mankind.
In the two weeks following this atrocity, a further 18,000 men, women and children were murdered at that site. For the Nazi regime, the massacre was a test case for the implementation of the plan to exterminate European Jewry, a plan that was formally approved a few months later at the Wannsee Conference.
Babi Yar had been prepared meticulously. It involved not only special SS killing units, but also regular German army units, as well as allied Ukrainian groups.All of them were an integral part in the planning and execution of this massacre.

Read the full article here.

Azerbaijan vote lengthens Aliyev's time in office, boosts his powers
By Nailia Bagirova
Reuters, September 27, 2016

Azerbaijan has voted in favor of extending the presidential term from five to seven years, election authorities said on Tuesday, a step that critics say will hand unprecedented powers to President Ilham Aliyev who has led the country since 2003.
The state election commission said a vast majority of the 91.2 percent of voters who turned out in a referendum in the Caspian Sea oil-producer had backed the move.

Shimon Peres, last of Israel’s founders, dies
By Ben Sales
JTA, September 27, 2016

TEL AVIV — Shimon Peres, the former defense hawk turned Nobel Peace Prize winner and the last of Israel’s founders, has died.
Peres died before dawn Wednesday at 93, Israel Radio reported. The former president suffered a massive stroke earlier this month and was reported initially to be in stable but critical condition. His condition was reported to have deteriorated dramatically on Tuesday afternoon. Israel Radio quoted his family, who were at his side, as saying he was “fighting until the end.”
The phoenix of Israeli politics, Peres continually reinvented himself as the country changed. He began his career in the Defense Ministry and was the architect of Israel’s nuclear program, but in his later years Peres was more closely identified with the quest for peace with the Palestinians. He was instrumental in negotiating the Oslo Accords, the landmark Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and was present on the White House lawn for its signing in 1993.

Read the full article here.

Welcoming Ukraine's future Israelis
The Jerusalem Post, September 26, 2016

IRPIN, Ukraine – The outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine in 2014 was the final trigger for Alexandra Kravchenko and Ivan Omelchenko.

Fearing for their lives in their Lugansk home, and particularly for their young daughter, the couple decided to pack their bags and flee to Kiev. Arriving in the capital, and having abandoned their property, the family was in need of a place to live.
Kravchenko recalls that soon after they arrived in Kiev, she was talking to her husband about the need to help other refugees in their situation.
They stopped at a synagogue while having this conversation, and the very next day Kravchenko found an advertisement online for a hostel for refugees that was looking for a manager. She saw this as a sign from God. The family is currently residing in and running that hostel, but are preparing to make aliya.

In Ukraine, Rivlin warns against ‘sin’ of forgetting Nazi atrocities
The Times of Israel, September 28, 2016

KIEV, Ukraine — As Ukraine marks 75 years since the Nazi slaughter of tens of thousands of Jews in Kiev’s Babi Yar ravine, President Reuven Rivlin warned against succumbing to the “sin” of forgetting or denying the atrocities of the Holocaust.
“We must not play a part in the sin of forgetting or denial,” Rivlin told Ukrainian lawmakers at a special parliament session dedicated to commemorating one of the most notorious massacres of WWII.
“National leaders who support anti-Semitic, racist, or neo-Nazi ideas will not be welcomed as friends among the family of nations,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Former Georgian President, Party, Investigated For Possible Post-Elections Coup Plot
RFE/RL, September 30, 2016

With most voters still undecided on the eve of Georgia's parliamentary elections, a mysterious audio recording has surfaced that is apparently intended to smear former President Mikheil Saakashvili and his party. The country's State Security Service is investigating whether its contents constitute a coup attempt.
The audio recording, uploaded on September 26 by an anonymous YouTube user, features the purported voices of Saakashvili and five parliamentarians from his United National Movement (ENM) discussing their options in the event of the party's defeat in the October 8 vote. The six can be heard considering the possibility of forming an opposition coalition government -- an idea dismissed by the voice attributed to Saakashvili -- or launching a long-term public protest in an effort to have the results of the elections overturned.

Babi Yar at 75: Filling in the Blanks in Ukrainian History
By Izabella Tabarovsky
Kennan Institute, September 27, 2016

Long before Auschwitz, long before Treblinka and Sobibor, there was Babi Yar—the sprawling ravine on the outskirts of Kyiv where the Nazis, with support from the locals, murdered 33,771 Jews in a two-day killing spree on September 29 and 30, 1941. The Holocaust as the “final solution” began here, in Ukraine and other Soviet territories. Over the fall of 1941 the number of victims at Babi Yar grew to 100,000, to include, beside the Jews, the mentally ill, Roma, Ukrainian nationalists, Communists, and other undesirables.
This week, as Kyiv commemorates the 75th anniversary of the tragedy, the city is home to much commemorative activity. Penny Pritzker, the U.S. secretary of commerce, who is said to have a personal connection to Babi Yar, is expected to arrive for the official ceremony. Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin addressed a special parliamentary hearing on Babi Yar earlier in the week. Numerous American Jewish organizations are descending on Kyiv. A Canadian organization, Ukrainian Jewish Encounter (UJE), has put together a symposium, with participation from the celebrated historian Timothy Snyder. And the German Federal Agency for Civic Education will be holding its own symposium, “Mapping Memories.”

Thousands of Hasidim flock to Ukraine for pilgrimage
Ukraine Today, September 27, 2016

160 pilgrims from Israel - are the first to arrive in Kyiv. The charter plane landed in Zhuliany Airport. Hasidim go on an annual pilgrimage to Uman town, where zaddik Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, is buried. This is just one of the first groups of Hasidim, arriving in Ukraine.
Hasidim will arrive at the airports of Kyiv and Odesa. Boryspil International Airport is expecting 81 charter flights. Lots of people will take regular flights, so it is hard yet to predict how many would come. All in all, Uman expects at least 30,000 of pilgrims from 20 countries this year. Most of them are from Israel and the USA.

Read the full article here.

U.S. Believes Hackers Are Shielded by Russia to Hide Its Role in Cyberintrusions
The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2016

WASHINGTON—U.S. officials are increasingly confident that the hacker Guccifer 2.0 is part of a network of individuals and groups kept at arm’s length by Russia to mask its involvement in cyberintrusions such as the theft of thousands of Democratic Party documents, according to people familiar with the matter.
While the hacker denies working on behalf of the Russian government, U.S. officials and independent security experts say the syndicate is one of the most striking elements of what looks like an intensifying Russian campaign to target prominent American athletes, party officials and military leaders.
A fuller picture of the operation has come into focus in the past several weeks. U.S. officials believe that at least two hacking groups with ties to the Russian government, known as Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, are involved in the escalating data-theft efforts, according to people briefed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe of the cyberattacks.

Read the full article here.

Combating Antisemitism in the European Union
By Katharina von Schnurbein
Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Volume 10, 2016

Rethinking the European Project
These are challenging times for Europe. We have taken for granted what we have achieved, and we have forgotten where we have come from—maybe not rationally, but certainly emotionally. The European Union has never been a love affair, but never has its foundation been questioned as it is now.
The coherence of our societies is today being challenged in a way that it was not in the past. Multiculturalism has failed just as much as the concept of laïcité—the idea of shunning religion from the public space. And now we are looking for new ways of living together and disagreeing well.

Read the full article here.

Ukraine's Next 25 Years
Moving Forward Under a Permanent Russian Threat
By Alexander J. Motyl
Foreign Affairs, September 25, 2016

As Ukrainians celebrate the 25th anniversary of their independence this year, they would do well to remember that the next 25 years will be far more important—and difficult—than the last.
Ukraine declared independence on August 24, 1991, in exceptionally favorable geopolitical circumstances: the Soviet empire was disintegrating; its Russian successor state was democratically inclined and militarily weak; the United States, the world’s sole superpower, was determined to promote democracy around the world; NATO had proved its mettle and was soon to expand; and Europe was brimming with the self-confidence that would culminate in the formation of the European Union.
Under such benign conditions, Ukraine could neglect fundamental systemic reform and simply get by, as it did for many of its 25 years.

Read the full article here.

Vladimir Putin’s Outlaw State
The New York Post, September 29, 2016

President Vladimir Putin is fast turning Russia into an outlaw nation. As one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, his country shares a special responsibility to uphold international law. Yet, his behavior in Ukraine and Syria violates not only the rules intended to promote peace instead of conflict, but also common human decency.
This bitter truth was driven home twice on Wednesday. An investigative team led by the Netherlands concluded that the surface-to-air missile system that shot down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine in July 2014, killing 298 on board, was sent from Russia to Russian-backed separatists and returned to Russia the same night. Meanwhile, in Syria, Russian and Syrian warplanes knocked out two hospitals in the rebel-held sector of Aleppo as part of an assault that threatens the lives of 250,000 more people in a war that has already claimed some 500,000 Syrian lives.

Russia has tried hard to pin the blame for the airline crash on Ukraine. But the new report, produced by prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine, confirms earlier findings. It uses strict standards of evidence and meticulously documents not only the deployment of the Russian missile system that caused the disaster but also Moscow’s continuing cover-up. 

Eastern Europe Arming Itself because ‘No One Wants to Be the Next Ukraine’
By Paul Goble
Window on Eurasia, September 28, 2016

In what many are calling “the Putin effect,” countries across Eastern Europe, including even Belarus, nominally Russia’s closest ally,  are now arming themselves even when they have to cut social welfare spending because, in the words of one commentator, “no one wants to be the next Ukraine.”

This sacrifice makes them producers of security and not just consumers who rely on others, including NATO and the United States, whatever some Western politicians may say; and it is an indication of just how frightened they are that the Kremlin leader, however bogged down he may be in Ukraine, appears to them as a continuing existential threat.

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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.