Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. March 1, 2019

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative has undertaken a new project using aerial drones to map Holocaust burial sites throughout Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe. The European Union is funding the organization’s effort with an 800,000-euro grant ($911,000). Part of the financing provided by the EU will also contribute to the enclosure and cleaning of the cemeteries once the drones have recorded their boundaries. This will ensure their posterity as physical evidence of centuries of Jewish life in towns and villages throughout Europe. 

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss the situation in Syria. While in Russia, Netanyahu affirmed that the Israeli military will continue to take action against Iran but also praised Putin for maintaining the positive bilateral relationship between Israel and Russia. Putin accepted the Prime Minister’s initiation to attend the inauguration of a monument in Jerusalem for the victims of the Siege of Leningrad during the Second World War.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also met with the leadership of the Russian Jewish community. The Prime Minister praised the contribution of the country’s one million Russian-speaking Jews to Israeli society and culture. Among those attending the event were Russian Jewish Congress Chairman Yuri Kanner, Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia and Director of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center Alexander Boroda, and Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt.

On Sunday, the Republic of Moldova held its parliamentary elections but no party achieved a majority. The pro-Russian opposition Socialists secured 31.5 percent, while the pro-European Union ACUM earned 25.9 percent. The incumbent Democratic Party trailed in third place with 24 percent. The United States Department of State and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also noted many allegations of bribery and vote buying. Both organizations urged the government to conduct a probe of election abuse. 

Deputy Director Lesley Weiss visited the exhibition "Dubrovnik, a Scarred City: the Destruction and Restoration of Dubrovnik 1991-2001" on the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Old City of Dubrovnik as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1979) and the 20th anniversary of its removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger (1998) at the Embassy of Croatia in Washington D.C. The multimedia exhibit will be on display until March 8. 

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. March 1, 2019

An Effort Is Being Made to Preserve Europe's Jewish Cemeteries to Combat Holocaust Denial
By Karel Janicek and AP
Times, February 27, 2019

A private organization that wants to preserve thousands of old Jewish cemeteries in Europe is using aerial drones to map burial sites in countries where the Holocaust decimated Jewish populations that existed before World War II.

The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative said Tuesday that teams of drone operators plan to survey 1,500 endangered Jewish cemeteries in Slovakia, Greece, Moldova, Lithuania and Ukraine this year. Once the boundaries are recorded, the sites will be enclosed and cleaned, the Germany-based organization said.

The European Union is funding the effort with an 800,000-euro grant ($911,100) at a time of rising alarm over anti-Semitic acts in some countries. This month, swastikas were painted on about 80 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in France, and vandals damaged windows, sinks and a prominent headstone at a Jewish cemetery in northwestern England.

Netanyahu in Moscow Tells Putin Israel Will Continue Hitting Iran in Syria
By Raphael Ahren and TOI Staff
Times of Israel, February 27, 2019

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel will continue to take action against Iran in Syria, in the first significant meeting between the two since a major spat developed over a downed spy plane last year.

“The greatest threat to stability and security in the region comes from Iran and its proxies,” Netanyahu said. “We are determined to continue our aggressive activity against Iran, which calls for our destruction, and against its attempts to establish itself militarily in Syria.”

Netanyahu to Moscow Jewish Leaders: More Than One Million Russian-Speaking Jews Have Changed Israel
By Hana Levi Julian
Jewish Press, February 27, 2019

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara met Wednesday night with Jewish community leaders in Moscow, telling them that Israel’s huge Russian-speaking population has changed the country.

The event followed his meeting at the Kremlin with President Vladimir Putin. As with his earlier visit Netanyahu spoke briefly about his leadership credentials, this being an electoral period and one in which he faces possible indictment at home to boot.

“As part of my visit here today, we are very happy to meet with you. I am very happy and proud that I have been able to lead the State of Israel and – of course – to represent many among the people of Israel vis-à-vis a new network of relations such as this,” he said.

Slovak Chairmanship Convenes Conference on Anti-Semitism: Special Representative Cardin Urges Leaders, Parliamentarians to Step Up
By Dr. Mischa Thompson and Erika Schlager
CSCE, February 22, 2019

From February 5-6, 2019, Slovakia, the 2019 OSCE Chair-in-Office, convened government officials and civil society representatives in Bratislava to discuss best practices to combat anti-Semitism in the OSCE region. The event followed the 2018 Italian Chairmanship’s conference in Rome and took place shortly after International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27).

The OSCE Chair-in-Office, Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcik, opened the meeting, which was Slovakia’s first event of the year. Senator Ben Cardin, who serves as the OSCE Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance, participated by video and shared his most recent report prepared for the OSCE PA. U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Adam Sterling represented the United States at the conference opening.

On the opening day of the conference, the White House announced the appointment of Elan S. Carr as the United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Many members of the Helsinki Commission, including Chairman Alcee L. Hastings, had urged the president to fill this Congressionally mandated position.

Remains of Hundreds of Bodies Discovered at Former Jewish Ghetto of Brest, Belarus
By Cnaan Liphshiz 
JTA, February 21, 2019

A mass grave containing bones from hundreds of bodies was discovered during construction atop what used to be the ghetto of Brest in present-day Belarus.

Human remains belonging to adults and children as well as clothes, shoes and other personal items, were uncovered last month on the construction site managed by the contractor Pribuzhsky Kwartia, according to a report Wednesday on the Virtual Brest news site.

Since then, the remains of dozens of additional bodies have been discovered every day, the report said.

Mayor Alexander Rogachuk said the bones belonged to “victims of ghettos,” meaning Jews imprisoned there by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Neo-Nazis and the Far Right Are on the March in Ukraine  
By Lev Golinkin
The Nation, February 22, 2019

Five years ago, Ukraine’s Maidan uprising ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, to the cheers and support of the West. Politicians and analysts in the United States and Europe not only celebrated the uprising as a triumph of democracy, but denied reports of Maidan’s ultranationalism, smearing those who warned about the dark side of the uprising as Moscow puppets and useful idiots. Freedom was on the march in Ukraine.

Today, increasing reports of far-right violence, ultranationalism, and erosion of basic freedoms are giving the lie to the West’s initial euphoria. There are neo-Nazi pogroms against the Roma, rampant attacks on feminists and LGBT groups, book bans, and state-sponsored glorification of Nazi collaborators.

These stories of Ukraine’s dark nationalism aren’t coming out of Moscow; they’re being filed by Western media, including US-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE); Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and watchdogs like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Freedom House, which issued a joint report warning that Kiev is losing the monopoly on the use of force in the country as far-right gangs operate with impunity.

40 Miles from Auschwitz, Poland’s Jewish Community is Beginning to Thrive 
By Yardena Schwartz
Time, February 27, 2019

Until she was 13, Marcjanna Kubala thought she was Christian, like nearly every Polish citizen. Then one day after school, she searched her name on Google and found her family tree. Her great-grandmother’s family name didn’t sound Polish, she thought. “Were they German?” Kubala asked her mother. “No,” she replied. “They were Jewish.”

Surprised and fascinated, Kubala, who lives in Krakow, began a journey of rediscovering her identity. Her great-grandmother had lived in Krakow during the Holocaust, and survived because she’d married a Christian—and was therefore able to pass as one. Kubala’s grandmother and mother did the same—both aware of their Jewish heritage and both hiding it. Kubala, on the other hand, had no idea. While her mother had dropped hints over the years, she chose only to tell her daughter directly when she asked that day.

Unlike the generations before her who had to hide their Jewish roots, first during the Holocaust and then under Communism, Kubala could embrace her newfound heritage. She joined Krakow’s Jewish Community Center (JCC), where she met others on the same journey. After college, she became director of Krakow’s Hillel, an organization of young Jews with chapters around the world.

Read the full article here.

From Trotsky to Soros: ‘A Specter Haunting Europe’
By James J. Sheehan
Commonweal, February 27, 2019

In December 2018, Inside Higher Ed, a news service that monitors events at colleges and universities, reported seven recent anti-Semitic incidents on campuses from New York to California. Unlike the murder of eleven Jewish men and women at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, no one was injured in these acts of vandalism, but they remind us that anti-Semitism has an extraordinary capacity to survive. “The Longest Hatred,” part of the title of a Public Television series and a companion volume by Robert S. Wistrich, accurately describes both the deep historical roots and remarkable longevity of animosity toward Jews.

This animosity appeared in the ancient world and was institutionalized in medieval Europe when Jews were an isolated minority, physically separated from their neighbors by ghetto walls and restrained by a web of laws and customs that barred them from many occupations and activities. For centuries, Jews lived with the possibility that they would be blamed for some misfortune—an outbreak of plague, a missing child, a dry well—which might trigger one of those violent attacks on their persons and property that punctuated the long, unhappy history of Christian-Jewish relations. In extreme situations, entire Jewish communities could be expelled, as happened in Spain in 1492. Such major catastrophes may have been rare, but they left a sense of vulnerability that shadowed Jewish life throughout the old regime and beyond.

Cautious Optimism in Belarus’s Growing Geopolitical Leverage
By Grigory Ioffe
Jamestown Foundation, February 20, 2019

In a February 20 interview for a Ukrainian media outlet, former secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Anders Fogh Rasmussen predicted that unless Belarus launches “reforms leading to democracy and freedom” it will fall victim to war and annexation by Russia. Rasmussen declared that Lukashenka should choose “either reforms or life under the Russian yoke” (Liga.net, February 20). Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei responded sharply to Rasmussen’s pronouncement saying, “No comment. How can you comment on the delirium of some retired officials who have not been working for a long time and who have lost touch with reality!” (Belta.by, February 21).

Delirium or not, there is no shortage of alarmist pronouncements regarding Belarus. In his interview with the Romanian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), George Friedman, the founder of the Austin-based, private intelligence firm Stratfor, said he now sees Belarus as “the most fragile country” in the region. He continued, “We know Russia will not encroach on the Baltic States. But an unexpected change of power in Minsk may cause an unacceptable situation. The West will not be at peace with the presence of Russia on the western border of Belarus. Whereas, Russia cannot put up with the presence of the [United States] near Smolensk” (Svaboda.org, February 20).

Moldova Urged to Probe Election Abuse Allegations
By Madalin Necsutu
Balkan Insight, February 28, 2019

The US State Department on Wednesday said parliamentary elections held last Sunday in Moldova, in which pro-Russian Socialists did best, were “competitive and generally respected fundamental rights”.

But it also agreed with the OSCE preliminary report, which noted many allegations of bribery and the use of administrative resources to aid the campaign of the ruling Democratic Party, PDM.
The US has urged the Moldovan authorities to investigate the allegations and form a new government as soon as possible.

“The United States urges Moldova’s leaders to move quickly to form a new government that respects the will of Moldovan voters and serves the Moldovan people by fighting corruption, promoting judiciary reforms, and securing Moldova’s progress on its democratic trajectory,” the US said in a press release.

[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.