Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. September 21, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

Please see below for the links to this week's news updates. 

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. September 21, 2018

This Year's Oscar Foreign Film Race is Full of Movies on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism 
JTA, September 20, 2018

Russia nominated a film about the Nazi death camp Sobibor as its entry for the Academy Award for best foreign language film.

“Sobibor,” a multimillion-dollar production with state funding, centers on the 1943 escape by Jewish inmates from the camp under the leadership of Russian inmates. It was one of only two such occurrences during the Holocaust, with the other happening that same year in Treblinka.

The two-hour film features Konstantin Khabenskiy, one of Russia’s best-known actors, along with an international cast as well as unusually gory visuals. It is based on historical research of the history of the camp in Poland, where SS guards and Ukrainians murdered 250,000 Jews.

Russia Backs Off Blaming Israel for Downed Jet
By Jacob Siegel
Tablet, September 18, 2018

In less than 24 hours Moscow has gone from accusing Israel of the shootdown of a Russian jet in a “deliberate provocation,” to striking a far more conciliatory tone with Russian president Vladimir Putin calling the incident the “result of a chain of tragic circumstances.”

The circumstances culminated Monday night when Syrian air defense forces launched missiles at a Russian military jet flying over the country’s Mediterranean coast, killing 15 crew members onboard. Initially, Russia blamed Israel for the incident, accusing Israeli aircraft of using the downed Russian Ilyushin-20 surveillance plane as a “shield” to conceal attacks on targets within Syria. Prior to the release of Putin’s statement, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov suggested that Israel had intentionally neglected to warn Russian counterparts, with whom airstrikes are routinely coordinated, of the imminent attack. “A hotline warning was received less than one minute before the strike, which left no chance for getting the Russian plane to safety,” Konashenkov told media.

A New Torah Scroll Symbolized a Liberal Jewish Revival in the Czech Republic
By Magarita Gokun Silver
JTA, September 18, 2018

A new Torah scroll is being used in this historic city by one of its two Reform Jewish congregations to welcome the High Holidays and the series of solemn and joyous celebrations that conclude with, what else, Simchat Torah — the rejoicing of the Torah.

But it’s really not a new scroll at all.

Originally a Czech scroll, the Torah has spent the last several decades at a Reform synagogue in London. How it got there — and how it made its way back to Prague — points to the continuing rebuilding of Jewish life in the Czech Republic and the revival of traditions and culture that were lost in the Holocaust and under communism.

Volunteers Join 'Shalom', Sofia Municipality Initiative to Clean off Swastikas, Hate Slogans in Bulgarian Capital
The Sofia Globe, September 16, 2018

More than 100 volunteers turned out on September 16 to take part in an initiative by the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom” and Sofia municipality to clean off swastikas and other symbols of hatred from walls in the centre of the Bulgarian capital city.

The initiative “Let’s Clean Hatred off the Streets of Sofia” was part of the long-term initiative by Shalom and Sofia municipality, with the backing of the Sofia Development Association, “Sofia – City of Tolerance and Wisdom”. It came a few days after the launch of a manifesto against hate speech and intolerance.

Shalom expressed thanks for logistical and other support from the Metropolitan Inspectorate, the organisation’s partners from Marginalia, the councillors from Sofia City Council who joined in, the embassies of Israel, the United State and Russia, the Bulgarian office of the American Jewish Committee, the “Negev” association of Friends of Israel in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, students in Jewish Studies at Sofia University and others who volunteered to take part in the clean-up action.

Prague to Open 'Czech House' in Jerusalem as Possible Prelude to Embassy Move
By Herb Keinon
Jerusalem Post, September 16, 2018

A week after Paraguay announced that it was returning its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, the Czech Republic announced it would open a “Czech House” in Jerusalem in November as a prelude to moving its embassy to the capital. 

The center is expected to house a cultural center, as well as offices of the Czech Republic’s trade and tourism offices.

The decision was announced by the office of Czech President Milos Zeman, after a meeting on Wednesday with the prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister and speaker of the chamber of deputies of parliament.

Hungary's Holocaust Museum Triggers Bitter Conflict between Jewish Groups
By Cnaan Lipshiz 
JTA, September 18, 2018

The planned opening of a Holocaust museum in Budapest has triggered an acrimonious exchange between the European Jewish Congress and Chabad of Hungary.

In a statement Monday, EJC President Moshe Kantor called the Hungarian Chabad affiliate EMIH a group with “no tradition and no historical roots in Hungary” that is favored by the government for its moral pliability but not by local Jews. EMIH fired back by calling Kantor a dodgy oligarch who is ignorant of Hungarian history.

The unusually harsh exchange is an escalation in the controversy over the House of Fates state-funded museum ahead of its opening next year under the ownership of EMIH.

Liberman's Visit Signals Strengthening Relations between Israel and Azerbaijan
By Arye Gut
Jerusalem Post, September 18, 2018

A delegation led by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman arrived for an official visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan on September 13.

In the capital, Baku, Lieberman held meetings with the military and political leadership of this largest south Caucasus country. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received the delegation, hailing the enhancement of relations in economic, military, cultural, and tourism fields was hailed at the meeting. The sides expressed their hope that the visit would contribute to expansion of bilateral cooperation.

Liberman also met with Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov, Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov, Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov, Interior Minister Ramil Usubov and other top figures, discussing aspects of regional security and prospects for cooperation; partnership in the political, military, military-technical spheres; and other issues of interest. In difficult times, these countries have always stood together, providing mutual support. 

Among the Last Jews of Bukhara
By Armin Rosen
Tablet, September 14, 2018

Chances are that the great majority of Jews who will ever call Bukhara, Uzbekistan, home are dead. But in cemeteries in the Russian-speaking world, the residents feel less dead than they really are. The faces of the deceased are often etched onto their tombstones in detailed low relief, turning a graveyard into a portrait gallery, a pantheon of people who did nothing more or less heroic than live out their allotted time.

The lively graves at the Jewish cemetery in Bukhara, an ancient and shadeless expanse announced by its turquoise-domed gatehouse, offer a bit of consolation for having to visit dead Jews in the absence of live ones. There are men in embroidered Bukharan skullcaps, smiling women in bangles and beads, Red Army officers lavished in medals and bars. There are long-beards and no-beards; graves with menorahs and graves with sickles and hammers. Some graves have no Jewish content on them whatsoever; on some, the black portrait-stones stand perpendicular to a second marker whose text is rendered in Hebrew. By far the most poignant graves have double portraits on them—above, an elderly man or woman who died in the 80s or 90s; below, a young man in an almost blank army uniform, struck down sometime between 1939 and 1945, thousands of miles to the west. One face is frozen in tragically permanent youth; the other wears the full burden of those decades of absence.

For Poland, A Time for Justice
By Senator Tammy Baldwin
The Hill, September 18, 2018

Poland suffered greatly during the Second World War and its aftermath. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, it is estimated that the Nazis killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians and at least three million Polish Jews. The systematic destruction of Polish Jewry by the Nazis and their collaborators and the looting of virtually all their possessions were integral aspects of the Holocaust. A vibrant center of Jewish life for centuries – the most robust in Europe – was decimated.

The White House visit of Polish President Andrzej Duda is a fitting moment to recall this tragedy and to highlight the importance of restituting Jewish assets looted during the Holocaust and its aftermath.

Ukraine Pushes Ahead with Plans to Secure NATO Membership
Associated Press, September 20, 2018

Ukraine’s president says the country needs to amend its constitution to make NATO membership its long-term goal.

President Petro Poroshenko said Thursday that Ukrainians are finally convinced of the benefits of the alliance with NATO and said the Ukrainian army will meet the criteria for NATO membership by 2020.

Ukraine abruptly changed its pro-Russian stance following the overthrow of the pro-Kremlin government in 2014 and Russia’s annexation of Crimea a month later. One of the arguments that Russia used to justify the annexation was fears that Ukraine would invite NATO troops to Crimea’s strategic Black Sea port of Sevastopol.

[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.