Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. January 19, 2017

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

Dear Friend,

Polish President Andrzej Duda travelled to Israel this week, where he visited Yad Vashem and the Western Wall, and met with President Reuven Rivlin. Prior to his visit, President Duda met with leaders of the Polish Jewish Community. The President said that Poland has worked to develop Jewish culture and that Jews have made a large contribution to Polish culture, science, and Polish independence. This will be President Duda’s second visit to Israel in the last four months.

A Jewish Agency emissary, Max Lurye, said that he expects aliyah from Ukraine to increase in 2017. Though numbers decreased from 2015 to 2016, Mr. Lurye believes that is only temporary. The conflict is still ongoing, and the increase in resources of information about aliyah will contribute to an increase, he said. According to Mr. Lurye, 13,000 people requested information relating to aliyah in 2016.

In response to a decision by a European court, a top Russian official has announced that the country is open to discussing rescinding the ban on U.S. families adopting Russian children. Valentina Matvienko, speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, accused U.S. officials of prolonging the ban by their unwillingness to work with Russia. The response comes after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the ban, in place since 2013, was discriminatory and illegal.

Finally, I want to bring your attention to an interesting piece by Valerii Pekar that responds to and analyzes Ukraine’s options in dealing with Europe, Crimea, and the Donbas elections, first written about in an op-ed piece from the Wall Street Journal.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. January 19, 2017

Polish president meets with Jewish community leaders ahead of Israel visit

JTA, January 15, 2017

 Polish President Andrzej Duda met with representatives of the country’s Jewish community, ahead of an official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.



Jerusalem Post, January 17, 2017

Both Israel and Poland are interested in enhancing relations at all levels and President Reuven Rivlin and Polish President Andrzej Duda each expressed this ambition at a welcome reception that Rivlin hosted for Duda on Tuesday.



Jerusalem Post, January 14, 2017

“Although it is hardly reported in the media, two or three and sometimes up to 10 people are killed every day in clashes in the region of Donetsk in Ukraine,” says Jewish Agency emissary Max Lurye. “People who live in that area constantly hear explosions, and this has contributed to an unstable situation for all residents, including Jews.”

Russia 'Ready to Discuss' Scrapping U.S. Adoption Ban

The Moscow Times, January 18, 2017

Russia is ready to discuss scrapping its ban on U.S. families adopting Russian children, a top official has announced.

Valentina Matvienko, the speaker in Russia's higher house of parliament, the Federation Council, said that the Russian government was “open to dialogue.”

Read the full article here.

Estonia, Lithuania Sign Deals With U.S. To Allow Troop Deployments

RFE/RL, January 18, 2017

Estonia and Lithuania moved on January 17 to shore up military relations with the United States ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

The two Baltic states signed bilateral defense agreements with the United States to formalize the presence of U.S. troops in their countries, their defense ministries said.

Read the full article here.

Lithuania Plans To Build Fence Along Border With Russia's Kaliningrad

RFE/RL, January 18, 2017

Lithuania says it will start construction on a 129-kilometer fence on its border with Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave bordering the NATO-member nation.

The interior minister for the Baltic state said on January 17 that the barrier will be 2.5 meters high and feature electronic surveillance systems and drones. The fence, at an estimated cost of $3.85 million, is scheduled to be completed by the end 2017.

Read the full article here.

Keeping Alive a Haven for Yiddish Culture in Modern Romania


The New York Times, January 15, 2017

The first Jewish theater in Romania was founded in the 1870s in the eastern city of Iasi. The current theater in Bucharest was established in 1940 and remained open throughout the war even as Romania was in the grip of anti-Semitism and many Romanian Jews were sent to labor camps. Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany until it switched sides in 1944.

Read the full article here.

European anti-corruption body tells Georgia well done, but do more

Reuters, January 17, 2017

The Council of Europe on Tuesday called on Georgia to do more to reduce corruption while at the same time acknowledging it had made considerable progress.

The Council's anti-corruption body, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), welcomed positive developments in the South Caucasus country of 3.7 million such as the introduction of a monitoring mechanism for submitting asset declarations by public officials including parliamentarians, judges and high-level prosecutors.

Read the full article here.

In Moscow, Moldovan President Says Agreement With EU Was 'Hasty'

RFE/RL, January 17, 2017

Moldovan President Igor Dodon has told Russia that a landmark agreement bolstering ties between Moldova and the European Union was concluded "hastily" and suggested he wants to abandon it.

Dodon, who won the presidency in November after promising better ties with Moscow amid popular discontent with the government’s pro-Western policies, was making his first trip abroad since he was sworn in as president on December 23.

Eastern Europe: Between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin

By Ola Cichowlas

Moscow Times, January 17, 2017

Some 4000 American soldiers arrived in Poland last week in one of the largest deployments of NATO troops in Europe since the end of the Cold War. They were greeted ceremoniously in the south western Polish town of Zagan, posing for pictures with civilians and servicemen. Some of them will be deployed to the Baltic states, as part of a promise the United States' departing president Barack Obama made to Eastern Europe at the NATO summit in Warsaw back in July. And now with Donald Trump replacing Obama in the White House, this brigade carried more symbolic weight than ever for the EU's eastern member states.

Biden calls Russia biggest threat to international order

Reuters, January 18, 2017

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, in his last major speech before leaving office, described Russia on Wednesday as the biggest threat to the international liberal order and said Washington must work with Europe to stand up to Vladimir Putin.

Slovak lawmaker probed for opposing national honors for Jews

JTA, January 16, 2017

The speaker of Slovakia’s parliament initiated a criminal probe for alleged hate speech against a lawmaker who criticized the conferring of a national honor on Jewish laureates due to their ethnicity.

Russia Gains When Donald Trump Trashes NATO


The New York Times, January 17, 2016

Many people in the United States and abroad have consoled themselves by assuming that Donald Trump's outrageous statements were just politically driven, and he’d temper them once he became president. That thinking seems more wishful than ever when the man chosen to lead the world’s most powerful country keeps saying that two pillars of postwar security and prosperity — the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union — are obsolete.

An offer to surrender

By Valerii Pekar

New Eastern Europe, January 16, 2017

Some days ago Viktor Pinchuk, an influential Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist, the son-in-law of the former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma and an organiser of Davos Ukrainian Breakfast and Yalta European Strategy forums, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal offering a solution to war in Donbas. He claimed Ukraine should renounce its aspirations to join the European Union and NATO, hold elections in the uncontrolled territories under the conditions proposed by Russia and accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

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