Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. April 12, 2019

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

In the first independent poll taken since the first round of Ukraine's Presidential Election on March 31, actor-turned-politician Volodymyr Zelenskiy holds a commanding lead over incumbent President Petro Poroshenko. Among respondents who intend to vote in the April 21 runoff, 61 percent indicated their support for Zelenskiy, compared to 24 percent for Poroshenko. NCSEJ will have more updates for you about the election as it approaches.  

During a meeting last week on April 4 with the European Union, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov announced that the two sides "are very close" to reaching a new partnership agreement. As part of the expected deal between the EU and Azerbaijan, the Azeri government has implemented a number of economic and social reforms, including freeing over 400 prisoners. 

On Thursday, NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss, Executive Committee member Dr. Gerald Platt, and I attended the swearing-in ceremony for U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr. Following the ceremony, we attended the reception in Mr. Carr's honor hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and the Alpha Epsilon Phi Fraternity at DAR Constitution Hall. 

Following Poland's decision last week to bar Holocaust denier David Irving from entering the country, Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius also announced that Irving was not welcome in the country. Irving had announced plans to visit Lithuania sometime later this year.

On Wednesday, the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ), a partnership of World Jewish Restitution Organization and the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, announced the appointment of Piotr Puchta to the position of Director. Prior to joining FODZ, Puchta served in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also chaired Poland's delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance from 2014 to 2016. 

We are saddened by the passing of Louis 'Lou' Rosenblum. He was a pioneer of the Soviet Jewry Movement and helped found the Cleveland Council for Soviet Jews and the Union of Council for Soviet Jews.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) introduces Special Envoy Elan Carr at his swearing-in ceremony on April 11. 
Washington, D.C. April 12, 2019

New Ukraine Poll Gives Zelenskiy Huge Lead over Poroshenko Ahead of Runoff
By RFERL Staff
RFERL, April 11, 2019 

The first independent poll taken since the first round of Ukraine's presidential election suggests that political newcomer Volodymyr Zelenskiy enjoys a commanding lead ahead of next week's runoff against incumbent Petro Poroshenko.

The Sociological Group "Rating" said its polling early this month pointed to 51 percent popular support for sitcom star Zelenskiy, who exploded onto the political scene late last year, versus 21 percent for Poroshenko.

The race was even more lopsided for Zelenskiy among respondents who intend to vote in the second round of the election on April 21 -- 61 percent to 24 percent.

A skirmish among the candidates' supporters outside Zelenskiy's campaign headquarters on April 9 highlighted rising emotions since the two men emerged from the record field of 39 candidates in the March 31 first-round election.

Azerbaijan and the EU Prepare to Finalize a New Partnership Agreement
By Ilgar Gurbanov
Jamestown Foundation, April 10, 2019 

On April 4, during a meeting, in Brussels, of the European Union–Azerbaijan Cooperation Council, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov emphasized that the two sides “are very close” to reaching a new partnership agreement, with over 90 percent of the issues in question already decided. The EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini stressed that the negotiations have now reached a “crucial phase” (Mfa.gov.az, Eeas.europa.eu, April 4).

Since starting talks, Baku has mainly focused on the quality of this framework agreement with Europe rather than its quick completion (see EDM, June 22, 2017; June 28, 2018). However, the timing for concluding the negotiations has now become critical due to the upcoming European Parliament (EP) elections (scheduled for May 23–26) and the subsequent formation of a new European Commission “cabinet” (College), which could prolong the process. Foreign Minister Mammadyarov said that Azerbaijan hoped the agreement could be initialed during the present Commission term, headed by President Jean-Claude Juncker (EurActiv, April 4, 2019).

Holocaust Denier David Irving To Be Blacklisted in Lithuania 
By Ilanit Chernick
Jerusalem Post, April 10, 2019

Lithuania is planning to blacklist infamous Holocaust denier and antisemite David Irving. Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius made it clear that “Holocaust denial and praising Adolf Hitler is a crime in Lithuania.”

“Persons who spread these ideas are not welcome in our country,” Linkevicius said, adding that he was going to speak with the migration department to officially blacklist Irving, who may attempt to visit the EU country at some point later this year.

The well-known British Holocaust denier and self-proclaimed Hitler expert announced on his website that he was planning “an exclusive tour of historic Nazi sites in Poland [in] September 2019.”

Krakow JCC Director Talks Community-Building in Advance of Philly Visit 
By Jesse Bernstein
Jewish Exponent, April 10, 2019

More than 90 percent of all Polish Jews were killed in the Holocaust. It was murder on a scale beyond human comprehension then and now. Centuries of Jewish life were wiped out in half the time it takes to be eligible to be called for an aliyah.

And yet, in the Kazimierz section of Krakow, Poland, a few blocks away from the Vistula, Jonathan Ornstein and a small group of Jews, young and old, are attempting something unthinkable: a revival of Jewish culture and practice.

“People find something very unexpected in Krakow,” Ornstein said.

Holocaust Freight Car Installed at Museum  
By Gabe Herman
The Villager, April 10, 2019 

A German World War II-era freight car was installed on March 31 just outside the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park, ahead of the museum’s upcoming exhibition on Auschwitz.

The train car is one of 120,000 that were built between 1910 and 1927 and used by the Deutsche Reichsbahn, or German National Railway. They were used to transport goods, livestock and foodstuffs.

During the Second World War, Nazis used the freight cars to deport people in occupied Europe to concentration camps.

Former Polish Diplomat Appointed As Director of Polish Jewish Heritage Organization 
The Jewish Voice, April 10, 2019

The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ), a partnership of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) and the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, is pleased to announce the appointment of Piotr Puchta to the position of Director.

Mr. Puchta will spearhead FODZ’s efforts to recover, preserve, and commemorate physical sites of Jewish significance and cultural heritage throughout Poland and to educate Polish youth about the rich history of Jews in Poland. Mr. Puchta will also lead FODZ’s efforts in the handling of restitution claims pertaining to real estate owned by prewar Jewish religious communities, especially synagogues and cemeteries. FODZ was established in 2002.

Tradition! How PJ Library Is Inspiring A Return to Jewish Roots in Russia
By Tatiana Maron 
E Jewish Philanthropy, April 10, 2019

In the post Soviet Jewish space, children often possess more Jewish knowledge than their parents because they were raised during a period of miraculous Jewish renewal in the late 1990’s. At that time, access to Jewish identity and educational programs became widely available for the first time in generations.

Today those children have become adults, have their own children, and have resumed the tradition of transmitting such knowledge from parent to child. With that family dynamic in place, we at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) were eager to partner with PJ Library to strengthen Jewish life and identity in Russia.

Our partnership is instrumental to PJ Library in Russian, which launched in late 2015. For us, the partnership makes sense in so many ways – PJ Library enriches JCCs with vibrant jewish content and offers new connection points with members, promotes Jewish learning within families, and supports Jewish Family Service participants.

Kazakhstan Reaffirms Ties to Russia As It Enters the Final Stage of Leadership Succession
By George Voloshin
Jamestown Foundation, April 09, 2019 

On April 9, Kazakhstani acting president Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, who assumed office on March 20, after the resignation of his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev (see EDM, March 27), delivered his first address to the nation. In his speech, the former speaker of the Senate, whose current term under the Constitution ends in 2020—when Nazarbayev’s previous term would have expired—called an early presidential election for June 9. “In order to ensure social and political concord, move forward with confidence, and address issues relating to our socioeconomic development, we must eliminate all uncertainty. The situation in the world is changing—and not for the better. We ought to reaffirm continuity, predictability and the stability of our internal and external policies,” Tokayev said before solemnly concluding, “This is only possible by means of a direct expression of popular will.” The forthcoming vote will be Kazakhstan’s third snap election. The first two snap elections, in 2011 and 2015, had extended Nursultan Nazarbayev’s presidential terms for another six years each time (Akorda.kz, Inform.kz, Kursiv.kz, April 9).

Read the full article here.

Lawyer Smashes Plaque Honoring Nazi Collaborator in Lithuania
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, April 8, 2019

A Lithuanian lawyer smashed a controversial plaque honoring a Nazi collaborator in Vilnius, which a local court recently ruled may stay.

Stanislovas Tomas, a human rights lawyer running for election to the European Parliament, was filmed smashing the plaque honoring Jonas Noreika on Sunday and streamed it on Facebook. He reported his actions to police and waited to be arrested next to the plaque with a sledge hammer.
Last month, a Vilnius court dismissed an American Jew’s lawsuit against a state museum’s glorification of Noreika, citing the complainant’s “ill-based” intentions.

The claimant, Grant Gochin of California, said he would appeal to the European Court of Justice.
He sued the state-funded Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania for erecting a plaque honoring Noreika, a local anti-Communist hero who died while in Soviet custody.

Read the full article here.

A Partisan’s Passover 
By Rokhl Kafrissen
Tablet Magazine, April 10, 2019 

Focusing on examples of muscular Jewish resistance can be a way of coping with the psychological burden of having a mass death event at the center of your identity. If you find yourself obsessed with the question of what would I have done?, it’s comforting to think, yes, I, too, would have put on a chic overcoat and picked up a rifle. Yes, I would have done what had to be done.

The Jewish education I received went as far as it could, substituting visceral guilt for practical knowledge. We were exposed to extremely graphic materials describing the 20th century’s most grisly war crimes, with no thought as to how it might affect us. Our parents were not (as far as I know) asked for their permission to show us such materials. The idea, I assume, was to inspire us to continue being Jewish, not for ourselves, but for them, the 6 million.

On the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation website I found another picture of Schulman. She’s seated next to a woman, and two men are standing behind them. Schulman is in her leopard-skin coat, this time with a matching hat. In her hand is a rifle, a confident, Nazi-killing look on her face. I immediately bought Schulman’s autobiography, A Partisan’s Memoir.

[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.