July 18, 2019         15 Tamuz, 5779
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2019 Spring Board of Governors Meeting Highlights
On Tuesday, June 4 in Washington, D.C., NCSEJ held its Spring Board of Governors Meeting, welcoming members of its Executive Committee and Board, ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic corps, representatives from Jewish member organizations, and other friends and supporters.
The day's speakers shared a range of fascinating viewpoints on anti-Semitism in the Eurasian region.
U.S. Congressmen Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), two co-chairs of the Congressional Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, took part in a discussion moderated by CEO Mark Levin, on "Confronting Anti-Semitism – A View from Capitol Hill."
U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr shared "A View From the State Department."
The meeting heard views from Bulgaria and Ukraine, respectively, from Deputy Foreign Minister and National Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism Georg Georgiev, and Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Ukraine.
Faina Kukliansky, Chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania made a presentation on "The State of Lithuanian Jewry in the 21st Century."
NCSEJ was also honored to host Yosef Begun, a former Soviet refusenik, Prisoner of Zion, activist, and author, who was visiting the United States from his home in Jerusalem. 

The meeting was moderated by NCSEJ Chairman Daniel Rubin, President Aleksander Smukler, and CEO Mark B. Levin. 
Confronting Anti-Semitism – A View from Capitol Hill
U.S. Congressmen Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
Co-Chairs, U.S. Congressional Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism
(l-r) Congressman Deutch, CEO Mark Levin, and Congressman Fitzpatrick
In an off-the-record conversation, Congressmen Deutch and Fitzpatrick spoke about the need to forcefully confront anti-Semitism, and the significance of education in combating anti-Semitism.

Both congressmen expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to speak about this very important issue, and highlighted the role of Jewish organizations in fighting against anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
Confronting Anti-Semitism: A View From the State Department 
Elan S. Carr, U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism 
Special Envoy Carr began by thanking NCSEJ for its work and support.

Carr called anti-Semitism a problem in many different parts of the world, and said that many political leaders recognize this, and make combating anti-Semitism a priority. 

Carr underlined that the level of anti-Semitism in a society is the best index of human misery. Every society that becomes anti-Semitic, he said, has gone on to create even greater human suffering. 

Carr said that his aim as the Special Envoy is to not only combat anti-Semitism but to support and cooperate with world leaders in this regard. 

He shared his insights on participating in the annual commemoration ceremony "March of Living" in Auschwitz, Poland, and on his celebration of Independence Day in Israel, which he called a celebration of a developed and flourishing country, amazing people, and ancient traditions. 

He expressed his admiration for the work that some countries do to fight against anti-Semitism. Particularly, he highlighted Bulgaria, Poland, and Ukraine. He said that the countries do great work to preserve Jewish heritage, and that Jews there can feel safe and comfortable following their traditions transparently, such as going to synagogues and openly wearing yarmulkes.

Carr touched on the subjects of Jewish restitution in Eastern Europe, and far-right movements in Hungary and particularly the Jobbik party, which has been changing its anti-Semitic directions. He said that 90 percent of European Jews are concerning about anti-Semitism and are thinking about leaving their countries. 

At the end of his remarks, he called on the world to unite in combating anti-Semitism. 
Confronting Anti-SemitismA View from Bulgaria  
Georg Georgiev, Republic of Bulgaria Deputy Foreign Minister and National Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism 
Georgiev began by calling Bulgaria the only European country which successfully saved its Jewish population during the Holocaust. That is why the topic of combating modern anti-Semitism is very sensitive for Bulgaria today, he said. The Bulgarian people helped to save their fellow citizens' lives in 1943, and today the country has Jewish heritage that it wants to preserve. 

He said that Bulgaria has its own views and approaches to combating anti-Semitism. First, a reason for rising anti-Semitism in his country is a lack of education among youth, who are not really interested in history. He said that when he was appointed in 2017, Bulgaria began releasing publications about the Holocaust. He said the next step is educating teachers in how to talk about the Holocaust. Today, the Foreign Ministry has a program with Yad Vashem, where Bulgarian teachers receive special training in Israel about how to teach the Holocaust.
The second point, he said, relates to adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. Bulgaria is discussing the options for possible punishments of anti-Semitic crime. He said that not only his department but also different ministries (for example, Foreign Affairs, Education, Justice) have envoys that coordinate in a working group to prevent and combat anti-Semitism in the country.

In conclusion, the Deputy Foreign Minister expressed his gratitude to the Jewish organizations in Bulgaria and abroad for their cooperation. 
A View From Ukraine 
Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine 
Rabbi Bleich began by calling Ukraine "a country of contradictions" that has been changing for the past 28 years, since becoming independent after the USSR collapsed. He said that many news reports about contemporary Ukraine stem from Russian propaganda, trying to discredit Ukraine.

Bleich discussed Ukraine's recent Presidential elections, which took place in March and April. He said the elections were conducted transparently, and that the win by Volodymyr Zelenskyy (who, he noted, is Jewish) was achieved honestly. He also said that Ukrainians in contemporary society want to say that they are more European that the Europeans, because while Ukrainians still want the European Union to grow, not all Europeans still want EU expansion. 

In order to discuss the level of anti-Semitism in Ukraine today, he graded anti-Semitism on a five-point scale: 1) Stereotypes against Jews; 2) References to Nazi ideology and using Nazi symbols;
3) Attacks on Jewish property and memorials; 4) Public calls to violence against Jews; 5) Physical attacks on Jewish community members.

He said that points 1, 2, and 3 are still happening in Ukraine, and we should work to combat them, and to not allow points 4 and 5 to occur.  
The State of Lithuanian Jewry in the 21st Century  
Faina Kukliansky, Chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania
Kukliansky said that the current Lithuanian government is friendly to Jews, and that Jews feel like a part of society and don`t need any special laws defending their rights.   

She mentioned that Lithuania is very proud of the heritage of the Vilna Gaon, the renowned 18th-century Talmudic scholar from Vilnius. The Government of Lithuania has designated 2020 as the "Year of the Vilna Gaon," in honor of the 300th anniversary of his birth.

Lithuania is the last country in Europe that is preserving historic wooden synagogues, Kukliansky said. She noted that the number of Jews visiting Jewish festivals in Lithuania has grown, and that is why it`s very important to have good venues for religious celebrations. Meanwhile, she remarked that there are old synagogues in some places which are not used by the community because of the lack of a local Jewish population. 

The Lithuanian community works on maintaining Jewish cemeteries and Jewish mass grave sites.

Kukliansky said that a primary community concern is education. In 2018, the Jewish community published the Holocaust-era diary of Yitzhak Rudashevski, which he wrote as a teenager in the Vilnius ghetto, where his family was killed by Nazis in 1943. 

Kukliansky expressed the Jewish community's gratitude to the Lithuanian government for its restitution law, whose funds support local communities, which do not have any donors, and exist only due to restitution subsidies. 
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