Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. May 26, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

I hope you all enjoy the Memorial Day weekend and, next week, the Shavuot holiday.

I want to remind you that NCSEJ's Spring Board of Governors meeting, on Wednesday, June 7 in New York City, is less than two weeks away.

We've organized a terrific program, featuring the U.S. State Department Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues and the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations, reports from Jewish community leaders in the region and Jewish Federation representatives, as well as a special book presentation on the history of the Soviet Jewry movement.

There's still time to join us by calling 202-898-2500 or registering at http://ncsej.org/board_meeting.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. May 26, 2017

Hungarian state TV airs Iranian leader calling George Soros ‘evil Zionist-American’
JTA, May 26, 2017

Hungarian Jews condemned a public broadcaster’s airing of an Iranian leader’s attack on Jewish-American billionaire George Soros, calling it anti-Semitic.

On Wednesday Hirado, the main news show of the state MTVA channel, included quotes by Iran’s supreme spiritual leader, Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, calling Soros “an evil Zionist-American multi-billionaire” who is responsible for destabilizing and defeating former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s regime.

Estonia blasts BDS, calls Israel 'a friend and partner'
By Tamara Zieve
Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2017

In line with the European Union and the majority of the international community, Estonia disapproves of Israel's settlement policy.

But Mikser questioned the motives of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, saying "there is a subtle difference between understanding why people and groups act in a certain way and considering it appropriate and constructive. The way to go [forward] is [through] negotiations rather than making efforts to intimidate the other party."

Mikser also stressed that Estonia sees Israel "as a friend and partner."

Four newly-fenced Jewish cemeteries in areas where Jewish communities were wiped out during the Shoah were rededicated last week.
Golokarpat, May 25, 2017

The four cemeteries, all in Ukrainian Transcarpathia, were recently fenced by the ESJF European Jewish Cemeteries Foundation, a German-based non-profit which has fenced and protected some 70 such sites across Eastern Europe in the last two years.

Ceremonies took place at Radvanka, Horinchovo, Lypcha and Vyshkovo, all sites in Transcarpathia, a region in SW Ukraine bordering Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

Chisinau Mayor, City Officials Detained In Corruption Case
RFE/RL, May 26, 2017

Moldovan anticorruption prosecutors have detained the mayor of Chisinau and several other city officials on suspicion of corruption.

Dorin Chirtoaca and the other officials, including a deputy mayor, were taken to Moldova's National Anticorruption Center (CNA) on the evening of May 25 and ordered held for 72 hours after prosecutors searched city hall for several hours.

4 ISIS-linked terrorists plotting public transport attacks detained in Moscow – FSB
RT, 25 May 2017

Four members of an ISIS-linked terrorist network, who were managed from the territory of Syria and were preparing attacks on the Moscow public transport system, have been detained, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) reports.

“The Russian Federal Security Service has detained four members of a terrorist group that consists of citizens of Russia and countries of the Central Asian region on May 25, 2017 in Moscow. They were preparing terrorist attacks on Moscow transport infrastructure using improvised explosive devices,” the FSB said in a statement.

Trump, European Union leaders remain at odds over Russia
By David Jackson
USA TODAY, May 25, 2017

BRUSSELS – As President Trump met with European leaders on Thursday, he couldn't escape the Russia controversy dogging him at home and now abroad. Yet in Brussels, home of the NATO and European Union headquarters, EU leaders publicly broke with Trump's more positive diplomatic approach to President Vladimir Putin's government.

"I am not 100% sure that we can say today ... that we have a common position, common opinion, about Russia," said European Council President Donald Tusk after meeting with Trump. Tusk added that both parties remain critical of Russia's military incursions into neighboring Ukraine.

For a Russia-Friendly Town, Eastern Europeans Love Trump’s Washington
By Emily Tamkin
Foreign Policy, May 24, 2017

An affinity for Russia fills the air in some sections of Washington these days. President Donald Trump himself constantly talks of wanting to work well with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the Oval Office, Trump apparently shared sensitive intelligence with Russian officials. Despite some reassuring noises from corners of the administration, Trump continues to browbeat NATO over its relevance and its cost.

All of which should make Central and Eastern European countries who’ve spent the last seventy-odd years under the heel or under the shadow of Russia more than a bit nervous. And yet, diplomats from those countries are thrilled with what they’ve seen, heard, and gotten from the Trump administration so far — belying some initial concerns that he might throw American allies under the bus and cozy up to Moscow.

War shatters lives in eastern Ukraine as the world looks away
By Daniel McLaughlin
Irish Times, May 25, 2017

The frontline in eastern Ukraine has barely moved since a second so-called Minsk peace agreement was signed in the capital of Belarus in February 2015.

But fighters on both sides are still killed or injured every day, the political points of the deal are not being implemented, and Russia shows no sign of accepting Ukraine’s pivot to the West or ending its support for and control over separatist forces based in Donetsk – just 20km from Avdiivka.

Fighting corruption, Ukraine starts to judge its judges
By Natalia Zinets
Reuters, May 25, 2017

KIEV | Ukrainian judge Artur Yemelianov has acknowledged in an online declaration that he owns a Breguet watch worth nearly a third of his annual salary and keeps piles of cash. On Jan. 12 he was suspended for three months after prosecutors opened a criminal case against him...

Ukraine is trying to show its international supporters and lenders that it can tackle entrenched corruption, including in the judiciary. The next payment of a $17.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund will depend on Kiev showing progress on reforms including anti-graft measures.

Russian Lawmakers Target Anticorruption Group Transparency International
By Carl Schreck
RFE/RL, May 24, 2017

The escalating standoff between the officials and Transparency International Russia follows anticorruption protests across Russia in March that resulted in scores of arrests, and comes amid a push by Kremlin critics to make graft a central issue in next year’s presidential election.

The furor erupted over the weekend when Natalya Poklonskaya, a deputy in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, suggested Transparency International Russia and opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s anticorruption foundation were themselves mixed up in malfeasance.

Ukraine Arrests More Than 20 Former Tax Officials In 'Biggest-Ever' Corruption Crackdown
RFE/RL, May 24, 2017

KYIV -- Ukrainian law enforcement agents have arrested 23 former high-ranking tax-administration officials suspected of helping the government of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych to defraud the state of nearly 97 billion hryvnyas ($4 billion) in what authorities called the largest-ever operation of its kind here.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoliy Matios told reporters that the former officials were taken into custody over the course of 454 raids in 15 regions across Ukraine on May 24. They said the operations involved 1,700 National Police officers and about 500 military prosecutors.

Why did a Russian Orthodox family restore a Siberian Jewish cemetery?
By Renee Ghert-Zand
Times of Israel, May 24, 2017

On an evening in early May, Russian grandmother Taisya Chernykh and her family collapsed into chairs in the lobby of their Jerusalem hotel after long hours of touring. As they rested their sore feet, they reflected not only on their travels that day, but also on the improbable seven-year journey that brought them on a two-week trip to Israel from their home in the small Siberian town of Babushkin.

This journey began with a book. In 2010, Chernykh, a librarian, read a memoir titled “In Defiance of Fate: Joy From Sadness,” by Vladimir Rott, a Soviet Jew of Hungarian descent who defected to Canada in 1974. Rott wrote about his wife Iya’s ancestors, the Gutermans, who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Babushkin, then known as Mysovaya Station, a key point along Tsarist Russia’s Great Tea Road trading route.

Ukraine's Babi Yar suffers damage following incident
By Tamara Zieve
Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2017

An incident caused damage to the monument in Kiev that commemorates the lives of 33,771 people who were slain by the Nazis in the mass killings at the ravine.

The large menorah atop the Kiev monument commemorating the Jewish victims of the Babi Yar massacre was found splattered with red paint by visitors on Wednesday.

It was initially believed to be a case of vandalism, as the monument was repeatedly desecrated in the past. However, on Thursday afternoon Ukrainian community leader Eduard Dolinsky learned that the state of the menorah was a result of wax spilling from candles lit by Hasidic Jews who visited the site earlier.

Books stolen from Polish Jewish communities during WWII donated to foundation
JTA, May 23, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) – Some 33 rare books stolen during World War II from Jewish communities located in present-day Poland were donated to the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.

The ceremony took place last week at the National Library in Warsaw. Representatives of the Central and Regional Library in Berlin and of the Judaicum Center in Berlin jointly donated the books to the foundation director, Monika Krawczyk.

Czech Parliament resolution calls for recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
JTA, May 24, 2017

The Czech Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution calling on the country’s government to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A majority of lawmakers voted for the measure on Tuesday ahead of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, the Czech news agency CTK reported. The report did not include the text of the resolution, which also did not appear in the relevant section of the website of the Czech Parliament.

Poland school honors 87 Jewish girls expelled under Nazis
By Vanessa Gera
Associated Press, May 23, 2017

WARSAW, Poland — A school in Poland unveiled a plaque Tuesday that commemorates 87 Jewish girls who were expelled in 1939 during the Nazi occupation of the country.

The event in Krakow is one in a growing number of efforts by teachers and children to commemorate the Jews who lived in Poland before the Holocaust, which was perpetrated by Nazi Germany largely in occupied Poland.

Russia’s efforts to ‘destabilise western democracy’ increase cyber insecurity
Country replaces China as most feared state-sponsored attacker
By Michael Imeson
Financial Times, May 24, 2017

The alleged Russian hacking of President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party on the final day of the French election campaign this month was perhaps no big surprise. To many who suspect Russia of trying to destabilise western democracy, the attack was a logical follow-on from its supposed interference in last year’s US presidential election.

This and other attacks on US and European targets have, in western eyes, made Russia the most feared state-sponsored cyber attacker. Daniel Coats, the US’s director of National Intelligence, is clear about the threat the country poses. “Moscow has a highly advanced offensive cyber programme, and in recent years the Kremlin has assumed a more aggressive cyber posture,” he told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence this month.

Romania’s Parliament passes law providing more money for Holocaust survivors
JTA, May 21, 2017

The funds, a monthly payment of up to $97.98 per month for each year of deportation or detention, will be available beginning in July 2017 to people who were persecuted in Romania between 1940 and 1945, including deportees to ghettos and concentrations camps, survivors of the death trains and forced labor detachments, refugees and those who were imprisoned for ethnic reasons or forcefully removed from their homes in that period.

The law also applies to Holocaust survivors who no longer have Romanian citizenship or reside in the country, as well as the spouse of a deceased Holocaust survivor if they didn’t remarry.

The law was initiated by Silviu Vexler, a member of Parliament representing the Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania, the Vice-Chairman of the Romania-Israel Parliamentary Group of Friendship and the Vice-Chairman of the Labor and Social Protection Committee in the Chamber of Deputies.

Swastikas painted on synagogue, rabbi’s headstone smashed in Ukraine
JTA, May 19, 2017

Two swastikas were painted on the front door of a synagogue in western Ukraine and, in a separate incident, the headstone of a prominent rabbi’s grave was smashed.

The incident involving the swastikas was discovered last week in Chernivtsi, a city located some 250 miles southwest of Kiev, according to the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress. The local community leaders reported the incident to police and removed the offensive symbols.

The European Jewish Cemeteries Foundation announced Friday that it would rededicate four Jewish cemeteries in western Ukraine next week as part of its multi-phase mission to protect such sites.

Russian court orders a 2nd Chabad rabbi deported this year
JTA, May 19, 2017

For the second time this year, Russian authorities have ordered out of the country a foreign Chabad rabbi who had lived there for years.

This week, a Moscow district court ordered Yosef Khersonsky, an Israeli who heads one of the capital’s communities, to leave the Russian Federation in connection with his “setting up without permission a for-profit foreign entity,” the RIA Novosti news agency reported. The court did not specify the nature of the entity.

Jewish group gets information on mass graves with appeal on radio station accused of anti-Semitism
JTA, May 19, 2017

A Jewish group’s appeal led hundreds of radio listeners to provide information about mass graves and burial sites of Jews to a Catholic radio station that has been accused of promoting anti-Semitism.

Some 300 calls have been received by the call center at Poland’s Radio Maryja with information about sites of mass executions of Jews, stolen tombstones and unknown hiding places of Jews during the Holocaust, according to the From the Depths group, which made the appeal for information last week and again Wednesday on Radio Maryja.

Polish alderman wants pogrom’s reference deleted from historical graphic novel
JTA, May 19, 2017

A Polish alderman is seeking the removal of references to anti-Semitic violence in the history of Bialystok from a graphic novel about the city. Marek Chojnowski, who represents the ruling Law and Justice party on the Bialystok City Council, was quoted this week by the news site Onet as protesting references to a 1906 pogrom in the booklet published with municipal funding.  The 2014 booklet commemorates Ludwik Zamenhof, a Polish Jew who invented the international language Esperanto.

One page that Chojnowski wants censored shows dozens of civilians wielding clubs and hitting a group of Jews while they are prone on the street. Another shows four men dressed like Polish farmers beating three people — a woman wearing a torn dress and two young men. The illustrations refer to pogroms carried out by Bialystok residents that were enabled by Russian authorities when they controlled the area. Some 90 people died in the violence.

I may have ‘horsed around’ in Nazi camp in my youth, Bulgarian deputy PM said
JTA, May 21, 2017

A leader of Bulgarian Jews condemned his country’s deputy prime minister, who said jokingly that he may have behaved inappropriately when visiting a former Nazi concentration camp.

Valeri Simeonov, vice-president of the United Patriots and Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister, told the  Sega newspaper on Tuesday he and some his friends may have taken spoof pictures of themselves in Buchenwald during the 1970s.

Simeonov, 62, said this in downplaying the significance of a political scandal that earlier this week forced a member of Simeonov’s party, Pavel Tenev, to resign from the position of deputy minister. Tenev had been photographed performing a Nazi salute at a Paris museum while standing next to mannequins dressed in Nazi uniform.

Rebuilding Tbilisi Jewish community, with Malcolm Hoenlein (audio, 11min)
John Batchelor Show, May 16, 2017

President Aliyev receives Executive Vice Chairman of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
AzerNews, May 16, 2017

Malcolm Hoenlein hailed the Azerbaijani-U.S. relations, particularly Azerbaijan’s successful cooperation with American Jews. He stressed the importance of strengthening this cooperation.

President Ilham Aliyev remembered their meeting with Malcolm Hoenlein, which took place during his previous visit to Azerbaijan with a large delegation. The head of state noted that Azerbaijan`s Jewish community co-exists together with members of other nationalities in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

[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.