Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. March 29, 2019

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 this week's top stories. ​​​​​​​

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. April 05, 2019

Dozens of Headstones Smashed at Fire-Ravaged Jewish Cemetery in Romania
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, April 04, 2019 

Days after Romanian media reported about neglect at the Jewish cemetery of Husi in the country’s northeast, 73 of its headstones were smashed in a suspected hate crime.

The vandalism in Husi, which used to have a large Jewish community, is one of the worst reported cases in Europe this year.

The Fedrom umbrella group of Romanian Jews condemned the vandalism in a statement published Wednesday.

“Such events of profoundly anti-Semitic nature cannot be accepted in the democratic world, and seriously affect democracy in Romania,” wrote Aurel Vainer, who heads Fedrom.

Russia Positions Itself As ‘Final Judge’ In Syria amid Escalating Israeli-Iranian Tensions
By Yaakov Lappin
JNS, April 3, 2019 

Moscow has also attempted to play the role of mediator between Israel and Iran, seeking to douse the shadow war raging between them on Syrian soil. Israel, for its part, is determined to disrupt Iran’s plan to turn Syria into a war front against it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been engaged in a flurry of discussions recently, at least some of which are likely tied to Iranian activities in Syria.

The meetings come in the shadow of recent reports of a major Israeli airstrike on March 28, targeting an Iranian weapons’ warehouse near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, which reportedly resulted in large blasts and casualties.

Netanyahu, in Moscow, Thanks Putin for Help in Return of Soldier’s Body 
By Marcy Oster
JTA, April 4, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for his help in this week’s return of the remains of missing Israeli soldier Zachary Baumel.

In remarks at the Kremlin, Netanyahu said the Russian leader acted “personally” in helping Israel recover Baumel’s remains in what is believed to have been Islamic State-held territory in Syria. Baumel, also an American citizen, was believed killed in a 1982 battle with Syrian forces in Lebanon.

Netanyahu called finding and recovering fallen soldiers a “common value.”

Foreign Ministers Meet in Washington to Mark NATO’s 70th Anniversary  
By AP, AFP, and Interfax
RFERL, April 4, 2019 

Foreign ministers from NATO's 29 member countries are meeting for a second day in Washington to mark the alliance's 70th anniversary and discuss security threats, including Russia and Afghanistan.

The foreign ministers were scheduled on April 4 to hold a series of meetings at the headquarters of the U.S. State Department, with the first session focusing on Russia.

The ministers were expected to endorse a set of measures aimed at improving NATO's defenses in the Black Sea region.

Ukraine’s Next President Could Be Jewish—And It Is Now an Issue
By Sam Sokol
The Jewish Chronicle, April 04, 2019 

It sounds like the set-up for a joke.

On Sunday, Volodymyr Zelensky, a Jewish comedian best known for playing the head of state in the satirical television programme Servant of the Nation, won the first round of Ukraine’s Presidential elections, defeating incumbent Petro Poroshenko by more than 16 points.

A political neophyte accused by his critics of serving as a political pawn of Jewish oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, an expatriate and Poroshenko rival on whose channel the show airs, Mr Zelensky has expressed few firm policy positions beyond attacking the current political elite, which has been rocked by a series of corruption scandals.

Read the full article here.

Lithuania’s Genocide Studies Center Engages in Holocaust Denial, Local Jews Say 
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, April 3, 2019

Lithuania’s state body for preserving the memory of the Holocaust broke the country’s laws against denying that genocide, local Jews said.

The controversy surrounding the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania is the latest in a series of actions that the country’s critics say is a government-sponsored campaign to exculpate its people from its substantial complicity in the murder of 96 percent of the country’s 220,000 Jews.

Last month, the center published a text claiming that “the Lithuanians operated against the will of the Germans” during World War II and that “the residents of occupied Lithuania in 1941 didn’t understand ghettos as part of the Holocaust.”

Uncovering Nazi Massacre of Jews on Belarus Building Site
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, April 1, 2019

Slowly, gently even, young soldiers scrape away the dirt of decades from human bones. Tangled with the remains are shreds of cloth and the soles of shoes.

They're uncovering a little-known chapter of the Holocaust on a construction site in western Belarus.

The mass grave was discovered as building work began on an elite apartment block.

NATO Again Demonstrates Strong Support for Georgia 
By Giorgi Menabde  
Jamestown Foundation, April, 2019 

Georgia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held NATO-Georgia Exercise 2019—a computer assisted/command post exercise (CAX/CPX)—at the Joint Training and Evaluation Center (JTEC), between March 18 and 29. The NATO-Georgian JTEC facility is based at the Krtsanisi National Training Center, near Tbilisi. This year’s NATO-Georgia drills involved 343 personnel from 24 Alliance member states and partner countries. Military units and civilian specialists from Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia (the Czech Republic), Germany, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey, the United States, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Sweden participated (1tv, March 18).

NATO-Georgia Exercise 2019 is organized (since last year) through the Substantial NATO-Georgian Package (SNGP) framework—a set of 14 defense capacity–building initiatives that Tbilisi and the Alliance agreed to at the Wales (2014) and Warsaw (2016) summits. The first exercise in this series was held in 2016, and involved 14 allied and partner countries (Agenda, March 18). The brigade-level exercises are scheduled by NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT) and carried out by the Georgian General Staff, with the mentoring of NATO Land Command (LANDCOM) and NATO Joint Forces Training Center (JFTC) (1tv, March 18).

Last WWII Partisan Commander Passes Away
By Ahiya Raved
Y Net News, April 1, 2019 

Leonid Bernstein was a highly decorated anti-Nazi fighter; he sabotaged Nazi train transports and located the German V2 rocket production facility enabling its precise bombing by the Soviets; later lived in northern Israel in abject conditions feeling ignored.

Leonid Bernstein, a highly decorated battalion commander of partisans fighting the Nazis, passed away on Saturday in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Ata; he was 98. In recent years, Bernstein lived in a small flat with no elevator and required a wheelchair to get around.

Bernstein was born in Ukraine in 1921 and served as a lieutenant in the Red Army after the Soviet Union entered the war against the Nazis. He was later captured in battle and managed to escape and go on to fight with the anti-Nazi underground against the Germans.In an interview with Ynet five years ago, he told how he found work at a German train factory where he sabotaged equipment. Later, upon assuming command over a partisan company, and later a battalion, he dealt with mines and explosives and brought about the derailment of 44 Nazi trains.
Read the full article here.

Europe: Slow Signs of Change on Israel
By Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky 
Israel Hayom, April 4, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights is an expression of the warn ties between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. president. But despite the U.S.’s central role in the international arena, the big picture is more complicated. Two days after the American recognition of the Golan as Israeli, the European Union published an opinion contrary to that of Washington which stated that 28 EU member nations did not recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli.

Israel has an almost automatic tendency to reject the European position as rooted in anti-Semitism. There is nothing absurd in that response. Growing anti-Semitism in Europe has been presented in a number of reports that reviewed 2018 and showed, among other things, a 70% increase of anti-Semitic statements in France and about a 60% increase in anti-Semitic attacks in Germany. The Netherlands saw an all-time high in anti-Semitic incidents even though only 25% of the Jews who experienced anti-Semitism said they reported it to the authorities. A new report out of Britain delves more deeply into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and recently seven Labour MPs have left the party over entrenched anti-Semitism in its ranks. In the city of Aalst in Belgium, a March festival included a particularly repulsive display featuring classic anti-Semitic stereotypes: Jews in ultra-Orthodox garb, holding sacks of money and rats (the creators said it was intended to spark a debate about the cost of living).
Read the full article here.

How Did Jews Serve in the Russian, Austrian, and Soviet Armies
Andriy Kobalia Interview with Vladyslav Hrynevych
Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, April 1, 2019 

Historians often call the First World War the “Great War,” as it was the first large-scale conflict involving millions of mobilized servicemen and several fronts located in various parts of the world. Nearly every country took part in this war, including Austria-Hungary and the Russian Empire, both of which were multiethnic states. In previous centuries Jews lived, as a rule, in closed ghettoes, where they could separate themselves from other nationalities. Vladyslav Hrynevych, Sr., Candidate of Historical Sciences, recounts how Jews became soldiers in the Habsburg and Romanov empires, and later in the Red Army.

Vladyslav Hrynevych:  Everything was changing very rapidly, especially in the second half of the nineteenth century. In Russia there was a “Pale of Settlement,” whose inhabitants could not leave. But in the late nineteenth–early twentieth centuries Jews, who lived, as you mentioned, in closed ghettoes, were swept up in other processes. The process of emancipation had started in Europe. Jews began involving themselves increasingly in cultural, economic, and political life, and became assimilated, particularly in the German-speaking countries, where Jews switched from Yiddish to German. In the 1920s and 1930s it was already difficult to distinguish a Jew from a Gentile. They spoke the language well and worked in various spheres.

Read the full article here.

Jewish Agency Program Incorporates Warsaw to ‘Rediscover Judaism’
By Jerusalem Post Staff
Jerusalem Post, April 4, 2019 

The Jewish Agency for Israel's Partnership2Gether (P2G) Peoplehood Platform added Warsaw as a partner in the program that aims to create an enduring relationship between Israel and the Jewish communities of the Diaspora.

Warsaw will join Pittsburgh and the Israeli Karmiel and Misgav to have the opportunity to rediscover their Jewish culture and faith. Warsaw became the first city outside of Israel and the US to join the program.

 P2G's other platforms also include European cities in their programs, such as Budapest in the Central Region Consortium/Western Galilee Partnership.
Read the full article here.

Lessons of the Soviet Jewish Exodus
By Elliott Abrams
Jewish Review of Books, Spring Issue, 2019 

Between the late 1960s and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, nearly two million Jews left Russia, Ukraine, and other parts of the Soviet Empire. Their heroic struggle for the right to worship, to learn Hebrew, and to emigrate enlisted the support of diaspora Jewish communities around the globe, especially in the United States. American Jews supported Soviet Jewry’s fight in many ways: from writing and calling individual “refuseniks,” remembering those imprisoned at Passover Seders, and “twinning” their children’s bar and bat mitzvahs with those of Soviet Jewish children who could not celebrate them, to mass rallies, protests at Soviet embassies, lobbying Congress and the administration, and actually traveling to Russia to meet refuseniks and express their solidarity. In the 1970s and 80s it seemed as if every synagogue in America had a huge poster outside of it demanding freedom for Soviet Jewry.

[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.