Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. May 11, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

Yesterday, President Trump signed the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act into law. The law requires the State Department to report on European countries' progress in implementing legislation and processes for restitution of private and communal property seized from Jews in the Holocaust. NCSEJ worked with the World Jewish Restitution Organization and several other Jewish groups to garner support for the bill in Congress.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin was inaugurated for a fourth term on Monday. President Putin was first elected president in 2000 and served two four year terms, a four year term as prime minister, and, most recently, a six year term from 2012-2018. In his inaugural address, he focused on domestic challenges.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited President Putin in Moscow this week to participate in Russia's Victory Day celebrations on May 9, which commemorate the defeat of the Nazis in 1945. The two leaders discussed Iran and Syria. Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated that Israel has a right to defend itself against Iranian aggression. 

NCSEJ leadership attended several events this week. Deputy Director Lesley Weiss and I attended a reception in honor of Poland's Constitution Day. I also attended a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Georgia to commemorate the centennial of the First Georgian Republic. Yesterday, Lesley Weiss attended a briefing at the Embassy of Israel on the situation in Gaza. IDF Major General Michael Edelstein and Deputy Chief of Mission Reuven Azar presided. Please click here to review a report from the Meir Amit Center that they shared with us regarding the May 4 demonstrations in Gaza.

Yesterday, I attended a discussion with President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Bill Burns and former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul on the occasion of McFaul publishing his new book From Cold War to Hot Peace. Burns is also a former Ambassador to Russia and Deputy Secretary of State. Last night, I attended the presentation of Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliyev Award to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Please remember to register for our next Board Meeting on Tuesday, June 5. We look forward to seeing you here in Washington, DC. Please contact David Shulman at dshulman@ncsej.org or 202-898-2500 to RSVP or with any questions. 


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. May 11, 2018

Trump signs law to help Holocaust victims reclaim lost property

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 10, 2018

President Donald Trump signed legislation to help victims of the Holocaust and their families reclaim lost property in Poland.

The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today, or JUST Act, was first introduced in February. The measure requires the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries toward the return of or restitution for wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets, including property, art and other movable property. It also requires a report specifically on progress on the resolution of claims for U.S. citizen Holocaust survivors and family members.

The law does not mention Poland specifically. However, Poland is the only European country that has not passed a law or laws to compensate those who lost their property and other assets during World War II. The bill passed the Senate by a unanimous voice vote in December 2017, and passed the House in April in a similar vote.

Read the full article here.

Putin emphasizes Russia’s domestic challenges as he launches another, and perhaps final, term

By Anton Troianovski and Amie Ferris-Rotman

Washington Post, May 7, 2018

President Vladimir Putin, already the longest-serving leader of Russia since Stalin, launched his fourth presidential term Monday by promising to focus on improving Russians’ lives at home but without backing down in his confrontation with the West.

In a brief inaugural address to thousands of invited guests at the Kremlin, Putin emphasized the work he has to do at home, nodding to the long-term challenges Russia faces with a stagnant economy and a declining birth rate. He said Russia needs to expand freedoms for entrepreneurs and scientists, invest in regional development, and improve education and health care. A particular focus on “traditional family values,” he said, would ensure as many births as possible.

Netanyahu: I Told Putin Israel Has Right to Defend Itself in Face of Iranian Aggression

By Noa Landau

Haaretz, May 9, 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning highlighted the importance of "continued coordination" between the Israeli and Russian military against the backdrop of current events in Syria.

After the meeting, Netanyahu said that he presented to Putin "Israel's obligation and right to defend itself against Iranian aggression, from Syrian territory. The Iranians declare their intention to attack us. They are trying to transfer forces and deadly weapons there with the explicit goal of attacking the State of Israel as part of their strategy to destroy the State of Israel."

Previous speculation that Moscow, which is trying to stabilise Syria, would block Israeli cross-border strikes had proven false "and I have no basis to think that this time will be different," Netanyahu told reporters in a phone briefing.

Read the full article here.

Russia seeks mediator role between Israel and Iran

By Anais Llobet

Times of Israel/AFP, May 10, 2018

Following Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, Russia has positioned itself as a mediator between the Middle Eastern rivals as it has maintained good relations with both countries.

“The Kremlin is sitting on two chairs,” Russian analyst Alexei Malashenko told AFP.

“It is a complex and difficult situation for Russia that has links with both of the sworn enemies.”

Israel carried out raids on dozens of Iranian military targets on Thursday after it said around 20 rockets were fired from Syria at its forces in the Golan Heights.

Russia was quick to call for restraint, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying on Thursday that “all issues should be solved through dialogue.”

Read the full article here.

Following Virulent Anti-Semitic Wave in Ukraine, Minister of Internal Affairs Meets Kiev Rabbi

Yeshiva World News, May 9, 2018

On Monday, 22 Iyar, Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov met with Rabbi Jonathan Markowitz, Chief Rabbi of Kiev, in the Ministry offices. Avakov orchestrated the meeting following a vicious wave of blatant anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine which has become serious cause for concern among Jews in Ukraine, and specifically in capital Kiev. Tensions have been building up to the point that last week, in a protest staged in Odessa, extremist “Right Sector” leader Tatiana Soykina called publicly for the expulsion of Jews from the country.

Read the full article here.

Nazi Salutes and Fascist Chic Put Ukraine’s Jews on Edge

By Anna Nemtsova

Daily Beast, May 11, 2018

At the Bingo nightclub, a few hundred Ukrainian music fans were celebrating the anniversary of their favorite very white ultra-nationalist metal band, Sokyra Peruna. Some were teens, some looked like they were in their 40s. They were dressed up and tatted up with Nazi symbols, pagan spirit designs and emblems from the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine.

Some fans brought their children along. Smoke wafted over the stage, guitars rocked, and dozens of right hands straitened up in Hitler salutes as the band’s leader, Arseny Klimachev, roared out neo-Nazi lines he’s made famous in Ukraine’s capital: “Heroes of my race! Heroes of your race!”

Read the full article here.

After 30 Years, Krakow’s Jewish Culture Festival Finally Becomes, Well, Jewish

By Judy Maltz
Haaretz, May 10, 2018

The first edition of the Jewish Culture Festival in this city was launched in 1988, when the communists were still in power.

It was held in a small theater that barely accommodated 100 people, with most of the event devoted to screenings of prewar, Yiddish-language films.

Thirty years later, it is one the most anticipated events on the Polish calendar. Some would argue it is the most important Jewish festival in the world today.

Now, the festival draw tens of thousands of participants – many of them from out of the country – to close to 300 events, held over the course of nine days each summer. They span the gamut of musical and dance performances, plays, art exhibits, readings, lectures, culinary workshops and walking tours.

Read the full article here.

Poland's Holocaust law triggers tide of abuse against Auschwitz museum

By Christian Davies

The Guardian, May 7, 2018

Officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum have described how they were subjected to a wave of “hate, fake news and manipulations” as a result of the controversy surrounding a contentious Holocaust speech law passed by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party earlier this year.

The campaign of disinformation and abuse at the hands of Polish nationalists has raised concerns about pressure being exerted on official guides at the site in southern Poland, after the home of one foreign guide was attacked and supporters of a convicted antisemite filmed themselves repeatedly hectoring their guide during a visit to the camp in March.

Conceived in part as a means to prevent facilities established by Poland’s German occupiers from being described as “Polish death camps”, the legislation, which criminalises the false attribution to the Polish state or nation of complicity in the crimes committed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, prompted a furious reaction in Israel and elsewhere amid concerns it could be used to restrict open discussion of Poland’s wartime history.

Read the full article here.

Austrian authorities under pressure to block annual pro-Nazi gathering

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 8, 2018

Austrian authorities are under pressure to stop an annual event in which some 15,000 Croatians gather to celebrate the actions of Nazi collaborators.

The May 14 event in Bleiburg, in southern Austria, has featured flags and symbols of the Ustasha, militiamen of Croatia’s fascist puppet regime during World War II.

In 1945, fleeing Ustasha militiamen were handed over to Communist partisans at Bleiburg, making the locale significant for supporters of the movement.

Efraim Zuroff, Eastern Europe director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, last month traveled to Vienna in an effort to draw media attention to what he called “an affront to the memory of Holocaust victims.”

Russia’s Strange Obsession with Sobibor

By Izabella Tabarovsky

Kennan Institute, Russia File Blog, May 9, 2018

A new Russian movie, Sobibór, is making its way into Russian theaters and European capitals. The big-budget, highly promoted film tells the story of a prisoner escape from the Nazi death camp Sobibór in October 1943. The escape, a uniquely successful event of the Holocaust, was organized by Alexander Pechersky, a Jewish Red Army officer and a prisoner in the camp.

Russia’s hitherto scant contribution to Holocaust films alone would make this new film worthy of attention. But what is particularly remarkable is the support the film has received at top levels of the Russian government. The idea of the film belongs to the Russian minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky, whose ministry financed its production. The Kremlin put a viewing of the film on the agenda of President Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Moscow summit in January. In April, Valentina Matvienko, chair of the Duma’s Federation Council, organized a joint screening and discussion via videobridge with her counterpart at the Israeli Knesset. Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Duma’s Foreign Relations committee, also participated.

Read the full article here.

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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.