Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. March 31, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties
FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO

Dear Friend,

This week, I once again participated in AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington. On Sunday, I moderated a well-attended panel entitled “Strategic Interests in the Caucasus and Central Asia” featuring Azerbaijani Ambassador Elin Suleymanov, Dr. Svante Cornell, and Professor Brenda Shaffer. In addition, I attended several of the main sessions, and met with Jewish community figures and government leaders.

On Saturday, Ukrainian lawmaker and war hero Nadiya Savchenko defended anti-Semitic comments she had made earlier this month. As JTA reports, in a March 21 interview, she agreed in principle with a caller who inveighed against a “Jewish takeover of Ukraine.” NCSEJ is shocked that a public official would make such outrageous comments, and calls on Ms. Savchenko to apologize.

In Russia, Chabad Rabbi Ari Edelkopf, a U.S. and Israel dual citizen, lost a deportation appeal, and will be forced to leave Sochi, where he has been serving the community for 16 years. The deportation comes amid a Russian crackdown on organizations with foreign funding. Edelkopf’s permit to be in the country was revoked in December.

In Belarus this week, a human rights group reported that over 1,000 people were arrested in continuing anti-government demonstrations. Citizens first took to the streets in February to protest a regressive government tax on the unemployed.

In Moscow on Sunday, Russian police arrested hundreds in anti-corruption protests. President Putin later warned that such protests could bring “bloody events” and “chaos,” citing the Arab Spring and the 2014 “coup d’état in Ukraine.”

I want to highlight an Algeminer interview with Azerbaijani Ambassador Elin Suleymanov. Azerbaijan, a Muslim-majority state, is a close ally of Israel. The in-depth and candid interview discusses the nations’ bilateral ties, and what they are learning from one another.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. March 31, 2017

Ukrainian war hero and lawmaker slurs Jews
JTA, March 27, 2017

A Ukrainian lawmaker and war hero used a word usually translated as “kikes” in complaining that Jews wield excessive power in her country.

Nadiya Savchenko, a fighter jet pilot who was elected to parliament in 2014 while she was still being held as a prisoner of Russia, made the statements on Saturday during a televised interview for the 112 station and insisted they were not indicative of anti-Semitic bias.

Holocaust memorial vandalized in western Ukraine
JTA, March 27, 2017

Nazi symbols were spray-painted on a monument to Holocaust victims in Ukraine that was erected near their mass graves.

The letter X was painted on the Star of David emblazoned on the monument near the western city of Ternopil. A swastika was drawn on the Hebrew-language section of the monument and the SS symbol on the part in English.

Read the full article here.

American Jewish Committee opens office in Poland
Radio Poland, March 27, 2017

The American Jewish Committee, a Jewish advocacy organisation, is set to open its Central European office in the Polish capital on Monday. The committee's new branch will cover Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia and Hungary.

It is the organisation's fifth European office, already having seats in Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Rome.

Warsaw residents burn effigy of Jewish women
JTA, March 26, 2017

A group of Warsaw residents celebrated the first day of spring by burning the effigy of a Jewish woman. A video from last week’s incident was removed from YouTube. A Polish prosecutor reportedly will investigate the incident, the Wporst news website reported.

The recording features a group called Conscience of the Nation TV burning and drowning the effigy in the Vistula River. The puppet symbolizes what is ugly, cold and bad, the Warsaw group wrote in describing a video of the event.

Read the full article here.

Russia’s Medvedev, Iran’s Rouhani, to Discuss Eurasian Free Trade Zone
By David Israel
Jewish Press, March 27, 2017

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani left Tehran for Moscow on Monday for a two-day official visit in Russia, accompanied by the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Industry, Mines and Trade, Petroleum, Communications, and the Governor of Iran’s Central Bank, IRNA reported.

US Chabad rabbi loses appeal against deportation from Russia
JTA, March 29, 2017

A Russian appeals court affirmed an expulsion order issued against an American rabbi working in Sochi, in what a local leader of the Chabad movement called a “dark day” for Jews.

In its ruling Tuesday against Ari Edelkopf, the Krasnodar Court of Appeals accepted the determination of a Sochi tribunal that Edelkopf, who had been working as Chabad’s emissary to the city, was a threat to national security. Edelkopf now has no further legal recourse and is legally obligated to leave the country in the near future, Interfax reported.

Read the full article here.

Largest Limmud FSU Canada Event: A Smashing Success
EJP, March 26, 2017

Some 700 people came together this weekend at the Blue Mountain Resort for Limmud FSU Canada, the largest Canadian event geared towards the Russian-speaking community. The weekend program featured more than 50 inspiring speakers and 80 panels, workshops and discussions on subjects ranging from art, to Jewish culture and tradition, history, politics, academia, business and lifestyles. Currently, there are about 330,000 Jews living in Canada among which 137,500 are Russian speakers.

Read the full article here.

Czech Republic: funds sought to restore Plzeň Great Synagogue
Jewish Heritage Europe, March 27, 2017

The Jewish Community in Plzeň (Pilsen) in the Czech Republic has applied for a 4.5-million-euro  grant from the EU to restore the city’s twin-towered Great Synagogue and Rabbinical house.

The planned reconstruction will mainly involve the interior of the Synagogue, where much of the painted decoration, and the organ, are in disrepair, despite partial restoration of the building in the 1990s.

Read the full article here.

Slovakia commemorates 75th anniversary of first Nazi deportations of Jews
Slovak Spectator, March 27, 2017

On March 25, Slovak President Andrej Kiska unveiled a commemorative plaque on the façade of the grammar school in Kukucin Street in Poprad to mark the 75th anniversary of the first transport of Slovak Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

Read the full article here.

Croatia Serbs join Jews in snubbing WWII camp commemoration
Times of Israel, March 27, 2017

Croatian Serbs say Monday that they will join the country’s Jews in the second consecutive snub of a commemoration for victims of the country’s World War II death camp, accusing the authorities of tolerating pro-Nazi ideology.

The Jasenovac camp, often called “Croatia’s Auschwitz,” was the most notorious camp run by the country’s Nazi-allied Ustasha regime.

Read the full article here.

War In Donbass Continues To Drive Ukrainians To Israel
By Tamara Zieve
Jerusalem Post, March 28, 2017

Some 230 Ukrainian immigrants landed in Israel on Tuesday morning, the latest in a steady stream from the country, which has suffered from a crippled economy since the War in Donbass broke out in April 2014.

Some of the olim fled from conflict-stricken areas and have lived as refugees in other areas of the country in recent years.

Read the full article here.

Russian opposition leader Navalny jailed for 15 days over protest
Reuters, March 27, 2017

A court on Monday sentenced Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to 15 days in prison, saying he had disobeyed a police officer during an anti-government protest in Moscow the previous day.

The same court fined Navalny 20,000 roubles ($352.20) earlier on Monday for his role in organizing the protest, which the authorities said was illegal.

European Court of Human Rights Begins Investigating Russia's 'Foreign Agent' Law
Moscow Times, March 29, 2017

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has started investigating whether Russia's infamous 'foreign agent' law violates human rights. 

The court has begun to process cases for 48 Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) branded as “foreign agents” by the Kremlin, the Kommersant newspaper reported.

Read the full article here.
Russian Teacher Tells Students ‘Liberalism Is Freedom for Subhumans’
Moscow Times, March 30, 2017

It’s a trend in Russian schools that keeps growing. Teachers and lecturers take a break from the class curriculum to berate their students for supporting anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny. Standing before a classroom, the room’s only adult tells a dozen or so teenagers that they’re ignorant, unpatriotic fools who don’t realize what horrors their civic activism will unleash upon the Russian Federation.

Read the full article here.
NATO-Russia Council Holds First Session This Year As Tension Persists
By Rikard Jozwiak
RFE/RL, March 30, 2017

Ambassadors from NATO nations and Russia gathered at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels for the first NATO-Russia Council session of 2017.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the talks on March 30 would focus on issues including the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the security situation in Afghanistan, and the "regional terrorist threat."

Read the full article here.
Polish Consulate In Western Ukraine Damaged In Attack
RFE/RL, March 29, 2017

Officials and media reports say unidentified attackers have opened fire at the Polish Consulate in the northwestern Ukrainian city of Lutsk, damaging the roof and windows.

Citing witnesses, news website Volyn24 said that the incident took place early on March 29, shortly after midnight. No injuries were reported.

Read the full article here.
More than 1,000 arrested in Belarus protests against 'parasite law'
By Ben Rosen
CSM, March 27, 2017

A human rights group said more than 1,000 people were arrested across Belarus over the weekend, as another wave of unsanctioned protests against authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko reached the streets of Minsk and other cities.

Vesna told the Associated Press that about 150 of those arrested have been sentenced to jail terms of up 25 days.

Read the full article here.
University founded by Soros says targeted by new Hungary law
By Pablo Gorondi
AP/Washington Post, March 28, 2017

Central European University said Tuesday that government-proposed amendments to Hungary’s law on higher education “would make it impossible to continue its operations” in Budapest, its home for over 25 years.

University President and Rector Michael Ignatieff said in a statement that the closure of the school founded by U.S. billionaire George Soros “would damage Hungarian academic life and negatively impact the government of Hungary’s relations” with its neighbors, its fellow European Union members and the United States.

Read the full article here.
Bulgaria's center-right GERB faces tough coalition talks despite poll win
By Tsvetelia Tsolova
Reuters, March 27, 2017

Bulgaria's center-right GERB party will start talks next week on forming a coalition government, it said on Monday, after an election victory partly offset by the strong showing of pro-Russian Socialists and anti-migrant nationalists.

Read the full article here

US Lawmakers Remain Firm on Russia Sanctions
By Jack Gloss
Atlantic Council, March 27, 2017

US sanctions on Russia, imposed in response to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, must not only be maintained, “they should be tightened,” according to Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH). 

As recently as March 20, Russia has performed military drills practicing “offensive and defensive operations,” in Crimea, Chabot said, adding: “The fact that Russia has successfully claimed another country’s sovereign territory as its own and then carries out unprecedented offensive military drills there [is] absolutely unacceptable.”

Read the full article here

The fight for historical truth about the Holocaust in Ukraine
By Per Anders Rudling, Efraim Zuroff
Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2017

Ever since the breakup of the Soviet Union slightly more than a quarter of a century ago, the role played by local Nazi collaborators in Holocaust crimes has been a bone of contention throughout eastern Europe. Rather than adopting the accepted Western chronicle of World War II and the Holocaust, local authorities in many Eastern European post-Communist countries have sought to create an alternative narrative of the events in order to achieve two major objectives.

Read the full article here
How a massacre of a village's Jews by their neighbors in WWII Poland is remembered — and misremembered
Public Radio International, March 24, 2017

What happens when a whole society tries to bury a memory?  Plenty have tried.  Americans have, at different times in history, papered over massacres of Native Americans, treatment of slaves, the Civil War itself. Ask a Northerner and a Southerner what that was all about, and even today, they’re likely to give different answers. Some of the current red state/blue state, left/alt right divisions can arguably be traced back to the very different stories different groups have told themselves about what America is and should be, and what role they’ve played in trying to achieve the kind of America they want.

Azerbaijani US Ambassador: Israel Is a Pragmatic Partner and Good Friend, We Want it to Be Normal for Muslims and Jews to Be Allies
By Barney Breen-Portnoy
Algeminer, March 29, 2017

Over the past two and a half decades, the Caucasus nation of Azerbaijan — a Shiite Muslim-majority state — has become a close ally of Israel, manifested by deep economic and military bonds.

In December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Baku, where he met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. “The world sees so much intolerance, so much darkness, and here is an example of what relations can be and should be between Muslims and Jews everywhere,” Netanyahu said at the time.

Read the full article here
Three and a Half Lessons of Jewish-Russian History
By Maxim D. Shrayer
Mosaic, March 27, 2017

I am deeply grateful to the editors of Mosaic for publishing my long essay on today’s Russian Jewry and the three responses to it.

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Telephone: +1 202 898 2500  |  ncsej@ncsej.org
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.