Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. August 10, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

This week, NCSEJ marks the 66th anniversary of the Night of the Murdered Poets. On August 12, 1952, Soviet General Secretary Stalin ordered the execution of thirteen Soviet Jews held in the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow. Originally arrested in 1949, the Soviet government accused the prisoners of perpetrating acts of espionage and treason as members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. The prisoners included five Yiddish poets and other prominent Soviet Jewish cultural figures. In 1972, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry released a special commemorative booklet marking the 20th anniversary of the murders. In 2002, NCSEJ reissued the booklet and presented a copy to the Russia’s ambassador to the United States at a ceremony.

Last Shabbat, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel’s childhood home in the city of Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania was desecrated with anti-Semitic graffiti. A global outpouring of support decrying the vandalism came immediately. Romanian politicians and intellectuals also visited the site to reaffirm their commitment to maintaining the home (now housing the Elie Wiesel Museum), in order to keep “Elie Wiesel’s work and memory alive, as well as the memory of all those 38,000 Jews who never returned to their homes” in Sighetu Marmatiei.

This week also marks the ten year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Georgia. Following a violent exchange between Russian soldiers and Georgian forces in the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia, the Russian military initiated a large-scale offensive. With Russian forces on the outskirts of Tbilisi after only several days of fighting, an international consortium helped negotiate a ceasefire. Earlier this week, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev warned that Georgian ascension to NATO could trigger a “terrible conflict.”

In mid-July, Russia marked the 100th anniversary of the execution of the Romanov family by the Red Army. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian President Boris Yeltsin provided the Romanovs’ remains with a state funeral. Under President Vladimir Putin, the Romanovs have experienced further rehabilitation, with the Orthodox Church canonizing Nicholas II and his family in 2000. Since 2015, the Church has sought to reopen the investigation into the Romanov murders by arguing that they were in fact “ritual killings.” Historically, the use of this term in Russia has referred to Jewish blood libel. Although the Church has dismissed accusations of anti-Semitism, there is concern that the investigation may lead to a revival of historical forms of nationalism.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. August 10, 2018

Elie Wiesel’s childhood home in Romania vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti
JTA, August 4, 2018

Unidentified individuals spray painted offensive graffiti on the external walls of a museum for Elie Wiesel in Romania, where he was also born, in what police said was an anti-Semitic incident.

The florescent pink graffiti that was painted on the Memorial House Elie Wiesel in Sighet in eastern Romania read “public toilet” and “Nazi Jew lying in hell with Hitler” as well as “Anti-Semite pedophile.”

Police are investigating the incident, which they consider an anti-Semitic hate crime, but have no suspects in custody, the news site Sighet247 reported Saturday.

Lithuanian Jews say a national hero killed Jews, should have honorary plaque removed
JTA, August 3, 2018

A Jewish cemetery in Lithuania was desecrated and human remains were brought to the surface during digging connected to the laying of pipes.

Pictures showing freshly dug soil, garbage and bone fragments on the grounds of the cemetery of Siauliai, in northern Lithuania, began circulating Wednesday on social media amid reports of a cover-up of the evidence documented, the Skrastas news site reported Friday.

According to the article, the soil containing bone fragments was removed after being photographed by Sania Kerbel, the chairperson of the local Jewish community, possibly to conceal the evidence of the desecration.

Jewish cemetery desecrated in Lithuania, leaving bones scattered
JTA, August 3, 2018

WARSAW, Poland - World War II veterans, Warsaw residents and Poland's leaders stood at attention Wednesday as sirens wailed during anniversary ceremonies honoring the fighters and victims of the city's ill-fated 1944 revolt against the Nazi occupation.

Warsaw traffic stopped for a minute's remembrance as the sirens sounded at 5 p.m., the exact hour when the Aug. 1 revolt started 74 years ago.

Earlier in the day, President Andrzej Duda laid a wreath at a memorial in Wola district, where German forces killed tens of thousands of civilians in early August 1944, in retaliation for the revolt organized by Poland's clandestine resistance movement, the Home Army.

Poland Obtains Archive of Diplomats' Efforts to Rescue Jews
Associated Press, August 6, 2018

Poland has obtained a World War II-era archive that documents the efforts of Polish diplomats in Switzerland to get Jews out of Europe by issuing phony passports from Latin American countries.

The ministry and the museum said 330 people were known to have survived the Holocaust as a result of having one of the faked passports and another 387 were killed despite having the false documents. The fate of 430 others has not been determined.

The rescue effort was led by the Polish ambassador to Switzerland, Aleksander Lados, and included three other Polish diplomats and two representatives of Jewish organizations.

Russia to memorialize 20 Holocaust execution sites
Interfax, August 6, 2018

MOSCOW - Twenty sites in Russia where Jews were executed and buried during the war will be memorialized as part of the next stage of the Return Dignity program this year.

Monuments to Holocaust victims will be built in cities and villages in the Bryansk, Volgograd, Oryol, Ryazan, Smolensk, and Tula regions, the Stavropol Territory and the Republic of Kalmykia. It is planned to erect the granite obelisks by late October, spokesman of the Russian Jewish Congress Mikhail Savin told Interfax on Monday.

Putin Regime Restrains Anti-Semitic Actions but Not Anti-Semitic Propaganda
By Paul Goble
Windows on Eurasia, August 4, 2018

Viktor Shnirelman, an anthropologist who has specialized on anti-Semitism in Russia for 25 years, says that the Putin regime has restrained anti-Semitic actions but not anti-Semitic propaganda, an indication that it retains the image of the Jew as enemy of Russia and will keep that in reserve until the need to use it arises.

That conclusion is offered in his new book, Three Myths about a Conspiracy: Anti-Semitic Propaganda in Contemporary Russia (in Russian, Moscow: Academia, 2017, 390 pages), that has been reviewed by Svetlana Solodvnik for Yezhednevny zhurnal.

The Far Right Aims to Take Control of the European Union Next Year
By Jonah Shepp
New York Magazine, August 3, 2018

The past year has been a historically bad one for liberal democracy in Europe. Right-wing nationalist and anti-immigrant political leaders and parties took power, consolidated power, or made major gains in elections across the continent, particularly in central Europe: Austria, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party pushed through electoral reforms last December that will make it harder for its opposition to put up a fight in upcoming local and parliamentary elections.

The governing bodies of the European Union have been a perennial punching bag for the European right, which has accused them of undemocratically foisting liberal values and open borders on member states without their people’s consent. Some nationalists, like the U.K.’s Brexiteers (and Donald Trump), see the solution in shrinking or dismantling the union. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an anti-Muslim Eurosceptic nationalist and currently the closest thing to a dictator in the E.U., has a better idea: Take it over, and destroy the liberal order from within.

When Russia Invaded Georgia in 2008, it foretold a decade of Putin’s adventurism.
By Mikheil Saakashvili
Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2018

A decade later, in direct violation of the cease-fire agreement, thousands of Russian troops still occupy one-fifth of Georgian territory. The repercussions of those five days in August remain widespread. Vladimir Putin’s biggest victory was exposing rifts in the West. Many European and U.S. leaders swiftly and unequivocally condemned Russia. But lobbyists on the Kremlin’s payroll, and Western governments engaged in lucrative energy and defense deals with Moscow, placed the blame on Georgia.

Mr. Putin continues to exploit those fault lines today. The Kremlin finances fringe European political movements on the right and left. In the U.S., Russian-funded disinformation on social media fuels the breakdown of civil discourse.
100 years later, Russia is still revising the story of the imperial family’s execution
By Ala Creciun Graff
Washington Post, August 8, 2018

On July 17, while the world evaluated the U.S.-Russia Helsinki summit, Russia marked a historic anniversary: 100 years since Red Army guards executed Russia’s imperial family in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

For the Russian Orthodox Church, the Romanov memory and their martyrdom offers an opportunity to tap into Russians’ rising national sentiment. Since 2015, the Orthodox Church has been building a case to reopen the investigation into the Romanovs’ murders, arguing that they were in fact “ritual killings.” In 2017, Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee — the state’s main investigative bureau — reopened the case.

Historically, the term “ritual killings” in Russia has referred to the blood libel, or the false accusation that Jews kill Christian children for ritual purposes. The Church’s 2017 case for “ritual murder” has been widely understood in reference to the fact that Yakov Yurovsky, the Red Army soldier in charge of Romanovs’ execution, was Jewish. The spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, Boruch Gorin, told the Times of Israel, “When they say ‘ritual murder,’ the meaning is not ambiguous; we know what they mean.”

Photo exhibit documents revival of Polish Jewish life
By Vanessa Gera
Associated Press, August 8, 2018

WARSAW, Poland - American photographer Chuck Fishman was just 21 when he began traveling behind the Iron Curtain in 1975 to document a Jewish community on the verge of dying out after centuries of existence in Poland. He couldn’t have foreseen a Jewish revival that came after the fall of communism in 1989.

A new photo exhibition opened this week in Warsaw that brings together Fishman’s early documentation of a melancholy and declining Jewish world with the revival of traditions by the third and fourth generations after the Holocaust, a transformation that left him astounded.
Titled “Re-Generation: Jewish Life in Poland,” the exhibition showing at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw will run until Oct. 28 and then go to the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow for several more months.

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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.