Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. February 16, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

NCSEJ joins several other Jewish organizations and governments in condemning the planned neo-Nazi Lukov March, scheduled to take place in the Bulgarian capital Sofia tomorrow. While the Bulgarian government as well as the Mayor of Sofia have come out against the march, courts have ruled it cannot be banned outright. We thank House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) for sending a letter to the chairwoman of the Bulgarian Parliament urging the government to condemn the march and hold extremist groups accountable for their actions. 

The Polish Council of Ministers has returned the draft of a restitution bill to the Ministry of Justice for further review. Immediately after the draft was released in October 2017, NCSEJ met with Polish government officials to express our concerns. NCSEJ stands with the World Jewish Restitution Organization in expressing concern that this action will further delay the adoption of restitution legislation in Poland. 

We also share with you an interesting and insightful profile of Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar and his relationship with the Russian government.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. February 16, 2018

Bulgaria’s coordinator against anti-Semitism, GERB party strongly condemn ‘Lukov March’

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Sofia Globe, February 14, 2018

Bulgaria’s National Co-ordinator against Anti-Semitism Georg Georgiev has issued a strong statement condemning the “Lukov March” planned for February 17 2018 as a shameful event and as as march of hatred that he hoped would not go ahead.

On February 14, the same day as Georgiev’s declaration, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party declared in Parliament its rejection of the Lukov March, describing the event as an opportunity for participants in the march to express support for an anti-democratic national socialist ideology.

The 2018 Lukov March is the 15th annual such event, in which dark-clad, torch-bearing marchers honour General Hristo Lukov, leader of the Union of Bulgarian National Legions, an extremist organisation in the 1930s and 1940s that backed Nazi Germany and anti-Semitism.

Read the full article here.

As West Fears the Rise of Autocrats, Hungary Shows What’s Possible

By Patrick Kingsley

New York Times, February 10, 2018

The senior leaders of Fidesz gathered on the banks of the Danube, in a building known as the Hungarian White House, stunned by the scale of their good fortune. Their right-wing party had won unexpectedly sweeping political power in national elections. The question was how to use it.

Several men urged caution. But Viktor Orban, the prime minister-elect, disagreed. The voting result, Mr. Orban continued, had given him the right to carry out a radical overhaul of the country’s Constitution.

Mr. Orban won the argument.

The private meetings, recounted by two people who were in the room and by a third who was briefed on the discussions at the time, occurred in early May 2010. Nearly eight years later, Mr. Orban has remade Hungary’s political system into what one critic calls “a new thing under the sun.” Once praised by watchdog groups as a leading democracy of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, Hungary is now considered a democracy in sharp, worrisome decline.

Read the full article here.

Israelis and Poles Who ‘Refuse to be Enemies’ Launch Campaign to Ease Tensions Over Holocaust Bill

By Judy Maltz

Haaretz, February 12, 2018

Deeply concerned about rising hostilities between their two countries over controversial legislation that would criminalize statements about the Polish nation’s complicity in Nazi war crimes, a group of prominent Israelis and Poles is hoping to turn the tide.

In a jointly drafted statement, they tell leaders on both sides: Israelis and Poles refuse to be enemies.

Some 70 Israelis and Poles actively engaged in recent decades in efforts to strengthen ties between their two countries have signed the letter. It has been posted as a petition and will now be sent to Israeli and Polish political leaders after garnering over 1,000 signatures.

Read the full article here.

Netanyahu Pushes Hosting Visegrad Group in Israel in Talks with Senior Hungarian Officiaal

By Noa Landau

Haaretz, February 13, 2018

In the shadow of the crisis with Poland over the new Holocaust law and the ongoing campaign in Hungary against Jewish billionaire George Soros, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Tuesday with the Jozsef Czukor, a senior foreign policy adviser to Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

The two discussed the possibility that Israel will host a meeting of the Visegrad group of nations, also known as the V4, in the coming months. The four Visegrad countries are Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

If Netanyahu’s efforts bear fruit and the summit is held in Israel, it will mark a new level in relations with these Central European counties, whose governments are considered the most right-wing in Europe. This would be particularly important in the case of Poland, which recently passed a law forbidding any mention of the Polish nation’s involvement in Nazi crimes.

Read the full article here.

In Eastern Europe, Revisionist Holocaust Bills and Anti-Semitism Go Hand in Hand

By Lev Golinkin

Forward, February 12, 2018

Poland’s brazen decision to pass a law protecting Holocaust denial should come as no surprise. Three years ago, the international community was largely silent when the government of Ukraine passed similar legislation. Today, we’re witnessing the fruits of that silence.

In 2015, Kiev ratified memory laws which made two WWII-era paramilitaries — the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) — national heroes of Ukraine. The OUN had collaborated with the Nazis, while the UPA massacred Jews and Poles on its own accord.

Poland’s law will make it illegal to claim Poles participated in the Holocaust; Kiev’s 2015 laws made it a criminal offense to disparage the “heroism” of Ukrainian butchers of Jews. Unlike today’s furor over Poland, however, Kiev’s actions were met with mostly silence. Several Jewish organizations issued press releases, but there was nothing from the EU, the U.S. State Department, or Congress.

Read the full article here.

Ukrainian monument to Jewish Holocaust victims vandalized

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 15, 2018

A monument for Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust in what is today Ukraine was vandalized by unidentified individuals who painted on it a swastika and the SS Nazi elite unit’s symbol.

The incident occurred earlier this month in the city of Ternopil, located about 80 miles east of the city of Lviv in Western Ukraine, Eduard Dolinsky, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

The day before the incident, on Feb. 2, the editor-in-chief of a local newspaper in Chortkiv, a city located 40 miles south of Ternopil, published an article claiming Jews have excessive power in Ukraine and beyond and that only 800,000 Jews died in the Holocaust.

Read the full article here.

Rivlin Backs Plans for Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center

By Tamara Zieve

Jerusalem Post, February 11, 2018

President Reuven Rivlin threw his weight behind plans for a Holocaust memorial center at the site of the Babi Yar massacre, in a meeting with representatives of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC) last week.

A delegation from the Center met with Rivlin in Jerusalem on Thursday, presenting him with their plans, as well as the basic historical narrative of the project.

The ravine of Babi Yar, located in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, is the site of mass killings by Germans and their collaborators.

Among the 150,000 victims thought to be buried there are 33,771 Jews who were killed in just two days – September 29-30, 1941. The victims of other massacres at the site, a majority of whom were Jewish, included Soviet prisoners of war, Roma, and Ukrainian nationalists. The inclusion of the latter alongside the other victims, however, has outraged some Ukrainian Jews because many of them were antisemites and collaborators.

Read the full article here.

As Chabad emissaries expelled from Russia, chief rabbi sees a friend in Putin

By Yaakov Schwartz

Times of Israel, February 13, 2018

When Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar and his wife Channa arrived in Moscow 30 years ago, one of their first projects was handing out Israeli-made matzah to hundreds of hungry Jews before the Passover holiday.

To Lazar, who collected an address or phone number from each recipient along with his nominal payment, it was an opportunity to feed people, spiritually and physically.

In the 1990s, Jewish identity was still largely in a state of hibernation after being put on ice for generations by the Communist government. Soon after the fall of the Iron Curtain, those whose identity had remained intact quickly fled to Israel.

But for the Italian-born Chabad rabbi, this newly collected list of Jews would become the springboard — first through the distribution of a newsletter, and then, as things gained momentum, through a host of other initiatives — from which he would help regrow Russia’s Jewish community.

Read the full article here.

Why Georgia’s Lessons for Russia Don’t Apply in Ukraine

By Nicu Popescu

Carnegie Moscow, February 13, 2018

It is something of a truism in the West and Ukraine to claim that by annexing Crimea and firing up the war in the Donbas, Russia has lost Ukraine. That’s not quite the thinking in Moscow. A tide of self-soothing geopolitical rationalization that is sweeping across Moscow’s foreign policy makers maintains that all is not lost for Russia in Ukraine. The source of this optimism is Russia’s relationship with Georgia: another country that fought a war with Russia, but which less than a decade later entered into a process of gradual political normalization, and something of an economic reset, with Russia.

If it worked with Georgia, it will work in Ukraine, goes the thinking in Moscow. But is that really the case? Are such hopes wishful thinking on Russia’s part, or might Ukraine, in a decade or so, really seek the normalization of its relations with Russia, without the conflicts over Crimea and the Donbas ever being solved?

Again angering Jews, Polish government eyes bill to limit Kosher slaughter

By Stuart Winter/Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Times of Israel, February 12, 2018

Amid ongoing outcry from Jewish organizations and the Israeli government over a recently passed law that criminalizes attributing blame for the Holocaust to the Polish nation, Poland’s ruling party has proposed a bill that would place severe limitations on kosher slaughter in the country as on the export of meat produced using the method, the European Jewish Association said in a statement Monday.

The 48-page bill on animal welfare does not entirely outlaw ritual slaughter of animals — which in 2013 was banned in Poland but legalized again due to a high court ruling in 2014 – but it does impose significant limits on the practice and “restrictions on exporting kosher meat from Poland, which would affect a very large part of the Jewish communities in Europe,” the EJA said.

A shutdown of the Polish kosher meat industry would impact Jewish communities across Europe, as well as in Israel, which imports Polish meat.

Read the full article here.

[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.