Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. November 18, 2016

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

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, on a nationally televised talk show, said that “the Jews” and Jewish money determined the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. If you want to find out what will happen in America, she said, talk to “our people in Brighton [Beach].” Several Russian officials and others took to social media to criticize and condemn Zakharova’s comments.

Also in Russia, Limmud FSU held a festival in St. Petersburg from Friday through Sunday. It hosted some 600 participants and featured lectures, workshops, a film screening, and discussions. Limmud FSU Founder Chaim Chesler said, “St. Petersburg has one of the most vibrant and flourishing Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, with a rich cultural life, and we are thrilled to be part of it.”

Last Week in both Moldova and Bulgaria, Russia-friendly candidates won their respective presidential elections. Radical changes in current government policy, however, are unlikely, as both countries’ constitutions limit presidential power. The politics of Moldova and Bulgaria are more complicated than a just a pro- vs. anti-Russia divide (and Bulgaria is both an EU and NATO member state). Domestic forces and a desire for warm relations with both the West and Russia will be the driving factors for the new executives. 

In Washington, D.C. yesterday, NCSEJ hosted a meeting with several Moldovan government officials. The group discussed Moldovan politics, Jewish community issues, and what to expect from the newly elected Presidents in both Moldova and the United States.

This week U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2016, to require enhanced reporting on anti-Semitic incidents in the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report. The legislation would also direct the State Department to include information on the security challenges and needs of the European Jewish communities, U.S. government efforts to partner with European governments, law enforcement, and civil society to combat anti-Semitism, and European government efforts to adopt a working definition of anti-Semitism. The bill currently has 20 bipartisan cosponsors, with representatives from across the country.

Additionally, I am pleased to report that the City of Krakow has honored the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture the 20th annual Patron of Culture Award in the highest level of the award in the donor category, the “Golden Donor Statue.” The official award ceremony took place on Monday at City Hall. Helise Lieberman, director of the Taube Center for the Renewal of Jewish Life in Poland, accepted the award on the Foundation's behalf.

This week’s update includes a number of stories related to Eastern European and Russian reactions to the U.S. presidential election. There is a lot of speculation, but no real answer yet on what President-Elect Trump‘s policy will be towards Eurasia. 

Finally, I want to remind everyone about our Board of Governors meeting on December 6th, 2016 at the Carnegie Endowment from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. If interested, please contact ncsejinfo@ncsej.org or click here for more information.  


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. November 18, 2016

Jewish community of Russia agrees with the Russian vice premier about consistent eradication of xenophobia in Russia
Interfax-Religion, November 14, 2016

President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia Alexander Boroda agrees with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko that Russia and Israel are allies in opposing falsification of history and making heroes of Nazi hangers on.

Last week Prikhodko told the journalists that Russia and Israel are united by "hostility to anti-Semitism and other manifestations of xenophobia and inter-ethnic hatred" and they jointly stand against "falsification of history, against reviewing the results of World War II and attempts of heroization of Fascist hangers on, depreciation of the Soviet Union's key contribution in victory over Nazi Germany, negating Holocaust."

Moscow chief rabbi: Trump ‘good news’ for US ties with Russia, Israel
JTA, November 15, 2016

The chief rabbi of Moscow said he expects U.S. relations with Russia and Israel to improve under President-elect Donald Trump.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, who is also the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, made the projection Tuesday during an interview in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, which for the first time was hosting his organization’s biannual Standing Committee gathering.

Russian Government Spokeswoman Suggests Trump Won Thanks To ‘The Jews’
RFE/RL, November 17, 2016

Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman who has made caustic rhetoric and sarcastic social-media posts a staple of her public outreach, has an idea whom U.S. President-elect Donald Trump can thank for his stunning victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton: "the Jews."

In an appearance that has triggered accusations of anti-Semitism, Zakharova suggested on a nationally televised talk show over the weekend that money from Jewish people played a key role in Trump's win.

Conversations she had with American Jews in September while in New York for the UN General Assembly made it clear that the billionaire businessman would triumph, she said.

Rubio, Kaine aim to curb rising anti-Semitism in Europe
By Theodore Schleifer
CNN, November 17, 2016

A pair of high-profile senators are making a bipartisan push to try and curb growing anti-Semitism in Europe at a time when such fears have spiked in the US following Donald Trump's election.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's running mate in the general election, are promoting a bill in the Senate Thursday that calls on US government agencies to report anti-Semitic activity more thoroughly and for the State Department to share more widely any new information on how the US and Europe are addressing the needs of the continent's Jewish community.

Polish Independence Day celebration at Warsaw synagogue cancelled over security concerns
JTA, November 13, 2016

The Board of the Jewish Community of Warsaw cancelled a celebration of Poland’s Independence Day in the city’s historic Nozyk synagogue, reportedly citing security concerns.

The Jewish community learned of the cancellation Thursday, the eve of the scheduled celebration, which was to be held on Independence Day.

Read the full article here.

It’s -13F Outside; Inside, Limmud FSU St. Petersburg Warms the Soul
eJewishPhilanthropy, November 13, 2016

A three-day Limmud FSU festival opened Friday in St Petersburg, Russia. The volunteers-driver and pluralistic event – the 5th in St Petersburg – is host to some 600 participants, the largest St. Petersburg festival ever, and runs through today.
Read the full article here.

Poland to compare photos of US man in Nazi crimes probe
AP, November 17, 2016

A Polish prosecutor pursuing a Nazi crimes investigation of a Minnesota man says experts will compare the man's photos with that of a Nazi commander to make sure they are the same person.

The Associated Press has identified the man, Michael Karkoc, as a World War II commander of a unit in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, which is accused of burning villages in Poland.

Read the full article here.

Dichter: Israel and Russia hold diverging views on Mideast
Times of Israel, November 16, 2016

MK Avi Dichter (Likud), a former head of the Shin Bet security agency, said Tuesday that Russia’s interests in the Middle East by no means coincide with Israel’s and that the Jewish state must be vigilant concerning Russia’s growing influence in the region.

In an interview with Reuters, Dichter, who serves as chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that while Israel-Russia ties were good and that there was mutual respect between the two countries, “Russia thinks and acts as a superpower and as such it often ignores [the] Israeli interest when it doesn’t coincide with the Russian interest.”

Read the full article here.

Czechoslovak diplomat recognized as “Righteous among the Nations”
Radio Prague, November 15, 2016

Czech diplomat Vladimír Vochoč was awarded the “Righteous among the Nations” tribute for his role in saving hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust in memoriam, more than thirty years after his death. The tribute was presented to members of his family on Monday at a ceremony at Czernin Palace, the seat of the Czech Foreign Ministry.

Vladimír Vochoč, who served as Czechoslovakia’s consular official in Marseille between the years 1938 and 1941, enabled hundreds of Jews to escape from France by providing them with Czechoslovak passports. His actions were linked to a rescue operation organized by an American, Varian Fry.

Russia-friendly political novice wins Bulgaria presidential election
By Tsvetelia Tsolova and Angel Krasimirov
Reuters, November 13, 2016

Bulgarian Socialist ally Rumen Radev, a Russia-friendly newcomer to politics, won Sunday's presidential election by a wide margin, exit polls showed, prompting centre-right Prime Minister Boiko Borisov to pledge to resign.

Radev, 53, entered Bulgarian politics on a wave of discontent with the ruling centre-right's progress in combating corruption, disappointment with the European Union and concerns among voters over alienating an increasingly assertive Russia.

Read the full article here.

Pro-Russian candidate triumphs in Moldova presidential race
By Alexander Tanas and Alessandra Prentice
Reuters, November 14, 2016

A pro-Russian candidate for president of Moldova has won the race, preliminary results showed on Sunday, following a campaign in which he vowed to slam the brakes on seven years of closer integration with the European Union.

With 98 percent of votes counted, online results showed Socialist candidate Igor Dodon had won 54 percent, and his pro-European challenger, Maia Sandu, had just under 45 percent.

The new presidents of Bulgaria and Moldova are less pro-Russian than advertised
Economist, November 14, 2016

PRO-RUSSIAN candidates won presidential elections in Moldova and Bulgaria on November 13th, or so the headlines read. The truth in both countries was more complicated. While the winning candidates have made friendly overtures to Moscow, neither will make any radical changes in geopolitical orientation in the short term. The power of the presidents in both countries is limited. Some of their supporters seem to be hoping that Russia will subsidise their countries’ struggling economies. Such hopes are destined to be disappointed.

Read the full article here.

Russian Legislator Says Russia, Iran Discussing $10 Billion Arms Deal
RFE/RL, November 14, 2016

A senior Russian senator says Russia and Iran are in talks over an arms deal worth around $10 billion.

Viktor Ozerov, head of the defense and security committee in Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, said on November 14 that the potential deal would see Moscow deliver tanks, artillery systems, planes, and helicopters to Tehran.

Hague Tribunal Recognizes Crimean Annexation as a Military Conflict Between Russia and Ukraine
Moscow Times, November 15, 2016

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has recognized the annexation of the Crimean peninsula as a military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and a Russian occupation of Ukrainian territory.

Russia withdraws backing for International Criminal Court treaty
Reuters, November 16, 2016

President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on Wednesday removing Russia's signature from the International Criminal Court's founding treaty, piling pressure on a court that is already reeling from withdrawals by some African countries.

Moscow never ratified the treaty, which it signed in 2000, meaning it never became a member subject to its jurisdiction. But the symbolic move coincided with the opening day of the general assembly of member states.

Read the full article here.

Treasury Sanctions Individuals for Activities Related to Russia's Occupation of Crimea
U.S. Department of the Treasury, November 15, 2016

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated six individuals who represent Crimea and Sevastopol in the Russian State Duma (Parliament). Specifically, OFAC designated Dmitry Belik, Andrey Kozenko, Konstantin Bakharev, Svetlana Savchenko, Ruslan Balbek, and Pavel Shperov pursuant to Executive Order 13660 for being responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine and actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine. Last week, the European Union also designated these six individuals.
Read the full article here.

Ukraine One Step Closer To EU Visa Liberalization
RFE/RL, November 17, 2016

EU member states moved a step closer to giving Ukraine visa-free access after ambassadors gave the bloc's executive authority the green light for new talks on easing the rules.

The decision on November 17 by EU ambassadors now gives the executive authority, known as the European Council, a mandate to work with the bloc's legislative chamber, the European Parliament, on a procedural mechanism.

Read the full article here.
In a Late-Night Move, Russia Arrests a Top Economic Official in a Bribery Case
By Neil MacFaquhar
New York Times, November 15, 2016

Russians awoke to an extraordinary scandal on Tuesday with the minister of economic development detained on charges of soliciting a $2 million bribe — the highest-level official arrested in Russia in decades.

The minister, Aleksei Ulyukayev, 60, a liberal stalwart with a trademark porcupine haircut, was detained in the middle of the night, a Soviet-like tactic against officials who had fallen into disfavor that many thought had been retired.

Read the full article here.
Kremlin Released ‘Genie of Intolerance’ Provoking Pogroms Across Russia, Gulbinsky Says
By Paul Goble
Window on Eurasia, November 15, 2016

The Putin regime’s attempt to mobilize and direct civil society by unleashing “the genie of intolerance” has had the horrific consequence of leading to the spread of pogroms and pogrom-like activities by groups whose members feel they have the blessing of the authorities to act against others, according to Nikolay Gulbinsky.

Read the full article here.
Ukraine’s Reforms Are Pointless without Resolving Security Issues
By Andreas Umland
Atlantic Council, November 15, 2016

Making Western assistance to Kyiv more effective is crucial to Ukraine's future. Yet, the West’s current approach is plagued by a strategic defect. When Western aid and Kyiv’s reforms reach a tipping point, they will trigger increasingly aggressive counter-reactions from Moscow for domestic political reasons in Russia. Until Ukraine’s fundamental security challenges are met, Western support may be useless or, paradoxically, even counterproductive. Unless Ukraine’s sovereignty becomes better protected, Russian President Vladimir Putin will remain free to react to future Ukrainian achievements however he prefers. As long as the Russian elite perceives the costs of interfering in Ukraine as relatively low, Moscow may be unable to resist the temptation to continue undermining or even deeply disrupt Ukraine’s social stability.
Why Ukraine Is Losing the War on Corruption
By Mikheil Saakashvili
New York Times, November 16, 2016

Few politicians in the world have had to undergo the same experience twice in their career and in different countries. Yet this is exactly what happened to me in Ukraine and Georgia.

I was the president of Georgia for nine years, during which it went from a kleptocracy and failed state to a country that won international recognition for tackling corruption and became one of the easiest places in Europe to conduct business. Named the world’s top reformer by the World Bank in 2006, Georgia became a flagship among the countries of the former Soviet bloc.
America? We Love Those Guys: Russian Propaganda U-Turns on the U.S.
By Ola Cichowlas
Moscow Times, November 14, 2016

Ever since Vladimir Putin appointed him in 2013, propagandist-in-chief Dmitry Kiselyov has blamed the U.S. for most of Russia's and the world's misdeeds. His antipathy for the United States even went so far that he once claimed Russia could turn Washington into “radioactive dust” (a comment he later claimed was not meant to be aggressive).

But this weekend, during his weekly Sunday night show, Dmitry Kiselyov changed his tune. Like any other Sunday, he dedicated most of the show to American news. Only this time, he was full of praise for Washington.
Can Lithuania’s New Government Maintain Stability?
By Agnia Grigas
Atlantic Council, November 11, 2016

On the same day that the United States announced the election of Donald J. Trump as its new president, its small ally, Lithuania, announced its new government. The relatively unknown Peasants and Greens Union party, which won the most votes in parliamentary elections on October 23, has, at last, finalized its coalition agreement with the Social Democrats party. However, the lack of cohesion and a clear ideology within the dominant Peasants and Greens Union party might spell trouble for the next government of Lithuania.
Watch Out Vladimir: There’s a New Putin in Town
By Mark Galeotti
Foreign Policy, November 13, 2016

The constant temptation, when dealing with Russia, is to assume the other guy is much smarter than we are. From the European migrant crisis to Brexit to Donald Trump’s surprise victory this week, there have been those who see Vladimir Putin’s hand at work and, as a result, assume he has always been three steps ahead. The truth is that he was probably as surprised as anyone else at the results of the U.S. presidential election on Wednesday. And not entirely in a good way.
The United States needs to hold Russia accountable for its aggression
By Ben Cardin
Washington Post, November 17, 2016

Any presidential administration’s top charge is to protect U.S. national security interests, and now more than ever, that important endeavor must start with addressing a resurgent Russia.

Over the course of President Vladimir Putin’s time in office, Russia has been the purveyor of an anti-democratic agenda, completely antithetical to values that we as Americans hold dear — the liberal democratic process, human rights, sovereignty and the rule of law. Russia has interfered in our election, endangered lives in Ukraine and Syria and sought to dismantle the rules-based international system which has provided stability since the end of World War II.

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Founded in 1971, NCSEJ 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.