Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. November 17, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Last Saturday, November 11, over 60,000 people participated in a far-right, nationalist march in Warsaw that coincided with Polish Independence Day. The march featured neo-Nazi and white supremacist symbolism, slogans, and chants. Polish President Andrzej Duda condemned the anti-Semitic and xenophobic messages of many of the marchers. Other officials also joined in condemnation of the march but NCSEJ remains concerned about the rise of far-right voices in Poland and elsewhere in the region. 

In response to Russian media network RT registering as a foreign agent in the US, Russian Parliament approved legislation declaring all foreign media outlets in Russia must register themselves foreign agents. The legislation has not yet become law but is expected to in the near future.

The European Union passed a resolution on Wednesday praising the progress of reform in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine and leaving the possibility of their membership in the EU open. 

NCSEJ will hold its annual Board of Governors Meeting in Washington, DC on Tuesday, December 5. Featured speakers include the Moldovan Ambassador to the United States and writer Lev Golinkin. For more information and to register for the event, please see our website http://ncsej.org/board_meeting​​​​​​​ or contact David Shulman at 202-898-2500 or dshulman@ncsej.org

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. November 17, 2017

60,000 joined a Polish nationalist march. Should Jews be worried?

By Cnaan Lipshiz

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 13, 2017

The sight of far-right activists waving racist banners and shouting anti-Semitic slogans during a nationalist march in the capital of Poland over the weekend shocked many around the world.

It was an understandable reaction to witnessing tens of thousands in Warsaw marching near what used to be the largest Jewish ghetto during the Holocaust amid shouts of “Jews out” and “Remove Jewry from power.”

The march, an annual event that began in 2009 with 500 participants on Poland’s national day, Nov. 11, was not necessarily the largest so far. Similar numbers of marchers showed up last year. But it did showcase the rising strength of Polish nationalists who are feeling emboldened by the conservative government in Warsaw — and to some extent by the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

‘Poland’s Charlottesville’ Has Jews Rattled

By Larry Cohler-Esses

Forward, November 14, 2017

A huge Independence Day march organized by far-right, racist forces in Poland came off peacefully Saturday for the first time in years.

And this has Jews in Poland more worried than ever.

“They’re learning to hide who they are,” said Michael Schudrich, Poland’s American-born chief rabbi. “Don’t ask me if it’s better or worse that they’re nonviolent.”

The disciplined nature of the march enabled the organizers to draw an estimated 60,000 participants — the biggest attendance ever to their annual procession. The source of the Jewish leaders’ worries included parade banners espousing white supremacy, chants denouncing Muslim immigrants, symbols of fascist parties brandished openly, calls for Christian triumphalism, slogans shouted that blacks can’t be Poles and several denunciations of Jews.

Read the full article here.

Poland and the Uncontrollable Fury of Europe’s Far Right

By Paul Hockenos

The Atlantic, November 15, 2017

In Poland, last weekend’s independence day celebrations mutated into perhaps the ugliest international congregation of the extreme right seen in Europe in recent times. The grotesque procession of militant nationalists, white supremacists, and radical Islamophobes included Poland’s National-Radical Camp, the National Movement, and the All Polish Youth, as well as the deputy chairperson of Jobbik, Hungary’s most xenophobic party. These groups and others who attended trace their ideas back to anti-Semitic, sometimes-fascist movements popular before World War II. Like their forebears, they won’t rule out the use of violence.

The march cast a disturbing light on the militant and radical currents coursing through Europe’s ever-more successful nationalist parties, for whom Hungary’s governing Fidesz party is a model. Its members include Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Alternative for Germany, and the Austrian Freedom Party, among many others. Their polished images and relatively temperate language have enabled them to post record numbers at the ballot box of late—and, indeed, to jar Europe’s liberal order by pushing their policies on three areas in which their interests overlap with neo-Nazi extremists: immigration, Islam, and the EU. 

Read the full article here.

Buried testimony from the Warsaw Ghetto goes on display for the first time in Poland

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 16, 2017

Eyewitness accounts of Nazi atrocities found buried in the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto have gone on display in Poland for the first time.

The exhibition, “What We Could Not Shout Out To The World,” includes more than 35,000 documents compiled and hidden by historian Emanuel Ringelblum and other Jews who lived in the ghetto.

The Ringelblum archive survived the destruction of the ghetto and World War II in 10 metal cases and two metal milk bottles that were recovered in 1946 and 1950, respectively.

The exhibition opened to the public Thursday at the Polish capital’s Jewish Historical Institute. It tells the story of Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto and its destruction by the Nazis.

Read the full article here.

Russia May Make All Outside News Media Register as ‘Foreign Agents’

By Andrew Kramer

New York Times, November 15, 2017

Russia’s Parliament approved legislation on Wednesday that could require foreign media organizations operating in Russia to label news they produce the work of a “foreign agent,” the latest step in the unraveling of relations since the United States accused Russia of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The measure will become law if passed by the Russian Senate and signed by President Vladimir V. Putin. Over the weekend, however, Mr. Putin expressed some doubts, saying the rule may go too far.

The proposed new regulation is evidently intended as retaliation for reporting requirements imposed by the Department of Justice on the American affiliate of RT, the Russian state-run TV news outlet that American intelligence agencies say is a propaganda tool of the Kremlin.

Read the full article here.

Trump and Putin: What Comes Next?

By Nikolas K. Gvosdev

The National Interest, November 13, 2017

Last week, writing in these pages, I noted that any encounter between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin that would take place at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, would have to address two critical questions if there was to be any clarity in U.S.-Russia relations. We’ve now gotten a first draft of answers.

I argued that, for the Russian side, the overarching issue is whether or not Donald Trump is calling the shots on U.S. policy. Seven days ago, the White House press operation was signaling that there would be a formal encounter between the two presidents, a scheduled meeting with a defined agenda. As the week progressed, the United States began to back away from those announcements. By the end of the week, the encounter was a far less structured event, essentially folded in around an informal stroll to a photo opportunity and brief chats in between APEC sessions—nothing at all like the meeting that took place at the G-20 summit in Hamburg in July. What happened? And does it suggest that Donald Trump has a George W. Bush problem—the apparent inability to take a personal rapport with Vladimir Putin and transform it into concrete policy directives?

Read the full article here.

U.S. Pledges to Hold Russians Responsible On Anniversary of Magnitsky’s Death

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 16, 2017

Marking eight years since whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow jail, the United States has pledged to continue enforcing legislation imposing sanctions on Russians over human rights abuses.

"We honor the memory of Sergei Magnitsky, who died on November 16, 2009, while in custody in a Moscow prison," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement late on November 15.

"An investigation by Russia's Presidential Human Rights Council found that Magnitsky had been severely beaten in prison, and members of the council said his death resulted from beatings and torture by police officials."

"Magnitsky uncovered a vast tax-fraud scheme perpetrated by Russian officials, and was imprisoned by those whose crimes he uncovered," Nauert added.

Read the full article here.

Russia and the West’s South Caucasus Dilemma

By Sergei Markedonov

Carnegie Moscow Center, November 14, 2017

The conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are currently far from the front lines of the standoff between Russia and the West. After Moscow recognized the independence of Georgia’s two breakaway regions on August 26, 2008, a new status quo emerged in the South Caucasus: Abkhazia and South Ossetia came into Russia’s sphere of influence, while “core Georgia” (as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described it) made major strides toward integration into the EU and NATO. Tbilisi received an “enhanced cooperation” package from NATO and signed an association agreement with the EU, and Georgian citizens were granted visa-free entry to the Schengen zone.

Talks have been underway between representatives of Georgia and the two partially recognized republics since October 2008 within the framework of the Geneva International Discussions. Diplomats from the United States, the EU, and Russia, as well as officials from the UN and the OSCE, are also taking part in the consultations.

Read the full article here.

30 Years Later, ‘The Big Rally’ Is Little Remembered

By Gary Rosenblatt

Jewish Week/Times of Israel, November 15, 2017

If it had been up to the leaders of the American Jewish establishment, the largest demonstration for a Jewish cause in U.S. history would never have happened.

But thanks in large part to the vision, passion and sheer drive of Natan Sharansky, the iconic Prisoner of Zion who initiated the rally and worked tireless to galvanize the community, more than 250,000 people gathered on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall on a bright, frigid Sunday afternoon, Dec. 6, 1987, and made history.

The outpouring of solidarity with millions of Jews trapped in the Soviet Union, unable to practice their religion or emigrate to freedom, coincided with a summit the following day at the White House between President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev — a dramatic effort to pressure the Soviet president to open the gates of emigration.

Read the full article here.

Race to Aid Eastern Europe’s Forgotten Survivors

By Jane Ulman

Jewish Journal, November 16, 2017

In 1941, Iraida Solomonova, an 18-year-old slave laborer in Kuibyshev, U.S.S.R., was arrested by the NKVD, the Soviet secret police. She was tortured and jailed for a year.  She then spent 10 years in a Kazakhstan gulag, where she endured hard labor, hunger, insect infestations and malaria before exile to Siberia.

Now 93 and living in Kishinev, Moldova, Solomonova is a survivor of two heart attacks and suffers from hypertension and thrombophlebitis. She has difficulty walking and has not ventured outside for several years. Her gas stove leaks and her 1958 refrigerator needs replacing.

Solomonova is one of 1,000 or more people The Survivor Mitzvah Project hopes to help as the end of 2017 — the peak season for charitable giving — approaches. Zane Buzby, the project’s founder, is preparing the year’s final distribution of funds, poring over lists of Eastern European survivors who are new to the program or need additional assistance.

EU Parliament Hails Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova Reforms; Eyes Russia Pressure

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 15, 2017

European Parliament lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a resolution praising reforms in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova and said the three former Soviet republics could eventually be considered for membership in the European Union.

The resolution on November 15 also vowed to maintain "collective pressure on Russia to resolve the conflicts in eastern Ukraine, the occupied territories" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Transdniester.

The move by parliament members comes ahead of the 2017 Eastern Partnership summit scheduled for November 24 in Brussels. The partnership was created in 2009 to deepen EU ties with six Eastern European partners -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Read the full article here.

5 amazing discoveries from a trove of documents hidden during the Holocaust

By Josefin Dolsten

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 15, 2017

Last month, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research made an astonishing announcement: the discovery of 170,000 Jewish documents thought to have been destroyed during the Holocaust.

The papers, which date from the mid-18th century through World War II, survived destruction attempts by both the Nazis and the Soviets.

In 1941, as part of program to loot Jewish museums and institutions, the Nazis raided YIVO, which is now based in New York but then was headquartered in Vilna. A group of Jewish slave laborers called the “Paper Brigade” smuggled some books, papers and artwork into the Vilna ghetto — risking their lives in the process. After World War II, a non-Jewish Lithuanian librarian, Antanas Ulpis, hid the collection in the basement of a church amid a campaign by the Soviet government to rid the country of religion.

In 1991, the Lithuanian government said it found 150,000 documents that Ulpis had kept in the church, but the new discovery appears to surpass that collection both in terms of size and the condition of the documents, said Jonathan Brent, YIVO’s executive director.

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.