Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. July 7, 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, Lviv Jewish community representatives publicly appealed to local authorities to take action in response to recent anti-Semitic incidents, including anti-Semitic graffiti and a firebomb attack on a synagogue. NCSEJ has sent a letter to the Mayor of Lviv urging greater efforts to find those responsible for the desecration of Jewish sites.

As we send this update, President Trump and President of Russia Vladimir Putin will be concluding their first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the G20 conference in Hamburg, Germany. In this week’s update, we share with you two articles analyzing expectations and possible outcomes from the meeting. The meeting with Putin comes after President Trump’s visit to Poland where he delivered a speech in Warsaw, highlighting the steadfastness of U.S.-Poland relations and emphasizing the importance of Poland’s place in Europe and its resilience in the face of existential threats to its statehood.

NCSEJ is following these events closely and will include assessments of the talks and G20 conference in next week’s update. We will also update you on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Kyiv, scheduled for Sunday, July 9.

Israeli-Hungarian relations have eased after the Hungarian government offered clarification on Prime Minister Orban’s praise of a Nazi collaborator. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to visit Hungary later this month.

We also share with you an interesting piece in which Azeri Ambassador to the U.S. Elin Suleymanov discusses his country’s strong connection to the local Jewish community.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. July 7, 2017

Firebomb hurled at Ukrainian synagogue

JTA, July 4, 2017

Unidentified individuals hurled a firebomb at a synagogue in Lviv and, in a separate incident, wrote anti-Semitic slogans on another Jewish community building in the western Ukrainian city.

The incident involving a firebomb occurred on June 30 but was discovered only Monday, according to the Strana news website. The perpetrators may have aimed the firebomb at a window of the synagogue on Mikhovsky Street but missed it, hitting the building facade, the director of the Chesed-Arieh Jewish group, Ada Dianova, told Strana.

The contents of the firebomb fell to the foot of the building and burned there, resulting in no damage to the interior, she added. No one was hurt in the incident.

Read the full article here.

Stakes are high for Trump’s meeting with Putin. Here’s what to expect.

By Brian Bennett

Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2017

The White House confirmed only on Tuesday that the most highly anticipated meeting of President Trump’s tenure — with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin — will take place Friday in Germany. But among advisors mindful of the many pitfalls, both domestic and global, preparations have been intense for some time.

The meeting of the two presidents, whose mutual admiration during the 2016 American presidential campaign stoked allegations of collusion that are now at the center of a criminal investigation in Washington, is certain to be a highlight of a summit of the world’s 20 wealthiest countries starting Thursday in Hamburg.

With issues of North Korea’s continued nuclear threats, Syria, Islamic State and global terrorism on the agenda — and Trump’s political future on leaders’ minds — the eyes of the world are trained toward the two men’s meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit.

Read the full article here.

For Russia, Trump-Putin Meeting is a Sure Winner

By Neil MacFarquhar

New York Times, July 6, 2017

MOSCOW — With the long-awaited first meeting between President Vladimir V. Putin and President Trump finally in sight, the Kremlin is hoping at a minimum to inject some clarity into a relationship so far marred by contradictions, anxiety, scattered recriminations and, on occasion, astonishing bonhomie.

“As for the policy of the U.S. administration, we have to understand first what it will involve,” Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, said last week in Moscow at a conference of foreign policy experts from both countries. “This is what we are actually trying to do, in an utmost active manner, right now.”

Whatever the outcome of the encounter on Friday — which will be on the sidelines of the

Group of 20 summit meeting of world leaders in Hamburg, Germany, but is expected to overshadow it — the Kremlin is betting that Mr. Putin can stage-manage the event so that he comes out looking like the stronger party.

Read the full article here.

Trump, in Poland, Asks if West Has ‘Will to Survive’

By Glenn Thrush and Julie Hirschfield Davis

New York Times, July 6, 2017

WARSAW — President Trump said on Thursday that Western civilization was at risk of decline, bringing a message about “radical Islamic terrorism” and “the creep of government bureaucracy” to a European capital he views as hospitable to his nationalist message.

Mr. Trump, who broke with tradition by attacking American leaders and his country’s intelligence services while abroad, delivered his message in a speech to a friendly Polish crowd before a two-day summit meeting of Group of 20 leaders in Hamburg, Germany.

Hours later, he flew from Warsaw to Hamburg, where he held a low-key private meeting with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. She perhaps best symbolizes the deep skepticism shared by Western leaders toward Mr. Trump’s persona and his policies, ranging from addressing climate change to confronting Russia.

Read the full article here.

Israel accepts Hungary’s clarification over PM’s praise for Nazi-allied WWII leader

By Stuart Winer

The Times of Israel, July 2, 2017

Israel on Sunday indicated that all was forgiven after receiving an official explanation concerning Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s praise for Miklos Horthy, the World War II-era leader who allied Hungary with Nazi Germany leading to the deportation and murder of half a million Jews.

Orban’s statements, made during a speech he gave on June 21 in which he described Horthy and other Hungarian leaders as “exceptional statesmen” for leading the country after the traumatic disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I, raised the ire of Israeli officials and Jewish groups.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Hungary for a meeting with Orban on July 18 and the comments had created tension ahead of the visit.

Read the full article here.

Russia’s future looks bleak without political and economic reform

By Kenneth Rogoff

The Guardian, July 5, 2017

When the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, meets his US counterpart, Donald Trump, at this week’s G20 summit in Hamburg, he will not be doing so from a position of economic strength. To be sure, despite the steep drop in oil prices that began three years ago, Russia has managed to escape a deep financial crisis. But while the economy is enjoying a modest rebound after two years of deep recession, the future no longer seems as promising as its leadership thought just five years ago. Barring serious economic and political reform, that bodes ill for Putin’s ability to realise his strategic ambitions for Russia.

Read the full article here.

Russia Sent 2,500 Troops to Its Border Near Latvia and Estonia Amid Fears of Conflict and Annexation

By Damien Sharkov

Newsweek, July 5, 2017

Russia has called 2,500 troops to an airborne military drill in its Pskov region, bordering NATO allies Latvia and Estonia, state news agency Itar-Tass reported on Wednesday. The drill will involve 40 aircraft, with airborne troops practicing landing in unfamiliar lands. The exercises were described as “counterrorist” drills.

Concern has been mounting for years among some European officials over whether Russia could strike the Baltics following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The sizeable exercise of Russia’s elite paratrooper division (VDV) is set to take place off the town of Kislovo, less than 50km from Russia’s border with Estonia, around the base of the very unit that reportedly endured heavy losses in Ukraine in 2014. The disappearance of the Pskov soldiers, reported killed, was one of the first high-profile pieces of evidence that Russian forces had entered Ukraine.

Read the full article here.

U.S. Taps Ex-NATO Ambassador As Special Ukraine Envoy

By Christopher Miller

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, July 7, 2017

KYIV -- The United States has tapped its former U.S. ambassador to NATO as a special envoy to negotiate over the fate of war-racked Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on July 7 announced that Kurt Volker, who served as Washington’s NATO ambassador under the previous two U.S. administrations, will “take responsibility for advancing U.S. efforts to achieve the objectives” of a peace deal known as the Minsk agreements, which has yet to stop hostilities.

"Kurt's wealth of experience makes him uniquely qualified to move this conflict in the direction of peace," Tillerson said in a statement. "The United States remains fully committed to the objectives of the Minsk agreements, and I have complete confidence in Kurt to continue our efforts to achieve peace in Ukraine."

Read the full article here.

U.S. Top Diplomat to Visit Kyiv

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, July 5, 2017

The United States has confirmed that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will make his first official visit to Kyiv on July 9 and hold talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

The State Department said on July 5 that Tillerson will also meet with “young reformers from government and civil society” in the Ukrainian capital.

During his visit, the secretary of state will “reaffirm America’s commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, while encouraging the government of Ukraine to continue implementing reforms that will strengthen Ukraine’s economic, political, and military resilience,” a statement said.

Read the full article here.

Azerbaijani Ambassador about his country’s unshakable bond with the Jewish people

News.Az, July 1, 2017

“There’s no way it can be done,” the man whispered cautiously to his visitor. “You’ll never get away with it, and everyone involved will be sent to the gulag, if not executed outright!” But the visitor, a rabbi from the city of Quba in Azerbaijan, would not relent. “Please!” he implored. “There must be some way for us to obtain matzah. For many of the Jews living here, this is all they have left. Take it away from them and they will have nothing. As a man of G-d, I beg you to work with us.” The man behind the desk, Major General Heydar Aliyev, First Secretary of the Communist Party in Azerbaijan and the Soviet Union’s highest–ranking Muslim, considered the request. Shortly afterwards, an ordinance was passed shutting down the country’s largest bread manufacturing plant for one day a year. Subsequently, shrouded in secrecy but with a nod and a wink from Aliyev, enough matzah was produced every year to satisfy the community’s needs. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Aliyev went on to become the democratically elected president of the country, a post he would occupy for a decade. Throughout his tenure he solidified relationships between the government and citizens of all ethnic backgrounds and religions. To this day his name is still spoken with the utmost reverence.

Read the full article here.

Deaths of Azerbaijan villagers brings new all-out war fears

By Aida Sultanova

Associated Press, July 6, 2017

ALKHANLI, Azerbaijan — At the spot in an Azerbaijani front-line village where a woman and her 16-month-old granddaughter died this week in shelling, a few residents were gathered to mourn. As a delegation of international military attaches and journalists approached, some of the residents shouted that only full-out war could truly free them.

The deaths of 52-year-old Sahiba Guliyeva and granddaughter Zahra on Tuesday were the latest bloodshed in the decades-long “frozen conflict” over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan under the control of forces that claim to be local ethnic Armenians; Azerbaijan claims the forces include regular Armenian military.

Those forces took control of the region and some surrounding territories in a separatist war that was supposed to be halted by a 1994 cease-fire, but that left the sides facing off across a demilitarized buffer zone. Outbursts of fighting are frequently reported by both sides.

Read the full article here.

More than 300 Jews Take Part in Moldovan Limmud

By Jenni Frazer

Jewish News/Times of Israel, July 4, 2017


More than 300 young Russian-speaking Jews have taken part in a one-day annual Limmud FSU event in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.

It was the fourth such gathering in Moldova and the event has become one of the most eagerly anticipated for the country’s young people, many of whom are heavily involved in the renaissance of Moldovan Jewry.

Limmud FSU — founded just over 10 years ago — has formed a focus for young Jews who are eager to learn more about their roots and want to express their Jewish identity.

Read the full article here.

Bulgaria is a Step Closer to Full Membership of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance

The Sofia Globe, July 1, 2017

Bulgaria is a step closer to full membership of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Written by The Sofia Globe staff on July 1, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgaria is a step closer to full membership of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has decided to accept Bulgaria as a liaison country, the first state to take the next step towards full membership since 2009.

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.