NCSEJ Attends 2nd Annual U.S. Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, DOJ Anti-Semitism Summit
July 15-18, 2019
 
 
 
 
July 17: NCSEJ CEO Mark B. Levin speaking at the second annual Ministerial on Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State on, 2019. (Credit: Dept. of State)
July 17: NCSEJ CEO Mark B. Levin speaking at the second annual Ministerial on Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State. (Credit: Dept. of State)

NCSEJ joined over 1,000 participants from around the world, including over 100 foreign government representatives, at the second U.S. Department of State Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom from July 16-18, 2019. NCSEJ CEO Mark B. Levin was invited to speak at the Ministerial and was joined by several prominent religious rights leaders for a panel on “Best Practices in International Religious Freedom Advocacy”.

Levin and Deputy Director Lesley Weiss met with senior government officials and NGO representatives over the course of the three-day conference, including: Mubariz Gurbanli (Chairman of the State Committee on Religious Associations of the Republic of Azerbaijan), David Zalkaliani (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia), Monika Krawczyk (Chairwoman of the Union of Religious Communities of Poland), Philip Reeker (Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia), Teodor-Viorel Meleşcanu (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania), Israel Katz (Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel), Oleg Kravchenko (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus), Emilia Kraleva (Deputy Foreign Minister of Bulgaria), Olena Zerkal (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine), U.S. Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Chris Coons (D-DE).
 
 
 
July 15: Survivor Irene Weiss reflects on the Holocaust.(Credit: Dept. of State)July 15: Survivor Irene Weiss reflects on the Holocaust.(Credit: Dept. of State)

Speakers included: Vice-President Mike Pence, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, and, Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Secretary Pompeo noted during the awards reception that this was the largest human rights gathering ever conducted at the U.S. State Department.

Irene Weiss, a survivor of Auschwitz and the mother of Deputy Director Lesley Weiss, spoke at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) at the Ministerial’s opening event. Mrs. Weiss was joined by other victims of religious persecution and together toured the museum. The event was organized jointly by U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and the USHMM.
 
 
 
July 15: U.S. Attorney General William Barr delivering opening remarks at the U.S. Department of Justice Summit on Combating Anti-Semitism. (Credit: Dept. of Justice)
July 15: U.S. Attorney General William Barr delivering opening remarks at the U.S. Department of Justice Summit on Combating Anti-Semitism. (Credit: Dept. of Justice)

Also on the opening day of the Ministerial, Mr. Levin and NCSEJ Program Associate David Pasmanik attended the U.S. Department of Justice Summit on Combatting Anti-Semitism. At the day-long summit, participants listened to panel discussions about how to effectively combat anti-Semitism, and heard speeches from high-ranking U.S. government officials including: Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr.

The DOJ sessions included panels on “Combatting Anti-Semitism While Respecting the First Amendment”, “Anti-Semitism on Campus”, “Administration Leadership Discussion on Efforts to Combat Anti-Semitism”, and “Prosecuting Hate Crimes”. During the “Prosecuting Hate Crimes” panel, federal law enforcement officials discussed the challenges of combatting an increasing wave of domestic anti-Semitism, and touched on how the Department of Justice has opened up new channels between the FBI and social media companies to help coordinate and disseminate information regarding violent hate groups.
 
 
 
July 17: Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair gives remarks at the Ministerial.
July 17: Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair gives remarks at the Ministerial.

Numerous side events related to the Ministerial were held around Washington over the course of the week. NCSEJ staff, including Program Associate David Pasmanik and Atlas Corps Research Fellow Bella Goldshtein, attended several of these panel events.


On Monday, July 15, NCSEJ Atlas Fellow Bella Goldshtein attended “Beyond Legislation: Transnational Strategies for Countering Religious Persecution”. Panelists included Canadian MP David Anderson, International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief chair and Canada’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Human Rights and Religious Freedom; Farahnaz Ispahani, former Pakistani MP and Senior Fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute; and Sharon Nazarian, Senior Vice President for International Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League. The event focused on the role parliaments and advocacy organizations play in building a robust transnational response to the increasing spike in religious persecution worldwide.
 
 
 
July 17: CEO Mark Levin with Foreign Minister of Georgia David Zalkaliani in the Ben Franklin Room at the State Department.
July 17: CEO Mark Levin with Foreign Minister of Georgia David Zalkaliani in the Ben Franklin Room at the State Department.

The same day, Ms. Goldshtein attended the Religious Freedom Institute’s report launch entitled "Surveying the Landscape of International Religious Freedom Policy”. The event also included remarks by Canadian MP David Anderson, and closing remarks by Thomas Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute.

On Tuesday, July 16, Pasmanik attended “Building A Strategic Partnership to Advance FoRB in Kazakhstan”, hosted at George Washington University and organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan. At the event, representatives from Kazakhstan spoke about their country’s future initiatives to encourage religious freedom of belief. Starting this fall, the Kazakh government will be hosting several religious roundtables in three major Kazakh cities to further religious dialogue and understanding.
 
 
 
July 17: Monika Krawczyk, Chairwoman of the Union of Religious Communities of Poland, with Deputy Director Lesley Weiss at the State Department.
July 17: Monika Krawczyk, Chairwoman of the Union of Religious Communities of Poland, with Deputy Director Lesley Weiss at the State Department.

On Wednesday, July 17, Pasmanik attended a panel on “Quantifying Religious Freedom: A 10-Year Global Analysis of Pew Research”. During the panel, Kristina Arriaga from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom praised NCSEJ’s efforts to free Soviet Jewry from behind the iron curtain as a foundational and inspirational movement to the world religious freedom movement. The panel focused on the increasing trend of both government and societal limitations on religious freedom – a trend that is increasing at a consistent rate in all regions throughout the world.
 
 
 
Report prepared by David Pasmanik, NCSEJ Program Associate
 
 
 
 
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About NCSEJ
 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. 
 
 
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