Weekly Top 10
 
 
 
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. February 15, 2019
 

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties
 

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

Dear Friend,

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill that would impose stiff sanctions on Russia for its meddling in U.S. elections and aggression in Ukraine. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez introduced the bill with support from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The sanctions would target Russian banks, the country’s cyber sector, and individuals deemed to “facilitate illicit and corrupt activities.”


NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss and I joined our colleagues from other American Jewish organizations for a meeting at the State Department with recently appointed U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr. The participants discussed the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe and the threats facing Jewish communities globally. 


On Wednesday, NCSEJ Chairman Daniel Rubin, Deputy Director Lesley Weiss, and I met with Bulgarian Ambassador to the United States Tihomir Stoytchev at the Bulgarian Embassy. Ambassador Stoytchev highlighted developments in Bulgarian-American and Bulgarian-Israeli relations, as well as his government’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism. 


This week, the United States and Poland co-hosted a Middle East conference in Warsaw to discuss the threat posed by Iran to the region. In his remarks before the opening of the conference, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the issue of Holocaust-era restitution. Pompeo stated, “I urge my Polish colleagues to move forward with comprehensive private property restitution legislation for those who lost property during the Holocaust era.” 


On Saturday, hundreds of neo-Nazis marched through Budapest in a demonstration that has occurred annually since 1997. In Sofia, Bulgaria, a neo-fascist march is planned for Saturday to commemorate Hristo Lukov, the leader of a pro-Nazi movement in the country during the Second World War. Even though the mayor of Sofia has banned the demonstration, it is likely to take place as the country’s courts have repeatedly overturned the ban over the last sixteen years. A counter-protest “No to Nazis on Our Streets” is scheduled to begin on Saturday, February 16 several hours before the Lukov March commences. 


On Thursday, I participated in the memorial service for Lyudmila Alexeyeva at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Alexeyeva was a Russian human right activist and a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), former U.S. Ambassador to Russia John F. Tefft, and former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Daniel Fried praised Alexeyeva for her life’s work and commitment to human rights. 


The National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry has joined over three dozen organizations in supporting combatantisemitism.org, a new online effort to increase awareness about global anti-Semitism. Please join NCSEJ in adding your name to the already 31,000 who have signed up to support this initiative. To join, please sign up at combatantisemitism.org.


Sincerely,
 
 
Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
NCSEJ WEEKLY TOP 10
Washington, D.C. February 15, 2019

World Jewish Congress Sounds Alarm on Proliferation of Neo-Nazi Marches Across Europe
WJC, February 14, 2019

The World Jewish Congress is extremely concerned by the recent and repeated proliferation of neo-Nazi marches across Europe, which draw a broad range of international supporters in a show of solidarity with local demonstrators, united by an agenda of antisemitism, hatred, xenophobia, and Nazi glorification.
  
“It is absolutely abhorrent that in 2019 in Europe, the very place in which the Nazis attempted to wipe out the entire population of Jewish men, women, and children, far-rightists continue to parade unfettered through the streets with swastikas, SS symbols, and messages of hatred for Jews and other minorities,” said WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer.
 
“If this were just an isolated phenomenon, reserved for a single city or country, the repercussions would already be extremely worrisome. But the reality is that the marches are taking place repeatedly and far too frequently in cities across the continent, often on a regular basis,” Singer said. “These demonstrations cannot and must not be tolerated by any defender of democracy and tolerance, or indeed, by anybody who strives for a safe and secure Europe. We must remember clearly and vividly the dangers that arise when such demonstrations are allowed to proceed, drawing in masses with their messages of hate and violence.” 




U.S. Vice President Mike Pence Makes His First Auschwitz Visit
By Vanessa Gera
Associated Press, February 15, 2019


U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited the memorial site of Auschwitz on Friday along with the Polish president and Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, viewing a train car, crematoriums and the hair of victims that make it such a powerful testament to the evil that befell Europe in the last century.

It was the first visit for Pence, a conservative Christian, to the site where German forces murdered 1.1 million people, most of them Jews but also Poles, Roma and others, during the Nazis’ occupation of Eastern Europe during World War II.

Pence and his wife Karen were joined by Polish President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda.


‘No to Nazis on Our Streets’ Protest to Be Held Against Lukov March in Bulgaria on February 16
The Sofia Globe, February 15, 2019


A protest entitled “No to Nazis on our Streets” is to be held in Sofia on February 16 as a counter to the Lukov March scheduled for the Bulgarian capital city that day.

The protest will be held at 2pm, with the square in front of the Central Mineral Baths as the meeting point. The Lukov March is scheduled to start at 5pm.

The organisers of the “No to Nazis on our Streets”, Antifa Sofia, said that “for 16 years in mid-February, Sofia has been the capital of neo-Nazism”.

“Nazis and fascists from all over Europe come to Bulgaria, to march together with their Bulgarian adherents in hour of an antisemitic general,” the statement said.


Poland Woos Trump with anti-Iran Conference, but Risks Alienating Other Allies
By Vanessa Gera
Associated Press, February 11, 2019


The Polish government has joined forces with the United States to co-host an international conference on the Middle East, hoping to strengthen its ties with Washington as its seeks greater protection from Russia.

But other longstanding relationships are being tested. Iran’s government, which views the conference as a hostile act, warns that there will be consequences for Poland. Some political observers also fear the Polish government is risking greater isolation in Europe by aligning itself with Washington on an issue where the key European powers strongly oppose U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies.

“What worries me is that the Polish government is putting its eggs almost completely in Trump’s basket. Not even the U.S. basket, but Trump’s basket. The bet on Trump goes quite far,” said Piotr Buras, the director of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “All of this is at the expense of relations with EU partners, and even at the expense of NATO unity.”


‘Banderite’ Rebrand: Ukrainian Police Declare Admiration for Nazi Collaborators to Make a Point
By Christopher Miller
RFERL, February 12, 2019


Across social media, Ukrainian police and law enforcement officials are apologizing for one officer's slur aimed at far-right ultranationalists and making it known: They, too, are "#Banderites." Or, to be clear, supporters of militant Ukrainian nationalists who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.

National Police chief Serhiy Knyazev says he is one. So does Interior Ministry and National Police spokesman Artem Shevchenko. Interior Ministry adviser Zoryan Shkyryak is, too.

From the top on down, cops and their bosses are lining up to air their admiration for Stepan Bandera, a hero to many Ukrainians whose Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its military arm, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), fought both Soviet and Nazi forces during World War II but is also accused of carrying out murderous campaigns against Poles and Jews.*


Mike Pompeo in Poland Urges the Country to Pass Holocaust Restitution Legislation  
By Marcy Oster
JTA, February 13, 2019


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the issue of Holocaust-era property restitution during his first official visit to Poland.

Poland is the only country in the European Union that has not passed comprehensive national legislation to return, or provide compensation for, private property confiscated by the Nazis or nationalized by the communist regime.

At a joint appearance Wednesday in Warsaw with the Polish minister of foreign affairs, Pompeo praised the U.S.-Poland relationship and the “indomitable Polish spirit.”

He also saluted Polish Jewish partisan Frank Blaichman, who immigrated to the United States after World War II and became a prosperous real estate developer in New York. Blaichman, who died in late December at 96, was “a testament to the resilience of the Polish people, Pompeo said.


U.S. Meeting on Middle East Brings Together Israel, Gulf Arab States
By Lesley Wroughton & Justin Pawlak
Reuters, February 13, 2019


A U.S.-sponsored Middle East conference aimed at building a coalition against what Washington sees as the threat posed by Iran also produced signs of a warming of ties between Israel and some Arab countries on Wednesday.

Foreign ministers and other officials from more than 60 countries were gathering for the conference in Warsaw, which was starting on Wednesday evening and whose agenda included Iran, conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Israeli-Palestinian peace.

On the sidelines, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Oman’s foreign minister.
“Many are following this (Omani) lead, and may I say, including at this conference,” a video released by Netanyahu’s office showed him telling Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, whose Gulf state hosted the Israeli leader in October.
Read the full article here.

Russian-Speaking Teens Celebrate First Bar/Bat Mitzvah in 4 Generations
E Jewish Philanthropy, February 13, 2019

On Sunday, February 10th, the sanctuary at Anshe Chesed congregation filled to the brim with the parents, grandparents and close friends of a group of RSJ teens who read from the Torah for the first time in at least 4 generations.

“We didn’t just come to America to be free, we came to reconnect to our Jewish culture and traditions,” said Roman Shmulenson, executive director of COJECO. “Most families came to the United States as refugees, escaping official and unofficial anti-Semitism and persecution, and now, as they have fully immersed in the American society, they’re starting to reconnect with their heritage and their culture and traditions. We are hoping this is just the beginning of the journey.”
The B’Nai Mitzvah Group Ceremony was the culmination of a year long journey a group of Russian-Jewish families embarked on under COJECO’s guidance.



U.S. Senators to Try Again to Pass Russia Sanctions Bill
By Patricia Zengerle
Reuters, February 13, 2019

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill on Wednesday that would impose stiff new sanctions on Russia over its meddling in U.S. elections and aggression against Ukraine, the latest congressional effort to push President Donald Trump to ratchet up Washington’s response to Moscow.

It was introduced by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, as well as other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is a tougher version of legislation - dubbed the “sanctions bill from hell” by Graham - the two lawmakers backed last year but which failed to pass.

The new bill, which was first reported by Reuters, may have a better chance of passing Congress now, either as a whole or as amendments to other legislation, in the face of growing bipartisan anger over Russia’s interference in other countries’ affairs.


The Never Ending Fight to Honor 16,000 Jewish Victims of Russia’s Worst Holocaust Massacre
By Polina Efimova & Katerina Palin
Harretz, February 12, 2019


The Nazis executed an estimated 27,000 Jews, prisoners of war and others in Rostov-on-Don during their occupation, mowing down most of them in unmarked graves in an area in the western outskirts of town called Zmievskaya Balka (Snake Ravine) in August 1942.

Since 1975, a hulking monument has stood on the lonely grassy hillside to commemorate what is considered the worst Holocaust-era crime in Russia. To activists, the statue is cold and inhuman, as it offers visitors no insight into the individuals murdered nearby. Indeed, no signs mark the mass graves where they died, and many of the names of those exterminated have been lost to history.

Raksha is the self-described archivist of Rostov’s Jewish community. His congregation from Rostov’s Soldier Synagogue, along with the Russian Jewish Congress, has been working for years to compile a full list of the Rostov Holocaust victims so they could add them to the Soviet-era memorial already in place. So far, they have confirmed only around 6,000 names, mostly of Jewish victims, and have raised money to pay for a new plaque to display them.


Growing Concern Hungary’s Holocaust Museum Will Downplay Country’s Role in Jewish Persecution
By Gary Nguyen
World Religion News, February 11, 2019


A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill on Wednesday that would impose stiff new sanctions on Russia over its meddling in U.S. elections and aggression against Ukraine, the latest congressional effort to push President Donald Trump to ratchet up Washington’s response to Moscow.

It was introduced by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, as well as other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is a tougher version of legislation - dubbed the “sanctions bill from hell” by Graham - the two lawmakers backed last year but which failed to pass.

The new bill, which was first reported by Reuters, may have a better chance of passing Congress now, either as a whole or as amendments to other legislation, in the face of growing bipartisan anger over Russia’s interference in other countries’ affairs.


Leading European and Hungarian Rabbis Condemn Neo-Nazi Marches in Budapest
By Jeremy Sharon
The Jerusalem Post, February 12, 2019 

Jewish leaders in Hungary have spoken out against the failure of the government and police to stop the neo-Nazi marches which took place last Saturday in the capital of Budapest, drawing an estimated 2,800 far-right extremists bearing swastikas and other fascist symbols.

Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman criticized the Hungarian police for failing to stop the marches, while Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, described the “indifference” of the Hungarian authorities as “shocking.”

The marches, labeled the “Day of Honor,” commemorated the defeat of the German army and the armed forces of the fascist Hungarian Arrow Cross regime at the hands of the Soviet Red Army in February 1945, with participants honoring the memory of the Nazi and fascist forces which died in battle.


Finnish Soldiers Participated in Mass Murders of Jews During World War II, Report Finds
By Ofer Aderet
Haaretz, February 10, 2019

A report released Friday by the National Archives of Finland found that Finnish soldiers participated in mass murders of Jews, foreign civilians, and Russian prisoners of war during World War II.

The report concluded that 1,408 Finns volunteered in the Nazis’ Fifth SS Panzer Division (Wiking), and participated in massacres in Ukraine and the Caucasus between 1941 and 1943.

It’s hard to determine how many Jews and other people were murdered with the participation of Finnish soldiers, the report said, but the figure probably totals around 10,000 people. The massacres took place in dozens of cities, including Hrymailiv, Ozerna, Skalat, Tarnopol, Zboriv, Zolochiv, and Krivichi, mostly in the summer of 1941.

Read the full article here.
 
 
 
 
 
 
[Link to pdf of full articles]
 
 
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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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