Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. February 24, 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 in Poland, the City of Warsaw published a list of 48 Holocaust-era properties that survivors had previously claimed in property restitution suits dating back to the 1940s, opening a six-month window for survivors to reopen these claims. As the World Jewish Restitution Organization notes, if claimants do not take action on the property during this six-month period, the City will take permanent ownership. Over 2,500 properties in Warsaw are involved in the claims process. For a full list, including the 48 properties published this week, visit http://wjro.org.il/our-work/property-restitution-in-warsaw.

Also this week, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin passed away unexpectedly, after a 40 year career in Russian and Soviet diplomacy. In his stead, Russia elevated Deputy Ambassador Pyotr Ilyichev, a career diplomat, to the position of chief UN Ambassador.

In Ukraine, Chabad.org reports on the Jewish community’s welfare in the eastern city of Mariupol. The region has seen increased fighting in the last two weeks, in the two-and-a-half year old conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists. Amid ongoing rocket and mortar fire, the city and the Jewish community are trying to maintain normalcy. Many Jews have already left Mariupol; many of those who remain seem either determined to stay, despite the risk.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. February 24, 2017

Warsaw initiates 6-month deadline for renewing dormant restitution claims
JTA, February 22, 2017

The municipality of Warsaw published a list of 48 buildings claimed in now-dormant restitution suits, opening a six-month window for new claims under recent legislation. If no action is taken on the property before the deadline, it will be transferred permanently to the city, the World Jewish Restitution Organization, or WJRO, wrote in a statement Wednesday about the list.

Krakow JCC Poland receives grant to create pluralistic Jewish nursery school
JTA, February 20, 2017

The JCC of Krakow has received a $500,000 grant from the New York City-based Eric and Erica Schwartz Family Foundation, the largest single grant awarded to a Polish Jewish organization in the last 20 years.

The funds will support the creation of an Early Childhood Center at JCC Krakow located in Kazimierz, the heart of the city’s Jewish district. It will be the first full-time that a pluralistic Jewish nursery school will be open in Krakow since before World War II. The school is scheduled to open in fall 2017 with a soft opening earlier.

Read the full article here.

Neo-Nazi rally held in Bulgarian capital despite municipal ban
JTA, February 21, 2017

An annual neo-Nazi rally was held in the capital of Bulgaria despite a municipal ban. The Lukov March, which celebrates the Bulgarian alliance with Nazi Germany, went off as scheduled on Saturday night in Sofia despite the ban issued by Mayor Yordanka Fandakova.

Russia’s Chief Rabbi: No Such Thing as Religious Extremism
By David Israel
JewishPress, February 22, 2017

There is and there cannot be “religious extremism,” Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar on Tuesday told a meeting of the Interfaith Council of Russia, Jewish.Ru reported.

Rabbi Lazar noted that many faiths have in them followers who promote pseudo-religious extremism – the vile and cynical use of religious symbols for political purposes, which is fundamentally hostile to the true faith in God.

Read the full article here.

World Jewish Congress mourns death of Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to UN
WJC, February 22, 2017

Ambassador Churkin proudly represented his country in the United Nations and worked tirelessly to promote a better understanding between the American people and the people of Russia in a time of mounting tensions between the two countries.

Read the full article here.

Russia Appoints Temporary UN Ambassador
Moscow Times, February 24, 2017

Moscow has appointed Russian diplomat Pyotr Ilyichev acting head of its mission to the United Nations. The post has been vacant since the death of long-serving Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin on Feb. 20.

Read the full article here.

East Ukraine Jewish Community Faces Daily Artillery ‘Orchestra’ Once Again
By Dovid Margolin
Chabad.org, February 20, 2017

They hear Grad missiles when they walk to synagogue on Shabbat, at a Torah class, during a youth club meeting. At night, when they put their children to bed, tucking them in and saying everything will be alright, they hear heavy artillery then, too. For the Jewish community and general populace of Mariupol—a city in southeastern Ukraine that saw heavy fighting in the early days of the country’s war with Russian-backed separatists, but which has seen relative quiet in the last two years—what they darkly call the artillery “orchestra” has returned in the last two weeks, as has heavy fighting and increased casualties all along the frontlines that stretch through eastern Ukraine.

Read the full article here.

Aliyev Appoints Wife As First Vice President Of Azerbaijan
RFE/RL, February 21, 2017

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has appointed his wife as first vice president, a newly created post that puts her first in line to take over if the president dies or is incapacitated. Aliyev's order appointing his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, was posted on the presidential website on February 21.

Read the full article here.

Russian Supreme Court scraps conviction of opposition activist
By Aleksandar Vasovic and Svetlana Reiter
Reuters, February 22, 2017

Russia on Wednesday overturned the conviction of anti-Kremlin activist Ildar Dadin, who was the first person sent to jail under new rules that made staging some forms of non-violent protest a criminal offence. Dadin was sentenced in December 2015 to three years in jail - later reduced on appeal to two and a half years - for conducting a series of peaceful, one-man protests against Kremlin rule.

Read the full article here.

Uzbek dissident released after 18 years in prison
Reuters, February 22, 2017

Uzbek dissident Muhammad Bekjanov, one of the world’s longest-jailed journalists, was released from prison on Wednesday after serving 18 years in prison, his relatives and a local rights group said.

Bekjanov, 63, a former editor of the opposition newspaper Erk, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1999 on charges of publishing and distributing a banned newspaper, participating in a banned political protest, and plotting a coup.

Estonia marks Independence Day with military parade
AP, February 24, 2017

Estonia has marked its 99th anniversary of its declaration of independence with more than 1,000 troops from eight NATO nations parading and presenting military hardware on Friday, including two U.S. Abrams tanks that were displayed to the public for the first time.

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