Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. October 19, 2018

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

Please see below for the links to this week's news updates.

Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. October 19, 2018

Dedication of the Frances Aaron Hess Memorial Library at the Institute for Modern Jewish Studies in Moscow
World Union for Progressive Judaism, October 18, 2018

On October Monday October 15th, the World Union, and its partners in the Institute for Modern Jewish Studies – Russian State  University, Abraham Geiger Kolleg, and Potsdam University – came together to dedicate and open the Frances Aaron Hess Memorial Library at the Institute.

Now in its third year of operations, 21 students are pursuing BA and MA degrees, with continued rabbinic certification studies, to serve as Russian-speaking Progressive Rabbis and Jewish Educators for the growing Progressive Jewish congregations across Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and more.

Below is the moving speech delivered by Dr. Alex Kagan, Rector of the Institute and Head of Global Strategic Planning for the World Union at the event, in the presence of distinguished guests including donors from the Hess family, students from the Institute, leaders from our partner institutions and Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President of the World Union.

Mail-Bomb Blast Leaves Russian Jewish Group Leader in Hospital in Kazan
RFERL, October 15, 2018

A businessman and Jewish civic group leader in Russia's Tatarstan region has been hospitalized along with his assistant after a package they received by mail exploded in his office.

The parcel exploded in Mikhail Skoblionok's office in Kazan early on October 15, the regional branch of the Investigative Committee said.

It said Skoblionok and his female assistant were hospitalized with burns and eye injuries.
The committee said it is investigating the blast as an attempted murder.

Skoblionok is president of the Jewish Cultural Autonomy, a local nongovernmental organization he has led since 2008.

Arkhangelsk Welcomes Russia's Northernmost Synagogue
By David Israel
The Jewish Press, October 14, 2018

North Star, Russia’s northernmost synagogue, was officially inaugurated in Arkhangelsk on Thursday, TASS reported. The new synagogue is housed in a three-story building, which hosts a Jewish cultural center with a concert hall and classrooms.

Arkhangelsk is a city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, in the north of European Russia. It lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina River near its exit into the White Sea, and spreads along the banks of the river and the numerous islands of its delta.

As of the 2010 Census, the city’s population was 348,783, down from 356,051 recorded in the 2002 Census, and further down from 415,921 recorded in the 1989 Census.

Despite Rise in Aliyah from Russia, Overall Numbers Slightly Down in 2018
By Cnaan Lipshiz
JTA, October 12, 2018

Jewish immigration to Israel dropped slightly in the first eight months of 2018 over the corresponding period last year, despite a 35 percent increase in traffic from Russia.

The 1% overall drop owed to a decrease in immigration from countries with major Jewish populations, including Ukraine – which saw an 8% drop to 4,094 immigrants in 2018 – and France, which dropped by 31% to 1,862 newcomers between January 1 and Sept. 1, an interim report by the Jewish Agency for Israel showed.

By contrast, aliyah from Russia leapt to 6,331 newcomers in the first trimesters of 2018 compared to 4,701 in that period in 2017.

The Bosnians who Speak Medieval Spanish
By Susanne Zaraysky
BBC, September 18, 2018

On our way to Sarajevo's Ashkenazi Synagogue for the Friday evening Shabbat (Sabbath) service, my friend Paula Goldman and I walked down cobblestone streets through the Baščaršija, the old Ottoman area of the city, passing mosques, shops and a madrasa (Islamic school). It was the year 2000, and the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina still bore the scars of the Balkans War. A Nato tank rolled by as we crossed the Miljacka river.

As we entered the second floor of the salmon-coloured stone building with its four onion-shaped domes, light flooded through doors set with stained glass images of the Star of David and into the synagogue. We took our seats among the congregation as cantor David Kamhi took his place in front of the ark that held the Torah (a scroll containing the Five Books of Moses). Soon, the synagogue filled with the harmonies of prayer. Paula and I looked at each other strangely when we heard ‘Adonaj es mi pastor. No mankare de nada’ (The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want) from Psalm 23 recited in what we thought was Spanish. After the service, I asked Blanka Kamhi, the cantor’s wife, why the congregation was praying in Spanish.

Meet the Ambassador: Marek Magierowski, of Poland
By Greer Fay Cashman
Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2018

He’s been an ambassador for barely four months – not just to Israel, but in general. Marek Magierowski, the 47-year-old ambassador of Poland admits that he’s still learning.

It was not an ideal period for a novice ambassador from Poland to come to Israel, when a plethora of misunderstandings – fueled by years of preconceptions and misconceptions, and topped by legislation which is largely perceived by Jews as being antisemitic – is causing so many rifts and negative undercurrents.

Magierowski, whose CV includes having been spokesman and head of President Andrzej Duda’s press office, readily admits that there were and are antisemites in Poland, but insists that the country itself is not antisemitic.

Late Polish-Jewish WWII Resistance Fighter Awarded State Honor
Radio Poland, October 15, 2018

The family of Leon Felhendler was given the Commanders Cross of the Polonia Restituta Order by Wojciech Kolarski on behalf of the Polish president at the museum which stands at the site of the former Nazi Sobibor extermination camp in eastern Poland.

In a letter marking the occasion, Polish President Andrzej Duda said the armed revolt, which allowed some 300 prisoners to escape the camp, was one of the biggest Jewish uprisings of World War II.

Felhendler is credited with devising an escape plan in 1943 with Red Army prisoner-of-war Alexander Pechersky, who arrived in September in a transport from Minsk. The pair wanted to kill the camp's personnel, raid the arsenal, and fight their way out the camp.

Excavation of Lithuania's Great Synagogue Highlights a 'Painful Page' from History
By Lucian Kim
NPR, October 16, 2018

For decades, the principals at a boxy, two-story kindergarten in downtown Vilnius, Lithuania's capital, unwittingly pored over their lesson plans just a few feet above one of the city's most sacred sites.

Today there is a gaping 10-foot hole in what used to be the principal's office, exposing masonry that once was the back of the bimah, the central platform from where the Torah was read in the city's 17th century Great Synagogue. A team of archaeologists from Lithuania, Israel and the U.S. made the discovery this summer.

"I was relieved because now we know that there is something left," said Justinas Racas, one of the archaeologists who dug up the bimah. "The Great Synagogue was one of the biggest buildings in the Old Town — and one of the oldest. It's very important — not only for Jews but all people living in Lithuania."

Ukraine, anti-Semitism, Racism, and the Far Right
By Adrian Karatnycky
Atlantic Council, October 16, 2018

October 14 saw the latest in a string of annual mass marches by the far right in Ukraine. As many as 10,000 people participated, mainly young men, chanting fiercely. A nighttime torchlight parade with signs proclaiming “We’ll return Ukraine to Ukrainians,” contained echoes of Nazi-style symbolism.

Lax law enforcement and indifference by the security services to the operations of the far right is being noticed by extremists from abroad who are flocking to Ukraine. German media reported the presence of the German extreme right (JN-NPD, Dritte Weg) at the rally. According to Ukrainian political analyst Anton Shekhovtsov, far-right Norwegians, Swedes, and Italians were supposed to be there too. And on October 15, they all gathered in Kyiv for the Paneuropa conference organized by the Ukrainian neo-Nazi National Corps party. "Kyiv," says Shekhovtsov, "has now become one of the major centers of European far-right activities."

Romanian PM Consider Moving Embassy to Jerusalem
Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2018

Bucharest, Oct 12 (TNS) - Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Teodor Melescanu said on Friday that the Ministry has completed the analytical report on the potential relocation of Romania's Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and referred the document the Premier.

The Romanian Government will next send it to the Presidency and the Speakers of the two Chambers of Parliament, Melescanu said.represent serious threats to their security. Faced with such challenges, the Baltic nations will continue to develop as many political, economic and military partnerships as possible to ensure their hard-earned independence becomes the norm — instead of the exception — in a history marked by so much turbulence.

[Link to pdf of full articles]
1120 20th Street NW, Ste. 300N Washington, DC 20036-3413
Telephone: +1 202 898 2500  |  ncsej@ncsej.org
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.