Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. April 25, 2019

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

The update this week includes a couple of interesting stories about Volodymyr Zelensky’s landslide victory on April 21 over incumbent Petro Poroshenko, to win Ukraine’s presidency. In Sunday’s runoff election, Zelensky won 73% of the votes, after gaining a strong 30% plurality of votes in the first round of elections on March 31. Zelensky is expected to take office in early June. Just days after the election, President Vladimir Putin made the provocative move of offering Russian passports to residents of self-proclaimed republics Donetsk and Luhansk in war-torn areas of Eastern Ukraine.

Last Friday saw the disturbing enactment of an anti-Semitic ritual in a small town in Poland, where an effigy of Judas, represented by a stereotypical Jew, was hanged, burned and beaten. Bishop Rafal Markowski, the chairman of the Polish Church’s Committee for Dialogue with Judaism, resolutely condemned the incident, and Polish Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski called the ritual “idiotic, pseudo-religious chutzpah.” Yet later in the week, a far-right Polish politician used the incident to propagate a conspiracy theory, saying that the footage’s existence indicated that Poland is being spied on by Jews or Freemasons.

Prior to Passover, some 2,200 people gathered for Moscow’s thirteenth Limmud FSU, a series of educational conferences held worldwide on a broad array of Jewish topics, to encourage Jews to study and learn together. Supporters of the event included the Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), Nativ, the Claims Conference, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Finally, I’m happy to share with you a good human interest story from our friend and colleague Izabella Tabarovsky, a scholar with the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington. Her piece is a Passover story about a different exodus, of Jews from the Soviet Union, and of a modern-day miracle.

Keep your eye on NCSEJ’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages next week for scenes from seders across the Eurasian region. Until then, I want to wish everyone a joyous end to the Passover holiday.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. April 25, 2019

In a landslide vote, Ukraine elects first Jewish president
By Jackson Richman
JNS, April 22, 2019

In a landslide vote on Sunday, Ukraine elected its first Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, making the country the first outside of Israel that will have both a Jewish president and prime minister.

Zelensky, 41, a professional comedian with no political experience, defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko, 53, with 73 percent of the vote in the runoff election, according to national exit polls. He will be sworn in for a five-year term no later than June 3.

With two Jews in the country's top jobs, what is next for Ukraine?
By Sam Sokol
Jewish Chronicle, April 24, 2019

The election on Sunday of Volodymyr Zelensky as Ukrainian president helps demolish years of Russian propaganda portraying contemporary Ukraine as a hotbed of fascists and antisemites.

This was always a sweeping generalisation: in 2016, another Jew, Volodymyr Groysman, was appointed as prime minister and now, three years later, a Jewish candidate has won the presidency.

Jewish Human Rights Group Urges Russian Authorities to Investigate Antisemitic Attack on Moscow Yeshiva During Passover
Algemeiner, April 22, 2019

Antisemitic vandals in Moscow caused extensive damage but no injuries or fatalities when they attacked a yeshiva in the Russian capital last Friday night, as Jews around the world celebrated the Passover holiday.

A statement on Monday from NCSEJ — a Washington, DC-based human rights organization advocating on behalf of Jews in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union — said that the Torat Chaim Yeshiva in eastern Moscow suffered extensive damage after vandals lit a storage area on fire and scrawled antisemitic graffiti on the building.

Limmud FSU conference connects former Soviet Jews to their roots
By Peggy Cidor
Jerusalem Post, April 22, 2019

Some 2,200 people thirsty to learn about their Jewish heritage, including many not considered Jewish according to the Rabbinate, attended last weekend’s Limmud FSU conference in Moscow. The array of lectures, panels, performances and a children’s program aimed to reconnect Jews from the former Soviet Union with their culture largely destroyed in the USSR.

The conference held an exhibition marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of Moscow’s Torat Chaim Yeshiva by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz – the same seminary that was torched in an arson attack on Friday night. Keynote speakers included Russia’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, who reminded the audience that Steinsaltz was the first person to make Jewish studies accessible to any Jew in Russia.

Lithuania bans Holocaust denier David Irving for next 5 years
By Marcy Oster
JTA, April 25, 2019

British Holocaust denier David Irving has been barred from entering Lithuania for the next five years.The ban, announced on Wednesday, was requested by the country’s Foreign Ministry, according to reports.

“Irving’s views and his efforts to trivialize the Holocaust are unacceptable and constitute a crime in Lithuania,” ministry spokeswoman Rasa Jakilaitiene told reporters.

Community leaders say ‘first’ Warsaw Ghetto seder no different from all others
By Yaakov Schwartz
Times of Israel, April 24, 2019

On Friday, hundreds gathered for what was claimed to be the first seder held on the grounds of the former Warsaw Ghetto since the Nazis razed it in 1943 – but, it turns out, though the seder was indeed a memorable one, it wasn’t unprecedented. In fact, it wasn’t even technically held within the former ghetto perimeter.

Conducted on April 19, the 76th anniversary of the onset of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which notably also fell out on the seder eve in 1943, this year’s Passover celebration was hosted by Warsaw’s Chabad-Lubavitch movement in the city’s Hilton hotel. Hundreds of people attended, and the event was, by all accounts, a success.

But the Hilton is not located in the former ghetto itself — though the building does overlook its border. Furthermore, according to several community leaders, there have been public seders held on the grounds of the former ghetto during and after the decades of Poland’s communist rule, which collapsed in 1989.

Polish church condemns beating of Jewish effigy in Poland
AP, April 22, 2019

WARSAW, Poland — The Catholic Church in Poland poured scorn Monday on an anti-Semitic ritual enacted over the Easter holiday that involved an effigy of Judas represented by a stereotypical Jew being hanged, burned and beaten.

Residents, among them children, beat and burned the effigy in Pruchnik, a small town in southeast Poland, on Good Friday. The figure represented Judas, the disciple of Christ who betrayed him according to the New Testament.

Effigy incident shows Jews or Freemasons spying on Poland, far-right politician says
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, April 24, 2019

A far-right Polish politician said that footage of locals beating an effigy of a Jew shows that his country is being spied on by Jews or Freemasons.

Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a former lawmaker in the European Parliament and leader of Poland’s small Liberty Party, aired his conspiracy theory earlier this week while commenting on reports in the Israeli media…

Korwin-Mikke in a live-streamed conversation singled out Jonny Daniels, the Israeli-British founder of the Holocaust commemoration group From the Depths, as a foreign agent “sent here to spy, perhaps working for Freemasons.” The topic he was discussing is the media coverage of Friday’s event in Pruchnik.

Read the full article here.

Romanian state museum director pens anti-Semitic conspiracy theory
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, April 23, 2019

The head of Romania’s state-funded Bucharest Municipality Museum published an op-ed that critics said promotes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Andrei Majuru, the director of the prestigious museum on history and art, suggested in his April 20 op-ed in the Adevarul newspaper that Romanian society is being ruined by descendants of the Khazars, an extinct Asian kingdom that according to one discredited theory had converted to Judaism.

They act “very subtly through disguise and substitution,” he wrote, citing separatist sentiments by Hungarian-speaking Romanians known as Székelys. They are “not ethnic Hungarians, but ‘neo-Jews,’” he wrote.

Read the full article here.

Putin denies Russia is provoking Ukraine with rebel passports move
By Holly Ellyatt
CNBC, April 25, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended a provocative decision to grant Russian passports to disputed rebel-held regions in east Ukraine, saying he doesn’t see what the problem is.

He said the decision was no different from what European states did. Speaking to reporters at the end of a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Putin said that both Romania and Hungary grant citizenship to their own ethnic kin living outside their borders, Reuters reported.

The liberation fight for Soviet Jews was a miracle. Most of us didn’t know about it.
By Izabella Tabarovsky
JTA, April 24, 2019

In 1989, as the Soviet bloc was falling apart at the seams, the sea parted for our family, and we, along with 2 million other Soviet Jews, walked to freedom.

This modern-day Exodus, which writer Cynthia Ozick described as one of the “great liberation strivings of the twentieth century” along with the civil rights movement in America and the end of apartheid in South Africa, was the culmination of a 25-year struggle by the global Jewish community in which American and Israeli Jewry played a leading role.

[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.