Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. December 30, 2016

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties
FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Dear Friend,

Yesterday, the U.S. announced a new round of sanctions against Russia in response to the alleged hacking of the U.S. elections and harassment of U.S. diplomats in Russia. President Obama ordered 35 Russian diplomats declared persona non grata, and closed two Russian-operated facilities in Maryland and New York.

The Jewish Agency for Israel has released aliyah figures for 2016. A 10-year record 7,000 Jews from Russia made aliyah to Israel this past year, though aliyah from Ukraine slightly decreased from 2015. The Jewish Agency attributes the dip to increased stability since Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan revolution and conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

In Warsaw, for the first time in years, the government did not grant money to two major Jewish community groups as part of its annual allocations to religious minorities. The Polish Ministry of Interior and Administration did not allocate any funds for 2017 to the Jewish community of Warsaw or to the Association of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, the country’s primary Jewish communal umbrella group. Although funds will be allocated to other Jewish community groups, overall funding to religious minorities was reduced.

This past week marked the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Belavezha Accords, declaring the dissolution of the Soviet Union and establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Foreign Policy put together a special set of articles specifically looking back at and analyzing the past 25 years. The FP collection can be read here. Also of interest, Lev Golinkin provided his take on the current atmosphere in the U.S. in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, which can be found here.

We hope you will take advantage of the long weekend to look at all the interesting articles in this week’s update, including pieces on Chanukah celebrations across the region, President Obama approving a restructuring of international U.S. media, and U.S. Senators’ reassurances to the Baltics about NATO.

I would like to wish you all a happy and healthy new year, and if you haven’t had the chance, please see the attached link to make a donation before the year’s end.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. December 30, 2016

PM cancels visit of Ukrainian PM after Kiev supports anti-settlements resolution
By Raphael Ahren
Times of Israel, December 24, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday decided to cancel the upcoming visit of the Ukrainian prime minister as a consequence of Kiev voting in a favor of an anti-settlements resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

Volodymyr Groysman, who became Ukraine’s first Jewish prime minister earlier this year, was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Tuesday for a two-day visit that included meetings with Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other top officials.

Ukraine hints conflict with Russia led it to back UN measure
Times of Israel, December 26, 2016

Ukraine on Monday defended its decision to vote in favor of an United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements last week, apparently pointing to its own conflict with Russia as a driving force behind its decision.

Without explicitly mentioning the Russian annexation of Crimea and a civil war in the country’s east with Moscow-backed separatists, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said it “experienced itself the tragic consequences brought by” the violation of international law, effectively drawing a parallel between Israeli building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Russian policies.

Russia: We had doubts about UN draft, tried to delay vote
Times of Israel, December 27, 2016

Russian diplomat claimed Tuesday that his country had misgivings about the timing and content of last week’s United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

While Moscow supported the resolution, Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to Israel Alexander Dubrovin told Army Radio on Tuesday morning that his country tried to delay the vote but was opposed by the rest of the Security Council members.

Israel: US pressured Ukraine to support anti-settlement resolution
Times of Israel, December 28, 2016

An Israeli official said Wednesday that highest-level US administration officials phoned Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko directly to pressure him to support the United Nations Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements.

Major Polish Jewish groups denied government funding for minorities
JTA, December 27, 2016

For the first time in years, Poland did not grant money to two major Jewish community groups as part of its annual allocations for religious minorities.

As part of its annual funding of Polish minority groups, the Polish Ministry of Interior and Administration did not allocate any funds for 2017 to the Jewish community of Warsaw or to the Association of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, the country’s primary Jewish communal umbrella group. The ministry did allocate a total of $177, 113 to several other Jewish groups, down from $250,920 in 2016.

Read the full article here.

PJ Library families in Moscow receive free tickets to Jewish museum
JTA, December 25, 2016

About 2,000 Jewish families in Moscow will receive free tickets to the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center located in the Russian capital.

The families, subscribers to the PJ Library, a program providing free Jewish children’s books to families, which last year expanded to Russia, starting on the second day of Chanukah, or Monday, Dec. 26, will be able to download their free tickets from their personal page on the PJ Library website.
Read the full article here.

Ukrainian MP to propose moving Kiev's embassy to Jerusalem
By Tamara Zieve
Jerusalem Post, December 27, 2016

Jewish Ukrainian MP Alexander Feldman said Tuesday that he planned to put a new bill on the table at the Rada, proposing that Ukraine move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Read the full article here.

Aliyah dips 13% overall despite reaching 10 year high in Russia
JTA, December 29, 2016

Bucking a noticeable decrease in Jewish immigration to Israel this year, the number of Russian Jews who moved to the Jewish state has reached a 10-year record of 7,000 newcomers.

Overall, some 27,000 people moved to Israel this year under its Law of Return for Jews and their relatives, or made aliyah, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel, compared to 31,000 last year. This constitutes a 13-percent drop in aliyah overall.

Read the full article here.

140 Ukrainian olim land in Israel on ‘Freedom Flight’
By Tamara Zieve
Jerusalem Post, December 27, 2016

140 Ukrainian olim arrived at Ben Gurion Airport Tuesday morning, on a plane chartered by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), as part of its ‘Freedom Flight’ program.

The program began in December 2014, soon after the outbreak of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, with monthly aliya flights to rescue Jewish refugees from the war-torn Donbass region. IFCJ, however, swiftly expanded its aliya operation to include Jews from secure areas of Ukraine, as well as to many other countries around the world. The program provides the olim with guidance before and after aliya, in addition to financial and social support to help them integrate into their new country.

Russia Rejects Kerry’s Proposal for Quartet to Adopt U.S. Principles on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
By Barak Ravid
Haaretz, December 28, 2016

Haaretz learned Lavrov rejected request to adopt speech's proposals, citing need for direct talks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal that the Quartet – the United States, Russia, the UN and the European Union – adopt the principles he will present in his speech on the Israeli-Palestinian in Washington on Wednesday afternoon.

Rabbi Lazar makes offer to Putin to set up tolerance centers in other Russian cities along with Moscow
Interfax-Religion, December 28, 2016

Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to open other tolerance centers in Russian cities and hold an International Interreligious Forum in Russia.

Hannukah celebrated in parliament
Radio Poland, December 29, 2016

The Hanukkah Jewish holiday has been celebrated in the Polish Parliament building with the lighting of the menorah by Rabbi Shalom Ber Stambler from Chabad-Lubavitch Poland, and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ryszard Terlecki.

Read the full article here.

Moscow ORT Technology School Theatre Receives “Fiddler on the Roof” Award in Kremlin Ceremony
eJewishPhilanthropy, December 25, 2016

The most prestigious Award in the Russian Jewish community from the FJCR, “The Fiddler on the Roof, “went to the Moscow ORT technology school theatre studio “Sheket.” The annual ceremony took place Wednesday in the Kremlin.

In Warsaw, students flock to Hanukkah event following classmate’s anti-Semitism
By Cnaan Liphshiz
JTA, December 23, 2016

If a Polish ultranationalist student intended to delegitimize his university’s main Hanukkah event, his plan seems to have backfired.

On Monday, on the Facebook invitation for a Hanukkah event at the University of Warsaw, Konrad Smuniewski inveighed against “Jew communists” and called Judaism a “criminal ideology” of “racism, xenophobia and hatred.”

Hungarian rabbi spurns Hanukkah greetings from far-right party over anti-Semitism
JTA, December 29, 2016

A prominent rabbi from Budapest rejected an unusual Hanukkah greeting from the far-right Jobbik party, citing its alleged anti-Semitism.

Rabbi Slomo Koves, leader of the Orthodox Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, in an open letter Wednesday spurned the greeting his office received earlier this week from the party’s chairman, Gabor Vona.

Read the full article here.

Russia will not expel anyone in response to U.S. sanctions, Putin says
By Polina Devitt and Polina Nikolskaya
Reuters, December 30, 2016

President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would not expel anyone in response to Washington's decision to throw out 35 suspected Russian spies and sanction intelligence agencies it believes were involved in computer hacking in the 2016 presidential election.
Read the full article here.

Russian Military Plane Crashes in Black Sea en Route to Syria, 92 Dead
Moscow Times, December 25, 2016

A Tu-154 passenger aircraft belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry has crashed in the Black Sea near Sochi, a source in the ministry confirmed to the Interfax news agency.

All 92 people on board, including 8 crew, are presumed dead. The plane, en route to Syria, was carrying military personnel, journalists and musicians due to perform at a New Year’s concert for servicemen at the Hmeymim miltary base. It had taken off from the Chalovsky military airport in Moscow at 1.30am local time, and stopped to refuel at Sochi-Adler airport.

Read the full article here.
Obama Signs New Law Restructuring U.S. International Media
RFE/RL, December 24, 2016

U.S. President Barack Obama has approved legislation that would consolidate oversight of U.S. nonmilitary broadcasting in the hands of a single chief executive, an overhaul that supporters laud as a much-needed reform but critics warn could endanger journalistic independence.

Read the full article here.
Kazakhstan Names New Foreign, Economy Ministers
RFE/RL, December 28, 2016

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has replaced the country's foreign and economy ministers.

The presidential press service said on December 28 that Kairat Abdrakhmanov has been named foreign minister, replacing Yerlan Idrissov.

Read the full article here.
Senators Reassure Wary Baltic Nations That U.S. Won’t Abandon NATO
By Sewell Chan
New York Times, December 27, 2016

Three American senators arrived in Tallinn, Estonia on Tuesday to reassure the Baltic nations that the United States remained committed to their defense and to the NATO alliance.

The visit by the senators — John McCain, Republican of Arizona; Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina; and Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota — came as Estonia and other former Soviet republics that are now members of NATO have grown apprehensive over whether President-elect Donald J. Trump will uphold longstanding American commitments to the alliance.
Czech Republic to fight 'fake news' with specialist unit
By Robert Tait
Guardian, December 28, 2016

The Czech government is to set up a specialist “anti-fake news” unit as officials attempt to tackle falsehoods, predominantly about migrants, which they claim are spread by websites supported by the government of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Ukrainians Reflect Bitterly On 'Betrayed Hopes' Of Euromaidan
By Christopher Miller
RFE/RL, December 29, 2016

Between classes in Kolkata, India, 17-year-old Svyatoslav Yurash was glued to a video stream of almost a million of his compatriots rallying in Ukraine's capital when he decided to join the protest that would soon swell into a revolt.

The night before in Kyiv -- on November 30, 2013 -- hundreds of demonstrators, most of them students, had been bludgeoned by riot police. The idealistic Yurash couldn't stand by any longer. He flew home and rushed to Independence Square -- better known as simply the Maidan. Soon, he would launch the influential Euromaidan PR agency that amplified voices from the barricades in half a dozen or so languages across almost as many platforms.
A Flashback to My Soviet Childhood
By Lev Golinkin
New York Times, December 28, 2016

The gas masks given to me and other Soviet first graders in 1987 were hand-me-downs from World War II, made of stiff rubber and too big for our faces. They trapped moisture and reduced the world to two blurry circles bouncing in front of my face. Our teacher didn’t tell us about the gas mask drill ahead of time — she simply handed out the masks, and we blindly paraded around the school before going back to our lessons. None of us bothered to ask why we were training. There was no need.
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Founded in 1971, NCSEJ 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.