Weekly Top 10
WASHINGTON, D.C. May 31, 2019

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

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

Dear Friend,

Less than two weeks after Ukraine’s inauguration of President Volodymyr Zelensky, he is already confronting challenges in his attempts to restructure his country’s government. Last week, Zelensky called for snap parliamentary elections, and Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman tendered his resignation. The new elections are scheduled for late July, but parliament on Thursday strongly rejected Groysman’s resignation, with only 97 of 450 members voting in favor of accepting it. Today, in a show of house cleaning, Zelensky fired the chief investigator of Ukraine’s security service.

On Monday, Latvia’s parliament elected Egils Levits, who has a Jewish background, as the country’s new president. A former European Court of Justice judge, Levits is an independent with a center-right political record. In an interview in April before the election, Levits opposed further property restitution to the Jewish community. He also  spoke in the interview about the murder of his father’s family by Nazi forces, and the deportation of his mother’s family by the Soviet regime. Today, he said, anti-Semitism in Latvia exists on “a groundwater level…[as] a part of the society that’s diminishing, but which has dark ideas about global conspiracies.”

I want to draw your attention to a New York Times story about last weekend’s European Parliament elections, which were seen as a referendum on populist and right-wing movements in EU member states. The elections showed a narrow victory for non-populists forces, but the article says that Europe now feels like an “active battleground” between nationalists and voters who favor European unity.


Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Washington, D.C. May 31, 2019

Ukrainian Lawmakers Refuse To Dismiss PM Hroysman
RFE/RL, May 30, 2019

KYIV -- Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has rejected Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman's resignation after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on May 20 called on the government to step down.

Only 97 lawmakers voted on May 30 in favor of Hroysman's resignation -- far short of the 226 votes needed to accept Hroysman's resignation.

The vote came the same day as Zelenskiy's office announced that the president had formally asked the parliament to dismiss Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak, and Security Service chief Vasyl Hrytsak.

Read the full article here.

Zelenskiy Sows Confusion and Another Chance for Change
By Oksana Bedratenko
Atlantic Council, May 28, 2019

Volodymyr Zelenskiy may be popular among Ukrainians, but he is getting the cold shoulder from its political elite. Ukraine’s new president has few friends in the parliament and government. Within days of taking office, Zelenskiy suffered a defeat in the Rada as the parliament has not considered his bill for a new electoral law. The Rada didn’t have the votes to put the president’s bill on the agenda, despite Zelenskiy claim that the bill was the result of a compromise among parliamentary factions.

The government met Zelenskiy with a wave of resignations, most notably from Prime Minister Groisman, who tendered his resignation and announced plans to run for the parliament. But without support from the Rada and the government, Zelenskiy has no leverage to push his policy agenda through. Zelenskiy needs quick wins to point to before the parliamentary elections, especially given his lack of experience.  

Russians show they can resist Putin’s war on dissent
By the Editorial Board
Washington Post, May 29, 2019

In these times of growing authoritarianism, it is worth taking note when people fight back. Two recent events in Russia show that despite President Vladimir Putin’s intolerance for dissent, there are moments when people are willing to speak up, strongly.

Mr. Putin’s years in power have been characterized by a gradual silencing of independent voices, often when owners friendly to the Kremlin take over news outlets, as occurred at Kommersant. Only a few truly independent organizations remain. It is extraordinary and encouraging to see so many journalists push back. Analyst Kirill Rogov correctly noted that such collective action “is the main enemy of despotism.” And collectively, some Russians are stirring.

The Old Scourge of Anti-Semitism Rises Anew in Europe
By The Editorial Board
New York Times, May 26, 2019

For years, Europe maintained the comforting notion that it was earnestly confronting anti-Semitism after the horrors of the Holocaust. It now faces the alarming reality that anti-Semitism is sharply on the rise, often from the sadly familiar direction of the far right, but also from Islamists and the far left.

The worrisome trend was underscored by a report issued by the German government this month showing that anti-Semitic incidents in Germany had increased by almost 20 percent in 2018 from the previous year, to 1,799, with 69 classified as acts of violence. The most common offense was the use of the swastika and other illegal symbols; the rest ranged from online incitement and insults to arson, assault and murder.

Krakow street to be named after rabbi and 300 orphans murdered in the Holocaust
JNS, May 28, 2019

The city council in Krakow, Poland, has announced that a municipal street will be named next month after Rabbi David Alter Kurzmann, a caretaker of the Krakow ghetto orphanage. During the liquidation of the orphanage by the Nazis, Kurzmann was offered to abandon the children and live or join them in their deaths.

Some 77 years after Kurzmann chose the latter, Walkative! tour guides collected hundreds of signatures to support their cause of honoring Kurzmann for his dedication, as well as the lives of the 300 orphans that were murdered.

The street-naming ceremony will take place on June 25.

Jewish News wins legal case that 'threatened to silence allegations of historical anti-Semitism' in Poland
By Charlotte Tobitt
Press Gazette, May 29, 2019

Jewish News has won what it has described as a “landmark legal battle” against a Polish nationalist group after it complained that one of the title’s stories had mischaracterised Poles as Nazis.

Mira Wszelaka, president of the Polish League Against Defamation, took the free weekly newspaper to court in Warsaw over an article published on its website in October 2017, headlined: “Polish restitution law excludes most Holocaust survivors and heirs”.

The article said that most Jews who survived the Holocaust left Poland and that neither they or their children or grandchildren currently live in the country, making it almost impossible for them to make a claim under draft legislation on the return of property confiscated during World War Two.

Son of Jewish engineer elected president of Latvia
JTA, May 29, 2019

The son of a Jewish engineer was elected president of the Baltic nation of Latvia.

Egils Levits, 63, was elected Monday by a majority of 61 lawmakers out of 100 in the Saeima, the Latvian parliament, the news service BNN reported. The president holds some executive authorities in Latvia, but the country is run by the prime minister and his Cabinet.

A former judge of the European Court of Justice, Levits immigrated to Germany with his family in 1972 from what is now Latvia, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. His father, Jonas, was Jewish but his mother was not, he said in an interview last month for the Delfi news channel.

Ukraine is where the Holocaust began. It should properly memorialize the victims.
By Carl Gershman
Washington Post, May 27, 2019

The May 20 inauguration of Volodymyr Zelensky, a newcomer from outside the political establishment who campaigned on a program of bold reform, shows how far Ukraine has come in consolidating democracy since the Maidan revolution in 2014. The country still faces many formidable challenges, the most urgent being combating poverty and endemic corruption, and defending itself against Russia’s continued armed aggression. But this is a new and hopeful moment for Ukraine, and it may offer an opportunity to address another issue that, though less urgent, is nonetheless profoundly significant for Ukraine’s future: the traumatic legacy of the Nazi Holocaust.

Ukraine continues to be faced with the challenge of how to address its Holocaust-era past. There are some 2,000  mass graves of Holocaust victims in the country, ranging in size from a few dozen victims to tens of thousands. Babi Yar is the most well-known, but the vast majority are unmarked and unprotected.

Budapest Jews to establish their own security service amid anti-Semitism fears
Times of Israel, May 29, 2019

A Hungarian Jewish organization that monitors and fights anti-Semitism on Wednesday said it was forming its own security service to patrol the historic Jewish quarter of the capital city Budapest.

“To prevent anti-Semitic atrocities, the Foundation for Action and Defense decided to create a kind of ‘self-organized security service,‘” the organization announced on its Facebook page.

Organization director Szalai Kálmán said the goal was to prevent “importing the plague of the anti-Semitism in north and west Europe” and do everything possible to ensure “Budapest does not become like some of the western cities,” an apparent reference to the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in other European countries.

Read the full article here.

World Jewish Congress president is new board member for Babi Yar memorial
By Jenni Frazer
Times of Israel, May 24, 2019

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, has joined the board of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre in Kiev, Ukraine.

It is hoped the museum will open in 2023. Other members of the current board include the chief rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine, Yaakov Dov Bleich; the former director-general of UNESCO Irina Bokova; the world boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko; and the former president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski.

Election Puts Europe on the Front Line of the Battle With Populism
By Jason Horowitz
New York Times, May 27, 2019

ROME — Matteo Salvini basked in triumph on Monday after a thumping victory for his far-right League Party in this weekend’s European Parliament elections rendered him the dominant politician in Italy and the strongest claimant to the leadership of Europe’s populists.

But if Europe has been an incubator for resurgent nationalism in recent years, it now also feels like an active battleground.

With Europe’s decades-old project of unity increasingly in the balance, the voting energized both sides on a polarized Continent. It was a contest between angry, disaffected nationalists who want to beat back what they see as a remote and overreaching bureaucracy in Brussels, against the once-sleepy, complacent supporters of Europe looking to defend a unity that can no longer be taken for granted.

[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.