Weekly News Update 
 
 
 
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. January 15, 2016
 

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

Dear Friend,
 
Please see below for the first Weekly News Brief of 2016. I hope you had a good New Year, and we with you a happy, healthy, and successful year to come.

Sincerely,
 
 
Mark B. Levin
NCSEJ Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
NCSEJ WEEKLY NEWS BRIEF
Washington, D.C. January 15
, 2016

Ukrainian legislator toasts Adolf Hitler
By Sam Sokol
Jerusalem Post, December 27, 2015

 
A video of a Ukrainian opposition lawmaker saluting Adolf Hitler made its way online this weekend, only days after his country’s president apologized for Ukrainian collaborators’ role in the Holocaust during a state visit to Israel.
 
In the video, Artyom Vitko, the former commander of the government backed Luhansk-1 Battalion and now a member of Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party, can be seen sitting in the back of a car wearing camouflage fatigues and singing along to a song by a Russian neo-Nazi band extolling the virtues of the Nazi dictator.



Governor of Stalinist ‘Jewish Homeland’ Gets a Bar Mitzvah
New Birobidzhan leader promises to build the city’s first mikvah
Chabad.org, December 31, 2015

 
Alexander Levinthal, the newly appointed governor of Birobidzan—the storied "Jewish” oblast close to the Chinese border in the Russian Far East—took part in an unexpected celebration last week at a meeting with Jewish leaders in Moscow after he was asked if he would like to put on tefillin.
 
Much to the surprise of everyone present, he revealed that he had never wrapped tefillin before. In an emotional explanation that followed, Levinthal expressed his gratitude to be finally celebrating the bar mitzvah he never had at age 13.
 
Levinthal had been meeting with Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar. Accompanied by Chief Rabbi of Birobidzan Eliyahu Riss, Levinthal was given a tour of the Marina Roscha Synagogue and Jewish Center, as well as the adjacent Jewish Museum.


Read the full article here.



Jewish politician on trial in Ukraine invokes blood libel
By Sam Sokol
Jerusalem Post, January 7, 2016

 
In 1913, the Russian empire and the world stood rapt as Mendel Beilis, a Jewish factory worker, fought for his life in a Kiev courtroom. Accused of murdering a Christian child in order to use his blood for Passover matzot, Beilis was eventually exonerated, despite the Czarist government’s efforts to ensure a conviction.
 
The affair, which became synonymous with politicized justice and judicial anti-Semitism, was recently invoked by another Ukrainian Jew on trial in Kiev. Accused of several politically motivated kidnappings as well as embezzlement, former Dnepropetrovsk region deputy governor Hennadiy Korban told reporters in Kiev on Tuesday he believed that there were definite parallels between the two cases.
 
While the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk has called Korban’s prosecution “unacceptable and deeply wrong,” it has also refrained from implying in any way that the affair is motivated by racial or religious prejudices.


Read the full article here.



Ukraine plans museum to commemorate Babi Yar
By Julie Masis
Jewish Chronicle, January 7, 2016


A museum will be built in Ukraine next year to mark the 75th anniversary of one of the biggest single Holocaust massacres, the mayor of the Ukrainian capital announced last week.
 
"Since we understand that the world is very fragile, we must transfer to future generations the memory of the mistakes of humanity that must never, under any circumstances, be repeated," said the Mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, whose grandmother was Jewish.


Read the full article here.



Kremlin official: Russia will not put Hamas and Hezbollah on list of terror groups
JTA, January 5, 2016


The fighting in Syria will not affect Russia’s decision to keep Hamas and Hezbollah off its list of terrorist organizations, a senior Kremlin official said.
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the Interfax news agency last week that while his country concurs with the United States’ definition of some organizations that are operating in Syria as terrorist groups, Russia is “not even discussing Hezbollah and Hamas with the Americans.”
 
Russian officials have said repeatedly that Hamas and Hezbollah, which are allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, will not be recognized as terrorist organizations by Moscow.



Did Russia Kill Ukraine's Electricity? Cyberattack Linked To Power Outage
By Lydia Tomkiw
International Business Times, January 6, 2016

 
It wasn’t a normal power outage when the lights abruptly went out for tens of thousands of western Ukrainians in and around the regional capital city of Ivano-Frankivsk two weeks ago. The short-lived blackout was caused by malware, making it the first known case of a power outage induced by a cyberattack, experts from several security firms who examined the code confirmed late Monday.
 
Ukrainian officials ultimately blamed the hack on Russia (the two have been in armed conflict since April 2014), and the Kremlin has conspicuously refused to comment on the situation. While the exact source of the Dec. 23 electricity cut – which lasted up to six hours in some areas – may be difficult to prove, the outage marked a major cybersecurity escalation global governments have long feared.


Read the full article here.



Analysis: European anti-Semitism likely to grow in 2016
By Sam Sokol
Jerusalem Post, January 5, 2016

 
After lobbying by Jewish groups, the European Commission recently appointed Katharina von Schnurbein as the continent’s first coordinator on combating anti-Semitism.
 
However, doubts remain about the efficacy of European efforts to combat anti-Semitic violence, which is largely associated with immigrant Muslim populations.
 
While the far right has definitely made gains in several European nations, the largest threat, Jewish leaders have said, is not from neo-Nazis or fascists.
 
“Many refugees come from countries where Israel is an enemy; this resentment is often transferred to Jews in general,” a delegation of German Jews told Chancellor Angela Merkel late last year.
 
...while anti-Semitic attitudes and Holocaust revisionism are unfortunately much more common in the countries of the former Soviet Union than in western Europe, physical violence against Jews is quite low.



Holocaust denial on the rise in Eastern Europe
By Tali Farkash 
YNetNews, December 29, 2015

 
After Lithuania changed the definition of 'genocide' and Baltic countries have turned murderers of Jews into national heroes, Holocaust researchers are accusing the State of Israel of standing idly by as history is being re-written.
 
Speaking at the Shem Olam Institute's international conference "A Past that Doesn't Pass," which opened in Europe Monday, Dr. Zuroff pointed at Lithuania as the country leading the change. He noted that it initiated a change in the definition of "genocide," thereby essentially "uniting" the memory of the Holocaust with the memory of communism.
 
In Ukraine, the parliament approved a law banning denial of the communist holocaust and imposing a two-year prison sentence on those violating it.



10 reasons why I'm optimistic about Ukraine's economy in 2016
By Anders Aslund
Atlantic Council, January 5, 2016

 
The outlook for the Ukrainian economy in 2016 is positive. Many important reforms were carried out in 2015. The necessary exchange rate adjustment has occurred and most required bank closures have taken place. The parliament has adopted tax changes and a decent budget for 2016. The debt restructuring deal has postponed foreign debt service. The current account is in approximate balance. Now is the time to move forward with more structural reforms.



Ukraine calls on UN for peacekeeping mission as fighting picks up
By Olena Goncharova
Kyiv Post, January 5, 2016

 
While recent months have seen a decrease in fighting, the new year has kicked off with plenty of signs that the war may heat up again. These concerns prompted leaders from Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany to agree on Dec. 30 to extend the Minsk truce agreement into 2016, hoping that the peace deal will lead to an end to Russia’s war against Ukraine. The war has already killed over 9,000 people, including military personnel and civilians, according to the UN.
 
Ukrainian officials recently discussed the possibility of employing an international peacekeeping mission in Ukraine’s Donbas.
 
On Jan. 4, Ukraine’s recently-appointed representative to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko said during a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the country’s leadership would be ready to work out “the mandate and other aspects of such an operation.”
 
“In order to analyze the situation on the ground we invite the assessment mission of the UN Secretariat to visit Ukraine,” Yelchenko said.


Read the full article here.



Ukraine bans Russian food in retaliation for sanctions
By Jim Boulden
CNN, January 4, 2016

 
Ukraine has stopped importing a range of goods from Russia including meat, fish and vegetables, after Russia imposed a similar ban on Friday.
 
The government of Ukraine said in a statement that Moscow continues to cause "substantial damage" to the Ukrainian economy, and it vowed to match every move made by Russia.
 
Russia said in December it would ban imports "of agricultural products, raw materials and foodstuffs produced in Ukraine," starting Jan. 1.


Read the full article here.



Aliyah From Former Soviet Union to Israel Higher Than Any Year in Past Decade
By Lee Yaron
Haaretz, December 30, 2015

 
This year brought more immigrants from the countries of the former Soviet Union than any year in the past decade, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry said Tuesday.
 
Immigrants from these countries accounted for about half of the 30,000 people who moved to Israel in 2015. The 15,000 immigrants who came from the former Soviet Union this year represent an increase of over 20 percent from last year’s figure of 12,328 and are more than two and a half times the number that arrived in 2008 - 5,847 immigrants.  Altogether, more than 220,900 people have emigrated from these countries since 2000.
 
“This is economic immigration,” said Roman Polonsky, head of the Jewish Agency’s unit for Russian-speaking Jewry. “The massive increase we’ve seen in recent years from the countries of the former Soviet Union is influenced by the economic situation in Russia, which is also causing movement in the surrounding countries.”



Senior Russian rabbi accuses Ukrainian president of ‘using Jewish card’
JTA, December 27, 2015

 
A senior Russian rabbi accused the president of Ukraine of glossing over his country’s Holocaust record and lying about Russia’s treatment of Jews.
 
Rabbi Boruch Gorin, spokesman for Rabbi Berel Lazar, one of Russia’s chief rabbis, made the accusation in an Op-Ed published Friday on the news site Jewish.ru following President Petro Poroshenko’s Dec. 22-24 visit [to Israel].


Read the full article here.



Analysis: Propaganda battle over Ukrainian Jews is not over
By Sam Sokol
Jerusalem Post, January 1, 2016

 
The use of anti-Semitism in propaganda has been a significant leitmotif in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, and recent reports out of Crimea seem to indicate that this trend is in no danger of petering out.
 
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, representatives of the Crimean Jewish community said that they were unaware of media reports that a local man had been convicted of spreading Judeophobic propaganda last week, only days after Ukraine’s president accused Russia of fomenting anti-Semitism in the occupied territory.
 
Speaking before the Knesset during a state visit here last week, President Petro Poroshenko said Jews living in the Ukrainian territory, which Russia occupied and annexed early in 2014, may find themselves in danger “as the conquerors have started to cultivate the anti-Semitism issue as well.”
 
The Jewish community there, which is largely pro-Russian, immediately issued a scathing statement accusing Poroshenko of a “clumsy and hopeless attempt to distort the true picture of the existing interethnic peace and harmony in the Russian Crimea.”



Moldova fails to back new government
By Paul Dallison
Politico Europe, January 4, 2016


The Moldovan parliament failed to approve a new government Monday because not enough MPs turned up to vote.
 
Only 47 lawmakers turned up to vote for a government led by Ion Sturza, three short of the number needed. There are 101 members of the Moldovan parliament, but opposition parties including the Communists and Socialists stayed away in protest.
 
Sturza, a businessman who favors closer ties with the European Union, was prime minister from February to November 1999. He had pledged to tackle corruption and to push for EU membership, but was never likely to have enough support to return to such high office.
 
The country’s president, Nicolae Timofti, must now come up with another candidate for prime minister, whom parliament must approve by January 29. If his next choice is not supported, the country will hold early elections.



Putin Signs Amendment Allowing FSB To Use Weapons In Crowds
RFE/RL, December 31, 2015

 
Russian President Vladimir Putin has given the state intelligence service the authority to use weapons in crowds and fire at women and children under certain circumstances.
 
According to an amendment published on December 30 to the law governing the FSB's use of arms, intelligence services van now use weapons in crowds "to prevent acts of terrorism, rescue hostages, or repel attacks on public buildings."
 
The FSB also will have the right to shoot at women, the disabled, and minors "in case of armed resistance" and will be allowed to use nonlethal weapons against pregnant women.
 
The law also allows FSB agents to enter any premises in the country and take fingerprints at border checkpoints.


Read the full article here.



Vladimir Putin’s Quotes: A Collection for the Discerning Russian Official
By Neil MacFarquhar
New York Times, December 29, 2015

 
The Kremlin is bestowing a special gift this holiday season on a select group of Russian officials...the collected wisdom of President Vladimir V. Putin, compiled in a 400-page book modestly titled “Words That Change the World.”
 
“His policy is consistent and predictable and cohesive,” said Anton Volodin, one of the media-savvy marketing managers at Set, a Russian youth political movement, who edited the book.
 
Mr. Volodin, 29, described the president’s words as “prophetic,” and said he decided to publish the book so that every senior official or important politician could have Mr. Putin’s most important pronouncements readily at hand.


How Russia Created a Jewish Tolerance Museum Even Vladimir Putin Can Tolerate
By Olga Gershenson
Forward, January 8, 2016


For decades, the subject of Jewish history and memory was largely off-limits in the Eastern bloc. However, since the fall of communism there has been a revival of public Jewish culture and institutions in the region. New museums, memorials and education centers have emerged all across Central and Eastern Europe as well as in the former Soviet Union.

One of the most ambitious is the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, which opened in 2012. A multimillion dollar endeavor, the museum is supported by Jewish donors as well as by non-Jewish benefactors, foundations and local authorities. Its core exhibitions, which rely on the expertise of both local and international scholars and designers, offer an affecting multimedia narrative of Russian Jewish history. In the short time since it was established, Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center has become part of the international museum scene and a tourist attraction, with 85,000 visitors in 2014.




 
 
 
 
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About NCSEJ
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.
 
 
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