Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. July 31, 2015


TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties
FROM: Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, NCSEJ President;
Mark B. Levin, NCSEJ Executive Director

Dear Friend,

After 19 years of accession negotiations, Kazakhstan is set to become a member of the World Trade Organization. Accession to the WTO gives a Kazakhstan an opportunity to diversify its economy, liberalize trade, and to join global trade and business networks. WTO accession also comes with the responsibility to implement challenging reforms, including improving government transparency and efficiency, and to address corruption.

Before the U.S. can fully enjoy the benefits of the Kazakhstan's WTO accession, Congress must pass legislation to graduate Kazakhstan from the Jackson-Vanik amendment. For those who don't know, the Jackson-Vanik amendment, signed into law in January 1975, linked permanent normal trade relations with countries' record on allowing freedom of emigration. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia have all been graduated from the amendment.

In Lithuania, once again people are attempting to create a moral equivalence between the Nazi genocide of Jews with the killings of Lithuanians by the Soviet Union. While the history of the Second World War in Lithuania is complex, the 'double genocide' narrative is misleading. I recommend a Forward article that details the recent attempt to accuse Jewish partisans, who fought against the Nazis, and their Lithuanian collaborators of war crimes.

The update includes a number of articles on the Ukrainian Jewish community, including a Wall Street Journal article on the prolonged military conflict's impact on the Jewish communities, especially on local Jewish philanthropy.

I also want to highlight a Reuters report on the challenges facing the Ukrainian government in its efforts to control armed volunteer battalions. While these battalions have played a crucial role in stopping advances by the pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, concerns are growing about a recent spike in vigilante incidents and human rights violations by some members of these armed groups.

The update also includes an interesting story by the World Union for Progressive Judaism's FSU department director Dr. Alex Kagan on the WUPJ's new Moscow Rabbinic Leadership Institute, which is the first Reform rabbinic program to be established in the region.

Finally, my mother celebrates her 95th birthday tomorrow. She and my father grew up during the Depression and became adults during World War II, part of what has been described as America's "greatest generation." My mother is a remarkable women and role model. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she worked most of her adult life, only retiring a few years ago. Together with my father, they faced many challenges during their lifetime. Part of what makes them and their generation so remarkable was their willingness to tackle large issues head on, make sacrifices when needed, and accept the responsibilities and consequences of their decisions. Our community today can continue to learn much more from this generation. Happy Birthday, Mom.



Mark B. Levin

Executive Director

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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. 
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