Weekly News Update 
WASHINGTON, D.C. December 19, 2014


TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

FROM: Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, NCSEJ President;
Mark B. Levin, NCSEJ Executive Director
Dear Friend,

Russia is experiencing its worst economic crisis since the collapse of the ruble in 1998. In a dramatic development, its currency's value has plunged 50% this year, reaching its lowest mark on Tuesday, and triggering cutbacks and closures by foreign businesses. Russians have been panic-buying, fearing that prices for goods will continue to grow.

Russia's government has taken some measures to temporarily stabilize the currency, but declining oil prices, Western sanctions, and the government's economic policies have created a "perfect storm" that is not likely to blow over soon.

This week, in his annual press conference, President Vladimir Putin sought to reassure the Russian people, promising an economic recovery in two years. President Putin also blamed the ruble's decline on external factors and accused the U.S. and the EU of undermining Russia's economy. He called the West an empire that is seeking "to chain the bear." President Putin also defended his policy vis-�-vis Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea.

The crisis in Russia has also had ramifications on its biggest trading partners, the former Soviet republics and the EU. Divisions among EU members are growing over potentially scaling back sanctions against Russia. The weekly update includes a number of articles analyzing the crisis and its regional and global effects.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act into law and urged Russia again to "end its occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, cease support to separatists in eastern Ukraine, and implement the obligations it signed up to under the Minsk agreements." However, President Obama did not impose any new sanctions, and said that his administration is ready "to roll back" existing sanctions if Russia's changes its policy toward Ukraine.

Ukraine has asked Europe for additional financial aid, but European donors and the IMF are seeking additional reassurances of economic and other reforms in Ukraine before increasing assistance.

In the meantime, Ukrainians in the regions of unrest, including the Jewish communities, continue to struggle with the humanitarian crisis. The update includes a new JTA article about the Luhansk Jewish community.

Belarus released opposition activist Eduard Lobau this week, after four years in prison. Belarus has also tightened some internet restrictions, making it easier for state authorities to close online media outlets.

Despite the crisis, Jewish communities throughout the region are celebrating Chanukah. On Tuesday, Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar lit a candle on a giant menorah in Moscow's Revolution square, and hundreds attended a Chanukah celebration including Israeli Ambassador to Russia Dorit Golender. The St. Petersburg Jewish community celebrated the second night of Chanukah with students from the Shatil Center for Children and their parents.

Jews in Luhansk, Ukraine celebrated Chanukah in the local synagogue, despite lack of electricity and heat in the building. Because of the unrest, the Donetsk Jewish community did not light a city menorah this year. However, the community watched a special video featuring Chanukah wishes from all over the world for those remaining in Donetsk.

In closing, I'd like to wish everyone a Chag Chanukah Sameach.



Mark B. Levin

Executive Director

Please visit  
for NCSEJ's Weekly News Update.

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. 
Phone: 202-898-2500 
NCSEJ is a beneficiary of The Jewish Federations of North America and the National Federation/Agency Alliance through its network of Federations. 
Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   View our videos on YouTube