Euro-Asian Jewish Congress Activity Report 2007-2012
The programs of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC) are being implemented by the EAJC Program Directorate (Kyiv, headed by EAJC General Council Chairman Josef Zisels, current Director of Programs – Mila Braginskaya). Some of the programs are coordinated by the Moscow office (headed by EAJC Secretary General Michael Chlenov, Office Director – Natalia Schmidt). The Kazakhstan office, led by EAJC General Council member Alexander Baron, joined their efforts in the first quarter of 2012. The main programs which have been in implementation by the Congress over the five years that have passed since the last EAJC General Assembly (Jerusalem, July 2007) are listed below.
Informational and Analytical Activity
The EAJC collects information on the life of Jewish communities in Eastern European, former Soviet Union, Asian, and Pacific Ocean countries. The EAJC website is updated with the result of this monitoring in Russian and English, and there is a daily news report sent out six days a week (excepting Saturday, also bilingually).
News are monitored on the following topics:
• Jewish community, cultural, and religious life;
• political and economic relations of the countries of the region and Israel;
• participation of official representatives of the governments of countries of the region in international organizations concerning the states of the Near East;
• anti-Semitism and xenophobia;
• current situation of ethnic and religious minorities in countries of the region;
The news items collected through the monitoring and disseminated through the Internet among the members and partners of the EAJC are widely used by Jewish communities and Congress member organizations, in particular when preparing their own print newspapers and Internet news editions.
The information collected by the monitoring is also used to prepare Congress analytical materials – speeches of Congress leaders, regular and thematic reports, an annual collection of materials on anti-Semitism in regional countries, the Euro-Asian Jewish Yearbook, and so on.
Results of the EAJC monitoring are used by many international organizations, both Jewish-oriented and human-rights-oriented. The EAJC monitoring of manifestations of anti-Semitism and xenophobia is used, among others, by the U.S. Department of State in its annual report on human rights status, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
In the second quarter of 2012, the monitoring program is beginning to be widened through the creation of the Congress' own network of correspondents, which will allow the Congress to request and receive materials from authors, including both on local current events and extensive information on long-term processes in the region.
During the review period, a new version of the EAJC website jewseurasia.org (chief editor – EAJC General Council member Vyacheslav Likhachev) was launched. Currently, the EAJC website is a dynamic bilingual (with English and Russian versions) informational and analytical web portal, updated daily (except Saturday), and is the main source of information about the activities of the Congress. To spread information about the activities of the Congress and to attract new members of the target audience, there have also been registered and supported accounts and corresponding thematic communities on the following services: livejournal.com, twitter.com, vkontakte.ru, facebook.com. The website has a daily average count of 400-500 separate visitors, with the maximum during the review period being 1200-1600 visitors per day.
The website features a digest of the most interesting materials on Jewish topics, as well as its own exclusive informational and analytical materials prepared by the experts and authors of the Congress.
The website publishes approximately 30 new materials daily, including news, analytical articles, photo and video materials.
The EAJC website has often been the initial source for reliable and accurate information for leading Jewish media, such as newsru.co.il, IzRus.co.il, aen.ru, as well as for national electronic media in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Uzbekisan, and other countries.
The writing and dissemination of quality informational and analytical materials is one of the calling cards of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, separating it from other Jewish organizations. EAJC analytical reports have won well-deserved respect among professional community representatives, social activists, members of the government, and scholars.
Both regular and irregular thematic reports are published in Russian and English as separate booklets, as well as published electronically and openly provided at the EAJC website.
Congress experts write monthly reports on manifestations of xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Russia, Ukraine and other countries of the region, and an annual booklet summarizing the results of these findings is published in English and Russian. The head of the program for monitoring and analysis of manifestations of anti-Semitism and xenophobia is Vyacheslav Likhachev. Due to the high relevance of the topic, a similar system of constant monitoring of terroristic acts (not only anti-Semitic in nature) is being created in the countries of the region.
Analytical materials prepared by the Congress provoke a wide resonance, are re-published with links to the EAJC website in many print and web media (some materials have been reprinted up to 10-15 times), are discussed and disseminated in thematic web lists and social networks.
The EAJC also publishes regular thematic analytical reports on how Jews and Israel are perceived in the region during aggravations of the Near East situation, for instance during the Cast Lead IDF counterterrorist operation in 2008-2009 or the Freedom Flotilla interception incident in 2010.
EAJC analytical reports also touch upon the following spheres of Jewish community life in the regions:
• restitution of Jewish religious and community property in the countries of the region;
• study and preservation of the Jewish heritage;
• matters of Jewish education and research;
• fostering tolerance and educating non-Jews about the Holocaust;
• Jewish demography, ethnography, and sociology in Eurasian communities.
In 2009-2011, the EAJC Moscow office published, under Michael Chlenov's leadership, a monthly bulletin titled “Vestnik Evroaziatskogo Evreyskogo Kongresa” (Bulletin of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress), which published information on current EAJC activity.
During the entire review period, the EAJC PR Department, led by Roman Spector, has been active in Moscow and had been providing appropriate representation for the Congress' activities in the media, organizing press conferences, round tables, and other public events.
Programs for developing inter-ethnic and interfaith dialogue
An important direction of EAJC activity is the implementation of programs aimed at developing inter-ethnic and interfaith dialogues.
One of the most important ongoing programs of the Congress in this spehere is the International Inter-Ethnic Children's Summer Camp “Roots of Tolerance” (Camp Director – Natalia Bakulina, EAJC Fostering Tolerance program leader – Anna Lenchovskaya). The camp uses a unique method of immersion: each day is dedicated to a certain national culture, and the participants live that day as if they were members of this culture. The aim of the project is to foster inter-ethnic and interfaith tolerance in children and youth, as well as to prevent xenophobia. During the review period, the camp took place annually (one or two sessions per year) in different regions of Ukraine.
One shift usually involves 160-200 children aged 7-17, who represent over two dozen national communities of Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus. The camp regularly works with Assyrians, Belarusians, Koreans, Bulgarians, Armenians, Tajks, Greeks, Gagauz, Jews, Crimean Tatars, Moldavian, Germans, Poles, Russians, Romanians, Tatars, and Ukrainians. In the last two years, child refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Congo, and the Chechen Republic of Russia have also participated in the work of the camp.
The unique experiences of the camp turned out to be in demand in other countries, as well. With EAJC support, similar projects began work in 2010-2012 in Moldavia (led by Kira Kreiderman) and Georgia.
As part of the preparation for the Roots of Tolerance camp, special methodological seminars for camp councilors and aides to councilors take place several times per year in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. The participants include psychologists, teachers, and other experts.
During the entire review period, EAJC continued to support tolerance clubs for teenagers, which were initially created as a continuation of the “Roots of Tolerance” summer camp, but then took on a life of their own and became a separate successful project. The goal of these clubs for teenagers is to create a long-term program for the fostering of national self-awareness, to form a proactive approach to life, to foster national youth leaders, formation of skills necessary for civic society, first and foremost tolerance. The club's work includes weekly meetings of teenagers from Ukraine's ethnic communities, seminars on civic education and tolerance, a leadership school, holding events in schools (based on an “equal giving to an equal” basis), and, additionally, regional history tours, joint celebrations of national holidays in communities, topical theater and movie visits. Clubs are currently working in Kyiv, Chisinau, Lviv, Mariupol, Tblilisi, and Kharkiv. In September 2011, a local club opened in Yerevan.
EAJC projects connected to fostering tolerance can be seen in the newly created and renewed in 2012 with Congress support website tolerspace.org.ua.
The Forum of Nations newspaper continued to be published with EAJC support during the review period (editor-in-chief – Tatiana Khorungiya), which specializes in reporting questions connected to the life of national minorities(website – http://forumn.kiev.ua/).
Projects aimed at fostering tolerance in youth, as well as other programs on cultural interaction, have been being implemented by the EAJC over the course of the entire review period, including but not limited to:
• schools for young leaders of ethnic communities “steps towards each other”;
• youth forum “Ethnic Tolerance as Format of Communication for Modern Youth in Counteracting Xenophobia” ;
• seminar “Tolerance and Dialogue Between Different Ethnicities and Religions.”
Over the course of 2009-2011, the EAJC participated in the large-scale project “Ukrainian Books for Fostering Tolerance.” The project involved Congress experts (Kira Kreiderman, Anna Lenchovskaya, Vyacheslav Likhachev, EAJC General Council member Dr. Anatoliy Podolsky, Tatiana Khorungiya) held seminars on tolerance for students of history, teachers of history, assistant principles in educational work, journalists, and librarians in all regions of Ukraine. As part of the project, experts of the Congress also prepared print materials given to libraries and educational institutions; among others, the “50 Questions on Anti-Semitism” (edited by Vyacheslav Likhachev) and “Policulturica” (edited by Anna Lenchovskaya, this book was a summary of the EAJC experience is fostering tolerance).
As part of their activity to create amiable and constructive contacts with different ethnic and religious communities, EAJC representatives take place in different projects and events in the countries of the region, as well as in Israel, Africa, North America ans Western Europe. Representatives of the Congress actively participate in organizing conferences, seminars, and meetings dedicated to interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding. One of the long-standing top priority directions of EAJC activity is the Jewish-Muslim dialogue.
Another important part of Congress activity is the support of scholarship in Jewish studies and in teaching Jewish studies.
Over the entire review period, the EAJC traditionally supported the annual conferences of the Sefer center (Director – EAJC General Council member Victoria Mochalova, Director of the Center Academic Board – Michael Chlenov). The annual Sefer international Jewish Studies conferences are without a doubt the most significant – both in scope and in content – events in post-Soviet academic Jewish studies. The program of the conference usually includes sections that reflect the main direction of Jewish studies, such as Biblical and Talmudic studies, Jewish thought, languages, and literature, Jewish art, Jewish history of different periods, the Holocaust, Israel studies, ethnology, demography, and Jewish education.
The EAJC, jointly with the Russian Society of Friends of the Jewish University of Jeruslaem, also traditionally hold on-site training of students that are elected on a competitive basis from those who study Hebrew at the courses of the Rothberg School of Foreign Students of the Jewish University in Jerusalem.
Over the entire review period, the EAJC supported Limmud CIS conferences in Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova.
In 2007-2012, the EAJC Kyiv office has continued to support the Interdisciplinary Jewish Studies Certificate Program of the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” (NaUKMA) led by Dr. Igor Turov. The program is part of the History Department of the NaUKMA Faculty of Humanities, and is usually done over a two year period. Leading Ukrainian scholars teach Jewish history, Hebrew, Yiddish, literature and philosophy. There are also mini-courses of leading Jewish studies scholars from Israel and Russia. In 2012, the first Ukrainian Master's program in Jewish studies opens with EAJC support in NaUKMA, led by Dr. Alexey Khamray.
The EAJC also supports the teaching of Jewish studies in other universities. For example, the Fedkovich National University (Chernovsy) Faculty of Foreign Languages teaches Hebrew with EAJC support.
Over the entirety of the review period, EAJC leaders and scholars who are implementing various projects as part of the Congress' activity (such as Michael Chlenov, Josef Zisels, Semen Charny, Vyacheslav Likhachev, Anatoliy Podolsky, Anna Lenchovskaya, and others) gave public lectures and reports, extensive commentaries and interviews. Public lectures by Josef Zisels, Vyacheslav Likhachev, and Anatoliy Podolsky, which were read over the course of 2010-2011 in the Kyiv House of Scientists as part of the Polit.ua project, garnered a wide resonance. EAJC press conferences, during which Michael Chlenov, Mark Kupovetsky and Semen Charny presented the position of the Jewish communtiy on differet questions and gave the results of studies in anti-Semitism, Jewish demography, and so on, also garnered wide resonance in Russia. In 2007-2012, different representatives of the Congress constantly gave reports and educational lectures at different conferences, in community institutions and educational establishments.
Museum programs. Preservation of Jewish heritage.
Another priority program for the Congress is the program on preserving, describing and cataloging Jewish heritage in museums. In particular, during the review period, the EAJC aided in opening the Museum of Jewish History and Culture of Bukovina in Chernivtsy. This museum is a pilot project of a network of museums of different sub-ethnic and regional Jewish groups who lived in Eurasia. Currently, preparations are being made to create a similar museum of Galitsian Jews in Lviv, and ways to create a similar museum in Georgia are being considered.
The EAJC also aids in preparing exhibitions of Jewish art in leading museums of the region. A number of exhibitions dedicated to the Cultur-Lige and separate artists of this important movement in Jewish art of the early XX century, which took place with Congress support in the National Art Museum of Ukraine during 2008-2010, garnered wide resonance. In 2010, the EAJC also helped to organize the “Jews in Moscow: History, Culture, Traditions” exhibition in the Museum of Moscow History.
The EAJC initiated a number of programs in Lviv aimed to preserve the Jewish part of the city cultural and historical landscape. The Congress supported a competition for architectural, designer, and landscape projects for the reconstruction of places connected with the Jewish history of the city.
In 2010, the EAJC and the Russian Jewish Congress jointly sponsored the Festival of Jewish Books, which took place in Saint Petersburg, The exhibition “S.M. Dubnov (1860 – 1941)”, dedicated to this important Jewish historian's 150th birthday, was also shown during the festival.
Programs on the memory of the Catastrophe of Eastern European Jewry
As in previous years, during the review period the Congress has supported projects to study and teach about the history of the Catastrophe of the Eastern European Jewry, as well as to preserve its memory.
In 2007-2011, a program to memorialize mass burials of Jews that were made during the Second World War had been implemented. Memorial signs had been placed in a number of Belarusian and Ukrainian towns. The project is being implemented with the aid of the local Jewish communities and state administrations.
Currently, projects to place memorial signs in Moldova and the Russian city of Pyatygorsk are being considered. The EAJC experience in memorializing the memory of Holocaust victims has been discussed in different international forums – in particular, during the Global Forum of the American Jewish Committee, which took place in May 2012, in Washington DC.
The implementation of the “Tolerance – Lessons of the Holocaust” program, directed by Dorina Zilbermintz, was also continued during the review period. In 2007-2012, international seminars for teachers who teach tolerance and the history of the Holocaust in schools of Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus took place in Ukraine and Moldova.
During the entirety of the review period, the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies, directed by EAJC General Council member Dr. Anatoliy Podolsky, has held an annual competition of student research and creative works “History and Lessons of the Holocaust.” The competition is held with the aid of the Congress.
The leaders and experts of the EAJC have taken part in different events to commemorate those who perished in the Holocaust. The events included:
• international conference “International Efforts in Education, Studying, and Protection of Places of Mass Burials.”
• conference “The Shoah and Inter-Ethnic Relations in 1941-1944: Lesser-Known Pages of Lviv Life During the Nazi Occupation.”
In 2011, the Congress participated in Kyiv memorial events, dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Babiy Yar tragedy.
Community and religious programs
Each spring of the review period, the EAJC invested great effort into providing Pesach matzot for all members of Eurasian communities in need.
Approximately 50 tons of matzot were given away each year to the needy members of Jewish communities of the region on behalf of the EAJC. The matzot, baked in Kyiv, was received by community members in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine. Some communities, for example, the Bulgarian community, were given Congress funds so that they could buy and deliver matzot from Israel themselves.
Over the period of 2007-2011, the EAJC has held the yearly Jewish children's historic summer camp Shorashim, directed by Natalia Bakulina. Approximately 150 children and councilors from four countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Israel) take part in the campy yearly. The program of preparation for the camp usually also involves a preparatory seminar for the councilors.
During the review period, the Shorashim camp received EAJC financial support for the development and creation of its own informational and educational website, www.shorashim-camp.org, which has already begun work.
In 2008-2011, the EAJC actively implemented its program on giving Torah scrolls to synagogues in need in countries of the region and Israel. Through the efforts of the Congress, Torah scrolls were introduced to synagogues in Georgia, Bulgaria, Israel, Ukraine, the Republic of South Africa, and Japan.
In Georgia, the Congress took an active part in reconstructing synagogue buildings – in particular, the Gori synagogue, which was damaged during the military operations of 2008.
In 2009, a new synagogue was opened in Dushanbe, another was built in Kostanay (Kazakhstan), and yet another Ashkenazi was reconstructed in Tbilisi.
Over the years of the review period, the EAJC provided its support to the Global Center of Breslov Hasidim. EAJC leaders and experts made regular visits to Uman' (Cherkasskaya Oblast, Ukraine), where the great Hasid tsaddik, founder of Breslov Hasidism, rabbi Nachman of Breslov had been buried. EAJC leaders have often aided in the solution of various financial, legal, and organizational problems connected to the mass pilgrimage of orthodox Jews to Uman'.
In 2007-2012, with a short period of interruption connected to the global economic crisis, the EAJC provided target-oriented material support to communities of the countries of the region, such as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus. Bulgaria, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Poland.
Over the entire review period, with a short interruption in 2009, the EAJC continued to support the Kyiv newspaper “Hadashot” (website http://hadashot.kiev.ua/). The EAJC also supports the print media of the Georgian Jewish community (“Menorah”) and the Armenian Jewish community (“Magen David”).
The Expert Group of Control, Expert Evaluation, and Counteraction of Anti-Semitism has worked as part of the EAJC throughout 2007-2012. The Expert Group was created at the initiative of EAJC Secretary General, Professor Michael Chlenov. Over the course of the review period, the group continued work in control and evaluation of the main tendencies of anti-Semitism, as well as in the preparation of countermeasures against ethnic and religious extremism. Experts of the group conduct a constant monitoring of manifestations of anti-Semitism in the countries of the region.
Leaders of the Congress and members of the Expert Group have taken part in the most important meetings and events dedicated to counteracting anti-Semitism and xenophobia, in particular, with rabbi Andrew Baker, the personal representative on counteracting anti-Semitism of acting OSCE Chairman, the OSCE Councilor on Anti-Semitism Gert Weisskirchen, U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal, members of the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), and others.
Over the course of the entire review period, the EAJC published each autumn a colorful Jewish religious calendar for the coming Jewish year. The calendar is designed by the Kyiv artist Pavel (Pinchas) Fishel.
IN 2007-2010, the Euro-Asian Jewish Yearbook (chief editor – EAJC Secretary General Michael Chlenov, executive editor – Semen Charny), the main informational and analytical publication of the Congress. The EAJC yearbook has no analogue in the countries of the region for quality of its analytical material and informational richness. It is in high demand among professional community leaders, government representatives, and scholars. This publication has long become significantly authoritative among professional groups and is one of the calling cards of the Congress.
Currently, work on the newest Yearbook is almost done. This Yearbook is a “double” edition for the years 5771–5722 (2010 – 2012)
The book series “Library of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress” has published a number of unique collections and memoirs during the review period. In 2010, the “Studia Anthropologica” collection of scholarly articles by professor Michael Chlenov was published. Earlier, the following books were published: “The Jewish Myth in Slavic Culture” (O. Belova, V. Petrukhin), “Children of Abraham” (in two volumes, R. Firestone, K. Duran), “What Suddenly: Articles on Russian Literature of the Past Century” (R. Tymenchik), “Pages of My Life” (M. Krole's memoirs), and others.
Besides its own publishing program, the EAJC has given financial support to different Jewish organizations and publishing houses in 2007-2012, which made possible the publishing of many books on Jewish history and culture. In particular, the EAJC supported the publishing of the Sefer conference materials and the “Rashid Muradovich Kaplanov: Works, Interviews, Memories” collection of articles. The last book is dedicated to the memory of the important scholar and teacher, the long-standing president of the Sefer Center's Academic Board, who passed away in 2007. EAJC also supported the publishing of the10th volume of the “Book of Memory of Jewish Warriors, Fallen in Battles with Nazism,” initiated by the Union of Disabled and Veteran Jews (SEIVV).
A great many books, almanacs, and collections of scholarly articles in Jewish studies were published with EAJC support in the Kyiv publishing house “Duh I Litera,” which is headed by EAJC General Council member Leonid Finberg. These books include the colorful albums “Cultur-Lige: Avaunt-Garde Art of the 1910-1920s,” “Book Illustrations of Cultur-Lige Artists,” “The Return of the Master” by Mark Epstein, and others. Over the entire review period, the Congress supported the publishing of the literary and journalistic almanac Yegupetz, which is believed to be the prominent “large” Jewish journal in post-Soviet territory by literary scholars.
The EAJC also supported the publishing of the following books: “The Restoration of Jewish Statehood and the Unsolved 'Jewish Question'” (A. Epstein), “Editor's Column” (S. Belman), a special edition of the Ukrainian Oriental Studies Journal dedicated to Jewish studies, and the materials of the history of religion school on Jewish studies, which had taken place in 2010. The EAJC also supported the publishing of materials of the international scholarly conference on Yiddish, which took place in Chernivtsy in 2008, timed to the 100th anniversary of the famous Chernivtsy conference of 1908.
In 2009, a unique “guidebook” saw light with the aid of the EAJC: “Documents on Jewish History and Culture in the Regional Archives of Ukraine.”
The last currently published book with EAJC support is the Ukrainian edition of the monumental two-volume Oxford textbook on Jewish studies, “Jewish Civilization”, which was published by the NaUKMA Center for the Study of the History and Culture of East European Jews (Director – EAJC General Council member Leonid Finberg).
Foreign policy initiatives and government relations
The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress is the main international social and political structure representing the interests of the Jewish community of Eurasia both in the countries of the region and globally. EAJC leaders, members of its General Council, leaders of communities from countries of the region and international organizations that are a part of the EAJC, as well as experts of the Congress and those who work with the Congress are regular participants in all of the most important international and national events concerning the life of the Jewish community, as well as ethnic and religious minorities as a whole, relationships with Israel, counteracting xenophobia, human rights activism, and so on.
It would have been impossible to list all of the events in which Congress leaders have participated.
Among the most important Congress foreign policy initiatives are the traditional joint diplomatic missions of the EAJC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. In February 2011, a joint diplomatic mission to Greece took place. The previous years of the review period saw similar missions to Republic of South Africa (2010) and Georgia (2009). During these visits, leaders of the Jewish communities of Eurasia and North America discuss a wide cluster of questions concerning both the Jewish life of the local community and the situation in the region as a whole with the leaders of these countries.
One of the important directions of EAJC activity is the lobbying of the interests of Israel before the government of the countries of its own region, especially in their foreign services. This work is being done constantly. Before the 2011 presupposed vote of the UN General Assembly on recognizing Palestinian independence, EAJC leaders and leaders of the communities that are part of the Congress held an energetic campaign against the support of rash one-sided steps taken by the representatives of the Palestinian side. The Congress had taken an unequivocal stand for solving the Near East crisis through two-way negotiations between the State of Israel and the Palestinian leadership. As part of their campaign of explanation, the EAJC leaders and community leaders held meetings with government representatives of their countries, including Foreign Affairs ministers and deputy FA ministers. On July 2011, Michael Chlenov exchanged opinions on the subject with Vladimir Putin, then Prime Minister of Russia.
Over the course of the entire review period, representatives of the Congress took an active part and were official partners of such regular events as the Global Forum of the American Jewish Committee in Washington and the Herzliyah Conference in Israel.
EAJC General Council sessions were important international diplomatic events, which had taken place annually during the review period in Georgia, Israel, Russia, and Ukraine. During these sessions, which became important events not only in the life of the Jewish community but in the social and political life of the entire country hosting them, General Council members discussed both internal matters and held meetings with representatives of different government bodies and leaders of other faiths.
The last session of the EAJC General Council took place in the fall of 2011 in Jerusalem, and was connected to the preparation for changes in the Congress' leadership.