Union of Councils for Soviet Jews

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Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ)
Type Non-profit
Founded 1970
Key people Lawrence Lerner, President and Executive Director
Leonid Stonov, International Director
Service(s) Defending human rights and the rule of law
Method(s) Monitoring, reporting, research, lobbying, direct-appeal campaigns
Motto The Voice of Human Rights Throughout Eurasia
Website www.ucsj.org

Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (abbreviated UCSJ) is a non-governmental organization that reports on the human rights conditions in countries throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, exposing hate crimes and assisting communities in need. UCSJ uses grassroots-based monitoring and advocacy, as well as humanitarian aid, to protect the political and physical safety of Jewish people and other minorities in the region. UCSJ is based in Washington, D.C. and is linked to other organizations such as the Moscow Helsinki Group. It has offices in Russia and Ukraine.

The UCSJ was formed in 1970 as part of the Movement to Free Soviet Jewry, a response to the oppression of Jews in the Soviet Union and other countries of the Soviet bloc.[1]


Activities of the UCSJ include reporting on the human rights situation in countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU), as well as assisting communities in need, providing support for asylum seekers and migrants and exposing human rights violations and hate crimes, whether targeted against Jews or other minorities in the region, such as Roma or Muslims. It is estimated that approximately 1.71 million Jews remain in the post-Soviet states in 2013.[2]

The reports it produces on the situation in various countries are often presented to the US State Department.


Previously, UCSJ received its funding from the European Commission of the European Union as part of a three-year project designed to combat racism, antisemitism and islamophobia in Eastern European countries.

Supporters and Contributors[edit]

Today, UCSJ supporters and contributors include individuals around the world who are concerned about human rights transgressions, as well as the fate of the 1.71 million Jews who still reside in countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU). Those wishing to contribute have four options.[3]

Notable cases[edit]

Statement of UCSJ on alleged antisemitism in the Russian State Duma[edit]

Nineteen members of the State Duma from Motherland and the Communist party have signed a letter demanding Jewish organizations be banned in Russia. The letter referred to Judaism as a religion promoting ethnic hatred and made reference to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. In that regard, UCSJ made the following statement:

"The best example of how far some members of the national parliament are willing to go to demonize minorities came in January 2005, when 19 members of the State Duma from Motherland and the Communist party signed an open letter to the Prosecutor General’s office demanding that Jewish groups be banned in Russia. The letter referred to Judaism as a “Satanic” religion and made reference to the medieval Blood Libel (the belief that Jews ritually murder Christian children during Passover and use their blood to bake matzo). Russian Jewish groups—who have long ago grown accustomed to more modern-day antisemitic accusations of controlling the media, the financial system, etc.—reacted with horror to this intellectual descent into the barbarism of the Dark Ages". [4]

An investigation was launched.[5][6] The Prosecutor dropped charges of antisemitism against Duma deputies.[7]

The case of Boris Stomakhin[edit]

Former UCSJ president Micah H. Naftalin condemned the conviction of journalist Boris Stomakhin, who was accused of hate speech:

"This sentence exposes the underlying hypocrisy of the Russian government's half-hearted struggle against extremist groups and hate speech." "This month alone, the FSB refused to investigate the distribution of a neo-Nazi hit list containing the names and addresses of human rights activists whom the authors 'sentenced to death,' a publisher of a newspaper in Ulyanovsk who publicly called for the murder of Jews got a suspended sentence, and three youths who broke the jaw and fractured the skull of the Minister of Culture of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic while screaming racist slogans were sentenced to just six months to a year in prison. You don't have to agree with Mr. Stomakhin's radical, though non-violent, views on Chechnya to see that his sentence was disproportionate and unjust." [8]

In Belarus[edit]

The UCSJ alerted[9] the public to the revival of the cult of Russian Orthodox Church child saint Gavriil Belostoksky and related blood libel accusations in Belarus, after the Belarusian state TV showed a film alleging that his ritual murder was a true story.[10][11]

A branch of the UCSJ was closed by the government of Belarus as part of what many observers saw as a wider crackdown on political dissent in the region. (main article - Human rights in Belarus)


  1. ^ History of UCSJ
  2. ^ Report: Estimated Jewish Population in the former Soviet Union (FSU)
  3. ^ How to Contribute
  4. ^ Testimony of Nickolai Butkevich, Research and Advocacy Director, UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union. CHRC Members' Briefing: Human Rights in Russia – Religious Freedom Under Attack. (US Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC)) May 17, 2006
  5. ^ Deputies Urge Ban on Jewish Organizations, Then Retract - Bigotry Monitor. Volume 5, Number 4. January 28, 2005. Published by UCSJ. Editor: Charles Fenyvesi
  6. ^ Russia to Drop Probe of Jewish Law Code Accused of Stoking Ethnic Hatred - Bigotry Monitor. Volume 5, Number 26. July 1, 2005. Published by UCSJ. Editor: Charles Fenyvesi
  7. ^ Prosecutor Drops Charges of Antisemitism Against Duma Deputies - Bigotry Monitor. Volume 5, Number 24. June 17, 2005. Published by UCSJ. Editor: Charles Fenyvesi
  8. ^ Press Release: Jewish Activist Convicted in Russia. News from UCSJ. November 20, 2006
  9. ^ "Blood Libel" Documentary Broadcast in Belarus - The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (UCSJ) Action Alert - campaign against antisemitic programming on state TV. September 16, 1997
  10. ^ July 1997. Blood Libel Accusation Revived Belarus Report, Dr. Yakov Basin, August 10, 1997. UCSJ Position Paper. Belarus - Chronicle of Antisemitism. April-December, 1997.
  11. ^ (Russian) Is the New in the Post-Soviet Space Only the Forgotten Old? by Leonid Stonov, International Director of Bureau for the Human Rights and Law-Observance in the Former Soviet Union, the President of the American Association of Jews from the former USSR (Vestnik magazine)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Other Jewish organizations in the former Soviet Union[edit]