Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Just got back from Ukraine

    Back in the USA from 10 days in Ukraine and France. My first entry about the trip comes from the first thing I saw as I passed through passport control. There was a little handout in front of the guys who were checking passports and stamping visas. It seemed necessary by those in charge to warn us not to try to bribe those in passport control and customs as we entered Ukraine. For me it was sad to realize the level of corruption that still exists there. We cannot imagine that such a flyer would be at passport control as we re-enter the US. Please pray that the Ukrainian people will be delivered from the oppression of criminality in every area of life. Shalom. David Schneier

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Just a request for prayer as we (myself and Jeff Friedlander) travel to Paris and Ukraine this Saturday through April 5th. We will be part of an IAMCS leadership conference in Nikolaiv, Ukraine. We expect Messianic leaders from all over Ukraine and Crimea to be there.

   With the recent events in Belgium, the threats of further terrorism by ISIS and the civil war in Ukraine (including random but infrequent bombings in Odessa), we need prayer cover and wisdom for our time in Europe. We'll have a lot to share about the trip on this blog and YouTube so follow us at www.closeupsfromfaraway.blogspot.com.      Shalom. David Schneier

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A toast to Hitler in Ukraine

This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on 12/27/15. It's hard to believe that a member of the Parliament of Ukraine could be so brazen in his blame of the Jewish people for Stalin's murder of millions of Ukrainians by a forced famine. Shalom. David Schneier
Ukrainian legislator toasts Adolf Hitler
Sun, 27 Dec 2015, 05:51 AM
Photo by: screenshot
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.

“Adolf Hitler, together with us, Adolf Hitler, in each of us, and an eagle with iron wings will help us at the right time,” Vitko sang, saluting the camera with his water bottle as the car’s sound system blared “Heil Hitler.” Vitko’s pro-Nazi sentiments emerged immediately on the heels of party leader Lyashko’s denunciation of President Petro Poroshenko for his recent apologizing for Ukrainian complicity in the Holocaust.

Speaking before the Knesset last week, Poroshenko said “we must remember the negative events in history, in which collaborators helped the Nazis with the Final Solution. “When Ukraine was established [as an independent state in 1991], we asked for forgiveness, and I am doing it now, in the Knesset, before the children and grandchildren of the victims of the Holocaust... I am doing it before all citizens of Israel,” he added.

Lyashko lashed out at the president on Facebook on Thursday. “This kind of humiliation of Ukrainians has not been recorded in our history yet. During a visit to Israel, President Poroshenko apologized for the ‘Ukrainian participation in the Holocaust,’” Lyashko posted.

“This is exactly [the] situation if we would accuse Georgians and Jews in the Holodomor, appealing to the atrocities of Dzhugashvili, Beria, Kaganovich, etc,” he said, referring to a massive famine, and those responsible for it, that resulted from the forced collectivization of farms in the Soviet Union during the 1930s. The Holodomor, as it is known in Ukraine, killed millions and is seen by many in that country as a genocide on par with the Holocaust.

“The Knesset has not recognized the Holodomor as the genocide of the Ukrainian people. That is a goal for Ukrainian authorities visiting the Holy Land rather than belittling Ukrainians [and] proclaiming inferiority of his people on the international level,” Lyashko added.

Poroshenko’s comments were laudable and he “acted correctly and courageously when he spoke in the Knesset about the Holocaust the Jewish people endured on Ukrainian soil,” Colette Avital, chairwoman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post. “Even though we are not surprised by the comments of the radical leader, Oleh Lyashko, we are nonetheless shocked by the kind of strange and irrelevant comparisons he brings up and by his negation historical facts.

By now even leaders like Mr. Lyashko should understand that the tragedy which befell the Jewish people in Europe in general, in Ukraine in particular, should be condemned by all, including by him.” “I would say that this is the reason Poroshenko is president and not Lyashko. Lyashko is a populist only saying what he thinks people want to hear,” said Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich.

The Jewish community, Bleich said, disagrees with the populist politician’s definition of humiliation, seeing disgrace as when “one cannot face up to history.” “Pride is to look back, and learn from mistakes. No one accused the Ukrainian people of causing or creating the Holocaust. However, the fact is that there were Ukrainians who participated in the murder and persecution of Jews. They are worthy of condemnation.”

“The sight of a member of the Ukrainian parliament singing a song praising Hitler, underscores the extremely deep problem in today’s Ukrainian democracy regarding the ongoing efforts in that country (and elsewhere throughout post-Communist Eastern Europe, especially in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Hungary) to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust,” said Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“The fact that the Ukrainian authorities honor groups which actively participated in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust and glorify their leaders sends a message that delegitimizes the accurate historical narrative, and paves the way for disgusting scenes like this one. The Ukrainian leadership should not feign surprise or astonishment, they’re the ones at least partially responsible.”

Earlier this year Ukraine’s parliament has extended official recognition to a nationalist militia that collaborated with the Germans during World War II. However, many Ukrainian Jews have appeared rather sanguine, explaining that they believe that such moves are more likely the result of a need to build up a national ethos and raise up heroes during a time of conflict rather than a celebration of such figures’ anti-Semitic attitudes.

Despite that, such moves have been widely panned by Jewish organizations worried about the long term effects of the glorification of anti-Semites. Asked about the decision to honor such groups, Poroshenko told the Post that the government was paying tribute to those who fought for national independence. “Let’s not try to find the black cat in the black room, especially if there is nothing there,” he said.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Update from Ukraine from David Schneier

Interesting news from Ukraine

Svoboda, known as the Social-National Party of Ukraine until 2004, has been accused of being a neo-Nazi party by Ukrainian Jews and while party leaders have a history of making anti-Semitic remarks, their rhetoric has toned down considerably over the past years as they attempted to go mainstream. While it managed to enter mainstream politics and gain 36 out of 450 seats in the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, the party’s support seemed to evaporate following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, in which it played a central role. It currently only holds six seats in the legislature.

The party managed to improve its standing during recent municipal elections, however, obtaining some 10 percent of the vote in the capital of Kiev and garnering second place in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. For the most part, however, Svoboda is far from the major worry for Ukrainian Jews that it was only two years ago.“ It is a sad, but a reality when anti-Semites are being elected in local governing bodies, even mayors promoting hate and intolerance. Konotop is a clear case,” said Eduard Dolinsky of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.

For the Jews of Konotop, however, worries persist, with Ilya Bezruchko, the Ukrainian representative of the US-based National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, saying that he believed that residents, who generally get along well with local Jews, voted for Semenikhin because he projected an image of someone who could bring change and reform a corrupt system.

“The reaction of community is shock. People are shocked it could happen in the city and nobody believed it could happen here but it happened somehow,” community activist Igor Nechayev told the Jerusalem Post by phone on Monday. While there have been a couple of instances of anti-Semitic graffiti over the past decade and one occasionally hears references to conspiracy theories identifying Ukrainian political leaders as Jews, for the most part relations between the Jewish community and their non-Jewish neighbors are cordial, he said.

However, while the mayor attempts make sure that his statements never cross over into outright anti-Semitism, many things he says can be interpreted in such a way, he continued. As an example, he referred to a recent statement by Semenikhin in which the Mayor refused to apologize for anti-Jewish actions taken by far right nationalists during the Second World War, intimating that it was because those responsible for the Holodomor famine of the 1930s were largely Jewish. The Holodomor was a man-made famine that came about during the collectivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union and which led to the starving deaths of millions. Ukrainians consider it a genocide.

“The community is discussing the situation and they understand that the mayor is balancing between anti-Semitism— he isn’t crossing a red line with statements but saying borderline things that can be understood as antisemitic,” he explained. While the Jews are not scared, Nechayev said that they are wary because “Svoboda has a lot of activists [and] fighters in region and [they] can be dangerous.”

Many of the community’s members are elderly and there aren’t many young activists. However he said, members of the city council who have approached by members of the community seem in agreement regarding the Mayor, with several indicating that he has insufficient experience and will not last long in the job.

Speaking to the Post, Vyacheslav Likhachev, an anti-Semitism researcher affiliated with the Vaad of Ukraine and the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, said that “Ukrainians are afraid of the Russian threat, not the threat of national radicalism” and that “Semenikhin has successfully created himself an image of defender of Ukrainian independence, and voters were able to support him, not paying attention to the radicalism of his views.” Unfortunately, the current Ukrainian legislation does not allow it to be forbidden to take part in the election candidates with right-wing views, or to remove them from the elected positions. The special anti-communist and anti-Nazi law talks about banning the symbols of the National Socialist (Nazi) of the totalitarian regime, which includes symbols of the Nazi Party and the state symbols of the Third Reich only. It is impossible to interpret, in legal terms, symbols like '14/88.'”  From the Jerusalem Post, 12/21/15.

   Is this just the beginning in Ukraine? We can ponder that question but Ukrainian Jews are living with this as a new reality. Shalom. David Schneier

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Horrors of the past fondly remembered by some in the present in Ukraine

Ukrainian Jews are outraged over the erection of a monument to the perpetrators of an eighteenth century massacre that killed thousands of their co-religionists. Residents of the western city of Uman earlier this month unveiled the statue to Ivan Gonta and Maxim Zheleznyakov, who were among the leaders of a 1768 uprising against Poland, and carried out a pogrom, which, according to some estimates, killed between 20,000 and 30,000 Jews. According to Russian-language media reports, the five-ton granite monument, topped with statues of Gonta and Zheleznyakov, was built with funds donated by local businesses, a fact that enraged Russian Jewish Congress president Yuri Kanner.

Much of the local economy in Uman rests upon the annual high-holiday pilgrimage to the grave of the hassidic master Rebbe Nachman, who requested that he be buried there to be close to the martyrs. Calling it “a monument to thugs built by Jewish money,” Kanner asserted that building such a memorial near the mass grave of the victims was “not just blasphemy [but] savagery.” This is a “glorification of those whose hands are stained with blood,” he wrote in his blog.

Eduard Dolinsky of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee blamed the far-right Svoboda party for the monument. Svoboda was accused of attacking a Jewish tent city in Uman immediately prior to Rosh Hashana this year, and there is frequent tension between Jewish pilgrims and Ukrainian locals. He added that it appears that there is no great outcry among Ukrainians regarding the issue, citing the expected presence of Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarch Filaret at a ceremony blessing the monument on Saturday. “No comment from the government or from civil society has been made about this. Everyone is calm and this is a shame,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

Jewish groups in the country have begun putting pressure on Filaret to make reference to the Jews killed in Uman during the ceremony, said Vyacheslav Likhachev of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress. “I think that in the common Ukrainian mass identity and mass historical self-identity, people even don’t know that there were Jewish victims of Gonta and Zheleznyakov,” he said, explaining that the pair had been placed in “a pantheon, a long historical list of persons from Bohdan Khmelnytsky to Stepan Bandera who struggled for Ukrainian independence.” Both Khmelnytsky, who was a Ukrainian leader in the seventeenth century, and Bandera, who was a prominent nationalist leader in the twentieth, were responsible for mass killings of Jews and are considered seminal historical figures in contemporary Ukraine. Shalom from David Schneier

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Report from Paris

   Here's a report from a Pastor (who is also a friend of ours) of a church near Stade de France just outside of Paris where one of the recent terrorist and murderous acts of jihadist Muslims in France. I heard recently that we may already "lost" 200 Syrian refugees in Mobile, AL so this should be of interest to those who are concerned about the vetting process of refugees in light of the attacks in France. At this point the news reports are now saying that maybe two of the terrorists who attacked Paris recently entered Europe as Syrian refugees through Greece.
Shalom. David Schneier

Hi David,
Yes this is a bit of a trying time.  First of all we are extremely grateful to God that no one in our churches was killed or injured in the events.  As you know three bombs went off at the Stade de France which is very close to our church.  Only 1 passerby was killed!  Three kamikazes, and only one victim.  This is not exactly the kind of victory ISIS is looking for.  According to the police, it would appear that one of the terrorists actually walked to an alley, out of harm’s way, before detonating the device. (We would like to think that the years of prayer and intercession over our neighborhood was somewhat responsible for the protection over the 80,000 people in the stadium and the thousands of residents.) We still need prayer.  Thursday is day of prayer and fasting for us.  We will have a prayer team down town at the Bataclan while our church is in prayer; and we will stream it all at 7:30 pm Paris time (1:30 New York). You know the French, they are afraid, and defiant, at the same time.  There are a number of articles that I’ve posted to my blog that give a pretty good description of what is happening here.  Feel free to read it and share it: www.robertandkathrynbaxter.com

Thank you for standing with us.  God bless you all richly.

Robert Baxter

Monday, November 16, 2015

Though not reported on major news outlets. the Jewish connection to the slaughter in France unfolds.

Bataclan Concert Hall in Paris
The Jewish Connection to Paris Music Venue Where 89 People Were Killed News Staff (Nov 16, 2015)

The French magazine Le Point reported that in 2011, a terrorist told French security services that "we (the Army of Islam terrorist group) had planned an attack against the Bataclan because its owners are Jews.  (Paris, France)—[JNS] The Bataclan concert hall—site of the deadliest of Friday's six coordinated Islamist terror attacks in Paris, with 89 people killed—was under Jewish ownership for four decades and had received frequent threats in the past for that reason. (Photo via JNS.org) Sold only two months ago by co-owners Pascal Laloux and Joel Tuitto, the venue is still under their responsibility. "One of the managers called me and began to tell me about the disaster that was taking place," Tuitto, who recently moved to Israel, told Israel's Channel 2. "I could hear the gunshots and the voices in the background... The terrorists were inside the theater, and I heard the gunshots, but I couldn't do anything." Tuitto said he had co-owned the Bataclan since the 1970s, and that according to the terms of the sale, he remains responsible for it until September 2018. The French magazine Le Point reported that in 2011, a terrorist told French security services that "we (the Army of Islam terrorist group) had planned an attack against the Bataclan because its owners are Jews." The Bataclan, which regularly hosted Jewish and Israeli events, also received serious threats in 2007 and 2008. Tuitto said a group of masked Palestinians had even come to the venue two years ago demanding its closure due to its "fundraising for Israel and the IDF," and warning of an attack if their demand was not met, but nothing came of the threat. The band playing at the Bataclan the night of the brutal attack, Eagles of Death Metal, played a concert in Tel Aviv this past summer. Reprinted with permission via JNS.org.

    I knew there was a Jewish connection to all of this. Shalom. David Schneier