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October 04, 2012 - Image 38

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-10-04

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points of view

Applying from page 37

Commentary

Editorial

ter reality. A state of mistrust
has cast its shadow on inter-
national relations, while there
is no trusted or just authority
to help resolve world con-
flicts."
That would be laughable if
not for his very real threat to
bomb Israel were Iran ever to
get the chance.
Addressing the U.N. the
day before the Persian
nation's leader, U.S. President
Barack Obama said a nuclear
Iran, a real possibility, would
pose an existential threat to
Israel as well as endanger
the security of Gulf nations
and the stability of the glob-
al economy. Further, it could
trigger a nuclear arms race
in the region and the unrav-
eling of the non-proliferation
treaty – all of which is why
America, Obama said, "will
do what we must to prevent
Iran from obtaining a nuclear
weapon" and will not settle
for simple containment of a
nuclear Iran.
For his part, Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
told the U.N. the day after
Ahmadinejad spoke that the
"red line" he is seeking as
a warning to Iran to stop its
suspected nuclear weapons
program would come as early
as spring.
Using a marker, he drew
the red line on a chart at a
point between 90-percent
medium enrichment (pro-
jected no later than next
summer) and the remaining
10-percent high-enrichment
uranium required for a bomb
(closure that he expects
would take just months).
Sukkot and its electric
story of Jewish survival pro-
vide a perfect backdrop for
strengthening the Jewish
people's resolve to fight
anti-Semitic fervor wherever
it arises, especially in the
Islamic Republic. Iran's igno-
minious president believes
he represents "a great and
proud nation" that's "dedicat-
ed to the cause of freedom,
peace and compassion."
Rather, Iran is a clear and
present danger that must be
reckoned with. LI

38

October 4 • 2012

Ai

Celebrate, Learn From Soviet Jewry Movement

Washington/JTA

he greatest Jewish success story
in a quarter century has become
unknown to many in less than a
generation.
On Dec. 6, 1987, when Soviet leader
Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in Washington,
more than a quarter-million American
Jews — Democrats and Republicans,
observant and secular, and individuals
representing the entire spectrum of Israeli
politics — gathered on the National Mall
with a single unified message as old as the
Exodus story: "Let our people go!"
"Our people" were the Jews of the
Soviet Union who were being discrimi-
nated against, deprived of their freedom
of expression and religion, and prevented
from emigrating. After the Six-Day War,
brave Soviet Jews began to risk their
careers, loved ones and lives to protest the
denial of these freedoms and to advocate
for their basic right to immigrate to Israel.
Refuseniks — Soviet Jews who had been
denied an exit visa — cried out for help
from other Jews. Israeli and American
Jewish activists responded, saying: "Hineni
— Here I am:'

The Driving Forces

The gathering on that cold December
morning 25 years ago was the culminat-
ing event of a generation-long struggle
by American Jews to win the freedom of
their Soviet brethren. Commonly known
as the Soviet Jewry movement, it was led
by activists who came from every corner
of the Jewish community. Their stories and
impact continue to resonate with us as Jews
and Americans.
The movement's real engine was at the
grassroots level across America. In the
mid-1960s, college students, housewives,
dentists, rabbis and teachers orchestrated
letter-writing campaigns, local rallies,
b'nai-mitzvah twinning programs and
more. And they persisted in their activ-
ism on behalf of Soviet Jews for decades.
American Jews from major cities traveled
to the Soviet Union with books, messages
of support and hidden religious articles.
What was the net result? More than 1
million Soviet Jews became Israeli citizens.
Jews from the former Soviet Union trans-
formed intellectual fields in Israel from
physics to economics to engineering and
the medical sciences — and were recog-
nized with Nobel Prizes no fewer than five
times.

The Lasting Effects
Former Soviet Jews have changed the way
we work and live through various high-

Daniel Eisenstadt and
Michael Granoff

it ever happened.
We formed Freedom 25 to rectify this
incomprehensible situation. Our coalition
of more than a dozen nonprofits and Jewish
organizations is committed to help refocus
Americans generally and North American
Jewry specifically on this history and its
lessons.
Leading up to the 25th anniversary of
the Freedom Sunday March, we will be
creating a "virtual march" featuring online
events, petitions and educational program-
ming. Our goal is for 1 million people
online to celebrate this defining moment in
Jewish and human rights history. We will
work collaboratively throughout 2013 to
ensure the movement and its vital legacy
become part of classroom curricula and,
more important, join the stories we tell our
children and grandchildren with pride.
As we begin the year 5773, we should
remember and appreciate that the struggle
for freedom is ongoing. The lessons of the
Soviet Jewry movement should inform how
we respond to current and future challeng-
es: As a community, we are strongest when
we stand together. As a people, we must
never stay silent when Jews are in need.
As a light to the nations, we must ensure
that those rights central to the Soviet Jewry
movement — freedom of migration, free-
dom of information and freedom of con-
science — define our activism.

tech innovations. Google, co-founded by
Moscow-born Sergey Brin, who immi-
grated to the United States, might not have
been created without the Soviet Jewry
movement.
In stark contrast to the lack of political
clout and cunning among American Jews
during the Holocaust era, this genera-
tion of Soviet Jewry activists, reared in
the struggle for civil rights for minorities
in America, took a universal message of
inherent rights and freedom from kitchen
tables and university squares to the White
House. They confronted political leaders
with a moral imperative based on many
of the fundamental values, such as reli-
gious liberty, that were the foundation of
America itself.
In his award-winning book When They
Come for Us We'll Be Gone, author Gal
Beckerman notes that the Jackson-Vanik
Daniel Eisenstadt and Michael Granoff co-
Amendment, which tied U.S.-Soviet
chair Freedom 25 (www.freedom25.net), a
trade to the basic right of emigration,
coalition promoting the history and lessons
marked the first time that a fight against
of the Soviet Jewry movement.
the human rights abuses within another
sovereign country was
directly incorporated into
American foreign policy.
THE SUKKOT HOMY
In fact, members of
the Reagan administra-
THERE ARE TIMES
BY SITTING IN
tion credit activists of the
WHEN SECURITY
LEAF-COVERED
Soviet Jewry movement
CAN BE FOUND
HUTS
for personalizing the
philosophical differences
between the countries,
revealing contradictions
ri
that served to weaken the
foundations of the Soviet
Union itself. Within four
years of the Freedom
CagleCartoons.com DryBones com
Sunday March, the Soviet
Union was no more.

Dry Bones

Spread The Word

And yet this success story
has not been integrated
into our contemporary
Jewish narrative or
our understanding of
American history. Few
under the age of 30 know

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