It’s the stories that are so amazing. Over this past week in response to blogs, kavannot, sermons, and school programs we have heard from so many people who took part in the decade’s long struggle to free Soviet Jewry.
I wanted to share some of those stories with you and encourage you to share your own story of advocacy and involvement in the comments section below.
Barbara Klein: I actually went to DC on a bus with my two sons, who were young teens at the time. They were always saying they could not believe that I had never marched for any causes in the ’60s or ’70s, since I had married so young and had my first kid in 1970. Soooooo, I said “OK guys, if you will come with me for the March for Soviet Jewry, this will be my first march.” We did it, and the three of us felt a sense of pride.
Stu Levine: The rally occurred on the 3rd night of Pesach, April 14, 1980. It was an organized torchlight march from downtown Montreal to the Soviet consulate, demanding “Let our people go!”- the release of then detained and persecuted Soviet Jews. My mother is right behind me in the picture wearing the Mendelevich banner (note that Sharansky was right next to her!). I remember that night like it was yesterday- it was cold, as April nights in Montreal often are, but the electric feeling in the crowd, the chanting and singing, and the common sense of purpose resonate as loudly today as they did to me then. Your sermon on Shabbat brought those memories and feelings flooding back. How incredible then, that only a few short years after that picture was taken, the wall came down, and we were able to witness our modern “let my people go” moment- the exodus of Soviet Jewry to Eretz Israel. It is really amazing. I am attaching a picture of the night in question that was published in the Canadian Jewish News in 1980 (my parents dug it up last night), with the 8 year old version of me carrying the torch!
Margie Tutnauer: Moshe Z”L and I shared a passion for the release of Soviet Jewry in the 60’s and 70’s. Our first trip to Moscow and Leningrad (then!) was with our boys of 9 and 11 in 1971! We met many refuseniks and carried (illegally) Israeli documents to some of them. When the gates opened in 1990 Moshe participated in the first conference on Jewish Values for Moscow academics. Between 1991 and 2000, Moshe and I were sent on shlichut on twelve different trips ranging between several weeks and several months. Now that Moshe is no longer with us, I participated in a mission to Kiev this past July with Masorti. I was honored to speak at the installation of our first native born Ukranian Rabbi, Reuven Stamov. Happy Chanukah!
Please share your own recollections of the struggle to free Soviet Jewry.