Soviet Jewry

A ‘Klal Yisrael’ Jew

In leading the fight for Soviet Jewry, Yaakov Birnbaum inspired a generation that revitalized Judaism in America.

Special To The Jewish Week

Yaakov Birnbaum, the man who launched the Soviet Jewry grassroots movement that retrieved three million lost Jews, and who died last week at age 87, was my first rebbe, my first spiritual teacher.

Yaakov Birnbaum: ‘A Hero Of Biblical Proportions’

Remembering the man who launched the Soviet Jewry movement here.

Associate Editor

Jacob Yaakov Birnbaum, widely recognized as the founder of the Soviet Jewry movement in the United States, was remembered last week as a “hero of biblical proportions,” someone who “put his life on the line in this struggle.”

Yaakov Birnbaum, “never got the credit, recognition or thanks he deserved,” said Rabbi Yitz Greenberg.  Michael Datikash/JW

What I Thought I Knew About The Jews Of The Former Soviet Union


In my childhood bedroom, in Glasgow, there was a poster on the wall bearing an image of the Kremlin and the words “Let My People Go.” Like many other Jews growing up in the 1980s, I felt the profound impact of the Soviet Jewry movement. So I was a bit surprised by my own ambivalence when I recently decided to go on a UJA-Federation rabbinic mission to the former Soviet Union (FSU) to see what Jewish life is like there today.

His Real Wealth: Service To His People

Family and dignitaries remember Edgar Bronfman at his shloshim service.

Editor And Publisher

His family and friends called him “Tree.”

He loved doing crossword puzzles, watching “Jeopardy” and, after the age of 50, learning to play the piano and study Talmud.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking at service for Edgar Bronfman. Photo courtesy of Samuel Bronfman Foundation

A Champion Of Jewish Freedom And Identity

Seagrams billionaire took on Soviet Union, Swiss banks and assimilation.


Edgar Bronfman, the billionaire former beverage magnate and leading Jewish philanthropist, died Saturday at the age of 84.

Edgar Bronfman: "I'm a Jew, and if I was in a position to help, I did so." JTA

Albert Chernin, Jewish Policy Leader, Dies At 85


Albert Chernin, a Jewish organizational pioneer who was Executive Vice Chairman Emeritus of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs died Monday in his sleep, reported his daughter, Anne Chernin. He was 85.

 Chernin led the organization, which was then known as the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council from 1975 to 1990 and was previously head of Jewish Community Relations Councils in Indianapolis and then Philadelphia.

Shelly The Survivor

Political skills, not iron fist, seen keeping speaker in power after scandal.

Assistant Managing Editor

Tuesday seemed like any other day for Sheldon Silver as he went about his business in Albany, announcing the Assembly’s passage of the DREAM Act, to increase access to college financial aid for immigrant students.

Silver: A political mastermind who keeps his conference members happy.

Welcome To The New Normal: Disability Rights, Not 'Special Needs'

In the second half of the 20th century, the Jewish community did the impossible; after decades of struggle, Soviet Jewry emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, empowered to emigrate as a result of intense international pressure. Amazingly, a tiny, historically marginalized people emerged victorious against the vast Soviet empire.  Looking back, a few key factors made the impossible a reality: a community-wide organizing strategy, the strength and centrality of the voices of Soviet Jews themselves and a clear, unequivocal and uncompromising moral demand. Today, as the Jewish community begins to grapple with the question of how to fulfill its long forgotten responsibilities to its members with disabilities, we would do well to learn from our past.

Ari Ne'eman

The '87 Soviet Jewry Rally: An End, And A Beginning

Every new beginning, we are told by the pop band Semisonic, comes from some other beginning's end.

The December, 1987 rally for Soviet Jews drew an estimated 250,000 people.

A Freedom March Of Our Own

Remembering the Washington rally for Soviet Jewry, 25 years on.

Special To The Jewish Week

At the recent General Assembly of Jewish federations, Elie Wiesel and Natan Sharansky sat together to reminisce about what may have been the most successful revolution in the Jewish world in recent history — and the most forgotten one as well. It’s time for that to change. 

The scene at Soviet Jewry rally in December 1987.
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