November 6, 2011 / 9 Cheshvan 5772
Event Commemorating 20th Anniversary of Soviet Union’s Demise to Feature Roster of Prominent Activists and Jewish Leaders
Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, will deliver a keynote address in New York City at the Power of Peoplehood: The Soviet Jewish Journey, an upcoming conference to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s collapse.
The conference, which will take place at the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) international headquarters, 165 East 56th Street on Wednesday, November 9, beginning at 1:00 p.m, will gather members of the Russian-speaking Jewish community, a number of American and Israeli Jewish leaders and key activists from the ‘refusenik’ movement of the 1970s and 80s.
Natan Sharansky and David Harris, AJC’s executive director, will hold a press briefing at 12:45. Journalists wishing to attend the briefing and /or the Power of Peoplehood conference should contact Joshua Berkman of the Jewish Agency at 212-339-6068 / email@example.com to request credentials.
Imprisoned for more than a decade in a Soviet gulag because he publicly resisted Soviet policies that denied Jews the right to practice their religion openly or emigrate, Mr. Sharansky became an international symbol for human rights. The campaign for his release galvanized Jews around the world to stand with their Jewish brethren fighting for freedom. Upon his release in 1986, Mr. Sharansky made Aliyah and has dedicated his life—first as a minister and deputy prime minister in five successive governments and now as chairman of the Jewish Agency—to assisting new immigrants accelerate their integration into Israeli society. He is the author of three books, including New York Times bestseller, “The Case for Democracy” and has been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Sharansky will be introduced by Harris. His presentation will be directed at the audience, comprising largely of younger members of New York’s Russian-speaking Jewish community. He will share his personal story as a prisoner of Zion and discuss how the international mobilization to free Soviet Jewry is one of modern history’s most profound embodiments of Jewish peoplehood.
In addition to Natan Sharansky’s talk and David Harris’s introduction, Russian Jewish activist and historian Michael Beizer, PhD will give a talk. Dmitri Glinski, executive director of the American Association of Jews from the former Soviet Union, and Jerry Goodman, founding director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, will open the conference, which will also feature panels on the refusenik movement (moderated by Mark Levin, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry) and the challenge of identity (moderated by Dr. Misha Galperin, chief executive officer of the Jewish Agency, North America.
Also participating in the conference as panelists will be former prisoner of Zion Yosef Begun, PhD; activist refusenik Boris Gorbis; historian Matvey Chlenov; Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, former chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry; Amnesty International’s northeast regional director, Joshua Rubenstein; Steven Bayme, AJC’s director of contemporary Jewish life; refusenik Sam Kliger, director of AJC’s Department of Russian Jewish Community Affairs; Israel’s deputy consul general for New York, Shlomi Kofman; Glenn Richter, co-founder of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry; and David Waksberg, former vice president of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry.
“Just 20 years after the Soviet Union collapsed and the dream of freedom became a universal reality for so many Jews, it is tremendously gratifying to witness the extent to which Russian-speaking Jews have emerged as a social and cultural force in Israel and the Diaspora,” said Dr. Galperin. “This community’s struggle united world Jewry. But we are now challenged to understand the unique ways that today’s search for a common Jewish identity relates to Russian-speaking Jews —especially in an age when so many former refuseniks and their children are thriving as Americans, Europeans and Israelis.”
The conference, cosponsored by the Jewish Agency, the American Jewish Committee and the American Association of Jews from the Former Soviet Union, is part of a month-long celebration of Soviet Jewry’s freedom. This celebration will also include:
- “Let My People Go” photo exhibition: Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, This exhibition, distributed by Beit Hatfusot and supported by the Jewish Agency, opened on November 2. It tells the story of Jews in the former Soviet Union, who wanted to emigrate but were denied permission to leave. Visitors will learn about their efforts to maintain a Jewish identity, their struggles with Soviet authorities, and the worldwide support they received.
- The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry: 92nd Street Y, Wednesday, November 9, 8 p.m. A panel discussion featuring Natan Sharansky, Ellie Weisel, Richard Perle, Margarita Levieva, Gal Beckerman and novelist/Fordham University professor Thane Rosenbaum as moderator.
About the Jewish Agency for Israel
Established in 1929, the Jewish Agency was instrumental in the founding of the State of Israel and now works to ensure the future of a connected, committed, global Jewish People with a strong Israel at its center. The Jewish Agency addresses the most pressing issues in Jewish life by working to Inspire Jews throughout the world to Connect with their people, heritage and land, and Empower them to build a thriving Jewish future and strong Israel. The Jewish Agency pursues this goal by bringing young Jews to Israel for life-changing experiences and involving them in social activism in Israel and abroad.
About the American Jewish Committee
The American Jewish Committee (AJC), founded in 1906, is the premier global Jewish advocacy organization, seeking a secure Jewish future in a more just world. With headquarters in New York, AJC maintains offices across the United States and around the world and partnerships with Jewish communities worldwide.
About the American Association of Jews from the Former Soviet Union (AAJFSU)
Founded in 1989, AAJFSU is the oldest active 501(c)(3) organization of Russian-speaking Jews in the United States. We are engaged in civil and human rights advocacy on behalf of refugees and other immigrants, as well as in raising funds for humanitarian needs in Israel.