The Soviet Jewry Movement in America

The fight to liberate the Soviet Jews strengthened and united the American Jewish community.

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This unity was most evident in December 1987 when Gorbachev made his first visit to Washington. Over 250,000 people gathered in front of the White House to protest on behalf of Soviet Jews, the largest gathering ever for a Jewish cause. The event was also a celebration, with Shcharansky and many other famous prisoners present. It was clear that, though the numbers of emigrants were still low, that the movement was achieving its goals. The next day, Reagan pointed out to Gorbachev how large and vociferous the rally had been. Within the next three years, the floodgates opened. With the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Jews in Israel and in America, the movement could claim what few social movements ever can, that it had unequivocally achieved its goal.

For more about information, including primary, historical documents, visit the Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement from the American Jewish Historical Society.

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Gal Beckerman's first book, When They Come for Us, We?ll Be Gone, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in September 2010. It was named was one of the best books of the year by The New Yorker and the Washington Post, and received both the 2010 National Jewish Book Award and the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. He has written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.