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Commemorating the March on Washington with Freedom 25

Over 250,000 Came Together for “Freedom Sunday” on Behalf of Soviet Jewry in 1987

By: Jessica Pallay
Published: December 6th, 2012 in News » World
Poster featuring Logo of 1987 Freedom Sunday Rally, the largest rally of the Movement to Free Soviet JewryPic: Wikipedia

Behind the fall of the Soviet Union is the story of the greatest and most successful human rights movement in a quarter-century – one that helped reform U.S. foreign policy and brought millions of Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel and the United States, including the family of the founder of Google, five Nobel laureates, and countless others whose work re-shaped our community.

It is also one of the greatest historical examples of the collective power of Jewish Federations, who heard the call to action, and quickly helped mobilize more than 250,000 people for a historic “Freedom Sunday” march on behalf of Soviet Jewry in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 6, 1987.

Today, on the 25th anniversary of the march, The Jewish Federations of North America will join the efforts of Freedom 25 to engage one million people in a virtual march to commemorate the occasion and heighten awareness of its significance in the Jewish community and beyond.

Freedom 25 is a coalition of national, international and grassroots organizations, established to educate future generations about the Soviet Jewry movement and empower them to use its lessons of freedom and accomplishment. Founded by Jewish communal leadership veterans Daniel Eisenstadt and Michael Granoff, Freedom 25 aims to build awareness in a new generation and provide tools for activism and mobilization.

“Despite such a record of unprecedented achievement and its enduring effect on contemporary society, ‘Freedom Sunday’ and the movement in general are for the most part a footnote in history,” Eisenstadt said. “They are not taught in any elementary or secondary schoolbooks; they aren’t even a part of the curriculum at Jewish schools. In short, the history and lessons of the Soviet Jewry movement have slipped off the Jewish and national communal agenda.”

Granoff echoed these sentiments and added that, “now is the opportune time to tell America, and the world, about this historic movement. ‘Freedom 25’ was established to assure that the critical lessons of the Soviet Jewry movement are learned by future generations so they can again be applied to expand the reach of freedom.”

In honor of today’s momentous anniversary, JFNA has collaborated with Freedom 25 to release an exclusive video highlighting the Federation role in organizing the North American Jewish community for the March on Washington. Watch the video here.

“It’s a story not only of rescue and bringing people to freedom, but also of how we are all connected,” said Adam J. Smolyar, chief marketing officer of JFNA, who also serves on the Freedom 25 Advisory Board. “Jewish Federations were instrumental in catapulting the issue to the front pages, and to the front of people’s minds in every household of the Jewish community.”

In advance of the 25th anniversary of the March on Washington, JFNA staged a historic dialogue at the 2012 General Assembly between Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Chairman of the Executive at The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky to examine how the event forever impacted the landscape of the global Jewish community, and how its reverberations continue to be felt today. Wiesel and Sharansky worked tirelessly to free the Soviet Jews and are credited with organizing the unprecedented march.

Freedom 25 will continue to stage events in coming months to educate the global Jewish community about the Soviet Jews’ struggle for freedom. Learn more about upcoming Freedom 25 events.

In addition to JFNA, the Freedom 25 coalition includes the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Conference on Soviet Jewry, Jewish National Fund, Jewish Agency for Israel, American Jewish Historical Society, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Orthodox Union, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, National Council of Young Israel, Foundation for Jewish Camp, Yeshiva University, Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, Chai Mitzvah, Union of Councils for Jewish in the Former Soviet Union, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Council of Jewish Émigré Community Organizations.

To learn more about the Freedom Sunday march, and get perspectives from émigrés, activists, and refuseniks – including Sharansky – read this UJA-Federation of New York article.

For more information on marketing materials related to the 25th anniversary of the March on Washington, please contact Lisa Kleinman at 212-284-6593.

Related articles: Freedom Sunday, Soviet Union, Jewish, Immigrants, Washington DC
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