Freeing Russian Jewry: The Refuseniks

We’re visiting the Soviet Union and recapping the history of Soviet Jewry. The campaign to free the Jews of the USSR grew into a global phenomenon that motivated Jews across the world to fight for their fellow Jews. With incredible results.

With a history that included pogroms, rampant anti-Semitism and the harsh dictates of Communism, it’s hardly surprising many Jews wanted to leave. But there was a catch. Those who applied for an exit visa risked losing their jobs, their livelihoods and their freedom. These Jews became known as Refuseniks, the most famous of whom was Natan Sharansky who would later go on to become a prominent Israeli politician.

While the campaign to free the Refuseniks had its roots in a grassroots movement started by Jewish students, it grew into a global phenomenon that led to the largest gathering ever of American Jews and helped inspire the path to freedom for millions of Russian Jews.

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