AJC Hosts Freedom Sunday 25th Anniversary Celebration

November 27, 2012 – New York – AJC will host a celebratory gathering on December 10 to mark the 25th anniversary of Freedom Sunday, when more than 250,000 Jews marched on Washington, D.C., to demand freedom for Soviet Jewry.


“Freedom Sunday: Celebrating a Quarter Century of Success” will take place at in New York. Register for the December 10 event online at www.ajc.org/freedommarch.


Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Minister of Information and Diaspora Affairs and a former “Prisoner of Zion,” and AJC Executive Director David Harris will address the dinner. As AJC’s Washington director in 1987, Harris served as national coordinator of the Freedom Sunday for Soviet Jewry march and rally on that historic December 6.


Freedom Sunday was the largest rally ever held in American Jewish history and the culmination of a decades-long struggle. The gathering in Washington showed “what is possible, against all the odds, if only the Jewish people stand together, persevere and join forces with others of good will,” David Harris wrote in a JTA op-ed.


The next day, President Ronald Reagan spoke of the rally with his White House visitor, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and urged him to let the Jews leave. The iron gates of the Soviet Union soon opened and hundreds of thousands of Jews, silenced for so long, were able to leave the country.


The December 10 program in New York will feature a musical performance and a theatrical production recreating highlights of Freedom Sunday. The event also will celebrate the impressive achievements of Jews from the Former Soviet Union. Several hundred people, including many from the large Russian Jewish community in New York, are expected to attend. Among the international guests travelling especially to participate is a delegation of Ukrainian Jewish leaders.


Minister Edelstein is one example of the many success stories of Soviet Jews in Israel, the United States and around the world in fields ranging from physics to politics, medicine to music, and culture to technology.


Edelstein was born in Ukraine.  A Hebrew-language activist, he was arrested by Soviet authorities in 1984 and spent three-and-a-half years in a labor camp, sustaining serious injuries.  Released in 1987, he immigrated to Israel and was elected to the Knesset in 1996.


Harris was deeply involved over many years with almost every aspect of the struggle for Soviet Jewry. He taught in the USSR in 1974, and established contact with many refuseniks, until he was detained by Soviet authorities and expelled from the country. Before joining the AJC staff in 1979, he worked for HIAS in Rome and Vienna, from1975 to 1978, helping thousands of Soviet refugees in their journey to a new life. As part of his work assisting Soviet Jews in their migration and resettlement process, he authored two Russian-English books, Entering a New Culture and The Jewish World, which were given to every refugee family headed to the U.S.


AJC established its pioneering Russian Jewish Affairs Division in 2003. Led by Sam Kliger, a former refusenik, it has worked to help integrate Russian Jews into the American Jewish community and to foster closer ties with Jews in the FSU.


Serving as a Dinner Chair for the Freedom Sunday anniversary celebration is David Valger, a New York City real estate executive and the Founder of DVO Real Estate Holdings. He emigrated from the former Soviet Union as a child.  


For further information, please contact Sam Kliger, Director, AJC Russian Jewish Affairs, at 212-891-6719, or kligers@ajc.org.

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