Records of the Houston Action for Soviet Jewry
Scope and Content Note
This collection consists of materials related to the running of the organization, such as committee and board meeting agendas and minutes, correspondence, materials related to various projects and programs run by the Houston Action for Soviet Jewry, including the Soviet Bar / Bat Mitzvah twinning program and Adopt-a-Soviet Family, the sister-city program with Baku, Azerbaijan, some membership materials, index card catalogs, pins, bumper stickers, a large plastic banner, photographs, audio and video cassettes, photographic slides, newspaper clippings, public relations and publicity materials, form letters, newsletters, programs, invitations and event announcements, and letters to existing and potential contributors and members.
Much of the collection is made up of biographical information about refuseniks and prisoners of conscience. Many of these refusenik files were created by other Soviet Jewry agencies, including the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews, Seattle Action for Soviet Jews, Chicago Action for Soviet Jewry, Colorado Committee of Concern for Soviet Jews and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. Many of these organizations were known by multiple names over several years, such as the Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry, which was also known as the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. The materials in this collection date from 1966-1997, with the bulk dating from 1984-1993. The majority of the collection is in English, with some documents in Russian, German, French, and Hebrew. The collection consists of 30 manuscript boxes, 2 SB1 card file boxes, 3 SB2 card file boxes, and a mailing tube, comprising 18.5 linear feet.
- Majority of material found within 1984 - 1993
- Houston Action for Soviet Jewry (Organization)
The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.
No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For reference questions, please email: email@example.com
Biographical and Historical Note
The Records of the Houston Action for Soviet Jewry (HASJ) is one of the collections within the Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement (AASJM) at the American Jewish Historical Society. These papers reflect the effort, beginning in the 1960s through the late 1980s, of thousands of American Jews of all denominations and political orientations to stop the persecution and discrimination of Jews in the Soviet Union. The American Soviet Jewry Movement (ASJM) is considered to be one of the most influential movements of the American Jewish community in the 20th century. The beginnings of the organized American Soviet Jewry movement became a model for efforts to aid Soviet Jews in other countries, among them Great Britain, Canada, and France. The movement can be traced to the early 1960s, when the first organizations were created to address the specific problem of the persecution and isolation of Soviet Jews by the government of the Soviet Union.
The Houston Action for Soviet Jewry was founded by Rabbi Shaul Osadchey and several of the congregants from Congregation Brith Shalom in Bellaire, Houston, TX circa 1983. The aim of HASJ was to support Jews living in the Soviet Union and to aid their efforts to either express their religious rights within the Soviet Union or to be allowed to emigrate. In the beginning, their efforts focused almost entirely on aiding Jews within the USSR, but they soon began to work on emigration and resettlement efforts as well. HASJ was affiliated with the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews and, as such, shared some information and resources with Soviet Jewish aid organizations in other areas, including Chicago, the Bay Area, CA and Colorado. These included biographical profiles of refuseniks, those who had applied to emigrate but were not allowed to, as well as biographical profiles of prisoners of conscience, those who had been imprisoned for dissident beliefs. These organizations also shared publicity and programming materials for their events and projects.
Among the HASJ’s main programs were the Adopt-a-Family program, which connected families in the U.S. with refusenik families in the USSR and the Bar / Bat Mitzvah Twinning Program, in which members of various Houston synagogues preparing for their bar or bat mitzvah would be assigned a Soviet “twin” to symbolically share the experience with, as children in the Soviet Union were not able to participate in these religious ceremonies. HASJ also participated in sending books, religious materials, food, and medicine to the Soviet Union, worked to raise awareness of the situations of various refuseniks and prisoners of conscience among the greater Houston and Texas community, took part in several protests and rallies, including a March on Washington ahead of a 1987 summit meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, and maintained a connection with the Jewish community of Baku, Azerbaijan, a sister city of Houston, including aiding that community in educational and social action programs. The HASJ helped several Jews emigrate to Houston and other cities in the United States.
After the fall of communism, the HASJ continued to support the Jews who remained in the former Soviet Union, providing those who chose to stay with Jewish religious and educational materials and community resources while continuing to help those who wanted to emigrate. They also helped Jews secure food and medicine, which were sometimes difficult to obtain in the instability that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
18.5 Linear Feet (30 manuscript boxes, 2 SB1 card file boxes, 3 SB2 card file boxes, 1 mailing tube)
Language of Materials
This collection contains the institutional records of the Houston Action for Soviet Jewry, mainly news clippings, correspondence, files about refuseniks, and various materials and programs for events which Houston Action for Soviet Jewry sponsored or was involved with. There are also some materials from other organizations set up to aid Soviet Jewry, including the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews, the Chicago Action for Soviet Jewry and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. Many of these materials concern the situation of Jews in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as in the 1990s, soon after the end of the Soviet Union.
When the collection arrived at the American Jewish Historical Society Archives, some of the materials were arranged in folders labeled by the main topic or individual represented in the folder, although the folders themselves were not generally arranged in any order. A great deal of the material was grouped together, either with rubber bands, binder clips, or between file dividers, but was not in folders and a majority of the folders were not labeled. Labeled folders have retained their titles and unlabeled folders were given titles in accordance with existing titles. All folders that contain biographical information about refuseniks have been labeled ‘refusenik biographies,’ although some of the materials inside these folders are labeled with other titles, such as ‘refusenik files’ or ‘refusenik profiles.’ The only exceptions to this are the refusenik profile exhibit displays. The collection is arranged alphabetically and, within this order, chronologically by earliest dated document. Clippings have been arranged chronologically, other than the materials from two bound press books, which have been left in their original order. The collection has been organized into five series, some of which have been further divided into subseries.
- Series I: Organizational Files, 1966, 1980-1997
- Series II: Refusenik Files, 1981-1995, undated
- Subseries 1: Refusenik Biographies, 1981-1995
- Subseries 2: Refusenik Profiles, undated
- Series III: Clippings, 1984-1996
- Series IV: Exhibits and Events, 1982-1989
- Series V: Audiovisual and Memorabilia, 1971, 1984-1994, undated
- Subseries 1: Photographs, 1992, undated
- Subseries 2: Audio Materials, 1971, 1985-1991, undated
- Subseries 3: Videocassettes, 1986-1994, undated
- Subseries 4: Slides, 1984, undated
- Subseries 5: Memorabilia, undated
Located in AJHS New York, NY
The records were donated by the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2007.
With the exception of a phonograph record, all sound recordings found in Series V: Audiovisual and Memorabilia, Subseries 2: Audio Materials were digitized. All unique, playable videocassettes in Series V, Subseries 3 were digitized in 2016-2017. The digitized videos are fully available with the exception of tape 17, which is limited to onsite access due to copyright concerns.
- Bar mitzvah
- Bat mitzvah
- Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews
- Begun, Yosif, 1932-
- Bumper stickers
- Buttons (information artifacts)
- Case files
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Emigration and immigration
- Former Soviet republics
- Houston (Tex.)
- Human rights
- Jews, Soviet
- Minutes (administrative records)
- Nudel, Ida
- Phonograph records
- Political activists
- Prisoners -- Legal status, laws, etc
- Psychological abuse
- Shcharansky, Anatoly
- Slides (photographs)
- Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry
- Union of Councils for Soviet Jews
- Records of the Houston Action for Soviet Jewry, 1966-1997
- Processed by Rachel S. Harrison
- © 2010.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- Processed as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation. Selective digitization of the Records of the Houston Action for Soviet Jewry (I-500) was made possible through a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). Digitization of videocassettes was made possible through the generous support of the Blavatnik Foundation.
- Edition statement
- This version was derived from HoustonAction.xml
- September 2015: Added dao links by Eric Fritzler.
- July 2017: Dao links for videocassettes added, filename simplified, and digitization note and sponsor statement updated by Leanora Lange.
- May 2021: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.