Pamela B. Cohen Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Pamela B. Cohen papers include materials from the late 1960s through 2009, and the bulk of the collection is dated 1970s-1980s. The documents include correspondence, notes, memoranda, publications, news clippings, photographs, ephemera, audio and video recordings and 3-D objects.
- Creation: undated, 1968-2005, 2007, 2009
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1978 - 1996
- Cohen, Pamela B. (Person)
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The Papers of Pamela B. Cohen represent one collection housed within the Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement (AASJM). 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 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.
Pamela Cohen was an activist in the Soviet Jewry Movement from the early 1970s through 1996. She began her activity through the independent grass roots council, Chicago Action for Soviet Jewry (CASJ) and in 1978, served with Marillyn Tallman as co-chair until 1986, when she became the national president of the Washington-based Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (UCSJ). She served in that capacity for 10 years.
Beginning in 1978, Mrs. Cohen traveled throughout the U.S.S.R. to visit Jewish emigration activists and Refuseniks, Jews who were refused emigration visas, to bring out information and to develop strategies for UCSJ's grass roots support. In 1989 Mrs. Cohen led an international delegation, representing five countries, to the Soviet Union to hold the historic first open meeting between Jews of the Soviet Union and Jews of the West and Israel. Later that year, at the request of the Refusenik activists, she traveled again to Moscow for the opening of the Solomon Mikhoels Cultural Center. In 1991, she returned to Russia for a Round Table of Human Rights, co-sponsored by the Union of Councils, with participation of indigenous human rights and democratic leaders. She also led a UCSJ team to Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to assess the situation of Jews in the Soviet Moslem Republics and returned to Kyrgyzstan the following year with a UCSJ delegation to conduct an International Symposium on Human Rights as requested by local Jewish leadership. In the same year, she participated in a Human Rights Experts meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, co-sponsored by UCSJ.
Mrs. Cohen has participated in numerous international and national conferences on the issues of Soviet Jewish emigration, Soviet anti-Semitism, and the right to Jewish identity in the former U.S.S.R.. On behalf of the Union of Councils, she attended three separate sessions of the Vienna Follow-Up Meeting of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE); the 1989 CSCE Paris Conference of the Human Dimensions; the Paris CSCE Summit 1990; the Copenhagen Conference of the Human Dimension in 1990; the 1991 Moscow Conference of the Human Dimension and served as a public member of the official U.S. delegation to the CSCE Conference on Minorities in Geneva, Switzerland in 1991. She traveled to Israel on bi-annual basis with UCSJ activists to debrief Jews who were able to receive visas.
Pamela Cohen established networks for transferring information to and from Refuseniks throughout the U.S.S.R. and maintained regular telephone contacts with activists during the darkest days for Soviet Jewry. She testified at Congressional hearings on the state of Soviet emigration policy and state-sponsored anti-Semitism during the Soviet era and participated regularly in briefings for the Congress, the White House, departments of State, Commerce and Defense. She participated in briefings for President Reagan, Secretaries of the State Schultz, Baker and for Condoleezza Rice, during her tenure with the National Security Council. In 1992 she was a guest at the White House for the State dinner during the Summit between Presidents George Bush and Boris Yeltsin.
During the course of her service, Mrs. Cohen has received the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award from the Raoul Wallenberg Committee of Chicago in 1981 and the Edward J. Sparling Award from Roosevelt University's Alumni Association. In 1989, during the UCSJ Conference in Moscow, Mrs. Cohen was given the Medal of Honor by grass roots Soviet Jewish activists and leaders for her achievements on behalf of Soviet Jewry. In 1997, she received a degree of Doctor of Human Letters from Spertus College of Judaica.
In 1995, Pamela Cohen and Rabbi Ezra Belsky co-founded Komimiyus, the Deerfield, Illinois-based North Shore Torah Center, an independent grass roots education center dedicated to Jewish classical education for adults in the Chicago area.
23.27 Linear Feet (46 manuscript boxes, 1 MAP folder)
Language of Materials
Pamela B. Cohen Papers document activities of the prominent activist of the American Soviet Jewry Movement. Pamela B. Cohen began her activity through the independent grass roots council, Chicago Action for Soviet Jewry (CASJ) and in 1978, served with Marillyn Tallman as co-chair until 1986, when she became the national president of the Washington-based Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (UCSJ). She served in that capacity for 10 years. The Pamela B. Cohen papers include materials from the late 1960s through 2009, and the bulk of the collection is dated 1970s-1980s. The documents include correspondence, notes, memoranda, publications, news clippings, photographs, ephemera, audio and video recordings and 3-D objects.
The collection is divided into twelve series as follows:
- Series I: Correspondence, Memos, Notes, Speeches, News Clippings, undated, 1978-1998, 2005
- Series II: Phone Conversations with the Refuseniks, 1983-1986
- Series III: Chicago Action for Soviet Jewry, 1983, 1988-1993
- Series IV: Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, undated, 1968-1981, 1983, 1985-1995, 1998
- Series V: Individual Case Files on Soviet Jewish Refuseniks, undated, 1977-1989, 1994, 1998
- Series VI: Subject Files, undated, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1978-1994, 1996-2001, 2003
- Series VII: Projects and Events, undated, 1980-1992, 1994, 2009
- Series VIII: American Soviet Jewry Movement: History, Controversial Issues, Interaction Among Organizations, Relationship with Israel, undated, 1972, 1975, 1977-2000, 2003, 2004, 2007
- Series IX: Travel to U.S.S.R., undated, 1978, 1980-1989
- Subseries A: Information for American Visitors of Soviet Jews in the U.S.S.R., undated, 1978, 1980-1984
- Subseries B: Trip Reports of the American Visitors of Soviet Jews in the U.S.S.R., undated, 1981-1989
- Series X: Soviet and American Policies Affecting Soviet Jews, undated, 1978-1991, 1993-1996
- Series XI: Publications, 1975, 1977-1991, 1993, 1996, 1997
- Series XII: Audio, Visual and Oversize Materials, 3-D Objects, undated, 1976-1994, 1998, 1999
- Subseries A: Photographs, undated, 1976-1994, 1999
- Subseries B: Video, undated, 1984-1986, 2002
- Subseries C: Audio, undated, 1984-1987, 1998, 1999
- Subseries D: 3-D Objects, undated, 1989
- Subseries E: Oversize Materials, undated, 1985, 1986
Located in AJHS New York, NY
Donated by Pamela B. Cohen in 2009.
Trip reports were digitized and made available in full. Posters not otherwise represented among the digitized posters from the Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement were digitized. All audio cassettes and photographs in this collection were digitized in 2015 and made fully available. All VHS tapes in Series XII, Subseries B with unique, relevant, and playable content were digitized. Tape 2 is limited to onsite access only due to copyright concerns.
Box 23 Folder 1 has been digitized as part of an ongoing digitization-on-demand program at the Center for Jewish History.
The trip reports found in this collection contain opinions, statements and allegations that may or may not be substantiated. American Jewish Historical Society and the Center for Jewish History do not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any findings, conclusions, recommendations, opinions or statements expressed in the trip reports.
- Porter, John E. (John Edward), 1935- (Person)
- Rapoport, Louis (Person)
- Reagan, Ronald (Person)
- Shcharansky, Anatoly (Person)
- Moʻatsah ha-tsiburit lemaʻan Yehude Berit ha-Moʻatsot (Israel) (Organization)
- National Conference on Soviet Jewry (U.S.) (Organization)
- Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (Organization)
- Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (Organization)
- United States. Congress. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Organization)
Genre / Form
- broadsides (notices)
- Case files
- clippings (information artifacts)
- Commemorative jewelry
- Guide to the Pamela B. Cohen Papers, undated, 1968-2005, 2007, 2009 *P-897
- Processed by Andrey Filimonov and Stephanie Wilson
- © 2010
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- Digitization of trip reports, photographs, posters, and audio from the Papers of Pamela B. Cohen (P-897) was made possible through a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). Digitization of VHS tapes was made possible through the generous support of the Blavatnik Foundation.
- September 2015: dao links to audio added and box 46 numbering updated by Leanora Lange.
- July 2017: dao links to digitized video added, digitization note added, and sponsor statement updated by Leanora Lange.
- November 2020: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.