Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry Collection
Scope and Content Note
The first series of the collection contain general promotional, recruiting, and commemoration materials generated by the organization, primarily during the 1970s. The second series contains the papers of an individual senior staff member. They reflect the functions of the organization during the first half of the 1980s.
The collection consists of two manuscript boxes, one oversize folder, and one oversize textile box in the museum collection.
- Creation: 1964-1990, 2016
- Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry (Organization)
Language of Materials
The collection is in English.
The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.
Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, N.Y., 10011 email: email@example.com
The Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry (GNYCSJ) was formed in 1971 by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York, to address the need for an organization that would be devoted exclusively to the problems of Soviet Jewry.
The GNYCSJ served as the coordinating body of Soviet Jewry activities for more than 85 constituent Jewish organizations and community groups through the New York metropolitan area, with the affiliates in the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish communities. The GNYCSJ conducted vigils, demonstrations, meetings, lectures, concerts, press conferences, and memorial services. Solidarity Sundays for Soviet Jewry, the GNYCSJ's influential series of annual mass demonstrations in New York City, attracted hundreds of thousands of attendees, and served as a model for similar demonstrations on behalf of Soviet Jews nationwide, culminating in the milestone Freedom Sunday national march in Washington, D.C. on December 6, 1987, co-organized by the GNYCSJ. It was attended by 250,000 people and is often referred to as the largest Jewish rally ever held in the United States. The breadth and complexity of its programming allowed the GNYCSJ to keep the Soviet Jewry issue in the public eye.
A major objective of the GNYCSJ was to collect, evaluate, and disseminate information on the developments in the Soviet Union, on the individual cases of Refuseniks and Prisoners of Conscience, and on the Jewish activist movement. Many of The GNYCSJ information-gathering activities had an explicit goal of testing Soviet adherence to the humanitarian provisions of the Helsinki Accords and of collecting evidence of Soviet abuses of those provisions. Most of the information came from the Americans traveling to the Soviet Union as tourists with the intent to visit Soviet Jews. Thousands of such travelers were briefed and debriefed by GNYSCJ.
The organization worked closely with the federal, state, and local government officials, helping put the Soviet Jewry issue on the agenda of the Soviet-American relations during the 1970s and the 1980s. The GNYCSJ collaborated particularly closely with politicians from the Greater New York area, including New York Senators Daniel P. Moynihan and Alfonse D'Amato, Governors of New York and New Jersey Mario Cuomo and Thomas Kean, and New York City Mayor Edward Koch. Informed and inspired by the GNYCSJ, they introduced resolutions, inserted statements in the Congressional Record, organized special orders, issued press releases, and participated in demonstrations, vigils, and news conferences on behalf of Soviet Jewry. The GNYCSJ coordinated the Congressional Adopt-A-Prisoner program in which each metropolitan area member of Congress had undertaken a wide variety of activities on behalf of a specific Jewish prisoner in Soviet labor camps.
The GNYCSJ coordinated publicity tours in the New York area by former Soviet Jews who had been imprisoned in the Soviet Union, or were relatives of Refuseniks trapped in the Soviet state, and assisted in a program to send packages with basic necessities to the Refuseniks who had lost their jobs as a result of their applications to emigrate. The organization prepared educational materials in Russian for Soviet Jews who were interested in Jewish learning. It worked with the Voice of America, a U.S. government-funded international radio station broadcasting in the Soviet Union, lobbying to secure a higher amount of radio programming for Soviet Jews. Its Operation Write-On and Project Yachad were letter-writing programs designed to link American and Soviet Jewish communities.
In the mid-1980s the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry was renamed the Greater New York Coalition for Soviet Jewry. The organization wound down its activities during the final years of Soviet Union when the restrictions on emigration for Soviet Jews were lifted under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's program of Perestroika—restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system.
Annual Reports of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, 1976-1977, 1980-1984, Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry collection, I-362, Box 1, Folder 1 and Box 2, Folder 2, Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA, and New York, NY.
Beckerman, G. (2010). When they come for us, we'll be gone: The epic struggle to save Soviet Jewry. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Lazin, F. (2005). The struggle for Soviet Jewry in American politics: Israel versus the American Jewish establishment. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books.
3 Linear Feet
This collection documents the activities of a human rights grassroots organization on behalf of Jews in the Soviet Union. The collection features annual reports, calendars, general correspondence, announcement pamphlets, meeting fliers, banners used at rallies, miscellaneous speakers and conferences information, membership documents, and materials about engineering, legal, medical, youth, and women’s coalitions.
The collection is arranged into two series as follows:
Located in AJHS New York, NY
Collected by the American Jewish Historical Society during the 1970s-1980s. Additional materials, arranged in boxes 2 and 3, and in the OS Textile Box were donated by Robert Eliot Lichtman in 2016 and in 2018.
Genre / Form
- Board games (game sets)
- USB flash drives
- Guide to the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry collection, 1964-1990, 2016 I-362
- Processed by Andrey Filimonov
- © 2017
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- October 8, 2018: Dao link for box 3, folder 14 added by Andrey Filimonov.