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American Soviet Jewry Movement Oral Histories Collection

Identifier: I-548

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains a CD-ROM with video and audio files of eleven oral history interviews.

The collection consists of one folder.


  • 2008-2011, 2013-2014

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and Russian.

Access Restrictions

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.

Use Restrictions

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:

Historical and Biographical Notes

American Soviet Jewry Movement Oral Histories 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 Movement 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 mission of the ASJM Oral History Project is to record, transcribe and preserve personal narratives from the American Soviet Jewry Movement. Through interviews with participants in the effort, the project aims to capture this period of American Jewish history and its great impact on individuals, politics and the movement of Jews to escape oppression in the Former Soviet Union for lives of their choosing in the US, Israel and elsewhere.

The collection contains oral histories with the following persons:

Ackerman, Joel

As a lawyer active in the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, Marin and the Peninsula and chairman of its Soviet Jewry Commission, Joel Ackerman also took an active part in the work of the Northern California Lawyers Committee for Soviet Jews. The Jewish Community Relations Council served as an umbrella for local Jewish communities and synagogues in the Bay Area, and centralized and coordinated Soviet Jewry movement efforts made by individual local organizations. Its primary activity was to aid in the development of Soviet Jewry related programs by local organizations and to represent the entire Jewish community in regards to public policy. Ackerman served as Chairman of the Soviet Jewry Commission of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, Marin and the Peninsula from 1979 through 1982 and as Vice-Chairman of the Northern California Lawyers Committee for Soviet Jews, a group of attorneys, judges, professors and law students concerned with the Soviet government's legal treatment of Soviet Jews. The Committee's work included monitoring criminal cases involving Refuseniks, violations of Soviet and/or international law, and general principles of human rights. In addition the Committee provided legal support to Refuseniks through letters, legal briefs and other means, and presented seminars and published articles related to Soviet criminal law. The committee's newsletter, "Soviet Jews under Soviet Law," contained articles on Soviet law and information on recent cases. The Committee was affiliated with, among other organizations, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. In both capacities, Ackerman testified and presented documentation concerning Soviet interference with Refuseniks' mail to the House of Representatives Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, Subcommittee on Investigations. He also served as a member of the Executive Board of the Soviet Jewry Action Group, another Bay Area organization, and as a volunteer with the Jewish Family Service helping newly arrived Soviet Jewish immigrants learn English and become acclimated to living in the United States.

Cohen, Pamela

Prominent activist of the American Soviet Jewry Movement, Pamela B. Cohen began her activity through the independent grassroots council, the Chicago Action for Soviet Jewry (CASJ). In 1978, she 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.

Gradinger, Sanford A.

Rochester, NY businessman and human rights activist, who in 1978 co-founded the Andrei Sakharov International Committee to focus international attention on the prominent human rights activist Andrei Sakharov (repressed by the Soviet government), reunite separated Soviet Jewish families, and demand the release of Soviet Jewish Refuseniks like Rimma Bravve and Ida Nudel.

Hill, David, Rabbi

A pioneer of the Soviet Jewry movement, New York City Rabbi and businessman Rabbi Hill served as the national president of the National Council of Young Israel, was a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and an officer of National Conference on Soviet Jewry. Starting in 1971, he ran Operation Lifeline, an independently funded outreach program created by the NCSJ Commission on Education and Culture to support Jewish life in the USSR and Former Soviet Union.

Jacobson, Charlotte

A National President of Hadassah from 1964 to 1968, Charlotte Jacobson occupied a number of key positions in the American and world Zionist leadership and traveled to the Soviet Union to defend the rights of Soviet Jews.

Lerner, Lawrence I.

Lawrence I. Lerner is an attorney admitted to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Mr. Lerner served as a member of the President's Advisory Committee on Domestic Policy Review of Industrial Innovation from 1978-1979. While specializing in intellectual property laws, Mr. Lerner also applied his expertise to cases concerning the rule of law affecting social justice, such as racial discrimination, fair housing and employment in his home state of New Jersey. Starting in 1979, he became concerned with the dire situation of Jews in the Soviet Union. Mr. Lerner repeatedly traveled to the Soviet Union to visit Refuseniks and participated in filing legal pleas for Prisoners of Conscience based on international treaties and the Soviet Constitution. After an unsuccessful run for the House of Representatives in 1996, Mr. Lerner retired from the practice of law and became the President of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCJFSU), formerly known as Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, a national umbrella organization for approximately fifty grassroots Soviet Jewry movement agencies. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the UCJFSU continued to fight Antisemitism and xenophobia and to promote human rights and the rule of law in the former Soviet states. UCJFSU coordinates over fifty organizations that monitor human rights in the F.S.U.

Lieberman, Leah

Co-founder of the Brooklyn Coalition for Soviet Jewry.

Pesky, Alan

An activist in the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry later renamed the Coalition to Free Soviet Jews.

Sandberg, Joel and Adele

Co-founders of the South Florida Conference on Soviet Jewry.

Schapira, Morey

A prominent activist of the American Soviet Jewry movement, Mr. Schapira held leadership positions in several organizations including: Action for Soviet Jewry, the Bay Area Council on Soviet Jewry, the New England Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews.

Spiegel, Philip

Soviet Jewry movement activist and an author of the book Triumph Over Tyranny: The Heroic Campaigns that Saved 2,000,000 Soviet Jews.

Taratuta, Aba and Ida

Former Refuseniks and Soviet Jewish activists from Leningrad, presently residing in Israel.

Vershubsky, Nosson

Former Soviet Jewish Refusenik and Prisoner of Conscience (POC), former Chief Rabbi of Voronezh.


1 Folders (1/4 linear foot)


The collection contains audio and video interviews with activists of the American Soviet Jewry Movement, former Refuseniks and Prisoners of Conscience.


The collection is arranged into a single series.

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY

Acquisition Information

Created by the American Jewish Historical Society in 2008-2011, 2013-2014.

Digitization Note

All audio and video files were migrated off of optical discs and made available online in their entirety.

Related Material

American Soviet Jewry Movement Oral Histories is one individual collection within the Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement (AASJM) located at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS). Other Soviet Jewry Movement collections at AJHS include the records of Action for Soviet Jewry (I-487), the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ; I-181 and I-181A), the Jewish Defense League (I-374), the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (I-410, I-410A), Houston Action for Soviet Jewry (I-500), Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews (I-505), Seattle Action for Soviet Jewry (I-507), The Jewish Chronicle Soviet Jewry Collection (I-523), B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum Soviet Jewry Movement Collection (I-529), Chicago Action for Soviet Jewry (I-530), Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism (I-538), United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (I-543), Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans (I-547), the papers of Joel Ackerman (P-787), Julia Mates Cheney (P-806), Jerry Goodman (P-863), Laurel and Alan J. Gould (P-866), Carolyn W. Sanger (P-870), Leah Lieberman (P-869), Si Frumkin (P-871), Elaine Pittell (P-873), Sanford A. Gradinger (P-880), Shaul Osadchey (P-882), Leonard S. Cahan (P-883), Doris H. Goldstein (P-887), David H. Hill (P-888), Margery Sanford (P-889), Pinchas Mordechai Teitz (P-891), David Waksberg (P-895), Pamela B. Cohen (P-897), Moshe Decter (P-899), William Korey (P-903), Morey Schapira (P-906), Charlotte Gerper Turner (P-907), Myrtle Sitowitz (P-908), Kathleen M. Hyman (P-911), Babette Wampold (P-912), Rabbi David Goldstein and Shannie Goldstein (P-918), Leslie Schaffer (P-923), Arthur Bernstein (P-925), Dolores Wilkenfeld (P-927), Sylvia Weinberg (P-928) , Irwin H. Krasna (P-934) , Constance S. Kreshtool (P-935), Betty Golomb (P-938), Grace Perlbinder (P-942), Mort Yadin (P-943), Ann Polunsky (P-886), Lillian Foreman (P-945), Marilyn Labendz(P-946), Abraham Silverstein(P-947), Bert Silver (P-949), Billie Kozolchyk (P-950), John Steinbruck (P-951), Lawrence I. Lerner (P-952), Ruth Geller Gold (P-953), Efry Spectre (P-954), Alan M. Kohn (P-956), Frank Brodsky (P-957), Victor Borden (P-959), Estelle Newman (P-960), Carol S. Kekst (P-961), Linda Rutta (P-965), Rachel Braun (P-967), Jack Forgash (P-968), Michael Greene (P-969), Judith A. Manelis (P-970), Fred Greene (P-971) and Harry Lerner (P-972).

Additional materials from other collections include records dealing with the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ) located within the North American Jewish Students Appeal (NAJSA, I-338) and the records of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC, I-172). Related records are also located at the AJHS in Newton Centre, MA including memorabilia and ephemera of the New England Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (I-237) and the Records of the Student Coalition for Soviet Jewry – Brandeis University (I-493).

Guide to the American Soviet Jewry Movement Oral Histories Collection, 2008-2011, 2013-2014 *I-548
Processed by Andrey Filimonov
© 2014
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Oral histories made available online with the generous support of the Blavatnik Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • July 2017: item-level c02s and dao links added, filename simplified, sponsor statement and digitization note added by Leanora Lange.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States