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Records of the Houston Action for Soviet Jewry

 Collection
Identifier: I-500

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.

Dates

  • 1966-1997
  • Majority of material found within 1984 - 1993

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, with some Russian,Hebrew, German, and French.

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, NY 10011



E-mail: info@ajhs.org

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.

Extent

18.5 Linear Feet (30 manuscript boxes, 2 SB1 card file boxes, 3 SB2 card file boxes, 1 mailing tube)

Abstract

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.

Arrangement

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.

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY

Acquisition Information

The records were donated by the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2007.

Digitization Note

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.

Related Material

The Papers of Laurel and Alan J. Gould 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 (I-181 and I-181A), the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (I-410, I-410A), the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews and Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal (I-505 and I-505A), Houston Action for Soviet Jewry (I-500), 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), Jewish Defense League (I-374) the papers of Joel Ackerman (P-787), Julia Mates Cheney (P-806), Jerry Goodman (P-863), 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 Gerber 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), Harry Lerner (P-972), Alan L. Cohen (P-973), Murray Levine (P-974), Jack Minker (P-975), Meta Joy Jacoby (P-992), Barry Marks (P-993), Harold and Judith S. Einhorn (P-996), Carol and Michael Bierman (P-1007) and Bayard Rustin (P-1015).

American Soviet Jewry Movement Oral Histories Collection (I-548) contains audio and video interviews with activists of the American Soviet Jewry Movement, former Refuseniks and Prisoners of Conscience.

American Soviet Jewry Movement Photographs (I-495) contains digitized photographs from The Archives of the American Soviet Jewry Movement.

American Soviet Jewry Movement Posters and Ephemera Collection (I-566) contains digitized posters and ephemera from The Archives of the American Soviet Jewry Movement.

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).
Title
I-500
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Rachel S. Harrison
Date
© 2010.
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
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

Revision Statements

  • 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.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States