The framed posters on the walls of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, now part of history, were the face of social activism in this country a generation ago.
During the height of the Soviet Jewry movement in the 1970s and ‘80s, the signs demanding that the USSR grant its Jewish population the right to live and leave as Jews were carried in protest demonstrations around the United States and mounted on the walls of synagogues and Hillels and other Jewish institutions.
The movement’s message, “Let My People Go,” sought the freedom of well-known names like Sharansky and Slepak and Nudel, and millions of lesser-known Anatolys and Vladimirs and Idas. When the Iron Curtain collapsed — in the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellite states two decades ago — the bars that imprisoned free Jewish life also came down.
“Let My People Go! The Soviet Jewry Movement, 1967-1989,” on loan from the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, tells that story. With photographs of protestors and prisoners, and posters and documents, the exhibit is a reminder of the sacrifices made by Soviet Jews and the dedication of their supporters in the West.
Shira R. Weinstein, above left, and Ruth Botehan were part of the visitors, including school groups and the children of Soviet-born Jews who have viewed the exhibit, which runs until the end of April.
On Sunday, Jan. 22, the museum (mjhnyc.org) will sponsor, as part of the exhibit, a discussion between Henry Feingold, author of “Silent No More: Saving the Jews of Russia,” and Gal Beckerman, author of “When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry.”