Lynn Singer, the unlikely suburban activist who steered both the Long Island Committee for Soviet Jewry and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry through the heyday of the Soviet Jewry movement, died Nov. 30 of cancer. Mrs. Singer was 80 and lived in East Meadow, L.I.
Mrs. Singer was involved in local Jewish womenís organizations in the 1960s such as ORT and Hadassah, but that was before her passion was ignited by a gritty, urban grassroots operation, Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, based in Manhattan.
In the early 1970s she helped radicalize her suburb by founding and leading the East Meadow-based Long Island Committee for Soviet Jewry. LICSJ became a pivotal chapter of the Union of Councils, a national coalition that she served as president.Like SSSJ, Singerís groups were the self-styled ìactivistî wing of the Soviet Jewry movement, with a street-smart, feisty defiance of what they derided as the cautious tactics and strategies utilized by the more traditional, well-heeled Jewish organizations.As president of the Union of Councils in the 1980s, Mrs. Singer tried to ratchet up the pressure on the Soviet Union, American officials and Jewish organizations to do more when Jewish immigration slowed to a trickle after a peak of 50,000 in 1979.
She became a friend of refuseniks and a legend among them. Natan Sharansky told Mrs. Singerís children, Andrea and Richard, that Mrs. Singer was his ìhis second mother,î they recalled.Glenn Richter, a leading organizer of SSSJ, echoed Sharansky, saying, ìLynn was to us the ëbig Yiddishe mama.í She will always be an inspiration.îIn those feverish decades from the í60s until after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, Mrs. Singer seemingly was everywhere: at European events, at the side of Soviet Jewish emigres protesting on behalf of those still behind the Iron Curtain; at the United Nations, during many sit-ins and afternoons of placard waving; and on her native Long Island, with relentless demonstrations at the Soviet compound in Glen Cove.
The New York Times reported in 1982 that ìthe Long Island Committee for Soviet Jewry has been conducting vigils at the site for 11 years, most recently for three hours last month.îMrs. Singer continued to be affiliated with the Union of Councils in its current role of monitoring anti-Semitism and threats to human rights in Russia, and she also assisted the New York-based Gratitude Fund that provided help to former Soviet political prisoners.Yossi Abramowitz and Micah Naftalin, president and national director of the Union of Councils, said through a spokesperson how ìher friends and colleagues in the movement, and the hundreds of refuseniks who knew her, admired her special combination of humor, conviction, courage, determination and heart. Her message was invariably, and convincingly: ëThese are our Jewish people and they must be saved!í And when [the Soviet Jewish refugees] arrived in New York, they knew that her home was their home.îAlong with her son and daughter, Mrs. Singer is survived by her husband, Murray.