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  • The American Soviet Jewry Movement's "Uneventful" 1968:Cold War Liberalism, Human Interest, and the Politics of the Long Haul1

On April 7, 1968, the American Jewish Conference for Soviet Jewry (AJCSJ) convened at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel for the umbrella agency's third biennial meeting. Over 350 representatives of its 25 member organizations–from the American Jewish Committee to the Zionist Organization of America–gathered to discuss the situation of Soviet Jews, to hear a plenary address by Senator Jacob Javits (R-NY), to vote on an official "White Paper" policy statement presented by the Hadassah president, Charlotte Jacobson, and to adopt an action plan to guide the Conference's work over the next two years.

The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. three days earlier on the balcony of Memphis' Lorraine Motel, however, cast its long shadow over the proceedings at the Waldorf.2 Quickly adapting the program, organizers redesigned the conference brochure to proclaim in a large box on the front cover that this Biennial was "Dedicated to the Memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Defender of the Rights of All Men." The meetings opened with a memorial ceremony in which a recording of King's 1966 telephone address to their group was played:

[While Jews in Russia] may not be physically murdered as they were in Nazi Germany, they are facing every day a kind of spiritual and cultural genocide… Negroes can well understand and sympathize with this problem. When you are written out of history as a people, when you are given no choice but to accept the majority culture, you are denied an aspect of your own identity… We cannot sit complacently by the wayside while our Jewish brothers in the [End Page 5] Soviet Union face the possible extinction of their cultural and spiritual life. Those that sit at rest, while others take pains, are tender turtles and buy their quiet with disgrace.3

King's words affirmed the American Jewish campaign for Soviet Jewry as part of the broader movement for freedom that defined the hopes of the era. They also drew a moral equivalence between the situation of Soviet Jews and that of African Americans.4 American Jews might have felt this to be so, but they could not speak for the African American community. King and other civil rights leaders held a certain power to confer legitimacy on Soviet Jewry activism in the United States and to reassure American Jews that their own feelings were, indeed, legitimate.5

The fact that this power to validate rested with civil rights leaders points to the American Soviet Jewry movement's connection to its American time and place. Or, at least, to the fact that it was grounded in the context of 1966, the year of King's telephone address. Its rootedness in 1968 is more open to question. In that year, the world's attention was lurching from the Tet Offensive in Vietnam to the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia, assassinations in Memphis and Los Angeles, campus takeovers at Columbia and Berkeley, and to police violence against protesters in Chicago, Paris, Mexico City, and elsewhere. In the midst of these acute crises, American activists for Soviet Jewry struggled to raise awareness about a chronic situation as they gathered in business attire for continental breakfast in the Waldorf-Astoria's Starlight Roof banquet room.

The grand finale of the AJCSJ Biennial was supposed to be the adoption of a White Paper on Soviet Jewry, which would then be presented by the organization's top leadership to President Johnson himself. This was the same Lyndon Johnson whom protesters from other movements were taunting with shouts of, "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you [End Page 6] kill today?" But for activists in the AJCSJ, presidential authority was still something to be respected, and presidential support something to be courted. No "credibility gap" changed this, nor did the fact that the president had just made himself a lame duck, shocking the country a week earlier with the announcement that he would not seek reelection.

No meeting with Johnson took place. After King's assassination, the White House cancelled.6 The country was exploding in race riots. Two months later, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ), a "grassroots" group often critical of the AJCSJ's more conservative approach to mobilization, faced a similar problem.7 SSSJ was moving forward with its plans for a June 9 "Freedom Boat Ride," even though Democratic presidential front-runner Robert F. Kennedy had declined an invitation to participate. The event, however, ended up being scuttled by Kennedy's assassination three days before the boat was to set sail.8 Such, in a nutshell, was the Soviet Jewry movement's 1968. Off the agenda, repeatedly sidelined, and unable to gain traction in a year that is supposed to have been an annus mirabilis for social movements.

How did the American campaign for Soviet Jews, a movement born in and of the 1960s, manage to pass the tumultuous 1968 in relative quiet?9 [End Page 7] And what does this reveal about the movement itself, its relationship to the politics of the New Left, and the relationship between internal factors and external contexts in shaping how the movement unfolded?10 To address these questions, we look to the work of local and national organizations associated with the "establishment" and "grassroots" wings of this factionalized social movement, especially the "establishment" AJCSJ (reconstituted in 1971 as the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, or NCSJ, both referred to in this paper as "the Conference"), and its rivals, the youth-oriented SSSJ, and adult-led Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism (CCSA), which later led the formation of a national "grassroots" umbrella group called the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (UCSJ, est. 1970, also referred to here as the "Councils"). We examine ways in which the movement was structurally unprepared or ideologically unwilling to undertake certain forms of mobilization in 1968. First, we consider American activists' unpreparedness for the emergence in 1968 of direct protest by Soviet Jews, and their failure to rally a major effort around the headline-grabbing events in the Eastern bloc that they did know of: Prague Spring and Poland's "anti-Zionist campaign." Then, after assessing the relationship of intra-movement factional protests to the politics of 1968, we draw on historian William Sewell's notion of "eventful temporality" to show how the uneventfulness of 1968 for the American Soviet Jewry movement stemmed in part from its rejection of the New Left's strategy of using confrontation to create watershed moments–a rejection rooted in the Soviet Jewry campaign's implicit Cold War liberalism and desire to coopt, not challenge, American governmental power.11 While this left the struggle for Soviet Jewry on the sidelines in 1968, it enabled the campaign to successfully enlist the US government as an ally in the decades to come.

Before moving to this, however, we set the context for the analysis by explaining the rationale for focusing on 1968, and by clarifying what we do and do not mean when invoking the year as a shorthand (the [End Page 8] usage here follows scholars who draw a distinction between "1968" and "the Sixties").

Between 1967, 1968, and "1968"

This article represents an effort to see what light can be shed on the American campaign for Soviet Jews by examining it in relation to the global history of 1968, rather than in relation to the Jewish history of 1967. Some previous scholarship has emphasized the importance of the Six-Day War as a watershed for the Soviet Jewish emigration movement, sometimes even using the year 1967 to bound the research.12 In explaining a periodization of Soviet Jewry activism that pivots on 1967, Feingold writes, "To understand the next round of the struggle to leave the Soviet Union it is necessary to fathom the full impact of the victory on the mentality of activists within and outside the Soviet Union."13 The word "mentality" points to a major claim about a Six-Day War effect—that the war's importance to the movement rested primarily in its psychological effects on segments of the Soviet and American Jewish communities, stirring emotions, awakening or deepening Jewish commitments, and inspiring a willingness to act on these in the political arena. Some variants of this approach claim that, more than the actual fighting in the Middle East, it was war-related domestic anti-Zionism in the USSR and the United States that galvanized the movement, fostering a politically conscious Jewish separatism in both countries. In the Soviet Union, where anti-Zionism was government policy, Soviet Jewish separatism was expressed by demanding the freedom to emigrate. In the United States, it was anti-Zionism in the New Left, including in the Black Power movement, that redirected Jewish liberal activism toward causes such as the Soviet Jewry movement, in which the beneficiaries were Jews.14

There have been dissents from the claim that the Six-Day War constituted a psychological turning point for the Soviet Jewry movement. [End Page 9] Some have argued that the Jewish self-assertion supposedly stimulated by the war was already in evidence in the years prior.15 Others have challenged the notion that Soviet Jewry activism replaced activism in the causes of the New Left, showing how some groups, such as Jews for Urban Justice, managed to combine both.16 To these, we might add that the war's most immediate consequence for the movement had little to do with "the mentality of activists." The Soviet Union's decision to sever diplomatic relations with Israel on June 10, 1967 changed the structure of political opportunity that activists faced. On one hand, the loss of its Moscow embassy eliminated Israel's ability to place operatives from its clandestine agency for Soviet Jewish affairs, Nativ, inside the USSR under Foreign Ministry cover.17 On the other hand, Israel's range of action on such matters had always been constrained by the potential ramifications on diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. Once the Kremlin broke ties, Israel was released from such concerns and found itself with more leeway to assert public and diplomatic pressure in the international community.18

Notwithstanding these qualifications, a Soviet Jewry movement historiography grounded in the context of 1967 remains valuable because it has the advantage of revealing the movement in the context of twentieth-century transnational Jewish history. One need not argue that the movement pivoted on 1967. But by placing it within the same timeline as the Six-Day War, our attention is drawn to the Soviet Jewry movement's expression of global Jewish unity, its Zionism, and its roots in post-Holocaust trauma.

What the context of 1967 does not reveal, however, is how the Soviet Jewry campaign in the United States participated in the broader context of American social activism and protest in the 1960s and 1970s. Research [End Page 10] emphasizing the latter context has shown that the campaign—framed in the language of the civil rights movement, informed later by the ideology of Black Power, performed with the theatricality of the student movement, fraught with the generational politics that set baby boomers and their elders against one another, and riven with the factionalism that divided liberals from radicals, diplomats from protesters, and practitioners of non-violence from planters of bombs—participated fully in the cultures of protest that unfolded through the 1960s and 1970s, and found resonance among baby boomers in the Jewish counterculture, a community whose broader project sought the holistic integration of Jewish politics and Jewish practice.19 The movement's youth, who had begun marching in 1964, two-by-two, silently, in jacket and tie or conservative dresses and pumps, had shed the politics of respectability by the end of the 1960s as they got arrested occupying the offices of Jewish charities to demand funding.20 In the years when anti-war demonstrators led by Abbie Hoffman were trying to levitate the Pentagon to protest American military action in Vietnam, marchers with Jacob Birnbaum's SSSJ were following seven shofar-blowing rabbis as they circled the Soviet UN Mission seven times to bring the walls of oppression down "Jericho-style."21 And later, when the Weather Underground was firebombing law-related sites across New York City and the Black Panther Party was ambushing police officers in Oakland, Meir Kahane's Jewish Defense League (JDL) was exploding pipe bombs at Soviet travel and tourism offices in Manhattan and harassing Soviet diplomats.22 "It's about time Jews learn about pride," Kahane said not long after, "the kind of pride preached by [Black Panther Party leader Eldridge] Cleaver."23

Treatments of the American Soviet Jewry movement's relationship to the cultural politics of the era's other protest movements have done a better job demonstrating continuities rather than discontinuities.24 And [End Page 11] yet, a fuller assessment of the American Soviet Jewry movement's relationship to its era of protest requires greater attention to the disjunctures. An analysis that situates the movement in the context of 1968 can be helpful in this regard, for in contrast to other major social movements of the time, the campaign for Soviet Jewry passed the year 1968 in relative quiet. This analysis usefully complicates efforts to interpret the movement as part of the broader phenomenon encapsulated in the summarizing symbol of "1968," the era.25 First, however, some conceptual clarification is required. What exactly are we speaking of when we speak of 1968? And how is that different from speaking about the 1960s and 1970s, more broadly conceived?

The term "Nineteen Sixty-Eight," was already being used as a shorthand as early as 1969, when Max Hastings published America 1968: The Fire This Time, also entitled in a different edition, America's Year of Crisis.26 Since that time, scholarship on the year-cum-phenomenon has amassed (often via conferences and monographs timed to the decennial anniversaries).27 This literature offers a generally consistent portrayal [End Page 12] of the meanings that have agglomerated onto the term "1968" in academic discourse as well as in broader collective memory. We should note, however, that precisely because "1968" is widely understood as a global phenomenon, there is some variation that nuances collective memory in different parts of the world. The nuance that distinguishes American framings of 1968 from European framings is well expressed by historian Timothy Brown:

The term '1968' is frequently used as a shorthand… for a series of youth and student rebellions that took place around the world beginning in the mid1960s and extending into the following decade. In the United States, where 'the sixties' is the shorthand term of choice for the broader rebellion, the term '1968' often has a slightly different inflection, being meant to suggest a series of political-social-cultural 'big events': the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F. Kennedy; the (police) riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.28

Brown's explanation is helpful in that it draws attention to two conceptually distinct but empirically related phenomena that are at the heart of American understandings of 1968. One regards the nature of the actors: students and youth, aligned in the United States, France, Mexico, and elsewhere in the West with the New Left and the counterculture, and in Warsaw, Prague, and elsewhere in the East with movements for liberalization and democratization; and, opposing them, the military and the police. The other regards the nature of the events: a rapid-fire series of major events, some inspiring hopes, some dashing them, some generating outrage, some doing all simultaneously, most accompanied by violence, each revealing an unexpected instability in the political order, happening all over the world but each typically concentrated in a focused space (Memphis' Lorraine Motel, Chicago's Grant Park, Columbia University's Low Library, Paris' Latin Quarter, Prague's Vinohrodska Street radio building. The Tet Offensive was an exception: a simultaneous attack on dozens of cities and villages across the expanse of South Vietnam.) It is not for nothing that Gitlin wrote that, "Nineteen sixty-eight was no year for a catching of breath."29 It was a year so eventful that The CBS Evening News experimented with expanding from a half-hour to an hour-long broadcast.30 [End Page 13]

There have been some efforts to posit a "long 1968," but such an approach seems to ignore the year's distinguishing temporality–compressed, eventful, dramatic.31 This is the very opposite of a history of the longue durée, and it is fundamental to the year's meaning in collective memory. An awareness of the year's eventful character is at the heart of Eric Hobsbawm's claim that the year is best analyzed in ways that focus on the importance of the moment itself:

History does not usually suit the convenience of people who like to separate it into neat periods, but there are times when it seems to have pity on us… [1968] might almost have been designed to serve as some sort of historical landmark. None of those of us who lived through the year 1968 will ever forget it… The apparent suddenness and unexpectedness made the events of 1968 so startling and dramatic. There were plenty of such events.32

Likewise, the titles and subtitles of many books on 1968 emphasize the year's eventfulness: The Year that Rocked the World, The Year the Dream Died, The Year of the Barricades, Turning Point, When America Turned.33 One could even argue that it is for this nature of its events, even more than for the nature of its actors, that 1968 is remembered as it is, given that the memory of its shocking eventfulness also encompasses moments such as the Tet Offensive and King and Kennedy assassinations, instances in which student movements did not feature centrally.

Even so, the two dimensions–the nature of the actors and the nature of the events–are not unrelated, and it is their intersection that has the greatest bearing for a consideration of the Soviet Jewry movement in the context of 1968 and "1968." Among student activists of the American New Left, or at least among parts of the leadership cadre, the commitment to nonviolence that had formerly governed protest had substantially eroded by 1968.34 Activists were painfully aware that conventional politics and nonviolent protest had utterly failed to end American involvement in Vietnam. Indeed, the war had only escalated since the protests began. Losing faith in the possibility of liberal reform, a growing faction of activists began arguing that the political system was fundamentally corrupted. It was a critique that had practical implications for strategy. If change from within the system was impossible, then [End Page 14] protest should not focus on achieving policy reforms but on exposing the system's illegitimacy. Hence, the strategic value of courting police repression. Violence, televised, could unmask for the world what the radicalized Left already knew to be true—that the "odious machine" was brutal to its core. In a Chicago park, in Mexico City streets, behind Parisian barricades, activists easily baited trigger-happy authorities into a telegenically violent response. The politics of critique were in this way directly tied to the eventful character of the year.35

No such eventfulness marked the American Soviet Jewry movement's 1968. The lack of a concentrated, dramatic, crystallizing moment was due to many things, including a distant and invisible problem that did not lend itself easily to the medium of television, and organizations still in their nascent stages that were unprepared to take advantage of opportunities presented to them and unable to create opportunities as they would be able to just a few years later. But perhaps most important was the fact that this was a movement whose politics remained implicitly engaged with Cold War liberalism. Even as the New Left was creating dramatic events in order to expose what it saw as the hypocrisy, oppression and vacuity at the heart of Western capitalism, American Soviet Jewry activists were seeking to spread the benefits of American freedom to Jews who were denied these by the Soviet oppressor.36 Thus, in the 1970s, when activist groups finally learned how to effectively draw national media attention to their cause and had developed the organizational capacity to do so, their strategy relied not on the creation of singular moments of dramatic conflict between protestors and the forces of oppression, but rather on a slow and steady drumbeat of human interest stories that turned the issue of Soviet Jewry from a distant abstraction into something personal and compelling. [End Page 15]

Making Soviet Jewry Visible: 1968 and the Seeds of Personalization

Gaining media attention in 1968 was not easy. The social movements that succeeded in garnering headlines did so by getting themselves bloodied by police or by soldiers (whether intentionally or unintentionally). The footage from Czechoslovakia showed clearly that Russian forces could play the role of villain in the unfolding teledramas. No images comparable to the tanks crushing Prague Spring dramatized the issue of Soviet Jewry, however. Nor over the subsequent decades would they. One is hard pressed to think of a visual from the Soviet Union itself, whether video or still, that encapsulated for Western audiences what activists referred to as the "plight" of Soviet Jewry.37 The closest the movement has to an iconic image is the 1986 footage of Anatoly Shcharansky, smiling in shapka and overcoat, as he crossed the Glienicke Bridge from East Germany to freedom in the West. But this is an image of triumph, not trial, and it was not shot in the USSR.

Lack of media access to the Soviet Union played an important role in the absence of televised imagery of Soviet Jews. So too did the nature of Soviet anti-Jewish repression, which tended not to operate through overt violence. In all its years, the American movement faced the challenge of making a distant and invisible form of oppression visible. American activists could create media spectacles at home to provide the visuals that television demanded, and this they tried, mostly through the non-violent theatrics of groups like the SSSJ, but also for a brief moment, through acts of violence perpetrated by Meir Kahane's JDL.38 But without made-for-television images of suffering Jews in the USSR itself, activists relied only minimally on video to raise awareness. To a large degree, they looked instead to print, speech, and other media of communication that privileged the word over the image; and to ritual actions that communicated by engaging audiences as participants in the articulation of movement messages. They also deployed visual imagery by emblazoning domestically-produced artwork on posters, buttons, [End Page 16] t-shirts, organizational letterheads and the like. Much of this, however, did not represent the oppression of Soviet Jews but rather the activism of American Jews. The AJCSJ's logo, for instance, was a hand lifting a torch high, similar to the cover graphic on the SSSJ's first program handbook (1965), a sketch of hands holding a shofar aloft. The covers of the 1967 and 1968 handbooks were photographs of SSSJ protestors wearing sandwich boards with slogans like, "Cry aloud in protest," "I am my brother's keeper," and "This time we won't be silent."39 The images that did represent Soviet Jewish oppression tended to do this by mixing symbols of Judaism, the Soviet Union and oppression in various combinations—stars of David chained in hammer-and-sickle padlocks, or emblazoned in yellow over a Soviet red star and behind black prison bars.40

The problem of an invisible plight was particularly challenging in 1968. Events in the Soviet Union itself provided little drama to focus attention. Nor did American activists receive much assistance from Soviet Jews themselves. An emigration movement was beginning to stir in the USSR, but information about it was slow to come to the West. Nativ's foothold in the Soviet Union had been undermined by the recent break in diplomatic relations, and American and Soviet Jewish activists had not yet begun to develop the direct connections with each other that would later be used to help keep the Soviet Jewish cause in public view.41 Once American groups led by the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews began establishing connections in the early 1970s—primarily through phone calls, mail, and tourist travel to the USSR—American activists across the movement organizations embraced a strategy that relied on personalizing the campaign around the stories of individual Soviet Jews.42

Some of the seeds that would grow into this strategy of personalization were planted in 1968, not in America, but in the USSR. Westerners [End Page 17] became able to attach names to the Soviet Jewish plight only after Soviet Jews themselves began attaching their names to their own protests. This began in earnest in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when hundreds of Soviet Jews began writing appeals to the Soviet government, Israeli officials and the United Nations, demanding the right to emigrate. The use of signed appeals as a protest tactic was picked up from the dissident movement for democratization, which began using it prominently in 1965. The choice by Jews to affix their names to their protests stood in marked contrast to a lone Jewish protest letter, sent anonymously, to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1963.43

In the first three appeal letters to gain widespread attention in the West, Soviet Jews wrote to their own government, requesting permission to emigrate. The letters all were written in 1968. Twenty-six Lithuanian Jews wrote a letter in February to the Lithuanian Communist Party. Yasha Kazakov, a Jewish Muscovite, wrote to the Supreme Soviet in May, renouncing his citizenship. Boris Kochubiyevsky, a Jewish engineer in Kiev, applied to emigrate to Israel in June, faced official harassment in response, and wrote a letter of protest to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in November.44 All three letters were eventually reported in Western media, but because the letters were directed domestically to Soviet addresses, these reports appeared about six months after the letters had been written. Kazakov was quickly allowed to emigrate to Israel.45 Kochubiyevsky, by contrast, was tried and sentenced in May 1969 to three years in a labor camp.46 Realizing the value of attaching a human face to the movement, Western activists rallied around Kochubiyevsky and the strategy of personalization was born. As former SSSJ and JDL activist Yossi Klein Halevi wrote years later, "With Kochubiyevsky's arrest, we now had our own political prisoner—a 'prisoner of Zion.' Instead of protesting abstract human rights abuses like the ban on matza or the closing of synagogues, we now had a living symbol of Soviet oppression.47 [End Page 18]

The practice of letter writing diffused through activist circles in the Soviet Union in the years following 1968. In contrast to the first appeals that were addressed to officials inside the Soviet Union, subsequent letter writers sought worldwide exposure by appealing directly to the international community. In 1969, a group of Georgian Jews drew publicity with a letter asking the United Nations to "obtain from the government of the USSR the permit for our emigration."48 Meanwhile, the campaign in the West was learning broader organizational lessons from the Kochubiyevsky and Kazakov cases. Israel's Nativ appears to have been the driving force behind an effort to bring more Soviet Jewish appeal letters to Western attention. Between 1969 and 1971, new letters were being reported in the press every few months. Coverage rarely identified the specific conduits that brought the letters out of the Soviet Union, but a number of articles point to Nativ involvement, sourcing the letters to Nativ-initiated groups like the Academic Committee on Soviet Jewry, or to unnamed tourists at a time when Nativ was the only organization using Western tourists to bring information in and out of the USSR.49 In May 1970, a Nativ front group, the Conference on the Status of Soviet Jews, compiled the appeals written in 1968 by Kazakov, Kochubiyevksy and the Lithuanian Jews, as well as 39 more from 1969 and 1970 that carried over 150 signatures. Edited by Moshe Decter, a New York intellectual who had been working with Nativ since the late 1950s, they were released in a small volume entitled, Redemption! Jewish Freedom Letters from Russia, co-published with the AJCSJ.50 [End Page 19]

Redemption! was one of the first pieces of movement culture in the West to frame the problem of Soviet Jews not as the plight of an undifferentiated "Soviet Jewry" (in the collective singular), but as the personal struggles of distinct individuals each with names of their own.51 It was at the cusp of a broader shift in movement strategy. Even as it was being compiled, the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews had begun using the Soviet letters to develop its own ways of personalizing the campaign. In spring 1970, it launched an effort to have UCSJ supporters send Passover greeting cards to the more than 800 Soviet Jews whose names and addresses appeared in the appeal letters.52 Over the decade to come, as the strategy of personalization progressed, it would become common for activists to march with posters featuring the names and faces of imprisoned Soviet Jews, to wear metal bracelets with the names and arrest dates of others, to maintain correspondence with "adopted" refusenik families and Soviet bar or bat mitzvah "twins," and even to visit refuseniks in their own apartments in the USSR.

Even though Redemption! broke new ground in the movement by featuring letters from individually-named Soviet Jews, their collection in a group of 42 had the effect of deemphasizing the unique aspects of each writer's situation. It manifested a tension between the individual and the generic that was especially acute in the early 1970s as activists in the United States began discovering their Soviet Jewish counterparts. It was the same tension evident on the cover of a 1971 how-to manual on sending parcels to Soviet Jewish prisoners of conscience.53 Published by the UCSJ, the manual was prepared by the Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism's Louis Rosenblum, one of the primary architects of the American campaign's shift to "people-to-people" tactics to directly connect individual Jews in the United States and USSR with one another. The cover graphic of Rosenblum's manual showed the faces of nineteen [End Page 20] men and women, uniformly arranged in a 4x5 grid of identically-sized black-and-white headshots. No names were attached to the photos, and the headshots themselves offered no context of their own. Each face was interchangeable with each of the others. The overall effect, especially with the inclusion of one square left as a faceless silhouette, was to suggest that these photos were representative of a much larger number.54 Only the act of corresponding with individual prisoners and their families would turn a generic list of names and faces into distinct and differentiated relationships with people whom letter-writers would come to know in a richer sense beyond simply their status as "prisoner."

Activists' shift to strategies that focused on the personal plights of individual Soviet Jews accomplished many things for the movement: these strategies provided direct support to individuals in need in the USSR, they created multiple points for ongoing pressure on the Soviet government and for ongoing communication with US officials for requests to intercede, and they broadened and deepened the mobilization of American Jews by individualizing activism (i.e. different Americans working on behalf of different Soviet Jews) and by creating emotional incentives to stay involved, including feelings of personal obligation to continue a helping relationship once it was begun, and more.

Personalization also created opportunities to anchor publicity campaigns. This took different forms, depending on whether or not personalization was tied to people-to-people strategies. Consider, for example, the bar and bat mitzvah twinnings that were pioneered in 1977 and became popular in the 1980s.55 Because twinnings involved citizens across the United States, they were especially useful for garnering coverage in local news media, providing local angles on an international issue. The articles and their headlines essentially wrote themselves: "Portlander shares rite with Soviet Teenager," "Girl picks Soviet as Bat Mitzvah 'twin.'" By telling the human-interest story of Portlander Sacha Reich and her connection with Soviet Anna Paritsky, or of Floridian Sheryl Sandberg and her twinning with Muscovite Kira Volvovsky, newspapers like the Sunday Oregonian and Miami Herald could transform the remote and [End Page 21] complex issue of Soviet oppression of Jews into something compelling for local readers.56

Focusing and sustaining national media attention on the situation of particular Soviet Jews was more difficult. By the mid-1970s, there were thousands of refuseniks and dozens of prisoners, any of whom activists could have tried to make the focus of a publicity campaign in the West. Only a handful became causes célèbres. American activists from all factions of the movement–grassroots and establishment, youth and adult–cut their teeth on the Kochubiyevksy case in 1969 and 1970 and were thus prepared to mobilize en masse when word broke in November 1970 of the impending Leningrad hijacking trial.57 It was this campaign around the fates of Mark Dymshits, Eduard Kuznetzov, Sylva Zalmanson and Yosef Mendelevich that marked the moment when the seeds planted in 1968 came to fruition and the American movement began in earnest to use individual cases to draw publicity.58

In 1968, however, the notion that Soviet Jews would stand up to their government and demand the right to leave was still something that took American Jews by surprise. "Jewish sources regard Kazakov's letter as highly unusual," the Washington Post reported when it broke the story. "They can recall no previous case of the exact type."59 Caught unaware, and not yet possessing any of the organizational learning, templates for action, or transnational information networks that they would later use successfully to focus media attention on the ballet stars Valery Panov and Galina Ragozina (1972–74), the infant Jessica Kats (1978), and others, activists were not yet ready to seize what could have been an opportunity to capture a share of the public attention in that most eventful year.60 [End Page 22]

All Quiet on the Eastern Front? Prague Spring and Poland

The events in the Communist bloc most closely associated with the upheavals of 1968 took place in Czechoslovakia and in Poland. Both Prague Spring and the Polish student demonstrations and "anti-Zionist campaign" in March of that year carried implications for the Western Soviet Jewry campaign. One can imagine how activists might have tried to capitalize on the fact that the events turned world attention eastward for a time. Neither, however, prompted a flurry of activity.

American Soviet Jewry activists were not inattentive to the situation. On the contrary, they were concerned about the ramifications for Jews in the USSR and in the Warsaw Pact nations. In the case of Czechoslovakia, however, leaders of American Jewish organizations had particular reasons for maintaining a low profile. Only months earlier, in August 1967, the waterlogged body of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee executive vice-chairman, Charles Jordan, had been fished from Prague's Vltava River. Israeli, US, and American Jewish officials suspected assassination and the complicity, if not outright involvement, of the Czechoslovak secret police. The intent was probably to deter American Jews from operating in Czechoslovakia, and it seems to have had the desired effect. As Dubček pursued his political reforms in 1968, American Jewish groups watched quietly and waited cautiously.61 And while they kept one eye on Prague, they kept another on Moscow. For all the hope that Prague Spring inspired, it also raised the worried question of whether the Kremlin would see the political liberalization as a threat to its control over its satellites and potentially over its own people as well. In August 1968, when the tanks rolled in, the answer was clear. But even by April, speakers at the AJCSJ biennial were warning that the relaxation of censorship and extension of political freedoms in Czechoslovakia could lead to a Soviet clampdown at home as well as abroad, with attendant consequences for Soviet Jews.62 [End Page 23]

Unbeknownst to the delegates, the Soviets were at that moment preparing to restart the flow of emigrants to Israel, largely in response to the campaign in the West. On June 10, 1968, the CPSU Central Committee approved a proposal from KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko:

In order to contain the slanderous assertions of Western propaganda concerning discrimination against Jews in the Soviet Union, it would seem expedient… to renew in the coming year departures of Soviet citizens for residence in Israel (up to 1500 persons)…[This] could be evaluated positively in the eyes of world public opinion as a humanitarian act, and will permit the elimination of nationalistically inclined individuals and religious fanatics who exert a harmful influence on their surroundings.63

In retrospect, we can see in the memorandum evidence that within four years of the establishment of the major American Soviet Jewry movement organizations, their efforts had already succeeded in achieving a change, albeit modest, in Soviet emigration policy. American activists did not know of the policy change at the time, however. Spring 1968 had brought them important success, but from their vantage point, they could see only that 1968 was bringing more threats and more uncertainty.

Activists were looking with concern not only to Czechoslovakia but also to Poland, where a conflict between government hardliners and moderates was playing out in ways that had direct bearing on Polish Jews. In the first months of 1968, the government shut down a theater production and expelled student activists who spoke out against the censorship, prompting student protests that were then violently suppressed. The government blamed the demonstrations on "Zionist instigators" including the expelled student leader, Adam Michnik.64 As many of the university students were the children of party members and government officials, hardliners had found (or created) the pretext to purge Jews and other opponents from the ranks of government, the military, academia, the media and other public posts. Most of Poland's small remaining Jewish population left the country, approximately 15,000 people between 1968 and 1971. As historian of the events, Jerzy Eizler, explains, "On the one hand, [the "anti-Zionist" campaign] was a way of pressuring people of Jewish background to leave Poland. On the other, it was to justify the purges post factum. The emigration of Jews and people of [End Page 24] Jewish background was to be a confirmation of their foreignness trumpeted by the March [1968] propaganda."65

The events in Poland brought the persecution of Jews in communist bloc countries onto the front pages of American newspapers.66 Activists could have chosen to capitalize on this and anchor a large mobilization around the issue, both to address the situation in Poland itself and also to use it as a frame for raising awareness about the issue of Soviet Jewry. They did not do so. SSSJ, already taking to the streets in front of Soviet diplomatic missions, moved some of its demonstrations to buildings housing Polish diplomatic offices.67 In the United Kingdom, the Board of Deputies organized a silent march on the Polish embassy in London.68 These public protests were outliers. The AJCSJ did little beyond monitoring the situation via reports from the American Jewish Committee's European offices, and issuing statements calling on "Wladyslaw Gomulka, Polish party leader, to refrain from the use of Stalinist terror tactics, with show trials and trumped-up charges."69 The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations appointed a "technical subcommittee" that recommended that local groups pursue city council resolutions. The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NCRAC) "hoped that there would be local demonstrations by students," but it did not use its convening power to organize anything nationally to either realize this hope or to leverage local protests into something greater than the sum of their parts.70 The Cleveland Council [End Page 25] on Soviet Anti-Semitism reported on the situation in Poland in its newsletter, Spotlight, but it did not organize action on the issue.71

It is not clear why the Soviet Jewry organizations did not do more with regard to the anti-Zionist campaign in Poland. The small efforts they did make suggest that they recognized that their work on behalf of Soviet Jews implied an interest in the oppression of Jews in communist countries more broadly. We might speculate that the fact that Polish Jews were being pressured to emigrate en masse contributed to the lack of more concerted action to protest the Polish policy. If American Jews believed that there was no viable future for Jewish life in Poland, then perhaps it was best to simply watch the emigration proceed. It is also possible that since the bulk of the emigrants were leaving for Israel, American Jewish sensitivity to Israeli interests in continuing the migration flow was also at play. I have found no evidence, however, that would render these suggestions anything more than plausible speculation.72 Like the Soviet Jewry movement's public activity around the Polish anti-Zionist campaign, its internal conversation is more notable for what is absent than for what is present.

Factional Conflict and the Hints of '68

Although American Soviet Jewry movement organizations were not silent about the anti-Zionist campaign in Poland, the energy invested in securing city council resolutions demonstrated a respect for and faith in conventional authority very different from that on display in Columbia University's Low Library, where the students occupying President Grayson Kirk's office made a point of shaving with his razor and smoking his cigars.73 A movement's ethos is embodied in its strategies and tactics, and throughout 1968, little in the American Soviet Jewry campaign's strategic and tactical choices revealed the politics of disillusionment or quest for alternative community that marked the campus takeovers or [End Page 26] the street protests in Chicago, Paris, and Mexico City. This was true of organizations associated with the establishment and grassroots factions alike.74 The AJCSJ's election-year work was business as usual, ignoring Grant Park and Pigasus to focus on party platforms and statements of support from Nixon and Humphrey.75 It followed this up with an ineffectual petition drive "respectfully calling upon the Secretary General of the United Nations to inscribe this issue [of Soviet Jewry] on the agenda of the General Assembly which is now in session."76 For their part, local grassroots councils were introducing holiday mobilizations in 1968 that, even as they embraced the move toward religiously-inflected Jewish identity politics that SSSJ was leading, managed to reaffirm the value of American Jews' home-based, consumer-oriented religious folk culture.77 In the spring, the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jewry brought Jewish holiday décor out of the dining room and onto the front door, encouraging families to mark their doorposts for Passover by affixing large red "protest posters" on them.78 In the fall, the Washington Committee for [End Page 27] Soviet Jewry asked people on its mailing list to send Rosh Hashanah greeting cards to Soviet synagogues, whose addresses it circulated.79

Only in isolated moments did activists produce something that looked like the broader politics of 1968. In March of that year, 22-year-old rabbinic student Hillel Levine and six others disrupted one of the planning meetings for the AJCSJ's April Biennial—an action that presaged Levine's better-known protest at the 1969 Council of Jewish Federations' General Assembly. Their sit-in blended the New Left's tactical preference for confrontational moments with something akin to its substantive critique that the dominant social institutions were not living up to their own professed ideals.80 Akin, but not identical, because in their demand that the constituent agencies "provide a budget for the AJCSJ" they were charging the Jewish establishment more with fecklessness than with fundamental injustices structured into the system. Nor should the confrontation necessarily be read as a generational conflict. The style of protest drew from the student movement, but the substance of the critique matched that of the older activists in the local councils. Levine had even written to Lou Rosenblum, head of the Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism and 23 years Levine's senior, informing him of the plans for the sit-in.81

To the extent that a politics of disillusionment was operative in the grassroots councils, it led not to a strategy of public disruption, but to behind-the-scenes efforts at institution building. Rosenblum had been pressing the Jewish establishment to fund the AJCSJ properly since 1964, when, with CCSA co-founder Herb Caron, he had the temerity to bring a resolution to that effect to the floor of the AJCSJ's founding meeting over the objection of conference organizers. (For this challenge to authority, NCRAC Executive Director Isaiah Minkoff denounced them from the dais as "these unspeakable Bundists from Cleveland.")82 [End Page 28] By 1968, Rosenblum no longer expected resolutions from the floor to bring about substantive change in the AJCSJ. But rather than force a confrontation, as Levine did, he went around the organization. Attending the AJCSJ biennial, Rosenblum gathered the leaders of the local councils and SSSJ's Jacob Birnbaum in his hotel room, where they began laying the groundwork for an alternative national agency that would circumvent the AJCSJ.83 It would take two years to complete. In April 1970, the Soviet Jewry councils in Cleveland, Miami, Washington, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, along with a student organization in California, banded together to form the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. Outflanked, and faced with the prospect that their organization would be rendered irrelevant, the AJCSJ's sponsoring agencies finally opted to provide it the funds, offices and independence that the grassroots activists had been demanding they give it. In June 1971, they reconstituted the AJCSJ as the independent National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ).

Given the politics of the 1960s, it is easy to see how any group referred to as an "establishment" would find itself the target of critique. It would overstate matters, however, to interpret grassroots criticism of the Conference as evidence of a broad generational challenge pitting countercultural youth against their more conservative elders. While this was true to some extent of the SSSJ (although even this must be qualified by its membership's religious orthodoxy and Birnbaum's biographical exceptionalism), it was generally not true of the largest group of grassroots activists, the leaders of the grassroots councils. These were, for the most part, not the youth of the counterculture, but scientists, homemakers, business-owners, retirees, doctors and teachers—men and women of the same generation as the Conference staffers with whom they fought and worked. Their factional disputes played out in battles over goals, strategies and tactics, and typically unfolded with the councils pressing for more aggressive action and the Conference demanding coordination and restraint. Fundamentally, these arguments stemmed from a disagreement over legitimate authority in the Jewish community. Who had the right to speak on behalf of American Jews? And to whom, if anyone, were the activists responsible? In most cities, Soviet Jewry councils were created as independent, single-issue organizations, outside the framework of the federation system and synagogue movements that the Conference represented. The Conference operated according to an established politics of consensus. The councils answered to themselves, and as they saw it, to Soviet Jews. They refused to be bound by the national umbrella agencies that American Jews relied on to coordinate unified policy stances. [End Page 29] They refused to defer to the Israelis. In this sense, we might say that although far removed from the politics and the strategies of the New Left, the councils embodied something of the spirit of '68, creating a more democratic alternative in American Jewish politics, threatening the status quo, challenging an establishment's monopoly on power, and forcing this establishment to come to terms with the realization that the rules of the game had changed. American Jews today are still living with this more diverse, more contentious, less centrally governed polity.

Cold War Liberalism and the Rejection of 1968's Eventful Temporality

An edited volume marking the 40th anniversary of 1968 opened by noting that "the leftist aspirations of the student protestors were dashed with the rise of the new right in the 1970s and 1980s," and that for many scholars, "'What went wrong?' has often been the question associated with attempts to understand 1968 and its neoliberal aftermath."84 Such a framing fits poorly, though, when considering the American campaign to free Soviet Jews. This was, after all, a movement that allied itself with Henry Jackson's neoconservative critique of détente. As early as 1973, the movement challenged the selection of Moscow as the site of the 1980 Olympic Games ("Olympics Da, Moscow Nyet!").85 It was able to sustain and expand its mobilization through the conservative Reagan/Bush era, and ultimately achieved the essential goals it set for itself: placing the Soviet Jewish issue onto the superpower agenda, enlisting US governmental power for leverage against the Soviets, and securing freedom of exit for every Soviet Jew who wanted to leave.86 Understanding how [End Page 30] the American Soviet Jewry movement did not partake in the politics of the New Left helps to makes sense of this trajectory, even as it helps us to more clearly articulate what was so distinctive about the New Left and student politics in 1968 itself.

As a moment in the life course of a social movement, 1968 was an uneventful year for the American Soviet Jewry campaign. If we consider its failure to mobilize around the burgeoning activism by Jews inside the USSR or to quickly marshal its resources to respond vigorously to the anti-Zionist campaign in Poland, we might argue that the movement simply lacked the organizational base at the time to make 1968 an eventful year. But even later, when this had changed and the campaign was no longer likely to find itself caught by surprise, under-resourced, or unable to pivot quickly in response to events, movement organizations rarely, if ever, sought to create moments resembling those created by the New Left and student protests of 1968. The Soviet Jewry movement's uneventfulness in a year of events was a product of its very different orientation from that of the New Left to event-centered protest.

A word of clarification is in order, lest one object that the protests outside theaters where Soviet dancers or musicians were performing, or the annual Solidarity Sunday marches that turned out hundreds of thousands in the streets of New York, or the even larger December 1987 rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC, are all evidence that the movement relied heavily on event-centered protest. I am using the term "event" in the more restricted sense proposed by historian William H. Sewell in his article introducing the concept of "eventful temporality." Sewell writes:

Eventful temporality recognizes the power of events in history. Social life may be conceptualized as being composed of countless happenings or encounters…Most happenings reproduce social and cultural structures without significant changes…Events may be defined as that relatively rare subclass of happenings that significantly transform structures. An eventful conception of temporality, therefore, is one that takes into account the transformations of structures by events.87

Sewell introduced the notion of eventfulness as one of several analytic frameworks that could be used to conceptualize the relationship between temporality and social change. A scholar of France's eighteenth- and nineteenth-century revolutions, he preferred it against other frameworks common in historical sociology because, instead of presuming timeless universal laws or teleological progressions, it recognized the power of the revolutionary moment to change "not only the balance of causal forces operating but the very logic by which consequences flow from occurrences [End Page 31] or circumstances."88 Sewell's restricted use of the term "event" calls attention to the power of that singular happening, unfolding at a particular moment in a particular place, that is so powerful that it not only opens a path to things that could not have happened otherwise, but it also reshapes social dynamics such that there is no going back to the old ways of doing things.

Sewell intended this notion of "eventfulness" as a conceptual tool for researchers, an analytic framework that would help historical sociologists account for social change. In this instance, however, it appears that the New Left and student activists of 1968 had their own intuitive understanding of Sewell's point, and built their strategies around it. As Gitlin writes in The Sixties, his memoir-cum-history:

Among themselves, radical leaders at Columbia and other embattled universities were quite prepared to admit that 'the issue is not the issue.' They knew that in order to mobilize a mass of students, they had to point their fingers at the hinge where the university intersected with some large evil; they had to cast the university authorities (often eager to oblige) in the villain role, and to that end, nothing was more compelling than to dare them to call the police. Reform-minded protesters set out to reconstruct Columbia, but for SDS changing the university was now beside the point. The occupation was a ritual of unmasking.89

Columbia's activists realized that once the police started beating students, there would be no more politics-as-usual at the university. And for this very reason, they courted confrontation. New Left and student activists around the world applied this strategy with vigor. The year 1968 was experienced as "a series of political-social-cultural 'big events,'" in part because activists around the world adopted the strategy of trying to create the type of transformative events that Sewell describes.90 The strategy flowed naturally from the movement's cultural politics. If the political and social order was fundamentally unjust and inhuman, then liberal reform that operates within this system would be inherently incapable of changing the system. Protests were intended not to raise awareness about issues, but to create "eventful" moments that had the potential to transform social relations that otherwise would continue being produced and reproduced.

Only in the sporadic instances of violence against Soviet interests in the United States undertaken by Meir Kahane's Jewish Defense League from the early 1970s on, do we see an American Soviet Jewry organization [End Page 32] that grounded its strategy in the effort to create transformative events. In December 1969, the organization launched a campaign of harassment and violence against Soviet targets in New York, in which JDL activists defaced Soviet press and tourism offices and Aeroflot airplanes with spray-painted slogans, set off alarms and released mice at Soviet cultural exchange performances, threatened violence against diplomats and exploded bombs at offices representing Soviet interests. Kahane intended the violence to create a new political reality, provoking a crisis in US-Soviet relations and thereby forcing the issue of Soviet Jewry onto the negotiating agenda.91 But this approach was roundly rejected by the other movement actors, who, as historian Eli Lederhendler explains, "recoiled from this approach precisely because, unlike the JDL…[they] still held themselves accountable to integrationist values of civility."92

The broader movement's non-violent demonstrations and rallies were rooted not in a Sewellian eventful temporality that sought to create watershed moments, but in a more deliberately paced strategy for keeping pressure on in a campaign that might last for generations. This was as true of the grassroots SSSJ and UCSJ as it was of the establishment Conference. Over the course of thirty years, their public protests succeeded by raising awareness and recruiting supporters. Their mass rallies succeeded by sustaining and reinvigorating the emotional commitment of demonstrators to stay with the movement for the decades it might take before they might realize free emigration for all Soviet Jews. The protests and rallies alike succeeded by reminding American officials again and again that this issue was important to American Jews, and by keeping pressure on them at key decision-making moments. But never were these demonstrations intended to transform reality by forcing the crossing of some Rubicon. Rather they were used to contribute to a context that supported the movement's steady, ongoing work: work with the US legislative and executive branches to bring the issue to the superpower's negotiating table and thereby effect change at the policy level in the USSR, and work on an individual basis to provide moral support and material assistance to particular Soviet Jews in the meantime.

This leaves open the question of how to evaluate the December 1987 "Freedom Sunday For Soviet Jews" rally in Washington, in relation to the New Left politics of 1968. Held on the eve of the US-Soviet summit in the American capital, the march indeed was, on one hand, an instance [End Page 33] in which the movement operated on the belief that a single event could have transformative potential. Activists' goal was to place the Soviet Jewish issue on the summit's agenda in a way that would convince Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that a resolution of this matter was crucial to the US-Soviet bilateral relationship. On the other hand, the decision to march stemmed not from an ideological or strategic commitment to the creation of transformative events, but from a tactical analysis of a political moment that activists believed held the potential to be a tipping point. In Gorbachev, they had a Soviet leader whose broader policy of liberalization had already included signs of flexibility on the Soviet Jewish issue. In Ronald Reagan, they had a committed ally whose ability to press the matter would be strengthened by a massive show of popular support for the cause. (Reagan did, in fact, point to the rally when raising the issue with Gorbachev at the summit.) Moreover, the two were meeting in Washington, DC, a place where large numbers of American Jews could, with some organization, easily gather.93 And in further contrast to the protests of 1968, organizers of the march did not consider strategies of occupation or disruption to create their transformative moment. Eschewing conflict with US or Soviet officialdom, they enlisted the participation of US government officials, including the Republican Vice President, George H.W. Bush.94

Transformative events are rare occurrences. As brief moments in time, they themselves are not sustainable states of being. Although they can create lasting effects, a politics premised on the creation of transformative events is inherently precarious, inevitably evanescent.95 Nineteen-sixty-eight was marked by the New Left's embrace of a politics of eventfulness, and we remember the year as we do precisely because it differed so much from what came before it and after it. For the American movement for Soviet Jews, however, 1968 was distinctly uneventful, and in this uneventfulness we see both the gaps that separated the movement from the politics of the New Left and also the seeds of the movement's long-term sustainability. [End Page 34]

Within movements of the New Left, the strategic option to try to create transformative events flowed logically from the conviction, which had grown by 1968, that liberal reform in the United States was doomed to fail. Because this conviction never took hold in the American campaign for Soviet Jews, the strategy that made so much sense for New Left movements did not find fertile ground in the Soviet Jewry campaign. Moreover, whereas the New Left sought to transcend Cold War binaries, the American campaign to free Soviet Jews was a movement whose establishment and grassroots organizations alike were born in the era of Cold War liberalism, and these politics remained with them through the end. Focused as they were on human rights abuses in the USSR, and cognizant of the relationship between the Soviet Union's anti-Jewish domestic policies and its anti-Zionist foreign policy, the activists of the Conference, the Councils and the Student Struggle drew no moral equivalence between the Cold War's rival systems.96 They retained a faith in America's ability to serve as an advocate for human rights around the world, and promoted American leadership in this regard. As a result, in an era when activists of the New Left were embracing a strategy of eventfulness that stemmed from the deeper politics operative within its movements, the American campaign for Soviet Jewry acted in accordance with its own deep-seated Cold War liberalism. Instead of trying to create the singular eventful moment, its activists girded themselves for a long project of unknown duration and set out to enlist the US government to make their cause its own. Using gaps in the Iron Curtain to forge personal connections with Jews in the USSR, they brought refuseniks' stories to the West, tugging at heartstrings with emotional appeals that united progressive human rights activists and conservative anti-communists in common cause. For tactical reasons, activists tried to avoid excessive entanglements in the broader politics of Cold War anti-communism, but nevertheless, theirs was unavoidably a Cold War movement. And like the Cold War, it was waged not by provoking a single cataclysmic battle but by digging in, keeping pressure on, and slowly wearing the other side down. [End Page 35]

Shaul Kelner

Shaul Kelner is associate professor of sociology and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Tours That Bind: Diaspora, Pilgrimage and Israeli Birthright Tourism (New York University Press, 2010) and is completing a book on American activism for Soviet Jewish emigration rights.


1. I would like to thank Ari Kelman, Tony Michels, Riv-Ellen Prell, Larry Isaac, Dan Cornfield, Holly McCammon, Jacob Labendz, and Amaryah Orenstein. I would also like to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for American Jewish History and the participants in "the Jewish 1968" conference held at Stanford University in February 2015. The author gratefully acknowledges support for this research provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (FT-229663–15), the University of Michigan's Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies, and the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry.

2. Miller to Membership, April 10, 1968, folder 4, box 1, Records of National Conference on Soviet Jewry, Collection I-181 (hereafter cited as NCSJ I-181), Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement (hereafter AASJM), American Jewish Historical Society, New York (hereafter AJHS).

3. Quoted in Marc Schneier, Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Jewish Community (Woodstock: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2008), 119.

4. On the power of analogies to the situation of African Americans, and the consequences of this for the outcomes of other minority rights campaigns of the 1960s and 1970s, see John D. Skrentny, The Minority Rights Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004).

5. This mirrors the legitimizing power that Richard Rubenstein understood rabbis to possess when he and a delegation left the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly convention in 1963 to travel to Birmingham. "I was genuinely surprised to learn how much our visit really mattered to the Negroes engaged in the struggle… The basic religious metaphor, repeated by Negroes over and over again, was the metaphor of Moses and the children of Israel…By our very presence we were handing down a kind of 'apostolic' succession to them," quoted in Michael E. Staub, ed., The Jewish 1960s: An American Sourcebook (Waltham: Brandeis University Press, 2004), 26–27.

6. Miller to Membership, April 10, 1968, folder 4, box 1, NCSJ I-181.

7. Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry was established at Columbia University days after the AJCSJ's inaugural meeting, its name an implicit critique of the AJCSJ. Arguing that "a 'Conference' could be no substitute for a great international struggle," and with little faith that Jewish organizational professionals would muster the passion to carry the cause to success, SSSJ's founder, Jacob Birnbaum, a 38-year-old British immigrant, focused on mobilizing youth. The group's preference for deploying religious symbols as a form of street protest asserted Jews' right to occupy American public space as Jews, and helped turn a movement ostensibly focused on Jews overseas into something concerned with the identity politics of American Jews. Birnbaum to J. J. Goldberg, July 13, 2002, private collection of Jacob Birnbaum; Yossi Klein Halevi, "Jacob Birnbaum and the Struggle for Soviet Jewry," Azure, no. 17 (2004): 27–57; Shaul Kelner, "Ritualized Protest and Redemptive Politics: Cultural Consequences of the American Mobilization to Free Soviet Jewry," Jewish Social Studies 14, no. 3 (2008): 1–37; Adam S. Ferziger, Beyond Sectarianism: The Realignment of American Orthodox Judaism, (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2015), 62–67; Amaryah Orenstein, "'Let My People Go!': The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry and the Rise of American Jewish Identity Politics" (PhD diss., Brandeis University, 2014).

8. Assorted materials, folder 2 ("Freedom Boat Ride"), box 4, Records of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, Yeshiva University Archives, New York, (hereafter cited as SSSJ). The boat eventually sailed in September.

9. For histories of the creation of Soviet Jewry advocacy organizations in the US in the early 1960s, see William W. Orbach, The American Movement to Aid Soviet Jews (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1979); Paul S. Appelbaum, "The Soviet Jewry Movement in the United States," in Michael N. Dobkowski, ed., Jewish American Voluntary Organizations (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1986), 613–635; Murray Friedman and Albert D. Chernin, eds., A Second Exodus: The American Movement to Free Soviet Jews (Waltham: Brandeis University Press, 1999); Pauline Peretz, Le Combat Pour les Juifs Soviétiques: Washington-Moscou-Jérusalem, 1953–1989 (Paris: Armand Colin, 2006); and Gal Beckerman, When They Come for Us We'll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010).

10. In the terminology of the sociology of collective behavior, this is a question about how much an analysis of the American Soviet Jewry campaign should look to factors associated with the campaign's own social movement industry or with the 1960's broader social movement sector. John D. McCarthy and Mayer N. Zald, "Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory," American Journal of Sociology 82, no. 6 (1977): 1212–1241.

11. William H. Sewell. "Three Temporalities: Toward an Eventful Sociology," in The Historic Turn in the Human Sciences, ed. Terrence J. McDonald (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), 245–280.

12. Yaacov Ro'i, The Struggle for Soviet Jewish Emigration, 1948–1967 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Henry L. Feingold, Silent No More: Saving The Jews of Russia, The American Jewish Effort, 1967–1989 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004); Marc E. Frey, "Challenging the World's Conscience: The Soviet Jewry Movement, American Political Culture, and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1952–1967" (PhD Diss., Temple University, 2002).

13. Feingold, Silent No More, 64.

14. Zvi Gitelman, "The Psychological and Political Consequences of the Six-Day War in the U.S.S.R.," in The Six-Day War and World Jewry, ed. Eli Lederhendler (Bethesda: University Press of Maryland, 2000), 249–267; Beckerman, When They Come for Us We'll Be Gone, 99–110; Marc Dollinger, Quest for Inclusion: Jews and Liberalism in Modern America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 220–222.

15. Orenstein, "'Let My People Go!'"; Chaim Waxman, "The Limited Impact of the Six-Day War on America's Jews," The Six-Day War and World Jewry, ed. Lederhendler, 99–115. Gitelman, while making a case for the Six Day War's importance to the Soviet Jewry movement, cautions against overstating or mischaracterizing the nature of its effects. See Gitelman, "The Psychological and Political Consequences of the Six-Day War in the U.S.S.R."

16. Michael E. Staub, Torn at the Roots: The Crisis of Jewish Liberalism in Postwar America (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 180–181.

17. Founded in 1952, Nativ worked in the USSR to cultivate Jewish national sentiment among Soviet Jews, and in the West to foster an activist campaign. It encouraged the formation of the AJCSJ and sought to influence the work of American movement organizations, with varying degrees of success. Nehemiah Levanon, Ha-Kod 'Nativ' (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1995); Nehemiah Levanon, "Israel's Role in the Campaign," in A Second Exodus, eds., Friedman and Chernin, 70–83; Peretz, Le Combat Pour les Juifs Soviétiques.

18. Levanon, Ha-Kod 'Nativ,' 226–228.

19. Staub, Torn at the Roots, 195–196; Eli Lederhendler, New York Jews and the Decline of Urban Ethnicity: 1950–1970 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2001), 191–192; Kelner, "Ritualized Protest and Redemptive Politics;" Orenstein, "'Let My People Go!'." On the broader project of the Jewish counterculture, see Riv-Ellen Prell, "Complicating a Jewish Modernity: The Jewish Theological Seminary, Columbia University, and the Rise of a Jewish Counterculture in 1968," in Between Jewish Tradition and Modernity: Rethinking an Old Opposition, Essays in Honor of David Ellenson, ed., Michael A. Meyer (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2014), 263–79.

20. Beckerman, When They Come for Us, 80–81; Staub, Torn at the Roots, 195–196.

21. Kelner, "Ritualized Protest and Redemptive Politics."

22. Orenstein, "'Let My People Go!'," 146.

23. Quoted in Orenstein, "'Let My People Go!'," 133.

24. Research on movement culture has focused mainly on SSSJ and, to a lesser extent, the JDL, both disproportionately young, Orthodox and New York City-based. Such work has tended to present the AJCSJ as a foil to these groups, rather than consider its culture as also constitutive of movement culture writ large. Within the grassroots faction, differences between the movement culture of SSSJ and that of the UCSJ's local councils (whose members represented a different demographic) has largely been neglected. On the culture of SSSJ, see Halevi, "Jacob Birnbaum and the Struggle for Soviet Jewry”; Kelner, "Ritualized Protest and Redemptive Politics”; Ferziger, Beyond Sectarianism, 62–67; Staub, Torn at the Roots, 180–181; Orenstein, "'Let My People Go!'." Orenstein and Staub also treat the JDL in the context of the Soviet Jewry movement, as does Lederhendler, New York Jews, 193–194. On the persistence of gaps in the movement cultures of SSSJ and the Conference, see Shaul Kelner, "Religious Ambivalence in Jewish American Philanthropy" in Family, Friend, Foe? The Relationship of Religion and Philanthropy in Religious Philanthropic Organizations, ed. Thomas J. Davis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013), 28–49. For an account of movement culture in a local council, see Andrew Harrison, Passover Revisited: Philadelphia's Efforts to Aid Soviet Jews, 1963–1998 (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001).

25. An alternative convention uses 1968 and '68 to distinguish the calendar year from its symbolic constructions. Deborah Cohen and Lessie Jo Frazier, "Love-In, Love-Out: Gender, Sex and Sexuality in '68," in Gender and Sexuality in 1968: Transformative Politics in the Cultural Imagination, eds. Lessie Jo Frazier and Deborah Cohen (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 19, fn 1.

26. Max Hastings, The Fire This Time: America's Year of Crisis (New York: Taplinger Publishing, 1969).

27. Twentieth anniversary publications include David Caute, Sixty-eight: The Year of the Barricades (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1988); and Irwin Unger and Debi Unger, Turning Point, 1968 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988). From the 30th, Jules Witcover, The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America (New York: Warner Books, 1997). Publications from 40th anniversary conferences include Frazier and Cohen, Gender and Sexuality in 1968; Gurminder K. Bhambra and Ipek Demir, eds., 1968 in Retrospect: History, Theory, Alterity (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Ingo Cornils and Sarah Waters, eds., Memories of 1968: International Perspectives (Bern: Peter Lang, 2011); and Vladimir Tismaneanu, ed., Promises of 1968: Crisis, Illusion and Utopia (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2010).

28. Timothy S. Brown, "United States of Amnesia? 1968 in the USA," in Memories of 1968: International Perspectives, eds. Ingo Cornils and Sarah Waters (Bern: Peter Lang, 2011), 135.

29. Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Bantam, 1993), 287, 305.

30. Mark Kurlansky, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World (New York: Ballantine Books, 2004), 294–5.

31. Daniel J. Sherman, Ruud van Dijk, and Jasmine Alinder, eds. The Long 1968: Revisions and New Perspectives (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013).

32. Eric Hobsbawm, "The Year the Prophets Failed," in 1968: Magnum Throughout The World, ed. Stephanie Gregoire (Paris: Editions Hazan, 1998), 8.

33. Kurlansky, 1968; Witcover, The Year the Dream Died; Caute, Sixty-eight; Unger and Unger, Turning Point; and David Wyatt, When America Turned: Reckoning with 1968 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2014).

34. Gitlin, The Sixties, 304–305.

35. Gitlin, The Sixties, 285–340; Kurlansky, 1968, 192–208. Not all student activists embraced the strategy of courting police violence. Most probably did not. Numbers, however, did not matter. The radical flank understood the dynamics of confrontation. The police would make no distinction among the protestors. Violent repression would be indiscriminate, and this would help further radicalize the students.

36. Israel, by contrast, framed the movement's goals exclusively in terms of Jews' right to repatriation in the Jewish state. American activists embraced this Zionist framing, but only up to a point. In the mid-1970s conflict over the so-called "dropout" phenomenon (neshirah), American grassroots activists challenged Israel's demand that émigrés exiting the Soviet Union on Israeli visas be directed to immigrate to Israel, arguing instead for their right to immigrate to the country of their choice. On the conflict over neshirah, see Fred A. Lazin, The Struggle for Soviet Jewry in American Politics: Israel versus the American Jewish Establishment (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005). On the American Jewish embrace of Israel's Zionist framing of movement goals, see Nathaniel A. Kurz, "A Sphere Above the Nations? The Rise and Fall of International Jewish Human Rights Politics, 1945–1975" (PhD diss., Yale University, 2015), 320–330.

37. The term, "plight," is better understood as a movement construct rather than a neutral description of Soviet Jews' own understandings of their lives in the USSR. On Soviet Jews' strategic deployment of this rhetorical frame in their self-presentation to Western Jews and governments, see Sasha Senderovich, "Scenes of Encounter: The 'Soviet Jew' in Fiction by Russian Jewish Writers in America," Prooftexts 35, no. 1 (2015): 98–132.

38. Kelner, "Ritualized Protest," 15–18; Orenstein, "'Let My People Go!'." On Kahane's use of violence, see Shaul Magid, "Anti-Semitism as Colonialism: Meir Kahane's 'Ethics of Violence,'" Journal of Jewish Ethics 1, no. 2 (2015): 202–232; Beckerman, When They Come for Us, 211–214, 226–242.

39. "Handbooks, 1965–1968," folder 18, box 244, SSSJ. Emphasis in the original.

40. On the scholarly neglect of the Soviet Jewry movement's visual culture and the possibilities for its analysis, see Maya Balakirsky Katz, "Collecting the Exile: Shaping Collections of the Russian Jewish Immigration," Images: A Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture 3, no. 1 (2009): 119–128.

41. After the war, Nativ launched a new effort to use foreign tourists to establish an ongoing channel to Soviet Jewish activists, recruiting its first Americans in the summer of 1968. Levanon, Ha-Kod 'Nativ,' 323–326; Avraham Tirosh, "The Man Who Penetrated the Iron Curtain," Ma`ariv, Passover Supplement, April 19, 2000 [In Hebrew]; Philip Spiegel, Triumph Over Tyranny: The Heroic Campaigns That Saved 2,000,000 Soviet Jews (New York: Devora Publishing, 2008), 37–40.

42. The UCSJ's strategy of personalization was, in part, an effort to circumvent Nativ, which was using its control of information about Soviet Jews as leverage over American movement organizations.

43. Shimon Redlich. "Jewish Appeals in the USSR: An Expression of National Revival," Soviet Jewish Affairs 4, no. 2 (1974): 24–37.

44. Moshe Decter, ed., A Hero for Our Time: The Trial and Fate of Boris Kochubiyevsky (New York: Academic Committee on Soviet Jewry, and Conference on the Status of Soviet Jewry, 1970.)

45. Robert H. Eastbrook, "Jew Living in Moscow Hits Regime," The Washington Post, December 19, 1968.

46. After serving over two and a half years of his three-year sentence, Kochubiyevsky was released from the labor camp in December 1971 and permitted to emigrate to Israel, but without his wife and children. "Critic of Soviet Stand on Israel Freed, Goes There," New York Times, December 24, 1971.

47. Halevi, "Jacob Birnbaum and the Struggle for Soviet Jewry," 44; Robert H. Eastbrook, "Soviet Jew Jailed for Defending Israel States Rights to Go There," The Washington Post, May 3, 1969; Beckerman, When They Come for Us, 164.

48. Reproduced in Edward Drachman, ed., Challenging the Kremlin: The Soviet Jewish Movement for Freedom, 1967–1990 (New York: Paragon House, 1992), 242.

49. "Lithuanian Jewish Intellectuals Appeal to Communist Party to Permit Emigration," Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 29, 1968; "Report Another Moscow Family in Demand to Podgorny for Right to Leave USSR," Jewish Telegraphic Agency, August 7, 1969. On Nativ's role in the creation of the Academic Committee, see Levanon, HaKod 'Nativ,' 200–201, and Louis Rosenblum in discussion with Hillel Levine, December 27, 1987, transcript, "Control of Soviet Jewry Issues by the Israeli Government," 2, 9, folder 24, box 1, Louis Rosenblum Papers, MS 4926, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio. On Nativ's use of tourists, see Shlomo Rozner, Bi-netiv ha-demamah: ha-pe'ilut ha. hashai'it lema'an Yehude Berit ha-Mo'atsot, (Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center, 2012); Levanon, Ha-Kod 'Nativ,' 323–326; and Tirosh, "The Man Who Penetrated the Iron Curtain."

50. Moshe Decter, ed., Redemption! Jewish Freedom Letters from Russia (New York: Academic Committee on Soviet Jewry, and American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, 1970). There is little information on the booklet's reception. Its publication did not generate press coverage of the letters it contained, likely because many of the letters had already been covered when they first made their way to the West. In the decade to follow, Redemption! served as a resource for academic research on Soviet Jewish protest. See, e.g., Redlich, "Jewish Appeals in the USSR," and Leonard Schroeter, The Last Exodus (Universe Pub., 1974; reprint, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979).

51. Decter, Redemption!. On Decter's work for Nativ, see Pauline Peretz, Le Combat Pour les Juifs Soviétiques, 83–4, and Beckerman, When They Come for Us, 52–55. Redemption! was one of two Decter-edited pamphlets published by the Conference on the Status of Soviet Jews in spring 1970, the other being A Hero for Our Time: The Trial and Fate of Boris Kochubiyevsky, co-published with the Academic Committee on Soviet Jewry. Whereas Redemption! presents all its letters in English translation only, A Hero for Our Time adds texture, enshrining Kochubiyevksy's letter by also presenting a photo offset image of what appears to be the original Russian-language document itself, replete with handwritten edits and faded Cyrillic type.

52. Blumberg and Warshay to Friends of Soviet Jewry, Memorandum, April 8, 1970, folder 91, box 3, CCSA; Schacter to Conference Membership, "RE: Sending Greetings Cards to Soviet Synagogues," August 21, 1970, folder 6, box 1, NCSJ I-181.

53. Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, "Soviet Prisoners of Conscience" (Cleveland, OH: 1971), folder 255, box 9, CCSA 4011.

54. For this insight, I am indebted to Roxana Maria Arã¸s. On the use of visual arts in social movement framing, see Daniel R. Morrison and Larry W. Isaac, "Insurgent Images: Genre Selection and Visual Frame Amplification in IWW Cartoon Art," Social Movement Studies 11, no. 1 (2012): 61–78.

55. "A Shared Bar Mitzvah," The Jewish Week, October 20–26, 1977, Washington, DC, reprinted in "Action Alert," Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, October 24, 1977, folder 2, box 14, Records of Washington Committee on Soviet Jewry, Collection I-540 (hereafter WCSJ I-540), AASJM, AJHS.

56. Carol Rubenstein, "Portlander Shares Rite with Soviet Teenager," The Sunday Oregonian, December 1983, folder 3, box 127, Records of Action for Soviet Jewry, Collection I-487 (hereafter ASJ I-487), AASJM, AJHS; Adon Taft, "Girl Picks Soviet as Bat Mitzvah 'Twin,'" Miami Herald, December 3, 1982, folder 3, box 1, Papers of Joel and Adele Sandberg, Collection P-872, AASJM, AJHS.

57. On the AJCSJ, see, e.g., Lewis Weinstein to Hal Light, August 11, 1969, folder 29, box 3, Records of the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews, Collection I-505 (hereafter BACSJ I-505), AASJM, AJHS. On the UCSJ, see, e.g., Press Release, California Students for Soviet Jewry, July 17, 1969, folder 236, box 8, CCSA 4011. On SSSJ, see, e.g., "Soviet Jewry 'Guerilla Theater': 'Let Me Out'–The Trial of Boris Kochubiyevsky, Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, c. 1970, folder 80, box 3, CCSA 4011.

58. "Trial of Jews in USSR Protested; Emergency Rally for Sunday," Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, Press Release, December 20, 1970, folder 16, box 7, SSSJ.

59. Robert H. Eastbrook, "Jew Living in Moscow Hits Regime," The Washington Post, December 19, 1968.

60. "Panovs Hail Press as Instrumental in Their Freedom" New York Times, November 23, 1974; and Michael Knight, "Jewish Groups Deny They Misled Press: Activists in Affair of Jessica Kats," New York Times, December 12, 1978. The Kats case gained media attention because of the medical condition of the infant Jessica, a daughter of refuseniks. Controversy arose when the baby arrived healthy in the US.

61. The latest scholarship based on evidence from the case suggests that Jordan was kidnapped, likely interrogated under torture, and murdered by Arab assailants working out of the Egyptian embassy, with at least the tacit knowledge of the StB, the Czechoslovak secret police. Historian Jacob Labendz builds a compelling argument that the StB allowed the murder in order to deter Western Jewish organizations from operating in the country, and that the murder was successful in achieving the intended deterrent effect. Jacob Ari Labendz, "Lectures, Murder, and a Phony Terrorist: Managing 'Jewish Power and Danger' in 1960s Communist Czechoslovakia," East European Jewish Affairs 44, no. 1 (2014): 84–108.

62. Irving Spiegel, "Soviet Adamancy on Jews Decried," New York Times, April 8, 1968.

63. Reproduced in Boris Morozov, Documents on Soviet Jewish Emigration (London: Frank Cass, 1999), 65.

64. "Poland and Jews: A Current Appraisal," American Jewish Committee Foreign Affairs Department, March 29, 1968, folder 7, box 353, NCSJ I-181.

65. Jerzy Eisler, "1968: Jews, Antisemitism, Emigration," in Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 21, 1968: Forty Years After, eds. Leszek W. Gluchowski and Antony Polonsky (Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2009), 57. Volume 21 of Polin is dedicated to the events of March 1968.

66. For instance, J. Anthony Lukas, "Concern Over Anti-Semitism: Anti-Jewish Wave in Poland Feared," New York Times, April 20, 1968.

67. "Lights of Freedom Rally for Polish and Russian Jewry," Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, Flier, December 15, 1968, folder 35, box 10, BACSJ I-505.

68. Dana Adams Schmidt, "British Jews Plan Protest March Over 'Anti-Zionism' in Poland," New York Times, April 10, 1968.

69. "For Release in Anglo-Jewish Weeklies, Week of November 18, 1968" AJCSJ, press release, folder 28, box 3, BACSJ I-505. For AJCSJ files containing American Jewish Committee memoranda regarding the situation in Poland in 1968, see folder 7, box 353, NCSJ I-181.

70. The Conference of Presidents delegated responsibility for implementation to NCRAC, which housed the AJCSJ. The same personnel whom NCRAC loaned to the AJCSJ also worked on the campaign for Polish Jewry. Albert Chernin to Community Executives and NCRAC Commission on International Community Relations Concerns, Re: Protest of Polish Anti-Semitism–III, April 29, 1968, folder 11, box 3, BACSJ I-505.

71. "Anti-Semitic Revivals: Interpretive Comment," Spotlight, April 1968, no. 6, Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism, 1, folder 123, box 4, CCSA 4011; "Flight From Poland," Spotlight, March 1969, no. 7, Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism, 1, folder 123, box 4, CCSA 4011.

72. Nehemiah Levanon, Nativ's emissary in Washington in 1968 and later the agency's director, writes that Nativ encouraged American Jewish groups to speak out about Poland's anti-Zionist campaign. He suggests, however, that in its "shock" at the Polish government's antisemitic incitement, Nativ did not immediately grasp that Poland might have been opening the possibility of mass emigration. His memoirs say little about Nativ's efforts to foster Jewish emigration from Poland, beyond exploratory conversations with knowledgeable journalists. Levanon, Ha-Kod 'Nativ,' 244–248.

73. Kurlansky, 1968, 207; Wyatt, When America Turned, 189.

74. In emphasizing the factional battles that divided the American campaign, the notion of a grassroots/establishment binary tends to understate the common ground that united movement organizations. On the contributions of factionalization to the broader success of social movements, see Holly J. McCammon, Erin M. Bergner and Sandra C. Arch, "'Are You One of Those Women?' Within-Movement Conflict, Radical Flank Effects, and Social Movement Political Outcomes," Mobilization 20, no. 2 (2015): 157–178.

75. Albert Chernin to Israel Miller, July 1, 1968, folder 5, box 55, NCSJ I-181; Israel Miller to Richard M. Nixon, September 19, 1968, folder 4, box 55, NCSJ I-181; Richard M. Nixon to Israel Miller, September 29, 1968, folder 4, box 55, NCSJ I-181; Statement by Rabbi Herschel Schacter, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, press release, October 21, 1968, folder 4, box 55, NCSJ I-181; and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, press release, October 31, 1968, folder 4, box 55, NCSJ I-181.

76. "For Release in Anglo-Jewish Weeklies, Week of November 18, 1968," American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, press release, folder 28, box 3, BACSJ I-505; Lewis Weinstein to Membership of AJCSJ, "Re: Massive Petition Campaign on Soviet Jewry," November 4, 1968, folder 3, box 1, NCSJ I-181; Harold B. Light to Abraham Bayer, December 11, 1968, folder 28, box 3, BACSJ I-505. By presenting the petitions on International Human Rights Day in December, close to the end of the United Nations' General Assembly session, the AJCSJ essentially ensured that their request to add Soviet Jewry to the GA's agenda would not be acted on.

77. On the influence of consumerism and domesticity in shaping American Jewish folk religion, and on the position of home décor and holiday greeting cards within this, see Jenna Weissman Joselit, The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture, 1880–1950 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1994). On SSSJ's role in constructing religiously-inflected Jewish identity politics, see Kelner, "Ritualized Protest and Redemptive Politics."

78. The posters also addressed the challenge of making the invisible problem visible. The posters utilized by the Bay Area Council on Soviet Jewry (BACSJ) in 1968 were created in 1966 by the Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism (CCSA). They showed a torn star of David against a red background. Inside the star was a field of illustrated faces, and behind them, onion domes. CCSA sold the graphic as a poster and as postage seals. The BACSJ's innovation was to use the posters in a Passover observance. "Idea About Passover," Harold B. Light to Louis Rosenblum, February 27, 1968, folder 19, box 1, CCSA 4011; "Light Turns on Frisco," Spotlight, no. 6 (April 1968), 2, folder 123, box 4, CCSA 4011.

79. Lawrence M. Lewin to Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism, June 25, 1968, folder 19, box 1, CCSA 4011.

80. Rosenblum in discussion with Levine, "Control of Soviet Jewry Issues by the Israeli Government," 2–3.

81. Rosenblum in discussion with Levine, "Control of Soviet Jewry Issues by the Israeli Government," 4.

82. Louis Rosenblum, "Proposed resolution drafted by a caucus of delegates," handwritten notes, n.d., folder 70, box 3, CCSA 4011. Rosenblum adds, "I didn't even know what a Bundist was in those days."

83. Beckerman, When They Come for Us, 166–167.

84. Bhambra and Demir, 1968 in Retrospect, xii. Against the notion that New Left politics failed in the wake of a neoliberal backlash is the view that its challenges to entrenched forms of authority became normal, everyday parts of American social and political life. Van Gosse, Rethinking the New Left: An Interpretative History (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005).

85. Morton W. Ryweck to David Geller, Subj: 1980 Olympics, December 20, 1972, folder 1, box 54, NCSJ I-181; Tom Holden, "Boycott Old Issue for Activist," Cincinnati Enquirer, January 29, 1980, clipping in folder 6, box 125, ASJ I-487; Michele Sofios to Irene Manekofsky et al., Subj: Olympics, May 9, 1978, folder 1, box 12, WCSJ I-540.

86. Scholars debate how much to credit the Soviet Jewry movement for the eventual mass emigration of Russian-speaking Jews. For reasons too long to elaborate here, I am of the view that we can attribute an important causal role to the movement. For the opposing position, see Jonathan Dekel-Chen, "Faith Meets Politics and Resources: Reassessing Modern Transnational Jewish Activism" in Purchasing Power: The Economics of Modern Jewish History, eds. Rebecca Kobrin and Adam Teller (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), 216–237; and Benjamin Nathan, "Soviet Jewry Activists and Civic Engagement," Murray Friedman Memorial Lecture, Feinstein Center at Temple University, National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, March 6, 2015,

87. Sewell, "Three Temporalities," 262, emphasis added.

88. Sewell, "Three Temporalities," 263.

89. Gitlin, The Sixties, 309.

90. Brown, "United States of Amnesia," 135.

91. Orenstein, "'Let My People Go!'," 127–156. In 1968, the JDL was primarily concerned with American antisemitism and violent crime directed against Jews and was not yet engaging in the campaign for Soviet Jewry.

92. Lederhendler, New York Jews, 193–194.

93. Note that Soviet Jewry organizations did not opt to come together for a massive show of strength for the 1973 Nixon-Brezhnev summit—the last time the superpowers had held such a meeting in Washington, DC, and arguably a context more enmeshed in the politics associated with 1968. See Beckerman, When They Come for Us, 297.

94. Orenstein, "'Let My People Go!'," 1–5; Peretz, Le Combat Pour les Juifs Soviétiques, 333; George H.W. Bush, Address to Freedom Rally for Soviet Jewry, Washington, DC, December 6, 1987, C-SPAN Video Library,, accessed October 25, 2017.

95. In Weberian terms, they are charismatic moments that pass quickly, persisting only through a routinization of charisma. Max Weber, Economy and Society, vol. 2, eds. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 1111–1123. A helpful analogy is that of a highly unstable radioactive isotope that exists only for an instant and immediately decays into something more stable.

96. The passage of US civil rights legislation probably made this an easier position for American Soviet Jewry activists to sustain. The Kremlin highlighted American discrimination against blacks in its public diplomacy to portray United States human rights claims as moral posturing. The advance of American civil rights legislation was partly a response to this Cold War context, as lawmakers came to believe that global perceptions of moral equivalence between East and West could be detrimental to US national security. See Skrentny, The Minority Rights Revolution; and Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).

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