New York, NY, December 6, 2012 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today marked the 25th anniversary of the “March on Washington” to demand freedom and justice for Soviet Jewry. On Sunday, December 6, on the eve of a summit meeting between Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan, an estimated 250,000 Jews from across America gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to demonstrate in solidarity with the persecuted Jews of the Soviet Union.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
Today we mark what should be remembered as one of the greatest moments in American Jewish history, as Jews of all affiliations and ages joined together in Washington to demand freedom and justice for the Jews of the Soviet Union. For the Jewish people, the success of this march represented nothing less than a political coming of age, of realizing that our voices and our activism can influence world events. It was a recognition that when Jews stand united for freedom and democracy we can make a difference.
We also had with us a true hero, Natan Sharansky, a prisoner of conscience and modern-day Maccabee who had spent nine years as a political prisoner in the Soviet gulag. He inspired our community in ways we hadn’t been inspired before. A great many people were moved by him and rallied around his personal story of heroism and courage.
The Jews of the Soviet Union had endured decades of persecution, forced assimilation and the refusal of free emigration. The march was the pinnacle of a 30-year campaign by the Soviet Jewry movement, under the banner of “let my people go,” which was able to mobilize American Jews, American political leaders -- most notably Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Charles Vanik -- and other influentials, and ultimately break through the Iron Curtain. It was the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.
Twenty-five years later the world looks very different. For the Jews of the former Soviet Union, challenges remain, but all enjoy equality, freedom and active Jewish communities. Jewish émigrés from the FSU have changed the face of Israeli society, and have made important contributions to their adopted homelands in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. The Jewish world as a whole will never forget the experience of the lessons of the March on Washington.