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Soviet Jewry to Be Explored Through Thought-Provoking Films and Discussions at Museum of Jewish Heritage



This winter, in conjunction with the exhibition Let My People Go, The Soviet Jewry Movement, 1967-1989, the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust will look at the history of the movement through films and discussions with historians and authors.
On Sunday, January 22 at 2:30 p.m., Professor Henry Feingold will discuss the Soviet Exodus with journalist Gal Beckerman, the Forward’s opinion editor and the author of the critically acclaimed book When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry.
Professor Feingold wrote in his important book Silent No More: Saving the Jews of Russia, that, “In a sense, everything linked to the struggle to free Soviet Jewry, from the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to chaining oneself to a UN fence to make known the plight of Soviet Jewry, is encompassed in the Human Rights movement.  The campaign for Soviet Jewry was quintessentially a struggle for human rights.”
Gal Beckerman said, “The Soviet Jewry movement can tell us about how to wage an effective grassroots movement against injustice today. But it was also a deeply transformational endeavor for American Jews. Over the course of three decades, fighting for their brethren on the other side of the iron curtain, this community learned to flex its political muscles as never before and find a balance between being both American and Jewish.”
Tickets are $10, $7 for students and seniors, and $5 for members and are available online at or by calling the Museum box office at 646.437.4202.
Henry L. Feingold is professor emeritus of history at the Graduate Center and Baruch College, City University of New York. He is the author of numerous books including A Time for Searching: Entering the Mainstream, 1920-1945 and Bearing Witness: How America and Its Jews Responded to the Holocaust.
Gal Beckerman was a longtime editor and staff writer at the Columbia Journalism Review and has also written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. His first book, When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone, was named one of the best books of the year by The New Yorker and the Washington Post, and won the 2010 National Jewish Book Award.
This event is co-sponsored by the Forward.
Let My People Go will be open to program ticket holders from 1:30 p.m.
On Sunday, February 12, The Refusenik Experience will be explored through two compelling films and a post-screening discussion.
11 A.M. Refusenik
(2007, DVD, 120 min.)
Produced and directed by Laura Bialis
Told through the eyes of activists on both sides of the Iron Curtain, Refusenik, which Variety calls “absorbing,” and “timely,” documents the 30-year-struggle to liberate the Jews of the Soviet Union.
2:30 P.M. And the Wind Returneth
(1991, DVD, 133 min., Russian with English subtitles)
Written and directed by Mikhail Kalik
Post-screening discussion with film historian Olga Gershenson, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Russian-born filmmaker Mikhail Kalik was imprisoned in a “corrective-labor” camp from 1951 to 1954, having been sentenced for “Jewish bourgeois nationalism.” He left the U.S.S.R. for Israel in 1971 but returned to Moscow 18 years later to work on this autobiographical film, a combination of narrative and archival footage that attempts to bring personal and national histories into harmony.
Dr. Olga Gershenson said, “We are pleased to be able to screen this rare film. Mikhail Kalik’s unique and beautiful film encompasses the whirlwind of Jewish experiences in Soviet Russia—the purges of 1930s, the Great War, the Gulags and anti-Semitic repressions of late Stalinism. Finally, it takes us to the awakening of Jewish consciousness and an exodus from mother-Russia. In 1991, the USSR ceased to exist. But the film remained, and it is for us today a rich source of memory of the complicated and dramatic Soviet-Jewish history.”
Olga Gershenson is Associate Professor of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of Gesher: Russian Theater in Israel and a series of articles about Russian-Israeli cinema. She is currently writing a book about the unknown, forgotten, or banned Holocaust films in the Soviet Union.

About the Exhibit
Let My People Go! The Soviet Jewry Movement, 1967-1989
On view through April 29, 2012
This exhibition tells the story of Jews in the former Soviet Union who wanted to emigrate but were denied permission to leave. Visitors will learn about their efforts to maintain a Jewish identity, their struggles with Soviet authorities, and the worldwide support they received.
This traveling exhibition is organized and circulated by the State of Israel–Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs and Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv.
It is part of the original exhibition Jews of Struggle: The Jewish National Movement in the USSR, 1967–1989, curated by Beit Hatfutsot in 2007. It was initiated by the Remember and Save Association and its director Aba Taratuta.
The exhibition has been adapted for American audiences in cooperation with the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.
About the Museum
The Museum’s exhibitions educate people of all ages and backgrounds about the rich tapestry of Jewish life over the past century—before, during, and after the Holocaust.  Current special exhibitions include: Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race, on view through January 16, 2012; Emma Lazarus: Poet of Exiles, on view through December 2012; and Let My People Go!: The Soviet Jewry Movement, 1967-1989, on view through April 29, 2012. It is also home to the award-winning Keeping History Center, an interactive visitor experience, and Andy Goldsworthy’s memorial Garden of Stones. The Museum offers visitors a vibrant public program schedule in its Edmond J. Safra Hall and receives general operating support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

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