At the this year’s General Assembly (GA) of the Jewish Federations of North America, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel and Natan Sharansky, former Soviet Refusenik, discussed the historical significance of the Sunday, December 6, 1987 march on Washington for Soviet Jewry. This 1987 march was the largest American Jewish demonstration in history, with over 250,000 people taking part.
Sharansky and Wiesel both noted that “students and housewives” were the driving force behind the December 1987 demonstration, not the established Jewish organizations. Indeed, American Jewish leaders were initially skeptical that the December 1987 rally (scheduled to coincide with a meeting in D.C. between President Reagan and Soviet Premier Gorbachev) would attract more than 17,000 people.Thanks to the grassroots Jewish community that included organizations like UCSJ, there was a much larger turnout of over 250,000 people.
This demonstration encouraged the American Jewish establishment to take action.
Sharansky described feeling “vindicated” and “inspired” by the large crowd that came out in support. Wiesel added that there was a shared feeling “that you are not alone, that there was a sense of history about you, always remembering Jewish history,” adding “with it you can never fail.”
Based on reporting by The Jewish Week.
The Freedom 25 coalition is currently planning a series of events to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the December 1987 march. Their goal is “to assure that the critical lessons of the Soviet Jewry movement are learned by future generations, so they can again be applied to expand the reach of freedom.”