Larry Lerner, President
Two themes have run strongly and concurrently through the life and careers of attorney Larry Lerner. Even as he was building a preeminent intellectual law practice in New Jersey, he applied his talents to the interrelationship between social justice needs and the rule of law. In the sixties he handled dozens of racial discrimination cases and led the coalition of groups fighting for fair housing and employment in New Jersey. At the same time, he successfully pursued the cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court that reapportioned New Jersey on “one man, one vote.” He also was able to obtain an injunction to remove the liquor license in New Jersey of a famous national organization that discriminated on the basis of race.
Mr. Lerner is a graduate of Newark College of Engineering with a Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering and also has a law degree from Georgetown University. He is a member of the bar of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia and has been admitted to the US Supreme Court. The firm he founded, Lerner, David, Littenberg, Krumholz, and Mentlik, in Westfield, NJ has over 70 attorneys and represents major companies around the world.
Starting in 1979, he devoted much of his energies to a concern for social justice in the Soviet Union. This entailed many trips to the Soviet Union to visit with Refuseniks and ex-prisoners of conscience. He helped found an organization that filed legal pleadings for political prisoners based on the treaty obligations and the Constitution of the Soviet Union.
In 1996, after a failed campaign for the House of Representatives, Larry retired from the practice of law and devoted his activities to organizations whose purposes he could support. He maintained his interest in the Former Soviet Union and after a stint as an officer became the President of the Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union. This organization today concentrates on fighting antisemitism, and xenophobia, and promotes human rights and the rule of law in those countries. It also coordinates the activities of over 50 human rights organizations while monitoring violations of human rights and advocating for an end to these practices.
In the early nineties, Larry joined the Board of the Education Fund for Israeli Civil Rights and Peace, the forerunner of MeretzUSA. An ardent Zionist since his youth as a member of HaShomer HaTsair he found a home for his views that Israel can only survive if it is truly a free and democratic state for all of its citizens. He further believes that a fair and impartial solution to the present stalemate is an Israeli State and a Palestinian State side by side with secure borders. He served as President of MeretzUSA for the three years. As a founding member of the Board of J Street, a delegate to the World Zionist Congress for the last fifteen years, and with a desire to continue his support of the Union of Councils, Larry continues his work for social justice and the rule of law.
Larry resides in Warren, New Jersey with his wife Beverly. They have four children (David, Brian, Mara Levy, and Roger) and twelve grandchildren.
Dr. Leonid Stonov, Director, International Bureaus and Activities
Dr. Leonid Stonov is a former leader of the Refuseniks movement, currently overseeing UCSJ’s bureaus and partner NGOs throughout the Former Soviet Union (including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Almaty, Bishkek, Lviv, Minsk, Tbilisi, Riga). During the twelve year period in which he was a Refusenick in Moscow,Dr. Stonov founded and directed the Public Committee for monitoring Visa-Office performance.This was the first NGO in the FSU that helped people to emigrate. Dr. Stonov was also the chairman of the Refusenik Legal Seminar on Emigration Problems and together with the UCSJ lawyers wrote the draft of the first Emigration Law in Soviet history. This was presented to the Supreme Soviet in 1989. In 1989, he also organized the first International Symposium “Freedom of Movement for Everybody” in Moscow. Dr. Stonov was the member of the commission in the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), participated in human rights projects in the International Foundation for Survival and Development of Humanity, and was also a member of the Presidium of VAAD (Confederation of Jewish Organizations and Communities). For his anti-Soviet activity, he was deprived of his academic degree in 1981.
Dr. Stonov graduated from the Biological Department of the Moscow State University in 1954 and received his Ph.D. in Agriculture in Leningrad Plant Protection Scientific Institute (Ministry of Agriculture) in 1965. Before applying for emigration, he was a well-known scientist in plant protection chemicals; he wrote 4 books, more than 150 articles, and had about 80 Invention Certificates and Patents. He was the chair of the laboratory for testing herbicides and defoliants in the Institute for Plant Protection Chemicals in the Ministry of Chemical Industry, Moscow.
Since his arrival to the USA on December 7, 1990, Dr. Stonov has worked together with many NGOs in the FSU to monitor human rights violations, antisemitism and other forms of xenophobia, and religious persecution. He visits Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other post-Soviet republics several times every year. Between 1996 and 2005, Dr. Stonov participated in several hearings before the U.S. Congress Commissions about human rights and antisemitism in the various states of the FSU. He regularly takes part in preparing annual reports on human rights and antisemitism in the FSU. He was one of the directors and managers of the UCSJ/MHG mutual human rights and xenophobia monitoring project in all 83 regions of Russia. He also organized the Coalition Against Hate, which has more than 55 participants in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Dr. Stonov has published several articles in the American mass media and more than 50 articles in Russian language US newspapers and magazines about human rights, antisemitism, and ethnic and religious persecution.
Meylakh Sheykhet, Director, L’viv, Ukraine Bureau
Mr. Sheykhet has been a UCSJ activist since 1986, working to support the revival of Jewish self-identification. He has been UCSJ’s L’viv Bureau Director since 2000. He helps monitor antisemitism and xenophobia throughout Ukraine and works to preserve Jewish historical synagogues, cemeteries and items throughout Ukraine. He also is active with UCSJ’s Yad-Le-Yad (Hand-to-Hand) program for those in need. He has helped implement projects initiated by the U.S. Department of State’s American Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, including establishing the Faina Petriakova’s Center for Scientific Research and Preservation of the Jewish Cultural Heritage. Mr. Sheykhet regularly provides research for over 180 Jewish cemeteries and mass graves throughout Ukraine, Poland and Belarus.
Mr. Sheykhet has successfully run two candle lighting ceremonies at the Old Jewish cemetery of L’viv. These have included participants from the US, Israel and Ukraine, the Secretary of the US Embassy to Ukraine and numerous diplomats. He also runs a website for the Jewish Heritage of Ukraine.
Maria Weissman, Associate Director
Ms. Weissman manages UCSJ’s Washington, D.C. office, website and social media presence. She has a background in International Affairs, Eurasian Studies and the Russian language from George Washington University. She previously has interned at the Eurasia Division of the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. There, she worked under Paul Goble and William Gleason, researching cultural aspects of countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe, assisting with classroom preparation and attending lectures. Ms. Weissman regularly attends meetings and briefings at institutions throughout D.C. on behalf of UCSJ.