From 1970-1991, UCSJ led the grassroots movement to allow Soviet Jews to emigrate, and spoke out against anti-Semitism and human rights abuses in the USSR. UCSJ was the spokesperson for the Refusenik movement and worked for the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. Through individual councils in most major cities in the U.S., UCSJ was able to send individuals into the Soviet Union to provide aid and support for the Refusenik community. It was the major leader of the “March on Washington” in support of Soviet Jewry in 1987, which drew 250,000 demonstrators. In 1989 UCSJ also helped found the American Association for Jews from the Former Soviet Union.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, UCSJ created human rights organizations in the various new countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU). Many of these organizations have since become independent NGOs dedicated to fighting against anti-Semitism, xenophobia, religious discrimination, and abuse of human rights. They advocate for democracy and the rule of law. UCSJ maintains a collegial relationship with these NGOs and has worked with other similar NGOs in the FSU as their unofficial representative in the United States. UCSJ maintains official representatives in Russia and Ukraine to advocate for these organizations in the U.S. and regularly sends representatives to the FSU to meet with these NGOs and to discuss issues of common interest.