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The Fight for Freedom of Emigration for Soviet Jews: An Insider’s Experience  

Thursday, November 10, 2016, 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m., Beck Rooms at Walsh Library, Seton Hall University main campus in South Orange, NJ.

Soviet Jews ProtestingDr. Sheldon Benjamin will recount the tactics used in fighting for freedom of emigration for Soviet Jews when he and his wife, Miriam Rosenblum, chaired the Cincinnati Council for Soviet Jews in the 1970's. Using light-hearted personal vignettes he will discuss some of the creative demonstrations, mail campaigns, tourist briefing techniques, and political work that made the Soviet Jewry movement a success, as well as the story of their own arrest in Kiev in 1974. The American human rights campaigners seeking to alleviate the plight of the Soviet Jews shut down the international phone lines to the USSR to protest the authorities cutting off the phones of activists; they staged theatrical demonstrations at sporting events, circus performances, and dance concerts; they smuggled banned literature in and out of the former Soviet Union; they set up phone calls with hunger-striking activists live in front of the news media; they published the "Manual on Psychiatry" for dissidents; and they eventually succeeded in forming a massive political campaign in the United States that helped hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews to leave the Soviet Union.

Sheldon Benjamin, MD, is Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he has been on the faculty for 30 years. While attending college and medical school at the University of Cincinnati he was deeply involved in the Soviet Jewry movement, collected English translations of samizdat, evidence of Soviet suppression of dissent, and materials that provided context for the emergence of the Soviet Jewry movement. He and his wife, Miriam Rosenblum, co-chaired the Cincinnati Council for Soviet Jews from 1972-1980, spending much of their free time publicizing the plight of Soviet Jews and organizing activities to help bring about freedom of emigration. Dr. Benjamin's interest in Soviet dissent dates back to 1964, when as a 9-year old boy he learned of the infamous trial of Soviet dissident writers Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel.

Dr. Benjamin was an avid collector of English language materials related to the suppression of dissent and the history of the Jewish community in the former Soviet Union in the 1970's. He recently donated his collection to Seton Hall University. Items from the collection will be used to illustrate the presentation.

Free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

This event is co-sponsored by the Russian and East European Studies Program, the Department of History, Seton Hall University's Walsh Library, and the Slavic Club. Partial funding has been provided by the College of Arts and Sciences thanks to the generous support of the President's Advisory Group members.

Categories: Nation and World

For more information, please contact:

  • Maxim Matusevich
  • (201) 336-2174
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