Kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh—All Jews are responsible for one another.
This concept of communal responsibility, imposed by the Talmud, has been a hallmark of our people for centuries, and likely one of the reasons for our continued survival as a people.
Many of us remember “Freedom Sunday,” December 6, 1987, when 250,000 people marched in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Soviet Jewry, marking the largest rally ever organized in the U.S. for a Jewish cause. Likely, many reading this essay participated in the march.
While the rally was certainly the most well-known effort of the decades-long American Soviet Jewry Movement, there were countless other smaller efforts across the country, including here in Northeastern New York. (The American Jewish Historical Society has an excellent timeline of the national effort.)
In the 1980s, we had a Jews in Peril subcommittee of the Schenectady Federation’s CRC. (Note: The Schenectady Federation merged with the Albany Federation in the late 1980s.) This subcommittee, along with groups from Agudat Achim and Gates of Heaven, worked on the rescue of the Kvartin family from Moscow with fundraising, writing letters, telephone calls, communications with elected officials, and even sending information to Nancy Reagan and Queen Elizabeth.
In September, I received an email from Dr. Ilana Kwartin. She was six years old when her family finally made it out of the Soviet Union, immigrating to Israel in 1987. “The Schenectady Federation adopted us and raised the funds to cover our escape. I am currently the Regional Director for Western U.S. of the Jewish Agency, and I would love to close the circle with Schenectady.”
And so, we are bringing you a very special program, 35 years in the making, when the Kwartin family is reunited with our community. Peril subcommittee member Josie Kivort will interview Ilana Kwartin to share the fascinating story. Please join us. Register here.
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