April 11, 2014
TO: NCSJ Leadership and Interested Parties
FROM: Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, NCSJ President;
Mark B. Levin, NCSJ Executive Director
As Jews around the world prepare to celebrate Passover, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the importance of this holiday for our brothers and sisters in the former Soviet Union.
For many years there was a special blessing said at Seders calling for the freedom of Soviet Jews. NCSJ sponsored two Freedom Seders in Washington that attracted dignitaries from government to the arts and entertainment community. During one of President Ronald Reagan's state visits to Moscow, he hosted a Seder for refuseniks and activists at the U.S. Embassy.
The story of the exodus from and return of the Jews to Israel was a powerful reminder for the refuseniks and their supporters of the righteousness and virtuousness of their cause.
Today, hundreds of Jewish communities from Lithuania to Russia to Azerbaijan will be celebrating Passover without fear of government repression. Matzo, which was once smuggled into the Soviet Union, is more than plentiful. International Jewish organizations are able to ensure that those without the means will be able to observe the holiday. And for our fellow Jews in Ukraine, we can only hope for a peaceful eight days.
Passover should be a constant reminder to us all that freedom should not be taken lightly or for granted.
In this regard, I want to recommend a story in this week's update entitled "Pesach Reflections on Ukraine and the Dnepropetrovsk Kehilla Project," by Rabbi James Morgan from the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council. NCSJ is proud to have helped connect these two communities and to see the incredible results of their partnership. For more than twenty years, the Boston Federation and JCRC Kehilla Project has been a model of what it means to connect Jews to one another.
The Jewish world lost a pioneer of the Soviet Jewry movement earlier this week. Jacob Birnbaum passed away at the age of 87 on Wednesday. He was an indefatigable defender of Jewish rights and one of the earliest activists in support of freedom for Soviet Jews. Jacob was tenacious, and it was his persistence that brought attention to an issue that was invisible to most Jews in the United States and elsewhere.
Finally, there is constant debate in Washington and other world capitals about Russian President Vladimir Putin's intentions in Ukraine. 'Will he or won't he' cross into Eastern Ukraine is the question asked over and over again. This week's update includes an interesting opinion piece that analyzes the possibility of an invasion versus increased influence in Ukraine.
Chag Pesach Sameach,
Mark B. Levin
for NCSJ's Weekly News Update.
NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia,
Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, founded
represents the organized American Jewish
in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the
estimated 1.5 million Jews living in the 15
states of the former Soviet Union.
NCSJ is a beneficiary of The
Federations of North America and the National
through its network of