The streets of Washington D.C. are not unfamiliar to the feet of protestors and activists who have assembled upon them for years to fight for what they believe in. People from around the country have gathered in the city that houses the government of the United States of America to participate in political and social activism and countless demonstrations. While D.C. is a national gathering point for people from all of over the country to assemble, the residents of Washington D.C. have also been a greatly important part of these movements.
From partaking in large, nationwide movements, to fighting for causes that are uniquely theirs, Washingtonians have not shied away from being active in their democracy. In all the causes that the residents of Washington D.C. have been active in, I believe that it is important to shine a special light on the Washingtonians who, day in and day out, assembled to help Jews in the Soviet Union gain human rights. From December of 1970 to January of 1991 the Washington community would gather outside the Soviet Embassy at noon each day, wrote letters pressuring politicians, and “twinning” bar and bat mitzvahs between Soviet and American Jewish children, sending care packages and assisting Soviet Jews who made it to the United States. This long-term effort brought lots of attention to the situation Jews were facing in the Soviet Union.
On “Freedom Sunday”, 33 years ago from this past December, around 250,000 people from all over the country assembled to demand that President Gorbachev and the government of the Soviet Union end the forced assimilation of Jews in the Soviet Union and give them the rights to freely emigrate from the country. It is said to be the largest Jewish rally ever held in Washington, with participants in the rally filling up the National Mall and creating a sea of faces and protest signs.
To this day, Washingtonians remain highly active when it comes to standing up for what they believe in. In this past year alone, I’ve seen countless movements taking to the streets of the city and making their voices heard. I find it quite special, knowing that these people are marching along a path that so many others have walked upon before them, including those involved in the movement to help the Soviet Jews. Each activist and protestor follows in the footsteps of those who have demonstrated before them.
If there’s one take away that the modern activist can take away from the movement to help Soviet Jews secure their human rights, it’s that they should never give up. This movement spanned over twenty years, but it was still successful in many ways- the most important being drawing America’s attention to the plight of the Soviet Jews. So, whatever you may be standing up for- never give up. You may not know it, but your persistence may just be the reason the world changes for the better.
Author: Danielle Gaita, 2020-21 Intern