Natan Sharansky Joins Political Prisoners in Pleading for Help at Congress Hearing

Forward's Gal Beckerman Speaks on Soviet Jewry Struggle


By JTA

Published January 17, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Natan Sharansky joined Forward opinion editor Gal Beckerman and the relatives of political prisoners in asking the U.S. Congress to speak of their loved ones during meetings with foreign officials.

Sharansky, imprisoned by the Soviets for nine years because of his activism on behalf of Soviet Jews who wanted to emigrate, recalled at a hearing Thursday that his jailers told him, “You are in our hands. If you disappear, no one will notice.”

Instead, Sharansky told Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, thousands of activists wrote letters, attended marches and wore bracelets in support of Jewish refuseniks. Sharansky, who now chairs the Jewish Agency for Israel, said he believes he was finally freed because of these activists, according to a Washington Jewish Week report.

Keeping these prisoners in the news is key, he said as he urged Congress members to speak of specific political and religious prisoners whenever they meet with the leaders of the country in which they are imprisoned.

Sharansky and the other speakers said it was important for U.S. ambassadors to frequently ask about the fate of any political prisoners in that foreign country and hold a press conference whenever they are denied the right to meet with a prisoner.

Commission chairman Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) suggested that those working to free political and religious prisoners use Gal Beckerman’s book, “When They Come for us We’ll be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry,” as a model for activism.

“If you think the Congress and the administration will save you, you are sadly mistaken,” Wolf said, explaining that a groundswell of support worldwide is what is needed. Beckerman, who also testified during the hearing at the Capitol Visitor’s Center, said the Soviet Jewry movement was successful because it combined “a tribal motivation” to help one’s own people with a general sense of outrage that someone was being imprisoned for their beliefs.

Countries holding political and religious prisoners that were discussed at the hearing include Bahrain, China, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. The commission is named for the late Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress, and whose hallmark was human rights advocacy.

Beckerman’s comments begin at the 2:29:00 mark.


Video streaming by Ustream


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.