The American Jewish Historical Society's Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement is comprised of dozens of unique archival collections, audio and video files, photographs, and museum objects. This research guide was created to bring all of these amazing materials together to facilitate more concise, efficient research.
Throughout the Cold War era, Soviet Jews were forbidden to embrace their cultural and religious traditions: learning Hebrew was outlawed, religious expression denied. Exit visa applications were routinely rejected.
The American Soviet Jewry Movement emerged from small grassroots groups of students and others outside the establishment in the early 1960s, pushing for the rights of these Soviet Jews and calling for them to be allowed to emigrate. By the early 1990s, the movement evolved into a worldwide phenomenon. As a whole, the American Soviet Jewry Movement was integral to raising awareness of the conditions under which Soviet Jews lived and advocating for the eventual emigration of hundreds of thousands.
The Soviet Jewry Movement (circa 1963-1990) was a worldwide effort to obtain freedom for Jews in the Soviet Union to practice their religion without state persecution or discrimination or to emigrate to Israel, the United States or elsewhere to seek the blessings of freedom, and to pursue lives of their own choosing.
The American Jewish Historical Society has established its Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement to help assure that the story of the role played by Americans of all faiths in that Movement will be collected and preserved so that future generations will be familiar with, and inspired by, their achievements.
The Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement consists of thousands of archival documents, audio and video files, photographs, posters, and ephemeral objects that date from the early 1900s to present day, spread across nearly 100 different archival collections.
The ASJM archival collections consist of correspondence, official documents, journals, registers, and other written documentation from both individuals and organizations who worked closely and/or were instrumental in the movement's successes. Collections are separated into two categories:
Thanks to the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and the skilled staff of the Center for Jewish History's Collections Management Wing, hundreds of items across all of the included Soviet Jewry collections were digitized and made available for home viewing and research.
Through interviews with participants, these audio and video files capture this period of American Jewish history and its great impact on individuals, politics and the movement of Jews to escape oppression in the Former Soviet Union for lives of their choosing in the US, Israel and elsewhere.
While under 2014's NHPRC grant, the former Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement archivist (now an archivist at CJH) created a series of video slideshows that reunited digitzed audio files with related digitized photographs. These slideshows can be seen on the Center for Jewish History's YouTube channel, HERE.