Washington Jews worked tirelessly to help Soviet Jews secure their human rights.

Every single day from December 10, 1970, to January 27, 1991—rain or shine—protesters maintained a noontime vigil opposite the Soviet Embassy on 16th Street, NW. This long-term protest to heighten public awareness of the plight of Soviet Jews became a signature effort of the Washington community.

In addition, Washington Jews organized rallies and marches, waged letter-writing campaigns to pressure politicians, sent packages and Rosh Hashanah greeting cards to refuseniks, and visited Jews in the Soviet Union.

This exhibition tells the story of the vigil and the activists who led the Washington community in support of Soviet Jewry.

Soviet Embassy, 1970

Soviet Embassy, 1970

This building at 1125 16th Street, NW, housed the Soviet Embassy from 1933 to 1994. By 1970, the Embassy had become the focal point of Washington’s support for Soviet Jewry.

Courtesy of IUE Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.
Human Rights Day ceremony, 1982

Human Rights Day ceremony, 1982

At the annual Women’s Plea for Human Rights for Soviet Jews, Joan Dodek, Washington Committee for Soviet Jewry President, lights a Hanukkah menorah with Nathan Lewin (center), Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington President. Washington Hebrew Congregation lent the menorah for the ceremony.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Joan & Oscar Dodek.