Exhibition

Freedom Sunday: December 6, 1987

More than 250,000 people called for freedom for Soviet Jewry in a massive rally of support.

On the eve of President Ronald Reagan’s diplomatic summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a broad coalition of national Jewish organizations led the largest Jewish demonstration ever held in Washington. Thousands traveled across the country from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii, arriving by plane, bus, and train. Recently released Prisoners of Conscience, national politicians, community leaders, and musicians called for the freedom of all Soviet Jews.

Among the marchers were 50,000 from the Washington area. The Jewish Community Council worked with national groups to organize the event, and hundreds of local volunteers worked for weeks to make it a success.

Let’s not see five or six or twenty refuseniks released at a time, but tens of thousands. Mr. Gorbachev: Let these people go! Vice President George H.W. Bush, speaking at the Freedom Sunday rally
A marching family

A marching family

Rabbi Fred N. Reiner (Temple Sinai), his wife Sherry Levy-Reiner, and son David bundle up to participate in the march.

Courtesy of Rabbi Fred N. Reiner.
National Summit March t-shirt

National Summit March t-shirt

Paula Pascal Levine bought this t-shirt when she attended the march with a group from B’nai Israel.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Diane Schilit.
Freedom Sunday Button

Freedom Sunday Button

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Dene Garbow.
Rabbis at the march

Rabbis at the march

Custom t-shirts enable Washington Hebrew Congregation Rabbis Joseph Weinberg, Bruce Lustig, and John Rosove (shown right to left) to wear their sentiments on their sleeves.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Marcia Weinberg.
Banners held high

Banners held high

Over 50,000 Washingtonians attended Freedom Sunday. Carrying the WCSJ banner were Dr. Oscar Dodek (far left), Ruth Newman (center, Executive Director WCSJ), and Joan Dodek (right). Elaine S. Mann, JCC Assistant Executive Director, holds the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington banner on the right.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Jewish Community Relations Council.
March to Capitol Hill

March to Capitol Hill

On a cold December Sunday, demonstrators marched from the Ellipse to the Mall in front of the Capitol.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Washington Jewish Week.
Message from the Vice President

Message from the Vice President

Facing the Washington Monument, Vice President George H.W. Bush called on Soviet leader Gorbachev to “Let these people go!”

Courtesy George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.
Natan Sharansky lights the flame

Natan Sharansky lights the flame

Israeli human rights activist and former Soviet prisoner Natan Sharansky lights a candle on the menorah at the rally. “History will judge if the world had enough will and resolve to do what you are doing today—to stand up and be counted and make your voices heard,” he said.

Courtesy George H.W. Bush Presidential Library
Inspiration from Elie Wiesel

Inspiration from Elie Wiesel

Twenty years after his book, The Jews of Silence, raised public awareness of the plight of Soviet Jews, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel addresses the 1987 rally. “If I had three days, I would read the name of every Jew refused permission to leave the Soviet Union,” he said. “All these names must be known.”

JHSGW Collecctions. Gift of Susan Banes Harris.
Waving the flag

Waving the flag

John Lowe carried this flag during the March.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of John Lowe.
Bob Dole addressing the rally

Bob Dole addressing the rally

As Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole speaks to the rally, Anna Blank holds up her poster to plead for Gorbachev to release her father, Benjamin Charney, a scientist whose exit visa had been refused nine times. Charney was allowed to emigrate the following year.

Photo by Ron Sachs / Consolidated News Photos.