Jews across the United States this week are commemorating the 25th anniversary of a historic march on Washington lobbying the Soviet Union to allow its Jewish citizens to emigrate.
Events have been organized by Jewish groups in several US cities this week to look back at the impact of the rally, which saw more than 250,000 demonstrators march on the National Mall in Washington on Dec. 6, 1987, to demand that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev grant exit visas to Soviet Jews.
Gal Beckerman, author of “When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry,” described the demonstration as a “vaunted moment of Jewish unity” for “a coalition that seems fantastical to imagine today.”
“Forces from the left and right came together,” Beckerman wrote in an essay for the Washington Post. “… Neoconservative Cold Warriors and Amnesty International activists marched hand in hand in solidarity.”
The demonstration was timed with Gorbachev’s first visit to Washington for talks with US President Ronald Reagan.
Reagan pressed the issue with his Soviet counterpart, and in the subsequent years Soviet authorities eased restrictions significantly to facilitate emigration for its Jewish population.
As part of the 25th anniversary of the march, coalition of Jewish groups called Freedom 25 has organized a “virtual march” to help raise awareness about the legacy of the historic demonstration.
More than 1.1 million people had signed the online petition as of Friday, according to the organization’s website.
“This success story has not been integrated into our contemporary Jewish narrative or our understanding of American history,” Daniel Eisenstadt and Michael Granoff, co-founders of Freedom 25, said in a statement, the Times of Israel reported. “Few under the age of 30 know it ever happened.”