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Action for Post-Soviet Jewry Records

 Collection
Identifier: JHCI-018

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains subject files, project files, correspondence, programs, brochures, meeting minutes, financial records, newsletters, case files, and photographs documenting the activities and administration of Action for Post-Soviet Jewry (formerly Action for Soviet Jewry, and hereafter referred to as APSJ), an organization dedicated to aiding and engaging with Jewish communities and individuals in former Soviet states. The collection is divided into six series. Series I contains administrative records, including correspondence, financial documents, membership directories, newsletters, and Board of Directors meeting minutes. Series II contains records documenting the many activities and projects undertook, including its Adopt a Bubbe program, various events, humanitarian aid and medical projects, and political advocacy work it initiated on behalf of Soviet Jews, especially refuseniks. Series III contains documents related to APSJ's work with affiliated organizations—specifically Boston Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), Medical Mobilization for Soviet Jewry, and the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ). Series IV contains case files and other related materials on refuseniks and emigres that APSJ aided and/or advocated for. Series V contains photographs of various events and activities, including many of Adopt a Bubbe clients. Series VI contains subject files on a variety of topics, including antisemitic incidents in FSUs, important individuals and organizations within the Soviet Jewry movement, and on various post-Soviet states and cities.

The bulk of these materials were created after the fall of the Soviet Union. For more on APSJ before this time, see the Records of Action for Soviet Jewry, I-481, located at the American Jewish Historical Society at the Center for Jewish History.

This collection has been minimally processed to make it available to researchers in a timely fashion. The materials have mostly been kept in the original order as donated by APSJ. Some materials are restricted.

Dates

  • undated, 1971-2019

Creator

Language of Materials

This collection is mainly in English, Russian, and Ukranian, with many other languages represented as well.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for researcher use, though some materials are restricted.

Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Conditions Governing Use

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Historical Note

In 1973, a group of approximately 20 Soviet Jewry activists came together to organize as a committee within the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Boston. With initial funding by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston (CJP), the group formed the JCC Soviet Jewry Committee, with Bob Gordon as its chair. By 1975, the group decided to split from the JCC and incorporate as a private, non-profit organization under the name Action for Soviet Jewry (ASJ), with Gordon and Morey Schapira serving as co-chairs, and Trudy Schecter hired as the organization’s first executive director.

In its early years, ASJ focused on growing a mailing list and taking on speaking engagements in an effort to publicize the plight of Soviet Jews. It also frequently briefed those who traveled to the Soviet Union as well as lobbied politicians from New England to advocate and assist Jews in the Soviet Union, particularly refuseniks (Soviet Jews who were denied permission to emigrate) and prisoners of conscience.

After Schapira relocated and Gordon became president of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ), Bailey Barron and Judy Patkin became co-chairs of the organization, and the organization moved to an office in Waltham, Massachusetts. Later executive directors include Barabara Palant, Allison Rabin Walsh, and in 1987, Judy Patkin. After more than 30 years as Executive Director, Patkin retired in 2020, and Debbie Kardon became the next Executive Director.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the organization was renamed Action for Post-Soviet Jewry (APSJ) and mainly focused on humanitarian aid, especially working with elderly and impoverished Jews who lived in the former Soviet states, particularly Ukraine. It also continued to help Soviet Jews with the emigration process, assist emigres who lived in the Boston area, monitor antisemitism in post-Soviet states, and serve as a link between the Boston Jewish community and its counterparts in Ukraine and other post-Soviet states.

Some of its APSJ’s main activities include its Adopt a Bubbe program, humanitarian aid shipment, medical projects and assistance, and political advocacy.

APSJ’s Adopt a Bubbe (or Zayde) program works with elderly and other vulnerable Jews in eastern Ukraine, providing them with food, medicine, linens, clothing, eyeglasses, and other necessities. It also organizes a Warm House—a gathering, hosted by the local Adopt a Bubbe coordinator or a client, where local clients can meet for a hot meal to celebrate holidays and birthdays. Originally with funding from Myriam’s Dream, but later through APSJ itself, the Adopt a Bubbe program has frequently supported clients in the communities of Cherkasy (Cherkassy), Kryvyi Rih (Krivoy Rog), Lubny, Mariupol, Poltava, and several other Ukrainian communities. In addition to sending aid to Jewish communities through its Adopt a Bubbe program, APSJ has also sent aid to various communities in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and other post-Soviet states, including a project to send a container of medical supplies, food, and clothing to Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, in 1993.

APSJ has also, through its medical committee and through collaborations with other local Jewish organizations, worked to provide medical care for Jewish communities in Soviet, and later, post-Soviet states, especially in Dnipro (formerly Dnipropetrovsk), Ukraine. In its early years, APSJ worked closely with Medical Mobilization for Soviet Jewry, a national organization of physicians, dentists, and other health care workers concerned with the status of ill Soviet Jews. Later, in partnership with the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), CJP, Dr. Benjamin Sachs, and Dr. David Link, APSJ helped establish women’s and children’s clinics in Dnipro. Physicians in these clinics were trained in Boston by local doctors, and Boston physicians traveled to Dnipro to conduct training as well. APSJ also worked to open eye clinics in Dnipro.

APSJ worked with New England legislators to advocate for emigration rights on behalf of Soviet Jews. Working closely with politicians like Massachusetts Representatives Barney Frank and Joe Moakley and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, among many others, the organization lobbied for the adoption of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 and for the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Accords, as well brought attention to the individual cases of refuseniks and political prisoners.

In addition to these activities, APSJ also established other projects such as the Adopt-a-Family program, a bar and bat mitzvah twinning program, a telegram bank, and Sister City monitoring. APSJ officers and members also regularly took trips to post-Soviet states, particularly Ukraine, to meet with Adopt a Bubbe clients and coordinators, as well as with medical care providers, rabbis, and other local leaders of the Jewish communities. Trip reports were often published afterwards, which compiled information learned about the everyday lives and struggles of Jews living in post-Soviet states, along with historical background and photographs about the communities visited.

APSJ regularly published newsletters, under the names Soviet Jewish Actiongram, Soviet Jewish Report, and Post-Soviet Jewish Report, to update members on antisemitism in the Soviet Union (and later former Soviet Union), report on cases of refuseniks and political prisoners, detail trips taken to the former Soviet Union, and publicize events, activities, and more. Throughout its history, APSJ worked closely with local Jewish organizations involved in the Soviet Jewry movement, including JCRC, of which APSJ is a member organization, and UCSJ, of which APSJ is also a member organization.

References

  1. Material from the collection.

Extent

64.25 linear feet (63 document boxes, 2 manuscript boxes, 1 half-manuscript box, and 2 OS folders)

Abstract

This collection contains subject files, project files, correspondence, programs, brochures, meeting minutes, financial records, newsletters, case files, and photographs documenting the activities and administration of Action for Post-Soviet Jewry (formerly Action for Soviet Jewry), an organization dedicated to aiding and engaging with Jewish communities and individuals in former Soviet states.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Action for Post-Soviet Jewry, 2021.

Processing Information

Processed by Lindsay Sprechman Murphy, Stephanie Call, and Caro Langenbucher, 2022.
Title
Action for Post-Soviet Jewry Records
Author
Lindsay Sprechman Murphy, Stephanie Call, and Caro Langenbucher
Date
2022
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

Contact:
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States
617-226-1245