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Women-refuseniks and their children. Moscow, Ovrazhki, 1979, co RS. Photo source: http://kosharovsky.com

The Story Of the Refusenik Project

The Lookstein Center is continuously looking for educators, projects, and ideas to support, enhance, and disrupt the Jewish educational ecosystem. When we met Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov, a renowned Israeli filmmaker dedicating her life to sharing the story of her parents and the population of Soviet Jews, an obvious partnership was born.

The story of Soviet Jewry is one of Jewish solidarity, of bravery, and of the power of individuals to effect real change. The process of igniting Jewish identity in the USSR and of liberating the population was one of the most defining and unifying events of the last 50 years for the Jewish community, and yet there are so few organized resources for teaching this period.

While researching for her film Operation Wedding, Anat witnessed first hand that Jewish solidarity can change the course of history. She found rare archives, interviewed former key KGB members, and uncovered a web of lies, rewritten facts, and political secrets. She found that the collective memory of the plight of Soviet Jews is fading and that there is little documentation.

The Lookstein Center has created a collection of lesson plans and educational activities to complement these findings, and to teach the next generation that all Jews are responsible for one another and that every single individual can make a difference.

We also opened a public call for additional educational materials. We have been overwhelmed by the responses, not only by educators, but by Soviet Jews and children of Soviet Jews wishing to share their own stories. We have curated the submissions of artifacts, photographs, first-hand accounts, videos, and resources and are excited to share this free resource with the Jewish educational community.

Lesson of the Month

Zionism and Aliyah

More than half of the commandments in the Torah are dependent on the Jewish people’s dwelling in the land and the books of the prophets speak about their return to the land from exile. Throughout the diaspora, Jews longed and prayed to return to their homeland, every year saying “לשנה הבאה בירושלים” – next year in Jerusalem.

Various historical circumstances, however, prevented them from fulfilling this dream. The Jews of the Soviet Union are but one such group, who did everything they could to make it to Israel and never gave up the hope of achieving this goal. The modern State of Israel has allowed for this dream to become a reality, and has become a safe haven for Jews escaping persecution around the world.

In this lesson, students will understand the importance Judaism places on living in the Land of Israel as well as the complexities involved in doing so today.

To view the full lesson, click here.

Thank You

The creation of The Refusenik Project would not have been possible without the support, commitment, and passion of our generous donors and partners. Thank you.

Frank Brodsky  Gary Charlestein  Wendy Eisen Nativ Glenn Richter  Adele and Joel Sandberg  Morey Schapira Sandra Spinner Barbara Stern  Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union (UCSJ) Enid Wurtman

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