Freedom Sunday: 25 Years Later

December 6, 2012, will mark the 25th anniversary of the Freedom Sunday March, the largest-ever gathering of Americans rallying for the freedoms of a people in another nation.

The gathering 25 years ago on that cold December day on the National Mall was the culminating event of a generation-long struggle by Americans to win the freedom of their Soviet brethren. Commonly known as the Soviet Jewry movement, its leading activists came from every corner of America – including Jews and non-Jews – and their stories and impact continue to resonate with us.

The impact is hard to overstate: More than one million Soviet Jews became Israeli citizens – half a million became American citizens. Jews from the former Soviet Union transformed various intellectual fields, from physics to economics to engineering and the medical sciences – and were recognized with Nobel Prizes no less than five times. Former Soviet Jews have changed the way we work and live through various high-tech innovations.

We should remember and appreciate that the struggle for freedom is ongoing. The lessons of those who brought the Soviet Jewry movement to such heights, and such success, should inform how we respond to current and future challenges: As Americans, we must ensure that those rights central to the Soviet Jewry movement – freedom of migration, freedom of information, and freedom of conscience – define our activism.

Few people under the age of thirty, however, remember the story of the exodus of Soviet Jews or know about the American activists who made their emigration possible. Today, when millions of people continue to live in closed societies and numerous regimes still limit the spread of information and the rights of mobility, it is all the more important to retell the story of how a group of housewives and students facilitated the emigration of millions of Soviet Jews.

Freedom 25 was established to assure that the critical lessons of the Soviet Jewry movement are learned by future generations, so they can again be applied to expand the reach of freedom. A coalition of nonprofits and Jewish organizations, Freedom 25 aims to enlist a new generation in an online “virtual march” to mark 25 years since the Freedom Sunday March. In the coming year, Freedom 25 intends to help learning institutions and outlets of all types obtain the tools they need to teach this crucial lesson in activism and mobilization, so ordinary people can be empowered to once again do extraordinary things.

Join us in this mission. Join the Virtual March and add your name to those who commit to a freer future for all people.