Yossi's review of the book is a must read. Of course, it's Yossi's perspective of what is considered history today. But he was there, as we were, although we left for Israel in the summer of 1970. In the 1960's the struggle to free and provide religious freedom for Soviet Jewry was on the "fringe" of American Jewish life.
Many of us were attracted to the American Civil Rights movement but wanted civil rights activisim with a Jewish focus. The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry fit the bill to a "T."
SSSJ concentrated on legal, non-violent and clever gimmicky demonstrations. When JDL's Rabbi Kahane began his headline-grabbing more violent and daring protests, we in SSSJ debated changing gears. In those days a police record could really ruin one's career or university scholarship. I'll never forget the meeting where either Glen Richter or Yaakov Birnbaum vetoed violence and arrest by saying:
"If anyone would get arrested at one of our demonstrations, I'd have to notify the parents, and I'm not willing to be in that situation."Richter and Birmbaum were like our teachers, mentors, counselors, taking responsibility as if the demonstrations were supervised school trips. Kahane's attitude was totally different. He didn't want to see Jewish fear. Yes, he broke a very crucial barrier.
A few years ago, here in Israel, I felt that way about anti-Disengagement protests. Arrest was better than passive acceptance or just dignified demonstrations.
But there's a big difference between getting arrested for headlines in New York when protesting about a foreign government's immoral policies and protesting Disengagement in Israel against the guilty government itself.
When They Come for Us We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry by Gal Beckerman is considered a modern history book which I find very amusing. Am I so old that my youth happened long enough ago that it's now categorized as history? I don't feel that old.