Four generations of students, staff and guests viewed Yosef Begun's documentary film in complete silence with occasional reactions of gasps when the content of the film touched and moved the audience.
It was impossible to avoid the depth of feelings that this documentary evoked while describing Yosuf Begun's struggle to practice Judaism and the countless times he was punished for being Jewish. Hearing about his journey from wanting to practice Judaism to finally gaining his freedom was both heartwarming and tremendously sad.
It was particularly important that the young generation of students had an opportunity to meet Yosef Begun, to hear about his struggle and to become better acquainted with the Refusenik movement. This event was another chapter of oral history of the Jews in Russia under Soviet regime.
BGI Fellow's Reflections
"Yosef Begun's lecture was very eye opening for me. The movie that he showed, which chronicles his life in the prisons and how he was able to survive and leave the Soviet Union was very interesting." Julia Livit '13
"After his lecture, I called my parents and I started asking them questions about Zionism in our family and questions about how we ended up living in Israel. Because of Yosef Begun, I found out new details about my family history that I had no clue about before, like having Zionists in my family that moved to Israel in the late 1970s." Lev Gorfinkel '13
An Evening with Yosef Begun
An evening with KGB Case No. 42, Yosef Begun
Screening the documentary autobiography film, "Through Struggle You Will Gain Your Rights"
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Russian Refusenik Yosef Begun, who spent 10 years in Soviet prisons for his Jewish beliefs, told his story and presented a film based on his experiences.
"Through Struggle You Will Gain Your Rights" is the story of the ordeal of Soviet Jews to strengthen their culture and make aliyah from the 1960s to the 1980s. Born in Moscow, Begun was a successful young engineer when he began to study his Jewish history and practice his faith. In 1971, he applied for an emigration visa to Israel. His request was denied and he lost his job.
Begun became a Hebrew teacher and produced and distributed anti-government literature, bringing him under government scrutiny. As his profession was not recognized by the government, he was arrested and charged with "social parasitism." After nearly two years in Siberia, he illegally returned to Moscow to visit his family. He was caught and sent back to Siberia, where he remained until 1980.
After his release, he began publishing articles in the Western press about the plight of Soviet Jewry. He was arrested for treason in 1982 and sentenced to 12 years in prison. A massive public outcry including an appeal from President Ronald Reagan led to his release in 1987.
Today, Begun lives in Jerusalem. He runs a publishing house that translates Jewish books into Russian.
More about Yosef Begun and the Refuseniks Movement
The words "Next Year in Jerusalem" have always been rich with meaning but for Soviet Jewry, they took on even greater significance during the stark years of Communist oppression. Soviet Jews who dared to apply for exit visas were dismissed from their employment, harassed by the KGB, and often imprisoned or exiled to Siberia.
This event is co-sponsored by the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry and the Brandeis Russian Club.