Brandeis University: A People's History 1976-1977
On Behalf of Soviet Jewry

Brandeis played a significant role in drawing American attention to the increasingly difficult position of Jews in the Soviet Union during the mid-70s. The Kremlin made its impatience with the visibility of Soviet Jewry clear when it canceled a scheduled Moscow Symposium on Jewish Culture, denied visas to visiting American scholars and arrested 13 of the symposium organizers.

Professor Marshall Sklare of the Brandeis Department of Contemporary Jewish Studies was one of the American scholars denied a visa. He read the paper intended for the symposium at Harvard instead, at a December meeting of the Jewish Council of Greater Boston held in response to the Soviet action. President Bernstein presented a resolution protesting the cancellation to the Council, which also resolved to urge American scientific societies to refuse further academic exchanges with Soviet scholars.

Sparked by the imprisonment of Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky as a “refusnik” (a Soviet Jew determined to oppose Russian bureaucracy and apply for emigration to Israel), a group of American students organized the Student Council for Soviet Jewry, a student lobby in Washington DC. With the assistance of Brandeis Hillel, SCSJ continued to organize the Soviet Jewry Lobby for approximately 10 years until their work and the work of thousands of others pressured the USSR into opening its gates and allowing Jews to emigrate to Israel. At its height in the mid-80s, SCSJ mobilized 700 students from across the U.S. for 36 hours of lectures, workshops, speakers and lobbying on behalf of Soviet Jews.

—Ora Gladstone
Associate Director, Hillel Foundation;

Angela Davis Returns

Angela Davis, ’65 returned to her alma mater to speak before an enthusiastic crowd of over 900. Brandeis students warmly received her lecture, an impassioned condemnation of the use of the criminal justice system as a tool of racist oppression. But when white students were excluded from a reception held in her honor that evening, warm feelings quickly cooled.