Freedom Sunday for Soviet Jews

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Freedom Sunday Rally
DateDecember 6, 1987 (1987-12-06)
LocationWashington, D.C.
ParticipantsJewish activists and supporters

Freedom Sunday for Soviet Jews was the title of a national march and political rally that was held on December 6, 1987 in Washington, D.C. An estimated 200,000 participants gathered on the National Mall, calling for the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to extend his policy of Glasnost to Soviet Jews by putting an end to their forced assimilation and allowing their emigration from the Soviet Union.[1] The rally was organized by a broad-based coalition of Jewish organizations. At the time, it was reported to be the "largest Jewish rally ever held in Washington."[2]


On Sunday, December 6, 1987, the eve of the Washington, D.C. Summit between Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan,[1] an estimated 200,000 people demonstrated on the National Mall in an unprecedented display of solidarity for Soviet Jewry.[2] The mass mobilization, organized by a broad-based coalition, brought activists from across the United States to demand that Gorbachev extend his policy of Glasnost to Soviet Jews by putting an end to their forced assimilation and allowing their emigration from the USSR. About half the participants came from the Greater New York area under the leadership of the Greater New York Coalition for Soviet Jewry, the National Conference for Soviet Jewry (NCSJ), the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF) and the United Jewish Appeal (UJA).[3]

The audio of the rally was broadcast through Voice of America radio stations, including in Europe, enabling refuseniks within the Soviet Union to listen to the speeches surreptitiously.[4]


The rally — reported at the time to be the "largest Jewish rally ever held in Washington"[2] — showed "clearly where the real strength of American Jewish organizations existed," wrote historian Henry L. Feingold. It was "not in negotiating with sovereign powers that gave no assurance that they would implement what might be agreed to. The giant Washington rally of 6 December 1987 demonstrated that public relations techniques to focus attention on the plight of Soviet Jewry had become a formidable skill developed by the American Soviet Jewry movement."[5]

Posters from the rally have been digitized and are available online from the Archives of the American Soviet Jewry Movement held by the American Jewish Historical Society.[6][7]

The second largest Jewish rally held in Washington took place on April 16, 2002, when pro-Israel organizers, led by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, gathered upwards of 100,000 people in front of the Capitol on one week's notice.[8]


Speakers and performers at the rally included:[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Human Rights, Arms Control Top Reagan-Gorbachev Agenda". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. December 9, 1987. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "More Than 200,000 Rally on Behalf of Soviet Jewry in Massive D.C. Gathering". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. December 7, 1987. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 17, 2020. Retrieved November 22, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "National Conference on Soviet Jewry - letter dated December 18, 1987" (PDF). Retrieved July 6, 2022.
  5. ^ Feingold, Henry (2006). Silent No More: Saving the Jews of Russia, The American Jewish Effort, 1967-1989. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. p. 272. ISBN 0815631014.
  6. ^ "Mr. Gorbachev, before you talk arms, let's talk bodies". Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. 1987. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  7. ^ "Freedom Sunday: Summit Mobilization for Soviet Jews". National Conference on Soviet Jewry. 1987. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  8. ^ "'We Knew We Had to Come,' Say Jews Gathered at Pro-Israel Rally". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. April 16, 2002. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  9. ^ Freedom Rally for Soviet Jews (video). C-SPAN. December 9, 1987. Retrieved September 19, 2015.

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