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"Silent No More"
Saving the Jews of Russia, the American Jewish Effort, 1967-1989

Henry L. Feingold

Cloth $45.00s    |    0-8156-3101-4    |    2006

The dramatic chronicle of the Soviet Jewry movement in its full historical context, highlighting the significant effort of the American Jews to extricate the Jewish community from the Kremlin's grasp.

"Although Feingold is mindful of the lot of Russian Jews before, during, and after the Soviet Union, he, as advertised, deals primarily with its resonance in the American Jewish community. The unhappy story of the Russian Jews is an old one, going back to the early nineteenth century and hitting its low point during the pogroms of the early twentieth century. Its modern chapter, written during the Soviet Union’s last two decades, was remarkably complex, and Feingold recounts it lucidly with skill and detachment. Far more ramified than merely the fight to allow Jews to emigrate after 1967, far more tangled than simply the battle between the friends and the foes of U.S.-Soviet détente in the 1970s, and far more embedded in the American Jewish community’s haunted guilt over an earlier generation’s lack of action during the Holocaust than understood at the time, the issue of the Russian Jews brought to a head both the divisions among Jewish organizations and the junctures when Israeli and American Jewish priorities parted. But ultimately it also made of the ‘American Jewish effort’ something more fulfilling and effective than anything before."
Foreign Affairs

"How did the movement to free Soviet Jews, despite overwhelming geopolitical odds and fractious communal and international Jewish disagreements over strategy and goals, succeed so remarkably? Demonstrating intriguing parallels to early 20th century US and US Jewish engagement with Russian Jewish travails, distinguished US Jewish history scholar Feingold (emer., CUNY) disentangles and fully fleshes out the essential forces and intersecting variables that eventually opened Soviet doors for Jewish emigration. They include Israeli initiatives and contacts with Soviet Jews in the 1950s-60s; Soviet Jews’ aroused public Jewish identification and establishment of their own emigration movement; US Jews, burdened by guilt over perceived inaction during the Holocaust, adopting Soviet Jewry emigration into its communal agenda; US Jewry’s successful political engagement of Congress; the Cold War, providing the framework and intellectual impetus for integrating Soviet Jews into an evolving international human rights political agenda from the 1970s on; and the Soviet Union’s consistent errors of judgment in response to public pressure, and its ultimate implosion. In this astute, probing, richly nuanced study of the US Jewish Soviet Jewry movement, Feingold tells the tale with deft political, institutional, and historical understanding, revealing his own profound wonder at how unanticipated historical forces coalesced to produce an unforeseen victory for a just cause. "

"No one in American Jewish history has limned the parallels between American Jewish concern for Jewish emigration in late Tsarist Russia with post-Holocaust American Jewish concern for Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union. [Feingold’s] analysis is therefore a nuanced articulation of the web of pressures, calculations, miscalculations, and surprises. . . . Comprehensive, daring, brave, and brilliant."
Robert M. Seltzer, author of Jewish People, Jewish Thought: The Jewish Experience in History

"Silent No More: Saving the Jews of Russia, The American Jewish Effort, 1967-1989 is a comprehensive study of the struggle to obtain emigration rights for Jews trapped in the Soviet Union and persecuted by a hostile communist regime. Henry Feingold, professor of history emeritus of Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, offers a sweeping account of ‘how a small divided movement composed of voluntary organizations and activists succeeded in bending a superpower to release its Jews.’"

Leading scholar and author of the celebrated five-volume series, The Jewish People in America, Henry L. Feingold offers a fresh and inspiring look at the Russian/Soviet Jewish emigration phenomenon. Haunted by its sense of failure during the Holocaust, the Soviet Jewry movement set for itself an almost unrealizable goal of finding sanctuary for Jews from a hostile Soviet government. Working together with activists in Israel and Europe, and with a remarkable group of refuseniks that had been denied the right to emigrate, this courageous group mounted a relentless campaign lasting almost three decades. Although Feingold credits Israel with initiating the struggle for Soviet Jewry and fostering it within American Jewry, he maintains that it was the actions of a secure and confident American Jewry that finally delivered the Jews from the Soviet Union.

Feingold’s mastery of detail and broadness of scope provide a prodigious and sweeping account of the American Jewish movement. He finds early roots of the effort in the American Jewish involvement with Jewish emigration in late Tsarist Russia. He highlights both the human dimension of the exodus and the complex international ramifications of the movement, especially in the Middle East. "Silent No More" concludes by pondering the role of the movement’s effective public relations campaign, which focused on the human right of freedom of movement in hastening the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Feingold’s rigorous scholarship sheds light on an important, yet rarely told episode in history, one that will enliven further examination of the subject. This book will be of interest to scholars of American Jewish history, the cold war, Israeli studies, and American ethnic and immigration history.

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Henry L. Feingold is professor emeritus of history at The Graduate Center and Baruch College, CUNY, where he is the director of the Jewish Resource Center. He is the author of numerous books including Bearing Witness: How America and Its Jews Responded to the Holocaust and Lest Memory Cease: Finding Meaning in the American Jewish Past, also published by Syracuse University Press, where he serves as the editor of the Modern Jewish History series.

7 x 10, 368 pages, 12 black-and-white illustrations, glossary, notes, index

Silent No More

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