Picture is of Yuli Edelstein addressing
the upper house of the Russian parliament.
To be Jewish, is to be part of continuing miracles. The endurance of our peoplehood, despite obstacles and tragedies over the centuries, is one of history’s most dramatic and inspiring sagas.
Another one of these miracles occurred recently — one that will resonate especially with those Birmingham Jews who worked so hard in the 1970s, 80s and 90s to help our Jewish brothers and sisters in the former Soviet Union emigrate to Israel and other lands of freedom.
Reported the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:
“Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who was born in the Soviet Union and imprisoned in a labor camp in the 1980s by Soviet authorities for his Jewish activities, came full circle on June 28 in Moscow and addressed the upper house of the Russian parliament.”
Added the story: “Introduced at his appearance in parliament by the chairwoman of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, one of the most powerful politicians in Russia, she noted Edelstein’s birth in Ukraine and his studies in Moscow and that he had moved to Israel in 1987.”
“She failed to mention the period that he spent in the labor camp due to his pro-Zionist activities, which included his efforts to teach Hebrew at a time when Soviet authorities were seeking to stamp out expressions of Jewish identity and efforts by Soviet Jews to emigrate,” the Haaretz story added.
The full story is worth reading. It is a tribute to the unbreakable will of those Jews such as Edelstein who were willing to stand up to the Soviet empire, the powerful sense of renewal and purpose that so many Jews have found upon immigrating to Israel, and what can be achieved when we Jews act collectively on behalf of one another.
In Birmingham, through the Birmingham Jewish Federation, our community and friends of our community played a significant role in helping Edelstein and neatly 1,000,000 other Jews leave the former Soviet Union. We did this through demonstrations and other forms of advocacy, fundraising, and resettling families in Birmingham who chose to come to the US.
The heroes though are people such as Edelstein, who risked their lives to lead the Soviet Jewish movement. They no doubt knew — and had an unshakable belief in their hearts — that when it comes to Jewish history, miracles can happen when the Jewish people work together.
— Richard Friedman, Executive Director