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30 YEARS AGO | 250,000 rally in Washington on Freedom Sunday in support of Soviet Jewry

On December 6, 1987 – thirty years ago today - 250,000 people marched on the National Wall in Washington, D.C. demanding that USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev put an end to the forced assimilation of Jews open the door to allow their emigration.

Freedom Sunday, as it was called, was a mass mobilization organized by a broad coalition of Jewish communal partners including the National Conference for Soviet Jewry (NCSJ), the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF) and the United Jewish Appeal (UJA).

It was the largest rally ever organized in the US on behalf of a Jewish issue and one of the largest marches in American history. For many it signaled a turning point in the 40-year struggle that led ultimately to the liberation of 1.5 million Soviet Jews.

The struggle to free Soviet Jewry was heavily supported by the World Jewish Congress, whose leadership repeatedly visited Moscow to press the Soviets to change their policies, was successful and Soviet Jews gained the right to emigrate. Following the change in Soviet position, an estimated one million went to Israel and around half a million to other countries.

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