Jewish identity groups began in the early 1960’s, even before the miraculous Israeli victory in the Six-Day War which sparked a resurrection in Jewish identity across the globe and particularly in the USSR.
But the gates of the USSR remained closed. The Soviet refusal to allow emigration drove a small Jewish activists’ group to a desperate move. In 1970, this group (Dymshits, Kuznetsov, Mendelevich and others) attempted to “hijack” a small plane as an act of protest against the ban on emigration. The KGB arrested the group, and a show trial and harsh verdicts triggered a global solidarity campaign. The pressure on the USSR mounted. At first glance, it might seem hard to understand why the leaders of the all-powerful Soviet Union cared about such protests. But … the heavy gates of the USSR miraculously opened to allow a massive wave of Jewish emigration to Israel.
Why do you think they opened the gates?
During the years after the initial wave of Jewish emigration in 1970, the Jewish National Movement was formed. It included two quite different but naturally complementary activities. Both involved considerable risk to the participants. The first was the public story: fostering ties with foreign journalists, updating them on the persecution of Jewish activists, and lobbying for the Jackson-Vanik amendment. This story is well known to the general public.
The second activity was the revival of Jewish identity and Hebrew education, and the creation of Israel-centered Jewish communities. This activity included a secret project totally unknown to those outside the USSR, and even to most Soviets. Now it’s time to disclose this secret to the public at large.