CSCE :: Statement :: Remembering Micah H. Naftalin
United States of America
PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 111th CONGRESS, 2nd SESSION
Washington, Wednesday, January 20, 2010
REMEMBERING MICAH H. NAFTALIN
HON. BENJAMIN L. CARDIN
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, as chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I wish to pay tribute to Micah Naftalin who served as national director of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews until his death in late December. Micah worked tirelessly as a leader in the grassroots activist movement in the U.S. on behalf of Soviet Jews denied their fundamental freedoms and human rights, including their right to leave the U.S.S.R. His passionate advocacy included close work with the Helsinki Commission over the years, with a particular focus on the cases of individual refuseniks, Jews denied permission by the Soviet authorities to exercise their right to emigrate.
Micah brought a unique zeal to his work on behalf of struggling Soviet Jewry and helped pave the way for an exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union. From the push to enact the Jackson-Vanik amendment in the early 1970s and vigils outside of the Soviet Embassy to the 1987 Freedom Sunday mass rally on the National Mall under the banner, ``Let My People Go,'' Micah was there. He saw the reforms ushered in by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as an opening that might lead to relief for Jews and others denied their basic human rights in that country. Besides emigration concerns, he also closely monitored manifestations of anti-Semitism in the U.S.S.R. and the plight of political prisoners.
With the easing of restrictions on emigration and the eventual breakup of the Soviet Union, Micah continued his human rights advocacy, contributing to efforts to monitor developments throughout Russia's regions as well as in newly independent countries, including Ukraine and Belarus. In 1993, he served as a public member on the U.S. delegation to the Implementation Meeting on Human Dimension Issues. Micah testified before the Helsinki Commission on numerous occasions drawing on his decades of experience as an activist fervently dedicated to advancing human rights on behalf of others. His voice will be sorely missed. On behalf of the Commission, I offer his family our heartfelt condolences.