Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
September 14, 2000
HELSINKI COMMISSION CO-HOSTS EXHIBIT
HONORING RETURN OF SOVIET JEWS TO ISRAEL
(Washington) - The United States Helsinki Commission will honor the ten year anniversary of the peak exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel by co-hosting a photography exhibition by photographer Patricia Dalzell and author Michele Clark who have combined their talents in a presentation entitled Voices of Ascent: The Return of the Soviet Jews to Israel.
The exhibit will open Tuesday, September 19, 2000 in the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill and will be on display through Friday, September 22. Helsinki Commission Co-Chairmen Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Ranking Members Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) and Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Commissioner Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) have coordinated this occasion for historical remembrance which coincides with the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act.
The release of the Jews from the former Soviet Union has been one of the most compelling events of the Twentieth Century. This legacy is a testimony to the heroic perseverance of the human spirit in the face of extraordinary persecution. For decades, Soviet Jews were imprisoned for their religious activism, denied the right to leave, and suffered a second-class status within the country of their birth.
Yet, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, thousands continued to believe that they would one day be allowed to live in freedom.
Then, in 1989, the pendulum of history swung dramatically. Following Mikhail Gorbachev’s newly implemented policies of glasnost, the Soviet government finally heeded the international outcry and permitted Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel.
Beginning with a trickle, the exodus rapidly grew to historic proportions when almost 200,000 people returned to Israel in 1990. This was a victory for the Jews of the Soviet Union, as well as the thousands of organizations and advocates worldwide who had labored tirelessly for their freedom, including the Helsinki Commission which played a leading role in advocating their liberty.
Close to one million Soviet Jews have immigrated to Israel since the Soviet Union began respecting their right to freedom of movement. This exhibit of photos and narrative text is a fitting way to mark the decade anniversary of the return of the Soviet Jews.
Media Contact: Ben Anderson
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Citizenship and Political Rights