Advertisement for a Rally in Support of Russian Jewry, 1968
At Heichal Hatarbut
A Public Rally
“Let My People Go”
MK Golda Meir
Minister Menachem Begin
Minister Dr. Yosef Burg
Opening: MK Haim Landau
Address: David Berman (Adv)
“For our brothers, we won’t be silent”
Entrance: 1.50 Lira
This a poster from January 1968 advertising a rally at Heichal Hatarbut in Tel Aviv in support of Russian Jewry. The title of the event is “Let My People Go” – a biblical reference to Moses’ message to Pharaoh when the Children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt. The rally was a show of solidarity with the Jews in the USSR who were not allowed to leave their country. In attendance were Golda Meir, then a member of Knesset, and the government ministers Menachem Begin and Dr. Yosef Burg.
Following the Six Day War of 1967, a large number of Soviet Jews applied for exit visas to leave the Soviet Union. While some were allowed to leave, many were refused permission to emigrate, either immediately or after their cases would languish for years in bureaucratic procedures. In many cases, the reason given for this refusal was that the people had, at some point in their careers, been given access to information vital to Soviet national security and therefore could not now be allowed to leave. Jews who were refused permission to leave the Soviet Union became known as “Refusniks.” In response to their application to emigrate, the KGB (the main Soviet security agency) became aware of these Refuseniks and often followed their actions, censured their post and their phone calls, and caused their dismissal from their workplaces. As can be seen in this poster, throughout this period through until nearly the end of the 1980s, Jewish communities around the world worked tirelessly to help the Jews of the USSR by visiting them and offering personal help as well as by pressurising local politicians to work harder to ease their plight.
Even though she spent most of her youth in the United States, Golda Meir was born in Kiev (formally in the USSR) and lived there until she was eight years old. In June 1948, just after the establishment of the State of Israel, she was appointed Israel’s first ambassador to the USSR. She served in this post for less than a year, as she was elected to the Knesset in the 1949 elections.
Menachem Begin, also present at this rally, had been the leader of the Irgun (Etzel), a Zionist paramilitary organisation that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948. After the establishment of the State of Israel, Begin founded the Herut political party that later on became the Likud party. After many years in opposition, Menachem Begin became Israel’s sixth prime minister in 1977.
Dr. Yosef Burg was born in Germany in 1902, and in the 1930s he worked underground to help Jews escape Nazi Germany. He immigrated to Palestine in 1939 and was elected to the First Knesset in 1949. Burg helped to found the National Religious Party and served as a minster for over 30 years.
Jewish History teachers can use this resource when discussing Soviet Jewry and their struggles to leave the USSR in the 1970s and 1980s.
The poster can also be used by Jewish Studies teachers to discuss the connection between Israel and the Diaspora.
In Politics classes the lives of the three politicians can be analysed, focusing on the fact that although they came from very different political parties, they united for this cause.
What is the event being advertised?
Where was the event to take place?
Who was to be present at the event?
When did the event take place?
Reading Between the Lines
Why was the event taking place?
What do you know about the situation of Jews in the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s?
What did Israel do to try and help Soviet Jewry?
What was Golda Meir’s connection to Soviet Jews?
Ask your parents or grandparents if they remember this period and if they too were involved in activities to help Soviet Jewry.
What do you know about Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, or Yosef Berg?
Is there something you feel so strongly about that you would attend a public meeting to show your support? What is it? Why do you feel so strongly?
Have you ever been to a demonstration? What were you demonstrating for? What was it like?
Are there any Jews outside of Israel who need our support today? Who are they?
Design a poster to advertise a rally in support of a cause about which you feel strongly.
Write Golda Meir’s speech at the advertised rally.