This is a very special anniversary for me.
Twenty-five years ago this week, I was on the National Mall, a graduate student who came with a bunch of colleagues from New York. I left Russia 12 years earlier, and now I was at a rally to bring other Soviet Jews out from behind the Iron Curtain. The rally was moving, exciting and expected; after all, this was my extended family coming together to do what families do for each other.
As extraordinary as it was, I almost took it for granted: of course that's what Jews would do! My family had been taken care of by the American Jewish community for over a decade. I had gotten used to the help and support. I assumed it was natural.
Elie Weisel and Natan Sharansky were the spiritual leaders of the rally and the whole movement. David Harris from AJC was the lead organizer. I met David in Rome 12 years earlier where he was my caseworker at HIAS. I met Elie Weisel in 2002 at another rally on the Mall, this one protesting terror against Jews in Israel after a Passover Seder bombing in Netanya killed some of the Russian Olim who were freed as a result of the 1987 Rally in DC. That was also an impressive rally, but the numbers were much smaller, fewer than half.
I am not sure how many we would get at a rally today.
At the GA in Baltimore, Elie and Natan both spoke about the Washington March and its significance in our history for the soul of the Jewish People and the Jewish State. But Natan lamented the fact that American and Russian Jews who made it happen and were transformed by the experience have not shared the story with their own children and grandchildren. We need stories that inspire us to do more and be more for our Jewish family. This is one of them.
It is a story of responsibility and obligation, kindness and generosity. It is a story of imagination and protest. Most importantly, it is a story of love. On Thursday, December 6, honor this special anniversary by spending a few minutes telling someone this amazing Jewish story. And join the Virtual March at Freedom25 where you can share your story and memories from that day and join those committed to a freer future for all people.
We are still a miracle: Am Israel Chai!