Gal Beckerman, reporter for emThe Forwardem, talks about his first book, an exploration of the lives of the Jews left behind in the Soviet Union after World War II. At the end of the war, nearly three million Jews were trapped inside the Soviet Union. They lived a paradox--unwanted by a repressive Stalinist state, yet forbidden to leave. Gal Beckerman draws on newly released Soviet government documents as well as hundreds of oral interviews with refuseniks, activists, Zionist "hooligans," and Congressional staffers. He shows not only how the movement led to a mass exodus in 1989, but also how it shaped the American Jewish community, giving it a renewed sense of spiritual purpose and teaching it to flex its political muscle. He also makes a case that the movement put human rights at the center of American foreign policy for the very first time, helping to end the Cold War. The book introduces us to all the major players, from the flamboyant Meir Kahane, head of the paramilitary Jewish Defense League, to Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky, who labored in a Siberian prison camp for over a decade, to Lynn Singer, the small, fiery Long Island housewife who went from organizing local rallies to strong-arming Soviet diplomats. This multi-generational saga provides an essential missing piece of Cold War and Jewish history.moreless
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