Remembering John Lewis’s speech in support of Soviet Jewry

remembering

'As long as one Jew is denied the right to be Jewish in the Soviet Union, we all are Jews in the Soviet Union'

Flickr/Mobilus In Mobili

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) at the U.S. Capitol on June 28, 2017.

Following the death of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) on Friday, Jewish organizations paid tribute to the longtime congressman and civil rights leader.

Many organizations noted the congressman’s outspoken support for Soviet Jewry in the 1980s. On Dec. 6, 1987, during Lewis’s first year in Congress, he spoke at a rally advocating for the release of Soviet Jews.

“Almost 25 years ago, I participated in a march here for jobs and freedom. Hundreds and thousands of members of the Jewish community marched with us then. I think it’s fitting for me to be here with you today. Our message, the message of the Black community, is one that is very simple. We’re saying to President Reagan, ‘Mr. President, tell Mr. Gorbachev to open the doors, open the gates, and let the people out.’ I say that as long as one Jew is denied the right to immigrate, as long as one Jew is denied the right to be Jewish in the Soviet Union, we all are Jews in the Soviet Union.”

During his speech at the rally, Lewis also read a statement from civil rights leader Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

“My husband, Martin Luther King Jr., was deeply concerned about what he called the spiritual and cultural genocide being forced on Soviet Jewry by the Soviet government. In the same spirit, I am proud to support the cause of freedom and human rights for Soviet Jewry. There can be no genuine Glasnost until Soviet Jewry are allowed to travel freely.”

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