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NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR JEWS IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/3087
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives - click here to see details of the physical location of collection
Full title: NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR JEWS IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION
Date(s): 1950-1993
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 35.95 linear metres
Name of creator(s): National Council for Jews in the Former Soviet Union National Council for Soviet Jewry

Context

Administrative/Biographical history:

The National Council for Jews in the former Soviet Union was founded in 1975 under the name of the National Council for Soviet Jewry. Before then various groups had acted on behalf of Soviet Jews. Individuals too had spoken out in defence of Soviet Jews. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Board of Deputies had tried to present a coordinated response on behalf of all these groups in the 1970s, but the Board came to realise that an independent agency was required to do this work. A conference was held for Soviet Jewry groups and activists in December 1975 and there the National Council was established.

The mandate of the National Council for Soviet Jewry was not to replace the existing Soviet Jewry groups but rather to act as an umbrella body for them; to coordinate and promote action. The Council had two major concerns; firstly to defend the rights of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel; secondly to secure the betterment of Jewish life for Jews within the Soviet Union (especially the cultural, religious and educational aspects). Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and well into the 1980s Jews who attempted to establish a Jewish culture and identity within the USSR, for instance by teaching Hebrew or Jewish history, suffered repression. Those Soviet Jews who applied for permission to settle in Israel and who were refused visas became known as "refuseniks". Refuseniks and other Jewish activists were frequently singled out by Soviet authorities as anti-Soviet troublemakers; many lost their jobs, were arrested, tried and imprisoned. The National Council aimed, in conjunction with Soviet Jewry Groups in other countries, to draw attention to their difficulties.

The National Council was made up of delegates nominated from the major British Jewry bodies (such as the Board of Deputies; the United Synagogue; the Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief) and Soviet Jewry groups within the United Kingdom. The Council met regularly and appointed Committees to undertake the day to day running of the movement. The Council worked closely with its affiliated groups and supporters and organised some very public campaigns on behalf of refuseniks. On a quieter level it encouraged rabbis, community leaders and other Anglo-Jewish groups to make individual contacts with Soviet Jews and provide them with encouragement to explore their Jewish identity. Visits and the sending of letters and books to the USSR was promoted in the face of Soviet hostility. The Council also lobbied non-Jewish organisations and individuals for support. It liaised with members of parliament, trade unions, the press and a wide span of private individuals. The National Council was always careful however not to become a political anti-Soviet body.

The National Council received a Parliamentary award for services to Soviet Jewry in 1989. By then some degree of improvement in the lives of Soviets Jews had taken place following the internal Soviet reforms of the late 1980s. In December 1991 the Soviet Union was dissolved and its constituent republics became independent. Consequently the National Council decided to review its role. It was decided to concentrate on work to increase Jewish cultural and religious awareness and to fight rising anti-semitism within the former USSR. Although emigration had become easier for Soviet Jews by the early 1990s the refuseniks did not disappear as some republics failed to establish emigration procedures. In 1992 the National Council renamed itself the National Council for Jews in the Former Soviet Union and embarked upon a new phase of activity.

Content

Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the National Council for Soviet Jewry, later called the National Council for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, 1950-1993. Records include Council and Committee minutes, correspondence and reports; general correspondence; conferences and seminars; National Council for Soviet Jewry publications including Jews in the USSR, circulars and newsletters; publications relating to Soviet Jewry by other organisations; photographs of events and refuseniks; films; press cuttings and financial records.

PLEASE NOTE: Written permission from the depositor is required to access this collection. Contact: Executive Director, Board of Deputies of British Jews, 5th Floor, Commonwealth House, 1-19 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1NF.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English

System of arrangement:

The archives have been arranged into the following series: 01: Minutes and related documentation; 02: General correspondence and policy; 03 and 04: Publications; 05: Photographs; 06: Films; 07: Press cuttings; and 08: Finance.

Conditions governing access:

Access by written permission only from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at: http://search.lma.gov.uk/opac_lma/index.htm

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in September 1992.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For further information please consult the LMA Information Leaflet: "Records of the Anglo-Jewish Community at London Metropolitan Archives"; available to download here: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/LGNL_Services/Leisure_and_culture/Records_and_archives/Visitor_information/free_information_leaflets.htm (URL correct Feb 2010).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Description prepared in March 2010.

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