Highlights from the Archives

AASJM Audio Collections Reformatted

Of particular note in the collections were hundreds of audiotape recordings in both open-reel and cassette format.  These tapes were recently reformatted onto CD-ROM with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Listen to samples from the Audio Collections

Track 1: The address of Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky to the Second International Congress on the Soviet Jewry recorded in February of 1976. Sharansky, one of the prominent activists of the Soviet Jewry Movement, who spent 10 years in Soviet prisons, was released as a result of the American Soviet Jewry Movement campaign.. He later immigrated to Israel and took an active part in political life there becoming a government minister in several Israeli cabinets. In this 1976 address Sharansky expresses gratitude on his and other refuseniks’ behalf, for the support of their cause as he expresses hope for its success. Sharansky names refuseniks that received long prison sentences, describes a new anti-Jewish campaign started by the Soviet authorities, and states that the fight of the Soviet Jews will continue.(1 MB QuickTime)

Track 2: Feb. 16, 1977. Conversation of Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky with Noam Shudofsky of the NCSJ. It took place in less than a month before Sharansky was arrested by the KGB as a “spy” and sentenced to 13 years in labor camps for "treason." In this particular clip Sharansky gives an update on refuseniks in Moscow and in other cities of the USSR. Shudofsky informs him about the actions and demonstrations taken by American Soviet Jewry activists picketing Aeroflot (the Soviet airline company) in New York. During the conversation Sharansky reads an open letter to the USSR attorney general protesting the sentencing of a refusenik Abner Zavurov, in Uzbekistan, then USSR. Letters like that one, as well as contacts with American Jewish activists, were incriminating to Sharansky during his trial as “slandering of the Soviet regime” and “high treason”. The efforts of the American Soviet Jewry Movement and international campaign to free Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky lead to his release 10 years later. (1 MB QuickTime)

Track 3: Ida Nudel, one of the most prominent Soviet Jewish activists, who helped prisoners of Zion and their families in conversation with a NCSJ representative, Irwin Robbins, speaking in code: “We are working on the project that we discussed with your before," and expressing words of support to Ida and other refuseniks, which are met with gratitude. Ida Nudel was arrested several months after this conversation and spent four years in detention and in exile. She emigrated to Israel 10 years later, in 1987. (1.4 MB QuickTime)

The Content of the Audio Collections:

The largest series of recordings consists of the “Russia Reports”, a weekly radio program produced in the early 1970s for broadcast on the New York City radio station WEVD (then owned by the Jewish newspaper The Forward).  The 14-minute-long programs usually featured an interview with a politician, foreign policy expert, recently-returned visitor to Soviet Jews, or a recent émigré. 

There were 179 numbered programs, though fewer tapes – approximately 130 – as some programs were apparently rebroadcast.  There are no transcripts of these tapes.  Various civil rights and cultural leaders were among the early supporters of the movement, and the NCSJ Records also contain sound recordings of interviews with and speeches by Martin Luther King (1966), Bayard Rustin, Tom Stoppard, Harrison Salisbury, and other prominent individuals. 

The third major category of tape recordings consists of audiocassette tapes made in secret in the USSR.  These include conversations with Anatoly (now Natan) Sharansky, Ida Nudel, Andrei Sakharov and other, less-famous refuseniks.  One cassette contains a recording of a speech by Andrei Sakharov accepting in absentia an award from the Anti-Defamation League; another is chillingly labeled:  "Alla Smelianski's plea, Jan 29, '79.  Mark to commit suicide March 29." 

Also among the cassettes were several recordings of telephone conversations arranged under the auspices of NCSJ’s “Call a Russian” program in the early 1970s, in which individuals in the United States made phone contact with Soviet Jews to discuss their particular circumstances, share information on the emigration process, and offer encouragement.

Click here for the Audio Collections databases (pdf, Click here to get Adobe Reader.)

The recordings can be accessed in the Reading Room of the Center for Jewish History. Please contact archivist Tanya Elder for information about the audio collection. Or call 212-294-8301.