2013 Emma Lazarus Statue of Liberty Award Winner
Following the 1977 arrest of her husband Natan and his sentence to hard labor in a Siberian prison camp, Avital Sharansky (b. Natalia Shteiglitz in 1950) devoted herself tirelessly to the cause of freeing him and all Refuseniks. For a total of 13 years, she left no stone unturned: meeting world leaders, including successive U.S. Presidents as well as Jewish groups worldwide. As Secretary of State George Shultz later recalled, “Avital’s pleas dramatized the human side of the tension in U.S.-Soviet relations.” When Natan was finally released on 11th February 1986, he joined his wife in Israel and has since become a major force in national and international politics. Eschewing public honors, Avital today lectures in Jewish Studies for Russian-speaking immigrants, as well as talking about her past to young students. She and Natan live in Jerusalem and have two daughters.