When They Come for Us, We'll Be Gone
The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry
By Gal Beckerman
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618573097, 608pp.)
Publication Date: September 1, 2010
List Price: $30.00*
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At the end of World War II, nearly three million Jews were trapped inside the Soviet Union. They lived a paradox—unwanted by a repressive Stalinist state, yet forbidden to leave. When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone is the astonishing and inspiring story of their rescue.
Journalist 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 convincing 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.
In cinematic detail, 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, filled with suspense and packed with revelations, provides an essential missing piece of Cold War and Jewish history.
Gal Beckerman is a reporter at The Forward. He was a longtime editor and staff writer at the Columbia Journalism Review and has also written for the New York Times Book Review, Jerusalem Post, and Utne Reader, among other publications. He was a Fellow at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Berlin and the recipient of a Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.