Micah Naftalin

One of the quiet heroes of the Soviet Jewry movement has died. Micah Naftalin, who for many years ran the Union of Councils of Jews in the Former Soviet Union, was one of the people responsible for what turned into perhaps the most successful human rights campaign of the 20th century. (The movement achieved total success in part because its existence helped undermine the entire foundation of Soviet tyranny.)  I only met him once or twice, a long time ago, when I was a member of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, traveling to (and getting arrested in) the Soviet Union, and getting arrested in New York at various highly-ritualized protests outside the Soviet mission. People like Naftalin maintained the framework, and the networks, that allowed college students to participate in the great struggle. After the liberation came, Naftalin was one of the few American Jews to realize that the work wasn't over, and he helped turn the UCSJ into the main organization monitoring all types of religious discrimination in the FSU, and exposed all manner of hate crimes against Jews. You can read more about him here. He was one of those blessed people who was able to merge his ideals with his vocation. May his memory be for a blessing.