The Jewish Federations of North America is proud to announce that Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel will be taking the stage at the 2012 General Assembly to participate in a historic dialogue with Natan Sharansky, chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel, to commemorate the 1987 March on Washington for Soviet Jewry.
To mark the 25th anniversary of this world-changing event, Wiesel, the prize-winning author and Holocaust survivor, and Sharansky, the symbol of the Soviet Jewry movement, will celebrate the power of the collective during a discussion on how the March on Washington forever impacted the landscape of the global Jewish community, and how its reverberations continue to be felt today.
Wiesel will headline an array of exciting speakers at the 2012 GA, which runs Nov. 11-13, this year in Baltimore.
The GA co-chairs, Linda A. and Steve Hurwitz and Genine and Josh Fidler, all of Baltimore, said Jewish Federations were honored to be hosting Wiesel and Sharansky.
“I still remember how excited I was the first time I heard Elie Wiesel speak after reading so many of his extraordinary works,” said Linda Hurwitz. “Alongside Natan Sharansky, who has an unparalleled understanding of the struggle for Soviet Jews, Elie will add valuable insight on this milestone anniversary of the March on Washington, and on today’s most pressing issues in the Jewish world.”
Wiesel was born in 1928 in the town of Sighet, now part of Romania. During World War II, he and his family were deported to the German concentration and extermination camps, where his parents and little sister perished. Wiesel survived, and after being liberated from Buchenwald in 1945, he worked as a journalist and published his first book, "Night," a memoir of his experiences in the concentration camps.
Now a U.S. citizen, Wiesel has been outspoken on the plight of Soviet Jewry, on Ethiopian Jewry and on behalf of the State of Israel. He has authored more than 50 books and given countless lectures on the situation of Jews and other groups who have suffered persecution and death because of their religion, race or national origin.
Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for speaking out against violence, repression and racism. He has received the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1996.
Sharansky, who was born in 1948 in Donetzk, Ukraine, was a passionate activist for the struggle of Soviet Jews to earn their freedom and emigrate to Israel. He was committed to the human rights movement in the Soviet Union and was one of the founding members of the Moscow Helsinki Group which united Soviet dissidents of all types. Accused of collaborating with the CIA in 1977, he served nine years in prison, then emigrated to Israel, where he continued the struggle to open the gates of the Soviet Union.
On December 7, 1987, Sharansky and Wiesel initiated a momentous rally of more than 250,000 people in Washington to coincide with Soviet President Gorbachev’s first visit to the U.S. capital. The march was influential in pressuring the Soviet Union to ease its restrictions on emigration. After the march, Sharansky formed the Soviet Jewry Zionist Forum, an umbrella organization of former Soviet activist groups dedicated to helping new Israelis and educating the public about absorption issues.
Sharansky also co-founded Peace Watch, an independent non-partisan group committed to monitoring the compliance to agreements signed by Israel and the PLO, and founded the Israeli political party Yisrael B’Aliya. He has been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and has continued to lead human rights efforts through his writings and public activities.
Some 3,000 Jewish leaders from around the world are expected to convene at the GA, which annually gathers notables in politics, philanthropy, business and the arts. This year’s event will be organized around the theme: “The 2012 JFNA General Assembly. Where the Jewish community downloads/uploads/shares.”
Through its program and plenaries, the GA will promote learning, exchanging ideas and taking action. The conference will also feature exclusive social events, such as a Taglit-Birthright Israel Bar Mitzvah Celebration and an evening at the National Aquarium, sponsored by the GA host community THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. The GA will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center and at nearby hotels.