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Kenneth Bialkin and George Schultz

Dr. Stuart and Judy Hershon with George Schultz

George Schultz and wife Charlotte (left) with Elie Wiesel

George Schultz and Ronald Tauber

Ingeborg Rennert, George Schultz, Marion Wiesel and
Malcolm Thomson


For George Schultz
Hero Symbolizes Israel

Story and Photos by Tim Boxer

HEN George Schultz became secretary of state in 1982 Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union was virtually halted. During that decade he played a pivotal role in fighting for the right of Soviet Jews to observe their religion or emigrate.

His efforts to change U.S.-Soviet relations paid off in 1986 with the release of Anatoly Shcharansky. A year later he received a call from one of the refuseniks he’d been trying to help: "This is Ida Nudel. I’m in Jerusalem. I’m home."

"My eyes filled with tears," Schultz said.

In 1989 the floodgates were breached and eventually more than a million people were able to leave the USSR and head to Israel and America to begin new lives. "Helping save Soviet Jewry was a gratifying experience," Schultz said.

The American Jewish Historical Society is building a comprehensive archive devoted to the efforts to save Soviet Jewry. At its annual dinner last month at the Waldorf-Astoria, commemorating the American Soviet Jewry movement, chairman Kenneth Bialkin presented Schultz with the Emma Lazarus Statue of Liberty Award.

In recalling the fight to free Soviet Jews, Schultz said his attitude was profoundly shaped when he was a dean at the University of Chicago. At the end of each quarter he’d throw a party for the students who made the honors list. A student, Joseph Levy, and his wife were always present.

"Joseph was intellectually gifted," Schultz recalled. "He was one of those savvy young men who you just knew was destined for leadership."

Then the Six Day War broke out and Schultz’s "favorite student" was killed in action.

"Beyond the pain of the moment," Schultz reminisced, "I thought to myself, what an amazing country to command such instinctive loyalty from such a gifted human being. For me, Joseph Levy’s heroism came to symbolize the state of Israel."


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