Freedom Shabbat: The life and struggle of Jewish activists in the U.S.S.R. - 1977 Soviet Jewry Camp Kit



Freedom Shabbat is the first activity of many listed in the “1977 Soviet Jewry Camp Kit”. Educators have the option of implementing these activities as a historical dramatization, or it can be easily adapted to today. While this particular Shabbat Activity is written for a summer camp, it can be done at a school or synagogue. This activity can be used in correlation with many of the other lesson plans available in our Lesson Plan Library.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will have a firm understanding of the difficulties facing Jews in the former Soviet Union.
  • Students will have an understanding of the importance of religious freedom.




  • Set the Atmosphere
    • Decorate the dining room, prayer sites, library and social hall with pictures bearing labor camp scenes, slogans from the Soviet Jewry movement, Soviet Jewry posters (included in the materials)
    • Have campers and staff wear yellow Stars of David, worn by Jewish activists as a defiant reminder of the Holocaust (included in the materials).
  • Prayer Services
    • Hold services in the woods or outside (you may wish to post enclosed poster, “ By order of the Government: SERVICED FORBIDDEN” at usual prayer site (included in the materials).
    • Recite Prayer for Soviet Jewry (included in the materials)
    • Set aside a tallit-draped seat for Anatoly Sharansky, Josif Mendelevich or other Prisoners of Conscience
    • Dedicate a special “aliyah” for the Soviet Jews who were unable to practice their Judaism freely
    • Say a “mi shebayrach” prayer in memory of the Soviet Jewish prisoners.
  • Meals
    • For “z’mirot” use Soviet Jewry song sheet, placing special emphasis on Or Chadash and other songs written by Soviet Jews (included in the materials)
    • At each table, set a place with a tin or wooden utensils for a Prisoner of Consciences. Enclosed sheet, Daily Diet in a Soviet Prison Camp presents a pectoral description of prison meals.
  • Programs and Discussions
    • Invite a former Refusenik to speak
    • Focus discussions on Jewish concepts of pidgin sh’vuyim (the redemption of captives), Klal Israel (the community of Israel) and Kol Yisrael are vim meh laze (all Jews are responsible for each other) Lesson Examples from the Refusenik Project include:
    • Mutual Responsibility:
    • Reeding Captives Text Study:
    • Perform one of the skits enclosed or make use of dramatic readings (included in the materials )
    • Compare opportunities in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere regarding Jewish learning and expression and access to resources
    • Have campers dramatize efforts of Prisoners of Conscience to observe as described in Handcuffs and Lock-up for a Skull-Cap (included in the materials).
  • Havdallah
    • Link elements of the Havdallah service in a Soviet Jewry context particularly the theme of redemption, as it repeats several times in the text of the service (Elijah the Prophet as a symbol of redemption, the cup of wine as a cup of redemption)
    • Discuss the question: We bless G-d for having differentiated Jews from non-Jews. How did this distinction affect the lives of Soviet Jews? How does it continue to impact Jews today?

Download Lesson

Click here to download the full lesson pack in .zip format.

Contributing Organization

Contributed by: Enid L. Wurtman’s Soviet Jewry Archives on the History of the Zionist Movement from the Soviet Union

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