Amen: Reflections on Freedom
and Isolation from Natan Sharansky

Natan Sharansky was born in 1948 and grew up in a Soviet system that maintained its rule through fear. In his twenties, he became interested in his Jewish heritage and the State of Israel. Sharansky applied for a visa to immigrate to Israel in 1973 but was rejected; he was unable to leave the Soviet Union. That made him a refusenik. He was arrested in 1977 and spent nine years in prison and in labor camp, more than 400 days in punishment cells, and more than 200 days on hunger strikes. After a large-scale campaign led by his wife, Avital, he was ultimately released on February 1, 1986. He immigrated to Israel, becoming an activist and subsequently a politician and the head of the Jewish Agency. 

Sharansky’s life experience taught him much about his two main concerns, freedom and identity. 

Through his own words and stories, let’s reflect on what it means to be truly free, what freedoms we can be grateful for, and what we must continue to strive for: 

Last year, as the pandemic spread and people around the world found themselves in quarantine with many of their usual freedoms limited, Natan Sharansky produced this short video with five tips he shared about how to deal with solitude: 

After reading the quotes and watching the video, reflect on the following questions:  
  1. What is the definition of freedom according to Sharansky? When did he feel most free? 
  2. How can Jewish tradition, and specifically the Passover story, enhance our ability to experience or strive for freedom?
  3. What forms of freedom are you grateful for? 
  4. What responsibility do you have to fight for the freedom of others? What actions can you take in that direction?