Women of the Refuseniks:
An Untold Story of Strength

The Jewish people have demonstrated their strength time and time again. The Refusenik movement of the 20th century is a foremost example: Hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews experiencing oppression in the USSR, along with Jews they mobilized across the globe, fought Soviet authorities’ efforts to “refuse” Jewish emigration, primarily to Israel, based on false charges. 

As with the many narratives and stories we share about strength and the triumph of the underdog, women are the often unnoticed and under-celebrated heroes of this story. With the help of our partners at OpenDor Media, we learn more about the women without whom this chapter in our people’s history would look very different. 

As we examine the stories of women like Avital Sharansky and Ida Nudel, we have the opportunity to step into their shoes, discovering our gratitude for their bravery and how we might find it reflected in our own lives:


  1. Avital Sharansky is known as a private woman who always preferred a quiet life, yet she assumed a very public and active role in fighting for her husband’s freedom. How might she have mustered the courage to fill this role when it went against her nature? Was there a time when you had to step up in a way that was challenging for you or be in the limelight against your wishes?
  2. The KGB mocked the “Let My People Go” movement for being comprised of mere “students and housewives.” But it was ultimately these “students and housewives” who brought about significant change and results. Why do you think these groups specifically were so successful? Are you able to take pride in their accomplishments? How might you become involved in a cause about which you’re passionate today? 
  3. What other under-celebrated people in history or in your own life have made a deep impact on you and/or your community? 
  4. What elements of the stories of these people, and the Women of the Refuseniks, make you grateful? How might we share our gratitude publicly in order to elevate these often unnoticed heroes?

We are grateful to our partners at OpenDor Media for contributing this activity.
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