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Chicago-based organization to help Jews in former Soviet Union to close

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Chicago Action for Jews in the Former Soviet Union will close its doors due to financial difficulties caused by the recession, according to this press release:

Highland Park, IL, March 15, 2010:  After 38 years of devoted service to Jews in the Former Soviet Union, Chicago Action is closing its doors at the end of May, 2010.

Chicago Action, like many other small charities, has found it difficult to fundraise during these challenging economic times.  These financial realities have forced the closing.

Chicago Action is a grass-roots non-profit organization that has advocated for Jews in the Former Soviet Union over the past four decades.  The current mission of the organization is Jewish education and identity building, as well as humanitarian aid for Jews in the FSU.

For the first twenty years of its existence, Chicago Action mobilized local Jews to advocate and provide for the Soviet Jews who needed help. Its most recent focus has been to support Jews in the Former Soviet Union through Jewish identity building for youth and humanitarian aid for the elderly.

In 1972 Chicago Action was formed after the American Jewish community began hearing whispers from behind the Iron Curtain that Jews still existed and needed help.  Anti-Semitism was fierce and prohibitions against religious education and expression prevented Jews from engaging in a Jewish cultural or religious life.  Jews who wished to emigrate were refused permission by the government.

By 1978, under the powerful leadership of Pam Cohen and Marillyn Tallman, Chicago Action began to mobilize the Jewish Community to help the Jews of the Soviet Union to leave the country. Their advocacy included contacting government leaders, organizing pickets, coordinating massive letter-writing campaigns and sending hundreds of tourists with film, cameras, clothing, medicines, and coded messages to deliver to the Refuseniks.

In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chicago Action created a program calledYad L’Yad (“Hand to Hand”).  Over the last 18 years Marillyn Tallman and Susan Futterman have paired more than 60 small Jewish communities in the Former Soviet Union with committed American synagogues.

Each participating congregation generously donated funds and in-kind donations, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and warm clothing, and maintained close communications and friendships with their partners in the FSU.

Chicago Action would like to publicly thank its supporters for their dedication to Chicago Action and the Jewish people in the Former Soviet Union. “We could not have accomplished these goals without the unfailing efforts and generous assistance from all our supporters,” said Susan Futterman. 

For information, contact www.chicagoaction.org, email officecasj@ameritech.net or call 847.579.8444.

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