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Kislev 15

Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi (135 - ca. 220 CE), also known as Rabbi Judah the Prince. He was leader of the Jewish people during the period following the destruction of the Second Temple. Rabbi Yehudah developed a close friendship with the ruling Roman authorities, and was able to secure various benefits for the Jewish community. His greatest achievement was to compile the Mishnah, the Jewish legal teachings which until then had been taught orally, from teacher to student. But with persecutions and exile threatening to break down that chain of transmission, Rabbi Yehudah took the bold step of writing the Mishnah in its final form. He is credited with the wise and humble saying: "I learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, but most of all I learned from my students."

Also on this date, in 1987, more than 200,000 American Jews marched on Washington to demand that Soviet Jews be allowed to emigrate and practice their faith. The rally was timed to coincide with a meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Russian Jews like Natan Sharansky, Yosef Mendelovich and hundreds of others were imprisoned for the mere act of applying for an exit visa. Their plight, met with indifference by much of the Western world, spawned a massive activist effort on behalf of Soviet Jewry. In the 1970s, when the Soviet Bolshoi Ballet performed in the U.S., they were greeted by Jewish pickets demanding rights for Soviet Jews. In 1974, the U.S. Congress passed the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which linked trade with Russia to freedom of emigration for Soviet Jews. The struggle for Soviet Jewry continued throughout the 1980s, and it was not until the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991, that the gates opened to the emigration of some one million Jews.

Article 75 of 356 in the series Day in Jewish History

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