Wiesel, Sharansky address JFNA General Assembly

Elie Wiesel and Natan Sharansky reflected on the 1987 March on Washington for Soviet Jewry during a special plenary session of the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly.

The discussion Nov. 12 in Baltimore featuring Wiesel, a Nobel laureate, and Sharansky, a Soviet refusenik who planned the historic march that helped free Soviet Jewry, was moderated by Laura Bialis, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and founder of the Foundation for Documentary Projects. Sharansky is now the chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

During the assembly, which ended Nov. 13, the first-ever report on inclusion of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders within Jewish organizations in North America was released during a special reception. The survey showed that 50 percent of Jewish communal organizations have taken significant steps to welcome gays and lesbians and their families.

Michael Siegal of Cleveland was installed as the new board chair of JFNA.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the conference in a taped message.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, served as scholar-in-residence for the gathering. — jta