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Si Frumkin, 78, Dachau Survivor Shamed the Free World to Free Soviet Jews

Si Frumkin burning a Soviet Flag outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles. Where have all the great Jewish activists gone?
This picture of Si Frumkin inspires me. Today when Jewish groups rally to Israel’s aid, we are lucky if there is an inspiring word said. Ok, perhaps that is an exaggeration. But between the ambivalence of the Jewish community over Israel’s use of force in defending herself, and the Jewish communities fear of attracting too much attention from the Gentiles, Israel rallies on the West Coast are not what the Soviet Jewry Rallies of Si’s generation were.

I am hoping to change that. Stay tuned.

The LA Times honored Si with this Obituary:

By Jon Thurber
May 18, 2009
In the late 1960s, as reports of repression of Soviet Jews began to increase, a question began filtering to the West: “Why have you forgotten us?”

Si Frumkin, a survivor of Dachau and a prominent Los Angeles textile manufacturer, heard the question and it reminded him of the days before the Holocaust.

A man of direct action, Frumkin founded the Southern California Council for Soviet Jews in 1968 and over the next two decades would not leave the issue alone. For years his inventive activism could be found in protests at a variety of Soviet cultural events.

When the Bolshoi Ballet came to town, he distributed fake programs outside the Shrine Auditorium telling folks to enjoy the show but added a message about repression. When Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev visited President Nixon at the Western White House in San Clemente, Frumkin released 5,000 balloons with the message “Let My People Go.” He hired a helicopter to fly over the Super Bowl with a banner: “Save Soviet Jewry.”

Frumkin, who did more than anyone else in the United States to focus attention on the struggle of Soviet Jews, died Friday of cancer at Providence Tarzana Medical Center. He was 78.

6 Comments

  1. A Soldier's Mother

    5/19/2009 at 5:31 am

    May his memory be blessed and may he find the peace he was denied in this life. May he know that he left this world a better place for having been here and shown us the definition of courage and standing true.

  2. Vicki

    5/19/2009 at 6:03 am

    May he rest in peace. I didn’t know about him before, but if he brought the Soviet Jewry cause to national U.S. attention, then big kudos to him. Double points for burning the USSR flag WITH sunglasses on.

  3. Dean Hughson

    5/19/2009 at 9:02 am

    I was a friend of Si’s and knew him well. He was a hero to all who knew him. Si knew how to do what it took to get the need for helping Soviet Jews (and Christian Pentacostals also)known. He was a great thinker of ways to accomplish this. He wasn’t above driving the Soviet officials crazy at the same time. May he rest in peace. He was a great man.

  4. Ben-David

    5/19/2009 at 12:12 pm

    Wow. What a great Jew.

    And why does this part of the obituary sound sadly familiar:

    He tried to engage the local Jewish Federation Council to take an activist role in the name of Soviet Jewry but was met with resounding silence. He was told not to rock the boat as the U.S. was trying to achieve a level of rapprochement with the Soviet Union.

    – – – – – – –

    … hey middle, that paragraph is all you need to know about Obama and Bibi… and American Jews.

  5. Radka

    5/20/2009 at 7:54 am

    Well, burning flags always helps, I guess. Like, say, burning US flags really helped those poor Iraqis. And burning Israeli flags (again and again and AGAIN ad nauseum for the past 60 years) has done wonders in alleviating the misery of the Palestinians.

  6. kal

    5/20/2009 at 12:33 pm

    Tehei Nishmato Tzrurah b’Tzror haChayim,v’Zichrono liBracha.

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