Social Justice & Human Rights in Today’s World: Lessons from my Life as a Dissident
The only living non-American citizen to be awarded both the Congressional Medal of Honor and Presidential Medal of Freedom, Natan Sharansky is heralded the world over for his courageous work as a prisoner of conscience and dissident in the former Soviet Union, working for the rights and freedom of Soviet Jews. A champion of the right of all people to live in freedom and a firm believer that the advancement of human rights is critical to peace and security worldwide, Sharansky has worked with dissident groups in authoritarian regimes for over 20 years. In this moving and compelling program, Sharansky draws on his awe-inspiring first-hand experience to highlight the importance of supporting democratic dissidents to build lasting peace and stable international relations and reveals practical ways in which we can help the struggle for human rights around the globe.
Changing relations between Israel and the Diaspora
Israel's role among the nations – to connect identity and freedom
Anti-Semitism on the left and right – how to recognize it and to fight it
The forgotten lessons of the Cold War and the struggle for the release of Soviet Jewry
Natan Sharansky was born in 1948 in Donetsk, Ukraine. He was a spokesman for the human rights movement, a prisoner of conscience and leader in the struggle for the right of Soviet Jews to immigrate to Israel. Mr. Sharansky was a founding member of the Helsinki Group, which monitored violations of international agreements of different religious and national groups in the Soviet Union. He worked closely with Andrei Sakharov, the renowned Soviet human rights activist, and kept close contact with foreign media beyond the iron curtain.
In 1977, a Soviet newspaper alleged that Mr. Sharansky was collaborating with the CIA. Despite denials from every level of the U.S. Government, Mr. Sharansky was found guilty and sentenced to thirteen years in prison, including solitary confinement and hard labor. In the courtroom prior to the announcement of his verdict, Mr. Sharansky in a public statement said: "To the court I have nothing to say – to my wife and the Jewish people I say "Next Year in Jerusalem". After nine years of imprisonment, due to intense international campaign led by his wife Avital, Mr. Sharansky was released on February 11, 1986, emigrated to Israel, and arrived in Jerusalem on that very day.
Upon his arrival to Israel he became active in the integration of Soviet Jews and formed the Zionist Forum, an umbrella organization of former Soviet activist groups dedicated to helping new Israelis and educating the public about absorption issues. The final chapter of the historic struggle for the release of Soviet Jews was the historic rally of over 250,000 in 1987 during Gorbachev's first visit in Washington of which Natan Sharansky was is the initiator and driving force.
In 1996, he established the Yisrael B'Aliyah party in order to accelerate the integration of new immigrants into Israeli society. He served in four successive Israeli governments as Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.
In 2009, Natan Sharansky was appointed Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The mission of the Jewish Agency is to guarantee the future of the Jewish People by strengthening the connection of every Jew to the State of Israel and to the Jewish People.
In 2018 he received the highest Israeli award - the Israel Prize for promoting Aliyah and the ingathering of the exiles.
Mr. Sharansky is the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is the only living non-American citizen who is the recipient of these two highest American awards.
Most recently, Mr. Sharansky was honored with the Genesis Prize for "his extraordinary lifelong struggle for political and religious freedoms."
He is also the author of three books: Fear No Evil, The Case for Democracy and Defending Identity. He remains a champion of the right of all people to live in freedom and believes that the advancement of human rights is critical to peace and security around the world.