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New York - Washington Heights Street Renamed For Soviet Jewish Activist

Published on: October 19, 2015 02:08 PM
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New York, NY - Cabrini Boulevard and 187th Street in Washington Heights now bears the name of Jacob Birnbaum, a renowned Jewish activist who worked tirelessly to free Soviet Jewry.

Birnbaum’s efforts were remembered Sunday at a street renaming sponsored by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who was joined at the event by Deborah Hes of the Jewish Community Council, Rabbi Ezra Schwartz, and members of the Birnbaum family. The site of the renaming is in the heart of the neighborhood’s Jewish community and was home to Birnbaum for decades.

“It is always an honor and a pleasure to have the ability to use our streets as a reminder of the individuals who brought our communities to where we are today,” Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez said in a press release.

“Jacob Birnbaum was a hero for the thousands of Soviet Jews he helped relocate to escape persecution under the anti-religious Soviet Union. As an activist and human rights leader, Jacob Birnbaum has left a deep and lasting impact upon thousands of lives in our community.”


Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1926, Birnbaum later moved to New York where he became famous for leading demonstrations in support of Soviet Jewry, most notably, the May Day protest, where, for over four hours, thousands of young people marched while chanting, “Let My People Go.” His protests are credited with ultimately enabling 1.5 million Jews to leave the Soviet Union and relocate to Israel and abroad. He died in April 2014 at the age of 90.

“Jacob Birnbaum led American Jews in one of the strongest actions in Washington to save Soviet Jews. His students and his legacy run deep in Washington Heights and throughout the national Jewish Community. Today we honor his legacy and ensure residents decades from now take pride that Jacob Birnbaum was one of their own,” said Debbie Hes, Executive Director of the Washington Heights Jewish Community Council.

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