Triumph Over Tyranny: The Heroic Campaigns that Saved 2,000,000 Jews

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Feedback from Reviewers

The Jewish Eye described TRIUMPH OVER TYRANNY as "a moving and detailed account of the quest by Soviet Jews to leave the Soviet Union..."
See the full review at

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President and Founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, issued the following message on the fellowship's website, on April 17, 2009:

Remembering A Modern-Day Exodus

RYEApril 17, 2009

Dear Friend of Israel,

The sacred Jewish holiday of Passover is one of the pivotal festivals of the Jewish year, during which we remember our passage from bondage into freedom in biblical times.

As I reflect on the story of the Israelites' deliverance from bondage in Egypt, I am always reminded of the fact that the Jewish people have experienced many "exoduses." Throughout history, Jews have sought to escape countries where they have lived in oppressive circumstances to seek freedom in Israel, their biblical and historic homeland.

Now a new book chronicles one of the greatest of those movements. Triumph Over Tyranny by Philip Spiegel is the first complete account of the monumental effort to rescue Jews living under oppression in the Soviet Union prior to the fall of Communism.

What was life in the Soviet Union like for these exiles? In the foreward to Triumph Over Tyranny Natan Sharansky, a Russian Jew and well-known dissident who spent many years in prison for challenging his country’s oppressive policies, tells of his experience:

    Growing up in Communist Russia, the narrative of the Jewish people was almost completely unknown to me. This was not by accident: The Communist regime had declared a decades-long war against Jewish identity in all its forms. There were mass executions of Jewish intellectuals and community leaders. Our synagogues and schools were shut down. Any public expression of Jewish identification was met with swift and savage punishment; any chance of reconnecting with our Jewish brothers and sisters beyond the Iron Curtain seemed as likely as the parting of the Red Sea.

Indeed, few could have predicted the events that would eventually lead to the doors of freedom opening for Soviet Jews events recounted so powerfully in Triumph Over Tyranny by Philip Spiegel. News of Israel's amazing victory in the 1967 Six Day War eventually penetrated the Iron Curtain and emboldened ever-growing numbers of Jews to speak out against oppression. In turn, Jews worldwide responded by raising money and staging protests demanding freedom for these people who had suffered so greatly for so long. The resulting movement played a part in toppling the evil Communist regime, which paved the way for Soviet Jews, who had for so long dreamed of coming to Israel, to finally reach the Promised Land.

Spiegel also readily acknowledges in his book that Christians, working through The Fellowship's On Wings of Eagles program, played a key part in the "exodus" of Jews from the Soviet Union that followed the fall of Communism. Though its mission has expanded to reach out to oppressed Jewish populations throughout the world, Wings was initially launched to bring these oppressed people to freedom in Israel. I am proud to say that the response by our donors to this initiative was overwhelming.

I strongly urge you to read Spiegel’s book, Triumph Over Tyranny. I think you'll find it a sobering account of the ravages of anti-Semitism, as well as an uplifting story of God's favor toward His people and the good that can be accomplished when ordinary people stand up to confront evil and help the oppressed.

And please consider making a generous gift today to On Wings of Eagles.. Throughout the world in the former Soviet Union, South America, Ethiopia, India, and elsewhere there are still Jewish populations living in poverty and with the daily threat of anti-Semitic persecution. In these critical times, the work of Wings is as important as it was 20 years ago.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein


The following reviews are posted on

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history of the Soviet Jewry movement, January 26, 2009
As an individual closely involved in the Soviet Jewry movement from 1964 to the opening of the USSR's iron gates in the 1990s, I found "Triumph Over Tyranny" the best overall history so far published. It's wide-ranging, extremely well-documented and touches on many of the "refuseniks" and Prisoners of Conscience denied emigration by the Kremlin. It also gives a very good feel of the grassroots nature of the American movement to free Soviet Jews; that movement gave Congress and the White House through successive administrations the political will to pressure Moscow to free its Jews. The Soviet Jewry movement is a prime case study proving that determined people, with the assistance of foreign support, can win their liberation even against a mighty power.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, March 24, 2009
By  donna "Donna" (San Diego) - See all my reviews
As a person deeply involved on behalf of Soviet Jewry in the l980s, it was a pleasure for me to read this excellent book. The author has provided information with which i had no personal knowledge. Many of the individuals are personally known to me, and it is so very important that this book records their history. For those looking for a well-written survey history, this is definitely the book for you ! My thanks to the author for a great read. Donna

From Booklist, the magazine of the American Library Association:

Spiegel recounts many of the clandestine activities of the Chabad movement to keep Judaism alive in the Soviet Union during the regimes of Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev. Spiegel writes of the Israeli government’s secret missions to contact and aid Soviet Jews in their efforts to immigrate to Israel. Citing recently translated KGB documents, the book describes how leaders in the Kremlin rationalized their cruel and oppressive actions. Part 1 relates the efforts to save the “Jews of silence” from 1920 to 1967. Part 2 tells of the Soviet Jewish resistance and renaissance from 1967 to 1990. Part 3 deals with the so-called human rights connection (1968–1986). Part 4 describes support groups in the Free World (1967–2007). Part 5 concerns American legislative and diplomatic support (1972–2007), and part 6 covers post-Soviet campaigns (1991–2007). The book is a compelling read. — George Cohen


From a retired Stanford University librarian:

Dear Phil

After listening to the inspiring talk that you gave at the Newton Public library, I just had to buy a copy of Triumph Over Tyranny.  Reading the book more than lived up to your presentation.  Each chapter told more amazing stories.  It is a treasure of a book.  In these times when the news media and writers are so often focused on the evil people do to one another, your refreshing book concentrates on the power of good.  What a great lesson: that righteous individuals with determination, effort, and vision can vanquish a great evil.  I love your story, because you have created a blueprint that spells out how single people coming together can repair the world.  How we need this if humanity is to survive!
Thank you for writing it.
Sally Wieder


From the former chairperson of the Documentation Committee of the South Florida Conference on Soviet Jewry:

The Soviet Jewry movement of the late 20th century was a modern day miracle. And Phil Spiegel's account of the phenomenon is most complete and enjoyable. Triumph Over Tyranny is an exciting and uplifting read. In describing the heroic campaign that saved 2 million Soviet Jews, he inspires us all to further our social action activities in all fields of endeavor.

Margery Sanford



The following endorsements appear on the book’s jacket:

"The best reason to record and remember how Soviet Jews were saved is to be prepared to act again when the need arises. If we are ever to live in a civilized world, what was accomplished for the Soviet Jews must become the rule rather than the exception. We must not only preach the doctrine of human rights, we must learn how actually to be our brother's keeper."

- George P. Shultz, 60th U.S. Secretary of State (addressing the American Jewish Historical Society in 2007)

“…efforts being done today to preserve the memory, including this important book by Philip Spiegel, are so crucial to make sure that the story of the struggle and its lessons are kept alive.

- Natan Sharansky, former Prisoner of Zion and Israeli Cabinet Minister; Chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies

“Philip Spiegel has written a fascinating account of one of the great human rights struggles of our time, the struggle of the Jews of the Soviet Union to be able to live in a land where being Jewish would not be a burden or a crime.”

- Sir Martin Gilbert, Author of seventy-two books, Winston Churchill's official biographer, and one of Britain's leading historians

"Spiegel illuminates a "tipping point" for global Jewish peoplehood where pro-activity, idealism and creative activism converge.”

- Wayne Firestone, President, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life

“A well researched book and a powerful story that should remind us that freedom is not a given, and that the thirst for it can defeat the strongest regimes in the darkest of times.”

- Wyatt Andrews, CBS News correspondent

“Philip Spiegel brings to life an important chapter of modern Jewish history that is too often forgotten: The extraordinary efforts of Jews in the West to save the Jews of the Soviet Union from extinction. This detailed account of Jewish mobilization in Europe, Canada, and the United States makes fascinating and inspiring reading.”

- Prof. Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

The following excerpts are from comments by individuals who reviewed drafts of chapters in which they were personally involved.

“I am deeply impressed and overwhelmed reading the overview and the Chapter 11 of your book. The job that you fulfilled was absolutely incredible!”

- Mark Berenfeld, Former refusenik seminar leader

“I am enthralled by your research and your detailed presentation. I thank you for the efforts you have expanded to bring this subject to the public. Please let me know when the book is officially published and how I can purchase a few copies.”

- Victor Borden, M.D., Medical Mobilization for Soviet Jews

“Excellent! I'm so glad someone is bringing all the parts together.”

- Jack Cohen, Founder, Committee of Concerned Scientists

“I read the chapter you sent and was very impressed with the scope of your research and accuracy of your account of the events covered. I was privileged to play a role in this historic movement and am honored to be included and quoted in your book. I look forward to the issuance of the book so that I can buy some copies for my grandchildren so they can see how a small group of ordinary people can spawn and foster a major and successful worldwide movement to help free oppressed people. Thanks for doing the important work of chronicling this unprecedented effort.”

- William Cohen, Founder, Center for Human Rights Advocacy

“I appreciate very much your kindness in sending to me the excellent chapter in your book on Soviet Jewry.”

- Robert F. Drinan, S. J., now deceased, former Member of Congress

“I just finished it and I am speechless! What a wonderful job you have done and how much effort was spent on it. It brought back so many memories and even gave me so much that I had forgotten or never knew. This is a book that was sorely needed and I salute you for having done it. Thank you, thank you, thank you! In the years or centuries to come, when the Haggadah of the 2nd Exodus will be written and recited, your book will be a major resource and inspiration.”

- Si Frumkin, Founder, Southern California Council for Soviet Jews

“Thank you very much for sharing with me your well written Chapter 24. George Shultz and Richard Schifter deserve all the credit we can give them. They made a great team together and both worked independently as well in advancing the cause of human dignity.”

- Ambassador Max Kampelman

“You obviously have done a huge amount of work researching and preparing this manuscript and you have the most wonderful easy style. The book is going to be a great read. I cannot wait to get a copy.”

- Helene Kenvin, Founder, The Caucasus Network

“This is an impressive work. You do a great job capturing the emotion and determination of the key players.”

- Pnina Levermore, Executive Director, Climate of Trust Council

“I read the chapter right away, and it was engrossing reading! I think you have done a great service, and I will really look forward to the appearance of your book.”

- Rabbi Sheldon Lewis, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Kol Emeth, Palo Alto, CA

"Thanks much. It's fascinating!"

- Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Principal of Ramaz School, New York

“Congratulations - it's a great effort! I'm really proud of your work - it's so necessary.”

- Kathryn Cameron Porter, President, Leadership Council for Human Rights

“Kol Hakavod! on a job well done.”

- Moshe Pripstein, Founder, Scientists for Sakharov, Orlov, and Sharansky

“What a treasure trove!!! The classes went extremely well, in no small part thanks to your help. The kids learned a LOT, and took it all to heart. As I've said, most of them are Russian Jewish emigres (though none are children of Refuseniks), and I think it came as a huge revelation and surprise to them what their parents and grandparents had gone through in the former Soviet Union. Several of them began to offer stories from their parents - which also warmed my heart - it meant that they were telling their parents about what they'd learned in school that day, encouraging the parents to share stories with their offspring. I never could have done it without your book, and I hope that the book is in print by next spring so I can use it with my class - maybe even get a classroom set of the books for them to read chapters from. The wonderful advantage of your book is that is presents the core material in an engaging way. The other sources I'd used were either too abbreviated, or so dry and academic that even I had trouble wading through them.”

- Mimi Real, History teacher, Hebrew Academy of San Francisco

“I can’t wait to read the rest of the book. It’s very exciting!”

- David Selikowitz, Founder, Comité des Quinze, Paris

“Thank you very much for sending me the text. I am impressed with the result.”

- Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, Founder, Green Cross International

“Good stuff and a good read!”

- David Waksberg, Former Executive Director, Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews

“I think the chapter is great. I think you capture the essence of the UCSJ and its evolution into a vital part of the successful end result of the movement. That is precious. I am really looking forward to reading the whole thing. This is an important work.”

- Zev Yaroslavsky, Supervisor, Los Angeles County

“I was very much impressed how accurate and captivating was this chapter, and I have read a lot of stuff on the topic. I think the description of the trial was very powerful and emotional. My 20 year old son really liked it. It was very passionate and moving.”

- Israel Zalmanson, Former Prisoner of Conscience