Faith in the Power of Freedom
A lecture on the Faith of Ronald Reagan
Chairperson of the Executive
Jewish Agency for Israel
In partnership with The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation Centennial Celebration.
JAMES R. WILBURN
Tuesday, September, 13, 2011
Presidential Learning Center
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Natan Sharansky is the chairperson of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He is a Soviet dissident and former prisoner who has credited Ronald Reagan's faith, moral clarity, and courage in the freedom of Russian immigrants who fled to Israel.
Born in 1948 in Ukraine, Sharansky graduated from the Physical Technical Institute in Moscow and immediately became a human rights activist and known as the spokesperson for the Helsinki movement. At this time, Sharansky was denied an exit visa to Israel and in 1977 was accused of collaborating with the Central Intelligence Agency. Despite denials from the U.S. Government, he was found guilty and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Due to intense international pressure from Ronald Reagan, Sharansky was released in 1986, emigrated to Israel, and arrived in Jerusalem on the same day, becoming active in the integration of Soviet Jews and forming the Zionist Forum. He cofounded Peace Watch, an independent nonpartisan group committed to monitoring the compliance to agreements signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and also served as associate editor of the Jerusalem Report. In 1996, Sharansky founded the political party Yisral B’Aliya, established to accelerate the absorption of the massive numbers of Russian immigrants into Israeli society and to maximize their contribution. From 1996-2005, he served as minister, as well as deputy prime minister of Israel. Sharansky was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1986 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. He is the author of several books including his memoir of his time as a prisoner, Fear No Evil, published in the United States and has been translated into nine languages.