Called “the general of a fighting army” by jailed dissident Natan Sharansky, Pamela Cohen rescued countless refuseniks from Soviet Russia with her grassroots efforts. Cohen grew up on tales of one grandparent who escaped the Czar’s army and another who survived pogroms. When she heard that Jews were being jailed in the USSR for their beliefs, she felt a moral responsibility to avert another tragedy. She created the satellite office of Chicago Action for Soviet Jewry and eventually became president of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews. She testified before Congress and participated in briefings on Soviet emigration and state-sponsored anti-Semitism for President Reagan and Secretaries of State Schultz, Baker, and Condoleeza Rice. Her army of students and housewives became advocates for Soviet Jews; they “adopted” specific refuseniks to raise American awareness of their plight and help them emigrate.
Pamela Cohen was honored at the 2005 Women Who Dared event in Chicago.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Pamela Cohen." (Viewed on March 21, 2023) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/cohen-pamela>.