Donald and Fran Putnoi

Fran and Dr. Donald Putnoi met in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to the Boston area in the 1970s so Donald could attend medical school in ophthalmology. With enthusiasm, Fran became active in Temple Israel of Boston, eventually becoming their first woman president in 1989. Meanwhile, Donald, currently retired, served as an ophthalmologist in Waltham for over 40 years. The couple became active in the movement for Soviet Jewry through their involvement with the Temple and their friendship with Rabbi Bernard Mehlman. They traveled on a mission to the USSR in 1989 with Rabbi Mehlman and also helped resettle newly arrived immigrants.

Scope and Content Note

Fran and Dr. Donald Putnoi discuss their involvement with Action for Soviet Jewry (Now Action for Soviet Jewry) through Rabbi Bernard H. Mehlman. They talk about taking Rabbi Mehlman and Rabbi Ronne Friedman to the airport on their way to the USSR.  The Putnois describe Mehlman’s activism, the preparation and precautions during missions to the USSR, and the food situation in Russia.  The couple describe their encounters with Soviet Jews and the mission group and resettlement effort.  They describe treating patients during the mission and tell stories about the women they met in the USSR.  Fran and Donald describe Donald’s “Cars for Borscht” initiative and building connections with important women.  They talk about Ben Charny’s arrival in the US with his family.  Ms. Putnoi talks about driving Soviet Jews around Boston.  Finally, Fran and Dr. Donald Putnoi reflect on their activism and organizing for Soviet Jews in the United States.


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How to cite this page

Oral History of Donald and Fran Putnoi. Interviewed by Gabriel Weinstein. 4 November 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 26, 2024) <>.

Oral History of Donald and Fran Putnoi by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at