During the Cold War anti-Jewish sentiment was again on the rise, with the Jews cast as suspected enemies of the state. As a result, Jews were refused entrance to universities, government positions and certain professions.
The term “Refusenik” refers to the Jews who applied for visas to leave the U.S.S.R., which were denied. In retaliation, they were stripped of their jobs and dignity, spied upon and forced to live in a limbo where they did not belong in the U.S.S.R., nor were they allowed to leave. What began as student protests and an underground resistance movement within the U.S.S.R. morphed into a worldwide mission to end the mistreatment of Soviet Jews.
More historical background on the treatment of Jews in Russia and a greater sense of the history behind the movement in support of the Refuseniks, would have been informative. Also, while sympathetic to the struggles of the Jews under the U.S.S.R., some people may have difficulty with the film’s strong Zionist sentiment. But as a historical document of a time when human rights rose to the forefront of international policies worldwide, Refusenik is both educational and inspiring.
Refusenik releases in select theaters May 23.