Beginning in 1971, the Soviet police repeatedly arrested Yosef Begun for his involvement in teaching Hebrew, his connections with other Jewish dissidents, and his application to emigrate to Israel. Thanks to American pressure, he was released from his final imprisonment at the beginning of 1988 and since then has lived in Israel. In an interview with David Samuels, he tells how he was first drawn to the underground Jewish revival in the USSR, a process that began when he met an older man who offered to teach him Hebrew:
How Secret Hebrew Lessons Turned a Soviet Jew into a Leader of the Refusenik Movement
At America’s Best Universities, Biblical Religion Is a Curiosity, if Not a Menace
At the time of Columbia University’s founding in 1784, notes Meir Soloviechik, the leader of the local synagogue, Gershom Mendes Seixas, was made a member of its board of regents. A Jewish student even gave a commencement address, composed by Seixas, in Hebrew. In the 20th century, Columbia attracted numerous Jews with the relaxation of quotas, and was the first secular university to create a chair in Jewish history. Barnard College, Columbia’s all-women’s school, was itself founded by a Jewish woman, and today has a large number of Orthodox Jewish students.