Refuseniks campaigner Isi Leibler dies aged 86

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Refuseniks campaigner Isi Leibler dies aged 86

He was one of the first to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by Jews wanting to leave the Soviet Union

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

Lone Voice, The Wars of Isi Leibler, by Suzanne Rutland, is published by Gefen Books 
Isi Leibler

Australian activist Isi Leibler, who helped lead an international campaign to release Soviet Jews who were denied exit visas, has died aged 86.

He is credited for being one of the first people to raise wider awareness of the refuseniks’ plight.

Leibler’s press and lobbying campaign, which began with an article in 1959, resulted in Australia becoming the first country to raise awareness of Soviet Jewry as a human rights issue in parliament and at the United Nations.

His nephew Jeremy Leibler, who is now president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, said he had shown how one individual “can indeed change the world”.

“That is exactly what Isi achieved in the role he played in the fight to free Soviet Jewry,” Jeremy Leibler said.

Isi with Menachem Begin

“He was fearless and uncompromising in his dedication to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

“He enjoyed success in all aspects of his life but his passion was always defending the Jewish people and ensuring the centrality of the State of Israel to Jewish life in the Diaspora.”

Leibler would go on to campaign on the issue of Soviet Jewry throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

This story is being updated by Jewish News journalists.

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