Shortlist year: 2016

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: Hybrid Publishers


During the Cold War, the Communist leadership of the Soviet Union closed down many Jewish organisations and declared Zionism an ideological enemy. Soviet Jews often suffered hardships, not being allowed to enlist in universities, work in certain professions or participate in government. Because of this, for three critical decades, Australian Jews and their community leaders were deeply involved in the international campaign to enable Jews to leave the oppressive Soviet Union.

Lipski and Rutland make this largely unknown history come alive with a combination of passion, personal experience, and ground-breaking research.

About the author

Sam Lipski AM & Suzanne D Rutland OAM

Sam Lipski AM is a distinguished Australian journalist. He has worked for The AgeThe BulletinThe Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald, and was the Australian Jewish News editor-chief 1987–98.

Suzanne D. Rutland OAM is Professor of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney and the main lecturer in the program of Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Cultures. She has published widely on Australian Jewish history.

Judges’ comments

Sam Lipski AM and Suzanne D. Rutland OAM have produced a path-breaking book about the struggles of the Soviet 'refuseniks'. Replete with new information, Let My People Go draws on a vast array of primary and secondary sources. These include ASIO files, Rutland's painstaking research on Australia and Soviet Jewry, as well as unfettered access to the massive archive about the Campaign for Soviet Jewry of Lipskis friend Isi Leibler.

Although the title Let My People Go refers to the wider story inside the Soviet Union and internationally, and also illuminates the extent of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, this compelling book has an Australian focus and perspective. Australian supporters of the cause of Soviet Jewry included some Coalition and Labor politicians, academics, trade union leaders as well as most sections of the Jewish community.

Thoroughly researched and superbly written, Let My People Go is a revealing and important account of human achievement against the odds.