When They Come For Us We'll Be Gone


The riveting story, never before told, of the
three-decade struggle that became a global cause.

At the end of World War II, three million Jews were trapped inside the Soviet Union. They lived a paradox—unwanted by a repressive Stalinist state, yet forbidden to leave. When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone is the astonishing and inspiring story of their rescue.

Journalist Gal Beckerman draws on newly released Soviet government documents as well as hundreds of oral interviews with refuseniks, activists, Zionist “hooligans,” and Congressional staffers. He shows not only how the movement led to a mass exodus in 1989, but also how it shaped the American Jewish community, giving it a renewed sense of spiritual purpose and teaching it to flex its political muscle. He also makes a convincing case that the movement put human rights at the center of American foreign policy for the very first time, helping to end the Cold War.

In cinematic detail, the book introduces us to all the major players, from the flamboyant Meir Kahane, head of the para-military Jewish Defense League, to Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky, who labored in a Siberian prison camp for over a decade, to Lynn Singer, the small, fiery Long Island housewife who went from organizing local rallies to strong-arming Soviet diplomats. This multi-generational saga, filled with suspense and packed with revelations, provides an essential missing piece of Cold War and Jewish history.

Additional Links

 A Q&A with Gal about the book

Read the prologue from When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone

Listen to a podcast about the book

Watch a video trailer set in Brighton Beach


New York Times Op-Ed

Gal's Op-Ed marking the 40th anniversary of the Leningrad Hijacking – and a compact introduction to the book. 

Read it Here


Praise & REviews


National Jewish Book Award, Best Book of the Year



Barnes & Noble, Holiday Discover Great New Writers



New Yorker, Favorite Book of the Year



Washington Post,Best Book of the Year


“Fresh, surprising and exceedingly well-researched…Beckerman wants to ensure that the story of this epic struggle isn’t forgotten, and I hope that, with this excellent book, he succeeds.”

—Anne Applebaum, The Washington Post


“Wide-ranging and often moving.”

The New Yorker


"Gal Beckerman has written the Parting the Waters of the Jewish experience. In this stirring epic — intellectually brilliant, historically authoritative and emotionally heartfelt in equal measure — he has chronicled one of the great liberation struggles of modern times. And he has placed himself at the apex of his generation of nonfiction writers."

—Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times Columnist and author of Jew vs. Jew


Superb and likely definitive”

—Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic


" a stirring heroic chronicle."

—Cynthia Ozick


Additional Praise & Reviews