Former Prisoner of Zion Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch received this week the "Jewish Heroism Award" from the Kremlin. He was handed the award by the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar, who gave him the award under the auspices of President Vladimir Putin.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva after his return to Israel, Rabbi Mendelevitch said he accepted the award "on behalf of all the Jews who have given their lives over the last 100 years for G-d, the people and the land."

In 1966, Rabbi Mendelevitch formed a student group of underground Jewish Education in the former USSR and became an editor of an underground newsletter on Jewish issues in 1969.

After being repeatedly refused the right to immigration, he became one of the leaders of the Dymshits–Kuznetsov hijacking affair, an attempt to hijack a small plane from an airport near St. Petersburg as part of the struggle for the free immigration of Soviet Jewry. As punishment, he was imprisoned for eleven years. During the imprisonment he was punished for keeping Jewish precepts and even held a hunger strike for 58 days.

While in prison, Rabbi Mendelevitch met Natan Sharansky. In 1981, after a worldwide struggle, he was released and immigrated to Israel, where he worked for the release of other Prisoners of Zion. For this purpose he met with then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan and other leaders. In 1988, Rabbi Mendelevitch and Sharansky founded the Zionist Forum, in preparation for the future waves of Aliyah from the Soviet Union.