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The first time I worked as a volunteer for an international human rights organization, more than 15 years ago, I was sent to an Eastern European country to be a “presence” at a trial of some dissidents. My host there took me to meet members of the local Helsinki network. We walked down narrow streets, doubled back, entered a grim housing project, took various paths, entered one building and later exited, checked whether we were being followed, and finally knocked on the door of an apartment. Its occupants were delighted to see my companion, who introduced me as a new emissary from human rights bringing news from New York. Unsure of what to say at first, I let her do the talking. One of the Helsinki people asked if I knew Jeri Laber. At that time I did not know her, although I knew many of her associates. Silence fell; suspicion was palpable. My companion tried to explain that I was new to the work and all that, but the frost barely thawed. The implication was clear that if I did not know Jeri Laber, I could hardly be the real thing.

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