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Showing posts with label JPEF. Show all posts
Showing posts with label JPEF. Show all posts

Friday, October 19, 2012

Actor Liev Schreiber Narrates Documentary “The Reunion” – World Premiere to Be Held in New York at Paley Center for Media

NEW YORK CITY – October 19, 2012 – The Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation (JPEF), an organization dedicated to inspiring the next generation by teaching the history and life lessons of Jewish partisans, will host the premier of its latest documentary “The Reunion”, narrated by actor Liev Schreiber who portrayed Jewish resistance fighter, Zus Bielski, in the film Defiance. The premiere will be held at the Paley Center for Media on October 22.

The documentary was inspired last fall, when JPEF hosted a reunion for all surviving Jewish partisans in New York City. 55 Jewish partisans attended the event, WCBS Anchor Dana Tyler was the emcee and actor Ed Asner gave a special presentation.

Allen Small and Leon Bakst were close friends growing up in Poland, both fought against the Nazis as Jewish partisans, and each lost their families during the Holocaust. They said goodbye, for what they thought was the last time, 66 years ago in a displaced persons camp in Germany. Their story unfolds in The Reunion, written and produced by JPEF’s executive director, Mitch Braff.

"This is an important story that must be told. I was happy to contribute to The Reunion, in hopes of helping ensure more people learn what the Jewish partisans went through and the incredible things they accomplished," said Schreiber. "Working on Defiance was a powerful and very personal experience for me. It was the beginning of an awareness and commitment that I'm certain will be with me for the rest of my life."

JPEF develops free educational materials for schools on the 30,000 Jews who fought against the Nazis as partisans. The Jewish partisans saved thousands of lives and destroyed thousands of German trains and convoys. Small, who now lives in Florida, Bakst, who now lives in Texas, and other partisans - including Frank Blaichman and Romi Cohn from New York, as well as Leah Johnson from Florida – are featured in the film. The movie answers questions about their very challenging life experiences.

Ticket sales can be purchased either on site or online at All proceeds from the ticket sales go towards developing JPEF’s curriculum. Members of the press, partisans and their families are invited to attend complimentary. A preview of the film can be seen at

About Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation:
JPEF is a not for profit organization and is the only association in the world solely committed to teaching the history and life lessons of the 30,000 Jews who fought back as partisans during World War II. More than 6,500 schools and synagogues worldwide use the organization’s free curriculum targeted for 7th-12th grades. Our mission is to develop and distribute effective educational materials about the Jewish partisans and their life lessons, bringing the celebration of heroic resistance against tyranny into educational and cultural organizations. For more information about the organization, the curriculum, to connect with other partisans or to donate, please visit

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New JPEF Curricula, Film and E-Learning 2.0 for 2012-2013

Here’s a sneak peak at just some of what JPEF has planned for the coming school year in 2012-2013:

  • New Curricula – including Tactics of Resistance and a new How-To series, starting with Strengthening Jewish Pride
  • E-Learning 2.0 – Improved interface, professional development units and new courses
  • New FilmThe Reunion: Jewish partisans from around the world gather and share their stories – including two friends who reunite for the first time in 65 years
  • New Workshops and Pilot Programs

New Curricula
Tactics of Resistance

When is violence is an appropriate response to Aggression (if ever)? Was non-violence effective during the Holocaust? Expand your students’ vocabulary and creative/critical thinking around the spectrum of violent and non-violent resistance to aggression today (globally and in our own lives) through the lens of Jews who fought back against the Holocaust. Includes an overview of Jewish armed and unarmed resistance during the Holocaust.

Painting on the right by Mieczyslaw Watorski, courtesy of the Holocaust Library & Resource Center at Albright College.

How to Use JPEF Materials to…

JPEF is launching a new series of educator’s guides on how to use our materials for specific subjects and contexts such as Language Arts, Tolerance and Civics classes. Our first module, Strengthening Jewish Identity includes discussion questions to go with our films, tips for increasing Jewish pride, and an index of materials best suited to day schools, summer camps, supplementary programs, youth groups and more.

Workshops and Pilot Programs

E-Learning 2.0

Draft screenshot of our new E-Learning interfaceOver 89% of educators who have take a JPEF E-Learning course said they would take another and 97% would recommend it to a colleague. Now the State of New Jersey Holocaust Commission is offering professional development units for each course, and we’re working on more certifications. We’re also developing new courses for our upcoming curricula and other projects.

The Reunion

In November 2011, JPEF honored more than 55 surviving Jewish partisans in a series of events in New York City. JPEF’s newest documentary, "The Reunion," features candid conversations about the responsibilities of being one of the last Holocaust survivors, and moments of joy as former resistance fighters see each other for the first time in over 65 years. "The Reunion" tells the story of lifelong bonds and a unique legacy that connects people across decades and generations.

  • The Reunion premieres in New York, San Francisco and Miami with an additional screening in Dallas, and will eventually be featured on our website
  • For more information about the film, please visit our Reunion page.

Allen and Leon at the JPEF Partisan Tribute Dinner

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Youth Writing Contest Profile: Micaela Shulman and her teacher, Rabbi Sanford Akselrad

To continue our JPEF Youth Writing Contest winner profile series, this week we spotlight 3rd place lower division winner Micaela Shulman and her teacher, Rabbi Sanford Akselrad of Congregation Ner Tamid in Nevada. (To see last week’s post, click here.)

Micaela’s essay contemplates our capacity and will for survival, also touching upon themes of camaraderie and gender integration. “War cannot belong to one gender,” she writes, positing that part of the reason for the partisans’ ultimate success in surviving was their willingness to fight and live alongside women. In her essay, Micaela attempts to straddle the divide between individualism and humankind’s more collectivist impulses, such as love:

"The story of the women partisans was a different one compared to others I've been taught before. Somehow, the lessons in school failed to convey the bleak humanity reflected in the video that served as an inspiration for the contest. It has taught me that one is really alone in the world, and that it's up to them to save themselves and the people they love. It's this dichotomy of love and independence that helped me to better understand life."

A gifted writer like Micaela could have found no better mentor than Rabbi Sanford Akselrad, the accomplished leader of Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson, Nevada for almost two and a half decades. Since he took up the position, the temple has grown from just over 60 families to be the largest Reform congregation in Nevada. For him, the Youth Writing Contest is an excellent tool for connecting students to the history of the Holocaust:

"Entering JPEF's Youth Writing Contest allows students to connect with greater depth and understanding to the reality of the Holocaust. It shows them that there were Jews that fought back against the Nazis and other aggressors. Too often we focus only upon the Jews as victims and become mired in the question ‘why didn't they fight back?’ - a complex question that requires a great deal of consideration. Learning about the Jewish partisans provides teens with a different insight and the Youth Writing Contest allows them to celebrate these remarkable Jewish heroes."

Thanks again to Micaela, Rabbi Akselrad, and Congregation Ner Tamid for participating, and we look forward to reading their students’ essays next year!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Youth Writing Contest Profile: Josh Gale and his teacher, Robin Stanton

Last week, we posted the reflections and photos of this year's upper division contest winner Leah LeVine and her teacher Jaclyn Guzman (which you can read here). This week, we feature second place winner Josh Gale and his English teacher, Robin Stanton of Solomon Schechter High School in Glen Cove, NY.

From the outset, Josh had a solid idea of what he wanted to write about: Solomon Schechter’s annual trip to Poland – an opportunity for upper-class students to immerse themselves in the history of the Holocaust by visiting museums and monuments such as Auschwitz and the Warsaw ghetto – provided him with the visceral and emotional experience he would use a year later to craft his winning essay.

“Entering JPEF's Youth Writing Contest was very important to me. After having visited Poland last year, I knew that I could use my experience to write an inspirational essay about the female partisans. The essay I wrote has inspired me to use what I know about the Holocaust and partisans to teach people about creating a better tomorrow.”

His teacher Robin is no stranger to JPEF’s Youth Writing Contest – her class at Solomon Schechter produced two upper-division winners in 2010, and has participated every year since. Thanks again to Josh, Robin, and Solomon Schechter High School for participating, and we look forward to reading next year’s student essays!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Youth Writing Contest Profile: Leah LeVine and her teacher, Jaclyn Guzman

This year, hundreds of students from around the world entered our 3rd annual Youth Writing Contest , competing for the honor and a chance to win a Kindle Fire. Starting this week, we will post the reflections (and, if available, photographs) of this year's contest winners. Here, we feature first place Upper Division winner Leah LeVine and her history teacher, Jaclyn Guzman of Kehillah High School in Palo Alto, CA.

Echoing Sonia Orbuch’s memorable statement about dying as a fighter and not as a Jew in the opening of her winning essay, Leah was inspired by “the ideal that one should be willing to fight for one's identity rather than suffer persecution because of it.” She stated “I will embrace this philosophy as I continue my growth as a Jewish woman.” Leah’s essay touched on subjects of gender identity, power of will, and the importance of taking action rather than embracing passivity and apathy.

For Jaclyn Guzman, this was the second year that she encouraged student involvement in the contest and motivated a winning essayist. Last year, Jaclyn taught first-place winner EJ Weiss – another student inspired by Sonia Orbuch’s story. Perhaps her insistence upon a compound, nuanced understanding of history and the importance of personal narratives influenced her her students’ success:

At Kehillah Jewish High School our philosophy is to approach history as a series of woven perspectives. No singular person has the “correct” view of history and everybody has a unique perspective on every situation. Who we are as individuals impacts how we view the world and how we will remember the major events in our past. I encourage our students to participate in the Youth Writing Contest in order to explore the various perspectives and experiences of the Holocaust. The majority of their education of the Holocaust has been the camp experience and the Jewish Partisan Education Foundation has wonderful resources that enable my students to look at the various acts of bravery Jews exhibited during the most horrific time period. Each year the contest provides a different angle to approach the same history: through the lens of a youth, a woman, etc. This pattern is a perfect fit for our curriculum that is geared toward hearing as many voices as possible in evaluating our collective past.

Thanks again to Jaclyn, Leah, and Kehillah High School for participating in the contest, and we look forward to reading their inspiring essays again next year!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Announcing the Jewish Partisan Webcast - April 17, 2011

We’re happy to announce a rare opportunity to bring Jewish partisan Sonia Orbuch to your classroom or desktop via a live Webcast with Q&A.

More resources on Jewish Women in the Partisans - including online videocourse, film and study guides:

Students can ask questions ahead of time. Twitter #JPEFWebcast or e-mail If you are unable to make the live event, we will send you a link so you can access the videorecording online.

"There is such a thing as fighting back… If I was going to die, it would be as a fighter. Not as a Jew."
– Sonia Orbuch

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Partisan Legacy Honored in New York City

Fifty-five surviving partisans, many traveling from as far away as California, Colorado and Tennessee, attended the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation's Tribute Dinner on Monday, December 7th. For many, this was the first time that they had seen one another in over 60 years. Allen Small and Leon Bakst were reunited for the first time since the War. Growing up together in a small town, in what is now Belarus, they attended the same school. Fighting with different partisan brigades during the war, they had last seen each other at a DP camp in Germany before coming to the United States. Another partisan stated that this was one of the “best nights of his life.”

Group photo of attending partisans at the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan.
NEW YORK (JTA) — Allen Small, 83, and Leon Bakst, 86, hugged each other so tight, Small said, “I couldn’t let go.”
Their embrace at a synagogue on Manhattan's Upper East Side was 65 years in the making.
Small and Bakst grew up a few houses apart in Ivye, Belarus, attending the same school and synagogue before reality turned black, back when their names were Avraham Schmulewitz and Leibel Bakst, and Ivye belonged to Poland and the Nazis had not yet invaded. They last saw each another in 1946 at a displaced persons camp in Munich.
During the two years preceding their liberation by the Red Army in 1944, the then teenagers fought the Nazis in separate brigades in the vast Nalibotskaya Pushcha forest. For their daring, Small, now living in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Bakst, of Dallas, along with 53 other Jewish partisans from across the United States, were honored here at a synagogue reception Nov. 6 and a gala dinner the next evening.

Click here to read the rest of this article.

Click here to read another article about this event from the New York Jewish Week.

Click here to view a video about this event that aired on CBS News New York.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Larry King, Liev Schreiber and Edward Zwick Join Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation to Honor All Surviving Jewish Partisans with Launch of New PSA

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Hollywood and the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation have joined forces to launch a unique public service announcement campaign about standing up against discrimination by honoring the Jewish partisans – thousands of World War II resistance fighters that fought back against the Nazis and saved thousands of lives. CNN anchor Larry King, actor Liev Schreiber (Salt, X-Men: Origins, Defiance), director Edward Zwick (Glory, Blood Diamond, Defiance), Rose Holm, a Jewish partisan, and her granddaughter Elisabeth Holm are all part of JPEF's grassroots initiative to bring together the last surviving partisans and their families at a gala event in New York City on November 7 in their honor. To view our public service announcement, please click:

Larry King, a long time JPEF supporter, said, "The Jewish partisans are an important part of our history, and JPEF does tremendous work to keep their story alive and relevant with an innovative curriculum, short films and fabulous online resources. It is important to bring together as many partisans as we can for this special event on November 7."

The three-part campaign will kick off with a Web PSA designed to help locate these courageous individuals so that they may be re-united and honored with their colleagues at the tribute dinner in November. JPEF will give complimentary tickets to any partisan that wishes to attend the tribute event. The remainder of the PSA campaign will be launched later this fall and into 2012.

"By honoring these brave men and women, JPEF inspires the next generation of leaders to stand up for human rights and social justice," said Mitch Braff, founder and executive director of the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation. "Our tribute event is a historic link to the people who are a living testament that young people can make a difference – as many of the partisans were teens."

About Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation

Since JPEF's founding in 2000, hundreds of thousands of students in schools all over the world have learned about the history and life lessons of the Jewish partisans through a dynamic curriculum targeted to 7th-12th grade students. The organization makes innovative uses of film, the Web, and an e-learning platform to teach not only the history, but what the partisans want future generations to always remember: Young people can make a difference and we must all stand up to oppression and discrimination. The organization focuses on secular, parochial, and Jewish schools as well as teen youth groups and summer camps. JPEF has been named one of the most innovative Jewish organizations the country for five years by Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies' Slingshot. To find out more about the Jewish partisans and JPEF visit,, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

Monday, June 27, 2011

2011 Youth Writing Contest Participants Comment About Their Experience

Over 500 students from 20 states, Canada and South Africa, representing public, private, Jewish and parochial schools, competed for the notoriety, an iPod Touch, JPEF DVDs, posters and t-shirts for both themselves and their teachers. Click here to read the blog announcing the winning essays.

Elliott Felson, JPEF board co-chair noted, "The students' essays were thoughtful, bright, and creative. Each one of them, from middle school to high school, spoke from the heart and the students were moved to make a difference in the world in their own way."

Many of the of the winning essayists were excited to share their comments:

EJ Weiss, First Place Winner - Upper Division, felt the contest was transformative, "I now not only remember the bitter end of the six million Jews, but also the fighting spirit of the forceful resistance. This contest has forever changed my perspective of the Holocaust, my people, and my family."

Jewish Partisan Sonia Orbuch with winning essayist EJ Weiss.
They had the opportunity to meet last week.

EJ's History Instructor at Kehillah Jewish High School, Jaclyn Guzman was excited to share that "JPEF's writing contest is a perfect match for classes that are looking to transform the lessons of history into their understanding of the world. The contest provides a true connection to real people and brings the past to the present for the students."

Molly Oberstein-Allen, Second Place Winner - Upper Division, observed, "I was glad to be given the opportunity to write about a topic so meaningful to me and to my heritage. I think the contest is a great way for students to both learn about people who stood up for others and to relate those people's actions to current times. The contest gave me new understanding of the Holocaust."

Molly's teacher at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, Michal Cahlon, adds, "The Youth Writing Contest helped students reflect on the different ways they could effect change in their community, and on the importance of choosing to be a participant rather than a bystander during life's most difficult moments."

"Before the contest, I was familiar with the history of the Holocaust, having recently visited Terezin and Auschwitz." commented Nick Sexton (Third Place Winner, Upper Division), "By participating in the JPEF's Youth Writing Contest I gained insight into the lives of those that resisted the Nazis, teaching me things I did not know before - including that there were people that stood up and managed to save thousands of lives."

Mary Solomon, 8th Grade English and Literature teacher of Mason Stevens, the First Place Winner, - Lower Division, commented, "The Holocaust is a major part of our 8th Grade curriculum, which I have been teaching for more than twenty-five years. The JPEF web site is fabulous because in earlier years when students tried to research partisans there was not much available. This site is now on my list of highly recommended resources. We especially like to emphasize all the people who made a courageous decision to act rather than remain bystanders. Thanks for all that you do to make these stories available to students. They need images of heroes who are not rock stars or sports figures. The JPEF website provides that for them."

Jennifer Peterson, Second Place Winner - Lower Division, observed, "Researching and learning about the Jewish partisans has been a great experience. Thanks to the wonderful resource of the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation website, I was able to learn so much I hadn't known about the Holocaust."

JPEF's 2011 Youth Writing Contest was made possible by a contribution in memory of Eta Wrobel (z"l) and contributions in honor of Rose Holm and in memory of Joe Holm (z"l).

Information about the 2012 Writing Contest will be available at in January, 2012.

For more information or questions about the contest, please email

Friday, June 10, 2011

Youth of Today Inspired by Youth of the Holocaust Era

The first place winner of the Upper Division category (10th-12th grade) of our 2011 Youth Writing Contest was EJ Weiss, a sophomore from Kehillah Jewish High School in California. Congratulations, EJ!

Winning essayist EJ Weiss (on right)
with her History Instructor Jaclyn Guzman

EJ's essay starts by talking about what she believes is threatening humanity today - silence. "It is not guns, nor gas, nor bombs that threaten humanity. It is silence," she says.

Cries of the innocent, the deafening shot of a rifle, the faint sound of gas spreading, followed by utter silence. It is not guns, nor gas, nor bombs that threaten humanity. It is the silence. A silence that only a strong person can break. A silence that was broken by young people standing guard in the freezing cold, mining the train tracks, slowly nursing people back to health, and saving lives of brave men and women who entered a seemingly impossible battle. While evil stared in the hollow faces of men, women, and children, piercing the hearts of mothers, fathers and children, the partisans took action.

Using her limited knowledge of her great uncle Shmuel, a Jewish partisan, EJ shows her understanding of the partisans.

"My great uncle Shmuel was one of these brave young partisans. I know he had a great spirit of resistance and fought for the freedom of my family and the Jewish people. Unfortunately, that is all I know about him. His story was never told. He was one of the millions that perished in the war, but one of only thousands that died while fighting back."

Her essay continues, referencing the story of Jewish partisan Sonia Orbuch.

click on name for more information on Sonia

"I imagine that his story is like that of Sonia Orbuch. Sonia Orbuch could have worried for her own safety and never faced the wicked force threatening her people, but, instead, she devoted herself to combating the atrocity. Even in a predominantly non-Jewish, Russian partisan unit, without training in weapons, she retaliated. She is an inspiration. Partisans like Sonia resisted by sabotaging the Nazis by stealing weapons and food, and prevailed by living and cultivating a proud Jewish existence. She and her fellow Partisans were not among the silent. They would not allow evil to prosper. They fought back. They were fundamental in the triumph of good, and are a key component to my proud, strong, Jewish identity."

EJ's essay concludes with a discussion of what is happening in the world today.

"The horrors of war and genocide still exist in the world, but the greater evils that Shmuel and Sonia faced are not at my doorstep. It is easy to close our eyes and live in the cocoon of our comfortable existence, but we must open our eyes to the corruption and injustice surrounding us. If we listen, we can hear the cries of our poor, hungry and homeless neighbors. If we are aware, we can feel the despondency of the drug addict and the pain of victims of prejudice, racism and anti-Semitism. And if we only look, we can see the irreversible damage to our planet that is caused by pollution. It is our duty to even the scales of justice in the world. We must take action. Through educational initiatives the cycle of poverty can end, by going green we can save our planet, and through donating blood and marrow to the terminally ill we can fight for life. But, the way to truly defeat evil is by teaching others not to be indifferent. We must resist, we must defy, we must fight, and we must never embrace silence."

In addition to meeting the contest's guidelines, EJ's essay exemplified the inspiration between the student and the partisan, which resonated very strongly with the readers and judges.

Reflecting on her experience with the Writing Contest EJ notes, "the Writing Contest has inspired me and given me pride in the relatives I will never meet because they fought against the cruel hand of injustice. I now not only remember the bitter end of the six million Jews, but also the fighting spirit of the forceful resistance. This contest has forever changed my perspective of the Holocaust, my people, and my family."

EJ's History Instructor Jaclyn Guzman adds, "JPEF’s Writing Contest is a perfect match for classes that are looking to transform the lessons of history into their students’ understanding of the world. The essay contest provides a true connection to real people and brings the past to the present for the students. Instead of their writing being removed from and only commenting on the history they are learning, the students are motivated to reflect on and relate with the history. The interactive nature of the essay and the JPEF website mirrors the hands-on history philosophy of my school in which the students are participants and not merely observers of history."

Elliott Felson, co-chair, JPEF Board of Directors commented, "JPEF's Writing Contest allowed me to experience the impact our work has on the kids that are exposed to it. The student's essays were thoughtful, bright, and creative: each one of them, from middle school to high school, spoke from the heart and were moved to make a difference in the world in their own way."