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Showing posts with label women in the partisans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label women in the partisans. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2012 Youth Writing Contest Winners Announced!

We are proud to announce the winners of the Third Annual Youth Writing Contest! From hundreds of entries from around the country - and around the world - three winners in two different age groups have been chosen by a judge panel that includes Jewish partisan William Stern.
This year's contest focused on Jewish partisan women. Students were asked to write about the lessons that can be learned from their experience to inspire people today to make the world a better place. The winning essays discussed topics ranging from bullying to Burma. The first-place winners, along with their teachers, will receive a Kindle Fire.
The winners are:
Lower Division (8th-9th Grades):
1st place:
Breanna, 8th grade, Billinghurst Middle School, NV
2nd place:
Yitzhak, 8th grade, Park East Day School, NY
3rd place:
Micaela, 9th grade, Congregation Ner Tamid, NV
Upper Division (10th-12th Grades):
1st place:
Leah, 10th grade, Kehillah Jewish High School, CA
2nd place:
Joshua, 11th grade, Solomon Schechter High School, NY
3rd place:
Samantha, 10th grade, Duchesne Academy, NE
The winning essays discussed the life lessons of these Jewish Partisans:
We want to take the opportunity to thank all of the students who participated in the contest, and all of the administrators, educators and mentors who encouraged their participation. We would also like to thank all the volunteer readers who helped us judge this contest.
These essays were deeply touching and inspiring to all of us here at JPEF: the staff, board members and partisans. We look forward to hosting the contest again next year.
For further information or questions about the contest, please contact
This writing contest was made possible by contributions from the Alper, Bedzow, Blaichman, Charatan, Felson, Holm, Kushner, Orbuch, and Wohl families.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sonia Orbuch Q&A Webcast posted to Youtube

A recording of our recent Q&A webcast with Jewish partisan Sonia Orbuch is now available on Youtube! JPEF Executive Director Mitch Braff interviewed Sonia at her home this Tuesday, with over twenty schools watching the live stream. During the broadcast, students had the opportunity to ask Sonia questions via Facebook, email, and Twitter.

Watch the video below:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Resource Suggestions for 2012 Days of Remembrance

The theme for this year’s International Holocaust Days of Remembrance (April 15-22) is “Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue”. The Jewish resistance movement is rife with stories of partisans liberating fellow Jews from work camps and smuggling them out of ghettos. The Jewish partisans fought not only for survival and vengeance, but also to rescue Jews and other victims of Nazi oppression from the horrors of the Holocaust. JPEF offers a variety of resources and study guides that are ideally suited for exploring this theme with your students.

JPEF Resource Directory on Jews Rescuing Jews

Online Courses –
Note: for classroom use, we recommend selecting chapters ahead of time and skipping “How to Use This in the Classroom”.

  • Antisemitism in the Partisans: Survival strategies and interviews with Jewish rescuers
  • Teaching with Defiance (includes Educator’s Guide): 1,200 Jews were rescued by the Bielski partisans – includes testimonial from the last surviving Bielski brother

Lessons and Activities –

  • Jewish Partisans Rescuing Jews: Highly recommended resource on Jewish resistance fighters who save thousands of Jews during the Holocaust
  • Putting the Gevurah (Heroism) Back Yom HaShoah: Remembrance and liturgy on Jewish resistance for Holocaust Memorial Day (April 19, 2012).
  • Eight Degees of Gevurah: Partisan rescuers and tzedakah as acts of justice through Maimonides’ ladder
  • Antisemitism in the Partisans and Tuvia Bielski Study Guide: Stories of successful Jewish rescuers plus historical background

Partisan Webcast: April 17, 2012, 10am PST –

  • At the age of 18, Sonia Orbuch joined the fight to bring an end to the Holocaust. Bring her inspiring stories to your students by live videocast and Q&A. Save your spot here!

Additional Resources

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ask a Partisan Q&A: Part 2

Last week, we posted the first half of JPEF's Ask a Partisan Q&A with students from Blantyre Public School in Toronto. This is the second half of the session.

Michael, age 9: What were your responsibilities as a platoon commander?

Frank Blaichman: On a day-to-day basis, I was responsible for 45 men and 4 women who were under my command. Every day we moved around to another area in order to deprive the enemy of our whereabouts. This required logistical planning, the gathering of food, the finding of suitable shelter and to make sure that all weapons were in working condition, clean with enough ammunition on each person. I was the one who delegated these jobs among our platoon.

In battle and in sabotage attacks I oversaw any intelligence information between the Polish Partisans (the AL), our other Jewish Partisan groups and ourselves. Armed with this information I made decisions on where and when we should hit and when and where we should run after the attack. I sometimes had to make quick decisions in the field regarding our movements. Whether to pull out or continue the attack.

Azaria, age 13: What was it like being a female partisan?

Sonia Orbuch: You feel isolated from the world. You feel all the eyes of the male partisans on you. You feel afraid even though you are in the partisans — you feel afraid they might not like you and tell you to go somewhere else.

Braydan, age 12: What happened to your family?

Frank Blaichman: My immediate family, my parents, my siblings, my grandparents etc., were deported on Friday, October the 9th, 1942 to a death camp. It was most likely either Majdanek, Sobibor or Treblinka. I do not know which one and I do not know the date of their deaths.

Of my entire extended family, only 3 cousins survived the war. One survived with me as a partisan fighter. One was captured in Russia and ended up in a camp near Hamburg where he managed to survive. And the third survived as a laborer in Germany on false non-Jewish papers.

Daniel, age 12: How did you know which peasants were the good guys?

Frank Blaichman: This is a very good question. At first we didn't know who we could trust — we were in the dark and we did think that all Poles would want to kill us. When we went to town, for example, to buy food, we were chased by bullies with pitchforks.

Once we organized into a Partisan group, and after we acquired firearms, we were seen as having some power — the dynamic changed. There were still German collaborators who hunted us and wanted to kill us, but there were also good, decent Polish people who provided support to us and risked their lives to do so. They became our informers, telling us who they thought were the German collaborators in their area, and warning us of Nazi troop movements. They also helped us immeasurably by providing us with food and shelter. Had they been discovered as helping a Jew they would have faced severe punishment from the Germans: immediate death or deportation, and the burning down of their homes. We could not have survived without the help of good, local Polish people.

Once we captured collaborators and were able to interrogate them, they provided us with the names and addresses of other collaborators. We were then able to bust up their spy ring and prevent them from functioning in our area. A number of Polish peasants felt that we had in fact liberated them as well from the terror of these Nazi collaborators.

Click here to read Part 1 of the Q&A.

Part 3 coming soon!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ask a Partisan: Teacher Tips from Toronto

This letter comes from Monica Nelson, who co-created a lesson for her Special Education class based on JPEF’s “Ask A Jewish Partisan” resource. You’ll find answers to her students’ questions at the end of this article.

Our school is Blantyre Public School in Toronto, Ontario. Wendy Klayman is the teacher and I (Monica Nelson) am the education assistant in a class of 12, grade 4-8 children with various special education needs such as learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders and autism. In October we started a language unit incorporating character education, empathy, digital technology, art and research.

We decided to focus on the Jewish partisans because of the empathy that can be instilled from this topic, because it helps young people understand the difficult concepts involved in discussing this topic, helps them with research, can incorporate technology and e-learning. Also, our teacher (Wendy) has a personal connection to the Holocaust. We spent a great deal of time on JPEF’s site, researching the various topics. The stories and videos were fascinating and the students particularly enjoyed finding out which partisan was most like them and writing to that person.

We were both thrilled to hear answers to our questions and fascinated with such honest, informative answers. Not only did we focus on the reading, writing, critical thinking and empathy part of this unit, but we incorporated extensive artwork in the form of empathy posters that tied together the story of the Jewish partisans and another book that we studied at the same time, written by a native Canadian on the theme of teamwork and perseverance. Thank you for sharing this topic with us.

—Monica Nelson

Partisan Q&A: Part 1

Sarah, age 10: Where did you hide the bombs?

Sonia Orbuch: The mines were used by our demolition teams to derail trains which were being used by the Germans to re-supply their army. The teams had horses and wagons which were used to transport their supplies and to keep them hidden when we were under attack.

Vanessa, age 10: What would have happened if you were caught spying?

Frank Blaichman: As a partisan - one of our tactics for survival was to gather information - to watch the movements of our enemies so we could know where it would be safe for us to move to. We also needed to gather information in order to successfully attack or sabotage our enemy.

If I had been caught spying on either the Nazis or the Polish authorities, I would have faced the same fate. I most likely would have been killed on the spot. At the very least, I would have been taken to a death camp.

Kurtis, age 12: How did it feel running through the woods being attacked by Nazis?

Sonia Orbuch: I felt frightened and scared....especially when my family was alone in the forest. Later, when we joined the forest we felt stronger because we were fighting back.

John, age 13: Did you ever NOT want to be a partisan?

Frank Blaichman: NO. I liked what I was doing. I was into it. I couldn't stop.

As an example, one group of Jews among many that we helped to shelter, were hidden in a Polish farmhouse. The farmer created a bunker for them in the barn. This group included Itka Hirschman, a young woman and her child David, a small boy who now lives in Israel. I would bring food around four times a month to the ten people in the bunker. One day Itka asked me: "You are risking your life bringing us food, why don't you come and stay with us?" and my answer was: "I cannot do it, it is in my blood. I along with my men cannot stop doing what we are doing - fighting the Nazis and their collaborators and helping others, including Jews to survive."

Click here to read Part 2 of the Q&A.

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

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Announcing the Winners of Our Second Annual Youth Writing Contest

Winning Essays are posted below -
please scroll down and click on links.

From 500+ entries representing 20 states across the country as well as entries from Canada and South Africa, in public, private, Jewish and parochial schools, the six top essays were chosen as winners: three from 8th-9th grades and three from 10th-12th grades.

Students were given the following quote as an essay prompt: “The only way for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing.” An English statesman expressed this sentiment, two hundred years before the Holocaust. This quote is commonly attributed to Edmund Burke, a member of the House of Commons in England during the time of the American Revolution. Burke supported the independence of the American colonies from England. His quote is as relevant today as it was then.

Student essayists were asked: How do you think this quote relates to the Jewish partisans? Then they wrote a 300 to 500 word personal essay answering this question using specific examples from at least one Jewish partisan that inspired them. Additionally they were asked to write about how they see this quote as relevant today.

The students essay portions on the relevance today ranged from bullying, to pollution to Darfur to standing up against discrimination and oppression.

Essays remained anonymous to our volunteer readers. Each essay was read three times by three different readers.

The winners are:
Lower Division (8th-9th Grades):
1st place:
Mason Stevens, 8th grade, St. Cecilia Catholic School, TX
2nd place:
Jennifer Peterson, 9th grade, Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, NE
3rd place:
Ashley Gomez. 9th grade, Arts High School, NJ

Upper division (10th-12th Grades):
1st place:
EJ Weiss, 10th grade, Kehillah Jewish High School, CA
2nd place:
Molly Oberstein-Allen, 12th grade, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, KS
3rd place:
Nicholas Sexton, 11th grade, McNair Academic High School, NJ

The winning essays discussed the life lessons of these Jewish Partisans:

We want to take the opportunity to thank all of the students who participated in the contest, and all of the administrators, educators and mentors who encouraged their participation. We would also like to thank the 40 volunteer readers who helped us judge this contest.

These essays were deeply touching and inspiring to all of us here at JPEF: the staff, board members and partisans. We look forward to hosting the contest again next year.

For further information or questions about the contest, please contact Doug Moss at

Friday, February 18, 2011

Student Inspired by the Legacy of Women Who Came Before Her

Nine grader, Talia Weisberg, Winner of our 2010 Youth Writing Contest

Last year, ninth grade student Talia Weisberg was inspired by the strength and courage of Jewish partisan Sara Fortis and many other Jewish women who came before her. Read her moving essay below.

JPEF will be announcing its 2011 Writing Contest soon! E-mail for more information.

“We are of the Line,” I hear my mother say, and I am swept into the past, reliving the strong history of the women in our religion:

I am with Sarai as she becomes Sarah. I assist Rebecca as she helps Eliezer water his camels. I stand behind the chuppah with Rachel as Jacob unknowingly marries Leah. I strum a harp with Serakh as she tells Jacob that Joseph is alive. I sing with Miriam as she leads the Jewish women through the Red Sea. I protest with the daughters of Zelophehad as they ask Moses for their inheritance. I sit with Deborah under her date tree as she judges the Jewish people. I hand Jael the tent peg to kill Sisera and save her nation. I pray with Hannah in the Temple as she beseeches God for a child. I fast with Esther as she prepares to approach Ahasuerus and try to save her people.

I go from the plains of the Fertile Crescent, the deserts of Egypt, the lush fields of Israel, and the palaces of Persia to a more recent time. I am witnessing a hell unlike any I have seen before. Women, skeletons, starve in concentration camps I can barely recognize my grandmother and great-grandmother with several other female relatives, shipped from a wealthy home in Hungary, to this cold Polish prison, Auschwitz. I help my cousin pull my great-aunt from the left line, and again from a wagon destined for certain death I shield my great-grandmother as she steals scraps of food from the kitchens and trades them for cigarettes for my grandmother to smoke I deny the non-kosher meat with my great-grandmother and live off of air I feel the starvation, the cold, the pain, with my Jewish sisters.

As soon as I have seen their nightmarish life conditions in the concentration camp, I find myself among a group of Partisans, girls turned into women prematurely, acting as men trained for battle. They are dressed like regular Greek villagers, but it’s obvious they are on a mission. They stop at a house with swastikas on flags outside of it, and start a fire inside.

“Captain Sarika!” one girl calls out. “Sarika Fortis! Have we done it right?” Smoke begins to curl out of the house’s windows. “Yes, Eleni,” the captain replies. “Now we must go! The Partisans must never be caught!” The women hurry from the scene and I run with them, marveling at their strength, their audacity, how such young women could stand up to tyranny and prejudice with no second thoughts.

“We are of the Line,” my mother says, talking about the strong line of women we descend from, and yes, all I can do is nod, all I can do is agree. All these women were strong, defying social norms, protesting prejudices that kept them down, always questioning authority, never taking no as an answer, always fighting, always working, always reaching their goal.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

United Nations Pays Tribute to Women of the Holocaust

United Nations Pays Tribute to Women of the Holocaust

January 24, 2011 (MMD Newswire) -- On 27 January 2011, the United Nations Department of Public Information will honour women at the sixth annual observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust in a ceremony, to be held in the General Assembly Hall from 10 a.m. to noon.

This year's observance will focus on the theme "Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion", and will pay tribute to the bravery and ingenuity of the women who faced Nazi persecution with strength and dignity during the Second World War. "Jewish women performed truly heroic deeds - in the face of danger and atrocity - they bravely joined the resistance, smuggled food into the ghettos and made wrenching sacrifices to keep their children alive. Their courage and compassion continue to inspire us to this day," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Hosted by Kiyo Akasaka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, the ceremony will open with a message from the Secretary-General. Statements will be made by Vice-President of the General Assembly; Francisco Carrión, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations; Susan Rice, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations; and Meron Reuben, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations.

The keynote speech will be delivered by Lenore Weitzman, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at George Mason University, who has devoted her career to advocating for women's issues. She co-edited the book Women in the Holocaust (1999), and is now completing a book on the "Kashariyot" - the young women that served as secret underground "couriers" for the Jewish resistance movements in the ghettos.

Also featured in the memorial ceremony will be Nesse Godin, a Holocaust survivor, originally from Lithuania. As a child during the Holocaust, Mrs. Godin survived a ghetto, concentration camp, four labour camps and a death march. Mrs. Godin has dedicated her life to teaching and sharing memories of her horrific experience and serves as a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Ádám Banda, a renowned concert violinist from Hungary, will perform, and Cantor Yaakov Lemmer, Chief Cantor of the Congregation Anshe Sholom, will recite the memorial prayers. Three young students from the United Nations International School, Tinglan Cao, Boteng Maluke, and Gabriela Ruiz Pez, will read excerpts from a diary and letters of women who perished in the Holocaust.

In the afternoon, there will be a panel discussion held by B'nai B'rith International, entitled "The Survivors, 1945-2011: Struggle and Perseverance" and a round table organized by the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation, entitled "A World Without Nazism - A Global Goal for Humanity Today and the Sixty-fifth Anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials". This event is co-sponsored by the United Nations Department of Public Information, the International Human Rights Movement "World without Nazism" and the American Forum of Russian Jewry.

The week-long events in New York will include the opening on 24 January of the exhibition "The Memories Live On", which features drawings of Auschwitz made by an unknown prisoner of the concentration camp. This exhibition is sponsored by the International Auschwitz Committee in Germany, the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the International Youth Meeting Centre in Oswiecim, Poland, the German Resistance Memorial Centre in Berlin, Germany, the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations and the United States Permanent Mission to the United Nations. The exhibition "Hélène Berr, A Stolen Life", curated by Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, France, will also be displayed in the United Nations Visitors' Lobby. This exhibition, based on the diary of a young Jewish girl, documents the persecution of Jews in Occupied France during the Second World War (see Note No. 6291).

Other events include a screening on 25 January of the documentary film Daring to Resist, produced and directed by Barbara Attie and Martha Goell Lubell and distributed by Women Make Films. The film recounts the stories of three young Jewish women who found unexpected ways to fight back against the Nazis. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Frank Blaichman, a former partisan, whose presence was made possible with the help of the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation, and Bonnie Gurewitsch, an archivist and curator at the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York City.

Around the world, United Nations Information Centres (UNICs) will also commemorate the Day with screenings of this film, memorial ceremonies and educational activities with local schools. The United Nations Holocaust Programme and the Mémorial de la Shoah produced a travelling exhibit in English, French, Russian and Spanish, which will be hosted by Information Centres in Bujumbura, Dakar, Manila, Mexico City, Moscow and the United Nations International Service in Vienna. For more information on the Mémorial, please visit

In line with this year's theme, the United Nations Holocaust Programme also produced an educational study guide and companion DVD for high school students, entitled Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion, to help youth better understand how the Holocaust affected women. The materials were developed in partnership with the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, and the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education. The study guide and DVD can be downloaded from the Holocaust programme's website and will be available in all United Nations official languages. For more information on these partners, please visit and

All guests must pre-register to take part in the events at New York Headquarters. Photo identification will be required and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Please see the Programme's website for registration details and for media accreditation.

* *** *


Friday, January 21, 2011

Women in the Partisans Resources

See Faye Schulman tell the stories behind her pictures, as well as photos from her exhibit, and a printable biography at

More free JPEF resources on women who fought back include:

Jewish Women in the Partisans resource page: films, study guides and women partisan profiles and more at

Short Films: "Everyday the Impossible: Jewish Women in the Partisans" and "A Partisan Returns: the Legacy of Two Sisters" at

Study Guides and Poster: "Women in the Partisans," Gertrude Boyarski, Sonia Orbuch and downloadable Eta Wrobel "RESIST" poster at

 Tu B'Shevat (Jewish Arbor Day / New Year for Trees):
The partisans depended on the forests to evade from and combat their enemies, as well as endure the brutal winters. JPEF's "Living and Surviving" study guide and short film make great additions to your Tu B'Shevat activities this week.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Resistance Fighter, Mira Shelub

Mira with Sheep Friend 
Mira after the war, 1947.
Mira with Norman's Photo
Mira on the set of a JPEF interview holding a
photo of her husband, Norman, 2002.
Last week, Jewish partisan Mira Shelub celebrated her birthday. Mira's partisan activity took place mainly in northeastern Poland (today's Belarus) where her all Jewish group engaged in sabotage against the Nazi's and their Polish collaborators. They blew up trains, attacked police stations, and stole food that had been provided for the Germans by peasants.

Mira met her husband, Norman, who was also a fighter in her group and was the leader of their group. She reminisces, "I was lucky enough that I loved my husband and he loved me, and it was like a love affair in the forest. Can you ask for a better place? So, we were lucky that we got together and we, and we promised each other that we'll be together forever."

They married after the war, had three children, and moved to San Francisco.

Read more about Mira here.

Mira Shelub is featured in multiple JPEF documentaries and study guides including the printed guide: "Women in the Partisans" and short film, "Everyday the Impossible: Jewish Women in the Partisans".
Mira talking about the decisions she faced as a resistance
fighter to youth at Fremont High School, 2008.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two JPEF Jewish Partisan Birthdays in December

Blaichman in Polish partisan uniform, 1945
This month, Jewish partisan Frank Blaichman celebrated his 88th birthday. Frank was only 16 years old when the Germans invaded Poland. Month by month, life became harder until in 1942, the Jews of Frank's hometown of Kamionka, were to be resettled in a ghetto. Determined to keep his freedom, Frank left his family and eventually joined other Jews hiding in a nearby forest. When Frank was only 21 years old, he became the youngest platoon commander in a partisan unit. Frank met his wife, Cesia, while they were both in partisan units.

Frank has documented his stories and experiences from his life as a partisan in his book: Rather Die Fighting. Purchase this incredible resource here.

Frank has appeared in multiple JPEF documentaries including "Antisemitism in the Partisans" and "Introduction to the Partisans."

Eta Wrobel portrait, 1945
Polish Jewish partisan Eta Wrobel (z"l) was also born on December 28, 1918. She was the only child in a family of ten to survive the Holocaust. Eta described herself to be "born a fighter." In 1942 Eta's ghetto was forced into concentration camps, but Eta and her father escaped into the woods. Eta helped to organize an all Jewish partisan unit of about 80 people. At one point Eta was shot in the leg and dug the bullet out of her leg with a knife.

Because of her exceptional military skills, she was active on missions with men and made important strategic decisions.

Eta is featured in the JPEF film, "Women in the Partisans," and she also inspired the original JPEF poster and sticker images.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bielski Partisan with Clothing from Forest

Sheila Garberman was with the Bielski partisans when she was 12 years old. I met her when I was partipating in a video conference with over 100 high school students in Southern New Jersey. Here is a photo of Mrs. Garberman with the blouse that she has had for over 65 years -- made from a piece of a Russian parachute in the forest by a fellow partisan. She was an orphan at the time -- her family killed by the Germans and their collaborators. Mrs. Garberman brings this incredible artifact to the scores of classes she speaks to in her community and it was an honor to share the morning with her.

During the same presentation with the students, only one out of 100 ever heard of the Jewish partisans before our program (this is normal for most schools, and we strive to change this through our work). We sent the school copies of "Defiance" on DVD for them to review before our video conference call along with our teacher materials. The conversation with the students was fascinating, but most of all, I was touched the the elegance and grace of by Mrs. Garberman and the story of her blouse.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fantastic Article about Jewish Partisan Woman in Tablet Magazine

Sonya Oshman was a Bielski partisan and has an incredible story. Her material is not on the JPEF site, not yet anyway, but this is a vivid piece on her by Gila Lyons for Tablet Magazine. The story covers the escape from the Novogrodek work camp in Poland (now Belarus) which is the topic of JPEF documentary narrated by Tovah Feldshuh, "A Partisan Returns: The Legacy of Two Sisters".

Link to story here.

See the film on our "Defiance" Page, here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Interview with Jewish partisan and photographer Faye Schulman

JPEF: You must have many days of personal reflection and remembrance. How is Yom HaShoah v’HaGevurah different?

Schulman: This is the day when most people remember the Shoah. For me, it is not that different than any other day because I think about it all the time. Every day is Yom HaShoah.

JPEF: What lessons would you like to share with young people today?

Schulman: That there was a resistance and Jews did not go like lambs to the slaughter. Jews resisted—they fought back!

JPEF: What do you think is important about Yom HaShoah v’HaGevurah?

Schulman: I think it is important for future generations, not those of past generations who remember it quite clearly. As I said already, for me one day is not any different than the other—it is my responsibility to remember it and speak about what happened every day.

To learn more about Faye and the photography exhibit, please visit

Faye Schulman's biography and Pictures of Resistance

Photo source: A Partisan's Memoir, Second Story Press, p. 139

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

JPEF Women in the Partisans Excellent Resource for Women's History Month

March 2010 is the 30th anniversary of Women's History Month and this year's theme is "Writing Women Back into History." Our website ( has many resources to relevent to this theme. JPEF has an extensive library of resources and programs which can assure that the largely unknown, yet highly compelling, history of women in the Jewish partisans is easily accessible. Numerous women, young and old alike, fought hard to defeat the Germans and their collaborators.

JPEF is proud to share these women's stories. Be sure to check out these resources on JPEF's website:

* Curriculum, film, and related historical links can be found on the Women in the Partisans Resource Page.
* Background, in-depth information and great techniques for teaching about Jewish women partisans in your classroom is the focus of JPEF's newest eLearning course, now online in prototype form.

* A Partisan Returns, the riveting story of former Bielski partisan Lisa Reibel's escape from the Novogrudek ghetto, and her journey back nearly 65 years later to visit her home.

Pictures of Resistance - JPEF's first ever traveling photographic exhibit, showcasing pictures taken by Faye Schulman, the only known Jewish partisan photographer

Two excellent books about Jewish women partisans who are featured on the JPEF website are "Here, There Are No Sarahs" by Sonia Orbuch and "My Life My Way" by Eta Wrobel. Both are highly recommended by the JPEF staff.

[Pictured above 'Capitan Sarika' --Greek Jewish partisan Sarah Fortis who organized one of the onlyall-women partisan brigades during WWII. To read about her click here.]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Queen Esther, our Heroine of Purim, Foreshadows Jewish Partisan Experience

The dramatic story of Purim, filled with deception, betrayal, and murder, as well as a beautiful woman’s heroism and the implausible victory of the Jewish people against all odds, provides a timely and unique perspective on the Jewish partisan experience of modern history.

Applying the lens of the Purim story to contextualize the Jewish partisans deepens our overall understanding of Jewish history. The King’s initial attraction to Esther allowed her to use her beauty as a shield to hide behind. When, after becoming Queen, she decides to reveal her Jewish identity, her bravery in undeniable. “I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16) Keeping Esther’s bravery in mind, it is easy to draw a parallel to the incredibly courageous acts of the partisans.

Like Esther, many Jewish partisans during World War II were in life or death situations, which forced them to hide their identity as a Jew. For first person testimony from partisans which invokes the Purim story, spend some time on Norman Salsitz’ bio on the JPEF website which describes his experience hiding his identity. You might also be interested in the clip from Eta Wrobel called “Eta’s beautiful hair saves her life” which can be found here

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Birthday! FAYE TURNS 90!

"Pictures of Resistance" is an international success!

It’s hard to believe that this incredible woman is 90 years old. I am honored to have had the opportunity to spend some time with Ms. Schulman when she travelled all the way, by herself, to Israel for the opening international premiere of “Pictures of Resistance” last November.
I was struck by how I could still see that beautiful girl, that one who pushed herself beyond the limits of self - fighting the Nazi’s, that girl who was afraid of blood but helped endlessly as a doctor’s aide in the forest ,and fearsomely documenting the experience. That young woman radiates through her being.
One of Ms. Schulman proudest accomplishments remains the three lives she directly saved including the young Jewish girl who was eight years old whose life she saved by negotiating for hours with her commander to allow the child to serve in the partisan unit as her aide until she could be safely airlifted out of the woods to relatives in Moscow.

There is so much to update on “Pictures of Resistance” since our last blog post. “Pictures of Resistance: The Wartime Photography of Jewish Partisan Faye Schulman” is one of the best ways that JPEF can reach thousands of people in communities all over the world, some of whom have never heard of the Jewish partisan experience. The images are a visual testament to the thousand of Jewish boys and girls who heroically fought against the Nazi’s and shatters the myth of Jewish passivity during the holocaust.
“Pictures of Resistance” has exhibited in nine cities around the world including Zurich, Switzerland and Tel Aviv, Israel. It continues to draw international acclaim and media attention, bringing JPEF’s work to more and more communities. The exhibit is now in Santa Barbara, California
( Captivated viewers at "Pictures of Resistance" in Berkeley, CA)

In March 2009 “Pictures of Resitance” exhbitied again in the United States in Berkeley, California.
The event was a smash hit and covered in the Jewish Week. Many longtime JPEf supporters and board members coming out to view the incredible photographs they had heard so much about.
( JPEF Founding Board Member Michael Grossman and board co-chair Paul Orbuch in Berkeley)
Yom Hashoah 2009 “Pictures of Resistance “ had both a national and international viewing, Internationally a selection of the photos were on view in Tel Aviv at a special event for survivors, partisans , their children and children’s children sponsored by “Second Generation".
Nationally the exhibit was on view at the Columbia/Barnard Hillel. Faye was the keynote speaker to a standing room only audience at the closing reception.
Simon Klarfield, Hillels’ Exectuive Director had this to say about the exhibit,
“The vital history of the Jewish Partisans has to be taught to the ‘next generation’, and the exhibit allows for students to raise essential questions regarding heroism, justice, ethics of war, the power of a few, and the list goes on”
(Faye speaking to a standing room only crowd at Columbia University)
Most recently “Pictures of Resistance” was in Memphis, Tennessee. Barb Gelb, Temple Israel’s Director of Education, reported, “Everyone’s reaction has been positive – just blown away by the exhibit. Many people have never heard of partisans before. Our students have learned so much and our teachers have learned so much, especially from the training workshop. Our sisterhood had an amazing presentation. We are thrilled to be able to participate in this.” While in Memphis received some press including this article in the Commercial Appeal
Some of the most exciting things with the exhibit have been happening overseas. This summer at version of the exhibit was translated into Polish and is showing at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Poland.
( Curator Jill Vexler in Poland with "Pictures of Resistance" )
A new donor brought JPEF to Zurich, including Aron Bell (last surviving
Bielski brother) and our photo exhibit.
The exhibit was made just for this one night's screening and showing, and brought in from Poland where we had it fabricated, then driven 12 hours to Zurich for the evening. Mitch ran a Q& A to a sold out crowd of 500 people and then a private tour of the exhibit with many key people in the Zurich Jewish community . We now have a second copy of the exhibit to begin touring the US in 2010!!!
("Pictures of Resistance" on display in Zurich, Switzerland)
Future exhibitions will be in Palm Beach Gardens, Miami, Atlanta , South Africa and Toronto. Toronto is Faye’s “hometown” and she will no doubt the star of the 2010 Yom HaShoah programming built around this exhibit.
In Israel, Faye explained to me how she came to live in Toronto. After the war people simply put their names on lists in the DP camps. Whatever place was willing to take you first is where you went. Faye is somewhat of a community treasure and local hero in Toronto, however she confided in my how she always wanted to live in Israel. JPEF is so honored to have been able to bring “Pictures of Resistance” to both of Faye’s “hometowns”. Yom Heuledit Sameach Faye !
Pictures of Resistance was made possible by: Thomas and Johanna Baruch, the Epstein/Roth Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & culture, Diane and Howard Wohl, and the Holocaust Council of MetroWest.