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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Teacher Tips for Remembering the Jewish Partisans on Yom HaShoah

Remembering the 20-30,000 Jews who fought back against the Germans as partisans is a profoundly meaningful way to pay tribute to the 6 million Jews who ultimately perished in the Holocaust. To this end, JPEF provides a double-sided supplement for remembering resistance on Yom HaShoah called “Putting the Gevurah Back into Yom HaShoah.” (www.jewishpartisans.org/resist)


Ilona Shechter, a teacher at Gideon Hausner Day School in Palo Alto and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Mandel Fellow, has organized many memorials during her career. She shared with JPEF staff the following tips for Jewish partisans-centered activities:


Show the JPEF Short Film Introduction to the Partisans

“If you only do one thing,” states Shechter, “show this film (available free at JPEF’s website at (www.jewishpartisans.org/films.) I have shown the film to (as young as) 5th grade and they loved it. For them, Holocaust meant death and dying and destruction. Watching Jews blowing up trains; this was the absolute best. The kids have responded very well to it. They asked very intelligent questions: Where did the Jewish partisans get all their supplies from? Who helped them and who didn’t?”


Teach new partisan material incrementally

Shechter continued, noting that incrementally adding new partisan material each year makes for highly effective lessons. She stated, “When the students get into 8th grade, I show them all the rest of the films. Today I showed them [JPEF’s] ‘Women in the Partisans.’ You could have heard a pin drop on the carpet. It’s an excellent teaching tool.” Ilona also recommends using the accompanying study guide when showing the film.


Hold candle lighting ceremonies in the classroom

“A simple, effective observance is to light 6 or 12 candles for the 6 million Jews (and the 6 million others considered “undesirable” by the Germans) who perished. Students take turns lighting candles, each remembering a different group: ‘This is a candle we light for the Jews who died in the death camps of Poland…This is a candle we light for the Jewish partisans who fought in the forests of Europe,’ etc.”


Talk with your students

A little information can stimulate a class-worth of conversation. Shechter shared, “A young teacher in Montana showed JPEF film clips to his class the first year he did it (taught about the partisans.) There was this stunned silence in the classroom. He said ‘What’s the matter?’ The class answered, ‘I bet there were more like that, but most didn’t get the opportunities, or realized that they were all going to be killed.’ That was a profound thing for kids to say. To realize that most Jews were starving and deprived and would have fought back if they could.”


Post pictures

“There’s nothing like having pictures of 12 and 14 year old partisans up in school, showing what young people can do…that age really was not material,” states Shechter. For printable photos, go to the homepage of JPEF’s website and click on image galleries under the Explore tab. You can also click the Image tab on any partisan profile.


Use Poetry, Music, and Memoirs

“A lot of poetry- poetry written by partisans- and memoirs, songs, and music…There’s a whole CD on partisan songs-playing music while partisan poetry is read…..You could do an entire Yom HaShoah v’HaGevurah entirely on partisans. It could be very effective.” Begin your search for this material by Googling “Jewish partisans song poetry memoir.”

Also, review a short poem about a Jewish women partisan on the last page of the Women in the Partisans study guide on the JPEF website, www.jewishpartisans.org/women


Final Thoughts

Ilona Shechter articulated why she feels it is important to teach about the partisans and other resistance by concluding, “On Yom HaShoah, most people forget about the Gevurah (strength or heroism.) Everyone talks about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. But there was more. It blows people away when they see that.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Interview with Jewish partisan commander Frank Blaichman

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

Blaichman: People who wanted to remember the Holocaust created Yom HaShoah. They knew that they had to teach future generations the important lessons from the Shoah—so that it would never happen again.

JPEF: What lessons would you like to share with Jewish and non-Jewish youth today?

Blaichman: Jews should never forget that they are Jews. The day we were liberated, we thought that Fascism and Nazism were buried. Today, we see that antisemitism is still all around us. It is important for us to remember—and youth should be taught—that Jews fought and will continue to fight against antisemitism, bigotry, and oppression.

JPEF: As a Holocaust survivor and a Jewish partisan, you have many days of personal reflection and remembrance. How is Yom HaShoah v’HaGevurah different?

Blaichman: I am very grateful that there is a day to remember what happened during that time—it is a good thing that the memory stays alive for generations.

JPEF: Any further reflections about this memorial?

Blaichman: Most importantly that Jews can defend themselves. The only way we survived as partisans was that we had the courage to fight back. Growing up in Poland, we were never taught how to survive. We had to have courage—early on we accepted our fate. It is important that people know that when I was fighting as a partisan, it was as a Jew—I am a Jew, I was fighting as a Jew, and I survived as a Jew. Jewish students, especially, should be proud to be Jewish and know that there were Jews who fought back and survived.

To learn more about Frank Blaichman, please visit his biography.

To download the study guide Frank Blaichman: A Partisan Leader's Story please visit JPEF's RESIST Curriculum.

Photo source: JPEF Archives

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

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Upcoming JPEF Educator TeleForum Relates Jewish Partisan Life Lessons to Today's Headlines


Register Now for the Thursday, March 18th Conference Call

President Obama accepts the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Source: http://www.media.cleveland.com/

When: Thursday, March 18th from 3:30-4:15 PM (PST)

Confronting Evil: A discussion about the present and the past.

This forum - first in a proposed series - will help educators connect the life lessons of the Jewish partisans with recent world events and your students' lives.

The call will discuss the remarks made by President Obama during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. In his speech, he talked about the need for a forceful response to al-Qaeda: “Evil does exist in the world…To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism—it is a recognition of history…" In addition, we will also discuss this topic from the Jewish partisans perspective. JPEF interviewed Simon Trakinski, a Jewish partisan from Lithuania, shortly after the September 11 tragedy in which he said, “When you fight evil, you can’t be a saint….how can you preserve your principles and solve the problem?” In that context Trakinski went on to say, "Evil will only recognize stronger evil."

How does a society deal with this kind of "evil"? How do people negotiate with those who want to kill them in the first place? Can there even be negotiations? These, amongst other questions will be discussed.

For more information and to register, please e-mail RSVP@jewishpartisans.org.

If you would like to suggest a future topic, please contact David Kaplan, Development Manager, via e-mail at davidk@jewishpartisans.org


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 (www.jewishpartisans.org) 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.]

JPEF Video for Slingshot


JPEF was fortunate enough to be acknowledged as one of the top 50 most innovative Jewish organizations for four years by Slingshot, a program of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. When we received recognition of this in October, we were also awarded a $40,000 grant and given a Flip camera to record programs and happenings for a midterm grant report -- vs. having to write one. This is the product of those Flip clips and takes the viewer to Zurich, Tennessee, California, Florida, and Washington DC where we ran programs that will ultimately affect tens of thousands of people. Having a little film/video background we had to edit it a little, add a little music. FAR from polished, but will give a five minute glimpse of what we have been up to from Oct 2009- Feb 2010.

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