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Friday, March 21, 2014

Free JPEF Resources for Jewish Camping

Program Plans, Training, and Resources

JPEF's experiential activities and resources are simple to use and require minimal preparation: just select the material from our RESIST curriculum page, print, review, and go. We also offer online training video courses to help you and your counselors get the most out of our materials, which you can access by logging-in to JPEF and selecting a course from the e-learning page. We recommend starting with Resistance Basics.

Building Jewish Identity and Resilience

Strengthening Jewish Pride: Heroism, hope, and resistance
Women in the Partisans: Girl power!

Experiential Activities

Ethics of War: Text study and a short play
Café Resist: Dining hall debate

Movie Night

jewishpartisans.org/films: Inspiring JPEF short films on Jews who fought back (3-21 minute)
  • Recommended Films: Introduction to the Jewish Partisans, Women in the Partisans, Living and Surviving (consists of 4 films: Food, Shelter, Medicine, Winter and Night)
  • To request a DVD, email: dvd@jewishpartisans.org
Teaching with Defiance: starring Liev Schreiber and Daniel Craig

Holidays and Observances

Rosh Chodesh, Tisha B’Av, Havdallah: Email us for information.

Inspiring Reading/Story Telling

Recommended Resources

Group Building and Outdoor Adventures

Living and Surviving in the Partisans: Inspiration for outdoor adventures
Finding Leadership: Great for counselor training and leadership activities

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Paula Burger – Paula’s Window: Papa, the Bielski Partisans, and A Life Unexpected

In her moving memoir, author and artist Paula Burger shares the harrowing experience of a child’s survival during the Holocaust.

The first child of Wolf and Sarah Koladicki, Paula Burger was born in 1934 in the town of Novogrudok, which had a vibrant Jewish community numbering around six thousand – half of the town’s population. Her father was a savvy businessman who owned a small grocery store and restaurant; he also traded in cattle and lumber, and managed the family’s ranch. Paula fondly remembers her pre-war childhood: her parents working together at the store, the ice cream from her aunt’s shop, and in 1939, the arrival of her baby brother Isaac.

But life as she knew it ended on July 3, 1941, when the German army occupied Novogrudok. Two weeks later, they executed the community’s professionals – fifty-two men in all, including rabbis, doctors, and lawyers – in the town’s main marketplace.

In the middle of a bitter cold night, several months later in December, the Nazis snuck in and rounded up the remainder of Novogrudok’s Jews. Paula’s father was not home at the time, but her mother Sarah, with young Isaac in her arms and Paula by her side, succeeded in escaping. During that raid, later called “Black Monday,” some four thousand Jews died at the hands of the occupiers. Afterwards, the remaining Jews were divided between two camps.

The Koladicki family managed to avoid incarceration in the ghettos for over four months. Once inside though, Wolf was permitted to leave as needed to attend to his various enterprises, all the while formulating a plan to escape with his family. A Polish neighbor, desirous of the Koladicki land, deceitfully informed the Nazis of Wolf’s involvement with the resistance movement. The Nazis searched for him, but soon grew tired of the unsuccessful hunt, and decided to arrest Sarah with the intent of extracting her husband’s whereabouts through interrogation and torture. Since she had no idea where Wolf was, the torture brought no results. The Nazis kept her in holding for six weeks, forcing her to serve as a German translator. Then, on Yom Kippur of 1942, they shot her.

By this time, Paula’s father did in fact become a member of the resistance by joining the Bielski Otriad in the Naliboki Forest. Wolf arranged to smuggle Paula and Isaac out of the ghetto with the help of a Polish farmer. The farmer’s job was to deliver water to the ghetto, so he smuggled young Paula and Isaac out of the ghetto in a dank, empty water barrel. They had to hide in total silence inside the cramped confines of the barrel for many hours. Paula knew that any sound they made could mean certain death, and she held Isaac tight to keep him absolutely still and calm.

After a night hidden in a barn, and another day of concealed travel, the siblings rejoined their father at the Bielski partisan camp. They remained with the group throughout the war, traveling with them when they could, and hiding in forest shelters when harsh winter conditions prevented them from doing so. Though she was only seven years old when they joined with the Bielskis, Paula actively contributed to armed resistance against the enemy, using her small fingers to pack explosives into yellow bricks, which were later used to blow up and derail Nazi supply trains.


Paula (age 12) and her brother Isaac (age 7) at a DP camp near Munich

Instead of returning to Novogrudok after the war’s end, Paula’s father led his family to Lida, and then across the border to Czechoslovakia. Aided only by their wits and the kindness of strangers, the family made their way to the American Zone in West Germany. They spent several years in the DP camp, where young Paula became fluent in English. Then in 1949, they voyaged to the US and joined their relatives in Chicago. There, in high school, Paula began to hone her natural talent as an artist.

As a child, Paula’s most prized possession was a box of colored pencils with which she would draw for hours on end. Although she did not begin painting professionally until she retired, Paula was always painting pictures in her mind, and maintained an overwhelming desire to act on this passion. In a journal she kept as a young woman, Paula wrote, “I hope I don’t die before I get to paint.”

The zeal for creative expression coursed through the veins of both siblings. Though successful in business, they continually pursued their artistic passions. While Paula painted colorful landscapes, still lifes, and Judaic-themed images, Isaac applied his beautiful singing voice to chazanut, and has now served as a professional cantor for over fifty years.

Paula’s art has shown in galleries throughout Colorado, and her works are included in numerous public, private and corporate collections throughout the world. After a childhood filled with dark images of horror and loss, Paula’s goal is to capture the beauty in life through her art with the bold use of color and imagery. You can view her catalogue at paulaburger.com.


Paula Burger and her art.

Paula Burger has been speaking to students’ civic groups for over twenty years. Her 2013 autobiography, Paula’s Window: Papa, the Bielski Partisans, and A Life Unexpected, vividly recalls her childhood experience of survival in the forests during World War II.


Paula and her brother Isaac at the Bielski Tribute Gala in 2013.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Blogger - Paul Orbuch: "If, By Miracle"

My name Is Paul Orbuch and I am the Founding President and Chairman Emeritus of JPEF. My mother, Sonia Orbuch, fought with the Soviet partisans – as did Michael Kutz, whose gripping memoir, “If, By Miracle”, was recently published by The Azrieli Foundation in Canada as part of their Holocaust Survivor Memoir series. The Azrieli Foundation has published many fine books in the series, but this one was the first on a Jewish partisan. It caught my attention for that reason, but as I read it I was amazed to see how it resonates with the work JPEF has done and specifically how it parallels in so many ways my mother’s story, which was told in her memoir, “Here, There Are No Sarahs”, which was released in 2009. I worked closely with her and her co-author Fred Rosenbaum for 3 years; many of the threads in Kutz’s memoir correlate with her story as a teenager who fled to the forests and eventually was lucky enough to join a fighting unit of Soviet partisans.

But this story is told through the eyes of a young teenage boy, whose struggle to prove oneself as a fighter, and the joy of finally being able to fight back after enduring the loss of family, friends and community nevertheless mirrors that of my mother and many other partisans. We see the same strand of antisemitism – even within the resistance groups. (This is analyzed more deeply in the JPEF course, Antisemitism in the Partisans.) We see the same joy and intoxicating camaraderie infuse their memories as they recollect this important period of their young lives.

There is a valuable introduction by the historian Anike Walke, who explains how large-scale history plays out through the eyes and experiences of this teenage Jewish boy. “The sweeping breadth of his story takes us on a journey through twentieth–century Eastern European, Soviet, Canadian, Jewish and global history.” Through Kutz’s eyes we learn about the split within the Jewish community in pre and post war Poland – between the Zionists who advocated emigration to the ancient land of Israel and the leftist groups who wanted to work towards a revolutionary new pluralistic world in their places of birth. Kutz’s parents even argued whether he should be educated in Hebrew (the Zionist view) or Yiddish, which exemplified the basic split in the community regarding the proper aspiration for the Jewish people.

Michael’s first-hand account of being buried alive in a pile of murdered bodies takes us on a journey into the brutality of the German Einsatzgruppen, and what has been termed the "Holocaust By Bullets". These were mobile death squads responsible for the rounding up and murder of Jews in mass shooting operations. These, in addition to the death camps we are more familiar with, were a key component of the implementation of the Nazis’ plan to annihilate the Jews in Eastern Europe. This is a harrowing and until recently neglected area of Holocaust history and I think "If, By Miracle" takes us right into the heart of this history.

This is a coming of age story – Michael was only a child when he joined the partisans. He learned to fight with them and, as time went on, he taught these skills to others. The account of his first mission where he was selected by his commanders to crawl to a police station at dawn to place dynamite because he was small enough to do so will entrance anyone reading it – but especially any teenager who responds to adventure and daring.

“ …we walked through woods and fields all night long…I was camouflaged and carried dynamite in my rucksack. ..I crawled to the barbed wire fence, pulling a long cord along behind me. ….when I got there I placed the dynamite in contact with the fuse and made my way back…..after we lit the end of the cord, there was an explosion a minute or so later…for our group of partisans, especially the Jewish ones, this was quite a victory. ………we earned a great deal of respect from the non-Jews as fighters who could strike a serious blow to our enemies. My participation in that first military operation was also a personal victory in avenging the death of my family and my people….”

The story of the uprising in Michael's hometown that he later hears about is particularly interesting, as it was one of the first instances of such revolts in the Ghettos and was a precursor to the well-known one in Warsaw.

The second half of the book is a unique retelling of this young man’s escape from Europe and his eyewitness account of the coordinated efforts of so many disparate groups that enabled countless survivors to overcome the many obstacles on the way to the ancient Jewish homeland of Israel. Although Michael eventually came to Canada, prior to leaving Europe he spent many months involved in the training and support of the many thousands who ran the British blockade and formed the nucleus of the new Jewish State.

As Michael settled into his new life, he never forgot the lessons he learned as young Jewish partisan –to stand up for the underdog and, in his own words:

“I tell my story to….the young people of Canada because I feel an obligation to keep the legacy alive for future generations, to be vigilant so that the Holocaust never happens again, to recognize the rights of all peoples regardless of colour, religion or nationality, and to live together and respect one another because we are all God’s children.

–Paul Orbuch, JPEF Founding President and Chairman Emeritus

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Featured Jewish Partisan - Sam Levi, born 1922

Samuel Levi was born in 1922 in Sofia, Bulgaria. His father was a grocer in their tight-knit community. Samuel was a student at the Komsomol (Communist Youth League) attending political and cultural classes in 1940, shortly before the Germans invaded Bulgaria.

Forced into a labor camp near the border with Greece, Samuel watched as Greek Jews were marched to concentration camps. The conditions in the labor camp were harsh, and as food began to run out, Samuel knew he must escape. He followed a group of Greek Jews being marched through his camp, and escaped outside the camp walls.

Rejoining the Komsomol, Samuel was in a band of partisans called La Chevdad that roamed Bulgaria, near the border with Yugoslavia. The group stayed in the high mountains or forests, to avoid capture. Conditions were difficult for the Komsomol partisans, as Samuel remembers: “We were constantly starving. We had some corn flour and water and that’s what we ate for an entire month. But we trained and we were on guard.”

It was unusual for partisans to get a full night’s rest, because of the constant dangers. The group would sleep out in the rain in the summer, but the partisans liked this, because for once they could speak to each other out loud and sing, the noise of their voices drowned out by the lighting and thunder.

Remembering a common partisan action, Samuel comments on the partisans’ cunning, “We would take their (police) uniforms in order to confuse the enemy during an operation. We would descend into the villages and they would think that we were officers and we would act.”

These partisan groups helped tremendously to prepare the groundwork for the Russians, who entered Bulgaria in 1944. Samuel recounts his feeling of impending death as a partisan: “For the one year and four months when I was a partisan, I never thought that I would remain alive. No partisan did. We knew that we could all die but die proud that we did something against the fascists.” Samuel lives today in Israel with his wife and has a son, a daughter, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Visit www.jewishpartisans.org for more about Sam Levi, including five videos of him reflecting on his time as a partisan.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Featured Jewish Partisan - Sima Simieticka, Born In 1923

The eldest of two daughters, Sima Simieticka was born on March 8th, 1923 to a family of tailors in Warsaw. Her father left the family for Russia when she was only two years old – he went to the newly-established Soviet state to seek his fortunes, but instead ended up in front of the firing squad for being a Trotskyist.

Sima and her sister lived with their mother and grandfather, who both worked as tailors, often accepting bartered goods in payment for their services. The family was very poor, and often went hungry.

Despite these difficulties, Sima attended school until the age of 14. Two years later, in autumn of 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland and the family fled across the Bug river to Soviet-occupied territory. Unfortunately, Sima’s grandfather stayed behind.

Sima and her family ended up on a work farm, where they remained for a time, doing whatever work needed to be done. Though life under the Soviets was difficult and fraught with hidden dangers1, Sima and her family persevered.

At one of the camps, she was forced to work on a farm located outside of the camp premises. Compared to the camp, she was treated nicely there and even received extra bread rations, which she was careful to share with her mother and sister (by walking as fast as possible so she wouldn’t have time to eat it all).

When a rumor spread that her labor camp was about to be burned, she found a hiding place underneath an oven in a local hospital. She remained there for three days with ten other people, hiding in silence. Unfortunately, her mother and sister were not allowed inside the hiding place – there was not enough room or air for them. She was not the only one burdened by such difficult and harrowing moral choices – in a small, airless hiding space, the price of silence was often paid with a crying infant’s life. Her mother and sister were both gassed and then burned in the ovens.

After ten days of hiding in the cramped space, Sima decided she would rather be shot by a guard than burned alive or suffocated, so she left her hiding place. She vividly remembers her escape, how she took off her wooden shoes and crawled underneath the barbed wire. The camp was burning; it appeared that no guards remained on the premises, but she heard music coming from a watchtower, so she knew to be wary. In the bitter cold of the midwinter night, she ran to the house of the farmer she worked for. His dog recognized her and started barking, but she called out its name – “Lizek, be quiet!”

She was lucky: the farmer was friendly, and prepared a bed for her. Early the next morning, he woke her up, gave her a big breakfast, and told her where the partisans were. For one week she walked through the deep snow and across frozen rivers – only to be turned down for being Jewish by the first brigade she came across.

She did better with the next brigade – a group of about 15, which allowed her to join. The brigade accommodated Russian soldiers, some Belarussian civilians, and even a German deserter. Though she was a Jew and a woman, she was accepted because she was one of the first and worked as a nurse. She was even issued a weapon, although she never had occasion to use it, and could have easily been robbed of it by antisemitic partisans who took to harassing other Jews in the otriad. And as a young woman trying to survive on her own in the forest, she was constantly under threat from the men she lived with. “You defend yourself as long as you can. If you cannot anymore, you stop defending yourself,” Sima stated grimly.

The otriad focused on survival; when they were not on the move, they spent much of their time hiding in zemlyankas – holes in the ground covered with branches, where about 4-10 people could stand upright. They gathered food by taking supplies from peasants, and by foraging for berries and other edible growth.

The Soviet parachutists landed in the spring of 1944, bringing with them guns and liberation. Free to go wherever she wanted, she chose Lodz, arriving there on the back of a truck, uninjured and in good health. In Lodz, she was able to locate her cousins with the aid of the Joint Distribution Committee. They had returned there as well, after surviving the deportations to Siberia.


Sima and her husband Stanley

Eventually, Sima met her husband and together they immigrated to Germany. Though Sima received an offer and the necessary immigration papers from her uncle to join him in Brazil, Sima’s husband refused to leave Germany and give up his career in medicine to become a tailor in a foreign land. Consequently, they remained in Germany for the rest of their lives.

Jessica Tannenbaum, Sima’s daughter in law, visited JPEF's offices last spring from Weiden, Germany, sharing Sima's story of resistance and survival and cherished photos and mementos. Committed to perpetuating the Jewish partisan legacy and ensuring that the tragedy of the Holocaust is remembered, Jessica devotes several days each week volunteering as a multilingual docent at the Flossenberg Concentration Camp, where she educates children and adults from all over the world.


1. On one occasion, the local Soviet administration asked all the refugees where they eventually wanted to end up. Nothing happened to those who said “Russia”, but anyone who said “Poland” or “Warsaw” was deported to Siberia. Some of Sima’s cousins were deported there in this fashion.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Partisan Photos By 'Defiance' Director Edward Zwick

In November of 2008, Defiance director Edward Zwick took these photographs of surviving Bielski partisans at the screening of Defiance at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. We have posted some of these on our Facebook page earlier, in conjunction with our tribute dinner honoring partisans from the Bielski brigade and their 3rd generation descendants. Here is the entire set:

Alfred Zenner Ann Monka
Masha Pupko Beryl Chafetz
Charles and Sara Bedzow
Jerry Kaidanow Lea Friedberg
Sara Bedzow Solomon Lapidus
Willie Moll
Michael Stoll Bella Goldfischer
Helen Terris Ruth Lapidus

All photos © 2008 Edward Zwick. Used with permission.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Teaching Tips For “Tactics of Resistance”

Still planning your curriculum for the year? JPEF's new Tactics of Resistance is a framework you can use throughout the year to help students analyze conflicts and brainstorm solutions to violence and other forms of aggression.

Here are a few tips for using Tactics in the upcoming school year:

  • Apply the Matrix to a range of conflicts
  • Encourage off-the-wall solutions
  • Use the Resistance Matrix as an action-planning tool
  • Test examples to see if they fit the definition of aggression
  • Color code student responses

Apply the Matrix to A Variety of Conflicts

At the heart of the Tactics curriculum is the Resistance Matrix, a new tool that helps students think critically about aggression, resistance, and long- and short-term outcomes.

Students start by analyzing examples of armed and non-violent resistance from the life of Jewish partisan Frank Blaichman (see above). Then they adapt the process to brainstorm solutions to problems teens face in their own lives, for example, put-downs or bullying in the locker room:

Once students get the hang of the matrix, you can use it to brainstorm solutions to other situations (personal, community or global). You can also apply it as an analytic tool throughout the year in history, current events, literature, and even religious studies classes.


Boston Tea Party Matrix


Ten Plagues Matrix

Concepts, critical thinking questions, and other materials from the lesson (such as the Tactics List and the Jewish Resistance Slideshow) will help you frame and examine subsequent conflicts your students study in your class.

Encourage off-the-wall solutions

Feel free to let students be as creative as they can as they generate possible responses to aggression. By following off-the-wall, or even violent tactics to their conclusion, students naturally come to see the downsides and unintended consequences of outsized ('asymmetric') responses.

On the other hand, after looking at the practical consequences of inappropriate solutions, we like to ask students for out-of-the-box solutions; something “so crazy it just might work”.

These proposals can often lead to useful approaches. In one class, a student proposed bribing his sister to stop her from sneaking into his room and reading his diary. This led to another student suggesting they ask why she was acting this way, instead of simply arguing. Perhaps his sister was angry about something he did, or was simply curious, or actually wanted his attention. By considering her possible motivations, the student saw an option to be less reactive.

Use the Resistance Matrix as an action-planning tool

Once students see how the matrix can help them think through their responses, you can encourage them to use it as a planning tool for creating positive change.

Use the Aggression column to help the group define the actual problem, and brainstorm large-scale solutions in the Resistance column (e.g: holding non-violence trainings to help students deal with bullying at school). Take the most popular solutions and break them down into smaller steps, assigning each to a different team who will envision possible consequences (positive and negative) for each point in the process. Teams can use a fresh matrix to troubleshoot and improve, then reconvene with the rest of the group to put their proposals together into a larger action plan.

Test examples to see if they fit the definition of aggression:

Students often misconstrue events in their own lives and categorize them as “aggression”, when in fact it's simply a matter of disagreement. That's why the lesson begins by working with the students to define Aggression and Resistance before introducing the matrix.

For example, if students offer a curfew set by their parents as an example of aggression, ask if the action the object to is “intended to harm.”

Helping students differentiate between conflicts and true examples of aggression also helps students think critically about authority figures and the imposed limits they encounter in their own lives.

Color code student examples of Aggression, Resistance, and Outcomes

The Resistance Matrix offers students the opportunity to see both the short and long term consequences of an action or event. It is a tool that especially supports visual learners. To highlight this effect – as well as to help non-visual learners keep track of the various categories – try color-coding student responses so that “Aggression”, “Resistance”, and “Outcome” categories each are written in their own color.

More teaching tips online

See our entire Tactics of Resistance online course (running time: 43 minutes) for more tips and ideas to help you use these tools throughout your school year.