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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Noted philanthropist and long-time JPEF supporter Warren Hellman passes away

Warren Hellman at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, 2011San Francisco philanthropist, financier, and supporter of JPEF, Warren Hellman, died Sunday, December 18, 2011 at age 77 of Leukemia. While most know him for his incredible business skills, generosity of spirit, and annual “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass” music festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the Board and staff of JPEF will also remember Warren for his generous support of JPEF over the past five years with his wife Chris through the Hellman Family Foundation.

Their philanthropy enabled JPEF to conduct scores of Educator Institutes in the Bay Area and across the globe, impacting thousands of educators and hundreds of thousands of students through the history and life lessons of the Jewish partisans. They also helped build our E-Learning Platform, providing educators with easily accessible training on the use of our cutting-edge educational content. The family was instrumental in the support of JPEF’s international photography exhibit, Pictures of Resistance: The Wartime Photographs of Jewish Partisan Faye Schulman, which has toured the world thanks to the Hellmans, and is coming to Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco this summer. We will dedicate the San Francisco showing to his memory.

Warren Hellman was a great man, whose impact was felt everywhere. He was beloved by many, and we hope his example for using his significant resources and influence for making the world a much better place with such unique passion and enthusiasm will be emulated by others for many generations to come.

Public services will be held Wednesday, December 21, at 1pm at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

JPEF will be at NCSS this weekend!


JPEF will be at the NCSS (National Council for the Social Studies) Annual Conference this week in Washington DC. Visit us at booth 428 for free DVDs, posters and curricula, as we promote our new E-Learning Platform. All attendees can join us at our free workshop at 4:20pm this Friday – RESIST: Defying the Myth of Sheep to the Slaughter, taught by JPEF’s Education Manager Jonathan Furst.

We look forward to introducing our programs and materials to the 3,500 educators attending NCSS and getting feedback from those who are using our curricula. Last year we had over 450 educators come to our booth to receive free JPEF materials.

To learn more about the NCSS Annual Conference, go here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This Month in Jewish Partisan History: Borszczower Bande Liberates Prisoners on November 17, 1943

The Borszczower Bande was a small yet bold resistance group formed by Jews from the Borszczow ghetto in western Ukraine. The leaders were Wolf Ashendorf, Joel Weintraub, Kalman Schwartz and a Jewish soldier of the Red Army named Lyoveh.

The Borszczower Bande was a small yet bold resistance group formed by Jews from the Borszczow ghetto in western Ukraine. The leaders were Wolf Ashendorf, Joel Weintraub, Kalman Schwartz and a Jewish soldier of the Red Army named Lyoveh.

Before the ghetto was liquidated by a series of aktions, resistance groups formed. “In October 1941 we started to organize ourselves,” said B. W. Ben-Barak, a member of the Borszczower partisan group. Gathering small arms weaponry, the resistance managed to escape into the forest before the ghetto was ordered to be liquidated in 1943. Throughout that summer, they carried out attacks on Ukrainian policemen and nationalist groups.

Group photo of attending partisans at the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan.

In November 1943, the Borszczower Bande then planned an attack on the German prison in Borszczow. Led by Ashendorf, they released all fifty prisoners on November 17. This brazen victory overshadowed their demise. After facing hostility from locals, the Bande was attacked by a much larger group of German forces. They inflicted casualties on the Germans, but the Borszczower group’s losses were greater and they were forced to disperse. Some who fled found no choice but to commit suicide, their last defense against dehumanization. Those others who survived joined with Kovpak’s soviet partisan brigade.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jewish Partisans honored in New York City

Over 55 Jewish partisans gathered together in New York City on November 6th and 7th to commemorate the enduring legacy they share and to be honored at the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation’s 2011 Tribute Dinner. Traveling from throughout the United States, many with children, grandchildren and even some great-grandchildren in tow, they reconnected with friends and quickly rekindled the strong bonds that will forever unite them.

The celebration began with a Sunday afternoon reception for partisans and their family members, hosted by JPEF, at the Park East Synagogue. Laughter resonated throughout the space as partisans embraced one another, tears of joy welling in their eyes. For many, this was the first time they had seen one another in over sixty-five years. Allen Small, who traveled from Palm Beach Gables, Florida, was overjoyed to be reunited with Leon Bakst who came from Dallas, Texas.

Over 400 guests packed the stylish art deco Edison Ballroom the following evening to formally recognize and honor the courage and sacrifice demonstrated by these Jewish partisans during World War II. Mistress of Ceremonies Dana Tyler, Senior News Anchor for WCBS-TV and actor and Emmy winner Edward Asner, the cousin of partisan Abe Asner, paid tribute to each of the honorees. With their black and white partisan photograph projected on screen, each partisan was individually honored and identified by name, country of birth and the partisan group in which they served. In all there were 23 women and 33 men, representing brigades from Belarus, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine, Russia and France. Included among the attending partisans were six married couples, three sets of siblings, a rabbi, a cantor and a mohel.

Guests watched in awe as each partisan, most in their eighties and nineties, stood to accept their honor with the same characteristic strength and determination that empowered them to fight back so many years before.

In his address Asner stated, “JPEF is important because it puts the legacy of the Jewish partisans front and center, as no other organization does. It stays committed to its mission and does not deviate.”

Lauren Feingold, granddaughter of partisans Dr. Charles Bedzow and Sara Golcman Bedzow also spoke. As the first third generation representative to the JPEF Board, Lauren worked closely with her grandfather, who serves as JPEF’s Honorary International Chairman, to promote the Tribute Dinner and guarantee its success. Like Lauren, many of those involved in the recently formed 3G group, are already working to ensure that young people everywhere are empowered by their grandparent’s examples, and she challenged her peers to join in this quest. She was followed by Charles who spoke movingly to his fellow partisans reminding them that they share a unique and important legacy; one which must be passed from generation to generation.

In a fitting testament to this charge, Cantor Shira Ginsburg, grandaugher of partisan Judith Ginsburg, closed the event with a performance of the song “Who Am I”, about her family and the inspiration of her grandmother’s partisan legacy. As Shira’s beautiful voice filled the room, more than forty third generation teens and young adults raised white candles high, signaling their commitment to keep the flame alive.

JPEF extends its sincere appreciation to event co-chairperons Esther-Ann Asch, Suzanne and Elliott Felson, Kim and Jonathan Kushner and Diane and Howard Wohl for their dedication to ensuring the success of this remarkable event.

Links to press materials about the event:
Jerusalem Post article.
Jewish Week article.
An article in the Algemeiner.
WCBS nightly news video.
More photos from the event on our Flickr page.

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.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Daniel Craig as older Tuvia Bieski on hack license prop for Defiance

Daniel Craig as an older Tuvia Bielski

If you’ve seen the movie Defiance, you’ll recognize Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski, but you won’t recognize the above prop made for the film. It’s a New York City hack license picturing Craig as an elderly Tuvia; the scene (intended as the opening for the film) took place in the 1980’s long after the Bielski brothers lived and fought in Nalibocki forests.

“All of us have gotten into cabs in New York, and we assume that that person is just a person driving a cab.” That’s the kindling behind director Edward Zwick’s idea for the original opening scene in Defiance. Hear the rest of Zwick's thoughts on the scene in this video clip. The idea’s merit is one of relevance and human interest—little known to the Bielski story is how Tuvia and Zus modestly and anonymously lived out their post-war lives in New York City.

However, Zwick didn’t intend the movie to be a romantic or comprehensive overview of the Bielski’s biographies; he wanted the film to express the absolute physical and moral struggles during that particular moment in their lives. In this way, the discarded prop serves as a symbol of artistic integrity. “I didn’t want it to be comfortable,” Zwick said at a JPEF event this Spring, “I wanted it to capture the feeling.” For more on Defiance — including educational material and interviews with Tuvia Bielski's brother Aron — go to www.jewishpartisans.org/defiance.

Visit the JPEF website for our acclaimed Defiance curriculum. Additionally, E-Learning classes on Defiance are available at www.jewishpartisans.org/elearn/web/.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Partisan Tools for Survival: the Instrument of Illusion

Many who know Jewish partisan stories also know that victory was not only about physical resistance—mining railroad tracks or killing German soldiers—it was also about spiritual and intellectual resistance. One such model of mind over matter is the power of resourcefulness; partisan stories often feature the instrument of illusion saving the day.

Ben Kamm
Many partisans recall the tactical trickery they used to defeat enemies. Ben Kamm’s unit would strategically place Soviet parachutes (used to drop supplies) in an area away from camp, wait for Germans to bomb the parachutes, and cut the German airplanes down with machine guns. Likewise, Jack Kakis’ partisan unit developed oft-used deceptive strategies, and for him it was all in the details. He recalls their method for mining the roads, “You put the mines underneath [a piece of rubber] and you make some truck marks on top of the soil.” When the Germans surveyed the roads, they assumed it was as safe for them as for the last truck that supposedly drove by.

Abe Asner on a horse
Sometimes ingenuity was purely off the cuff: prior to approaching a group of Lithuanians and their machine gun in the forest, Abe Asner realized he and his outnumbered companions had to devise a plan so they would not be massacred. That's when Abe saw a natural hill within the Lithuanians' view and had a brilliantly simple idea. The seven partisans walked all around the hill several times, which gave the Lithuanians the impression that a great number of partisan soldiers were surveying the area. The Lithuanians quickly abandoned their plan and ran away.

Bernard Musmand's survival was dependent on pretending to be something he was not. Hiding in an all boys' Catholic school in France, Bernard had to play a part he knew very little about. The first day, got a hold of a Bible and spent half the night studying in the bathroom. He explained: “I became such a good Catholic that the priest at one time asked me if I want to go to the seminary, Catholic seminary.”

In Bernard Druskin’s case, however, reasons for deception could also err on the side of recreation:

“You know we used to give the dynamite to the peasants? For booze, in exchange for booze. We used to tell them that's soap. They didn't know what is. Mylo, mylo, mylo — that was soap, used to tell them it was soap.”

Wherever illusion came from—pre-existing resources, extemporaneous action, or pre-planned strategies—many partisans speak of these ephemeral instances of trickery as possessing the power to turn the tables in the fight for survival.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This Month in Jewish Partisan History: Revolt in Sobibor Extermination Camp

Those who escaped from the Sobibor Extermination Camp in Poland furnished detailed-first hand accounts of their revolt. Their stories will be a legacy for all who lived and died in the gates and for the events that happened in October of 1943. A small town on the eastern edge of Poland, Sobibor was the locale for an extermination camp. Outside the camp, a 100-meter long road that the Germans called Himmelstrasse (Road to Heaven) led the way to the gas chambers, where approximately 250,000 Jews and Soviet POWs were executed.

On September 23, 1943, Alexander Pechersky, a Lieutenant Quatermaster of the Red Army arrived at Sobibor and was chosen for labor. When Solomon Leitman explained to him that in this small plot of land hundreds of thousands of Jewish women, children and men were murdered, he thought of escape, initially wondering, “Should I leave the rest of the prisoners to be tortured and murdered?” He then writes in his memoir, “I rejected this thought.” Pechersky became a figure of authority when he stood up to a German guard at the camp. That’s when people began to approach Pechersky with ideas for an escape plan.

Leon Feldhendler had been leading discussions for an escape, but was unable to come up with a suitable plan, as the camp perimeter was planted with mines. Pechersky and Feldhendler realized that if they could kill the SS officers while other Soviet POWS raided the arsenal, they could take the camp and escape through the gates.

On October 14, 1943, participants led by Pechersky and Feldhendler covertly killed 11 SS personnel with knives and axes; they covered the blood with sawdust. However, an SS guard who had left the camp and returned early discovered one of the bodies and began to shoot at prisoners. At the sound of gunshots, Perchersky cried out for the others to begin their revolt. Some prisoners had obtained hand grenades and guns, others rushed out of their workshops to escape, some who were unaware of the revolt chose not to leave. All who stayed were executed.

Out of 550 prisoners of Sobibor, 300 made it out of the prison gates; though many, including Leon Feldhendler, were caught by German soldiers and local collaborators. Within days of the revolt, Heinrich Himmler ordered the camp closed, razed, and planted over with trees. After the war was over, only 53 Sobibor prisoners had survived. Pechersky and other survivors joined up with partisan brigades, including an all-Jewish otriad called Yehiel’s Group, and continued to sabotage the Germans. Others who survived were able to, in their own way, bring their perpetrators to justice. Thomas Blatt interviewed former German guard at Sobibor, Karl Frenzel, and contributed to the book, Escape from Sobibor, which gives various personal accounts of the events. Finally, Esther Raab, Thomas Blatt, Chaim Engel, Regina Zielinski, and Kurt Thomas gave these amazing interviews to USC Shoah Foundation, here.

For more information on the story of Sobibor and its participants, see these articles:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Featured Jewish Partisan - Marisa Diena, born on September 29th

"They didn’t know that I was Jewish. It didn’t cross my mind because there, like I said, everyone thought that I was Mara... But there was also Ulisse, Polifemo, Lampo, Fulmine ... they all had battle names. You didn’t know anything about anyone. It wasn’t important. So most people didn’t know that I was Jewish."
— Marisa Diena.

Marisa Diena was born in Turin, Italy, on September 29, 1916. Eight years old when Benito Mussolini became dictator of Italy, Marisa was taught to love Fascism. However, in 1938, Italy passed its first Racial Laws, in imitation of the Nazi Racial Purity laws, banning Jews from working in the public sector or attending public school. In 1940, Italy declared war on Britain and France, and by 1942, Turin was being bombed on an almost daily basis. By 1943, Italy was in a state of virtual civil war. Mussolini was deposed and Italy surrendered following the allied invasion of Sicily. Germany responded by seizing control of Northern and Central Italy and reinstating Mussolini as the head of a new puppet regime.

After the Nazis occupied Turin, Marisa fled into the mountains around Torre Pellice to join the partisans. The role of women in the Italian partisans was unique; since most of the male partisans were army deserters, only women were able to move during the day without arousing suspicion. As a result, Marisa became the vice-commander of information for her unit. During the day, she would ride her bicycle around the countryside, collecting information from local informers. Each night she would report back to her commander. In addition to sabotage and guerrilla warfare, Italian partisans tried to keep order in the war-ravaged countryside. Marisa’s unit created local community committees in the Torre Pellice region to distribute rations and helped organize strikes among industrial workers in cities like Turin.

In the spring of 1945, the estimated 300,000 partisans working in Northern Italy organized a national liberation committee. On April 25th, 1945, Marisa’s partisan unit liberated Turin, while their comrades in other major cities did the same. After the war, as Italian democracy began to blossom, Marisa remained engaged in politics, witnessing the ratification of the new Italian Constitution in 1948. Marisa remained in Italy, sharing her experience as a partisan with elementary school children. She passed away on May 8th, 2013.

Visit www.jewishpartisans.org for more about Marisa Diena, including seven videos of her reflecting on her time as a partisan.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Partisan Tools for Survival: Friendly Locals

The world of a partisan, and especially a Jewish partisan, was a treacherous, restless, stressful world. They braved the most unendurable conditions—extreme cold, hunger, fatigue—and survived through the will to fight and persevere. Sometimes they received food, shelter, supplies, information, and medical attention from nearby communities. However, Jewish partisans could not fully trust the often anti-Semitic locals, though their services were necessary. Preventative measures were therefore taken: food and supplies were acquired at gunpoint or with some cunning and often improvised deception. Frank Blaichman recalls, “We had information that a farmer had hidden weapons. We made up a story to tell him that we were Russian paratroopers and we needed the weapons. We had our men far away with broken pitchforks that looked like a gun with a bayonet in the background, so to the farmer he looked like he was dealing with the real thing.” Even medical care was forcefully taken when sympathetic doctors were not available.

Norman Salsitz
Wounded in battle, Norman Salsitz needed surgical attention but did not trust the local doctors, so he took a hand grenade with him and informed the surgeon that if anything went wrong, everybody in the room would be killed. Brenda Senders explains the necessity of using this type of force, “You know, you go in with guns and the person will not give you food so you take it yourself. It was a war, it was not a matter of being polite or this way or the other way. Survival was at stake.”

However, locals who empathized with Jewish partisans or simply shared the same feeling of opposition toward German occupation were a great asset to partisan survival. Leon Idas found that there were local villagers who were friendly and freely informed partisan troops of German movements, and would even escort disguised partisans to the city hospitals to get them aid. Harry Burger found that locals offered up their barns to shelter and care for traveling partisans. Burger and Idas, however, lived and fought in southern Europe, where there was less anti-Semitism. In Poland, Sonia Orbuch did not encounter many sympathetic locals; although, she owes much of her survival to one citizen by the name of Tichon Martinetz who was instrumental in connecting her with the Russian partisans and also supplied the brigade with food in the bitter winter of ’42. Frank Blaichman spent much time with farmers who hid him and his comrades, cooked meals for them, even washed their clothes. “The locals were anti-Semitic, but they were not killers,” Frank Blaichman explained. “When they saw that we took care of German collaborators they were more willing to help us. Without their help we would have never survived.”

Frank Blaichman

According to partisans such as Blaichman, local allies could make all the difference in regards to survival. Even though unsympathetic locals could be tricked or forced at gunpoint to concede services and supplies, not all of survival relies on physical needs. After being chased by locals “like an animal”, when Blaichman found friendly households which sheltered and fed him there was a sense of hope. He said, “They treated us like human beings.”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This Month in Jewish Partisan History: Łachwa Ghetto Uprising

By the 1930s, Łachwa, Poland (now southern Belarus) had a majority Jewish population, which, in April 1942, was confined to a ghetto so under-suited that each resident had about one square meter of living space.

In the five short months of the ghetto’s existence, the youth of Łachwa formed an underground movement led by Isaac Rochczyn and aided by Dov Lopatyn, head of the ghetto’s Judenrat. Together, they established contact with partisan groups in the area in order to secure funding and weapons, although these groups were largely anti-Semitic and did not effectively support the movement.

Lachwa (now Lakhva, Belarus). Ulica Lubaczyńska (Lubaczynska Street)

In August 1942, residents heard from Jews forced to do labor outside the ghetto that nearby ghettos in Łuniniec and Mikaszewicze had been liquidated. On September 2, Lachwa was informed that local farmers were ordered by the Germans to excavate large pits outside the town. Rochczyn and the youth underground wanted to attack the ghetto wall at midnight to allow the population to flee. They watched as 150 German soldiers from an Einsatzgruppe mobile killing squad with 200 local auxiliaries surrounded the ghetto. Lopatyn, however, did not want to abandon the elderly and the children and he asked that the attack be postponed until the morning, allowing the Judenrat to discuss their options.

Yitzhak/Isaac Rochzyn (or Icchak Rokchin), Łachwa Ghetto underground leader and head of local Betar Group.
When morning arrived, the ghetto inhabitants were ordered to gather for "deportation". The Germans promised Lopatyn that the Judenrat, the ghetto doctor, and 30 laborers of choice would be safe from deportation. Lopatyn refused the offer, reportedly responding: "Either we all live, or we all die."

Lopatyn and Rochczyn made the decision to resist. Lopatyn set the Judenrat headquarters on fire to signal this decision. The youth resistance engaged the Germans and local collaborators with axes, sticks, Molotov cocktails, and even their bare hands, while others attempted to flee. Rochczyn killed a Gestapo officer with an ax and jumped into the river but was shot and killed. Kopel Kolpanitzky, who later wrote a book about surviving the Łachwa ghetto, recalls the chaos of his escape:

“The machine guns on the other side of the river opened fire along the length of Rinkowa street, wounding fleeing Jews and killing them…I also ran quickly, as the people who ran in front of me were shot and killed, their bodies falling next to me.”

Lachwa lost the majority of its population that day. A number of survivors, however, were able to join up with partisan units in the area. Dov Lopatyn, who fought alongside the youth of the ghetto, escaped to the forest and joined a partisan unit, as well. Though he was killed on an operation by a landmine in February 1945, Lopatyn leaves a legacy of his courage and leadership, underneath which the Jews of Łachwa stood up to their oppressors.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

People Who Resisted – Dith Pran: photojournalist, refugee and survivor of the Cambodian Genocide

Dith Pran: Survivor, Advocate, Photojournalist

In the 1970s, Dith Pran was witnessing his country’s violent dissolution. Cambodia lapsed into civil war, stirred up by the struggles in Vietnam that spread over national borders. Pran sent his wife, Ser Moeun Dith, and four children to the United States, but he stayed to help report on Cambodia’s civil war, believing that in order to save lives, other nations had to understand Cambodia’s state of desperation. He worked as an essential guide, note-taker, and photographer for New York Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg, who explained in an interview, “[Pran’s] mission with me in Cambodia was to tell the world what suffering his people were going through in a war that was never necessary.” Schanberg later wrote an article about Cambodia and Pran, which was turned into the 1984 movie, The Killing Fields.

In 1975, Pran unwillingly became a pawn in the radical social engineering experiment of Pol Pot, who sought to turn Cambodia into a purely agrarian society devoid of Western influence. Pot’s trigger-happy followers, the Khmer Rouge, gained control of Phnom Penh, forcing all residents out of the capital city and into a collective farm. At the forced labor camp, Pran spent four and a half years harvesting twelve hours a day with a spoonful of rice for sustenance. He did all that he could to survive, while witnessing and enduring arbitrary brutality.

At this time Cambodians were murdered for minor infractions against the regime’s doctrinaire policies; the Khmer Rouge were responsible for an estimated 2 million Cambodian deaths. Pran deemed the mass graves of Cambodians, killed by starvation, disease, guns, and pick axes, as “The Killing Fields.”

A 1974 photo by Mr. Dith of shells being fired at a village northwest of Phnom Penh. Photo: Dith Pran/The New York Times

In 1979 the Khmer Rouge lost power and Pran escaped 60 miles past the killing fields — the overwhelming evidence of genocide — and through landmine-dotted terrain to the Thai border. Soon thereafter, he reunited with his family in San Francisco.

Having survived atrocity, Pran immediately began to devote his time to helping fellow Cambodians who had suffered under the Khmer Rouge. In New York City, he founded the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project to educate people on the history of the Khmer Rouge regime. He spoke also of his efforts to aid Cambodia: “The Khmer Rouge has brought Cambodia back to year zero and that's why I'm trying to bring the Khmer Rouge leaders to the World Court. Like one of my heroes, Elie Wiesel, who alerts the world to the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, I try to awaken the world to the Holocaust of Cambodia, for all tragedies have universal implications.”

Dith Pran died on March 30, 2008, having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just three months earlier. Executive Editor of the New York Times, Bill Keller, explained after Mr. Dith’s death, “To all of us who have worked as foreign reporters in frightening places, Pran reminds us of a special category of journalistic heroism — the local partner, the stringer, the interpreter, the driver, the fixer, who knows the ropes, who makes your work possible, who often becomes your friend, who may save your life, who shares little of the glory, and who risks so much more than you do.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This Month in Jewish Partisan History: Partisan Attack on Dereczyn, Poland (Belarus), August 1942

On the night of July 24, 1942, the ghetto of Dereczyn was liquidated; between 3,000 and 4,000 Jews were murdered and placed in a mass grave.

Before the Germans swept Dereczyn, some 250 Jews evaded execution and fled into the forests. They were assisted by another survivor, 33-year old Dr. Yehezkel Atlas who had fled from Kozlowszczyzna, in the Slonim district of western Belarus, where he saw his sister and parents murdered. He was the physician of a partisan group commanded by Pavel Bulak and Boris Bulat, and he brought the refugees from Dereczyn to the two Soviet commanders. There was already a partisan fighting group of Soviet and Polish soldiers, but Atlas announced his intention to form an all-Jewish unit, to give the survivors of Dereczyn vengeance for their murdered families.

Yehezkel Atlas
Copyright © 2011 Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' And Heroes' Remembrance Authority

Bulak dismissed him, insisting Jews were not fighters, and in any case they did not have weapons to prove themselves. Furthermore, Bulak did not want Atlas, although he was a skilled tactician, to be a partisan leader; he was essential as a physician. Dr. Atlas was adamant and convinced Bulak enough that the commander sent the Jewish men to prove their merit on a dangerous operation — half-expecting failure. When Atlas and the others returned with newly attained arms, Bulak allocated forces for an all-Jewish partisan unit.

One Jewish partisan who came from Dereczyn, Gertrude Boyarski, described her choice to join the fighting unit under Bulak instead of the family camp:

“Sitting and hiding behind my mother's skirts didn’t feel right, I figured in the fighting unit I could get vengeance, I could do something good.”

On August 10, 1942, Dr. Yehezkel Atlas received permission to attack the Germans at Dereczyn. Under the authority of Bulak and Bulat, Atlas led 300 partisans in an armed attack on the German garrisons. They successful took control of the town, capturing 44 German policemen and killing almost 20 in the struggle. After raiding the supplies, the Jewish partisans now all had high Russian boots, leather knapsacks, shirts, and a number of small, good-quality arms and ammunition. Atlas ordered the 44 captured German policemen atop the mass grave outside Dereczyn, where they were lined up and executed.

After the operation, Atlas told his unit:

“We must not settle down and take things easy…Our struggle only began with the defeat of the Germans at Dereczyn. Your lives came to an end in the slaughter of the 24th of July. Every additional day of life is not yours, but belongs to your murdered families. You must avenge them.”
Dereczyn Synagogue, Copyright © 2008-10. Museum of Family History.

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: http://youtu.be/9lgqCZ6OsMk.

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, www.jewishpartisans.org, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jewish Partisans: Tools for Survival and Resistance - The Night

The day-to-day lives of the Jewish partisans were extraordinarily difficult. Jewish partisan units had little arms and ammunition to fight with, and when they were not fighting, they were struggling to find food for survival. They slept in the elements and had little to no medical supplies. They also had to worry about local collaborators plotting against them. Yet, the Jewish partisans evaded capture, used their resources to impede German operations, retook ghettos, killed German troops, and saved thousands of Jewish lives during World War II. They were successful for many reasons and developed many instruments for survival. One way in which the partisans had an advantage over their enemies was their use of the cover of night.

Simon Trakinski

Most partisan group activities, especially those outside of the forest, were carried out at night. Jack Kakis used the cover of night as a setting for his factory-bombing operations, Simon Trakinski's partisan group blew up train lines at nighttime, and the Bielskis used the darkness to veil their food gathering missions. Ben Kamm also led operations at nighttime, successfully freeing 600 Jews from the Janow Lubelski labor camp in Poland.

Norman Salsitz

The night was more or less a necessity for the successful conduct of operations — during the day, it was very difficult for partisans to go anywhere outside the forest without being detected. Even clear nights and the moon caused a great deal of anxiety, so the partisans would actually welcome the kinds of difficult, stormy weather they would otherwise wish to avoid. As Norman Salsitz said:

“Who was our biggest enemy? The moon. The moon was our biggest enemy… if there was a moonlit night, we couldn’t move. So the night, the blizzard, heavy snow, heavy rain, this was our friends.”

The partisans also knew that the Germans had no tactical advantage over the partisans in the dark or in poor conditions. Silvio Ortona explains their strategy:

“We defended ourselves and at night, disappeared, because we were in charge at night. Because we had people who knew everything about the region. And they didn’t move at night… because their weapon superiority was no longer applicable.”

For these reasons, nighttime was an important element for the partisans and a powerful one. Abe Asner, who repeatedly frustrated the Germans with his efficiency under the cover of darkness, describes night’s importance to partisans:

“I think, if I would write a book, the title would be, The Night is Our Mother because lots of things we used to do, at night. The night was protecting us… the night was our mother.”

For more information about the Jewish partisans, please visit the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation's website.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

This Month in Jewish Partisan History: Nesvizh Ghetto Resistance, July 1942

The Jews in Nesvizh organized one of the first Jewish uprisings during World War II in order to resist complete liquidation of their community. Nesvizh is a small city in Belarus, over 100 kilometers southwest of Minsk, full of public parks and architectural attractions, and is passed through by a lake. On the small lake’s eastern bank the formidable Nesvizh castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands tucked in between shade trees, cosseted by ramparts and canals. As a center for fairs, the town attracted artisans, horticulturalists, and farmers. Until 1942, there had been a Jewish community here for hundreds of years.

Nesvizh Synagogue, date unknown. Compiled by the members of the Nesvizh Study Group.

After the German invasion in June 1941, an aktion was ordered on Nesvizh and thousands of Jews were executed all at once in the small city. By October 30, 1941, the Jewish population in Nevizh had been reduced from between 4,500 to 5,000 to approximately 600 Jews. The remaining Jewish population was limited to a ghetto.

Anticipating a second aktion, an underground movement in the ghetto was formed to resist the community’s complete annihilation and to embody the mottos: “We shall not go like sleep to slaughter” and “Let me die with the Philistines”. Underground participants acquired arms by having weapons — including a machine gun — smuggled into the city from storehouses. Nine months later, in July of 1942, the Nesvizh ghetto began to hear of German liquidation engulfing nearby communities. They prepared for the imminent orders: digging bunkers, organizing into fighting units, and preparing additional homemade weapons like knives and hatchets. In the event of an occupation, they planned to set fire to the ghetto and break through to the forest.

On July 20th, a German commander stood outside the gates of the ghetto and announced the order to liquidate with the exception of thirty essential skilled workers. When the Germans and collaborating Belarusians infiltrated the ghetto, the Jewish resistance set their houses aflame and fought towards the gate. The Germans and Belarusians soon overpowered the resistance, killing most in the onslaught. Only twenty-five underground fighters succeeded in escaping to nearby forests.

Having endured one of the first ever ghetto uprisings, many of these survivors went on to join partisan units, including the Zhukov Otriad, and continued in the struggle to resist.

Entrance to the Nesvizh Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This uprising is described in detail in: Cholawski, Shalom, Soldiers from the Ghetto: The First Uprising Against the Nazis (San Diego and New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., Inc, 1980).

Nesvizh, 2004.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Partisans in the Arts: Alexander Bogen (1916-2010)

"Why would a man in grave danger create art? For an artist, the motivation to create is even more powerful than existence itself."
— Alexander Bogen.

From the series: "Partisans", 1949. Lino-cut. Copyright © 2011 Yad Vashem — The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority

Alexander Bogen’s sketches during World War II show a tremendous knowledge of the human condition: an abandoned child in the streets of the Vilna ghetto, an old man who is dying, comrades drinking vodka and playing cards around a bonfire. Although condemned to record his subjects often without—or in place of—the ability to save them, his passion for art was a weapon in itself against the Nazi forces.

Alexander Bogen, unit commander of Nekama. Copyright © 2011 Yad Vashem — The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority

Bogen was, however, able to save a great deal of lives through his efforts as the commander of a partisan unit. Born in 1916, Bogen grew up in Vilna, Poland, and studied painting and sculpture at Vilna’s university. When World War II began, he left and joined a partisan movement in the endless forests surrounding Lake Naroch in Belarus. Facing discrimination from the non-Jewish partisans, Bogen assisted in forming an all-Jewish otriad called Nekama, meaning Vengeance. He served as a unit commander, helping transport people from the Vilna ghetto before it was liquidated.

During the war, Bogen compulsively sketched his surroundings to document ghetto and partisan life, dropping his gun to capture his brothers in arms. In the forest he scavenged scraps of packing paper, burnt twigs, charcoal from fire to continue his representations of life. These sketches serve as an invaluable record not only of Jewish partisan life, but also of human perseverance.

Jewish Partisans, 1943. Ink on paper. Copyright © 2011 Yad Vashem — The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority

Once the war was over, Bogen completed his studies at the university and worked as a professor of art. The versatility of his work after the war blossomed and Bogen became famous in Poland as an artist, set designer and book illustrator.

Alexander Bogen and his wife, Rachel, at the opening of an exhibition of his works at the Museum of the Ghetto Fighters’ House
In 1951 Bogen immigrated to Israel where he worked as a painter, sculptor and art educator. His work continued to gain recognition and was exhibited in museums worldwide. Influenced by Chagall, Matisse, and Picasso, Bogen was always learning and expanding, never tied down by one single style. He recalls, “My encounter with the abstract, lyrical art style of the ‘New Horizons’ movement, which was dominant in Israel during the years 1950-1970, was a revelation to me.” Bogen has in his lifetime created a body of work both varied and true to his passions, with great skill in sketching and range as a painter—his artwork, like many great compositions, is both lovely and terrifying.

The Deportation, 1996. Oil on Canvas

For Alexander Bogen, who wrote on his work, art fulfilled several needs:

When I asked myself why I was drawing when I was fighting night and day, [I realized] it was something similar to biological continuity. Every man is interested in continuing his people, his family, to bring the fruits of his creativity (his children) towards the future and to leave something behind… To be creative during the Holocaust was also a protest. Each man when standing face to face with cruel danger, with death, reacts in his own way. The artist reacts in an artistic way. This is his weapon… This is what shows that the Germans could not break his spirit.

For more of Alexander Bogen’s story and artwork:

His website
His partisan story
His exhibit at Yad Vashem
Featured works on the "Learning about the Holocaust through Art" website
Bogen on creating art

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

'Defiance' Director Discusses the Film's Original Opening Scene

The first scene of the film Defiance, as originally produced, opens with an elderly Tuvia Bielski (played by Daniel Craig) driving a cab in New York City. He picks up an fare — an elderly gentleman, who is a former Bielski partisan who recognizes Tuvia by his cabbie's license.

In this video shot recently in New York, Defiance director Edward Zwick discusses this scene, and why he ultimately replaced it with something that wouldn't be "comfortable" or "nice".



For more videos, including Zwick discussing Defiance, visit our youtube page. For more on Defiance — including educational material and interviews with Tuvia Bielski's brother Aron — go to jewishpartisans.org/defiance.

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 www.jewishpartisans.org/contest in January, 2012.

For more information or questions about the contest, please email writingcontest@jewishpartisans.org

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."

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 doug@jewishpartisans.org

Friday, May 20, 2011

Discussing Bin Laden & Terrorism: Using JPEF’s Ethics and ‘Defiance’ Guide

Looking for resources to help discuss the recent death of Osama bin Laden with your students? JPEF's Ethics and 'Defiance' discussion guide contains useful critical thinking threads on responding to terrorism, wartime ethics, and Jewish perspectives on killing in self-defense and taking revenge.

Pages 4 and 7 of the guide include several quotes and perspectives — including President Obama on responding to terrorism and Al Qaeda — which highlight the relevance of the Jewish partisans' ethical dilemmas with we see every day in the headlines. Here are a few excerpts:

"…Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history…" — President Obama

"Evil only recognizes stronger evil." — Jewish partisan Simon Trakinski

"… Only by repaying evil with good do we defeat it." — Judea Pearl (father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl)

For complete quotes with context and discussion questions, download the Ethics and 'Defiance' guide at www.jewishpartisans.org/resist. And please contact us to let us know what your students come up with in response.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Youth Writing Contest - last call for entries Deadline for essays is May 17th

Reflections from the 2010 contest winner Loren Miller:

When I was in eighth grade, we watched the miniseries “Uprising” in class. I had always heard about the Holocaust survivors, but it was first at this point in time that I truly appreciated the role of the partisans—the fighters. Watching with rapt attention as Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto fought the Nazis until the bitter end, I knew I had to learn more about these people, not just to recognize pure bravery but also to make evil less terrifying. Knowing that evil could be countered, that resistance was possible, that indifference was simply unacceptable, I felt empowered.

By participating in the JPEF Youth Writing Contest, I had the chance to reflect once again on the power of defiance, exploring this theme through the eyes of partisan Eugenio Gentili-Tedeschi. As far as society has come in the years since World War II, we still have a long way to go in combating the hatred and prejudice that is unfortunately so prevalent. This contest was an excellent opportunity for me to reaffirm my goals of fighting modern-day bigotry in a creative and meaningful way.

Educators and Administrators: there is still time to get your students to enter our 2011 Youth Writing Contest.

Students: your voices can be heard, your words can be powerful. Enter our 2011 Youth Writing Contest - you may win an iPod and you will help shape your vision of the past, the present and the future.

Submissions to the 2011 Youth Writing Contest are due May 17th. For more information, including entry rules and guidelines, please visit our contest page at www.jewishpartisans.org/contest.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Holocaust Remembrance Day – Alameda County

Yom HaShoah v'HaGevurah - The Day of the Holocaust and Resistance

Community-Wide Observance

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

7:45 PM


Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit Street, Oakland

During World War II, between 20,000 and 30,000 Jews escaped the ghettos and camps to create or join resistance groups. Our speakers this evening will be Murray Gordon and Henry Ramek, two survivors who were part of the resistance during the Holocaust. Their voices will remind us never to forget.

To learn more about Murray Gordon and other Jewish partisans, read the article titled “Hidden heroes Filmmaker puts spotlight on Jewish partisans who fought Nazis

Co-sponsors: Bay Area Midrasha, Beth Jacob Congregation, B'nai B'rith Lodge 252, CJLL, Israel Center, JCC of the East Bay, JCRC of the East Bay, Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay, Jewish Family & Children's Services of the East Bay, Jewish Federation of the East Bay, Jewish Partisan Education Foundation, Oakland Hebrew Day School, Tehiyah Day School, Temple Beth Abraham, Temple Beth Sholom, and Temple Sinai.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Remembering the Shoah, Remembering Courage



Mitch Braff, JPEF Executive Director

Holocaust Remembrance Day, often known as Yom HaShoah, is a time when we all reflect upon the atrocities and losses which occurred during the Holocaust. The intent of this day, established by the Israeli Knesset in 1951 (and declared a public holiday in 1959), was to recognize both the devastation and the heroism. Its complete name in Hebrew is Yom HaShoah v’HaGevurahGevurah meaning heroism or courage, and Shoah referring to the Holocaust.

JPEF encourages using the full name for this commemoration, as do many communities across the United States. The specific date was chosen to coincide with the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, so resistance was always to be intertwined with this day.

We have developed a short two page guide on putting the Gevurah back into Yom HaShoah. I encourage you to download it from our website.

I hope that everyone has a meaningful Yom HaShoah v'HaGevurah this May 1st or any time during the Days of Remembrance (May 1-8) when it is commonly acknowledged among schools and communities throughout the United States.

-Mitch Braff

Founder & Executive Director

Resources: