This article was first published in The Times of Israel.
Last November, a family reunion like no other took place in New York.
None of the attendees were actually related, but that didn’t matter. It was an emotional gathering of 55 brothers and sisters in resistance, Jewish partisans who had, as teenagers and young adults, hidden and survived in the forests of Europe and fought the Nazis by sabotaging German army supply lines. They had parted at the end of World War II, and never thought they would see one another again.
These Holocaust survivors were brought together by the Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation (JPEF), a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that produces and disseminates educational materials about Jewish WWII partisans to 6,500 educators around the world.
Mitch Braff, JPEF’s founder and executive director, knew that, given the advanced age of the attendees, this reunion was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. A filmmaker by training, he instinctively perceived that the occasion should be documented in an artful and meaningful way.
“I see things through a filmmaker’s lens, and I knew this would make a great documentary movie,” Braff said.
With the partisans’ spouses, children and grandchildren accompanying them to the gathering, he knew the film, titled “The Reunion,” was an opportunity to show a different side of his organization. “Our other films are heavily history-based,” he said. “But this film shows the partisans in a different light. It emphasizes their families and relationships, and also the legacy they are bequeathing to their grandchildren, the third generation.”
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© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.