The Nobel Peace Prize for 2014

Written by author
October 12th, 2014

Malala is the hero of Bat Kama At. Standing for the cause of girls’ education has been recompensed by the highest reward ever. She is the age of the Yavne gymnasium students.

Her action began when she was only 11 years old. She is now 17 and received

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2014


Written by author
October 22nd, 2013

This website is granted by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah,
Paris – France

Ce site reçoit le soutien de la Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah,
Paris – France


Written by author
October 21st, 2013

The author has been honored to be this academic year recipient of YIVO’S AWARD FOR JEWISH BALTIC STUDIES

As an important part of my research is made public on this website, I find it important to present here the text of my application, to which I only added a few documents relating to it.

Isabelle Rozenbaumas


Yavne Telz School Was Life is a future exhibition and the development of the project “Bat Kama At ?” about the life and fate of 500 girls from Telz/Telsiai in Lithuania, a broader project aiming to maintain and deepen the knowledge of the history and the culture of Lithuanian Jews, to highlight aspects of history that have remained neglected, namely the exceptional excellence of the education provided to the girls in the Gymnasium Yavne, a Jewish religious secondary school, in the Interwar period. The Yavne Girls’ Gymnasium was established in Telz in 1920, amidst the effervescent atmosphere of the young and independent Republic of Lithuania (1918-1940). From its earliest years, the institution aspired to excellence and attracted the best female students of the region, and from more distant cities as well.
Born during the making of my film [nemt]: A Language Without A People For A People Without A Language and the (co-)writing of my father’s memoirs from a fascination with three class photographs saved by my mother during the war, the project has traveled a long way since then.

In 2008, I went to Israel to meet the last remaining witnesses of this community and collected a significant number of class and group photographs. Although most of the 500 girls and women were massacred in December 1941 during a last phase of the Holocaust in Telsiai (Telz), the conduct (exclusively in Yiddish) of interviews of the survivors focused on the school history and yielded unedited materials. In 2011, I have also interviewed three rebbetsins of the rabbinical family Bloch. Through the interviews, part of the girls has been identified by their name or a biographical information. This historical research is developed on the website: supported by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, in Paris, and as soon as they will be edited part of the accounts will be available on line.

<a href="">The faces of the children on each photograph are ordered from the top row, and from left to right</a>

The newest development of this already large collection is the discovery of 489 documents in the Lithuanian Central Archives (file 1382-1), including class reports, pedagogical meeting reports, exam reports, around 380 diplomas delivered by the Lithuanian Ministry of Education in Kaunas between 1924 and 1940, more than 250 identity photographs on the diplomas. The American Embassy in Vilnius has provided support to acquire copies of these documents. The introduction to the catalogue and almost 100 documents have been published on this web page:

Fruma Kopelovitch's diploma for year 1934


The collection relating to the Yavne Gymnasium in Telz conserved in the Lithuanian Central Archives is unparalleled in its importance. We are aware of additional archives documenting Jewish schools from the interwar period, a time when they developed throughout Lithuania. An enormous amount of important research awaits us in this new, untapped field. The pioneering research of Naomi Seidman on the Beis Yakov movement shows that traditional models of education as well as secular ones are at work in the organization of Jewish education to Orthodox girls in Eastern Europe since the end of the 19th century.
Founded under the authorization of the Lithuanian government on November 8, 1920, the Yavne School for Girls stood at 16 Market Square, Turgaus gatve. The documents’ dates range from 1924 until the Soviet authorities closed the school in 1940.
The study of file 1382-1 in the Lithuanian Central Archives containing 489 remarkably preserved documents permitted us to discover in detail the school’s curriculum, as well as the individual trajectories of several of its future teachers, thereby significantly advancing our knowledge of this educational community. A significant part are diplomas where the Lithuanian page faces the Hebrew one. Some documents are only in Lithuanian:

But we are still a long way from having analyzed all the documents and examined them on the background of the oral sources – the interviews – and the literary sources. Some testimonies are still sleeping in the archives of Yivo as the one of Leyb Koniuchowsky about the Holocaust in Telz and the surrounding shtetlekh, translated by Jonathan Boyarin some 15 years ago and unexploited. Sefer Telz, has many details about the life and the schools of the town, but information about the schools are also to be found in other yizker bikher from the Lithuanian towns and cities – among them Kovne who had Yavne schools – about the Yavne system of education.
Lists of the Telzer population (specially 900 names of the Lithuanian Names Project) are revealing information as we are examining and publishing each document of the file 1382-1. Knowing more about the school community and its teachers requires also to examine the 50 first documents of these archives (from 5 to 50 pages) consisting in pedagogical reports and meetings from 1924 to 1940. The study of these archives will bring a knowledge of the concerns of the school authorities year by year from 1924 to the eve of the war.
By now, this case study illustrates the school’s high standards of completeness and excellence reflected in these documents. This amazing bibliography speaks for itself:

Throughout the curriculum we bear witness to a religious teaching based in reason, comprehensive study of Hebrew language and literature, as well as a wide variety of world literature in Hebrew translation. A very high level of science and technology and the study of modern languages, as well as Latin, were stressed in a commitment to providing these girls with a solid foundation of professionalization along with religious and ethical principles. What we need to understand better are the influences that have brought the religious authorities in Telz to open so widely the girl’s curriculum to secular culture, notwithstanding the fact that, doing so they took the risk to jeopardize their own influence. Whatever will be the outcome of this research, the community’s religious leaders must be given due credit for their wise and forseeing concern for the education and future of their daughters, no matter the choice – secular path or religious tradition – they have entrusted in the hands of the young women.


One of the theoritical aspects that has emerged in this work is at the crossroad of the archival research itself with the usual cross-checking of oral, archival and literary sources, and a reflection born in the course of this specific investigation of a history to which the author is directly related by its family narrative and personal memories.
Through the process of interviews and identifications, the author received a documentary yet intimate body of knowledge, difficult to put in order, and sometimes contradictory. Lists of names, faces with no names, faces reappearing in multiple photographs… Some faces became familiar and when their names were finally established, the author recognized them as one of those she frequently heard about as a child, in the family narrative. Some of these memories would never have surfaced if not the discovery of the 489 documents of the file 1382-1 of the Lithuanian central archives with the rich information they carry. But, on the other hand, these archives would have never appeared under the same light to somebody without the clues of these vivid narratives.

Becoming a living archive means being capable of establishing links between information provided by informants and documents which gradually emerge. One must connect the dots between names cited in narratives heard at home and those which emerge during the accounts of other witnesses, as well the living archive remembers – or not – the captions of photographs published in the Telz book of remembrance read a thousand times over, the Sefer Telz. The family memories are not stored in a place where they are automatically available, they have to be awaken or activated by new information, involving or emotion or idea association. Very much like the accounts delivered by the surviving witnesses that have been interviewed. Gradually, from one document or photograph to another, the investigation delivered new names, suddenly faces became familiar, friendships and family ties were established, and the information began to take form in a manner which resolved outstanding questions and led to new, more precise ones. Through the website, part of this material is slowly being reconstructed and immortalized.
I propose to explore this specific position as an author working at the articulation of history and memory with the methods of history and anthropology but open to and even hungry for the perceptions of a creator. Through a number of similar literary, anthropological and historical approaches, from writing autobiography as history in Pierre Vidal-Naquet’s Memoirs, to Daniel Mendelsohn’s family quest in The Lost, throught the work of the archeologist Laurent Olivier in The Dark Abyss of the Past , I will draw a picture of a form of research that has been widely developed in the field of different disciplines without having always been sufficently pointed out as a global phenomenon relating to the changing statues of history, and in the context of this changing itself.

Short bibliography:
Pour une microhistoire de la Shoah, Ed. Claire ZALC, Tal BRUTMANN, Ivan ERMAKOFF, Nicolas MARIOT. (Paris: Seuil, Le Genre Humain, sept. 2012.) See the essays of Paul-André ROSENTAL, “Généalogies mentales”, and Ivan JABLONSKA, “Écrire l’histoire de ses proches”, pp. 12-69.

Laurent OLIVIER. The dark abyss of time archaeology and memory; translated from French by Arthur GREENSPAN. (Lanham: Alta Mira Press, 2012).

Support FMS / Soutien FMS

Written by author
February 23rd, 2013

This website is granted by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah,
Paris – France

Ce site reçoit le soutien de la Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah,
Paris – France


Students meeting

Rencontre des étudiants



On February 14th 2013 the students of V. Borisevičiaus gymnasium, with teachers Lina and Janina, visited the students of the Art Academy of Telsiai, class of Fashion and knitwear design, under the direction of Pr. Zita Incirauskiene. Both groups of students are involved in the project Bat Kama At.
The synergy and the dynamics that emerged from the participation of these students to the project Bat Kama At has already produced high artistic quality works. It opens great expectations to the students contribution to the exhibition Yavne Telz School Was Life.

Le 14 février 2013 les étudiants du lycée V. Borisevičiaus, accompagnés de leurs enseignants Lina et Janina, ont visité l’exposition réalisée par les étudiants de l’Académie d’Art de Telsiai, de la classe de création textile, dirigée par le Pr. Zita Incirauskiene. Les deux groupes d’élèves sont impliqués dans le projet Bat Kama At.
La synergie initiée par la participation de ces étudiants a d’ors et déjà produit des travaux de grande qualité. Elle ouvre des perspectives prometteuses à notre proposition de laisser une place nécessaire à leur expression dans l’exposition “Apprendre c’est vivre”.

Teachers of Vincento Borisevicius

Jewish Lives in Fabric/ Vies juives, d’étoffes et de nuages

Written by michelgrosman
February 12th, 2013

Jewish Lives in Fabric
Vies juives, d’étoffes et de nuages

Are eyes the mirrors of the soul?

- The Jewish Girls of Telz from Yesterday seen by Today’s Lithuanian Girls/
– Jeunes filles juives d’hier à Telz vues par des jeunes filles lituaniennes d’aujourd’hui à Telsiai

This artistic contribution for the project “ Bat Kama At?” is the creation of 3 students of the 3rd year class of Fabric design under the high-minded direction of Pr. Zita Incirauskiene, in Telsiai Art Academy, a section of Vilnius Art Academy.
These photographs were taken during the first presentation of the works in the Art Academy, on January 2013.

The approach of the young artists Simona Remeikaitė, Kristina Balsytė and Rytė Krakauskaitė, is the most rewarding answer that we can imagine to our own endeavour as historians and authors. It captures not only the vulnerability and the features of the young woman and girls from Telz during the flourishing interwar period, but also the fragility of the historical traces. Doing so, these thoughtful artistic contributions become powerful reminiscence in the present and a sign, a call for keeping this fragment of outstanding educational history for the future.

The high quality of these three contributions foreshadows the place they are going to take in the exhibition: Yavne Telz School Was Life.

Kristina Balsytė

- My work for Bat Kama At project is an interpretation of the school life. It is composed with a few diplomas of the girls and the image of a dress/uniform.

The diplomas are printed on fabric. As well, the uniform is made from the same fabric used as a frame to present the work. As a whole, it appears as a classroom blackboard on the wall.

Lives in fabric

I imagine the bright school life before the tragedy, each detail sounds familiar to us. We are the same age the girls were, maybe we have similar thoughts on our minds despite the fact that we live in another century.

Telšiai is my native town, and through this project I know about it more.

I’m glad to be a part of this project.

Kristina Balsytė

Simona Remeikaitė

– With this work for Bat Kama At project, I wanted to thrill the hearts of all.

For that, I chose feminine accents – lace, handkerchiefs, women’s accessories. These subtle details convey sensitivity, gentleness, goodness, which connect these 500 killed women and girls with the present and future generations of women and girls. I have put together the details in a simple cardboard box, which symbolizes simplicity and impermanence.

simona 1


Detail Simona

The second installation confronts the tragic death of women and girls, with or without portraits on blank white matter sheets. Sometimes an added detail of feminine lace softens and gives the sensitivity to the evocation. These portraits and blank sheets aim to recollect the affected girls and woman for future generations, as if the future depends on this reminiscence: implicitly, the fact that their portraits appear on white sheets prevents from the recurrence of such events.
In this work I wanted to pay attention to the delicacy and tenderness of women, powerless to defend themselves and other women. I hope that this imaginative recreation incites you to think not only about the past but about the present and the future.

I hope that seeing our works has the power to change at least the perspective of one person among hundreds of minds about the future. I hope that what have happened to the Jewish girls of Gymnasium Yavne could never be repeated, and that their behavior as young educated girls serves as a model.

Feminine accents – lace, handkerchiefs, women’s accessories

Rytė Krakauskaitė

– My contribution to the project “Bat kama at?” is named “Souls”.
This work includes eight different textile elements bedecked with calligraphy and photo prints. These eight parts constitute the narrative of an abstract and spiritual story of the students of the Yavne Gymnasium, in Telz, Telsiai before WWII.
My work starts with school and classes pictures, then continues with calligraphied texts about the gymnasium in English and Lithuanian. To that I added details from portraits of the girls, specially of their eyes which are supposed to be the mirror of the souls. I finished my “story” with calligraphied Jewish prayer. The texts and photographs are printed on a material light and transparent like veils or clouds.

Like veils and clouds

calligraphy: Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God

I also wrote a Jewish prayer

The first text in calligraphy is something that I wrote shortly about the Yavne Gymnasium history in Lithuanian.
On another element, I wrote the translated text of the mezuza in English. I wrote:
Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources. And these things that I command you today shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you go on the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your arm and they shall be an ornament between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

I also wrote a Jewish prayer on another element. I took the prayer from this website .

Rytė Krakauskaitė


Written by author
July 19th, 2012

Bat Kama At is very honored to present the board of its Advisory Committee:


Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett:
– Professor of Performance Studies, New York University
– Program Director, Core Exhibition, Museum of the History of Polish Jews:

Jonathan Boyarin:
– Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Thought, Jonathan Boyarin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

David Biale:
– Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor. Chair, Department of History. University of California, Davis.
– Author and editor of many books:

Yitskhok Niborski:
– Professor of Yiddish at INALCO, Paris. Founder and main figure of “Maison de la Culture Yiddish Bibliothèque Medem”, Paris.
– Author of dictionaries Yiddish-French:

Samuel Kassow:
– Charles H. Northam Professor of History, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut:
– His major contribution to Jewish historiography: Who Will Write Our History: Emanuel Ringelblum and the Oyneg Shabes Archive, Indiana University Press, 2007.

Jonathan Brent:
– Executive Director, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.
– Editorial Director of the “Annals of Communism” at Yale University Press :

Anna Foa:
– Professeur of modern history, Faculté de Lettre de l’University “La Sapienza”, Roma.Spécialist of social and cultural contemporary history
– Author and editor


Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett:

– Professeur du département “Performance Studies”, New York University;
– Directrice du programme de l’exposition permanente du Musée d’histoire des Juifs de Pologne :

Jonathan Boyarin:

– Professeur émérite, chaire Leonard and Tobee Kaplan en “Modern Jewish Thought”, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

David Biale:

– Professeur émérite, chaire Emanuel Ringelblum.
– Président du départment d’histoire. University of California, Davis.
– Auteur et éditeur de nombreux livres traduits en plusieurs langues:

Yitskhok Niborski:

– Professeur de yiddish à l’INALCO. Fondateur et co-directeur de la Maison de la Culture Yiddish Bibliothèque Medem, à Paris.
– Auteur de plusieurs dictionnaires Yiddish-Français:

Samuel Kassow:

– Professeur d’histoire, chaire Charles H. Northam,Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut:
– Sa contribution à l’historiographie des Juifs de Pologne est fondamentale particulièrement avec son dernier ouvrage (traduit de l’anglais): Qui écrira notre histoire ?: Les archives secrètes du ghetto de Varsovie, Grasset, 2011.

Jonathan Brent:

– Directeur du YIVO : Institute for Jewish Research.
– Directeur éditorial des “Annals of Communism” , Yale
University Press :

Anna Foa:

– Professeur d’ histoire moderne, Faculté de Lettre de l’Université de La Sapienza, Rome.
– Spécialiste de l’histoire sociale et culturelle contemporaine (notamment des femmes):

The sharp memory of Rosa Ziv Rabinovitch

Written by author
June 6th, 2012

In which language did they read Homerus in Gymnasium Yavne, Telz, Lithuania?

Rosa Ziv is not only a gracious 90 years old lady. Her smile and her openness is so charming when she welcomes the author with her cousin Boris Portnoi and his wife Patricia, from Netanya.
Patricia will be filming this day of April 13, 2012 (we will publish excerpts of this interview as soon as it is edited). In the meantime here is a summary (in French) of Rosa Ziv’s interview.
As we are speaking together and examining the photographs I brought to work with her, her memories turn out to be sharf, her narrative precise and her points of view assertive. Her mind is well organized as is her beautiful garden planted with elegant poppies, and the plates she has decoratively dressed for us with strawberries and kiwis. If she fondly and playfully remembers her school mates, her good friends, she doesn’t give a dime to bigotery, even if she profoundly respects her survivor friends who are rebbetsins.

She also treasures the memory of her teachers.

A few anecdotes are worth to be told, at least for their yiddisher Tam. Professor Sapozhnikov who is holding a glass on the top right of this photograph was a gingin (that means red hair in Hebrew). Was it the reason why the girls had a rhyme about him ?

Shabske der reyter, krikht af a leyter, zet a meydl, vert er a teyter – Shabske the red hair, climbs on a ladder, turns into a dead man (he swoons).

The most beautiful story concerns Professor Odessas whose wife received the nick name of Penelopa. “Of course, tells Rosa laughing, from Odysseus!” So in which language, we have now to ask her, did they read Homerus in Gymnasium Yavne, Telz, Lithuania?
As every subject matter which was not Lithuanian, Latin, German or English (before 1931 when Latin replaced English), Odysseus was studied in Hebrew and read in a Hebrew translation. Now, did the pious Jewish girls of Yavne Gymnasium read also Ilias?

Rosa cherishes the memory of one of her teachers. She looks for her on each photograph I am showing to her. Khaske (Khasia) and Soske (Sarah) Gering, sisters looked very much alike. Rosa finally recognized her beloved teacher, Sarah Gering. (Geringaite Hassia-Frida, her sister, received a diploma in 1928, still to come)

But the bloody thugs who murdered the Jews, she has no words to speak about them.
She gives an account of the murder of the Lukniker Rebbe, the father of Miriam Kravitski, beaten to the blood and massacred by Lithuanian murderers before the first German has entered into Luknik. She also describes the ordeal of the men of Luknik, forced to a parody of “dance” during hours and hours before they are shot by their murderers. It was July 15th 1941, 3 weeks after the German assault.

By: Susan de la Fuente
from the
May 17th, 2012

Rivkah Bloch grew up in Telz (Telsiai), a historic township and renowned Torah center in north-west Lithuania. In 1939 the Jews of Telz numbered about 2,800, some 28 percent of the population. Rivkah’s paternal grandfather Reb Yosef Leib Bloch, (1849-1930) zt”l, also known as Maharil Bloch, was a distinguished personality and a prominent scholar and educator. Besides his position as town rabbi, he headed the great Yeshivah of Telz that his father-in-law Rav Eliezer Gordon, zt”l had founded. Its student body numbered around 400 students in 1900.

One of eight children, Rivkah Bloch attended the high school that her grandfather had founded. At Yavne, which belonged to the high-level educational network of Agudath Israel, limudei kodesh or sacred subjects were taught in Hebrew alongside a broad curriculum. Since the girls were actively encouraged to talk Hebrew during school breaks, Rivkah acquired a sound knowledge of Hebrew and also learned Lithuanian, German and Russian.

When Lithuania lost its independence in 1940, the Russians disbanded the yeshiva and the religious high schools. The disastrous German invasion followed on June 22, 1941, reaching Telz on June 26, where they wreaked slaughter and destruction. Armed Lithuanians under Nazi command brutally rounded up the Jews, stole their valuables and ejected them from their homes. On July 15, Rivkah’s father, brothers and male relatives were shot to death or buried alive with the other Jewish men in mass graves at Rainiai, four kilometers away. In bidding farewell to three of his daughters, Chasya Hy”d, Naomi and Rivkah, Rav Zalman-Shmuel Bloch urged them to remain true to their heritage as religious women.

Most of the Jewish women and children were liquidated at the Geruliai concentration camp on August 30. Children were buried alive, while babies’ heads were smashed with stones. (Many of the atrocities are documented at According to this source a few Lithuanian farmers extended help to the suffering Jewish women on forced labor details, while others abused them severely and murdered them in some cases.)
In the final months of 1941 the Lithuanians and the Gestapo continued their cruel abusive behavior. Fifteen-year-old Rivkah was transported to the Jewish ghetto in nearby Shavli (Siauliai) late in 1941. Aware that death was imminent if she stayed there, Rivkah escaped together with her cousin Miriam Kleiner. The girls sought refuge in a wooded area where they wandered among farming villages and forests.

During the final years of the war, Rivkah was often left to face adversity totally alone. Sometimes non-Jews in isolated areas would pity her and shelter her for a few days, but mostly she had to hide in barns, cowsheds and pits and forage for food in garbage heaps. Since Nazi sympathizers were swift to alert the police to her presence, the Gestapo almost caught her many times. Once she burrowed deep into a pile of hay to hide, concealing herself just a fraction deeper than the jabbing and poking of her pursuers who finally abandoned their search. Another time she huddled, trembling behind a bed, while the police searched the house of her host. Their daughter covered for her by sitting on the bed, where she busied herself with some sewing or knitting. On another occasion, when the police came to the front door of a house where Rivkah sheltered, she was unceremoniously pushed out the back door into a snow-covered potato field. Famished, she ate some raw potatoes to still her hunger and spent the night without shelter. Even more traumatic than the torments of hunger and cold was her isolation, the heaviest burden she had to bear. Believing that she was probably the last Jew to survive, she pleaded with the Almighty not to leave her all alone in the world.
Although Rivkah’s two surviving siblings in the USA urged her to join them, she was resolved to resume her life in Israel. Her sister, Naomi Bloch Stein, who married Rabbi Pesach Stein zt”l in 1948, and her cousin Chaya Bloch Ausband were the only two Jewish women to survive the war in Ghetto Shavli. Another sister, Shoshana, was brought to America before the war by her chosson, Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l. However, because Rivkah simply did not wish to live among non-Jews any longer, she joined up with other illegal immigrants who went to Israel via Italy. They landed in the middle of the night on a rickety Maapilim boat in 1946 near Atlit, and luckily the British authorities did not notice their landing.

Twenty-year-old Rivkah recovered her happy disposition and sense of humor in Israel, putting behind her the years when, in her son’s words, “She lived like a hunted animal.”

Une exposition qui se construit

Written by michelgrosman
May 17th, 2012

Afin de commencer à mettre en place l’exposition des 500 jeunes filles, Michel Grosman est parti à Rome rencontrer Massimo Berretta, photographe et graphiste.
Ils ont travaillé une semaine en mai pour chercher la voie la plus sûre qui permette de raconter la vie des élèves du lycée Yavné. Il y a toujours une dimension magique qui opère lorsqu’on restitue du néant de jeunes et beaux visages. Les regards marquent l’esprit, l’émotion affleure. Deux exemples de beauté tirés des archives de Vilnius….sans commentaire.