SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Jewish Community Arts (SJCA) will present a Zoom discussion at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, of “The Bielski Brothers: Jerusalem in the Woods,” a documentary by filmmaker Sharon Rennert, granddaughter of one of the brothers, Tuvia Bielski.

There are several films and books about Jewish partisans in World War II, new ones come out every few years, and at least one commercial film (“Defiance”) addresses the story of the Bielski brothers.  

This production is distinct, according to organizers, as it is a historical film told by the third generation of the Bielskis.  

Group portrait of members of the Kalinin Jewish partisan unit (Bielski group) on guard duty at an airstrip in the Naliboki Forest. 1941-1944.

The brothers, Tuvia, Asael, Zus, and Aron Bielski, were four of 12 children born to a miller and his wife in a rural village of Belarus. The only Jews in a small community, they had connections within and outside of the Jewish community.

“The communal life that was constructed by the members of the camp suggests the importance of community and solidarity for people’s mental and spiritual survival,” says Phyllis Wang, coordinator of the SJCA series, “even in the face of surrounding brutality and allows them to retain humanity, morality, and a Jewish way of life.”

Following the German invasion in June of 1941, in which tens of thousands of Jews in the region, including the parents and other relatives of the brothers, were murdered, the brothers sought refuge in the woods where they had spent time as children. With the help of non-Jewish friends, they began to collect guns to protect themselves. 

By autumn of 1942, the Bielski group had grown to include nearly 100 members.  While their focus was saving the lives of fellow Jews, the brothers moved to build a fighting force to strike back against the Nazis and their supporters.  

The partisan group was rescued by the Red Army in July of 1944 with 1,200 members, making it the largest partisan group in the Soviet Union and all German-occupied territory. It was one of the leading rescues of Jews by fellow Jews during WWII. 

 Registration, which is required, may be obtained at [email protected]