Revealed: Photos of Macedonian Jews Who Perished in the Holocaust

A collection of photographs received by the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People documents the lives of thousands of residents of the town of Bitola, who were sent to Treblinka in 1943

Macedonian Jews who were murdered during the war: Hanna Nachmias and her daughter Boina

It has been seventy-seven years since disaster struck one of the world’s last Ladino-speaking Jewish communities. The National Library of Israel’s Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) have revealed a unique collection which serves to commemorate the members of this historic community. The collection includes photographs and written information relating to thousands of residents of the town of Bitola (still known to many Jews by its former name, Monastir), which during the war was home to 810 Jewish families (3,351 people). The Sephardic-Jewish community was a vibrant one, and in the interwar period, the Zionist movement played a key role in its cultural and political life. Many members of the community aspired to reach the Land of Israel.

Issik Mushon and Lanna Issik Casarula

The Jews of Macedonia comprise one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe. The first Jewish settlers arrived in Macedonia in the 3rd and 4th centuries. At the time, the Jews settled in the cities of Skopje, Stobi, Bitola, Strumica, and others. However, most of that glorious community, which at its height included approximately 8,000 people, was annihilated in the Holocaust. During the war, Macedonia was annexed as a province of Bulgaria, a state that cooperated with the Nazis. In March 1943, Bulgarian policemen and soldiers conducted raids all over Macedonia, rounding up Jews and sending them to the Treblinka extermination camp in Poland, where 7,144 of them were murdered. The only surviving Jews were several dozen young men who, shortly before deportation, fled to the mountains and joined the partisans who fought the Bulgarian army.

David Buchur Hasson
Sara Avram Hasson

Bulgarian government officials were the ones who prepared the tidy photo albums, ahead of the rounding up of the Jews pictured in them and their later transport to Treblinka. On the back side of each photo, information was jotted down, such as family ties, occupations, professions, residential addresses, and more. Somehow, the photographs found their way to Israel after the war. The pictures and personal information, written in Serbo-Croatian and Macedonian, gave faces and names to the victims. They were preserved in the Eventov Collection, founded by The Association of Immigrants from the Former Yugoslavia. Today, the albums are stored in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP). Among the many family names documented, are the names Elbuchar, Aroesti, Ashkenazi, Bachar, Versano, Chazan, Cohen, Moreno, Kalderon, Kimchi, Russo, and more.

Moiz Yaacov Ovadia
Raphael Russo

According to Dr. Yochai Ben-Ghedalia, the director of the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, this is important and exciting documentation of a Jewish community with almost no survivors left. “The photographs were recently scanned and were uploaded to the website of the Descendants of Macedonian Jewry in Israel, managed by Yael Unna. All personal information was translated into Hebrew by Chaim Pekovic from the archives team. We are pleased to help preserve and provide access to the memory of a glorious, Zionist Jewish community with so few survivors.”

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Can You Sell Judaism Like You Sell Toothpaste? The Uproar Over Advertising Jewish life

How Gary Wexler's ads dealing with the Jewish world took risks and used controversial content to reach non-involved Jews

From the Gary Wexler Collection at the National Library of Israel

Can the story of a modern Jewish era be captured in advertising campaigns?  A generation later I realize that is exactly what we had accomplished. These campaigns are a creative and powerful window into the issues and actions of Jewish life at the time. They tell a story about our community in a medium, a creative one, in a way it has never been revealed before.

The storytelling began in 1988. It was two years before the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey in the United States revealed the 52% intermarriage rate that began to change everything— the way the organized Jewish community saw itself and focused its efforts. But we, a team of young Jewish advertising creative professionals, didn’t need the outcome of the survey to tell us what we already knew. Several of the young creative people in this group were married to non-Jews, themselves.

I was a creative director in ad agencies having won awards for work on clients such as Apple and Coca Cola. I was also active in the Jewish world. And this was the first time I had ever been asked to use my professional skills on behalf of the community. Jewish organizations, of course, expected us to be safe, not rocking any boats. But as young Jews and also as creative professionals, we knew we needed to take risks. Or the work would be dismissed and unnoticed by its intended audience—Jews who were not engaged in Jewish life. When people would ask me during this time what I did professionally, I would simply answer, “I find Jews.”

I never imagined the campaigns would one day become an archive at the National Library of Israel, a body of work that would live on in perpetuity for the Jewish people.


Clearing out my garage

Eighteen months ago, I was clearing out my garage to make room for the 1950s Lionel Electric trains that my father had set up for me, to now set them up for my grandchildren. I thought that alone would be my big emotional moment.

But while cleaning, I noticed the dusty portfolios of the ad campaigns I had created over the years. They were taking up a huge amount of room on the shelves.  I scratched my head, “Why am I saving them? For my kids to throw out after I’m dead? When my grandchildren discover that I wrote Coke jingles to help people rot their teeth, is this the legacy I want to leave them?”


Trash. Trash. Bingo.

I haven’t worked in advertising for a long time and I knew I would not be needing these portfolios to find another ad job (Besides, nobody in the ad biz hires people in their late sixties). And I certainly didn’t need to bring them to class and encourage my Millennial students in the Masters Program at the USC (University of Southern California) Annenberg School of Communication, to believe that this professor was living in the communication profession of the past.

So I opened up the portfolio of the Apple computer campaigns. Trash. The portfolio of Coca Cola campaigns. Trash. The Intel campaigns. Bank of America, United Airlines. Trash, Trash, Trash.

Then I opened the portfolios of campaigns I created for the Jewish world, between the years of 1988- 2008. I hadn’t looked at it in over ten years. A twenty year era of Jewish life poured out in front of me. Campaign after campaign added another piece of a story of how the Jewish world functioned and engaged Jewish populations in its causes during this time.  I realized I was looking at something historic: campaigns about peace signings, terrorism, spousal abuse (the first time the community publicly admitted it, causing a controversial uproar), Jewish men dying of AIDS, religious and political tensions in Israel and how the Diaspora was lining up on different sides, the blossoming of the foundation world, the centrality of Jerusalem, the murder of Rabin, fundraising efforts, Jewish day schools and every other need and issue of the times.


Never before a collection like this

I contacted my good friend, Naomi Schacter, the director of external relations and partnerships at the Israel National Library. She asked me to send photos. The Library responded within two days writing, “In fact this is very interesting to us,” and asked that I bring the portfolios to Jerusalem.  There were forty pounds of ads I had laminated over the years for preservation, which is how people in those years presented their work in order to be hired.  I didn’t let El Al take the portfolio out of my hands.  In June, I met, portfolio in hand, with the Library, specifically with Matan Barzilai, head of the archives department and Dr. Yoel Finkelman, the curator of the Judaica collection.  Person after person came into the room until there were about ten people from assorted departments.  I explained that in a time when digital and online communication is replacing traditional advertising and newspapers, a volume of creative print advertising work such as this will not again be produced in the Jewish world. The Library enthusiastically accepted the portfolio as an ephemera archive. They told me, “We have never before owned a collection like this.”  They then told me this archive will be among the works of people such as Gershom Scholem and Naomi Shemer. I had no idea what “ephemera” even meant, and I’m not sure I yet do.


“Marketing is too commercial for the Jewish world”

In the mid-1980s when I began this venture, it was a struggle to bring my marketing and advertising creative expertise, along with an intimate knowledge of Jewish life, into the organized Jewish community. At the time, almost no nonprofits believed in marketing. I was admonished by several prominent Jewish lay leaders telling me, “Marketing is too commercial for the Jewish and nonprofit world. It is crass. It demeans what we do.” But I was unrelenting in my persistence, and eventually broke down the resistance, establishing Passion Marketing and growing it to twenty-five professionals. Passion Marketing, the company I eventually created became the go to place for Jewish organizations in America, Canada and Israel, creating over one-hundred campaigns for Jewish and Israeli causes, while also delivering marketing, communication and creative training to thousands of professionals and lay people.


Breaking down the resistance

The first crack in the wall of resistance appeared in 1988 with CAJE (Conference on the Advancement of Jewish Education) held in Jerusalem and attended by hundreds of Jewish educational leaders, donors and professionals from North America and Israel. At the time, I was serving on the board of the Bureau of Jewish Education in Los Angeles. I had been constantly advocating for marketing and advertising as the way to recruit students and build a donor population for Jewish schools. Finally, I was asked to make a presentation on the marketing of Jewish education at CAJE.


Pulling together five creative Jews

I threw myself into the opportunity. I was creative director for an ad agency where there were thirty-five people in the Creative Department. Among them were five Jews, Sharon Rich, Moira Schwartz, Rick Rosenberg, Colin Shubitz and Aram (today Ephraim) Tabackman. I pulled them all together one night after work and explained I would be going to Jerusalem to make an ad presentation aimed at Jews just like them——non-involved in Jewish life (except for Aram)—-trying to convince them to send their kids to some form of Jewish education. I told them I would write the strategic creative brief but really wanted to see what ads they would create to target people like themselves. They enthusiastically agreed.  However, the first and last ads in the campaign I created myself, in order to set the tone for the kind of creative depth I wanted them to reach for and touch in the target audiences.

The ads Gary Wexler created to set the tone of controversy and depth for the campaign, the Gary Wexler Collection at the National Library of Israel

The ads spark an uproar, a controversy, and an embrace

Sessions at the CAJE conference had on the average thirty people. I walked into the room for my presentation and there were hundreds, sitting, standing in the hallways, crowding into the doorways. I realized at that moment people knew it was time for a new approach and believed that marketing may be the answer.  I showed the work on a big screen. The room erupted. There were people who loved the bold truths, the resonance and what was currently happening in the Jewish world. And there were those who were incredibly offended and shocked, denying the realities of the day and wanting to cling onto the Jewish world as they believed it should be.


My biggest battle

It was exactly the reaction I was hoping and prepared for. It led to the real conversation I wanted to have in that room. Advertising in the Jewish world, I believed, needed to the bold and shocking. If we spoke to our audiences only with the safe things we wanted to say, that made us feel good, our audience would not listen. We’d be talking to ourselves and the audience we so badly needed would not be paying attention. We had to be honest about the realities we were facing and show the target market of uninvolved Jews that we understood who they were. For twenty years, this conversation regarding many issues, convincing Jewish organizations and particularly lay people to take risks when promoting Jewish life, remained my biggest battle.

The uproar: Additional ads created by the team of Sharon Rich, Moira Schwartz, Rick Rosenberg, Colin Shubitz and Aram (Ephraim) Tabackman; the Gary Wexler Collection at the National Library of Israel

Front page story in Jerusalem Post

I had no idea that a Jerusalem Post reporter had been present and the next day the entire campaign would be the lead article in the Jerusalem Post with the headline, “Can you sell Judaism like toothpaste?”  It was picked up by the Jewish press in the US and Canada. And my twenty year advertising journey into Jewish life began.


The Gary Wexler Collection at the National Library of Israel

Tell us what you think

Over the next few months, the Library will feature several of the campaigns. I will tell their stories, the reactions to them and whether they actually achieved their goals. One of the most startling discoveries I made when reviewing the collection is that many of the same issues that became the subject of several campaigns years ago, are still the issues today. The delivery system of communication through technology may have changed, but many of our issues as Jewish people have not. I and the Library will be extraordinarily interested in your reactions to how we promote Jewish life today and whether our issues will ever change. Advertising, as a medium, belongs to everyone. And everyone has an opinion. Tell us yours.  I don’t think any of you will be shy.



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Marcel Marceau: The Legendary Mime Who Saved Jewish Children and Fought Nazis

"Marceau started miming to keep children quiet as they were escaping"

Marcel Marceau. From the Yossi Alfi Archive, accessible through a collaboration between the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, the National Library of Israel and Haifa University.

He was born Marcel Mangel on March 22, 1923 in Strasbourg, France, to a Jewish family. His parents were Ann Werzberg Mangel and Charles Mangel, a kosher butcher. Young Marcel Mangel discovered Charlie Chaplin at age five when his mother took him to the movies and he became an avid fan. He entertained his friends with Chaplin imitations, and dreamed of starring in silent movies.

When France entered World War II, Marcel, 16, fled with his family to Limoges, France. In 1944 Marcel’s father was captured and deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was killed. Marcel’s mother survived.

Marcel and his younger brother Alain adopted the last name “Marceau” during the German occupation of France to avoid being identified as Jewish. The name was chosen as a reference to François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers, a general of the French Revolution. The two brothers joined the French Resistance in Limoges, where they saved hundreds of Jewish children from the race laws and concentration camps, and after the liberation of Paris, joined the French army.

The first time Marcel used mime was after France was invaded, in order to keep Jewish children quiet while he helped them escape to neutral Switzerland.

“He was miming for his life.” Image from the Yossi Alfi Archive, accessible through a collaboration between the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, the National Library of Israel and Haifa University.

Masquerading as a boy scout, Marcel evacuated a Jewish orphanage in eastern France. He told the children he was taking them on a vacation in the Alps, and led them to safety in Switzerland. Marcel made the perilous journey three times, saving hundreds of Jewish orphans. He was able to avoid detection by entertaining the children with silent pantomime. The documentary filmmaker Phillipe Mora, whose father fought alongside Marcel in the French resistance, said, “Marceau started miming to keep children quiet as they were escaping. It had nothing to do with show business. He was miming for his life.” While fighting with the French resistance, Marcel ran into a unit of German soldiers. Thinking fast, he mimicked the advance of a large French force, and the German soldiers retreated.

Word spread throughout the Allied forces of Marcel’s remarkable talent as a mime. In his first major performance, Marcel entertained 3,000 US troops after the liberation of Paris in August 1944. Later in life, he expressed great pride that his first review was in the US Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes. Owing to Marcel’s excellent command of the English, French, and German languages, he worked as a liaison officer with General George Patton’s army.

An American officer and French partisan crouch behind a car during a street fight in France, 1944. (Public Domain: National Archives and Records Administration)

Marceau joined Jean-Louis Barrault’s company and was soon cast in the role of Arlequin in the pantomime, “Baptiste” (which Barrault had interpreted in the film Les Enfants du Paradis). Marceau’s performance won him such acclaim that he was encouraged to present his first “mimodrama”, Praxitele and the Golden Fish, at the Bernhardt Theatre that same year. The acclaim was unanimous and Marceau’s career as a mime was firmly established.

In 1947 Marceau created “Bip the Clown” which was first played at the Théâtre de Poche (Pocket Theatre) in Paris. In his appearance he wore a striped pullover and a battered, beflowered, stovepipe silk opera hat. The outfit signified life’s fragility and Bip became his alter ego, just as the “Little Tramp” became Charlie Chaplin’s. Bip’s misadventures with everything from butterflies to lions, from ships and trains, to dance-halls or restaurants, were limitless.

Program for Marcel Marceau’s 1966 appearance in Israel. From the Yossi Alfi Archive, accessible through a collaboration between the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, the National Library of Israel and Haifa University.

For the next six decades, Marcel was the world’s foremost master of the art of silence. Pop star Michael Jackson credited Marcel with inspiring his famous moonwalk. In 2001, Marcel was awarded the Wallenberg Medal for his acts of courage during the Holocaust. When the award was announced, people speculated on whether Marcel would give an acceptance speech. He replied, “Never get a mime talking, because he won’t stop.”

Marcel Marceau died at the racetrack in Cahors, France, on 22 September 2007, which happened to be Yom Kippur, at the age of 84. At his burial ceremony, the second movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 (which Marceau long used as an accompaniment for an elegant mime routine) was played, as was Bach’s Cello Suite No. 5.

Marcel Marceau was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. In 1999 New York City declared 18 March “Marcel Marceau Day”.



Many thanks to the author and JewishGen for permission to republish this article. It appears here as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to connect with people, institutions and communities in Europe and beyond.


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Tolstoy and the Jews: It’s Complicated

A glimpse into the legendary Russian author's relationship with the People of the Book

Color portrait photo of Lev Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana, 1908 (Photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky; Public Domain)

Leo Tolstoy never gave the few Jewish characters referenced in his works names or individual identities. He almost did once, but changed his mind.

That, of course, does not make Tolstoy an anti-Semite.

One time he refused to allow Constantin Shapiro, an apostate Jew and personal photographer to the Russian royal family, onto his premises, later calling him “The Jew Shapiro” when referring to the incident. Despite converting to Russian Orthodoxy at a young age, Shapiro was a celebrated Hebrew lyricist who maintained close ties to Jewish culture and people, even leaving tens of thousands of rubles to Zionist causes when he died. On philosophical grounds, the Christian Tolstoy was apparently not a big fan of conversion in general. Perhaps it was that. Maybe he was just not fond of Shapiro’s lyrics. Or perhaps he was an anti-Semite.

Self-portrait of Constantin Shapiro taken in the mid-1870s. From the Abraham Schwadron Portrait Collection, National Library of Israel archives

Tolstoy once said, “I have met and know a great many good Jewish people.” It was the “My lawyer is Jewish” of its day.

Many of his disciples were, in fact, Jewish, though. When one of them, A.B. Goldenveizer, once tried to run up a hill and subsequently fell, losing consciousness, his teacher reportedly remarked, “All this happened because everywhere Jews always strive to be first.” On another occasion, following a disappointing meeting with the well-known German-Jewish writer Berthold Auerbach, Tolstoy described the latter as “Nothing but a Jew”. It does not seem related to his verse.

Berthold Auerbach, not Tolstoy’s favorite interlocutor. From the Abraham Schwadron Portrait Collection, National Library of Israel archives

Nonetheless, Tolstoy also had a number of Jewish acquaintances and perhaps even friends, like Leonid Pasternak, the chief illustrator of his novels, or Rabbi Solomon Alekseevich Minor of Moscow, the famous author’s Hebrew teacher. Tolstoy very much respected Rabbi Minor and often frequented Pasternak’s home where he hung out with Russian Jewish intelligentsia.

Illustration of a klezmer band by Leonid Pasternak. From the Postcard Collection, National Library of Israel archives

Thanks to Rabbi Minor’s instruction, Tolstoy read the Hebrew Bible in the original, concluding that it was full of “minute, meaningless and often cruel rules,” in his opinion a contradictory faith to the superior Christianity.

“To study the faith of the Jews in order to understand the Christian faith is like studying a candle before it is lit, in order to understand the significance of the light which comes from a burning candle,” he opined in 1880’s Introduction to an Examination of the Gospels.

Tolstoy was not a black and white kind of guy, though. His views were nuanced and vacillated over time. Within just a few years, the “unlit candle” may have become an “eternal fire”.

In “What is a Jew?”, allegedly written by Tolstoy in 1891, the answer given to the question posed in the essay’s title is: “A Jew is that sacred being who has brought down from heaven the eternal fire and has illuminated with it the entire world. He is the religious source, spring and fountain out of which all the rest of the nations have drawn their beliefs and religions.” In recent decades, doubt has been cast on the essay’s authorship, though, with evidence indicating that it may have been written by someone named G. Gutman as early as 1871, and not published under Tolstoy’s name until 1908, when it appeared in the Warsaw-based Yiddish-language magazine Teatr Welt.

Nonetheless, around the time he allegedly authored “What is a Jew?”, he did in fact write the following words to Jewish journalist Faivel-Meyer Getz, “The moral teaching of the Jews and the practical example of their lives stand incomparably higher than the moral teaching and the practical example set by the people of our quasi-Christian society… Judaism, by adhering to the moral principles which it professes, occupies a higher position than quasi-Christianity in everything that comprises the goals of our society’s aspirations. Christian people do not possess any moral principles, and the result is that hate and persecutions abound.”

One of the most notable cases of “hate and persecution” abounding at that time was the infamous Dreyfus Affair, about which Tolstoy controversially remained silent. He also initially stayed silent following the brutal Kishinev Pogrom. He was a thinker and not a publicist, Tolstoy argued in his own defense. Nonetheless, ultimately he decried the pogrom as a “villainous act”, signing a published letter of protest to the mayor of Kishinev and even sending literary works to Sholem Aleichem to be included in a book dedicated to the victims.

Victims of the Kishinev Pogrom outside the Jewish hospital, 1903. From the National Library of Israel archives

When asked about his view on the Jews a few years later, Tolstoy responded, “I can only answer as the teaching of Christ instructs us to behave toward people who are our brothers. The more unpleasant they appear to us, the greater the effort we must exert not just to overcome this hostility, but to awaken in our heart love for them.”

Though perhaps less influential now than a century ago, Tolstoy has undoubtedly had a significant impact on Jewish culture.

“Tolstoy’s Farm” – the South African prototype for the Gandhian ashram – was bankrolled by one of many Jews who admired his teachings and worked closely with Gandhi in India. Around the same time, many of the most prominent Zionists studied Tolstoy and tried to live his teachings. A.D. Gordon, one of the most important ideologues of the early Zionist movement, was known as the “Tolstoy of Palestine”.

In 1928, Nobel Prize-winner Bertrand Russell wrote in The Forward that “Tolstoy is the nearest approach to a Hebrew Prophet that modern times have produced. If he prefaced his words by ‘Thus said the Lord,’ it would seem quite natural, for there is a convincing tone of authority about his denunciations, which makes it very difficult to disbelieve what he is saying.”

Thus said the Lord: “I have met and know a great many good Jewish people.”


Thanks to Prof. Brian Horowitz and Misha Beletsky for their invaluable input.

This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to connect with people, institutions and communities in Europe and beyond.


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