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The Ninety-Three Beit-Ya'akov Martyrs 69 THE NINETY-THREE BEIT-YA'AKOV MAR1YRS: TOWARDS THE MAKING OF A HISTORIOSOPHY1 by Zev Garber Zev Garber is Professor of Jewish Studies, Los Angeles Valley College, and Visiting Professor of Religious Studies, University of California at Riverside. The editor ofMethodology in the Academic Teaching of Judaism (1986), Methodology in the Academic Teaching of the Holocaust (with A. Berger and R. Libowitz, 1988), and Teaching Hebrew Language and Literature at the College Level (Shofar 9.3, Spring 1991), he is also editor-in-chief of a new series, Studies in the Shoah. Finally, he served as President of the National Association of Professors of Hebrew. I. On January 5,1943, Mr. Meir Schenkolewsky of Brooklyn, New York, handed the Annual Conference of the Jewish Orthodox Rescue Committee an unusual letter, forwarded to him through Zurich, Switzerland. The letter pertained to the martyrdom of 92 pupils and their teacher of a Beit Ya'akov school in Cracow, Poland, who chose mass suicide by poison rather than submission to forced prostitution demanded by German soldiers. The epistle, dated August 11, 1942, was composed by the teacher, lThis article is a revised version of papers presented at the 20th Annual Sholars' Conference (Vanderbilt University, March 4-6, 1990), and the 1990 Annual Meeting of the National Association of Professors of Hebrew (November 18, 1990). I would like to acknowledge the research and input of Susan Garber, who has contributed much to the direction of this paper. Of course, she is not responsible for the final views expressed here. This essay was concluded with the death of my father Morris Benjamin (Moshe Binjamin) Garber ZL, in Jerusalem (25 Sivan 5741/7 June 1991). I offer it in his memory. 70 SHOFAR Fall 1993 Vol. 12, No. 1 Chaya Feldman, age 22. Deemed authentic by officials of the American Beit Ya'akov Committee in an emergency meeting held in their New York office, 131 West 86th St., the letter was made public by Rabbi Leo Jung of the Jewish Center of New York City on January 7,1943. The next day, The New York Times carried the story, in a single column on page 8, and printed selections of the letter as translated by Rabbi Jung: Dear Friend' in New York: I do not know whether this letter will reach you. Do you still remember who I am? We met in the same house of [the late] Mrs. [Sarah] Schenirer [founder of the Beth Jacob movement] and afterward again in Marienbad.3 When this letter will come into your hands, I shall not live anymore. With us are ninety-two Beth Jacob girls. Within a few hours everything will be over. Give our regards to Mr.. [Jacob] Rosenheim [head of the world Beth Jacob movement] and our friend [Harry A.] Goodman [an English benefactor of the Beth Jacob movement], both in England. We all met in Warsaw at our friend's Y-' and Y-'s son was also there. We had four rooms. On July twenty-seventh we were taken out and thrown into a dark room, having only water. We studied the sacred works and got courage. In age we are from fourteen to twenty-two; the younger ones are afraid. I try to recall Mother Sarah's [Mrs. Schenirer's] teaching of the Torah.' It is good to live for God, but it is also good to die for Him.6 Yesterday and the day before we were given hot baths and we were told that German soldiers would come tonight to visit us. We yesterday swore to ourselves that we shall die together. Yesterday one sent us to a big house with bright rooms and nice beds. The Germans do not know that our last bath is our purification before death. Today, everything was taken from us, and we were each given one nightgown. All of us have poison. When the soldiers will come we shall drink it. Today we are together and all day we are saying our last confession. We have no fear. 2Meir Schenkolewsky of Brooklyn, New York (Williamsburg section). 3The Third Great Assembly of Agudath Israel was held in Marienbad...


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