In 1995, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are known as LDS or Mormons, signed an agreement with the heads of many Jewish organizations, in which the church agreed to stop posthumous baptism of Jews, particularly of Holocaust victims, and remove the names of “inappropriately entered” individuals.
Since then, ongoing meetings have done little to address the practice except to provide a way to remove the names of those “inappropriately” entered into their International Genealogical Index. The IGI has a public section, available to all, and a private section, which holds the details of church rites performed on an individual. The private section is only accessible with a church-supplied password for its members.
To see if your Jewish ancestors have been entered in the IGI, go to www.familysearch.org, and do a search for results in the IGI, not the Social Security Death Index database.
This volatile issue and its continued practice, despite the signed agreement, is taken very seriously by many Jewish family history researchers. While some say they don’t care what non-Jewish rites are performed on Jews after death because it won’t change anything, many others feel that subjecting those who lived and died as Jews (and were murdered because they were) to baptism is a repugnant, insulting act.
A third group believes the process creates fraudulent records. They fear the possibility of future generations researching their families and seeing grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and ancestors of long ago listed in the IGI. Descendants will think that Zayde (grandfather in Yiddish) was a Mormon, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Researcher Helen Radkey has proven over the years that thousands of Holocaust victims and others who were buried in Jewish cemeteries or listed in Jewish organization records have been similarly baptized after the signing of the 1995 agreement which was to have ended the practice.
Additionally, Radkey discovered that the lack of quality control on data entry by church members has resulted in the strange phenomena of cartoon character Mickey Mouse and even the Easter Island stone statues being accorded church rites.
Genealogist Gary Mokotoff has attended all the Salt Lake City meetings between Mormon and Jewish representatives. He provided a brief report of the most recent meeting to the Jewish genealogical society delegates at the recently concluded International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, which offered some hope that an entry pre-screening process would be instituted.
A detailed report of the latest meeting appears in Mokotoff's Nu? What's New bi-weekly newsletter.
To read about the London Beth Din and how those Jewish records ended up in the IGI, go to www.avotaynu.com/nu/V07N12.htm. For the detailed report of the latest meeting, see www.avotaynu.com/nuwhatsnew.htm. For more on the controversy and the 1995 agreement, www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/ldsagree.html