10 March 2007

Family saga spans the generations

When special interest groups meet at this year's IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, some great speakers will provide content.

This year, the July 16 Gesher Galicia luncheon will feature NY Daily News reporter Erin Einhorn, who will share a fascinating family saga, spanning generations, that is of interest to all researchers.

When Einhorn found the family that hid her mother, as an infant, from the Nazis during the Holocaust, she thought she'd created a made-for-TV-reunion for two families thrown together by history. A man who knew her mother as a child threw his arms around her and told her the little girl had been like a sister to him.

But the initial embrace soon gave way to 50 years of hurt feelings and resentments. Einhorn found herself apologizing for choices made years before she was born, untangling a real estate deal made on a handshake by people no longer alive and struggling to prove the death of a great-grandfather born in 1868.

In a year spent living in Poland - the country where her mother was born - she found the only known photo of her grandmother and shocking news about how she might have died.

She met a rabbi who annually brings kosher Chinese food to Krakow for a ritual meal and a Polish nun who insists she's a Jew. She watched as 10,000 young Poles packed an outdoor plaza for a concert of Jewish klezmer music and made a life for herself in a country where she feared she'd be hated.

Now working on a book about her experiences, she tells what she learned, how she learned it, and how easy it was to debunk family memories and folklore with the help of documents tucked away in Polish archives.

To register for the conference and special events go to the conference Web site.

I'll be signing up for this talk.

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