01 March 2009

Philly 2009: Gesher Galicia spotlight


The first two Jewish genealogy jokes I ever heard centered on Galicia, although they are transferable to many Eastern European locations.

My grandfather would tell us that the border changed so frequently that they never knew where they were living until they went to school and heard what language the teacher spoke.

The next, origins lost in time, was of the shtetl in Galicia which found itself in Poland, and later in Ukraine. The people were happy as they said that the Polish winters were the worst and they were glad to be away from them.

Okay, okay - so they weren't the side-splitters you imagined!

In any case, many of today's Jewish genealogists have origins in Galicia. This area was Austro-Hungary, then Poland, and is now Ukraine. The shtetls of Suchastow and Skalat (southeast of Tarnopol on the map above) - home to my mother's paternal FINK family - make this group a personal interest of mine.

To learn more about Galicia, go to JewishGen for Gesher Galicia, the special interest group (SIG) devoted to this geographical area. Click here for an overview of the projects which the group is conducting.

One of the most active of the regional SIGs, its president Pamela Weisberg of Los Angeles has just announced the group's plans for the upcoming 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. There will also be other Galician programs and activities throughout the week-long conference, August 2-7, in Philadelphia.

Monday, August 3, is Gesher Galicia's major spotlight and there are some major announcements.

The SIG luncheon speaker is Michael Karpin, an award-winning filmmaker, television and radio news reporter and anchor for more than 30 years in Israel. He will discuss his new book, "Tightrope: Six Centuries of a Galician Jewish Dynasty."


The 650-year epic tale of the extraordinary Backenroth family, follows them over six centuries of upheaval, covering their migration from western to eastern Europe, the creation of the Hasidic movement, the birth of Zionism, migration to South America, the oil boom in Galicia and the loss of many family members during the Holocaust.

It is a stirring, true story, based on diaries, letters, documents, and oral testimony.

The Backenroths were residents of Drohobych, Schodnica, Boryslaw, Bolechow and other Galician shtetls. Time and time again they slid from prosperity and opulence to profound poverty and distress, and time after time they managed to surmount the crises.
Later that day, Karpin will speak on "Writing a Galician Jewish Saga: Research & Methodology."

He spent 20 years researching his book, "Tightrope," which has been described as a unique and candid history of the Jews in Galicia, interweaving stories of the Backenroth, Kahane, Wieseltier and the Graubart clans.


Beginning from the 14th century, Karpin documents their creativity, resourcefulness, deception and courage. He explains how in the course of his journalistic travels he researched the family's rabbinical dynasty and their pioneering development of the Galician oil belt in the 1800s, hunting down historical records and searching for family members throughout the world, following a trail through Lvov, Bolechow, Drohobych, Schodnica and Sanok.

That he was able to delve into archives, historical records, documents, newspaper articles, diaries, oral histories, and any and every record he could garner information from, etc., is an incredible feat, in itself which he will detail in this talk.
Set for the same day is the Gesher Galicia SIG meeting, an All-Galician Birds-of-a-Feather, and an Ask the Experts session.

The luncheon is an added-fee, ticket-only event, so remember to sign up when registering for the conference. A hint: this luncheon will likely sell out quickly, so early registration is recommended.

See you in Philly!

1 comment:

  1. Paul Hosse7:13 PM

    I have found the folks at Gesher Galicia to be friendly and very helpful.

    ReplyDelete