26 August 2009

South Jersey's Jewish genealogists spotlighted

I first met Rabbi Gary Gans back at the Boston IAJGS conference a very long time ago.

He's the First Rabbi of Rabbit World, over at the International Jewish Graveyard Rabbit blog (in fact, I've got to get some of his new posts up there!). His congregation, Beth Tikvah in Marlton, is the meeting place of the South Jersey affiliate of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia, and he's also active in DNA genetic genealogy.

So with all these interconnections, Tracing the Tribe was happy to see this story in Jewish Voices, published by the Southern New Jersey Jewish Federation, which covered several South Jersey Jewish genealogists.

For Rabbi Gary Gans of Marlton's Cong. Beth Tikvah, the best week of the year is when the international conference on Jewish genealogy takes place.

"This is one of the most creative weeks, when fellow genealogy addicts end up in the same place. It brings about a great new energy level," said Gans, whose synagogue is the meeting site for the Jewish Genealogical Society's South Jersey affiliate group. The rabbi, a tombstone maven, presided over two well attended workshops on the history of grave markers, focusing on how to decipher Hebrew inscriptions and use them to gain clues valuable in family research.

At the conference, Gans also discovered more contacts and resources to aid his own research. He has already found his great-grandmother's Lithuanian postal bank account in rubles, and noted that with the fall of the Iron Curtain and archives from Eastern Europe resurfacing, there has never been a better time for budding genealogists.
The story noted that conference co-chair David Mink who lived in Cherry Hill (where the paper is published) for more than 30 years before moving to Philly. The area proved important at the conference:

"South Jersey's Jewish agricultural communities are a story that isn't told too often, but this was an opportunity to tell that story," he said. Workshops and panel discussions about the Jewish agricultural colonies were followed by a mid-week bus tour of key sites.
The story covered other researchers from the area, such as David Brill, whose great-great-grandparents settled in the Carmel colony in the early 1880s but later moved to Philadelphia.

"A lot of the Philadelphia Jewish community find they have connections to these Jewish colonies," Brill said. He ran one of the workshops that gave the conference a unique local flavor, and helped lead the bus tour, which stopped at the one-room, circa 1890 Garton Road Shul in Rosenhayn, and visited the Alliance, Carmel and Woodbine colonies.
Ruth Bogutz, also of Cherry Hill, is president of the Tri-County Jewish Historical Society, and the story mentioned Rosenhayn, Jewish community buildings in Camden, Springville and Mount Laurel. Her conference session attracted area residents as well as those who had moved away.

"The dedication of the generations that came before me was quite amazing," said Bogutz, who plans to make a film about the Jewish communities of Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties.
Mount Laurel resident Steve Schecter, who created the excellent 200-page Philadelphia and New Jersey resource guide for the conference (which he's planning to turn into a book or larger CD), was mentioned as well. He became interested when his mother talked about the old days in South Philadelphia.
"She'd refer to folks as 'boat relatives,' meaning they came over (from Europe) on the same boat. After my mother died and I did more research, I learned that they did come over and band together, but frequently they were related through marriage or were distant cousins," Schecter said.
Read the complete article at the link above.

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