28 February 2009

My mother, the genius!

"Of course, you can have a horse," said my mother. "It just has to sleep under your bed!"

My mother was a genius in more ways than one, although her real talent was in situations like the "horse issue." When I became horse-mad, as many girls do at some point, I wanted a horse.

Now, where was such a four-footed creature supposed to live in a Brooklyn brownstone? How would it get up the outside stairs or to the second floor bedrooms?Obviously, we hadn't thought it out carefully. But what was important was that Mom said we could have one. It wasn't her fault that the horse couldn't possibly fit under our bed. We even measured it!

It's a good thing we didn't know about today's lofted beds, which would have provided at least a miniature pony-friendly environment.

"Of course, you two can have a piece of cake. One of you cuts it and the other one gets first pick." We pulled out the rulers and slide rules on that one. If computers had been around then, we'd have found a computer program to calculate the angle of the cut and the volume of the cake. God forbid that the other person should get one crumb more than the other. It worked very well. One cuts, the other chooses. So simple. I keep waiting to hear this solution on the SuperNanny television show.

"Of course, you can try it," she said, as she smoked a very rare cigarette. I was about 5 and thought it looked interesting. It worked. One puff and I've never gone anywhere near cigarettes since. Instead of lecturing me on why it was bad and not for kids, she thought the experiment might work better. I don't think the word "dangerous" came into her decision - who knew back then that it really was dangerous? The tiny puff, horrible taste and ensuing coughing were enough for me for life.

When my mother was born, her parents were both working and my mother was cared for by her maternal grandmother, Little Grandma, in Newark, New Jersey. For five years, she "lived" Yiddish.

When it came time for her to go to school, they tried to register her. Of course, the principal and teachers only spoke English. After some unsuccessful conversations and some talk of this child being mentally-challenged because she couldn't understand the simplest of English sentences, they decided to try something. They brought in a Yiddish-speaking teacher for a very animated session with the child. The result was that not only wasn't she mentally-challenged, but that she knew enough to to skip a grade as she already knew how to read and write (albeit in Yiddish).

An excellent student throughout school, she attended Samuel J. Tilden High School in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, where she received such grades as a 98 in Organic Chemistry - who gets grades like that? She had great hopes of becoming a doctor like her maternal uncle, Dr. Louis (Leib) Tollin. Cornell University accepted her for pre-med.

Unfortunately, times were different back then, and although her mother wanted her to do whatever she wanted, her father, perhaps harking back to his shtetl childhood in Suchastow (Galicia->Poland->Ukraine), refused to allow her to consider that future. I was told he insisted she become a teacher, a respected job for a Jewish girl.

Off she went on the bus and subway into the "city" to Greenwich Village and NYU, instead of to upstate Ithaca. However, throughout her life, she was interested in all things medical, read journals, and everything she could find.

As a child, she had a wonderful singing voice, inherited from her mother, and was the descendant and niece of several hazzanim (cantors). Mom auditioned for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour on the radio - the American Idol of its day - and was selected to perform. Always somewhat shy, her stage fright got the best of her and she just couldn't sing that day.

My grandparents had already bought a large piece of land in Kauneonga Lake, near White Lake, in the Catskills, which would become the future Kauneonga Park bungalow colony - the family spent summers and holidays there. My mother was an excellent swimmer. The story was that she used to regularly swim across the lake in summer and, in winter, would ice skate across it.

The women in my family were excellent cooks, and my mother continued the tradition. Although raised in a traditional kosher home, that wasn't part of her persona. So we went to the Italian butcher for the best veal cutlets that would become excellent veal parmigiana, and delicious tender roasts, but also to the Jewish butcher for the best brisket, freshest ground meat and kosher chickens.

A favorite treat was going to the kosher butcher for ground meat. We were little cannibals and loved to eat the fresh ground meat sprinkled with kosher salt. Who knew we were gourmets and were really eating steak tartare?

I'm sure people's eyes are rolling at this raw meat business, but we never got sick and it was the most delicious gastronomic experience at that time of my life. The butcher would place some beautiful fresh ground meat on a piece of brown butcher paper, sprinkle it with coarse kosher salt and we'd eat it up in a flash. I do remember horrified looks on the faces of customers.

We were never allowed to do this at the Italian butcher. And it could not be ready- ground meat in a tray, it could only be fresh-ground to her order.

That ground meat became the best-ever meat loaf - I still make it - or stuffed peppers or spaghetti sauce. In the summer, when we went to mountains, one of her specialities was Chinese-style spareribs (kosher short ribs from Mendelson's in the village). Those were superb, but I've never made them myself.

The only time I remember a really major culinary screw-up was when she decided to buy a new-fangled blender and tried to make tuna salad in it. What poured out was not tuna salad as this planet knew it. Guess what? When you put enough matzo meal or Italian bread crumbs in the "soup," you could form patties and fry them up.

Like my grandmother, she was an excellent sewer, knitter and crocheter. In particular, I remember a black silk dress with a ruffled collar, and also a black-and-white tweed winter skirt and jacket. When our daughter was an infant, she created amazing things - an entire trunkful of sweaters, buntings, hats and outfits. Most of it was from Italian-language magazines - she couldn't read the language but figured out the sophisticated designs from the patterns. When we moved from Los Angeles to Southern Nevada, the entire trunk disappeared and I was heartbroken over the loss.

When my husband and I lived in Teheran, Mom would visit us. It was a long trip in those days, with few non-stop flights from New York. She was never afraid of going off exploring on her own in a foreign country where she didn't speak the language. She'd call a taxi, go off to the museums and have a great day.

She believed in taking responsibility, and she generally found a good solution for problems. She was always calm - I wish I had inherited that - and I don't remember her ever yelling at me - I'm sure she must have, but I just don't remember it.

Of course, there was that time I was watching cartoons on our tiny television screen and I spilled a glass of milk while sitting on a tiny bench at the leather-topped coffee table. Something happened way back then, I knew she was angry, but it really was an accident ... honest.

My mother was the descendant of generations of women and men who lived through the 1391 pogroms in Spain; through the Inquisition; through disasters, epidemics and historic events in Eastern Europe, surmounted the trials of immigration and personal tragedy. They survived and flourished by being "lucky," which I think was merely another word for wisely utilizing innate intelligence and wit.

We have hopefully inherited some of these traits from our ancestors.

The next question: What will our descendants say about us?

26 February 2009

UK: "Culinary Judaism' conference, July 2009

A foodie call for papers has been announced.

The Philly 2009 international Jewish genealogy conference is right on track with its own "Jews and Food" sessions. Here's an entire conference built on this theme organized by the British Association for Jewish Studies.

The event takes place July 12-14 in Durham, UK. For more information, click here.

The theme is Culinary Judaism.

Speakers are invited to present papers concerning all issues related to food and the use of food in Jewish texts and cultures, addressing commensality, cooking, creation of boundaries, identity, symbolism, sacrifice and material cultural objects related to or symbolic of eating, etc.

Culinary is interpreted broadly and extends to sacrifice and other symbolic uses of food or food related objects.

Submit proposal titles, 250-word abstract and brief CV (a paragraph) by mail to BAJS Conference Abstracts, Prof. Seth Kunin, Faculty Office, Elvet Riverside Block 2, New Elvet DH1 3JT, s.d.kunin@durham.ac.uk by 31 March 2009.

Kunin is also handling proposals for the Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies conference, August 2-4, in Denver, Colorado.

Australia: History of Jewish publications

Looking to trace Jewish ancestors in Australia? The University of Sydney, Archive of Australian Judaica has just issued its 2008 edition of some 400 Jewish publications that have been published in Australia.

Each may hold the keys to your family's details!

For background and history, click here, to see the variety of periodicals, including English and Yiddish newspapers, synagogue publications, journals and more.

To see the list of the 400 publications in a 208-page PDF, click here

This is just one section of the listings and the date runs:

Communal Newspapers - State and National

The Australasian Hebrew, v.1, no 1-v.2, no 26 (Nov 1895 - Nov 1896)
Australian Hebrew Times, Jan 1894 - Dec 1894?
The Australian Israelite, v.1, no 1-v.4, no 44 (1871 - May 1875)
The Australian Jewish Chronicle, v.1, no 1-v.9, no 2 (Mar 1922 - June 1930); ns v.1, no 1-v.11, no 77 (June 1930 - Feb 1931)
The Australian Jewish Herald, v.1 (1920-1933); ns v.1-90 (1935 - Aug 1980). Supersedes The Jewish Herald, v.1, no 1- v.40 (1879-1919)
Australian Jewish News, v.1 (May 1935)+. Supersedes The Jewish Weekly News, (Oct 1933 - May 1935)
Australian Jewish News. Melbourne edition, Apr 1990+. Continues
Australian Jewish News
Australian Jewish News.
Sydney edition, v.9, no 6 (Apr 1990)+. Continues the Australian Jewish Times
The Australian Jewish Times, v.61, no 48-v.9, no 5 (1935 - Mar 1990). Continued by The Australian Jewish News. Sydney edition. Incorporated Sydney Jewish News from 1971. Continues The Jewish Times, v.60, no 16-v.61, no 47 (1953-1955). Continues The Hebrew Standard of Australasia, v.1, nos 1-2 (Nov, Dec 1895); v.2, no 1-v.60, no 15 (July 1897 - Oct 1953)
The Communal Opinion, v.1, no 1-v.2 (Oct 13, 1913-1914)
Hebrew Standard of Australasia, v.1, nos 1-2 (Nov, Dec 1895); v.2, no 1-v.6, no 15 (July 1897 - Oct 1953). Continued by The Jewish Times
JNF: The Link with Israel, v.1, no 1 (1950s-1960s). Superseded by Shalom The Jewish Herald, v.1, no 1-v.40 (1879-1919). Superseded by The Australian Jewish Herald
The Jewish Observer, v.1, no 1-v.5 (1918-1924).
The Jewish Times, v.6, no 16-v.61, no 47 (1953-1955). Continued by The Australian Jewish Times

152 Jewish Times.
Wellington, 1926-1932. Superseded by The New Zealand Jewish Chronicle
The Jewish Weekly News, Oct 1933 - May 1935. Superseded by The Australian Jewish News
The Judean Bulletin, pre-1941. Superseded by The N.Z. Judean Bulletin
Kesher-Connections: Newsletter, Sydney (Jewish Communal Appeal), no 1 (1992)+
Menorah: Monthly Magazine for Jewish Children, Hunters Hill, NSW (Isabella Lazarus Home), nos 1-2 (Dec 1941 - Feb 1942)
Shalom, Sept 1964-Jy 2004?
The Sydney Jewish News, v.1, no 1-v.34, no 21 (1939-1973). Incorporated Oystralier Leben. Incorporated in Australian Jewish Times
The Voice of Jacob, nos 1-3 (May - Sept 1842)
The Westralian Judean, v.1, nos 1-27 (Nov 1924 - Sept 1955)

Look at the complete listings and details for each publication. If you are looking for family members who may have gone to Australia, these publications may be very important to your quest.

Remember that life cycle events (birth, engagement, marriage, death) were a big part of such publications' content and may hold many genealogical clues.

Carnivals of Genealogy past and future

Jasia at Creative Gene does an excellent job organizing our Carnival of Genealogy. She has just posted the index of COGs past and future through 2009.

This list is most helpful for readers who wish to understand how many geneabloggers address these different topics according to their own experiences, and also to learn what's coming up in the future.

In the past, each edition has elicited numerous entries. For geneabloggers, it provides an impetus to write on topics which we may not have previously addressed, while our many blog readers get to see varying opinions, origins, events and the styles of many gen writers.

For the click-ons for COGs already posted, view here.

Edition 1 Technology 6/04/2006
Edition 2 Ethnic Genealogy 6/18/2006
Edition 3 Immigration 7/02/2006
Edition 4 Family Reunions 7/17/2006
Edition 5 Historical Fiction 8/03/2006
Edition 6 Genealogical Societies 8/18/2006
Edition 7 Writing a Family History 9/04/2006
Edition 8 Family Photos 9/17/2006
Edition 9 Genealogy Vacations 10/03/2006
Edition 10 Tombstones 10/17/2006
Edition 11 Family Get Togethers 11/05/2006
Edition 12 Solving Technical Problems 11/19/2006
Edition 13 Genealogy Bloopers 12/04/2006
Edition 14 Genealogy Gift Giving 12/17/2006


Edition 15 Genealogy New Year's Resolutions 1/02/2007
Edition 16 Family Food & Recipes 0/16/2007
Edition 17 Thanks & Acknowledgement 2/04/2007
Edition 18 5 Best Tips for Specific Research Areas 2/18/2007
Edition 19 Family Homes 3/03/2007
Edition 20 A Tribute to Women 3/17/2007
Edition 21 Funny, Foolish, Family! 4/04/2007
Edition 22 Carousel Edition (mixed topic) 4/18/2007
Edition 23 School Days 5/04/2007
Edition 24 Mothers 5/18/2007
Edition 25 Who inherited the creative gene in your family? 6/04/2007
Edition 26 Dads 6/19/2007
Edition 27 What America/Independence Day means to my family 7/03/2007
Edition 28 Surnames 7/18/2007
Edition 29 Moral or legal dilemmas in genealogy or blogging 8/02/2007
Edition 30 Genealogical conferences and seminars 8/18/2007
Edition 31 Proving or debunking family myths 9/04/2007
Edition 32 Family war stories 9/18/2007
Edition 33 Weddings 10/04/2007
Edition 34 Halloween and the supernatural 10/18/2007
Edition 35 A family mystery that might be solved by DNA? 11/04/2007
Edition 36 Carousel Edition (mixed topic) 11/18/2007
Edition 37 Genealogy wish lists 12/03/2007
Edition 38 The New Millennium (2000) 12/18/2007


Edition 39 New Year's Resolutions 1/04/2008
Edition 40 Living-relative connections 1/18/2008
Edition 41 Dinner with 4 ancestors 2/04/2008
Edition 42 Best of the est, iGene Awards edition 2/18/2008
Edition 43 Technology Tips for Genealogists 3/04/2008
Edition 44 A Tribute to Women 3/18/2008
Edition 45 Cars as Stars of Our Family History 4/04/2008
Edition 46 Inherited Traits 4/18/2008
Edition 47 A Place Called Home 5/04/2008
Edition 48 Mom, How'd You Get So Smart? 5/18/2008
Edition 49 Swim Suit Edition 6/04/2008
Edition 50 Family Pets 6/18/2009
Edition 51 Independent Spirit 7/04/2008
Edition 52 Age 7/18/2008
Edition 53 Carousel Edition 8/04/2008
Edition 54 The Family Language 8/18/2008
Edition 55 Show and Tell 9/04/2008
Edition 56 Essential Books in Your Genealogical Library 9/18/2008
Edition 57 I Read It In The News! 10/05/2008
Edition 58 Fact or Fiction, Haunting Stories 10/18/2008
Edition 59 Politics and Our Ancestors 11/04/2008
Edition 60 Alzheimer's Disease 11/18/2008
Edition 61 Traditions 12/04/2008
Edition 62 Wishes! 12/18/2009


Edition 63 New Year's Resolutions 1/04/2009
Edition 64 Winter Photo Essay 1/18/2009
Edition 65 Genealogy Happy Dance 2/04/2009
Edition 66 Second Annual iGene Awards 2/18/2009
Edition 67 Nobody's Fool 3/04/2009
Edition 68 Women's History Month: One Woman 3/18/2009
Edition 69 What if: Rewriting History 4/04/2009
Edition 70 Uncle! Uncle! 4/18/2009
Edition 71 Local History 05/04/2009
Edition 72 Honoring Mothers 5/18/2009
Edition 73 The Good Earth: Family Ties to the Land 6/04/2009
Edition 74 Second Annual Swim Suit Edition 6/18/2009
Edition 75 Justice and Independence 7/04/2009
Edition 76 How I Spent My Summer Vacation 7/18/2009
Edition 77 Disasters Our Ancestors Lived Through 8/04/2009
Edition 78 Ride Em Cowboy: Let's See Your Pony Pictures! 8/18/2009
Edition 79 Family Reunions 9/04/2009
Edition 80 Research An Event Your Ancestor May Have Attended 9/18/2009
Edition 81 Blog Obituary 10/04/2009
Edition 82 Weddings! 10/18/2009
Edition 83 Musical Instruments 11/04/2009
Edition 84 "Harvest": What it meant to your family 11/18/2009
Edition 85 Orphans and Orphans 12/05/2009
Edition 86 Holiday Theme 12/18/2009
My recent post on Blog Obituaries - If your blog died today... - prompted Jasia to suggest it as the topic for the 81st COG in October 2009.

Happy reading! Thank you, Jasia, for your work!

25 February 2009

Humor: Genealogy cartoons

Genea-Musings's Randy Seaver pointed to a Wizard of Id cartoon indicating a possible "non-paternity even" - as genetic genealogists term it.

I went over to the Comics.com site and plugged in some appropriate keywords (family history, ancestry, genealogy). "Family history" turned up more than 2000 possibilities (some right on target, others more far-fetched).

I didn't have time to go through all of them, but there are many good ones.

You can email, share or embed the cartoons.

24 February 2009

New edition: Jewish Surnames of the Russian Empire

A large volume that "lives" on the shelf above my desk is Alexander Beider's Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire (1993, Avotaynu). Each time I look up a name, I mark it, and most pages are covered in highlights and notes.

Following four years of work by Beider, an updated volume has just been published by Avotaynu, which has brought out all of Beider's books, including surnames in Poland, Galicia and elsewhere, as well as a tome on Ashkenazi given names.

The new edition is hefty at 1,000 pages - 50% more than the 1993 edition - and offers 74,000 surname entries - the 1993 book contained some 50,000.

Bill Gladstone reviewed the book for the Canadian Jewish News:
Beider considered the revision necessary because of the explosion of new sources and knowledge that has occurred over the last 15 years due to the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the rise of the Internet, and the publication of numerous related new works. He expanded the work’s geographical range, altered hundreds of entries and added many new cross-references.

The Moscow-born statistician, linguist and onomastician, who has lived in Paris since 1990, is credited with almost single-handedly revolutionizing the field of Jewish onomastics. Before Beider, most researchers rehashed names and ideas from the published literature with little scientific method and little regard to where the names occurred geographically. One of Beider’s central methodological principles was to link surnames to the geographical regions in which they originated, and he was the first to do an inductive survey of surnames based on primary sources such as old voters’ lists, censuses, civil records and other archival material.

See a sample page of the new edition here, and the corresponding page in the 1993 edition here. For a better idea of the broad scope of Beider's book, view the table of contents here.

A 200-page intro section offers information on how family names were acquired. Beider covers the history of Eastern European Jewish names, types, linguistics. patterns of adoptions, names used by both Jews and non-Jews.

An accompanying softcover volume provides the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex listing of the surnames. The D-M Soundex was especially formulated to provide a more accurate system for Eastern European names.

The dictionary section references other Beider works to see how a surname migrated both to and from the Russian Empire.

For more information, click Avotaynu. For both books (large hardcover and accompanying softcover), the price is $118.

Read Gladstone's complete review in the Canadian Jewish News.

Oral History Institute: UC Berkeley, August 2009

Learning how to interview is one of the most important skills for genealogists, family historians and others. What are the proven techniques and methodologies? How do we plan a project to gain the information we need?

To help answer these questions, there's a one-week advanced institute on methodology, theory and practice of oral/video history scheduled at the Regional Oral History Office of the University of California Berkeley, August 10-14.

It is designed for academic, independent, public and community scholars engaged in serious research that in some manner utilizes oral/video history and/or interview-based methodologies. Only 30 participants will be accepted, the cost is $800 and and the application deadline is May 1.
Presentations will cover project planning, preparation for interviewing and interview techniques, interview analysis, legal and ethical responsibilities such as copyright and human subject protection requirements.

The goal is to strengthen participants' skills to conduct research focused interviews and to consider the special characteristics of interviews as historical evidence.

Special attention will be given to how oral history interviews can broaden and deepen historical interpretation situated within contemporary discussions of history, subjectivity, memory, and memoir.

Participants will also work in small research interest groups led by faculty with similar interests.
For more details, click here.

Keeping the kipahs: Yarmulgraphs?

My family had a bag of them. Kipahs, kippahs, yarmulkes. I have the bag now and it has been added to over the years.

Kipah [kee-pah] is the Hebrew name for the Yiddish yarmulke, the Jewish head covering worn, according to personal observance, only for prayer, at meals or all the time.

A valuable genealogical resource, each has the name or names of the celebrants, the date, sometimes the place. Each commemmorates a bar or bat mitzvah, a wedding, an engagement, an anniversary, a brit millah - even a funeral.

Every major family event is represented by a head covering. They are every color of the rainbow and made of every type of material (satin, silk, suede, leather). Whenever we need a kipah, a hand goes in and withdraws something suitable. The rainbow included white, hot pink, electric blue, green, pale blue, pale pink, gold, silver, even black. You can always find one to match your outfit or that of your guest at a Shabbat or holiday meal!

When writing stories about genealogy and lifecycle events, I often discuss kipah collections as very useful family history artifacts.

In Seattle, meet emergency room pediatrician Jonathan Chalett, 52, who takes his "Kipah Kollection" a step farther, and brings it into the realm of autograph book. The article called them "yarmulgraphs."

A modest-looking man with gray hair, wire-rimmed glasses and a thin build steels himself for the mission. He scans the room, plotting his path across the grand ballroom at the Westin Hotel.
He has 32 celebrity-autographed kipahs in his collection, and doesn't appear to be stopping anytime soon. If you live in the Seattle area, you can see them at the University of Washington's Odegaard Undergraduate Library through April 30.

Already, he has beaten the odds. He has been searched by the Secret Service and admitted to an exclusive $1,000-a-plate fundraising dinner, even though he has no ticket.

It's May 26, 2004.

Clad in a jacket and tie, he approaches presidential candidate John Kerry with an unusual request -- to please sign a yarmulke. He offers the senator a pen, but security waves it away. Kerry takes out his own pen. He makes brief eye contact with the stranger and signs the little white cap without comment.

Then the man approaches Teresa Heinz Kerry with the same request. She says: "Oh, a yarmulke. I'd be glad to sign that," and adds a "shalom."
Although he doesn't wear one himself, he carries them in his car and also permanent markers. He says, as a cultural - not religious - Jew - he's not sure if it's OK to autograph them,

But Rabbi Simon Benzaquen of the Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation assures us it's not.

"It's not that it has any holiness in it. A person wears it for prayers; a person wears it when he eats at the table," Benzaquen said. Then he added, wryly, "I suppose it depends what you write, of course."
He's got them signed by Barack Obama, Elvis Costello, Uma Thurman, Ray Allen and Annie Leibowitz.

Oct. 26, 2006: Best-selling author and new senator Barack Obama is speaking at Benaroya Hall and signing copies of "The Audacity of Hope." Chalett has no ticket to the sold-out event and he has no book to sign. Not that it would matter. He learns Obama will sign only the first 100 books of those in line. Chalett would be somewhere in the 700s.

He approaches the first person in line and asks her to slip the yarmulke under the book and request that Obama sign it. She comes back with the brown suede cap Hancocked, and relays that Obama said it was the only yarmulke he'd autographed.

"There's no way a politician is not going to sign a yarmulke," Chalett said.
How did Chalett get into this esoteric hobby that requires chutzpah? About a decade ago, his son attended a Magic Johnson basketball clinic, Chalett looked for something the star could sign. The only thing in his pocket was a leftover wedding kipah.

"It was hysterical -- a yarmulke in the Catholic Church (gym) signed by Magic Johnson," Chalett recalled fondly. "I said, 'Is this the first yarmulke you've signed?' He said, 'It sure is, and I've signed a lot of things.'"
Two years later, he tries for Van Halen's David Lee Roth (who is Jewish). Chalett wears his medical badge which gets him backstage and, eventually, the signature.

Each time he "goes on the hunt," he wonders if he'll be thrown out or arrested. He says he's never been turned down in person, but mailing the headcoverings fails.

The library display includes context and the doctor was the curator, creating captions and ephemera (photos, ticket stubs and more) to provide a background for the unique collection.

His collection includes Ray Allen, Ryan Braun, Willie Brown, Peter Buck, Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam drummer), Exene Cervenka, Elvis Costello, the Dalai Lama (unsigned but blessed), Amy Goodman, Harold Gould, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Ariana Huffington, Phil Jackson, Magic Johnson, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, Annie Leibowitz, Taj Mahal, Matisyahu, U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, President Barack Obama, Graham Parker, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Madeleine Peyroux, Suzzy and Maggie Roche, David Lee Roth, Dan Savage, Patti Smith, Uma Thurman, John Updike, John Waters, Martell Webster, and Lenny Wilkens.
Everyone needs a hobby! And if you'd like to crochet kipahs yourself, here's a great site with downloadable patterns for various designs.

Read the complete article at the link above.

23 February 2009

UK: Liverpool Jewish Cemetery restoration

Restoring Jewish cemeteries through lottery funding is a possibility in the UK.

According to the Liverpool Echo, the city's historic Deane Road Jewish cemetery has applied for such funding to aid its restoration.

Deane Road Jewish cemetery in Kensington is the final resting place of some of Liverpool’s best-known entrepreneurs including David Lewis, pioneer of Lewis’s, and Moses Samuel, founder of H Samuel.

The cemetery, which has around 750 gravestones, opened in 1837 but the last burial was in 1929 and it had become derelict before a new campaign to refurbish it was launched three years ago.
Patrons include Liverpool solicitor Rex Makin, Lord Lieutenant Dame Lorna Muirhead, and the well known actress (and Jewish genealogist) Miriam Margolyes.

The group has put in a bid for £220,000 which should fund a total restoration, including replacement, repair or refurbishment of boundary walls, gateposts, railings and front archway, as well as to re-erect all gravestones in good condition.

The Old Liverpool Hebrew Congregation owns the site, which has an ornate Greek-revival style archway entrance and a driveway flanked by cast iron railings.

Burials include Liverpool's first Jewish mayor Charles Mozley, and painter John Raphael Isaac. For more on notable Sephardi and Ashkenazi personalities who rest in Deane Road, click here.

These detailed biographies include family histories, illustrations, links, and other references.

Supporters hope that once restoration is complete, the cemetery will be added to Liverpool’s heritage trail.

For more details on the cemetery, click here. For the history of the cemetery, click here.

Estonia: Music series in Tallinn synagogue, March 1

A concert of Jewish composers' contribution to world musical culture will be performed in the Tallin, Estonia synagogue. The first concert, part of a six-concert series, takes place Sunday, March 1.

Themed “As long as I Can Remember,” the program includes Soviet songs, ballads and musical scores from movies, created by composers of Jewish origin, including Isaac Dunayevsky, Oscar Feltsman, Yan Frenkel, Isaac Schwartz, Veniamin Basner and others.

Television and radio journalist Irina Stelmakh is director of the series, which will feature Russian Philharmonic Society soloists Alexander Nekrasov (baritone) and Natalia Troshina (mezzo-soprano), with accompaniment by Vladimir Ignatov.

For more, click here.

New York: Sephardic music concert, March 7

New Yorkers are in for a treat with the Spirit of Sepharad concert, with Gerard Edery, concert set for 8pm, Saturday, March 7.

The Caravan Ensemble group includes:

Gerard Edery
Moroccan-born singer and guitarist; winner, Sephardic Musical Heritage Award
Amir Vahab
Iranian master vocalist of Persian folk and sacred music
Glen Velez
World-renowned, three-time Grammy Award-winning master drummer, composer
Ara Dinkjian
Foremost Armenian oud virtuoso
Barbara Martinez
Flamenco star dancer, singer and actress
Peninnah Schram
Internationally acclaimed storyteller

A soul-stirring program, The Spirit of Sepharad traces the unique migration of the Sephardim from medieval Spain, across North Africa, to the Middle East and beyond. Combining music, dance, narration and illuminating projections, this dynamic mixed-media performance brings to life all the rich cultural strains of the Sephardic Diaspora.

Featuring an array of virtuoso musicians from multiple disciplines, the CARAVAN ensemble traces the surprising and exotic musical synergies between Christians, Arabs and Jews from Medieval Spain to the present.

This program includes songs and instrumental music of secular and liturgical origin from Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, Greece, Syria, Turkey, Ancient Persia, The Balkans, Israel and Kurdistan (then, as now, part of Iran, Turkey and Iraq).

Tickets $35 Senior $33 Multi-Show $30 Student $20

The venue is the Queens Theatre (Claire Shulman Playhouse), in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. For tickets, click here; ($35, senior $33, student $20).

UK: Black Death, gold jewellery

In 1349, nearly 1,000 Jews died in one day from the Black Death in Erfurt, Germany. The plague wiped out about a third of Europe's population.

In Erfurt, the Jewish population was destroyed and Europe's oldest synagogue abandoned.

Fast forward to Erfurt in 1998, when a trove of jewellery weighing nearly 30kg (66 pounds) was discovered. Earlier, in 1863, another collection was found in Colmar, France, hidden in the walls of a home.

The collection of gold and silver is considered priceless. Experts say the items were hidden by families during the Black Death, when Jews were being blamed for the spread of the plague.

An exhibition - The Treasures of the Black Death - brings together two hoards of medieval gold and silver jewellery. at the Wallace Collection in central London, which will run through Sunday, May 10.

Included are three of the earliest known examples of Jewish wedding rings. The rings show a house which symbolises the home of the couple and the Temple of Jerusalem. The inscription reads mazal tov (good fortune, Hebrew).

Also on display, a 650-year-old perfume bottle. It is part of the only surviving medieval cosmetic set, complete with ear cleaners and tweezers.

The Erfurt synagogue is being restored as a museum and will house the artefacts permanently beginning in autumn 2009.

Read the complete article here

22 February 2009

Commerce and Religion: Call for papers

The Jewish role in medieval trade and commerce was very important. Many individuals attended local regional trade fairs, while others traveled far distances each year. There are many historical accounts of traders and merchants, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi.

The European Social Science History Conference has announced its call for papers on Commerce and Religion in medieval and early modern times. The conference takes place in Ghent, Belgium, April 13-16, 2010.

How did merchants belonging to different religious groups conduct trade with one another during the Medieval and Early Modern period? How did different societies accommodate "infidels" in the interest of promoting profitable commercial activity? We seek papers that focus on specific instances of inter-faith commerce from around the world in the period from 1000 to 1800. Papers from a variety of perspectives (e.g. economic history, legal history, cultural history) are welcome. They should be based on original research.

We are particularly eager to receive contributions that approach two inter-related themes:

a) the emergence of institutions, technologies, and forms of social organization that may have reduced the uncertainty of commercial exchanges, which was particularly acute in the absence of family and religious ties. For example, papers might explore the mechanics of medium- to long-term credit between individuals and groups who shared no religious affiliation and traded over significant distances. Analyses of failed or coerced inter-faith commercial exchanges are also welcome if they reveal larger patterns of cross-cultural interaction.

b) the tension between economic pragmatism, legal prescriptions, and religious prejudice. We are eager to link the mechanics of commercial exchange to their broader cultural implications in a wide variety of contexts and historical moments. In particular, we want to understand how and whether the quest for profit either encouraged more tolerant attitudes or merely enabled different groups to coexist in the context of religious biases and patterns of segregation.
The ultimate goal of this session is to develop a comparative approach to these questions and to trace changes over time, while respecting the historical particularity of diverse cases.

Send the proposal title and an abstract (800 words maximum) to Francesca Trivellato, by April 1.

Sephardic studies: Grants available

UCLA Maurice Amado Program in Sephardic Studies at the school's Center for Jewish Studies invites applications for faculty incentive grants to encourage scholars of any rank to deepen or develop their scholarship and teaching on Sephardic history or culture.

Grants may be used to develop or transform a course or to conduct research on or engage in the writing of a scholarly project with significant Sephardic content. Funding will not exceed $5,000 for any single applicant; typical grants will be in the range of $3,000. The work is expected to be conducted by the end of the 2009-2010 academic year; funds may not be used for the purchase of technology.

Applicants must submit by March 2, a cover letter (750 words maximum)detailing the project, its feasibility, and its contribution to the field of Sephardic Studies; a detailed budget; and contactinformation for two references. Send questions to Vivian Holenbeck.

For more information on the Maurice Amado Foundation, click here.
A major focus of the Maurice Amado Foundation is to ensure that Sephardic heritage is woven into the fabric of American Jewry. The Foundation has a special interest in integrating information about the religious life and culture of Sephardic Jews whose ancestors originated in the Iberian Peninsula into the education of all American Jews, with a special emphasis on reaching leaders, both present and future, of American Jewry. The heritage of Sephardic Jews includes a) the history and contributions to Jewish thought of the Spanish Jews before the Inquisition, b) the effects of the Inquisition on Jewish religious, cultural and intellectual life, c) the history of the Sephardim in the lands of their dispersion after the Expulsion, and d) modern Sephardic cultural and religious contributions to Jewish life.
Maurice Amado established the foundation in 1961. He was a descendant of Sephardic Jews who settled in the Ottoman Empire after the 1492 Expulsion from Spain. He immigrated to New York from Izmir, Turkey in 1903 and moved to Los Angeles in 1940. He supported organizations that perpetuated Sephardic heritage and culture.

Jews and Music: Call for Papers

There's more to genealogy than name lists. The field includes all aspects of life, including music. How did music impact the lives of our ancestors? Were they involved in music as performers or listeners? As an important part of life, music helps us understand our ancestors and the times they lived.

The Society for Ethnomusicology has announced its Call for Papers for the Panel on Jews and Music in Latin America and the Caribbean to take place at its conference in Mexico City, November 19-22.
The Jewish Music Interest Group of the Society for Ethnomusicology invites abstracts (in English, Spanish, or Portuguese) for a panel it intends to sponsor on music and Jewish life/history in the Caribbean and Latin America for the Society's 2009 meeting in Mexico City. We will entertain all proposals from interested scholars on any aspects of music and Judaism associated with the region. These topics may include music's relationship to identity, language, politics, migration, movement/dance, religious belief, gender, history, and so on. We are especially interested in those proposals that engage with and further ethnomusicology's discourses, methods, and/or literatures.
Send inquiries to Judah Cohen, with 250-word abstracts to Lillian Wohl, by March 9. Those with accepted proposals must commit to 2009 membership in the Society for Ethnomusicology and attendance at the Mexico City event.

21 February 2009

Philly 2009: Discussion group online now

Subscribe now to the discussion list for the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (August 2-7, Philadelphia).

It's a great way to stay in tune and in touch with breaking program announcements and activities. It also provides a place to both ask and answer questions about the conference and Philadelphia. The moderated discussion group is hosted by JewishGen.

It is a collaborative effort as subscribers share information on how to get the most out of event, about things to see and do in Philly. Speaker announcements, special programs and other announcements are usually made first on the discussion group, so don't miss out on the details.

To subscribe, go to the Philly 2009 site. On the left sidebar, scroll down to Conference Discussion Group. Click that button and follow the instructions.

20 February 2009

YIVO: Financial problems, staff cuts

According to The Forward, YIVO is dealing with its own financial problems a few weeks after hosting a public discussion on the financial downturn and Bernard Madoff's misdeeds.

Nathaniel Popper reports that five staff members were fired this month, including the only employee who knew how to type and edit documents in Yiddish.

Others dismissed were Fern Kant, who was two-thirds finished archiving Hebrew Actors Union materials; she will leave it uncompleted. Another laid-off employee had been there for decades, pulling material for researchers from the YIVO library.
“He knew the location of every journal and every book in the library,” Kant said. “I can’t imagine the library section functioning without him.”
Three YIVO board members also resigned.

The problems at YIVO, one of the largest libraries and archives of Yiddish material in the world, are connected to the stock market dive, and the drying up of donor funds. But the recent turmoil also stems from financial disagreements among YIVO’s leadership. At a board meeting February 11, a number of members asked the chairman of the board, Bruce Slovin, to resign, accusing him of a conflict of interest.
Fundraising difficulties have highlighted problems in the five organizations forming the Center for Jewish History, which has operated under a deficit for many years. A proposed merger with New York University failed after member groups opposed the plan.

Two other members, the American Jewish Historical Society and the Yeshiva University Museum, are also facing layoffs. Problems have increased because the Center has asked the members to pay increased rent to stay in the building.

The negotiations over this annual rent have been particularly tense at YIVO because the chairman of YIVO, Slovin, is also the founder and chairman of the center. Several members of YIVO’s board have called this a conflict of interest and one of those members, Abramson, said that when the interests of YIVO and the center have conflicted, Slovin has regularly sided with the center against YIVO.
In addition to board tensions, layoffs were necessary because of the recession, and YIVO executive director Carl Rheins said that the generosity and size of gifts by major donors will not be the same.

Read the complete story at the link above.

Society of American Archivists: March workshops

The Society of American Archivists (SAA) is scheduling workshops on diverse topics in various cities during March and later in the year.

If you are interested in learning more about archives, their organization and more, click the link above.

While non-member workshop fees are not inexpensive and may well be out of reach of non-professionals, reading the details of each workshop will provide information that may be researched independently.

Here are some titles:

Arrangement and Description of Manuscript Collections
March 5-6, Newport News, VA

An Introduction to Archival Exhibitions
March 6, Chicago, IL

Understanding Photographs: Introduction to Archival Principles & Practices
March 9-10, Philadelphia, PA

Analyzing and Improving Archival Web Sites
March 16, Princeton, NJ

Preservation of 20th Century Visual Materials
March 18-19, Milwaukee, WI

Business Archives...Establishing and Managing an Archives
March 25-27, Boston, MA

Archival Content Management Systems Web Seminar
March 31

Questions? Send them here, or see the website's education calendar.

Miami: Public library resources, March 1

The main branch of the Miami Public Library is home to a genealogy collection with materials including all US census microfilms, city directories, newspapers and more.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami has planned a field trip to the library to meet with the genealogy librarian, beginning at 12.45pm, Sunday, March 1. The Main Library is located at 101 W. Flagler Street.

The librarian will be available to meet with attendees following an introduction to the collections. The genealogy department's six computers are reserved for the JGS; attendees may bring their own laptops, flash drives and wireless cards.

The genealogy department features three microfilm readers that can print and save, with another two only for reading, while other library areas have additional readers and computers.

The library offers Internet access to Ancestry.com, Heritage Quest and other sites.

For more information, click here.

Vancouver, BC: Two workshops, March 1- Update

I just received a correction from dear friend Cissie Eppel in Vancouver who writes that the beginning Jewish genealogy program described below will be held at the Jewish Community Centre, in Victoria, BC, on Vancouver Island, and not at the Jewish Museum and Archives in the city of Vancouver. This is a great opportunity for those living in and around beautiful Victoria to get started in Jewish genealogy!

March 1 is a busy genealogy day at the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC, with two workshops scheduled.

The Museum and Archives demonstrates 150 years of Jewish culture and history in British Columbia. It is also the home of the Jewish Genealogical Institute of BC (founded 1992), the Jewish Historical Society of BC, and the Nemetz Jewish Community Archives.

The Nemetz Jewish Community Archives Reference Room (NJCA) The NJCA Reference Room in the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia provides a quiet atmosphere for researchers. The Reference Room contains a small but definitive resource library and is equipped with an oral history listening area and access to the Jewish Historical Society’s Oral History Collection. Visitors can also access the Jewish Genealogical Institute of British Columbia’s reference library and the genealogical databases Ancestry.com and FindMyPast.com.

The following beginning Jewish genealogy program will be held at the Jewish Community Centre, in Victoria, BC, on Vancouver Island, and not at the Jewish Museum and Archives.

From 1-4.30pm, the Jewish Genealogical Institute of BC will present a beginning Jewish genealogy workshop, led by president Catherine Youngren, called "First Steps in Jewish Genealogy: Tracing Your Jewish Ancestry, Giving life to your ancestors." Participants will receive handouts and beginner's kit at the program. The cost is $35.

This workshop will introduce participants to the steps involved in doing genealogy research and the challenges involved in telling and sharing your ancestor’s stories. Topics will include: collecting family documents, interviewing family members, using genealogical tools such as ancestral charts and family group sheets, and using genealogical websites and databases. Participants will be introduced to important online tools such as Jewishgen.org and Familysearch.org, and most useful online databases including Ancestry.com, Findyourpast.com, and Footnote.com.

From 2-4pm, the Jewish Historical Society of BC will offer an oral history interviewer workshop for those interested in becoming involved with the JHSBC's Oral History Project.

Irene Dodek, who interviewed Holocaust survivors for the Shoah Foundation, and archivist Janine Johnston will lead the workshop. Cost is $20; $5 for those who are already interviewers with the JHSBC. For information on the oral history workshop, call 604-638-7286 .

The Museum's permanent interactive exhibit offers interesting details such as Gastown merchant Louis Gold, who jumped into Burrard Inlet to escape Vancouver’s Great Fire of 1886. Others include Vancouver's second mayor David Oppenheimer, called the “Father of Vancouver,” who was instrumental in opening beautiful Stanley Park.

There's a gift shop with relevant books (some of which I purchased on my last speaking visit to Vancouver) and even the kosher Nava Cafe. If you are visiting Vancouver, note that the museum is open from 10am-5pm, Sunday-Thursday, closed on legal and Jewish holidays, of course.

If your blog died today...

"If your blog died today, what would it be remembered for?" asks ProBlogger Darren Rowse.

I realized that since obits are part of what we geneabloggers deal with, this might be an excellent exercise. I haven't written these yet for Tracing the Tribe, but perhaps this would make for an interesting Carnival of Genealogy.

Jasia, what do you think of scheduling this? It sounds like a good motivational activity for our community. footnoteMaven, can you do a badge for this one?

Darren posted a two-part exercise that should take about 30 minutes. Others might think obits are morbid, but geneabloggers are used to handling those sort of records and it shouldn't make us too squirmy.

1. Write an obituary for your blog 10 years in the future

Project yourself forward 10 years, imagine that at that point you decide to end your blog having achieved everything that you want to achieve with it and write a short obituary about your blog as you’d like other people to have seen it to that point.

Keep in mind that your blog has been as successful as it can be and you’re ending it at the peak of its game.

- What do you want people to say about your blog?
- How do you hope it will have been perceived?
- What will people miss about it the most?
- What ground has it broken?
- What has it achieved?
- How has it helped people?

Take 10 minutes to write this obituary and dare to dream big.

2. Write an obituary for your blog as it stands today

OK - back to the present. Let's just say that you blog ended today. Perhaps it was hacked, perhaps you just decided to delete it or perhaps your server died and you didn’t have a backup - the reason doesn’t matter - the exercise remains the same.

- Write an obituary for your blog as you think others see it now.
- What would they say about it?
- What would people miss about it?
- What has it achieved?
- How has it fulfilled a need or service in people’s lives.
- What ground has it broken?

Bloggers, writes Darren, should compare the two obits (future and present) and ask themselves if they are moving in the right direction and then make some plans to move from the "present reality to the future dream."

There are numerous comments, and in scanning them, I came across Digital Family Trunk by Rob in New Zealand. If Rob's blog isn't on your reading list, it should be. Each of his posts poses numerous questions that genealogists and family historians should be asking themselves.

Others posed questions related to the Problogger item: If a genealogy blogger met his or her demise, who would let readers know? If the blogger goes, who will blog the information? And, what would happen to our collective accounts on Twitter, Facebook and other sites?

Finally, will all the work we have done on our respective blogs be part of our own memorials?

19 February 2009

Crypto-Judaic Studies: Call for conference papers

The call for papers is out for the 19th Conference of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, set for August 2-4, in Denver, Colorado.

Papers are invited on any aspect of crypto-Judaism from any discipline (e.g., anthropology, history, sociology, philosophy, literature, music, etc.) and from any geographic location or time period. Also welcomed are additional aspects of the Sephardic experience and other communities whose historical or sociological experience is similar to that of the crypto-Jewish community.

All interested scholars and professionals, including advanced graduate students, are invited to submit proposals for papers, presentations or workshops.

Proposals are also welcome from individuals with personal stories and genealogical or other research relating to crypto-Judaism.

Proposals may be for individual papers or presentations or complete sessions on specific topics. Submitters should indicate if the proposal represents completed research or work in progress. Include a 200-word abstract and a brief bio.

Submit proposals by May 1, or questions, to Seth Kunin, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Durham University (UK). There is some available funding for graduate students to attend and present at the conference
For more information, visit the SCJS website.

Philly 2009: Keynote speaker Father Patrick Desbois

Keynote speaker at Philly 2009's opening session will be Father Patrick Desbois, the distinguished French priest, author and humanitarian.

He will speak on "The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 million Jews," the title of his book.

The conference opening session takes place on Sunday, August 2.

The grandson of a deportee to the Nazi Rawa Ruska forced-labor Camp in Ukraine, Father Desbois is best known for his work in searching for and uncovering mass graves in Ukraine and for his book, "The Holocaust by Bullets."

"My book is an act of prevention of future acts of genocide," Debois said.

Winner of the B’nai B’rith International Award for Outstanding Contribution to Relations with the Jewish People, Father Desbois is secretary to the French Conference of Bishops for Relations with Judaism, advisor to the Cardinal-Archbishop of Leon and advisor to the Vatican on the Jewish Religion.

He is president of YAHAD-IN UNUM, whose mission is to increase knowledge and cooperation between Catholic and Jews.

"We are extremely pleased to have Father Desbois speak at our conference," said event co-chair David Mink. "He has performed selfless acts of kindness for the many people of Jewish heritage who trace their ancestry to Eastern Europe and have not been able to record the death of loved ones on their family tree."

The 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy runs from Sunday, August 2 through Friday, August 7, in Philadelphia; more than 1,000 participants are expected.

For all conference details, registration and hotel information, click here. Also, sign up for the conference blog which will provide all breaking news and additional information.

Portugal: Kosher cheese made again

Portugal has seen the first kosher wine, the first kosher olive oil, and now, the first kosher cheese - a hard, goat's milk cheese - since the Inquisition, detailed in this Haaretz story.

As Tracing the Tribe's readers know, bnai anusim (Hebrew; conversos, Spanish) are the descendants of Jews forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition, such as Jose Braz featured here:

Last year, Jose Braz, owner of the Queijos Braz factory, contacted Daniel Litwak, the chief rabbi of Portugal's second-largest city, Porto, and asked him to arrange a kashrut certificate for Serra da Estrela cheese, which Braz manufactures. Braz believes that his own family were members of Portugal's Jewish community in the 14th and 15th centuries, but like many others were forced to convert to escape persecution by the Inquisition.

"When I spoke to Jose, he told me he wanted to reconnect to his Jewish roots - this was the reason for contacting me," says Litwak, who was born in Argentina. "I was surprised because his brand was doing rather nicely all over Europe. He did not need the certificate to increase his turnover."

New York-born Michael Freund, the chairman of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based organization that helps people with Jewish roots become more involved in their Jewish community, who immigrated to Israel some 10 years ago, told Haaretz that Portugal "is seeing a Jewish revival over the past few years."

Freund adds that he sees a definite connection between how many anousim are rediscovering their roots and the increased interest.

Read the complete story at the link above.

Rosenblat: Holocaust faker admits lie - UPDATED

The latest Holocaust faker, Herman Rosenblat, appeared on Good Morning America and admitted he lied.

The love story was so touching, that Hollywood is even making a movie about it.

Herman Rosenblat received international attention for his tale about being a hungry little boy in a Nazi concentration camp who was thrown apples every day by a little girl named Roma, on the other side of the fence.

Years later, according to the story, Rosenblat met that same girl on a blind date in New York City and proposed to her on the spot.

Even Oprah Winfrey was taken in by the fraud, as were publishers and Hollywood.

On GMA, Rosenblat said:
"It wasn't a lie," he told "GMA." "It was my imagination. And in my imagination, in my mind, I believed it. Even now, I believe it, that she was there and she threw the apple to me. ... In my imagination, it was true."

Rosenblat said he told the story to give people hope and to promote understanding about the Holocaust. His wife went along with the story because, as Rosenblat said, she "loved" him.
His son, Ken Rosenblat, however, indicated the real motive was money. A book deal. A movie.

The effort proving the fraud linked forensic genealogy and Holocaust social history methods. The team included Holocaust researchers Dr. Deborah Lipstadt (Emory University), Professor Ken Waltzer (Michigan State University and director of Jewish Studies), author Danny Bloom and forensic genealogists Colleen Fitzpatrick and Sharon Sargeant. The team also received help from historians Uwe Schwarz (Germany) and Jean-Louis Rey (France) who are working on the history of the Buchenwald sub-camp Schlieben.

The talents of this group joined genealogical methods and historical research skills related to survivor testimony, ITS camp records (transport lists and prisoner records) as well as Claims Conference materials.

About six weeks ago, the team proved that it was impossible for prisoners to approach the fence at Herman's concentration camp and that his wife's family was really 200 miles away.

Learn how they did it at their new site Identifinders. Colleen and Sharon also exposed Misha DeFonseca's Holocaust hoax of living with wolves. I have just read and highly recommend a very detailed story focusing on Waltzer's role (view it online at Harpers).

Rosenblat's memoir, "Angel at the Fence," was canceled by Berkely Books. A children's book on the same subject, "Angel Girl," was published in September but pulled after the revelations.

The latest news is that a $25 million film project, "Flower of the Fence" will be going ahead.

Read the complete story at the link above.

Isn't it time that publishers hired forensic genealogists to clear books with this subject matter?

Publishers Weekly ran a story on this topic, recommending that such manuscripts be cleared by professional researchers before deals are made, rather than running extensive damage control after the fact; see Tracing the Tribe's link here.

San Diego: Jewish archives catalog online

Family roots in San Diego, California? If so, the new searchable website of The Jewish Historical Society of San Diego may help you add leaves to your family tree.

The JHSSD offers more than 50 collections of personal and communal papers, documents and photos, local Jewish newspapers, including significant collections on pioneer Jews. Materials date from the 1850s-late 20th century, with original material from the 1910s through today.

The personal papers of Rabbi Morton J. Cohn, a Reform rabbi in San Diego from the 1940s-1980s, was the first and largest component of the collection.

The 19th century holdings include published and unpublished papers on local Jewish history and copies of primary source material.

Other materials include women's and men's communal organizations, clerical papers, Jewish Community Center, San Diego Jewish newspapers, family collections, oral histories, synagogue papers and much more.

Click here for a list of the collections.

The JHSSD, located at San Diego State University campus,We work in partnership with the Jewish Studies Program at San Diego State University. The Archives is located on the campus, in the Love Library.

18 February 2009

Awards: Kreative Blogger

Jasia at Creative Gene has awarded Tracing the Tribe the Kreative Blogger award. Thank you, Jasia, for your consideration.

Jasia was one of the first geneabloggers I knew. Her creativity and broad knowledge helped me over numerous bumps in the road.

The rules of this award are:

1. Copy the award to your site.
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.
3. Nominate 7 other bloggers.
4. Link to those sites on your blog.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominate.

I'm sure each of my nominations will receive multiple shout-outs from the geneablogger community, but here goes. Although in alphabetical order, each is number one in my book!

The ChartChick - Janet is the energizer bunny of genealogy charts and much more.

DearMyrtle - Always an inspiration, she revealed the possibilities of geneablogging to me when Tracing the Tribe first appeared.

Destination: Austin Family - Thomas cares so much about what we do and is always ready to assist with creative work-arounds for sticky problems. What would we do without him?

footnoteMaven - A veritable perpetually flowing fountain of inspiring creativity, she's also great fun to go to lunch with - just make sure you've scheduled in a four-hour time slot!

Genea-Musings - No one checks out internet resources like Randy. I am always in awe of how he transforms complex technical issues into simple-to-understand explanations that even complete non-techies like me can understand.

Practical Archivist - Sally's suggestions, hints and tips are endless. I find myself returning again and again to check specific topics.

Steve's Genealogy Blog - Steve never fails to inspire readers with his attention to detail. I am especially indebted to him for his looks at major resources for Polish resource, such as geographic atlases.

Enjoy reading my nominations to this "kreative klub."

Out of the bag: Our favorite techno-geek genealogist

Geneablogger colleague Thomas McEntee of Destination: Austin Family (and several other blogs and genealogical sites) has just been named the National Genealogy and Technology Examiner at Examiner.com.

Thomas has been instrumental in assisting everyone interested in family history with many resources, utilizing his awesome command of technology (Internet tools and applications) and genealogy to help readers trace their roots.

His own blog post provided more information on the new position and, as the site did not have an appropriate category for what he does so well, he convinced them to add a new sub-category for genealogy and technology under its Gadgets and Tech section.

His first post is here:
I am “here” not only because I have an expertise in the area of genealogy and technology, but also because I have ancestors.

Lots of ancestors. And my job here at Examiner.com is to help you locate your own family roots as well as discover technology tools you can use to find those elusive family members from generations gone by.

I’ve been researching my own family history since 1995, during which time I've seen the field of genealogy embrace (sometimes reluctantly) the Internet and various Web applications to assist in the research process.

For the past two years I've been blogging and writing about many Web 2.0 and social media applications which more and more genealogists are utilizing in their sleuthing efforts.

So stay tuned and you’ll learn how to ramp up your own genealogy research, and keep tabs on changes in technology, new applications and Web sites which could be useful to every family historian. You may also change the way you look at the process of finding out who you are and where you came from.
His second posting deals with changes in terms of service at Facebook.
As of early this morning – 12:17 am CST to be exact – Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook announced a backtracking on recent changes made to Facebook’s Terms of Service (TOS) over at The Facebook Blog.
Stay tuned at Examiner for more of Thomas's articles.

Congratulations, Thomas!

17 February 2009

Iran: Cuisine, culture and more

If you've always wondered about Persian food, here's a great multi-part series on Iranian.com.

Each segment runs about 10 minutes and looks at food, music, culture, ordinary life and beautiful scenery.

This first series covers the northern province of Gilan, on the shores of the Caspian. It was good to revisit an area that I had last seen in person such a long time ago.

The next series - not yet posted - covers the central area of the country, including Isfahan, where the Dardashti family originated, in the neighborhood of Dardasht.

Isfahan was one of the first places, according to tradition, where the Jews settled following the Babylonian Exile. So many Jews lived there that Arab geographers called it The City of the Jews.

According to legend, when the Jews were exiled from the land of Israel, they took along samples of the water and soil. At each place they stopped, they checked the water and soil of the place with their samples from home. When they reached Isfahan, goes the story, the samples matched and they settled down.

'Special' gen program sought

Is there a genealogy program that wouldn't self-destruct if this so-called family was entered?

Read about a man living with 32 women and who has fathered 89 children. Some readers asked if he has 32 mothers-in-law and others wanted to know who had control of the TV remote.

On the surface, this is an interesting and even funny case for genealogists from a technical charting viewpoint. As a case for family services and child protection agencies, it is a different matter.

The story was in Haaretz.

Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh's Jews of Steel

A recent book details the Jewish history of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, reviewed in the Pittsburgh Tribune.

Barbara Burstin, author of "Steel City Jews: A History of Pittsburgh and its Jewish Community, 1840-1915," says that Cincinnati was a more enticing destination than Western Pennsylvania for a practical reason.

"You couldn't get here very easily from the East," says Burstin, a historian who teaches history at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. "There was no train connection from the East, so (Jews) went to other cities much further west."

The author is a Long Island native who moved from Connecticut to Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill more than 30 years ago. She took on the project writing the history of the city's early Jews.

"I enjoyed talking to people," she says. "I enjoyed the research. It was like being a detective and ferreting out clues, trying to understand the path these people took."
According to Burstin, a few Jewish peddlers showed up in the 1840s, selling on Pittsburgh streets. It wasn't until 1846 that the first Jewish institution - Troy Hill Cemetery - was organized by William Frank, David Strassberger and Emmanuel Reis. The first synagogue - Shaare Shamayim (Gates of Heaven) was founded in 1848.

The story details mid-19th century Pittsburgh Jewish life and where the families migrated in the area. Some went to the North Side, known as Allegheny City, across the river. The Ridge Avenue area was favored by the rich and affluent. West of Ridge Avenue, now known as Manchester, attracted many Jewish families from the 1850s-1870s. The Sheffield Street area was popular and the community began to divide along ethnic lines.

"I talk about a 'Tale of Two Cities,' '' Burstin says. "You have the German Jews who had come earlier and had some degree of success. And you had Eastern European Jews, who were quite poor, arriving. ... There was a real chasm between the two of them, in many ways."
Congregations and organizations were formed. In the 1880s, a train stop in the Hill District was the impetus for that area to begin to thrive. In the 1890s, it became the immigrant Jewish community's neighborhood, although the area was mixed and diverse people lived there.

The demographics changed in the early 1960s following the construction of the Civic Arena, and the Jewish population left for Squirrel Hill and elsewhere.

Burstin is currently writing another book on Pittsburgh Jewish history from 1915.

Read the complete article at the link above.

Television: Extraordinary stories, ordinary people

The family history television program Legend Seekers will preview its pilot episode in Indianapolis on March 26.

The difference between the well-known WDYTYA and Legend Seekers is that LS deals with ordinary people, not celebrities, and bills itself as "the stories of real American families."

According to the site, the show combines a reality program, investigation and historic documentary utilizing travel, research, genealogy, experts (historians, scientists, archivists, archeologists, professional genealogists, relatives and local history buffs) and science (ground-penetrating radar, GPS data and satellite imagery, DNA) .

The pilot episode (see the trailer here) focuses on the Lively Family Massacre, tracing the family legend of Pam Frazer, a southern Illinois resident. The show helps trace her connect to some of the first white settlers in the area in 1813. According to the show's site, and during the search, she uncovers a handwritten letter addressed to William Clark (of the Lewish & Clark expedition) mentioning her ancestors by name and their graves. The episode features research, genealogy, expert interviews and a historic reenactment of the pioneers and their tragic end.

The screening on several independent public television stations across the US is intended "to engage viewers interested in genealogy and create interest in sponsorship to fulfill a 13 episode series. " Other stations considering screening the documentary are inIllinois, Nebraska, Michigan and Maryland.

Other episodes:

The Legend of the Clarence Still on the Underground Railroad
Slave ancestors, a plantation and a hero.

The Legend of Handey and the Trail of Tears
A Cherokee great grandfather’s Missouri birth place and the Trail of Tears.

The Legend of the Walker Family’s Tennessee Gold
A legend of Civil War gold coins, a century of searching a Tennessee farm and clues found in the 1990s.

The Legend of the Schnaubelt Bomb and the Haymarket Riot
A post-card, an anarchist ancestor and Chicago.

The Legend of Dr. Horace Potter’s Shell
A strange monument of a Civil War surgeon and the shell that killed him in Georgia.

Read more at the site links above.

Hidden Jews: Report on meeting

Some 100 people attended Arthur Benveniste's February program, "Secret Jews: History and Culture of Crypto-Jews and Their Research for Jewish Roots and Identity," hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley (JGSCV), near Los Angeles.

Tracing the Tribe informed readers about this program here. As regular readers know, this topic has always been of great interest to me personally.

The JGSCV newsletter, Venturings, reported the following:

Nearly 100 JGSCV members and meeting attendees experienced a fascinating, erudite and historical presentation by Arthur Benveniste on Secret Jews: History and Culture of Crypto-Jews and Their Research for Jewish Roots and Identity.

Arthur discussed the impact of the Inquistions in Spain and Portugal, and later in Brazil and Mexico, on the Jews who lived in those countries. The Inquisition required Jews to leave the country or convert to Catholism.

Many, who converted to Catholicism, maintained some Jewish traditions, albeit hiding them. Until more recent times, these traditions were not recognized by the descendants to be from their Jewish roots. The traditions include playing cards around a table on Friday nights—so that if someone came to the door they could put away their prayer books and looked as if they were playing cards, or consuming certain foods, or lighting eight candles in paper bags [luminarias] at Christmas time—the eight being for Chanukah… and more.

A recently released DNA study showed that 20 percent of today's Spanish population is of at least partial Jewish descent.

The audience asked very provocative questions and related their family stories. This included one attendee who told of her family in 1938 Germany having to do a family tree going back to 1481 to prove they were Catholic in order to survive. This individual wanted to know where she could research prior to 1481 to see if her family had been Jewish. (Arthur referred her to certain Archives in Spain.) [1481 was the year a Spanish Inquisitor was murdered and the converted Jews were blamed.]

Others related that their family made certain foods, such as "bourmules" [boumelos] (Crypto-Jewish potato or flour deep fried) or in Spanish today "banuleos" [banuelos] a special tortilla, indicating a tradition long-passed down through the generations.

The topic of hidden Jews, combined with the contemporary phenomenon of more and more hidden Jews (bnai anousim) coming out of centuries of silence as they search for their roots, always attracts large audiences.

"Until more recent times, these traditions were not recognized by the descendants to be from their Jewish roots," is not entirely accurate in my experience. Many of these families know exactly who they are, who their ancestors were and why they preserve and observe certain traditions - they just don't talk about them with outsiders as such traditions are private family matters.

In the post announcing the above meeting, I wrote:

I am fortunate to know many Converso families and am particularly interested in their preservation of Judaism, observance, customs and traditions within their families since their New World arrival in the early 1600s. Many Conversos have always known their history, while other Hispanics are just learning about their Jewish roots. Many are conflicted about how to handle this new information as to their heritage.
The quest for knowledge continues and, just this week, I have heard from Converso friends (who have preserved extensive knowledge in their own families) who are now being asked by their friends to answer questions and provide information about possible Jewish ancestry.

Those interested in this topic can visit the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies, see the group's newsletter Halapid, and look forward in the near future to the SCJS's new annual journal with academic, peer-reviewed papers: Journal of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Crypto Jews.

The SCJS also holds an annual conference - this year, August 2-4, in Denver. I have been trying to attend this conference for several years, missing it to due to scheduling problems. Unfortunately, this year, it conflicts with the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (August 2-7, Philadelphia). I am hoping it won't conflict with the 2010 conference in Los Angeles - which should have a large Sephardic programming component - maybe I'll be able to attend the SCJS event then.

Tracing the Tribe encourages the leadership of all conferences focusing on Jewish heritage, Jewish genealogy, Jewish history and other areas of relevant research to check the calendar in an attempt to avoid head-on conflicts with other major events in the field. In the past there have been conflicts with conferences on Jewish names and other topics. Avoiding such conflicts means that important topics can be presented by the same experts to different venues and to larger audiences.

16 February 2009

Australia: 'Catskills' destroyed by fire

Burned to the ground on February 7 during the terrible Australian fires, the once-upon-a-time gold mining center of Marysville was known as the Australian "Catskills."

Many Melbourne Jewish families and groups went there for Passover and other holidays, traveling the 100 kilometers northeast of Melbourne (Victoria's state capital) in about 90 minutes.

The town was established in the 1850s after gold was discovered and, by 1861, some 6,000 miners had living there.

Before the fire, the population was 518. At least 15, and possibly up to 100 residents, may have lost their lives in what officials believe was an act of arson, according to this Jerusalem Post article.

By the 1920s, Marysville had become a popular tourist resort, largely due to its proximity to the Yarra Valley, dozens of wineries and Stevenson's Falls, Victoria's highest waterfall. The Cumberland opened in 1917, and was always booked out during school vacations, often 12 months in advance.

For the local Jewish community, Marysville was the equivalent of the Catskills for east coast Americans. Over the last 21 years, on Pessah and other holidays, dozens of Jewish families, primarily from Melbourne, would drive up to the scenic resort for a week of eating, schmoozing, bush walks and horse riding.

Sydney's Rabbi Chaim Ingram summed up the uniqueness of the experience in a letter to the Australian Jewish News last year.

"One hundred and sixty men and women of all ages and varying native languages, prayer rites, synagogue affiliations and shades of observance bonded together as one havura - the very opposite of the old joke about a man who builds two shuls on a desert island, one of which he would not be seen dead in," he wrote.
Read the complete story at the link above.

Michigan: Preserving family history, Feb. 22

"Preserving Family History Online and Offline" is Richard Jaeger's presentation for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Michigan, on Sunday, February 22.

He will discuss, via PowerPoint, "sorting through all the genealogical stuff," what and how to save so it's available, protected and meaningful to us and others and - most importantly - to future generations.

The program will cover such topics as why preserve family history, methods and suggested locations of preserving documents and records - from safe deposit boxes to flash drives and more - and how to save information so future generations will read them (scrapbooks and other formats), how and where clues can be found to smash through "brick wall" problems, Internet resources and more.

Jaeger, a retired Internet technology specialist, has been researching and documenting his genealogy since 1996. He and his wife Caryn have created an impressive scrapbook which chronicles their family history.

A member of JGSMI. JGSNY, JGS Great Britain, Jewish GenealogyNetwork on Facebook, Jaeger also serves as the Jewish Communities and Records-United Kingdom discussion group (JCR-UK) lead moderator and the Jewish Genealogy Society of Great Britain (JGSGB) discussion group secondary moderator.

The program begins at 1.30pm Sunday, February 22, at the Holocaust Memorial Center, Zekelman Family Campus, 24123 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Admission: JGSMI members, free; others, $5.

For more details (directions, etc.), click here or email.

Win two free gen classes? Yes, you can!

Win two free genealogy classes by listening to Genealogy Gems' Lisa Louise Cooke as she interviews Lisa Alzo of GenClass.

GenClass offers practical, information-packed, economical classes for those who want to know more. The topics are diverse, and include two Jewish genealogy classes as well as many other ethnic and general classes.

The core group of Genclass instructors taught online classes with MyFamily.com. When those classes were canceled by the website, Micha Reisel and I gathered many of our colleagues to continue doing what all of us love to do - helping people discover how to research their family's unique history.

Now for the bargain: One lucky listener is going to win not one but two free classes from GenClass.

How can YOU win?

First you'll want to listen to the interview to learn about GenClass. Then go to GenClass to see the classes for March and April and see which will help you in your quest.

Then send an email (to Genealogy Gems) with your name, state and email address. Don't forget to include the topic you'd most like to learn about in 2009 on one of Genealogy Gem's upcoming podcasts. The deadline is midnight, Sunday, Feb. 21.

One lucky winner will be drawn from all of the email entries, and will receive his or her choice of any two classes. Look for the winner on the Genealogy Gems News Blog and Episode 60 of the Genealogy Gems Podcast.

Re downloading the podcast - I had some false starts until I realized it works better if you have iTunes already installed. Read the FAQs to get detailed information - it's very easy to follow. Then subscribe to all the Genealogy Gem podcasts - they'll appear in your Library section.

Click on Podcast 59 to hear about GenClass. Hint: If you're rushed for time, the first section of the podcast is a collection of good announcements and spotlights, and Alzo's GenClass section starts at minute 32.

Southern California: Get ready for Jamboree 2009

The 40th Genealogy Jamboree will feature more than 50 national and international speakers, including quite a few geneabloggers. More than 100 sessions will be featured this year, 25% more than in 2008, at the Southern California Genealogical Society event.

The conference schedule has just been posted for download at the Jamboree Blog.

Among the great offerings will be the second edition of the Gathering of the Geneabloggers - Summit 2: Son of Blogger - set for 9.30am Saturday.

George G. Morgan will moderate and the panel will likely include (some people with an * are still working on their schedules - like me!) DearMYRTLE, Juliana Smith*, Leland Meitzler, Dick Eastman, Stephen Danko, Ph.D., Lisa Louise Cooke, Schelly Talalay Dardashti*, Craig Manson* and The Ancestry Insider.

The dates are June 26-28, at the completely renovated Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. Jamboree is also taking over the main hotel's ballroom for the entire weekend, to provide for the expected crowds and allow more space for additional programs.

Jamboree is headed by creative co-chairs Paula Hinkel and Leo Myers and their capable staff of smiling volunteers, who certainly provide inspiration for all event-planning societies and organizations. I have really enjoyed working with Paula for the past few years.

The program offers sessions on research techniques for traditional brick-and-mortar record sources, digital resources, DNA in genealogy, organization, and several that are geography-specific. Although today's genealogists need to know the time-tested research skills used in earlier generations - not everything is online - they will also take full advantage of all resources available, including the newest technologies.

Participants include, as speakers and exhibitors, leading genealogical organizations and societies, including Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, New England Historic GenealogicalSociety (NEHGS), the National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation ofGenealogical Societies (FGS), and California State Genealogical Alliance (CSGA). Several Southern California societies will also be in attendance.

This year's theme focuses on British Isles research (English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh). Featured speakers include Feargal ODonnell, Irish Family History Foundation executive director (County Kildare, Ireland), and David E. Rencher, director of planning and coordination, Family History Department, FamilySearch.org, Salt Lake City. They will address special challenges for searching Irish ancestry. British Isles Family History Society speakers will also appear.

Among the speakers:

Suzanne Russo Adams, Ancestry.com
Elaine Alexander, author
Lisa Alzo, author, lecturer
Ron Arons, author, lecturer
Jana Broglin, CG, FGS and Ohio State Genealogical Society
Tony Burroughs, FUGA, genealogist, author, lecturer
Bruce Buzbee, RootsMagic
Starr Hailey Campbell, Kids Family History Camp
Chris Child, NEHGS
Lisa Louise Cooke, Genealogy Gems Podcast
Stephen Danko, Ph.D., StephenDanko.com
Schelly Talalay Dardashti, TracingTheTribe.com
DearMYRTLE, popular blogger, podcaster, lecturer, author
William Dollarhide, noted genealogical author, lecturer
Arlene Eakle, Ph.D., FUGA, The Genealogical Institute
Jim Ericson, World Vital Records
Wendy Elliott, Ph.D., FUGA
Jim Ericson, World Vital Records
Anna Fechter, Ancestry.com
Joy Fisher, US GenWeb
Bennett Greenspan, FamilyTree DNA
Mike Hall, FamilySearch.org
Jean Wilcox Hibben, Ph.D.
Janet Hovorka, MLS, "The Chart Chick" and Generation Maps
Ivan C. Johnson, Ph.D., British Isles Family History Society
Thomas J. Kemp, GenealogyBank.com
Michael Leclerc, NEHGS
Betty Malesky, CG
Keith McCarty, Geni.com
Leland Meitzler, Everton's Genealogical Helper, FamilyRoots Publishing
Dennis Meldrum, FamilySearch.org
Michael Melendez, Kids Family History Camp
Cheri Mello, educator, DNA lecturer
Julie Miller, CG, National Genealogical Society
George G. Morgan, The Genealogy Guys Podcast
Feargal ODonnell, Irish Family History Foundation, Ireland
Lynne Parmenter, SCGS Beginning Genealogy
Michelle Pfister, Ancestry.com
Larry Proctor, Light Impressions
Geoffrey Rasmussen, Legacy Family Tree
David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA
D. Brenton Simons, President/CEO, NEHGS
Drew Smith, MLS, The Genealogy Guys Podcast
Tim Sullivan, President/CEO of The Generations Network
Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective
Cath Trindle, CG, FGS and the California State Genealogical Alliance
Beverly Truesdale, SCGS Beginning Genealogy
Tom Underhill, Creative Continuum
Marston Watson, royalancestry.org
Peggy Wishon, British Isles Family History Society

Co-chair Paula Hinkel mentions that 2009 promises to be an exceptional genealogy year. "Patchwork heritage" was mentioned by President Obama in his Inaugural Address. NBC will begin airing, on April 20, the US version of the runaway BBC hit "Who Do You Think You Are." Every day, there are new websites, online databases and new books.

With genealogy in the spotlight, this year could see great numbers of newcomers joining the ranks of researchers already exploring their unique family histories.

To learn all conference details as they are announced, sign up for email alerts at the Jamboree blog.