30 April 2009

Seattle: Jews of Rhodes, May 11

The family history and genealogy of the Jews of Rhodes and their diaspora will be presented by Leon Taranto of Washington DC, at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State (JGSWS), co-sponsored by Congregation Ezra Bessaroth and Sephardic Bikur Holim.

The event begins at 7pm, Monday, May 11, at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, 5217 S. Brandon St., Seattle. The city is home to a large Sephardic community with many families from Rhodes.

From the Ottoman Turkish conquest of Rhodes in 1522 until the Holocaust, a vibrant Judeo-Spanish community flourished on this Mediterranean isle. From antiquity, a Romaniote Jewish community lived there.

By the 1700s, Rhodes became an important rabbinical center, and home to a dynasty of Grand Rabbis. In the early 1900s, Rhodeslis émigrés founded colonies in Africa and the Americas.

Taranto will focus on the history of Jewish Rhodes, and genealogical sources such as cemetery gravestones, burial records, Holocaust deportation lists, Italian census records, synagogue plaques, ship manifests, Hebrew books and manuscripts, and marriage, tax, and Alliance Israélite Universelle records.

In his research on the Judeo-Spanish communities of the Ottoman Empire, particularly Smyrna (Izmir) and Rhodes, Taranto has identified more than 5,000 relatives in two dozen countries linked to another 26,000 Sephardim.

He has assisted cousins in developing a 16-generation tree of nearly 3,000 people for the Israel dynasty of Chief Rabbis that served the eastern Mediterranean from 1714-1932.

His articles on Ottoman Sephardic genealogy have appeared in Avotaynu, ETSI--Revue de Genéalogie et d'Histoire Sépharades (France), La Lettre Sepharade (US), and Sharsheret Hadorot (Israel). He has presented programs at four IAJGS conferences and has appeared twice on the Washington DC-area cable program “Tracing Your Family Roots.”

For more information and directions, see the JGSWS site.

Twitter cooking: Very brief recipes

A former editor used to tell me that not everything is genealogy. She was right. Some of it is food-related! So here goes!

As we learn essential Twitter skills, here's a challenge that some of us might appreciate.

Ever tried to write a recipe in 140 characters a la Twitter?

Maureen Evans, 27, does it all the time from Northern Island at twitter.com/cookbook: “Tiny recipes condensed by @Maureen. Serves 3-4. Delicious ideas from all over the world.”

Read the New York Time's story on Maureen here.

What an interesting challenge. This one is for yummy thick chocolate in a cup - ah! to be in Barcelona enjoying this! - seems easy.

Chocolate a la Taza: Spanish. Melt 8oz/227g drkchoc/2c h2o; +2c milk/ch2o+3T cornstrch&sug. Stir@med~7m (until yogurt-thick); +.5t vanilla.

Having trouble decoding the instructions? Try this:

Melt 8oz/227 grams dark chocolate in 2 cups water.
Add 2 cups milk, 1 cup water plus 3 Tbs cornstarch and sugar.
Stir at medium heat for 7 minutes until as thick as yoghurt.
Add 1/2 tsp vanilla.
See how easy it is?

Read the related link: Take the Twitter Recipe Challenge, by Pete Wells.

First, what if we challenged readers to take a long, involved recipe — for instance, this one — and condense it as much as possible? What would the shortest intelligible version look like? If you’re on Twitter and share my passion for verbal compression, give it a whirl [SHOULDN'T THAT BE TWIRL?], and include the characters #nytrc. This stands for New York Times recipe challenge, and putting a hash mark before it lets you search Twitter to see if anyone is playing along. I can’t imagine bringing this recipe in under 140 characters, so we’re allowing “serial tweets” — as many 140-character bursts as it takes. Use the hash tag for each installment.

The link is to a six-step recipe for Stuffed Artichokes with Lemon Zest, Rosemary and Garlic. Sounds yummy, but 140 characters?

Anyone up for the challenge of writing a 140 character twitter for cholent? Or brisket?

You can add your own twitter-style recipe to the comment section for Wells' story.

Or post it here as a comment.

San Francisco: Racially, ethnically diverse Jews to meet, May 1-4

The changing face of Judaism - which will certainly impact Jewish family history and genealogy - will be represented by a meeting of racially and ethnically diverse Jews, May 1-4, in San Francisco. The meeting will discuss the role of diverse Jews in shaping Jewish life around the world.

According to the organizers, the conference will tackle tough issues, including how race plays a role in defining how Jews are perceived and how they see themselves.

Jewish leaders, representing African American, Asian, Latino and African communities, and coming from Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Portugal, India, the US and elsewhere will meet at a conference organized by Be'chol Lashon ('in every tongue," Hebrew).

Speakers include Rabbi Capers Funnye of Chicago - about whom Tracing the Tribe has previously written; Rabbi Alyssa Stanton, who will become the first African American woman rabbi in the world on June 6; Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, the first black rabbi from sub-Saharan Africa to be ordained from an American rabbinic school; and Rebecca Walker, renowned author of "Black, White, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self."
"We represent the face of Judaism as it has always been", said Rabbi Funnye, "people of many colors, ethnic backgrounds, and nationalities. We have a special role in building bridges to people over all the world."
A key topic will be how to help people convert to Judaism, if they wish to.
Rabbi Sizomu from Uganda recently convened a rabbinic court (beit din) in Uganda that supervised the conversion of over 250 Africans from Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, and Nigeria.
Do visit the Be'chol Lashon website, to explore the organization's resources, events and the many research projects in which it participates, including several for Conversos/Bnai Anousim and other communities.

29 April 2009

New York: Ostrich feathers, Jewish chic, May 7

Ostrich feathers were once the epitome of fashion statements.

The American Sephardic Association in New York will sponsor a program on the Jewish history in the worldwide feather trade from the 1880s with author Sarah Abrevaya Stein and museum curator Dr. Valerie Steele at 6.30pm, Thursday, May 7.

"Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce" is the title of Stein's book and the talk. She is a history professor and holds the UCLA Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies, with director and chief curator Steele of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology.

"Plumes" examines the thriving global trade in ostrich feathers from the “feather boom” of the 1880s to the economically devastating “feather bust” that coincided with WWI.

At that pivotal moment, the exotic plumes that adorned the hats of European and American women - especially the elusive Barbary feather from Sudan, coveted the world over for its “dazzling fullness” - fell precipitously out of fashion. Drawing on archival material from three continents, Dr. Stein brings to light a remarkable portrait of Jewish enterprise, and tells a rich story of a boom and bust market, global commerce, and the rise and fall of a single glamorous luxury item.
Admission: ASF members, free; others, $5. For more information, email the ASF or call 212-294-8350 for reservations.

Texas: Oldest Jewish cemetery

Family historians looking for their Texas connections may find it in Houston. Established in 1844 - 165 years go - the city's oldest Jewish cemetery is the oldest Jewish burial ground in the state.

About 20 Jewish families joined in the 1840s to create the cemetery, about a decade prior to founding a congregation, according to this Houston Chronicle story.

The cemetery looks, presumably, better than it did in the 1800s, when one of its first capital improvement projects called for iron fences to keep out the wild hogs.

Congregation Beth Israel’s 1844 cemetery lies along West Dallas, in the shadow of downtown’s skyscrapers, between rows of newly built townhouses and the few remaining tenements that characterize much of the Fourth Ward.

On Sunday, marble headstones gleamed in the sun and a breeze ruffled kippahs as officials unveiled a plaque naming it a historic cemetery, certified by the Texas Historical Commission.

History buffs and members of the Beth Israel congregation reflected at the afternoon ceremony on the legacy of what is Texas’ oldest Jewish cemetery.

According to Jewish law, a new Jewish community must first organize a cemetery. Beth Israel Rabbi David Lyon said, "The reality was that death waits for no one."

Some of the names on the stones carry famous names: Westheimer, Sakowitz, Meyer.
“I just think it’s wonderful,” said Marsha Gilbert, a Beth Israel member who has four generations of relatives buried on the grounds. “We’ve got such a rich history, so many founders of Houston. People who immigrated from France and Germany, which I didn’t even know until I walked the grounds.”

She unlocked the door to the cool mausoleum, dimly lit by stained glass, which her great-grandparents had built in the 1930s, when her great-aunt died.
The oldest graves demonstrate how hard life was in early Houston, including yellow fever epidemics. An 1874 stone remembers a young mother, Nannie Raphael, 18, and her son Samuel, 5 months old.

Read the complete story at the link above.

28 April 2009

Food & Culture: Israeli gastronomy

Family historians and genealogists are always interested in the clues presented in a family's favorite or traditional foods. Are the family favorites sweet, sour, salty or savory? How are vegetables prepared? Are stews sweet-and-sour? Is rice eaten at Passover?

Yesterday, I was on line at the meat department of my local supermarket (getting supplies for our barbecue), and waiting for my favorite butcher, Yakov, who is Kavkaz (Caucuses) and speaks a Farsi dialect (with a Russian overlay). We communicate in Farsi and occasionally, other customers will ask what we are speaking. I always saw "Parsit," and Yakov says "Kavkaz," which confuses people no end. One language, two completely different names?

There is actually a third dialect - Bukharan - to confuse the issue even more. While we basically all understand each other, some vocabulary is different which makes for occasional amusing situations.

The woman next to me in line, of definite Ashkenazi background, then began describing her love of gondi, the Persian version of the matzo ball, albeit made of ground roasted chickpea flour, ground meat or turkey, lots of cardamom, onion, turmeric, pepper and cooked in chicken soup. This dish is perhaps the best known of all Persian foods in Israel, having been introduced very early by Iranian immigrants.

Supposedly it was Ariel Sharon's favorite dish, or so I have been told.

I've told the story before of going to a Passover seder at our Persian family, and cousin Edna bringing her specialty, gefilte fish and fresh-ground chrein (horseradish) that could clear your sinuses at 20 feet.

It was a shock as this dish is not generally found anywhere near Persians.

When Edna and her husband picked us up to go to her sister's home. I kept smelling gefilte fish, but dismissed it as simply too outlandish a thought. My husband, who calls this dish "filthy fish" - he misheard the name decades ago when he arrived in the US - also kept nudging me. We were both surprised to see a huge container of gefilte fish unloaded from their car.

Edna explained that when her family immigrated very early, they lived in a mixed new immigrant neighborhood. Her mother was an excellent cook and she both learned Ashkenazi recipes from her neighbors and taught them Persian cuisine in exchange; the kids ate in each other's home and learned to appreciate each culture.

So that's how very Ashkenazi gefilte fish (made from scratch) winds up on a very Persian dinner table, and how gondi appears every Shabbat in a very Ashkenazi household.

I don't know the provenance of Edna's family recipe, but it is the best gefilte fish I have ever eaten!

Gastronomic fusion is evident in many Jewish communities, as families combine foods from many cultures and blend them into a sort of fusion cuisine.
Harvard University even offers a social analysis course called Food and Culture. Harvard Hillel students were given a crash course in Israeli cuisine and its evolution throughout history the other day by the course's teaching fellow, Naor Ben-Yehoyada, co-sponsored by the Harvard Culinary Society. It was just in time for tomorrow's Yom Haatzmaut - Israeli Independence Day - holiday.

Ben-Yehoyada described how the region's culinary identity was shaped following statehood.

The history of Jewish and Israeli food is largely intertwined with Israel’s turbulent history, but according to Ben-Yehoyada, “what we eat doesn’t travel along the same lines as our politics.”

The region’s culinary identity began to take shape in the decades following Israel’s formation.
“In the 1920s and ’30s, the food consisted of what was palatable to Jews coming from Europe,” Ben-Yehoyada said. Among the foods served at the talk were chips, a British side-dish that was originally popular in the coastal regions of Palestine but has since spread to much of Israel.

In its early years, Israel’s infant economy dictated the types of food consumed by its inhabitants. Ben-Yehoyada said that many foods that are considered staples come from this period, when Israel could not fund its own factories and needed monetary support from overseas businessmen.

“It was a recession state, a highly regulated production economy,” he said adding that Israel was largely unable to import goods so local products were primarily utilized in food production.

Couscous, another dish served at the dinner, and pita bread, a popular item in Israel, are both made of wheat, a crop that is abundant in the region.

“You were told what to grow,” Ben-Yehoyada said, noting that during this period, any food produced in surplus was used in cooking, occasionally to extremes. “If during a season you made too much lettuce, everybody ate lettuce,” he said.
In the 1990s, Israeli and Jewish ethnic food became very popular, but the most traditional Israeli foods actually had their origins in Europe and across the Middle East. Today, of course, name a cuisine and you are likely to find it in Tel Aviv. Well, everything except authentic Chinese food.

Shnitzel is one example of Israeli fusion food. A German chicken cutlet (originally pork in Germany) is eaten in a Middle Eastern pita. The ubiquitous felafel is Egyptian and its pita envelope is also filled with salad, tehina, humus and even french fries (called chips from the British Mandate era) .

Although Ben-Yehoyada says Israeli salad is Turkish, all Persians will disagree - we call it Salad-e-Shirazi after the beautiful city of the south famous for its wine, women and song. Fried eggplant is found in every Middle East culture. Some cultures say a girl is not ready for marriage until she can prepare eggplant in 100 different ways.

Okay, now I'm hungry!

27 April 2009

Philly 2009: Yiddish evening added

Are you a family history researcher who's been procrastinating about registering for the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy?

Registration will cost you more in only four more days! Register by April 30 to take advantage of the earlybird discount.

This is the only international Jewish genealogy conference of the year. This event is where Jewish genealogy news is made, information exchanged and networking goes on 24/7.

In addition to conference-goers from around the world, speakers will be coming from Austria, Belgium, France, Israel, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Ukraine and the UK. Don't miss this experience!

The program runs from Sunday, August 2 to Friday, August 7, in Philadelphia.

A new Wednesday evening program has been added. "Yiddish in Story, Poem and Song" will combine a lecture, recordings and a live performance as ethnographer and performer Michael Alpert (of the Brave New World klezmer group) and cultural historian Michael Steinlauf (Gratz College professor of history) take conference-goers on a personal guided tour through centuries of Yiddish cultural creation.

The Film Festival will feature great films, documentaries and more, and filmmakers, producers and directors will be attending to discuss their work. Updates on the Film Festival should appear very soon.

View the entire preliminary program online here (dates/times of sessions are subject to change). Just added - Tracing the Tribe reported on this the other day - were the breakfasts with experts, SIG luncheons and computer workshops. This year, workshops will also be held Sunday afternoon and Friday morning, the first and last days of the conference which runs from Sunday, August 2 to Friday, August 7.

Diverse programs cover Polish and Cyrillic records, Jewish cooking, identifying family photos through clues, how to preserve documents and photographs, and so much more covering many geographic and topical issues, including DNA.

What are you waiting for? Click here to register.

Tracing the Tribe will see you in Philly!

Miami: Libraries on the menu, May 3

Genealogy and family history books and materials in Miami-area libraries is the topic for the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami, on Sunday, May 3.

The meeting starts at 10am at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation building at 4200 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami (free secure parking, bring ID).

Marcia Finkel, David Rafky and Joan Parker were among 16 society members who recently visited the Miami Public Library's main branch after a three-year hiatus; they will report on what's new and available now. The collections are not limited to only Florida or the South.

The society's genealogical reference library is located in the Federation building's CAJE (Central Agency for Jewish Education) library, and CAJE librarian Marci Wiseman will provide a tour and a collection overview. She will also answer questions and provide access to the society's reference and circulating collections.

Reference books do not circulate, but paid JGSGM members may check out books on the society's Library Cart, which will be available at themeeting. For a book list, check the JGSGM site.

The nominating committee will offer the officers' slate for 2009-2010; elections take place in June.

See the site link for directions and more information.

26 April 2009

New York: Museum of Polish Jewish History, May 6

" Creating the Museum of the History of Polish Jews: A Work in Progress, " will be presented by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, at Temple Emanu-El, New York City, at 6.30pm, Wednesday, May 6.
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews, for which ground was broken in June 2007 in Warsaw, is dedicated to preserving the lasting legacy of Jewish life in Poland and of the civilization created by Polish Jews in the course of a millennium.

Dr. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, head of the international core exhibition planning team, will discuss the challenges and methods for creating a narrative for this visionary museum.

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is professor of performance studies at the Tisch School of the Arts (NYU) and an affiliated professor of Hebrew and Judaica Studies.

The program is free. Temple Emanu-El is located at 1 East 65th St, New York City.

25 April 2009

Philly 2009: Dinners, luncheons, workshops

Expert breakfasts, SIG luncheons and computer workshops have just been posted for the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, which will run from Sunday-Friday, August 2-7, in Philadelphia.

Remember that the last day for early registration discounts is Thursday, April 30.

Go to the Philly 2009 site and click either Registration (for new registrations) or Registration Update (if you've already registered). To add breakfasts, luncheons or computer workshops, hit Optional Programs.

Breakfasts with the Experts are $29 each (kosher option):

- Philadelphia Research, Steve Schechter
- Ukraine Research, Miriam Weiner, Olga Muzychuk
- Galician Research, Suzan Wynne
- German Research, Roger Lustig
- Israeli Research, Michael Goldstein
- Polish Research, Stanley Diamond
- ITS Records, Megan Lewis, Jo-Ellyn Decker
- Lithuanian Research, Howard Margol
- New York City Research, Avrum Geller
There will be 10 special interest group luncheons ($39 each), with kosher option (JRI-Poland is all kosher). I highly recommend making speedy reservations as SIGs with major speakers quickly fill to capacity:

- JRI-Poland: State of Cemetery and Property Restitution in Poland Today, Monika Krawczyk CEO, Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland

- Belarus
- Gesher Galicia -
"Tightrope: Six Centuries of a Galician Jewish Dynasty," Israeli author, Michael Karpin, discusses "Tightrope," a 650-year epic tale of the extraordinary Backenroth family.
- Latvia SIG - My Life as a Project Manager: Past Present and Future of Latvian Genealogical Research, Constance Whippman, A celebration of the Latvia SIG and of its premier achievement, the All Latvia Database, its origins, early challenges, subsequent development with a focus on how this resource can be used to help you write your family history and preserve material for future generations.

- Austria-Czech SIG
- Rom-SIG

- LitvakSIG -
Visiting your Ancestral Shtetl in Lithuania and Belarus, Regina Kopilevich. A lively presentation on the practical aspects of planning a trip to your ancestral shtetl in Lithuania and Belarus. She's an experienced interpreter and researcher in the Lithuanian archives, and an expert guide for individuals and groups.

- Hungarian SIG

- Ger-SIG - "Where the hell is 'Schwinglasse' and 'Schnatta'?" The impact of local dialects, Yiddish and Hebrew on Family Names and Place Names; Bernhard Purin Director, Jewish Museum Munich, will highlight how dialects influenced the pronunciation and spelling of Jewish names of individuals and places and how a basic knowledge in German dialects can help to decode such terms.
-Ukraine SIG

Other optional meals are a pre-conference welcome dinner and get-together on Saturday night, and the Thursday night banquet.

Computer Workshops are limited to 25 participants for each two-hour session ($25 each). Time slots run 8.15-10.15am, 10.30am-12.30pm, 3-4pm or 4.15-6.15pm, and topics include:

Family Tree Builder 3.0 - Basic: Daniel Horowitz
JewishGen Databases: Nolan Altman

Introduction to JewishGen: Debra Kay-Blatt
Family Tree Maker for Beginners/Intermediate Users: Duff Wilson
MyFamily, Facebook, Twitter - Social Networking: Crista Cowan
Publishing Your Own Family Book: Banai Feldstein

Getting the Most from Yad Vashem Shoah Victims' Database: Gail Saini
Family Tree Maker for Advanced users: Duff Wilson
Using Word and Word Tables for Genealogy: Phyllis Kramer
Ancestry/JewishGen: The Dynamic Duo: Debra Kay-Blatt

Genealogy Super Search Engine: Daniel Horowitz
JRI-Poland for Beginners: Robinn Magid
Social Networking with Facebook: Banai Feldstein
How Does a Beginner Find His/Her Way around the FamilySearch Website: Paul Smart.

Hands-On with Advanced Googling: Michael Marx
Family Tree Builder 3.0 - Advanced: Daniel Horowitz
Check the online program now to avoid scheduling conflicts with lectures and computer workshops.

For all registration and hotel details, go to Philly 2009.

Los Angeles: 'At Home in Utopia,' April 27

For former New Yorkers, 'At Home in Utopia' may shed light on details of our families' lives.

The film tells the story of the United Workers Cooperative Colony, a housing cooperative in the Bronx organized by poor Jewish immigrants in the 1920s.

It will be screened at 7.30pm, Monday, April 27, at Laemmle's Music Hall Theatre, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, as part of the LA Jewish Film Festival.

A panel discussion, moderated by Occidental College professor of politics Peter Dreier, will follow and includes filmmaker Michal Goldman, PJA Executive Director Elissa Barrett and Hershl Hartman, a child of the Colony and education director of the Sholem Community.

Tickets are $9 (seniors, students), $12 (adults).

For more information, click the festival site here.

Los Angeles: Health & genetic research, April 26

Genetic testing for Sephardic Jews is part of the program at a free conference organized by the health, wellness and genetic research committees of the Iranian American Jewish Federation.

The event runs from 1-6pm, Sunday, April 26, at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. The expert panel includes prominent experts (see below).

Among the topics:

- Genetic testing for Sephardic Jews

Since the advent of the Human Genome Project, understanding of the genetic basis of disease has continued to grow rapidly. Learn about the latest advances in genetic testing and about several genetic disorders in the Iranian and Sephardic Jewish communities that can be prevented through preconception screening. Genetic experts will discuss the most common of these disorders, their prevalence in Middle Eastern and Sephardic Jews, and today's clinical approaches to detecting, managing and preventing genetic conditions.

- Fertility Preservation & Treatments

Whether due to health issues or other circumstances, couples who cannot or choose not to have children at the present time, now have options to preserve and extend fertility and have children later in life. Recent advances in technology and medicine people now offer more options. Learn about the most common causes of infertility, the psychological toll on couples and cutting-edge advances in treating infertility.
- Prenatal & Postnatal Care: Medical, Psychological, Nutritional and Environmental Perspectives
Research shows that pregnanet women who receive adequate prenatal care are more likely to have healthy babies and fewer complications during labor and recovery. The session will include psychological, nutritional, environmental and traditional perspectives including depression, evaluation and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, nutrition, and environmental factors.
- The HPV Controversy
Young women aged 11-26 (and their parents) are faced with a decision to make regarding HPV vaccination. Listen to experts on this complex and controversial subject, vaccine effectiveness and side effects.
Speakers include:

Michael Eshaghian MD: Obstetrics, Gynecology, Infertility.
Shahin Ghadir MD: Obstetrics, Gynecology, Infertility.
Claudia Mikail MD: Educator, Clinician, Genetics, Disease Prevention, author of "Public Health Genomics: The Essentials," (medical, psychosocial and ethical implications of genomics).
Jennifer Yashari MD: Psychiatrist (women's mental health specialization).
Bahar Sedarati MD: Internal Medicine, Editor and Contributing Author.
Natasha Sedaghat RD: Registered Dietician, Nutritional Science.

The afternoon includes live music and an art exhibit at 1pm, followed by the conference program beginning at 2pm. For more information, visit the Iranian American Jewish Federation website. Click Upcoming Events (upper right tab) to see the flyer, or send an email.

Southern California: Jews on the frontier, April 26

Readers within driving distance of Redondo Beach have an interesting opportunity to hear author Harriet Rochlin ("Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the West") and Jewish Historical Society of Los Angeles president Steve Sass on Sunday, April 26.

In "Jews on the Frontier," she and Sass will trace the Jewish journey and Jewish contributions to the early West.

The event runs from 4.30-9pm on Sunday and features a kosher vegetarian chili cook-off, music, photograph exhibit, food and a genealogy workshop.

The program is co-sponsored by The Jewish Federation, the Chabad Jewish Community Center and South Bay synagogues, at Temple Menorah, 1101 Camino Real, Redondo Beach.

New York: 'Bagdad to Bombay,' April 29

Author Pearl Sofaer ("Baghdad to Bombay: In the Kitchens of My Cousins") will share the stories and recipes of her family, at 6.30pm, Wednesday, April 29, at the Center for Jewish History (CJH).

A colorful culinary journey – a testimony to keeping a culture alive!

Pearl Sofaer - author, painter, sculptor, singer - was born and grew up in Bombay. Her large family originated in Baghdad and Kirkuk, Iraq, before migrating to Burma and India during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After the partition of India in 1947, most of her family moved to the four corners of the globe.

Their rich and diverse cultural heritage is reflected in their kitchens, which they generously opened to their cousin, who has woven the threads of a diverse family into a rich tapestry of cuisine.
For early arrivals to the event, there is a 5.45pm tour of the new exhibit of Yeshiva University Museum - "From Malabar and Beyond: The Jews of India" - a glimpse into the rich culture of Indian Jews through photographs and artifacts of ritual and daily life.

The event is free for American Sephardi Federation members; others, $5.

Founded in 1973, the American Sephardi Federation with Sephardic House promotes and preserves the spiritual, historical, cultural and social traditions of all Sephardic communities to assure their place as an integral part of Jewish heritage with its Sephardic Library & Archives, an exhibition gallery, educational and cultural public programs, The Sephardi Report, the International Sephardic Film Festival, and a scholarship fund for Sephardic scholars.
The CJH is at 15 W. 16th Street, New York City.

New Blog: Kulanu for 'lost' Jewish communities

Kulanu.org now has a blog. The site is devoted to helping lost and dispersed Jewish communities and contains many interesting articles.

The blog was inaugurated by volunteer Matthew Feldman and is for Kulanu updates and to provide a location for reader comments.

The Kulanu site has numerous volunteers working to improve it, so check out Kulanu.org as well as the Kulanu Blog.

The latest blog posting concerns a free event with Dr. Carlos Cortés, at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation (Bethesda, Maryland) on May 8.

An international lecturer on multiculturalism and education, Cortés is a history professor at UC Riverside and is cultural consultant to Nickelodeon’s popular pre-school series, "Dora the Explorer" and "Go Diego Go." However, his appearance is not for toddlers.

Part of the program is a one-hour, one-person autobiographical play written and performed by Cortés, who grew up Mexican and Jewish in the Midwest.
The son of a Mexican Catholic immigrant father and a US-born Jewish mother, he learned to navigate Kansas City’s rigid racial, ethnic and religious fault lines, while simultaneously dealing with his own divided family's internal conflicts.
Kabbalat Shabbat service is at 6.30pm, the free performance at 8pm, and a short concluding service. There's also an opportunity to share in a Shabbat dinner - click here.

Genetics: Pre-wedding testing

Are you planning a summer wedding or know someone who is? Have you or they undergone Jewish genetic disease screening?

One in five individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent is a carrier for one of several conditions which can cause devastating illness in the child of parents who are both carriers.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the only test available was for Tay-Sachs. Due to major Jewish community testing, the incidence of this condition has dropped by 90%. In the early days of testing, accuracy was not as good, and some couples whose parents had been tested very early found that out the tragic way. Even if the parents have been tested and found not to be carriers, their children should still be screened as the results are now more accurate.

Another consideration is if a partner is not of Ashkenazi Jewish background. Again, because of Jewish history over the centuries, many people do not really know their origins. Many non-Jewish individuals today may have Jewish origins of which they are unaware. There are also some genetic conditions found in the Sephardic community.

The Victor Center for Jewish Genetic Diseases has branches at several medical centers in Philadelphia, Boston and Miami. Experts from the center were interviewed here on the importance of this screening.

"Taking time for a quick blood test to screen for these diseases can give you peace of mind," says Adele Schneider, MD, director of Medical Genetics at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, where screening and counseling are offered through the Victor Center for Jewish Genetic Diseases. "So we encourage young couples to add this simple blood test to their wedding 'To Do' list," she adds.

Getting screened before starting a family offers more reproductive options to couples for having healthy children. It also means that decisions can be made in a more relaxed way, rather than under extremely stressful circumstances as often happens during pregnancy.

Ashkenazi Jews, those of Eastern European descent, have a higher risk of being a carrier for a mutation in a gene for a Jewish genetic disease of which Tay-Sachs is the best known. There are at least 11 diseases that occur more often among this group. These diseases include: Familial Dysautonomia, Canavan disease, Gaucher disease, and Bloom syndrome, among others. Some of the conditions are fatal in early childhood, and some result in the need for lifelong medical care.

They are difficult to manage and greatly impair the affected person's quality of life and the lives of family members.

Since a carrier is healthy, there is usually no family history of any of these diseases. So there are two ways to find out if you are a carrier - to have a blood test or have an affected child. Even though carriers do not have the disease, they can pass the gene mutation to their offspring.
The fragmenting of good genealogical health records due to immigration and historical events means that there could be a long history of carriers in a family that no one knows about.

Couples should check with their insurance companies to find out what coverage is offered. A full panel screening can cost a few thousand dollars. While most insurance covers testing for pregnant women, doctors believe tests should be done before pregnancy.

The Victor Center offers screening tests and genetic counseling at a reduced fee for adults, college students, newly engaged couples and newlyweds for the 11 diseases (Bloom Syndrome, Canavan Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Familial Dysautonomia, Fanconi Anemia Type C, Gaucher Disease, Glycogen Storage Disease Type 1a, Maple Syrup Urine Disease, Mucolipidosis IV, Niemann-Pick Disease Type A, and Tay-Sachs Disease).

Check the Victor Center's website for more information.

Jerry Seinfeld: Family History Award, May 19

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld will receive a Family Heritage Award at the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation annual luncheon on May 19, and his grandparents' journey through Ellis Island will be spotlighted.

Expected to attend the event are Seinfeld’s motherBetty, 94, and his Aunt Orizia (known as Kitty), 100. His aunt also arrived through Ellis Island on a different voyage 99 years ago.

This news, along with Ancestry.com images, was detailed in "On The Records," a documents feature found in the New York Times' City Room, which tracks official and unofficial paperwork, underlying news of the New York area. It includes images of transcripts, letters, court records, invoices, audits and even parking tickets.

Century-old passenger manifests, newly public census records and naturalization papers, stitched together by the foundation and The New York Times, document the family’s hardscrabble journey, first to Brooklyn, then to the Bronx and ultimately, to Manhattan. Collectively, they trace just how far the comedian’s family has come since the days when his paternal grandfather, a 15-year-old tailor from Stanislau, then part of Austria, arrived by himself, penniless, at Ellis Island.

Learning about his ancestors’ harrowing journey has been sobering, Mr. Seinfeld said in a phone interview. “To me, these are scenes from ‘Godfather II,”’ he said. “They didn’t really come over on these boats and go to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It almost seems like a cliché. It’s theatrical imagery. You forget this really happened.”

In particular, he said he was struck by the independence of his grandfather’s solitary trip across the ocean. “I mean you wouldn’t let your kid in Disneyland do that,” he said.

The trail begins in 1903 when Mr. Seinfeld’s grandfather Simon Seinfeld set sail for New York from Le Havre on board the La Bretagne. It appears to invert his first and last name and lists him as “Seinfeld Schimscher” or possibly “Semfeld Schimscher.’’ Schimscher appears to be a version of his first name in Yiddish.

He was detained for a few hours for unknown reasons upon his arrival on March 10, as the record notes on the second page, and was later discharged into the custody of an uncle, Jake, of Orchard Street.
Author Author Alison Leigh Cowan asks readers to weigh in with additional passenger manifest details about Seinfeld's grandfather's voyage. She invites readers to browse, comment and enjoy primary source documents in the archived collection the feature is building. At my last check, more than 80 comments on this story had been contributed.

Have documents that you think New Yorkers must see? Send them here to On The Records.

The story covers census records, draft registration, a Turkish-Syrian mystery and more.

Read the complete article at the link above.

24 April 2009

UK: Jewish genealogy at the Family History Show, May 3

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (JGSGB) will participate in the Family History Show at The Barbican (London) on Sunday, May 3, along with more than 80 other genealogical organizations.

JGSGB will sell its publications and provide show-goers with on the spot advice and Jewish genealogy information.

The Family History Event provides an opportunity to explore, ask questions and see what is available for your research. Purchase tickets online.

For more information, send an email. Click here for JGSGB's website.

23 April 2009

Boston: Jewish life in the Russian Empire, May 3

If your ancestors lived in the Russian Empire, a program devoted to everyday Jewish life in the Russian Empire will help answer questions about your family's lives.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston (JGSGB) will host Brandeis University Associate Professor ChaeRan Freeze at 1.30pm, Sunday, May 3, at Gann Academy in Waltham.

Freeze will examine everyday Jewish life in tsarist Russia as a site of interaction with modernity, where Jews confronted the unfamiliar and negotiated their environment in strategic and creative ways.

She will present several archival documents from the former Soviet Union and rabbinical responsa that reveal the daily struggles of ordinary Jews as they confronted changes in the areas of family life, religion, sexuality and health.

The discussion will also reveal how to find new sources for genealogy that go beyond vital records and census materials, and highlight the rich diversity of the Jewish experience in the Russian Empire.

At Brandeis, she is an associate professor in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department and Women's and Gender Studies. Her research focused on the history and culture of the Jews in Russia, Jewish family history, and women's and gender studies.

Freeze's books include "Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia,"(Salo Baron Award for the Best First Book in Jewish Studies); edited "Polin: Jewish Women in Eastern Europe," with Paula Hyman and Antony Polonsky; is currently finishing "Everyday Jewish Life in Imperial Russia, 1825-1914: Select Documents," co-authored with Jay Harris (2010). She is working on her second monograph, "Sex and the Shtetl: Gender, Family, and Jewish Sexuality in Tsarist Russia."

The program is free for JGSGB members; others, $5. For directions, click here. The JGSGB website is here, or email for more information.

Celebrating Tel Aviv: A digitized collection

Several years ago, I interviewed Eliasaf Robinson at his warren-like bookshop (interior photo above) on Tel Aviv's Nahalat Benyamin and marveled at the holdings stacked to the ceiling, covering every available vertical and horizontal space.

Robinson's is a major destination for those looking for Yizkor books and other genealogically relevant materials. There are several stores, warehouses and special collections are housed elsewhere.

He is the fourth generation of a family of booksellers and most prominent antiquarian book dealer in Israel. He began this Tel Aviv collection as a teenager, in the 1960s.

During the interview for the Jerusalem Post story, I learned much about collections - that the best are kept in Jerusalem (even if owners live elsewhere) because of the lower humidity that prevents growth of mold and other damage to photographs and paper. During my visit, the phone rang off the hook as people called to ask if he had this or that item, and people came through the door with items they thought he might be interested in acquiring.

In 2005, Stanford University acquired Eliasaf Robinson's collection of books, pamphlets, magazines, printed ephemera, posters, postcards, photographs, maps, architectural plans, and original documents about the early history of "The First Hebrew City" Tel Aviv.

Over some 40 years, he amassed some 500 books and periodicals and 20 linear feet of archival materials. According to the website, it is among the most sought-after resources in the Stanford University Libraries.

Robinson was impressed by the university's ability to digitize its holdings and make them accessible over the Web. Over the past 18 months, about 50% has been scanned, according to the website. This includes more than 1,000 photographs and postcards, 300 printed volumes, 200 large format materials (posters, maps and sewer diagrams) and six linear feet of archival materials.

There are so many different formats in the collection that the process was challenging, ranging from posters to fragile single sheets and tightly-bound books. Many types of scanning devices were necessary and these are detailed at the link above. In the first digitization, the library's Judaica and Hebraica curator Zachary Baker focused on pre-1948 material.

Learn more about accessing the online images here. Browse online through the archival boxes and folders of the collection online at the site above. Click on a thumbnail image to see the full-size image. Search for hotographs and books by title, subject or description. Read books online and view images in close-up detail.
See the very detailed extensive finding aid page here. It indicates that genealogists will have a field day with this collection.

Items include business cards, real estate records, blueprints, advertisements, business correspondence, construction and housing, movie posters, cinema, culture, opera and orchestra, sports, holidays, museums, sheet music, maps, associations, committees, charities, education, legal documents, medical documents, political activity. Under photographs, categories include albums, loose pages, mounted prints, glass slides; buildings, commercial, people, events, postcards and school documents. The Tel Aviv municipality category includes documents, ephemera, civil guard, military, letters, licensing, street census and much more, as well as clippings.

Have fun! The image (above left) is part of a pre-1948 postcard view of Tel Aviv's beach, called HaYarkon. It looks much the same today! Robinson's website is only in Hebrew, but the photos are great!

Southern California: Vilna Jewish legacy, May 3

If your Jewish family history includes the city of Vilna (Vilnius) in Lithuania, this program will be of interest.

The World Was Ours: The Jewish Legacy of Vilna" is a documentary dedicated to the memory of Jewish Vilna. Often called the Jerusalem of Lithuania, it was one of Eastern Europe's great cultural centers, and was destroyed in the Holocaust.

The screening, in commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day, is co-sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV) and Temple Adat Elohim. The program begins at 1.30pm, Sunday, May 3, at Adat Elohim, 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oak.

Although not the largest nor the most affluent community, the culture of Vilna's Jews - their scholarship, determination, pride, rich religious heritage and social responsibility - made the community unique.

The film focuses on on the city's vibrant pre-war culture which produced many illustrious figures. Narrated by actor Mandy Patinkin, it includes interviews, diaries, letters, poems, archival photographs and footage.

Following the screening, former Vilna resident Esther Meisler will talk about her life and how she survived.

There is no fee to attend. For more information, see the JGSCV website or send an email.

World Digital Library launches

The World Digital Library website is now active. It is a partnership of the Library of Congress, Unesco and 32 partner institutions.

The site - www.wdl.org ― offers free public access to manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, prints and photographs.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington first proposed the creation of the WDL to UNESCO in 2005. At the time, he said, such a project would bring people together by "celebrating the depth and uniqueness of different cultures in a single global undertaking."

Others at the launch said the project will help bridge the knowledge divide, promote mutual understanding and encourage cultural and linguistic diversity. WDL functions in seven languages ― Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish ― with content in more than 40 languages.

Users may browse and search across the site which includes descriptions of each item and videos, expert curators speaking about items and providing context.

WDL was developed by a Library of Congress team, with technical assistance by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina of Alexandria, Egypt. Contributing institutions include national libraries, cultural and educational institutions in Brazil, Egypt, China, France, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Uganda, the UK and the US.

Read the complete press release. Visit the WDL site, the LOC and the interactive website MyLOC.gov.

22 April 2009

Northern California: The frozen chosen, April 27

Alaska's frozen chosen - the Jews of Alaska - is the topic for the next meeting of the Peninsula branch of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, on Monday, April 27.

The meeting starts at 7pm at Congregation Beth Am, in Los Altos Hills.

Jerry Delson and Janet Mohr will present "Jewish Outposts: Jews in Alaska and Adventures You Might Enjoy."

Starting in 1995, Jerry took advantage of regular business trips to Alaska to pursue his interest in genealogy wherever he might be. He attended conferences of the Anchorage Genealogical Society and presented genealogy workshops at Congregation Beth Sholom. He has enjoyed contacts with Jews in Sitka and in Fairbanks and will describe Fairbanks’ star attraction, the Summer Arts Festival. This year's edition will offer, for the first time, a Jewish choral music course.

In 1952, Janet was starting high school when her family moved to Anchorage. She learned about growing up Jewish in Alaska, and her parents - from Vienna - took an active role in Anchorage’s cultural life. Graduate studies at Stanford brought Janet to the Bay Area, but she continues to have close ties with friends in Anchorage.
Attendance is free and everyone is invited. This is a change from the previously scheduled program. For more information and future programs, view the SFBAJGS website.

New Jersey: Jewish Roots in Paterson

Paterson and Northern New Jersey attracted many of our ancestors from Poland and other Eastern European countries. Many immigrants from Lodz and from Bialystock worked in the silk mills, raised their families and built their lives there.

Roni Seibel Liebowitz, one of several prominent genealogists originally from Paterson, sent Tracing the Tribe information about the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey. Mark Halpern, program chair of the Philly 2009 conference, is a Bialystoker descendant who lived in Paterson as a young boy.

Tracing the Tribe first called attention to Jerry Nathans and his memorabilia collection focused on Paterson in this May 2007 post, which describes some of the holdings:

Jerry Nathans is the last guardian of Paterson, New Jersey's Jewish past. President of the JHSNJ, he's spent three decades collecting artifacts and information about the city 's (and environs) history.

Although the society was once a thriving group of 70 and sponsored lectures, exhibits and other events, Nathans is now alone as the caretaker of 150 years packed into 300 boxes. ...

Tracing the Tribe later reported on Roni and Mark's plans for Paterson descendants at the upcoming Philly 2009 conference in Philadelphia.

JGSNJ president Jerry Nathans, 81, is the keeper of a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, documents, paintings, and memorabilia collected over the past 20 years.

In its prime, the society sponsored exhibits, presentations, and other programs about the area's Jewish life. It collected oral histories and photographs, and published newsletters and the history of Paterson.

The YM-YHWA in Wayne, New Jersey was the society's original home until it ran out of space. Material was packed in 300 boxes and stored in diverse locations. Until recently, the boxes were at William Paterson University and inaccessible to the public. Researchers and individuals could no longer donate family treasures and no one could access documents.

Nathans kept working to follow every lead to find an appropriate home for the archive. When Roni met with him in November 2008, he was still looking for a home for the material. Finally, in late March 2009, an agreement was reached with the Barnert Medical Arts Complex in Paterson.

This month, Jerry began moving all the boxes to the new facility. Volunteers are now unpacking and cataloging 100 years of history, and the Jewish Standard covered the story.

The Philly 2009 conference will also feature a Paterson Birds-of-a-feather meeting at the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, August 2-7, in Philadelphia.

For more information, email the JHSNNJ.

Collections: A Holocaust show-and-tell

Collections of Judaica, even as mundane as kippot from life cycle events, can provide clues to our family's lives. This collection of artifacts tells the story of the Holocaust in a different way.

The story was in the Penn State Collegian.

When civil rights activist Ken Lawrence heard Ku Klux Klan members in the '70s denying the existence of the Holocaust, he thought the best way to fight them would be to show, not tell.

In 1978, Lawrence, a now-66-year-old resident of Spring Mills, Pa., started collecting letters, postcards and other historical documents pertaining to the Holocaust.
The collection numbers about 250 items, and he has spent more than three decades exhibiting them at schools and universities and proving the Holocaust through those who suffered.

Lawrence recently sold the collection to the Florence and Laurence Spungen Family Foundation to ensure that it will continue to be seen whether or not he is around.

"I'm getting old. I've traveled around for 30 years," he said. "It's time for somebody else to take over and continue the work."
Danny Spungen met Lawrence at a stamp collector's group and was amazed at what he had collected.

"I saw this older man holding this Jewish Torah made out of animal skin," Spungen said. "And it was torn up and used as an envelope. And it had Nazi stamps on it."

Spungen, who is Jewish, said he knew little about the Holocaust before he saw Lawrence's collection because his family and friends never talked about it. But that single piece of torn Torah intrigued him.

"To see our written laws being destroyed and used to make shoes, lampshades, and used as envelopes ... that's very powerful," he said.
After the foundation acquired the collection, Spungen began taking it on the road to teach about the Holocaust. The traveling exhibit will be loaned to the new Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie.

Read the complete article at the link above.

UK: Jewish Knowles Collection database grows

A useful database for readers tracking Jewish family history in the UK is the Knowles Collection, a free database of Jewish records focusing on the British Isles. It is also especially useful for researchers of Sephardic families (see below).

It now has some 40,000 records, built on the original 8,000-name collection organized by late historian Isobel Mordy. A retired mathematician, she used a complex code to link UK Jewish families.

Download the Knowles Gedcom at the Jewish Family History Resources Page at FamilySearch.org. I had no trouble downloading the Gedcom into my Family Tree Builder 3 (MyHeritage.com) and opening it from there.

A quick look at the names was interesting and, in addition to the Ashkenazi names, there are a very large number of Sephardic names listed with dates in the 18th-19th centuries.

Just looking at the first letter of the alphabet, I found the following Sephardic names:
Scroll down through the alphabetical list, and see many more Sephardic names both common and rare, with interesting name variants that may provide additional clues. One hint for your search of the Gedcom - after downloading into your software program - is to substitute B for V, V for B, A for E, E for A, etc.

Clicking on names of interest in the Family Tree Builder 3 name list on the left, brought up the nice family graphic tree on the right.
“The complexity of the code Mordy used to index her research is daunting even to the most experienced researcher,” said Todd Knowles, author and manager of the Knowles Collection and a British Reference consultant for Salt Lake City's Family History Library. It took Knowles a few years, but he ultimately managed to transcribe the records from Mordy’s work into a more easily searchable genealogy database.
The advantage of the database is that it links tens of thousands of Jewish individuals into family groups. Knowles expanded Mordy’s 8,000 names to more than 40,000, with records from more than 100 sources.

Some sources were maintained until the mid-1980s, bringing contemporary individuals into the collection, as well as other records, such as census, probate, Jewish communal/synagogue records (birth, marriage, death), biographies and more.

One new set is more than 200 Jewish marriages from Cardiff, in Wales. Some of the families tie into the work of Rabbi Malcolm Stern's First American Jewish Families which also includes families of English ancestry.

The collection can be downloaded free as a Gedcom, and viewers may add their own records by contacting Todd Knowles.

FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and manages the largest collection of genealogical records worldwide.

21 April 2009

New York: Long Island yearbook project

As Tracing the Tribe has reported frequently, yearbooks are a wonderful source of family information.

Nolan Altman of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island (JGSLI) personally conveyed the following information on the society's yearbook project, begun in June 2006.

The project's goal is to act as an intermediary as it matches researchers with yearbook owners.

Yearbooks are rich sources of genealogical information. We can see our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, even ourselves in our younger days. Often, the photos elicit such comments as "how did I get my hair to look like that?" In various yearbooks, I've found my mother and her brother's high school graduation photos, my mother's sorority group photo and other family photos, such as my great-uncle's medical school graduation.

Along with the images are often address lists, congratulatory ads placed by adoring families, as well as your relatives pictured in myriad club, sports team and academic group shots.

The JGSLI board decided it would be a valuable service to its members if the society could inventory yearbooks in members’ personal libraries and make that information available for genealogical look-ups.

During the last year, the society has matched up dozens of researchers with yearbook owners. Here is the list of available books. Since being made public, inquiries have been received from non-members as well. Much of the collection is from the New York City / Long Island area, but researchers could be currently living anywhere in the world.

As non-members from other geographical areas began to demonstrate interest, the JGSLI decided to expand the project and inventory yearbooks from other JGSs, genealogical groups and other sources.

JGSLI, unlike the yearbook projects of Steve Lasky and Steve Morse, does not own or physically hold the listed volumes, which remain in the personal libraries of individuals who make them available for look-ups.

The society is the matchmaker, arranging the contact between the yearbook owner and the researcher. Requests are sent to yearbook_project@jgsli.org - the society replies using that email address and forwards the request by blind copy to the book's owner. The owner will comply with the request. Those who sign up to participate and list their books, understand they will receive requests.

Each book's owner signs a Yearbook Project Form from the JGSLI site:

“Submitting a listing means that you have volunteered to be contacted by email and are willing to provide information, a photocopy, or scan for the researcher. JGSLI is only making the information available to researchers. Owners of the books are responsible for following up with the request.”
Researchers contact the group through the email above, and JGSLI hopes researchers will also provide information to help other researchers.

Due to the increase in requests, JGSLI is looking at a longer term goal to approach other societies, groups and individuals to expand the yearbook inventory and make matches easier.

It is an easy way to help a fellow researcher. After all, the request might come from someone who may hold the yearbook for which you've been searching for a very long time.

For more information, contact Nolan Altman.

New blog: Chris Dunham's Family Historian

Chris Dunham writes The Genealogue, but since he seems to have more time on his hands he's just put together a new site, The Family Historian, which is collecting and categorizing blog posts offering genealogy advice.

Says Chris:

There are now 200 posts in the collection, and more will be added as long as the Internet and my interest in genealogy persist.I'll have final say over what posts are included, but I've added a star rating system to allow visitors to offer their opinions, so that (eventually) the best articles may rise to the top and be more easily found.
He invites viewers to help the cause by rating the posts (using the hand-dandy star ratings at the bottom of each) and also to suggest blog posts that have helped viewers with research. Fill out this form or send Chris an email with a link list.

If you're a blogger, search your memory and your archives for the best advice posts and let him know.

Chris is looking for, in his inimitable style:
- Advice that is aimed at a broad audience, and not just at the people who attend your grandmother's birthday parties.

- Advice that is genealogical. Tips on choosing a digital camera, for example, won't be included unless they are tips on choosing the best digital camera for genealogy or family history.

-Advice that is advice. I'm not looking for news or simple reviews. Nor am I looking for posts that simply point to resources elsewhere on the Web without commentary on how to best use those resources.

- Subscribe to the
All Advice feed and be alerted to the freshest posts added to the database. (Each category has its own feed).
To those Tracing the Tribe readers not familiar with Chris - he is genealogy's resident quirky comedian, whose Genealogue posts are always good for a great genealogy giggle.

Chris adds that he hopes the new site will become a database of our geneablogger's collective wisdom.
It is my expectation that this will become another project that keeps me from having a social life. Either way, some worthy blogs will get a little extra traffic, some confused genealogists will find direction, and I will continue to spend my Saturday nights alone.
Okay, people, let's help Chris by sending him the posts he's looking for.

Poland: A memorial in Dobra

Roni Seibel Liebowitz of the Lodz Area Research Group (LARG) informed Tracing the Tribe about a memorial in Dobra, Poland.

Last summer, a very special event took place in Dobra (near Turek), Poland. This project is the result of the dedication and perseverance of Dr. Leon Weintraub.

Over the past few years, he worked to have a "Place of Remembrance" at the old Jewish cemetery created that would honor the memory of all the Jews who lived in Dobra before the Holocaust.

He had the vision and did the fundraising for this Monument.

He arranged for the broken tombstones around town to be moved to the new location. It was his enthusiasm and commitment to create a Place of Remembrance in Dobra that led to the completion of this remarkable project.
The monument, Weintraub's speech, more photos and information about the process of creating this memorial - "The Place of Remembrance" is now on-line on the Lodz Area Research Group (LARG) page.

Weintraub is to be commended on the completion of this memorial.

20 April 2009

Illinois: Opening day, new Holocaust museum

Some 12,000 people made it to the opening day of the new $45 million Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie.

Major speakers included former President Bill Clinton, author/survivor Elie Wiesel, philanthropist J.B. Pritzker, as well as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, violinist Miri Ben-Ari, the German ambassador and others, as well as many educators invited to the event.

The Chicago Tribune extensively covered the event here, and the story offers several videos, photographs and related links.
The newly opened museum at 9603 Woods Drive, designed by architect Stanley
Tigerman, covers 65,000 square feet and contains two wings, one dark and one
light. The dark side houses the main exhibit with the horrors of the Holocaust
depicted, while the light side symbolizes rescue, renewal, hope and remembrance.
During Clinton's remarks, in a speech thanking survivors for their courage to educate others during a time when genocide still unfolds across the world, he also called attention to the fact that it was significant to him "that this will be the last museum built in the United States with the direct memories of the survivors."

Wiesel's remarks emphasized that each person can make a difference with a simple action: ""You never can know the impact and the consequences of a word, a sentence, a prayer or a smile."
"We must learn now very simple lessons, that whatever happens to one community happens to all communities," he said. "Some people believe, 'Oh, it's only the Jews.' Oh, no. When a Jew is slapped in the face, it is all of humanity that falls to its knees."
The impetus for the museum was a threatened march - more than three decades ago - on Skokie by neo-Nazis. Although the march never took place, the survivors living in the town formed a foundation and speakers' bureau in a storefront museum.

Read the complete story at the link above as well as the related videos, photographs and other links.

19 April 2009

Glitch fixed: Listen now to Tracing the Tribe

Tracing the Tribe is happy to report that the glitch in audio recording the entire text of each post via OdioGo is now fixed!

At the top of each post, you will see the Listen Now icon to listen or download that post to iTunes, an MP3 player or click "more" for options such as Juice, Zune and additional possibilities.

You can also subscribe to the podcasts - Just hit the Subscribe to OdioGo icon in the right sidebar and select your favorite device or system.

While most words are correctly pronounced, it is not yet completely perfect in pronounciation. However, like all such technologies, improvements are made frequently.

Try it out and do comment on your experience and let me know if you have any problems.

Illinois: New Holocaust museum opens

Thirty-two years ago, a group of American neo-Nazis threatened to march through Skokie, a Chicago suburb. The town was home to many Jews who were either Holocaust survivors or their relatives.

Although the event never took place, it did provide the impetus for a movement among survivors that encouraged them to talk and to share the lessons of what they experienced.

The New York Times documented the story.

...All those decades of effort came to fruition this weekend in the form of the $45 million Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, in the very village the neo-Nazis had hoped to horrify. The museum was shaped by what may be the last generation of Holocaust survivors to have such influence over their own stories.

“It’s a dream come true and more,” Ms. Steiner said, preparing for the public opening on Sunday morning, at which former President Bill Clinton was scheduled to give a keynote address.

“Magnificent is the only word for something so beautiful,” she said.
The 66,000 square feet of exhibit space asks universal questions about human rights, as many Holocaust memorials do. But unlike similar institutions, the Skokie museum is almost totally anchored in the local, brought to life with the personal pictures, documents, clothing, testimonies and other artifacts of the building’s own neighbors.
Several survivors are docents and staff members and co-curator Yitzchak Mais was the former director of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Long ago, the survivors (20-30 members) banded together in the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois and worked out of storefront, putting together a modest exhibit for schoolchildren and anyone who wanted to hear the stories. Today only there of the original group are still alive.

They did good work with a budget that was at most $200,000 a year. The storefront needed repairs. Should they just build a new center?

Museum executive director Richard S. Hirschhaut said they began to dream.

With the participation of philanthropist J. B. Pritzker of Chicago, who became the campaign chair a decade ago, the plans succeeded. He lead a pre-opening tour.

Read the complete article at the link above and learn all about the little group that could and did reach its goals.

Missouri: Going home - to Greece

And what did you do on your summer vacation in 1974?

Rena Benrubi Abrams' high school graduation gift was a trip to Greece and a fortuitous sidetrip to Israel. She likes to tell her parents' story as it gives her the courage to go after what she wants.

Abrams' story is told in the St. Louis (Missouri) Jewish Light.

Rena Benrubi Abrams grew up wanting to be "That Girl," the stylish, ambitious character played by perky Marlo Thomas on the 1966-to-'71 TV sitcom. Nonetheless, Benrubi's parents decided that for her high-school graduation in Indianapolis, there could be no more fitting gift than a summer in Greece, their homeland.

Begrudgingly, 18-year-old Rena packed her bell-bottom jeans, peasant tops, wedge sandals and Jackie O sunglasses. In 1974, her first-ever airplane ride delivered her to her first-ever experience with a dirt outhouse, no telephone, no air conditioning, no TV and no American music.

In the Greek town of Naousa, she met her maternal grandmother, who slaughtered a chicken from the backyard and prepared it for dinner. In nearby Veria, where her father, Ruben Benrubi, had lived, old men reminisced about life before the Nazis and the startling horrors of war.

"These were stories and facts never mentioned to us as we grew up in suburban Indianapolis. But then again, we didn't know to ask," says Abrams. On Holocaust Remembrance Day April 19, she will pay tribute to her mother's Greek Orthodox family. They sheltered seven Jews during World War II.
She also visited her father's old home and, at his request, asked the current owner for permission to search the floor for money her father had buried before going to America.

Amazingly, Abrams says, she found a small leather pouch with several gold Turkish coins inside, buried in the dirt floor of a tiny closet. Though the coins were no longer legal tender, a Jewish jeweler, after biting the coins to ensure they were real, offered her $200.
With the money she bought an El Al ticket to Israel to see her father's few relatives, who had survived and resettled. One of the cousins she saw was a former teenager who had hidden in her maternal grandparents' attic for five years.

Read the complete story at the link above.

Washington State: Honoring the rescuers

For three years, Temple Beth Shalom (Spokane, Washington) has invited area high school students to enter a writing competition (an essay or poem) as part of the community's Holocaust observance.

The theme this year was “Honoring the Rescuers: People Who Saved Jews During the Holocaust.” Students wrote about the qualities of a rescuer, imagining what they would do if they lived next door to a Jewish family during the Holocaust and what it would take to persuade them to be a rescuer.

The Spokesman-Review carried the entry of the winner, Camille Byrd. Also printed (and found at links on that page) were the entries of runners-up Michaelanne Foster ("Guardian Angels: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Circumstances")," and a poem by Jessica Pennock. The three young women are sophomores at Gonzaga Preparatory School.

UK: Home building for genealogists

Looking for a new way to honor your ancestors and their Old Country villages? Take a cue from a British couple who have built miniature models of her ancestors' homes after researching 500 years of family history.

The Telegraph carried the story.

Peggy and Peter Newman, both 77, have traced buildings linked to 13 generations of relatives since they began researching the project 25 years ago.

Painstakingly carved by hand, each of the 14 houses and other buildings took six months to construct.

Mr Newman, a former electrical engineer, who is now a keen carpenter, has built the houses while his wife has researched the materials and the style, and has contributed needlework.

Mrs Newman said: "The models go back through the ages, with buildings from Tudor and Victorian times right the way through the two World Wars until the present day.

"I am very fussy when it comes to history and they really are authentic. It has been quite hard work but a lot of fun."

The collection, which has cost the couple more than pounds 100,000, includes a blacksmith's, a church, a windmill and a seaside scene.

It also contains homes of Mrs Newman's nine times great grandfather Thomas Rist, who died in 1616, and of David Rist, her five times great grandfather's cousin, who died in the 18th Century.
Some models also have figures of their owners. Her GGGGF is shown pushing his baker's cart.

And talking about seeing a mirror in a mirror - one model is the couples home where the entire collection is displayed.

Most of the research was conducted before the internet, and Mrs Newman travelled across the south of England, visiting libraries, sifting through old newspaper cuttings, and contacting local historians.

Some of the older houses are based on photographs as the buildings have been knocked down. The photographs were sent to a kiln so the couple could be supplied with the necessary tiles and stone.
Mrs Newman got the idea after seeing a doll's house in a shop.

What a great idea!

Egypt: Alexandria's Jewish history and records

Over the years, the major problem of Egyptian Jewish family research has been difficult, nearly impossible access to community registers held in a small archives, staffed by increasingly elderly volunteers. It has been nearly impossible to get that access or to copy documents.

Here's a story about the remnants - only 18 survivors of a community that once numbered 80,000 - of Alexandria's community, which was established some 2,300 years ago. It touches on the vital records problem, the El Shatby cemetery, the Eliahou Hanabi synagogue and more, along with photos. The focus of the story is the youngest Jew in the city, Youssef Gaon, 53, and Yves Fedida of the Nebi Daniel Association.

Surprisingly, the story appeared in The National, a new English newspaper launched by the Abu Dhabi Media Company. According to its About Us, its reporters and editors are drawn from The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The author is Cairo-based Jack Shenker, a freelance journalist from London, whose credits include TheTimes and The Guardian in Britain, the Hindustan Times in India, and other publications in print and online.
Sweating in the mid-morning heat, Abdul Salaam gently brushes the dirt off a grave to reveal a faded Star of David. Mr Salaam, a committed Muslim, has lived as a resident guard within the high walls of this Alexandrian Jewish cemetery for 41 years, just as his father did for five decades.

The cracked headstones and marble tombs around him bear witness to people who first made this Egyptian city their home more than 2,300 years ago, and in their heyday numbered almost 80,000. Last summer, the final remnants of that vibrant community gathered here to bury their leader. So few of them were left that the Kaddish, a Jewish funeral blessing, could not be recited. The significance of that was obvious to all who attended; this once-cosmopolitan corner of the Arab world will soon entomb its final Jewish resident, and Mr Salaam will be left alone with the graves.

The death of Max Salama, 92, an Egyptian Jew who once served as King Farouk’s personal dentist, leaves 18 surviving Jews in what was once one of the religion’s greatest cultural capitals. The majority of those remaining are in their 70s or 80s and reside in old people’s homes, no longer interacting with the city they have always called home. At the tender age of 53, the new leader, Youssef Gaon, is now the youngest Jew in Alexandria by a considerable margin, and he is childless.

“What can I say?” he shrugs, as he gives a tour of a beautifully decorated but deserted synagogue in the old city centre.

Jews have been an integral part of Alexandria’s history ever since the port city was founded by Alexander the Great in 332BC. Their numbers have ebbed and flowed over the years but reached a zenith in the early 1900s, when Jews from across Europe and North Africa flocked there to escape persecution.

“It was an immigrant community drawn from all corners of the world, especially the remnants of the old Ottoman Empire,” said Yves Fedida, an Egyptian Jew now living in France, whose grandparents emigrated to Egypt from Palestine at the turn of the century in search of work. These were the rekindled glory days of Alexandria, an urbane melting pot of nationalities where poets, scientists and intellectuals mingled freely on the Corniche.
The story goes through Nasser's arrival in 1952 through the creation of Israel in 1948 which led to the gradual exodus of the city's Jewish community, which eroded still further following the 1967 and 1973 wars. Many who stayed were suspected of being spies for Israel and imprisoned.

Fedida works with the Nebi Daniel Association, a French group that brings together Jews originally from Egypt around the world.

Although Gaon says the community is in "very good hands," and does not want to upset the relationship they have with the Egyptian government, another war is brewing over the heritage of this community.
But as the final echoes of Alexandria’s Jewish ancestry die out, a new battle is raging over their heritage. At stake is the set of religious and civil registers maintained by Egyptian Jewry under the Ottoman Empire, which devolved such record-keeping to its non-Muslim communities. Mr Gaon and his elderly compatriots are the final custodians of these logbooks, which run to 60,000 pages detailing all the births, deaths and weddings of the community stretching back to the 1830s.

These documents are of vital importance to descendants of Alexandrian Jews such as Mr Fedida, as the Jewish faith requires individuals to prove their maternal Jewish bloodline in order to get married. The problem is that issuing such certification from Alexandria is increasingly burdensome for the small number of Jewish pensioners left and the process is often hampered by local bureaucracy. The Nebi Daniel Association is lobbying the Egyptian government to allow copies of the archives to be placed in a European institution where they could be more easily accessed, but so far their efforts have met with failure.
Shenker writes that the Egyptians' reluctance to allow access is their fear that descendants of Alexandria's Jews will use the data to make financial compensation claims against the government for property confiscated under Nasser.

The issue is a sensitive one; last year an unspecified amount was paid by the state to the Jewish family who originally owned The Cecil, a luxury Alexandrian hotel immortalised in Lawrence Durrell’s novels The Alexandria Quartet and seized by the government in 1957. Earlier this summer, a planned Cairo conference of Jews hailing from Egypt was cancelled after local media questioned the intentions behind the event.
Fedida says that fear is misplaced and that they aren't interested in financial claims.

“Our generation are the children of those who really suffered from expulsion and imprisonment. Although our parents tried to reconstruct their lives elsewhere, we saw their grief and we need to do them justice by giving them back the identity that led to them being uprooted in the first place.”
Unfortunately, in a community where the handful of Jews are in their 70s and 80s, this fight over the community's vital records is somewhat moot. What will happen when even Gaon is gone?

Read the complete story at the link above.

Boston: Israel genealogy research, April 19

Israel Genealogical Society president Michael Goldstein will speak on "Unexpected Genealogical Resources in Israel" at a meeting today (Sunday, April 19) of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston.

It begins at 1.30pm today at Temple Emanuel, Newton Center.

Most are unaware that some of the greatest ancestry data archives are in Israel. Israeli archives and internet sites have amassed important collections of historical and contemporary information about Jews from around the world, including Poland, Russia, Spain and China. Recent advances in finding aids have facilitated access to this data and made it easier to find Israeli relatives.
For more information, visit the JGSGB website.

18 April 2009

Israel: Rescuing brass candlesticks

A staple of every Jewish home was its pair of Shabbat candlesticks. Tall brass, intricately chased silver, silverplatem all kinds from all countries. If there was one single custom that could be said to signify a Jewish household, it was the lighting of Shabbat and holiday candles. And it was certainly enough to get someone arrested as a Judaizer by the Inquisition.

My great-grandmother's candlesticks arrived with her in 1905. We don't know if they were her mother's or whether they were purchased for her when she married. They arrived in her bundles that she shlepped along with Leib, 2, and Chaya Feiga 6 months. The bundles also included her samovar and its accessories and their feather beds.

In Jerusalem, a woman is giving new life and light to brass candlesticks, in this Jerusalem Post story.
On Pessah we think a lot about how best to pass on our traditions to the next generation, chastened by apocryphal stories of Jewish immigrants from good homes who rashly threw their tefillin in the sea on the way to America.

Conversely, I've never heard of a family - not even socialists or Communists - who jettisoned Mama's candlesticks. Just the opposite. Immigrants reverently preserved those brass candlesticks, no matter how little space and how little money they had. Nonetheless, sometimes sadly no one is left to light. What happens then to the family's candlesticks?

Brondi Katz Levine likes to rescue such candlesticks. Okay, she's sentimental. Every forsaken antique candlestick makes her wonder about the Jewish women - strangers - who lit it long ago. In her Jerusalem living room, Levine lights 12 candles each Friday night, all originally from Eastern Europe. They are the striking centerpiece of her home.
Her Eastern European family settled in Mountain Dale, in the Catskills' borscht belt. She obtained her first pair when she was engaged. Her sisters selected new silver candlesticks, but Levine requested a pair made of brass. Her mother offered to purchase a new set or she could have a pair that had been in the family since their immigration from Galicia over two decades earlier.

Russian and Polish brass candlesticks were often similar in shape, tall, with a wide square base and rounded stem. Some might have been silverplated at one time. Most were made before World War I so they are nearly a century old.

And so, after her wedding, Levine began lighting the old brass candlesticks each week. "I liked the idea that even though I didn't know the owner," said Levine, "these candlesticks had been loved and blessed by generations of other Jewish women. I felt their presence when I lit my candles."
As her five children were born, she thought about the added value of lighting old candleticks to honor the past and celebrate the future. She and her husband began looking for the old candlesticks.

When they found a pair from Warsaw near Jerusalem's Mahaneh Yehuda, the antique dealer insisted she take a pair home with her for a test light before they paid. "Only after you say the Shabbat blessing on them will you know if they suit you," he advised her.
Over the years, her collection grew and friends and relatives offered others to her.

Last year, after a synagogue evening of psalm recitation for a friend who was ill, she saw a pair of abandoned European brass candlesticks that would complement her others.

No one knew to whom they belonged, but the synagogue warden was reluctant tolet her buy them. Levine persevered, finding a go-between who arranged the purchase. She learned later that her contribution had paid synagogue's back bills for electricity and literally kept their lights burning.
She has 12 now, just like the Tribes of Israel. Not all are pairs, some are singles, some have minor defects. But when all 12 tall candlesticks are shining, it seems a sight to behold.

Read the complete story at the link above.