30 June 2009

Book: Bucovina Jewish cemeteries

A diplomat has published a book on Jewish cemeteries in Bucovina, Romania and Ukraine, a region shared by the two countries since World War II.

A Swiss Embassy counsellor in Bucharest, Simon Geissbuhler's book is titled "Jewish Cemeteries in Bucovina." It is a traveller's guide to 15 Jewish cemeteries - nine in Romania and six in Ukraine.

The Swiss diplomat said the idea of 'religious tourism' the Romanian tourism minister spoke of is a good one and, as such, the Jewish cemeteries in Bucovina should not be overlooked. He stressed that when one visits the monasteries in Bucovina, nearby one can see the Jewish cemeteries, which he believes are part of the Romanian cultural heritage.
Aurel Vainer, Romanian Jewish Communities Federation president, said the book provides information on the art and economic status of Jews who lived in the area.

'This work is a combination of a tourist guide and an art album and I'm speaking of the fact that the text written by Simon Geissbuhler is in the form of a traveller's journal, but the images in the album make one think the work is an art album', said Adrian Manafu, Noi Media Print publishing house editor.
He believes the Jewish cemeteries are genuine works of art. Bucovina is an old Romanian territory shared by Ukraine and Romania after World War Two.

Towns covered are Campulung Moldovenesc, Vama, Gura Humorului, Solca, Arbore, Radauti, Moldovita, Siret, Mihaileni, Storojinet, Vijnita, Banilov, Vascauti, Novoselnita and Herta.

The book is in Romanian, English, French, German and Ukrainian.

For more, click here.

MyHeritage: An army of translators

Did you know that MyHeritage.com is available in 34 languages?

Although many staffers at the company are bilingual and a good number are multilingual, 34 languages means that others are needed. The site has an entire army of volunteer translators - more than 80 currently help with 30 languages.

Some of them work on Family Tree Builder, some translate webpages and some do both. Many of these volunteers have their own websites and also know MyHeritage very well.

Daniel Horowitz is MyHeritage's genealogy and translation manager - his own languages include Spanish, Yiddish, Hebrew and English.

Among the volunteers' languages - not alphabetically - are Italian, French, Portuguese, Norwegian, Finnish, Czech, Estonian, Croatian, Swedish, Slovenian, Catalan, Romanian, Dutch, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Greek, Latvian, Uzbek, German, Arabic, Polish, Slovak, Afrikaans and Albanian.

Genealogy is an international endeavor. Technological innovation, new resources and cooperation are key to reaching even more people around the world.

Canada: Calgary's Montefiore settlers

Calgary marked the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jewish settlers as a crowd of 2,000 viewed the dedication and grand opening of the Little Synagogue on the Prairie, built in 1916 to serve the Montefiore colony of Eastern European Jewish farmers.

Years of research and planning and more than $1-million in donations transformed the synagogue from its former use as a private home in Hanna into the first Jewish house of worship to be housed in a Canadian historic park.

Although the Montefiore settlers had a difficult time farming, they used their resources to build the synagogue to celebrate the freedom of religion they had found in Canada.

Rabbis and representatives from all four Calgary synagogues joined forces in leading prayers.

Read the complete article here.

Poland: Finding a grave via an old tape

Most families have them. There are both packrats and thrower-outers. This story demonstrates why it is important to keep things from the past.

The bottom line of this story, as Dr. Isaac Perle says, "It's good for other people to know that they can be successful in looking for and finding their ancestors."

The story details how a two-decades' old tape helped a Boston man find the graves of his grandparents, who were murdered in the Holocaust.

"All of my mother's relatives, besides one surviving sister, were killed by the Nazis," explained Dr. Isaac Perle in a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post this week. His great-grandparents, Faivel and Hinda Schattan, died in the Lodz Ghetto in 1941 and 1942.

"About 75 people would go into the back of the van" the Nazis would herd them into, Perle explained. Inside they were gassed and "driven into the woods, where the bodies were burned."

Perle's mother and aunt escaped to America, never to be heard from and did not form any connection with their lost relatives.

But recently, an unlikely set of circumstances paved the way for Perle and his family to discover the graves of Faivel and Hinda.

In 1988, Perle's father, Bendet Perle, traveled to Poland. He brought a cassette tape recorder with him and recorded his impressions and memories, unearthed by the familiar location. On his return to the US, the tape was put into storage.
Long after his father died, Isaac made a DVD about a trip he took himself to Poland. During that process, he found his father's tape and added it to the DVD. As the family listened, they realized there was important information on the tape.

"My father was at the cemetery discussing the location of my mother's grandparents' grave," Isaac recalled. His mother, Helen, then contacted the Lodz Jewish Cemetery. "They ended up finding the original files," he said.
The grandparents were buried in marked graves, but lacked headstones adding to the difficulty in locating them. individual graves in the cemetery. This week, Isaac, his mother, siblings and nephew, will travel to Poland to visit the graves. They plan to erect a headstone. Isaac also plans to take some earth from where his great-grandparents were killed and put it on his father's grave in Israel.

His mother Helen, 81, said

"The reason that I survived Bergen-Belsen is so that I should be able to place a headstone for my grandparents together with my children and grandchildren," she said. She wants to memorialize her grandparents together with their children and grandchildren.
Read the complete story at the link above.

Jamboree: A great story

The Jamboree's "local paper" - The Burbank Leader - ran a nice story on the event, with a spotlight on how researchers are climbing their family trees with online help from blogs, Twitter and Facebook. It also revealed how ancestry hunting has become high-tech.

New technology, like blogs, are one of the new ways people are finding their relatives, said the event's co-chair Paula Hinkel, who was quoted in the story.

“There are lots of different blogs,” she said. “Some let you know about new products and services for genealogy research. Some are blogs about particular family research. For example, one of our bloggers put up all his family on a blog — text and pictures of his family history.”

Some blogs provide a specific type of family research, like Tracing the Tribe, which is just for those of Jewish faith, and then some bloggers create podcasts, she said.

“It all fits in this new world of communication,” she said. “We have a lot of Twitter people at the jamborees. It’s just another way to communicate with each other and find potential cousins. It’s all about finding family members who are trying to trace families.”

Hey, Paula - thanks for the pointer to Tracing the Tribe!

The article also covered the first day's free workshops, including the Kids Family History Camp, which attracted more than 85 young people, ages 8-16. Paula also said that many society members started out as Boy and Girl Scouts doing it for merit badges. She still has her badge.

Paula and I share many ideas on how to bring family history research to our young people, who will be taking over from us in the future. It is a great achievement to get a young interested in this search.
“One of the things that society members worry about is who is going to take over our research when we are gone,” she said. “When we get a kid interested, it’s a win for us.”
It is an excellent article touching on many important points.

Read the complete story at the link above.

29 June 2009

Poland: Przemysl synagogue plaque unveiled

A memorial plaque was unveiled June 23, at a former synagogue building in Przemysl, Poland for the first time since the Holocaust.

The ceremony took place at the initiative of Shavei Israel chair Michael Freund, who challenged the city's deputy mayor to return the Old Jewish cemetery and another synagogue to the Jewish people.

The memorial plaque is in Polish, Hebrew and English. Attendees included Israel's Ambassador to Poland Zvi Rav-Ner; Shavei Israel chair Michael Freund; Monika Krawczyk, CEO, Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland; a representative of the US Consulate General in Krakow; and members of the local city council and other official organizations in Poland.

The building was the Przemysl New Synagogue, dedicated in 1910, also known as the Scheinbach synagogue. After the war, the Polish government confiscated it and the building became a library.

Said Freund:
“I am deeply moved that after so many decades, a sign has finally been posted here on the front of this Synagogue to remind everyone that Jews once prayed here, including my relatives. This is an important step towards ensuring that what happened to the Jews of Przemysl during the Holocaust will not be forgotten. I urge other Jews and Israelis whose families came from towns in Eastern Europe to become more involved in preserving what remains of the priceless Jewish heritage that once flourished there.”
He addressed Przemsyl Deputy-Mayor Wieslaw Jurkiewicz and urged him to return other city Jewish sites, including the Old Jewish cemetery and the grounds of the Old Synagogue, to the Jewish community.

"Mr. Jurkiewicz, I appeal to you in the name of the Jews who once lived here and played such a central role in the development of Przemysl: restore these holy places to their rightful owners. We can not change the past, but we can –and must – do it justice. The time has come for the city of Przemysl to return the Jewish communal property in its hands to the Jewish people."

Jewish history in the town dates to the 14th century, and Jews played a significant role in its economic and cultural development of the town. In 1939, the 20,000-strong Jewish community was about 30% of the population. Most of Przemysl's Jews were murdered during the Holocaust by the Germans and collaborators. A handful of Jews live today in Przemysl. There are few signs if its historical Jewish life except for the overgrown Jewish cemetery.

For more information, see these resources:

New Przemysl Synagogue
Przemysl Jewsh History
Przemysl Blog
Scheinbach Synagogue - Update

Spain: Toledo medieval cemetery

According to JTA, the remains of some 100 individuals exhumed from a Toledo Medieval Jewish cemetery during construction works were reburied in the cemetery.

A Conference of European Rabbis spokesman said the reburial took place during a ceremony attended by local Jewish leaders and regional authorities.

The reburial was the result of recently concluded lengthy negotiations that recently concluded. The Conference noted the Spanish government and local Jewish federation's solidarity and cooperation to achieve a historic solution under Jewish law.

Following protests and demonstrations by Orthodox Jews outside Spanish embassies in other countries, the government had halted construction.

Although Toledo authorities had offered to hand over the remains for reburial elsewhere, the Jewish community, Conference of European Rabbis and the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, demanded the remains be returned to their original site.

Construction on the school site will continue, but only around the cemetery, and the area will be marked as an ancient Jewish cemetery.

Ancestry: National "My Story" ad campaign

Here's a great way to capture the imagination of those who have never ever thought about the joys of genealogy!

Ancestry.com is launching a national "My Story" ad campaign, spotlighting five members who have made family connections.

Ancestry.com, the world's largest online resource for family history, will showcase the stories of five Americans who have made amazing family history discoveries through its Web site in My Story, a new advertising campaign launching today. Tapping into the powerful tradition of storytelling, the new campaign seeks to convey the possibilities of discovering yourself through family history and inspire Americans everywhere to dig deeper into their own heritage.

The new campaign will run for at least the next 12 months. The five 15, 30 and 60 second television ads will spotlight Ancestry.com members from across the country and their heartwarming family history connections, including a New Yorker who found answers about a father he wanted to better understand and a woman from Chicago who is opening up a restaurant with a cousin after exploring how far the cooking talent extended in her family tree. The TV spots will appear on popular cable networks and channels such as AMC, CNN, Fox News, History Channel, Lifetime Movie Network and Hallmark, among others.
Each of the five stories will be available online along with banner ads from today.

As genealogists, we know that these discoveries happen every day. The site went through thousands of member-submitted stories to select just five, life-changing stories.

The target demographic is adults, age 45 and older, as motivated heritage-seekers tend to get involved over time, although family history curiosity is a basic human desire.

The ads will serve to inspire people to learn more about their own families.

The stories:

A New Yorker Finds Answers about His Father
Alton Woodman (White Plains, New York) never knew much about his dad, who passed away when Alton was just 14 years old. Turning to Ancestry.com, Alton found his father in a 1920 census record as a 14-year-old himself, and discovered that he was attending an orphanage. To help connect the dots, Alton got in touch with a representative from the orphanage and received a package that offered a more complete picture of his father's childhood.

One Man Discovers His Great Grandfather was a War Hero
Cary Christopher (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and San Diego, California) always wondered about his German great grandfather, who disappeared after a short-lived marriage to Cary's great grandmother ended in divorce. After 40 years of futile searching, Cary discovered his great grandfather in a World War I draft registration card on Ancestry.com. It turned out his great grandfather had immigrated to the United States before World War I, became a US citizen and rose to the rank of Captain in the U.S. Merchant Marines, where he was killed by a torpedo fired by a German submarine during World War II.

South Florida Man Connects Father to His Own Mother
Jim Lane's (Key Biscayne, Florida) father never knew his mother, who died when he was an infant. Through historical records and member connection services on Ancestry.com, Jim discovered relatives who sent him pictures of his grandmother, and for the first time, Jim's father was able to see a photograph of his mother.

Chicago Cook Meets Like-Minded Cousin
When caterer Peggy McDowell (Chicago, Illinois) began researching the cooking talent in her family tree, she had no idea she would end up going into business with a long-lost cousin. Through searching records on Ancestry.com, she connected with her cousin, who also shares her passion for cooking. Together, they're opening a soul food restaurant in Chicago's Hyde Park.

Washington Woman Confirms Father's Passing
Cathryn Darling (Olympia, Washington) had many unanswered questions about her father, who had disappeared when she was eight years old after her parent's divorce. After searching obituary records on Ancestry.com, Cathryn learned her father died as a fisherman while at sea in Oregon in 1970, and she recently held a memorial service in his honor.

Anything that introduces absolute newcomers to the possibilities and joys of genealogy is a great innovation. I'm looking forward to seeing the ads.

Poland: Lodz commemoration, Aug. 27-29

The 65th anniversary of the liquidation of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto by Germany will be held in Lodz, August 27-29.

There is more information here on the Lodz Website on JewishGen.

Click on the link for more details and registration details. Register online and view the program listing events before August 27.

If your family lived in nearby communities before the Holocaust, they may well have been in the Lodz Ghetto.

Will you attend this event? If so, consider writing about your experience or taking photos to be posted on the Lodz/LARG websites.

For more information, contact Roni Seibel Liebowitz, Lodz Archive coordinator, JRI-Poland.

Ukraine: Jewish agricultural colonies resources

If you have relatives that settled in or founded Jewish agricultural colonies in Southern Ukraine, Chaim Freedman has some excellent resources for you.

Colonies of Ukraine is a JewishGen Shtetlinks site offering much information about the history of Jewish agricultural settlement, mainly in southeastern Ukraine.

Archival material includes revision lists, election voting results, photographs, maps and personal memoirs of colony life, pogroms, war and the Holocaust.

Added this year: Photos of Ekaterinoslav colony synagogues, schools, administrative offices and general scenes from St.Petersburg Central State Archive; click here.

For maps of 1865 colonies, see Yakov Pasik's site, The Guide to Jewish Agricultural Colonies of South Ukraine (software needs to be installed, so make sure you are okay with doing that).

Resources include:
- Zatishye colony - donor list, Hamaggid Hebrew newspaper, 1872
- Translation of names, Dobra colony
- List of Novozlatopol massacre
- Victims of the Holocaust (Russian, Cyrillic and English)
- List of Jews of Vitebsk Guberniya settling in Novozlatopol (Russian, Cyrillic and English)
- Prenumeranten list, 2,000 names in colonies and towns of Yekaterinoslav and Kherson Guberniyas, 'Imrei Shmuel', Part 3, 1912
- Grafskoy revision list, 1858
- Mezherich revision list, 1858
Some material has not yet been translated from Russian; volunteers are welcome. Volunteers are also sought to key in list details so all lists can be included in the JewishGen Ukraine database.


Readers with additional material should contact Chaim Freedman

Jamboree: Final Day

This posting is a bit out of order as the second day of Jamboree was so full that I'm still trying to get it into a more readable format.

Delayed jetlag finally hit me yesterday afternoon after my friend Hilary and I got back to her home. Of course, the delicious lunch at Outback might have had something to do with an overwhelming desire to sleep. I had two long naps and finally woke at 4.30am and started writing. Hope to get a lot posted today.

Overall comments on Jamboree 2009: Phenomenal! Excellent presentations, many diverse topics, expert speakers, and much more.

I can't wait to see the video podcast (recorded Friday) with Drew and George of the Genealogy Guys. I also recorded an audio podcast with Lisa Cooke Sunday morning.

There were lunches with old friends, as well as discussions about Philly 2009 and Los Angeles 2010, several breaking news items that can't be revealed just yet, and great meetings with interesting people.

The high points were many and the most interesting was having so many geneabloggers in one place at one time. There was so much to see that we had to make time either to blog or to attend sessions - it was hard to do both, but I have lots of notes to put into posting format.

We learned, after our first annual blogger dinner, that we are a really noisy crowd - thanks, Thomas, for arranging that!

My mini-computer held up very well and I was delighted with its performance, especially after procuring a nine-cell battery, lasting about 10 hours on a full charge. I'm glad I won't ever have to lug my ancient HP dinosaur anywhere else. Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers.com has a black Asus (mine is a white Acer) and we were often at the same table or session working side-by-side.

My camera (unfortunately) didn't perform as well, but geneablogger friends are sending me the photos they took, so I'll be able to post some of them.

While each of us in the geneablogger community knew we were an interesting bunch, nothing is as good as meeting each other in person.

Ancestry invited the "group" to a breakfast presentation, which we can't yet share. I fully expect that in the future other gen companies will also see us as a focused community and arrange special events.

Making personal connections in this way is good for everyone - for the corporate organizations with something to say and news to provide, and for the geneablogging community - as we each provide individual takes on that information.

Now that I have woken up, I have a lot of work to do today.

After a few days in Los Angeles seeing friends and relatives (and a few meetings on future events), I head north on Friday to Los Altos (near Stanford University and Google) to my good gen friends Rosanne and Dan Leeson. I also hope to see fellow geneablogger Steve Danko who works near there.

Judy Simon of New York (and who co-admins our IberianAshkenaz DNA project) will also be in the area visiting her daughter and we plan to get together. A visit to the Sephardic synagogue Ahabat Shalom in San Jose is in the workings (they offer an active program for Conversos), along with a visit to another old friend from Iran who lives in Monterey.

A high point was visiting with my old friend Steffani who came up from Anaheim Hills to attend most of the conference. Old friends are the best and, despite the intervening years, our shared experiences in Iran truly bonded us very strongly in so many ways.

We are already planning to see each other in June 2010, when I'll be in Southern California for at least a month bridging the Jamboree in mid-June and the Los Angeles edition of the Jewish genealogy conference in mid-July. There's also the possibility of an East Coast speaking tour in May.

In a few weeks, I head east to New York City, then down to Philadelphia for the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (August 2-7), back to New York and then return to Tel Aviv.

27 June 2009

Philly 2009:Resource Room schedule set

The Resource Room hours at Philly 2009 will be:

Sunday, Monday, Wednesday
10am-6pm
Tuesday
9am-9pm
Thursday
9am-4pm

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum databases will be on dedicated computers at the following times:

Monday, August 3
9am-2pm
Tuesday, August 4
9am-noon, 12:30-6pm, 6:30-9pm
Wednesday, August 5
9am-1pm, 4-6pm
Thursday, August 6
9am-noon, 12:30-4pm

The following databases (many are fee subscriptions) will be available on the Resource Room computers.

Ancestry.com
British Newspapers from the British Library
FindMyPast.com/AncestorsonBoard.com
Footnote.com
Godfrey Library
Guardian and Observer Digital Archives
(from 1821 and 1791)
IAJGS.org
JewishGen.org
NewsBank.com
NewspaperArchive.com
ProQuest (only Tuesday, August 4)
The Forward (2003-2009)
World Vital Records.com

Each computer will have a folder named "Selected Genealogical Websites," including more than 70 websites.

European Websites
General Interest
Government Archives With Documents/Index
Online Holocaust Websites
Israel Websites
Latin America Websites
Map Websites
Newspapers
Sephardic Websites
South African Websites
United States Websites

There will be many more materials to look at in the Resource Room.

Tracing the Tribe will see you in Philly!

26 June 2009

Jamboree: Day One

What a day!

I arrived very early at the hotel with fellow Mogilev researcher Hilary Henkin. Checked in and we went down for a good breakfast.

At the next table were two of the NEHGS staffers; one of whom had a Jewish genealogy question. Hilary had some errands to run after breakfast and I wandered over to speaker registration to pick up the syllabus, name tag, and daily planner.

As I was also representing MyHeritage.com, I was wearing a MyHeritage hat.

This morning, the Genealogy Guys interviewed me on a video podcast (vodcast), discussing DNA testing, general Jewish genealogy, Ashkenazi and Sephardi genealogy and MyHeritage.com. Today was the first time that Drew and George were video podcasting; they did 10 interviews. Dick Eastman and Matthew Poe are also interviewing for RootsTelevision.com.
The meeting rooms were filled to capacity in today's sessions. A reliable conference source says that there were about 1,100 pre-registered attendees and that walk-ins will likely add several hundred more to the final count.

However, even with all these people, the room arrangements seem adequate, with some meeting rooms located in the main building and all the meeting rooms in the convention center building.

Geneabloggers.com had goody bags for each geneablogger, while Thomas MacEntee handed out Mardi Gras beads to each blogger.

We began to gather in various corners of the lobby and the convention center. Kathryn Doyle of the California Genealogy Society, Sheri Fenley, footnoteMaven, Susan Kitchens and I were in the lobby; Elyse Doerflinger joined us. Back in the convention center, Steve Danko was there waiting to connect with a fan. Randy Seaver of Geneamusings was there and we were happy to see Craig Manson.

I was waiting for an old friend to arrive. Steffani and I were friends back in Teheran and hadn't seen each other since then. She found me on Facebook when our genealogy blogging community joined en masse. We had a nice lunch and reminisced about our lives way back when and caught up each other's lives today.

The vendor room was really busy, and every seat was full in the tech center - where people could try out - for free - the many available databases.

I spoke to the Footnote.com people and heard about some special future plans that cannot be shared at this time. Be patient - Tracing the Tribe readers will be very interested in those future plans when they are made public.

It was a great honor to meet Tony Burroughs while he was at the FamilyTreeDNA booth with Bennett Greenspan.

Bennett's new talk on DNA for females, adoptees and lineage connections was based on three fascinating case studies, which I'll talk about in a post tomorrow. Jan Meisels Allen of the JGS of Ventura County - and an IAJGS board member - was in the front row!

After a great dinner with Bennett and Max, and a quick talk with Suzanne Russo Adams of Ancestry, everyone decided to turn in and rest up for Day Two.

FootnoteMaven and I had some Internet problems, which were resolved by the engineering staff. Two bloggers pounding away on keyboards were the only sounds, until I began dozing off at the keyboard.

For now, it's time to get some sleep, as tomorrow will be even busier as it starts at an early morning Ancestry. com-sponsored breakfast on Family Tree Maker 2010.

More tomorrow.

Israel: Diaspora Museum name change set

The world’s first museum to tell the story of the Jewish people will open in Tel Aviv in 2012. The $25 million project was announced in Tel Aviv today at a meeting of the international board of governors of Beth Hatefutsoth, by chair Leonid Nevzlin.

The museum's name will also change from the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora to the Museum of the Jewish People.

He said the 16,000 sq.m. museum will house a new permanent exhibition covering 4,200 sq.m. over three floors. Exhibits will be constructed in Beth Hatefutsoth’s Nahum Goldmann building - on the Tel Aviv University campus - which will be entirely rebuilt.


The project is funded by the Government of Israel, the Claims Conference, the NADAV Fund and other international donors. Teams of architects, consultants, historians and academic advisors from Israel and abroad have begun the planning and design of the new museum.

Said Nevzlin:

This innovative museum is the first of its kind, and will be built on a scale never seen before in Israel. Its purpose is to convey the unique and ongoing story of the Jewish people, while giving expression to a new perception about the relationship between the Jewish people and the State of Israel – the perception of one Jewish people, incorporating Jews living in Israel or any other place in the world.

For this reason we decided to change the name from "the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora" to the "Museum of the Jewish People."
The preliminary concept - developed by curator Dr. Orit Shaham-Gover - was presented today to the Board of Governors of Beth Hatefutsoth.

The new museum will take its visitors on a fascinating journey to discover, understand and experience the unique story of the Jewish people and attempt to solve the mystery of its existence and remarkable survival.

The aim of the interactive exhibition is to inspire in visitors a sense of belonging and connection to the overall Jewish story through a variety of narrative threads such as the unity and diversity of the Jewish people, the Jewish world in modern times, the cultural influence of non-Jewish surroundings and the Jews’ interaction with it, the place of women in Jewish life, and the special significance of the land of Israel and the State of Israel for the Jewish people.
New CEO of Beth Hatefutsoth Avinoam Armoni said the exhibit is designed to draw on the many voices and faces of Jewish culture across all eras, will be pluralistic and modern, and give due representation to all communities, streams and groups comprising the Jewish people.

Said Armoni, this will be the biggest experiential and interactive museum in Israel. The core of the experience will be the dialogue with the visitor, who we see as not only a spectator but as an active participant and contributor to the museum's narrative. The goal is to inspire visitors to contemplate their future as individuals within the Jewish collective.

25 June 2009

San Diego: Steve Morse speaks, July 12

Steve Morse of One-Step Webpages fame will speak at the next meeting of the San Diego Jewish Genealogical Society on Sunday, July 12, so mark your calendars and let everyone know.

The program begins at 1pm, at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla.


Steve will speak on Phonetic Matching and Lesser-Known Gems.

Phonetic Matching: An Alternative to Soundex with Fewer False Hits

Searching for names in large databases containing spelling variations often means using soundex, which encodes each name into a number with other like-sounding names. The search is then based on matching numbers, or all names that sound like the target name. The "sounds-alike" criteria is based on spelling, with no regard to how the name might be pronounced in a particular language. Phonetic encoding described here incorporates rules for determining the language based on the spelling of the name, along with pronunciation rules for the common languages. This has the advantage of eliminating matches that might appear to "sound alike" under the pure spelling criteria of soundex but are phonetically quite unrelated. (Developed by Alexander Beider and Stephen Morse)


One-Step Webpages: A Hodgepodge of Lesser-Known Gems
There are too many utilities on the One-Step website to be covered in a single talk, so many of them found their way to the cutting room floor when the Potpourri talk was being edited. However several of those are quite useful. This talk describes those gems that you might not otherwise be aware of. They range from problems with genealogical searches to problems with identity theft and with DNA.

Reservations are required, email here. Fee is $5.

For more on the society and its programs, click here.

For more on Steve Morse and the many resources of his site, click here.

Connecticut: Hartford's North End

The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford's latest book - "Remembering the Old Neighborhood: Stories from Hartford's North End" - celebrates the history of the local Jewish community.

It covers the early 20th century through the mid-60s, with more than 150 accounts by people who grew up in the neighborhood.

The "North End" neighborhood was defined by the residents, and the boundaries included synagogues, Weaver High School and Keney Park.

Society executive director Estelle Kafer had heard many stories about the area since becoming director in 2004.
"Most of our members grew up in the Hartford area, and many of them would talk about the North End," she says. "They had wonderful stories and memories which needed to be documented."
In 2007, a committee discussed possible oral history projects and it was suggested they focus on the old neighborhood and record the stories before it was too late.

Focus groups were organized by birth decade and participants discussed schools, North End entertainment, shopping, and Jewish experiences. People born in the '20s and '30s were interviewed, as wel as those who grew up in the '50s and '60s. By 1969, barely a Jewish person was left in the area following riots and a population change.

As news spread, more people sent in stories. The society organized oral interviews, and historical photos were uncovered. Funding came from the Jewish Community Foundation and the Greater Hartford Arts Council and the society itself.

Journalist and communications instructor Joan Walden did the editing, taking the written stories and transcribed oral histories and making it into a book.

"It was really a challenge," she says. For one thing, some of the answers submitted on the society's questionnaire were not long enough to use as stand-alone accounts. Nonetheless, Walden says that she tried hard to include
all participants."
Nearly everyone had warm feelings for the neighborhood and said it was a safe, comfortable place to live.
"Anybody's parents, if you were playing in front of their house, took responsibility for the children. The majority of the participants said that they were poor but didn't know it."
The book is organized by decade of births; the oldest is Sooky (Sara) Greenberg, born 1910. a section at the end of the book includes submissions and interviews too brief for regular stories, as well as a Yiddish glossary of terms used.

The society will post all the stories on its website eventually and to encourage more participation and recordig of memories.
"Even if you didn't contribute to the book, if you lived in the North End, we want someone to sit you down and get your story," she says.
The book will be launched at a free multi-media event at 7pm, Monday, June 29 at Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford. The book will be available that night at a special price.

Read the complete article here.

California: Jamboree starts tomorrow!

Tracing the Tribe will be checking into the Burbank Marriott early Friday morning for the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree 2009.

I'll be rooming with blogging colleague footnoteMaven and we are looking forward to a great weekend meeting readers, colleagues and attending programs.

Visiting the US is always fun as I get to see old friends and research buddies. Tonight, I'm staying with fellow Mogilever researcher Hilary Henkin who will also be at the event. We are now both working away on our computers on opposite sides of the table.

Even better, I'll be connecting with an old friend from Teheran whom I last saw years ago. Steffani found me on Facebook!

I spent hours today trying to get a replacement battery for my mini-laptop. It was very frustrating until I connected with a great customer person in Texas who solved the problem in about 10 minutes. The battery will be delivered to the hotel tomorrow morning, so that's another thing to be happy about.

Wish you were all here for Jamboree!

FamilyTreeDNA 50% sale extended

Don't miss out on FamilyTreeDNA's fantastic 50% discount for the 37-marker Y-DNA plus mtDNA for $119 (regular price $248). The sale has been extended to June 30.

Can you afford NOT to take advantage of this offer? Make sure to let everyone know.

The extension was announced by FamilyTreeDNA's operations and marketing vice president Max Blankfeld.

This price is a great way to take advantage of genetic genealogy by the pioneer company, known for its quality control and personal assistance, as well as the largest DNA comparative database in the field. And for those searching Jewish ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA has the largest Jewish comparative database to test against.

It is hard to refuse this offer, when you consider that a 12-marker Y-DNA test by itself is $99 as part of a surname or geographical group project. This more than triples the number of markers tested and throws in the mtDNA test as well.

Happy testing!

Colombia: Conversion dilemma in Latin America

Fear is an interesting emotion. It is even more interesting when it involves an established Jewish community and those who are considered "foreign," or, in some communities, those who have converted or wish to convert.

Perhaps it is an extension of an old joke. What's the first thing that two Jews on a desert island build? Three synagogues, so that there's always one they wouldn't be caught dead in.

It can range from the experience in Los Angeles when the large Iranian Jewish exodus began in the late 70s-early 80s. They began visiting major congregations in the city as they felt the need to worship as Jews as they had always done.

Persian synagogues in Iran were not joined via memberships, they were open to all. Being extremely family oriented, they ate elaborate Shabbat dinners at home and then went to services, arriving late, often just before the kiddush and its cookies.

In one prominent congregation, the mostly Ashkenazi congregation was infuriated. There were such silly comments as "they come only to eat our cookies," "they are always late to services," and on Shabbat morning, the entire family arrived, including babies in carriages, "it isn't dignified when the babies cry or the kids run around."

Day schools were full of Persian students, as Jewish education was important to these families. The American families didn't want their children in classes that had many Persian students enrolled.

Before asking questions and learning about this community, this congregation (and several others) had made up their minds. The idea that perhaps things were different elsewhere had never occurred to the congregation who were mainly two generations or more born in the US.

Today, of course, 30 years later, those new immigrant families are presidents of congregational boards, serve on boards of directors, are teachers in those schools, their children are USY presidents, and those same new families are now major financial contributors to the same congregation that accused them of only coming to Friday night services to eat their cookies.

Today, we can laugh at this, but at the time it was rather acrimonious.

In South America, the established Jewish communities don't know what to do with groups of Conversos or those who wish to convert and are coming out of the woodwork.

This JTA story discusses the Latin American Jewish dilemma with masses of converts.

Luis Alberto Prieto Vargas appears to be a Jew. He wears a kipah, he introduces himself as Jewish and two years ago Vargas, a Christian by birth, underwent a conversion ceremony to Judaism following several years of religious study.

It all began seven years ago when Vargas, now 51, became part of a movement in Bogota of religious seekers.

“As I did, most of the people involved came from Christian roots,” he said. “And we found in Judaism an answer to our inquiries.”

But Vargas’ conversion hit a key snag: Jews.

First, Orthodox Jews in Colombia refused to accept Vargas and 200 or so others as would-be Jews, vehemently disavowing association with them and refusing them access to the community’s mikvahs for conversion.

The group, which calls itself Maim Haim -- Hebrew for “living waters” -- turned to religious authorities in Israel for training and, they hoped, eventual conversion, but it was stymied when Colombia’s Orthodox Jewish leadership contacted rabbinic authorities in Israel and warned them against accepting the
would-be converts.
The group found an Israeli willing to teach them. In 2007 the rabbi and two colleagues convened a bet din - Jewish religious court - and converted 104 people, including Vargas.

Many Jewish institutions in Colombia refuse to accept them as members. Their plight demonstrates the difficulty many converts and would-be converts have in Latin America.

Local Jewish communities are concerned about being overwhelmed by mass converts, and many have questions about whether the converts’ motivations are genuine. In Israel and in Colombia, the converts often are viewed skeptically - as emigres-in-waiting more interested in obtaining Israeli citizenship, which is available to all Jews, than Judaism itself.
Some 70 percent of the group's members have filed aliyah petitions, and are being delayed while Israel’s Chief Rabbinate tries to make a decision about their papers.

Colombia's chief rabbi Alfredo Goldschmidt believes there should be a filter, as there is an explosion of groups who want to convert.

In 1974, when he arrived in Bogota, Goldschmidt said he got about one call a month about conversion. In 1996, the rate had jumped to one a week. In 2002, there were two to three calls a week.

In December 2008, the country's nine Jewish communities discussed how to handle the mass conversions.

“Latin American Jewish communities are not prepared for the challenge of mass conversions,” said Marcos Peckel, president of the Colombian Jewish Community Confederation, the umbrella organization for Colombian Jewry.

There are cases now, he said, “in which people going through conversion processes are larger than the traditional Jewish community itself. This would significantly alter the community’s life.”

For the time being, Main Haim members have been keeping Jewish traditions -- acquiring a Torah scroll, holding bar mitzvah ceremonies and importing a mohel from Venezuela when there is a newborn to circumcise. Denied access to the mikvah in Bogota, the congregation uses a river outside of Bogota as its ritual bath.
Peckel says each Jewish institution must decide whether or not to accept Maim Haim congregants as members. He notes that the group’s members have not asked to join Colombia’s main Jewish institutions.

Nore the comment of Rabbi Guillermo Bronstein of Lima, Peru:
“We have to be humble,” Bronstein said. “Instead of judging the people wanting to be Jewish, we should put ourselves in their shoes.”
Read the complete article at the link above.

Peru: Aliya from the Amazon

The history of Jews in Iquitos, Peru dates from the late-19th-century rubber boom that created a city from an Amazon outpost. It featured imported Italian marble and a theater designed by Gustave Eiffel - of Eiffel Tower fame. But that has been nearly completely forgotten.

This story is told in the New York Times.

Dozens of Jews from Morocco, Gibraltar, Malta, England and France settled in the town and in the jungle. They opened trading houses in search of fortune.

When the rubber trade collapsed, the fortunes in various places vanished. Some Jewish immigrants died young of diseases. Some remained, married local women and raised families. Others returned home, leaving descendants who believed they were Jews.

Jewish oil field inspector Ronald Reátegui Levy, 52, has persuaded many Jews in the town to move to Israel. More than 400 of those with Jewish ancestry have converted and emigrated. Some 160 members of his own family have converted - nearly all live in Israel.

He says that they were isolated for decades living at the edge of the jungle in a Catholic society, no rabbis, synagogue. When he was a child, his mother told him, "You are a Jew, and you are never to forget that.”

His dream, which he has vigorously pursued, is to persuade the descendants of Sephardic merchants who settled in this remote corner of the Amazon basin more than a century ago to reaffirm their ties to Judaism and emigrate to Israel.
Scholars are comparing the Jews here with Hispanic conversos in the southwestern US and northern Mexico, the Lemba of southern Africa and the Bene Israel of India.

“It was astounding to discover that in Iquitos there existed this group of people who were desperate to reconnect to their roots and re-establish ties to the broader Jewish world,” said Lorry Salcedo Mitrani, the director of a new documentary, “The Fire Within,” about the Jews of the Peruvian Amazon.
Iquitos is only reachable by boat or plane and is four degrees south of the Equator. Isolation, intermarriage and assimilation nearly wiped out the remains of Judaism.

Storefronts chiseled with Jewish surnames like Foinquinos and Cohen, and a cemetery ravaged by vandals, served as some of the few reminders of the community that once thrived here.
Victor Edery brought some of the descendants, including Reátegui Levy, in the late 1990s, and held religious ceremonies in his own home.

Venezuelan-born Israeli historian Ariel Segal arrived in the 1990s to study the community was also a catalyst for the community to organize.

In early 2000, Jews were observing Shabbat each Friday and High Holy Days. When Edery died, they met at the home of Jorge Abramovitz, 60, whose Polish Jewish father moved there long after the rubber collapse.

Although there was no rabbi, they held services with Hebrew learned from tapes, cleaned the cemetery and buried their dead. And they kept up their campaign to be recognized as Jews and to emigrate.

Still, the existence of the Jews of Iquitos posed some philosophical challenges to some Jews elsewhere. Since nearly all the Jews who originally settled here were men, their descendants could not attest to having Jewish mothers, ruling them out as being Jewish according to strict interpretations of Jewish law.

Moreover, the Jewish community of about 3,000 people in Lima, the capital, largely preferred to ignore the Jews of Iquitos, some scholars say, in part because of the thorny issues that the Jews here posed about race and origins. This is, after all, a country where a small light-skinned elite still wields considerable economic and political power — and Lima’s Jews are often seen as an elite within that elite.
There's much more to this fascinating story at the link above.

24 June 2009

Philly 2009: USHMM Residenten List to be available

The Residenten List has 600,000 names and was an attempt by the German Government to identify all Jews resident in Germany at the beginning of 1933.

The list is at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and will now be available in the conference resource room.

Earlier this week, resource room database manager Jan Meisels Allen had announced that neither the ITS nor the Residenten List would be available, but this has changed.

Peter Lande was advised by the USHMM that the list is on DVDs and can be brought to the conference to be used only on a dedicated computer according to a schedule that will be posted in the resource room.

The ITS list will not be available at the event.

22 June 2009

Ukraine: The Lviv street photo project

Would you like to see photographs of the streets your ancestors lived or worked on before they immigrated to other countries? How about the actual house or building that figured in their lives? If your ancestors lived in Lviv (Lemberg, Lvov, Lwow), this may be happening sooner than you think.

Although you may never visit the city on a roots trip, a special project is in the works for Lviv, Ukraine, just announced by Gesher Galicia's president Pamela Weisberger.

A very generous traveler, Dick Koops is a vocational education adviser from Groningen, Germany with an interest in Jewish history and culture. He has volunteered to take photographs of streets and/or buildings in Lviv during the weeks he will be working there on a social-service project from July 3-28.

If your family once lived in Lviv - also known as Lemberg, Lvov and Lwow --or owned a business there, and you have a specific street address, send Pamela the information before July 2.
Dick will try to locate the street and, if a building still exists at that location, he will take a digital photograph of both the building and the street view, to be emailed to you.

Caveat #1: He cannot do any research for you, nor can Gesher Galicia try to discover where your ancestor might have lived in Lviv. This offer is only for people who have an existing address or a street they want photographed.

Remember that street names have changed over the years. Provide the following information when you send your request:

- Your full name and email.
- Name of family/families who lived in Lviv.
- Actual, approximate or best guess for years they lived there.
- Home or business address.
- Street name and house or building number.
- Additional details about the family.
Pamela suggests finding these addresses in the various Polish or Galician business directories online, or from vital records, voting records, or even Holocaust-era records. Search several directors at Logan Kleinwak's Genealogy Indexer.

Caveat #2: There's no guarantee the building in that spot is the same one your ancestors lived or worked in - but it might be. At the least, she says, the Lviv streets still reflect the flavor of yesteryear.

Says Pamela,

Your participation in this project also gives Gesher Galicia permission to post the photographs and family information that you provide on our website at a future date as we reconstruct the Jewish population of Lviv over the years our families resided there.

This project is just starting now, and won't be on our website for many months, but once it goes live we hope to have an interactive map of Lviv which will connect the streets to the photographs of the residences now there.

Adding a personal anecdote or details about the family who lived at an address will be used to flesh out the history of Jews in Lviv and will be most welcome if you feel comfortable with sharing it.

Please remember,however, that we cannot respond to specific questions that fall beyond the scope of this project or do additional research on your behalf.

I am not putting a limit on addresses one can request, but please prioritize. Depending on the demand, we may not get to everything...but we will try, so number your requests.
Contact Pamela here.

This sounds like a very exciting project. Tracing the Tribe readers with information can help grow this project quickly. Additionally, it sounds like a project that can be duplicated for other cities and towns, so put on your inspiration hat!

Censorship: Cute cats are the antidote

Here's an interesting theory on political censorship and cute little kitties. They may be the answer to getting the message out.

According to Noam Cohen of the New York Times,
To censor the Internet painlessly, undetectably, is the dream that keeps repressive governments up late at their mainframe computers. After all, no users are so censored online as those who never see it.
After all, he adds, what government could bring itself to block such a an image? Cohen refers to his illustration of a little critter in a big measuring cup.

It's worth it to click on the link just to see the photo.

Awwwwww. Ahhhhhh.

His story, of course, is about the Internet crackdown by the Iranian government in hopes of subduing the protest movement since the June 12 election, and he provides some ideas to get around the system.

If only Iran’s leaders had thought through the implications of what can be called the Cute Cat Theory of Internet Censorship, as propounded by Ethan Zuckerman, a senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. His idea is deceptively simple: most people use the Internet to enjoy their lives, and among the ways people spread joy is to share pictures of cute cats. Even the sarcastic types (who, for example, have been known to insert misspelled messages under pictures of kittens) seem to be under their thrall.

So when a government censors the Internet, it had better think twice: “Cute cats are collateral damage when governments block sites,” Mr. Zuckerman wrote for a recent talk. People who could not “care less about presidential shenanigans are made aware that their government fears online speech so much that they’re willing to censor the millions of banal videos” and thereby “block a few political ones.”
There are some 60,000 blogs in Iran which resulted when the government censored print media in 2003, and those who were censored went to the Internet.

Zuckerman says there are practical benefits to mainstreaming online political protest, and it is hard to censor.
“The response,” he said, “is to say let’s go in the other direction — encourage anyone that has a human rights site to mirror it everywhere, including sites like Blogspot.com with lots of noncontroversial sites. It is kind of hard for Iran to block Blogger.com well, not that it is hard, but it is complicated. They would have to close down a lot of blogs, including blogs with cute cats.”
Read the complete article at the link above.

Philly 2009: Holocaust databases available

The Resource Room at the Philly 2009 conference will feature two special databases from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, DC), according to the Resource Room database manager Jan Meisels Allen.

Megan Lewis of the USHMM will bring The Registry of Holocaust Survivors and the Name Search.

The Registry is a copy of the public version and includes photographs - it will be placed on all 28 computers.

Due to the stringent network security requirements of the USHMM, The Name Search database will not be on the 28 computers. However, Megan and her colleague Jo-Ellen Decker will have Name Search on their personal laptops. They will be available according to a schedule to be announced at the conference.

The Name Search has about 5 million names. There are duplicates because of the sources used to compile the list.

Not in the Resource Room: Neither the ITS database nor the Residenten Liste may be taken out of the USHMM or linked electronically to there.

There will be several programs at the conference related to these records. Peter Lande and Megan will speak on the USHMM archival collections other than ITS. Megan and Jo-Ellyn will be the Breakfast Experts one morning on the ITS records.

Check the online program at the conference site.

San Jose: Sephardic Heritage Week, Aug 2-9

The Sephardic Orthodox Ahabat Torah congregation in San Jose, California, will participate in the South Bay's second annual Sephardic Heritage Week in early August.

Sunday, Aug. 2 - Jewish Appreciation Day with the San Jose Giants. Kosher food, Jewish surprises, recognition of our Sephardic Community “Sephardic Man of the Year.” Game begins at 5pm.

Tuesday, Aug. 4 -
Yom Iyun at JCC – "scholars' morning" explores the origins of Sephardic and Ashkenazic minhagim (customs, Hebrew) in conjunction with Jewish studies network 9:30am-12:30pm.


Wednesday, Aug. 5 - Tu B'Av - Jewish “Sadie Hawkins Day” at JCC featuring an evening of Sephardic and Ladino music presented by Kat Parra and musicians. 7-9pm.

Sunday, Aug. 9- Sephardic History Day. Presentations: Jim Harlow, "Sephardim of Yugoslavia," and Jonathan Hirshon, "From Solomon to Sheba: The Jews of Yemen, Uganda and Ethiopia."

Jim Harlow of the congregation shared the above information with me and added that Orthodox synagogues in Silicon Valley are polarized over "conversion" issues, especially b'nei anousim and halachic (Jewish law) return.

"Sephardic Heritage Week" represents the active engagement of Reform, Conservative and one Orthodox Sephardic Synagogue in a week of shared history and heritage - His is the only Orthodox congregation in the area to participate.

Ahabat Torah is also home to the Anusim Center, which assists those wishing to return to Judaism.

For some interesting stories and successes, read here for mentions of Iran's Mashadi community, the Chala of Bukhara, and several fascinating cases. Also, see the Center's extensive list of links for more information.

Since I will be in the area in July, I am planning to visit with Jim.

21 June 2009

Footnote.com: Up and down

Now's the time to grab a subscription to Footnote.com as the price is going up slightly on August 1 by $10 on an annual membership.

According to Footnote management:

This slight increase will help us to continue to add more valuable content to Footnote and make things easier to find and use.
However, there is a silver lining. Those considering a Footnote membership or current monthly members can upgrade (right now through the end of July) to an annual plan for $59.25 - a $20 discount off the new price.

Even those who are already annual members can take advantage of the special offer and extend their memberships for an additional 12 months at the reduced rate.

For more information, click here.

Technology: Warm - but not fuzzy

A new technology for $50 will fix your video's pixelated, fuzzy frames.

MotionDSP Inc.'s download will help many of us faced with less-than-professional videos. The market of course also includes those who post to YouTube and other online sites.

According to this New York Times technology article, it is also great for those who shoot videos with their cellphones and other mobile devices. The program analyzes the color and position of pixels in frames that are next to the ones with poor images, adds the nearby info and improves the result.

See it in action at the MotionDSP site.

The company also makes Ikena (much more expensive, nearly $8,000) a powerful product used by law enforcement authorities to recover details from low-quality videos, like license plate numbers. We've all seen how that works on the various CIS-type forensic shows on television.

The algorithms used for the enhancement are part of a research field called super-resolution. It's used in university research labs and professional video software, but not often in consumer products.

The software can do some edit (cropping, rotating, etc.) but the main purpose is to improve the clip by fixing shaky, noisy home videos. According to the company its for any standard video, including anything transferred from VHS.

Jon Peddie, who heads Jon Peddie Research, a consulting firm in Tiburon, Calif., said specialized software like vReveal might prove popular with consumers as more of them create and post videos.

“There’s a huge potential market for products like this,” Mr. Peddie said. “If two of us are at the same soccer game, each photographing it with a cheap camera, but I do some enhancing afterward,” that video will look better and get more views.
The market may increase as video calling and conferencing become more common and mobile. And we only have to look at all that cellphone video coming out of Iran these days to see how useful it may be.

It is also being tested to clean up live streaming videos.

According to the company, “The difficulty with this kind of product is that you have to see it or use it to appreciate it.”

So the product - vReveal - will be offered as a one-month free membership, so people can compare before-and-after videos, then decide whether to purchase it.

It works with Windows XP or Vista - not Macs, sorry - and a modern graphics processing card from Nvidia will make the process go faster. Nvidia is a marketing partner with vReveal. Other graphics cards means the process will be slower.

“If you have other graphics cards, your computer will just use its central processing unit,” Dr. Varah said, but the process will be slower.

Sounds like a good idea. I have tons of stuff that was transferred to VHS and not with the best results. I think I'll try out the free deal.

See more in the article link or at the company site.

San Francisco: Jews of the Fillmore exhibit

The Judah L. Magnes Museum in San Francisco will offer a new exhibit, Jews of the Fillmore, showcasing its vibrant "Harlem of the West" Jewish culture 1906-1945. The exhibit will run from July 7-October 20.

On view in the Koret Heritage Lobby at the Jazz Heritage Center, the exhibit celebrates an era when the Fillmore District was home to San Francisco’s City Hall, the famous Dreamland Rink, the best place to find a loaf of Jewish rye and Sunday jazz concerts at a record shop.

There's a free special event planned for 4-6pm, July 19 to commemorate the exhibit. Berkeley-based composer and guitarist Joh Schott will present his Typical Orchestra in a chamber ensemble edition, premiering a commissioned composition. Register here

The essential aspects of Jewish culture are focused in such areas as temple, education, protest, food, fun and more. There are self-guided tours.

Beth Israel synagogue after the 1906 earthquake

The exhibit is guest-curated by author Fred Rosenbaum, whose forthcoming book - "Cosmopolitans: A Social and Cultural History of the Jews of the San Francisco Bay Area" will be published by UC Press in November 2009.

Museum president, author Frances Dinkelspiel, says the Jewish contribution to San Francisco's development is not well known.

Local Jews mingled with Greek, Mexican, Irish, Italian, Japanese and African-American neighbors, enjoying the cuisine and entertainment offered by them all and actively contributing to one of the most diverse neighborhoods of the city.

“This exhibit shows the Jewish community interacting with all other cultures not in a melting pot but more in the form of a salad bowl, with each group proudly retaining its identity and yet taking part in something bigger than itself,” commented Rosenbaum. “The Fillmore was artistically creative, politically assertive, and keenly Jewish.”

For more information and photographs, click here and here.

Philly 2009: Banquet headliner announced


"Is it hot in here, or am I the only one dressed for Poland in the 1700s?" quips Yisrael Campbell - considered Israel's premiere comedian.

The original and erudite Campbell lived in Jerusalem and currently lives in New York City.

And he'll headline the annual Awards Banquet at the Philadelphia conference, sort of coming back to his own roots, as he grew up in a Philadelphia suburb as the Catholic Christopher Campbell.

For more on Campbell, see his website. A review of a film about the comedian recounts his three conversions, covering all the bases (Reform, Conservative and Orthodox).

The Banquet, on Thursday evening, August 6, is an optional program. Remember to register for this event.

20 June 2009

Poland to publish names of dead

Historians are set to publish an online list of some of the estimated six million Polish citizens - including three million Jews - who died at the hands of Nazi Germany during World War II, according to an AFP report here.

The initial list will include some 1.9 million names, said Polish historian Andrzej Kunert, who added that there will be an appeal to Internet users to provide additional details.

Some six million Poles are believed to have died during the 1939-1945 Nazi occupation, which includes some three million Jewish Poles.

The list is the result of three years of research and database analysis. It includes Holocaust victims, Poles who died in combat in the resistance at home and fighting the Nazis under Allied command, and civilian victims of German reprisals.

Kunert said the next step is to expand the list to some 3.5 million names, via German archival research.

The 10-year project is funded by Poland's culture ministry and the Institute of National Remembrance (established 1998) to investigate historical crimes.

Read more at the link above.

Poland: High-tech virtual shtetl launched

Warsaw's future Museum of Polish Jews launched the Virtual Shtetl site a few days ago.


According to its creators, it is a virtual encyclopedia of knowledge for those who want to find out more about the history and current life of Polish Jews.

Currently, it offers information on 800 Polish cities and towns where Jews lived, some 5,000 photographs and dozens of films.

The bilingual (Polish/English) site is intended to build the museum's collection before it opens in 2011. Using Web 2.0, it allows viewers to contribute information and eyewitness testimony.

The project also includes localities which were in Poland before borders changed after WWII. Versions of the site are now being developed in Belorussian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian languages.

Creators hope it will bring to light 1,000 years of Jewish life in Poland that was wiped out.

View the site's English version here.

Israel: Call for Papers, 5th One-Day Seminar


The Israel Genealogical Society (IGS) and the Jewish Family Research Association (JFRA) have announced the Call for Papers for the Fifth One-Day Seminar on Jewish Genealogy.

The event will take place Tuesday, December 1, at Bet Hatefutsoth/ Museum of the Diaspora, located on the Tel Aviv University campus and convenient for those attending via intercity train, bus or car.

The Museum's beautifully renovated meeting spaces will provide an excellent experience for all attendees and this year's well-chosen theme will provide for a wealth of diverse programming.

Presentations may be in English or Hebrew:

Preserving Memory: Family and Community

Methods of recording and transmitting
past and present family and community history

Examples include books, articles, websites, family/community groups
and associations, artifacts, audio, video/photographs, databases, oral history projects.

Guidelines: Submit an abstract via email attachment in Word (.doc) or Rich Text (.rtf) format to reach the Program Committee by July 10. If submitting on diskette (Word), include three original hard copies. Proposals will not be returned, so keep a copy.

Note that presentations will be 35 minutes with an additional 10 minutes for Q&A.

Abstracts: Accepted in English or Hebrew, 250-word limit, 12pt Times New Roman font, page margins 2.5cm/1-inch. At the end of the abstract, state clearly the program language (English or Hebrew), and if equipment is required (computer, projector, overhead projector). Presenters are advised to bring their own laptops.

Email abstracts here or snail mail to Yom Iyun c/o Dr. Lea Gedalia, PO Box 4102, Atlit 30300 Israel.

Accepted proposals: A full version of the program must be sent to the program committee before the seminar. Details will be included in the letter of acceptance.

Important dates: July 10 deadline for abstract submission. July 25 notification of acceptance.

Leaving on a jet plane: Conferences, friends, family

Tracing the Tribe is now packing for its annual summer trip to the US.

The itinerary begins at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in Burbank, June 26-28, where I will be a panelist for the second genealogy bloggers' summit and also cover the excellent conference program.

Some 35 geneabloggers will be attending - all of us plan to be twittering, tweeting and Facebooking around the clock. For many, it will be our first face-to-face encounter, making this event even more exciting. We're looking forward to meeting the "AncestryInsider" mystery man!

Several special blogger events are planned. Ancestry/TGN has invited us to a special breakfast on Family Tree Maker 10 and Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers.com has arranged a dinner.

According to Thomas, the geneabloggers will also have something special to wear for instant recognition.

I'm looking forward to seeing readers and colleagues at Jamboree, so don't be shy - do say hi!

Of course, Tracing the Tribe will also be blogging and tweeting from the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Philadelphia, August 2-7. This is the blog's third anniversary - excuse me, blogoversary - and we all know that three blogging years equals many more human years! It will be exciting to celebrate this milestone at the 2009 event, as we went live at the New York 2006 edition.

Bracketed by these two major events, I'll also be in southern and northern California, New York and, hopefully, some other places as well, visiting family and friends ... and blogging!

19 June 2009

Wisconsin: Genealogy 101 at Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum Milwaukee is offering a getting-started five-session workshop series in "Genealogy 101: How to get started."

Sessions are offered on Tuesdays, July 7-August 4, at 11.40am.

Wisconsin Jewish Genealogical Society members Penny Deshur and Marilyn Lane will lead the classes.

Fee: $10, members museum/genealogy society; $25, for others.

For more information or to register, see the museum site, or email Kathie Bernstein.

Australia: Queen honors genealogist

A well-known member of the "down-under" Jewish genealogy community was surprised to receive an Order of Australia Medal in the Queen's Birthday honors list, according to a story in the Australian Jewish News.

Lionel Sharpe, 77, is an academic, communal worker and, most importantly, for Tracing the Tribe's readers, a genealogist. Currently, he's a Monash University School of Historical Studies research associate.

The Caulfield (Melbourne) grandfather was recognized for his services to Jewish welfare organizations and the Jewish community.

“I’m surprised and honoured. What else can I say?” Sharpe told The AJN.
Born in Australia, Lionel worked in his Russian-born father’s Melbourne business before completing a bachelor of arts in psychology, and later joined the Jewish Welfare Society (now Jewish Care).

He has also worked to support students with disabilities and to raise money for special-needs children in Jewish schools.

As for his interest in genealogy:

When Sharpe’s daughter Monique brought home a family-tree project during her school years, a dad’s helping hand led him to discover one of his great passions, genealogy.

Sharpe attended a lecture by Sophie Caplan, then president of the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society (AJGS), and soon became absorbed in the field.

Today he is secretary of AJGS in Victoria, and one of his many projects was to visit Germany last year with AJGS colleagues to examine a former Nazi archive at Bad Arolsen. The archive has been digitised and placed on a database for access by Shoah survivors.
Tracing the Tribe is delighted to congratulate Lionel on this honor.

Read the complete article here and learn about the other MOTs who received honors.

Philly 2009: New York, Philly research spotlight

Philly 2009 will provide presentations on New York City and Philadelphia research.

Jewish Genealogical Society of New York president Linda Cantor and professional researcher Avrum Geller will present Wednesday and Thursday programs.

Linda offers "Only in New York" at 8.15am, Wednesday, August 5. She will discuss research that can be done only in the city. This includes originals of NY naturalization petitions; originals of NY WW II draft registrations; NY court records for name changes, business contracts, or civil and criminal actions; NY wills and probate records; European and immigration records such as HIAS case histories, landsmanshaftn records, European community records, and Industrial Removal Office Records.

And if you need more than one shot of New York, Avrum is the Breakfast Expert for New York City Research (7am, Thursday, August 6). The program will:
  • provide a Virtual New York Jewish breakfast.
  • disclose secret files hidden in backs of rooms with which brickwalls can be busted.
  • suggest worthwhile repositories that are off-the-beaten-track, some of them quite grand.
  • provide answers that direct researchers to utilizing resources in all boroughs of the City of New York.
  • provide strategies and tricks for getting results not only onsite if you can, but also by phone if need be.
  • reveal surprising resources for breakthrough City of New York research online that can be accessed from Philadelphia after the sidewalks are rolled up, or in Margate after the sand is rolled up, or anywhere.
The breakfast is $29 (update your registration here)

If Philadelphia is your interest, there's a two-hour opening day (Sunday) session on "Getting the Most out of Your Philadelphia Research" with local professional researcher and author. Susan Koelble, a local experienced professional researcher and author, and Steve Schecter, JGS of Greater Philadelphia Program VP and the societies leader of beginner seminars.

It starts at 11am and is followed by a Repository Fair, where a dozen or so local archives, libraries and research facilities will provide information on their holdings and answer questions from 1-4pm.

On Monday morning, three local research facilities - The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Free Library of Philadelphia, and Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center - will provide more on their holdings.

The Philadelphia Research Breakfast with expert Steve Schecter is set for 7am, Monday, August 3. He'll answer your questions and:
  • sort out what documents are held where
  • better prepare you to search at repositories
  • improve your ability to deal with the nuances of various sites
  • the unwritten rules to help you get what you need
  • identify who at the Conference may be able to give you specific help
Breakfasts are $29; update your registration.

Facebook: Picture perfect

Who's that on Facebook? Is it you?

It seems we'll soon be seeing ourselves with this new Friend Finder application, developed by an Israeli startup in Tel Aviv called Face.com. Read their blog here.

Since Facebook was founded, more than 15 billion pictures have been uploaded. Some 60% of all photos on the web are on that site's pages. But it can be hard to find yourself or others in that huge number. Friend Finder claims to change that.

According to TechCrunch:

If there is one feature on Facebook which delivers “social utility” magic even to the most average of users, it’s Photos. In fact the feature is so popular that by Facebook’s own account 1 billion photos are uploaded every month—a staggering number that makes it the largest photo site on the Web.

However, as with all good things, there are also drawbacks, and in this case discovery is high on the list. While Facebook makes it super easy to discover photos in which you were tagged, there is no chance that every one of those billion photos are tagged each month. And that leaves a big opportunity.

It was designed as a low-cost platform to meet two requirements: to be able to tag everyday photos taken at low resolution, bad lighting, with red-eye or sunglasses-obscured faces. It also had to be scalable. Face.com claims to be able to perform facial recognition on all of the one billion photos currently uploaded into Facebook every month using only a few machines.

Photos are not stored, only tagged, and privacy is a concern. The photo is analyzed and dumped, giving Facebook users a tagged photo on his or her page. It will only tag photos within Facebook and within Friend Finder. No one can see the photos unless they are also running it. It also follows users' Facebook privacy settings.

If you are auto-tagged in an image, the application notifies you via a Facebook alert. The user may approve the photo or untag it and hide it from other application users. If you untag your image, it is private - no one will know.

The company, in its first alpha test month, scanned about 400 million photos, identified some 700,000 people and users confirmed the identities of about 150,000 people, according to the company's CEO/co-founder Gil Hirsch, despite the poor quality photos (shadows, red-eye, etc.)

Read the company's blog here and go to the site to read more (see the Press tab).

UK: 19th century newspapers now online

The British Library has placed online 2 million digitized pages of 19th-century newspapers. As a journalist and a genealogist, I utilize such resources frequently.

Some of the best features of historic papers are the advertisements, which help us understand what our ancestors spent their money on, what they might have dreamed of acquiring, and what businesses they opened, among many other tidbits of data.

The articles also provide a glimpse of the society in which our ancestors participated, giving us a better idea of how they lived and what was important to them.

Genealogists, historians, researchers and the merely curious can search the 49 national and regional UK papers for free, but downloading pages is on a pay-as-you-go basis: £6.99 for a 24-hour pass (up to 100 downloads) or a £9.99 seven-day pass (up to 200 downloads). Access to The Graphic and The Penny Illustrated Paper is free.

The price seems very reasonable. In any case, it is considerably cheaper than a flight to London and a hotel room in order to research the hardcopy pages at the Library.

The holdings were selected by experts and academics, and represent a cross-secton of 19th-century society including business and sport, politics and entertainment.

The collection focuses on national newspapers such as the Daily News, English regional papers, (e.g., Manchester Times), home country newspapers from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, weekly titles such as Penny Illustrated Paper and Graphic and specialist titles.

Users are now able to read first-hand factual reporting of the Battle of Trafalgar in the Examiner and the gory details of the Whitechapel murders in the melodramatic Illustrated Police News.
The free search (which provides only the search term in context in a snippet of the item) using the terms "jewish or jew or hebrew," produced some 155,000 hits.

A search for Cohen produced more than 45,000 hits. Some of these, of course, are not accurate, as a search for "jew," often produces "jewelry" or "jewels."

"Hebrew" produced more than 33,000 hits and offered advertisements for books, articles on languages, as well as items referring to the Jewish community.

There were more than 8,000 hits for "synagogue," and some appeared very interesting; here's an example of what you will see using the free search.

A list of relevant items will include the type of mention, the paper and the date of publication, and a thumbnail of the page, with the article highlighted in yellow:

Click on the thumbnail and see a snipped of text with the search term:

Access to The Penny Illustrated is free, however, and I found this information on a Dover synagogue in that paper, dated Saturday, October 19, 1861, in the column titled "Social Progress," on page 30:

Explore the new site here.

DNA: Jewish connections, Jewish blood

Just what we needed this week. Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn revealed his grandfather was Jewish.

It's not that unusual, however, and Tracing the Tribe remembers the revelations of John Kerry and Madelaine Albright and the rumors about Cuba's Castro and Spain's Franco.

While hidden Jews are fascinating people in all parts of the world, we've had a tool since 2000 to help sort out who's who. That tool is DNA testing used for genetic genealogy.

This Daily Beast article, "The Hidden Jews" by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt reveals some case studies on people finding previously unknown Jewish roots. It asks if DNA discoveries will encourage hidden genetic Jews to return or convert to the normative fold, or at least encourage strong affiliation.

The author discusses Frank Tamburello, a former Catholic priest - now an ordained rabbi - who discovered his Sicilian Jewish roots.

And she mentions radio journalist and former practicing Buddhist Alan Tutillo, raised in an Italian Catholic home, who told her he’d always felt the “spark of Judaism.”

“It was discovering the genetics of my father’s family that pushed me to explore my Jewish roots," he told me. “That was a culmination of a lifetime of trying to figure out why I felt the spark of Judaism.”
People in the field refer to this "feeling" as a genetic memory, and those of us interested in this subject hear about people feeling this connection for their entire lives until they make an effort to do something about it.

The DNA testing for these cases has been conducted by FamilyTreeDNA.com (Houston, Texas), founded by our good friend Bennett Greenspan.

A case I've known about for years is that of a Polish-origin lawyer in Ottawa, Canada, whose mother was handed to his grandparents by a Jewish couple before they were transported to their death from their Polish town.

Cezary Fudali, 41, always liked books about Israel and Middle Eastern architecture. Not until he looked at his own family history did he see a connection.

Through an Internet ancestry site, he met a cousin from New Jersey who asked him if he knew his mother was adopted. Fudali was shocked. She told him that in the summer of 1943, during World War II, his maternal grandparents passed through a train station in Rozwadow, Poland, where they met a poor woman who begged them to take her child. Miraculously, his grandparents took the baby home and raised her as their own. His mother, who still lives in Poland, never knew she was adopted until her son heard this story, and his great aunt confirmed it. His mother still doesn’t believe the story is true.
In 2003, his research led him to FamilyTreeDNA, the very first company in the field estabilshed specifically for genetic genealogy testing of Y-DNA (male) and mtDNA (female). Since his mother was the connecting point, he was tested for mtDNA (female DNA passed down unchanged from mother to daughter and carried by women and by men). The haplogroup is one found only among Eastern European, Moroccan, Algerian and Turkish Jews. He then concluded his mother had Jewish roots.

Since learning about his DNA, Fudali has been working with the U.S. Holocaust Museum trying to locate other relatives. A few months ago, a son of an Orthodox rabbi responded to his request saying she was from Rozwadow area of Poland, and that his aunt had been given up as a baby in 1943. While the story matched, the DNA tests didn’t. He is still hoping to find maternal relatives, and while he isn’t converting to Judaism, he says this information has changed his identity. Now every time he goes to the library to read about the Middle East, he wonders whether his attraction to the subject is in fact a lingering remnant of a spiritual commitment long-passed.
In 2006, a group of scientists, including Dr. Doron Behar of Haifa, Israel, found that 40% of Ashkenazi Jews could be traced to four women. In 2008, a team of British and Spanish geneticists discovered that 20% of Spanish men had Sephardic Jewish ancestry, providing more evidence of the large mass forced coversion of Jews during the Inquisition. Following 1492, many expelled Jews went to Sicily. When they were forced to leave again, some converted and stayed, while others also left for mainland Italy, to Calabria in Southern Italy.

Read the complete article here.

Denver: Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, August 2-4

The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies conference begins in Denver, immediately following the annual Sephardic Anousim Conference in El Paso.

The conference is at the Sheraton Denver West in Lakewood, and the conference fee includes all programs, meals and more. For details, click here. For the registration form, with various fee options, click here.

Conference panels and programs include:

- Juggling Identities: Identity and Authenticity among Crypto-Jews
- Crypto-Judaism as Historical Novel
- Proposed Sosin Grant Art Program
- Conversation with filmmaker Gabriela Böhm, screening "The Longing"
- Monday evening performance by singer Consuelo Luz
- A material cultures exhibit by visual artist and curator Sonya Loya

To read about past SCJS conferences, click here.

Here's the registration form for this year's conference.