31 December 2009

Answering Questions: MyHeritage-Beit Hatfutsot project

Since Tracing the Tribe posted the new collaboration between MyHeritage.com and Beit Hatfutsot, readers have asked some good questions.

Here are answers to some. As others come in, Tracing the Tribe will help to get them properly answered.

Visit the FAQ at MyHeritage.com for additional information.

Q1. I've got a couple of questions about Family Tree Builder and MyHeritage, I hope you don't mind me asking.

A1. Of course not. Ask away.

Q2. I've been using Family Tree Maker for over 10 years, I think. Do you think it's worth the hassle for me to transfer all the assets I have in Family Tree Maker over to Family Tree Builder.

A2. I believe that it is a good idea to preserve your years of hard work in various formats in various locations. To start using Family Tree Builder, all you need to do is export a GedCom from Family Tree Maker.

Q3. Regarding the privacy issue, can I make everything completely private that I put online using MyHeritage.com's Family Tree Builder?

A3. Yes. One hallmark of MyHeritage.com is its respect for the type of data privacy its tree creators desire. Information can be made public to all, restricted to those invited or made completely private.

For non-members, all information about living individuals is hidden. You see only “Private + LastName.”

The creator of a family site may invite relatives to the site, but may also choose to not allow others to make changes in the data. In other words, only the tree creator or administrator can add information or make changes. This protects your data.

Q4. If everything is free, how is MyHeritage funded? How do I know that if I start to use their services they won't disappear in a few years and I'll have to move everything over again?

A4. MyHeritage.com is funded through its premium and premium-plus accounts, for which there is a charge (see answer to next question for more information). The site has some 9 million trees and grows every day. The advantage is that your tree, if submitted through the special MyHeritage page will be stored at Beit Hatfutsot forever, as it is a national institution.

Q5. While it all sounds good and I'm all for proliferating family trees, I suspect there's more to it. For example, cost. Many times I saw the word "free," but I suspect there's an opportunity here for me to spend money here. Since my family tree is already scattered on the web and held in disk storage in various locations already, I'm not sure I need to do so again for a cost.

A5. Storing your Jewish family tree at Beit Hatefutsot means that it will be in a central repository for the future. You can always send your tree directly to the Museum via a GedCom and it will be stored at no cost - for free. You can download the MyHeritage Family Tree Builder software for free to use on your own computer, import yourGedCom and then maintain your tree in another format, or establish a nice family site at MyHeritage.

MyHeritage’s basic account is free for up to 250 names, and additional space is nominal (click here for premium site information). Family sites provide space for documents, photos, videos and a way to connect with family around the world.

Sending a GedCom directly to Beit Hatfutsot is free, no matter the size of your tree. It is another place to store your family tree information for the future and for your descendants.

Q6. When the Family Tree of the Jewish People (FTJP) (at JewishGen.org) "merged' data from Dorotree, I thought that was what Beit Hatfutsot was partnering with on its trees. Now it seems not to be so. What is going on?

A6. I don’t believe FTJP merged any data with Dorotree. Over the years, Beit Hatfutsot has used various software, much of which is now obsolete. MyHeritage’s cutting-edge software is free (the others had to be purchased).

While MyHeritage members can search for and see information from others, members can make their data completely private. Trees are not merged as in some other online sites and MyHeritage members do not lose control of their own trees; privacy is respected at MyHeritage.

Beit Hatfutsot will be acting as a storage facility for everyone’s Jewish family trees. While information will also be on MyHeritage (using the special software version) and privacy controls can be set as the tree creator desires (or changed later, if s/he decides to), the tree transferred to the Museum is basically in storage. It can be searched on the museum’s premises, will not be online for open searching, but staff can search for individuals.

Q7. What happens if a tree is already in Beit Hatfutsot's database? How are those who put it there years ago going to know that MyHeritage is now working with Beit Hatfutsot? If they want to update their tree information, must they do it through MyHeritage?

The project with Beit Hatfutsot applies only to new users and new trees on MyHeritage built via this special page http://www.myheritage.com/BeitHatfutsot

If your tree is already at Beit Hatfutsot, ask them for the tree's ID and use that ID as the name of your MyHeritage tree or as your user name. MyHeritage will send periodic updates to the museum, so that specific ID number will tell Beit Hatfutsot to update that specific tree already in its database.

For more information, contact Daniel Horowitz at MyHeritage.com or Haim Ghiuzeli at Beit Hatfutsot.

30 December 2009

Pittsburgh: 125 city directories online!

Searching for relatives who lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? Here's a collection of 125 directories dated 1815-1945.

The directory collection is "Historic Pittsburgh City Directories," in the University of Pittsburgh's Digital Research Library. Thanks to ResearchBuzz for this head's-up.

Search parameters: simple keyword (even an occupation) or advanced search; author or title. Results show which city directories contain the keyword and a count of how many hits in that specific directory. Click on "results detail," learn more about the specific directory and see the lines that matched your search.

You can also explore the community for that directory. Click on "Table of Contents," and see that directory's contents, including maps and advertisements. Click on those items and link to other pages.

Save images of pages of interest with a mouse right-click. While ResearchBuzz noted the option to view the page as an image or PDF, it didn't seem to work properly.

While ResearchBuzz did sample searches for SMITH and "clockmaker," Tracing the Tribe used a surname (COHEN/COHN) and keywords that might be more useful to our readers.

Here's one of the useful titles for Tracing the Tribe's readers:

The Pittsburgh Jewish community book; comprising the names and addresses of members and the history of Jewish organizations, also a history of the Jewish community of Pittsburgh. Publication Info: Pittsburgh, Pa., Jewish criterion, [c1917]-
A general search for COHEN produced 98 hits in the following resources (adding COHN produced more):

-- Wiggins' directory of Greensburg and Westmoreland County for 1890-91 containing, in alphabetical order, the names, occupations and residences of the inhabitants of Greensburg, also of a list of the taxpayers in the township, giving the assessed value of real estate and personal property.

-- Harris' Pittsburgh business directory for the year 1837 : including the names of all the merchants, manufacturers, mechanics, professional, men of business of Pittsburgh and its vicinity.

-- 1920 The Pittsburgh social secretaire.

-- 1917 The Pittsburgh Jewish community book; comprising the names and addresses of members and the history of Jewish organizations, also a history of the Jewish community of Pittsburgh.

-- 1898 Directory of all business and professional men and official guide of Beaver County, Penn'a. : together with a complete map.

-- 1913-17 Directory of the philanthropic, charitable, and civic agencies of the city of Pittsburgh. Vol. 1

-- Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny cities, 1864-1865.

-- The Pittsburgh and Allegheny blue book, 1895, Vol. 9.

-- Pittsburgh Allegheny business directory, 1875-6 : containing a complete classified and alphabetically arranged list of the business houses of the cities and adjacent boroughs

-- 1878 A confidential business report of Pittsburgh and Allegheny.
Author: Business Men's Protective Association.

-- Directory of Homestead Borough, West Homestead Borough, Munhall Borough 1902

-- Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny cities ... 1861-2 through 1895 (not a complete series)

-- 1850 The Pennsylvania business state directory: containing the names of professional men, mercantile firms, and manufacturing establishments, together with all the courts, post offices, public institutions, banks, corporations, companies, hotels, associations, & c. & c., throughtout the state, also the principal firms of the city of Cincinnatti, Ohio, and Baltimore, Maryland ;

-- 1854-5 Ulman's Pennsylvania business directory and eastern, western, and southern circular : for the year 1854-5,

-- c1880 Watson & Co.'s classified business directory of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and prominent towns within a radius of forty miles.
Hits for COHEN ranged from one (and also a COHN) in the 1861-62 Pittsburgh and Allegheny City Director, page 55:

There were 17 hits for COHEN (and a few COHN) on several pages in the 1869-70 book. On page 101, see:

Scrolling through more recent books, numbers rise with the growth of the Jewish community in the city and surrounding areas.

On the Historic Pittsburgh site, there are top tabs for Full Text, Maps, Images, Finding Aids, Census, Chronology and the HSWP Catalog. Under Images, find more than 13,000 historic photographs in 44 collections, including the recently added 27-image Hebrew Institute Collection (1915-1970).

Read more here.

Philadelphia: 'Jews of the Amazon' screening, Jan. 11

Do the stories of lost tribes and Jewish history grab your attention? You'll enjoy "The Fire Within: Jews in the Amazon Rainforest," to be screened at thGershman Y in Philadelphia, on Monday, January 11, at 7pm.

The documentary on the Jews of Iquitos in Peru was written, directed and produced by Lorry Salcedo Mitrani, a descendant of Peruvian Jews, while discovering his own grandfather's story. It has already been screened at many 2009 Jewish film festivals (more in 2010) and other venues, such as universities.

The booming community, populated by those who had made their fortunes in rubber, even had a theater designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame.

The guest speaker will be Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein of B’Nai Jeshurun (New York City).

One of the best stories on this is from Tablet Magazine, written by Robin Cembalest.

Around a century ago, Abraham Edery Fimat, a Sephardic sailor from Morocco on leave in a Brazilian port, fell asleep in a bar. He soon learned his ship had sailed without him. As Victor Edery Jr., his grandson, recounts in Lorry Salcedo Mitrani’s affecting new documentary, The Fire Within, Abraham tried to follow his crew on another boat—only he went the wrong way. That’s how he ended up heading west, hundreds of miles down the Amazon, until he arrived in the remote Peruvian city of Iquitos.

To his amazement, Edery found other Jews there. They were merchants, traders, and adventurers, Sephardic as well as Ashkenazic, from Morocco and Europe, who came to make their fortunes in the rubber boom. As photos in the film show, many did. Parading in front of their tropical mansions in top hats and tuxedos, the newly rich aspired to bring a continental sophistication to the jungle outpost (though not with the intensity of the city’s most famous resident, the ill-fated opera lover in Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo). Eventually, the rubber business moved on to Asia, and most of the Jews returned to their native lands. But the families they created with native women stayed behind.
An excellent story on the people of Iquitos was in the New York Times, by Simon Romero, which quotes several individuals, including Salcedo Mitrani:

“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,” ...
The film demonstrates the the connection of their children and grandchildren to their heritage. Several hundred descendants of these men have rediscovered their identity, some have converted while others have made aliyah.

In the 19th century the Amazon was the center of a rubber boom. Many North African Sephardic men arrived to join in and make their fortunes, marrying local women and raising families. Some men died in the difficult conditions, others returned home after the industry's decline, still others stayed and kept a flame alive, lasting five generations in some cases.

Unknown to the established Lima Jewish community until the 1980s, the Orthodox rejected them, but the Conservative community taught them. Fifty years later, one man's efforts led to more than 500 converts and 300 who have made aliyah.

For more, see RuthFilms.com.

29 December 2009

JewishGen: Goldstein, Fishbein join Board of Governors

Michael Goldstein (Israel) and Dr. Rand Fishbein (US) have joined the JewishGen Board of Governors.

Michael Goldstein

Toronto-born, Michael lives in Jerusalem and is president of both the Israel Genealogical Society (IGS) and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS), Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) board member and Montreal Jewish Genealogical Society member.

He holds a BA (Concordia University) and MSW (Yeshiva University).

A genealogist who researches, mentors, lectures, and conducts workshops; carries out worldwide Jewish research; guides North Americans in locating and connecting with Israeli family, and facilitates the use of local Israeli research sources, Michael also does extensive work on behalf of lawyers and estate search firms seeking Israeli heirs.

Previously, Michael worked in Jewish communal service in both Montreal and in Israel. His posts included Davis YMHA Montreal director, Montreal Jewish Family Services Social Centre program management director and Jewish National Fund of Canada executive vice president.

Dr. Rand Fishbein

Dr. Fishbein is president of the public-policy consulting firm Fishbein Associates, Inc., in Potomac, Maryland.

He initiated efforts in the U.S. Senate saving Cairo's ancient Jewish Bassatine Cemetery from destruction and, in 1991, contributed to the rescue of Ethiopian Jews and Iraq's last 400 Jews.

In 2003, when a fire ravaged the ancient archival collection in Kamenets-Podolsk, Ukraine, he arranged for the U.S. Embassy in Kiev to provide emergency financial assistance for the salvage and conservation of surviving documents.

Before entering the private sector, Dr. Fishbein was a professional staff member (majority) of US Senate Defense and Foreign Operations appropriation subcommittees. He was a foreign policy/intelligence analyst on the 1987 US Senate Iran-Contra investigating committee and co-author of a portion of its final report, and later served as special assistant for National Security Affairs to Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI).

According to Fishbein: "JewishGen seeks to accomplish in our modern age what our great sages, academies and traditions of the past have sought to do. That is, to build a bridge between generations that is personal, profound, and enduring. The survival of the Jewish people is one of the great and ennobling stories of mankind. Its illumination is both the mission and the challenge of JewishGen. I am honored and privileged to be asked to join such a visionary team."

His degrees include a PhD (International Relations/Middle East Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C.); and received two Fulbright fellowships (St. Antony's College, Oxford University; School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London). In Brussels, he was a fellow at the North Atlantic Assembly, NATO's inter-parliamentary forum.

The JewishGen Board of Governors

Honorary Chairman:
Harvey Krueger
Karen Franklin
Gary Mokotoff
Board Members:
Stanley Diamond
Rand Fishbein
Michael Goldstein
Saul Issroff
Phyllis Kramer
Hadassah Lipsius
Howard Margol
E. Randol Schoenberg
Walter Weiner
For more information, visit JewishGen.

Seattle: Mapping madness on the menu, Jan. 11

Mad mapper Ron Arons will be visiting Seattle to present his "Mapping Madness: Historical Maps and Genealogical Research" program to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State on Monday, January 11, 2010.

Doors open at 7pm and the program starts at 7.30pm in the Stroum JCC auditorium on Mercer Island. There's WiFi, so bring your laptops. This program is practical for all researchers, regardless of skill or experience level.

Ron will discuss a variety of websites that offer historical maps for genealogical research. He’ll review the basics of the Internet-based mapping facilities from Google and Microsoft (maps.google.com and www.bing.com/maps, respectively), including more advanced functions of both systems.

He'll then cover more online mapping facilities provided by whitepages.com, Microsoft's MapCruncher, IBM's Many Eyes, and more.

Ron began researching his roots some 12 years ago. He has been a speaker covering Jewish genealogy and Jewish criminality ("Jews of Sing Sing) at eight IAJGS conferences and speaks at many other genealogy societies, JCCs, synagogues, history conferences and book fairs. He holds an engineering BS (Princeton) and an MBA (University of Chicago).

For more information and directions, click the JGSWS site here. Fee: JGSWS members, free; others, $5.

Tracing the Tribe has seen Mapping Madness and highly recommends this session to fellow researchers in Seattle and environs.

Washington DC: Brickwall Q&A, Jan. 10

Stuck at a brick wall in your quest? Each of us finds ourself in this situation at some time in our research.

For those in the Greater Washington DC area, the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington has scheduled a comprehensive "brick wall" question and answer session on Sunday, January 10, 2010.

The day starts with networking at 1pm, followed by a business meeting and the Q&A session at Congregation Beth El (Bethesda, Maryland).

The plan is to have several "area" desks available - each supported by an expert in a particular area of research - to answer your questions. The mavens (experts, Yiddish) will seek to cover as many areas of research as members want to ask about.

Email your questions in advance so experts will be ready to answer them at the session.

Fee: JGSGW members, free; others, $5. See the JGSGW site for more information and directions.

28 December 2009

Southern California: Beginning your research, Jan. 10

Learn how to begin your genealogy research at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV), on Sunday, January 10.

If you've been thinking of starting to record your family history in 2010, but just don't know where or how to start, join the group at 1.30pm at Temple Adat Elohim, Thousand Oaks.

Join Jan Meisels Allen and Debra Kay Blatt as they cover important issues. Learning how to start correctly, from experts, helps to avoid common mistakes.

Both Jan and Debra - seasoned genealogists and presenters - are JGSCV founding members and board members.

The program will cover how to begin searching family history including census and ships manifests, family stories, searching older newspapers for obituaries and articles on family businesses, what's on JewishGen.org and how to search it, including the All-Country Database, Family Finder and ShtetLinks.

Although the program is directed at beginners, there is always something to learn for researchers of every skill level.

There is no charge to attend. For more information, see the JGSCV site.

Illinois: Digitizing the records

The availability of digitized records spurs interest in genealogy research.

More people, regardless of where they live, will be able to access more records and find the information required to advance their family's history.

In Pekin, Illinois, a project is making general research easier for Tazewell and Mason counties.
This week, Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society member Carol Hiller finished scanning in the last pages of two large history texts and converting them to CDs: “The History of Tazewell County, 1879” and “A Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties, Illinois, 1894.”

Both books, which are 794 pages and 712 pages respectively, are now available on CDs, which the Genealogical Society is selling to any history buff who fancies one — or anyone who knows a history buff who would fancy one.

Both digitized books are searchable by name and are in PDF format, which can be read by the commonly used program Adobe Reader, Hiller said.
The article, by Tara Mattimoe, covers the advantages of such projects, covering the cost of reprints versus inexpensive scanning to CDs. With budget problems facing many groups, the for-sale CDs ($20 each) are expected to bring in needed funds.

The books offer personal accounts and memories, biographies, drawings, geographic features, houses and settlements, soldiers and more.

It took several months to scan the books and convert them to PDF format.

The project could be replicated by other societies using rare materials from their own libraries.

Read the complete story for more details.

Los Angeles: Persians record "Our Legacy"

There's another revolution in the Iranian Jewish community in Los Angeles - and hopefully in other pockets of the same diaspora.

I've been connected with this community for many decades, both in Teheran and Los Angeles. Normally, people do not focus on life in the old days, particularly if there were difficult times.

The community tends to focus on good times, positive achievements and the future. Only rarely do individuals talk about their past experiences that were less than positive, and even fewer speak about these experiences in public arenas.

Thus, this project, spearheaded by the 30 Years After group, is extremely important as it gives voice to the memories and experiences of this community. Thanks to this Iranian Jewish young leadership group first organized in Los Angeles (with a branch in New York, and which has also sponsored events in Tel Aviv), an oral history endeavor is now underway.

"Our Legacy" is a first-ever unique community project to commemorate and preserve Iranian Jewish history by connecting the future of the Jewish people with the legacy of their past.
Some have seen loved ones arrested and imprisoned as political prisoners. Others have fled across borders like nomads on the backs of camels. More escaped the Islamic Republic as political refugees in search of safety and opportunity. Yet, the stories of sacrifice and courage that sustained this community have never been fully told.
Headed by young Los Angeles attorney Sam Yebri, his organization is striving to document this history before it disappears from the community’s collective memory. It is an attempt to tell the history of a Jewish community through videotaped stories and interviews conducted and organized by the community's youth and young leaders.

According to the website, people may upload videos shot with video cameras or even cellphones, making it very easy to capture the memories of their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and help the younger - and future - generations understand what the immigrant generation experienced.

On December 13, some 100 people descended on Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills and shared their memories of life, after being directed to one of four available cameras.

Nessah is headed by Rabbi David Shofet, who graduated from the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. His late father, Hakham Yedidiah Shofet, was Iran's chief rabbi for decades. I've known David since his JTS days, and knew the family when we lived in Teheran. When he returned to Iran, he even arranged for some high school students at Teheran's Abrishami synagogue - where his father presided - to participate in USY Pilgrimages to Israel with their US counterparts.

Iranian Jewish journalist Karmel Melamed covered the session in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, who wrote, in part:
Recording oral history is not a new endeavor for the local Iranian Jewish community. In recent years the L.A.-based Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History, with the help of volunteers, conducted more than 100 video and audio interviews with Iranian Jews who had influenced Iran’s history, literature and culture in some way since 1906.

In 2002, the group released “Esther’s Children: A Portrait of Iranian Jews,” a colorful book sharing the 2,700-year history of Iranian Jewry along with personal photos from community members.

Yet 30 Years After’s project is unique in that it encourages young Iranian American Jewish professionals to embrace their heritage by videotaping their own parents’ and grandparents’ often painful memories from life in Iran.

Yebri said the video testimonials recorded by 30 Years After will be available on the group’s Web site. Additional tapings will be scheduled during 2010 at local community synagogues and senior citizen centers, and the group plans to use the videos in collaboration with established institutions like the Library of Congress, the Jewish Museum in New York and the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv.
The faces in the videos were familiar, and it was good to see people I knew back in the old days in Teheran and later in Los Angeles. Some videos are in English, some in Farsi, which brought back many of my own memories.

For more information, visit the Our Legacy Project. However, be patient as the website seems extremely slow to load ("clunky" comes to mind) and needs some tweaking.

Read Karmel's complete story at the Jewish Journal link above.

27 December 2009

New York: Jewish Film Festival, Jan. 13-28

The 19th New York Jewish Film Festival will run January 13-28, sponsored by The Jewish Museum and The Film Society of Lincoln Center.

NYBlueprint.com offered details.

The Jewish Museum and The Film Society of Lincoln Center will present the 19th annual New York Jewish Film Festival at The Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater, The Jewish Museum, and The JCC in Manhattan, January 13-28, 2010.

The festival’s 32 features and shorts from 13 countries—28 screening in their U.S. or New York premieres—present a diverse global perspective on the Jewish experience. Several filmmakers and special guests will join in onstage discussions following the screenings.
Films include the New York premiere of Lukás Pribyl’s “Forgotten Transports: To Poland,“ which looks into the lives of Czech Jews deported by the Nazis to camps and ghettos in Eastern Poland’s Lublin region during the Holocaust. I've known Lukás since he came to Israel to interview and film survivors.

There will also be two restored archival films: (1947) "The Axe Of Wandsbek," (1935) Yiddish classic "Bar Mitzvah," with Boris Thomashefsky in his only film performance. The other films and documentaries:

"Saviors in the Night"
"Within the Whirlwind"
"Einsatzgruppen: The Death Brigades"
"The Jazz Baroness"

"Mary and Max,"

"Eyes Wide Open"
"Valentina's Mother"

"Berlin '36"
"Gruber’s Journey"
"Happy End."

"Chronicle of a Kidnap"
"Ahead of Time"

"Making the Crooked Straight"
"Human Failure"
"Leap Of Faith"
"Leon Blum: For All Mankind"
"A History of Israeli Cinema"
"Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness"
"The Peretzniks"
For details on each film or documentary, tickets and all festival information, click here.

Most screenings will be at the Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater, with other screenings at The Jewish Museum (5th and 92nd St.) and the JCC in Manhattan (Amsterdam at W. 76th St.). Single tickets are $11; seniors, $8; Film Society and Museum members and students, $7.

26 December 2009

Florida Jewish History Month kick-off, Jan. 3

Florida Jewish History Month launches with a panel discussion, "Cultural Identity Through Art," at the Jewish Museum of Florida, on Sunday, January 3.

Because defining who's a Jew and Jewish art are challenging questions, the program will feature a panel discussion, in an effort to answer the questions: How does one's identity influence art? And if it does, how is it expressed?
The program at the museum starts at 10.30am, moderated by Diane Camber, retired executive director and chief curator of the Bass Museum of Art. She is an art historian, educator and architectural preservationist.

Panelists will be architect Deborah Disilets, freelance journalist Dina Weinstein, Rabbi Shoni Labowitz and former South African artist and teacher Neitzah Benbenisti. Click here for extensive details on each panelist.

Following the program, there will be an art show, featuring acrylics, sculpture and silk screenings by Florida Jewish artists Shimon Dray, Natasha Ten, Shoni Labowitz and Neitzah Benbenisti.

Florida Jewish History Month began at the Jewish Museum of Florida, which collects, preserves and interprets the Jewish experience in Florida documented since 1763. Jews have been allowed to live in the state only since 1763 when Florida was taken from the Spanish and turned over to the British in the Treaty of Paris following the French and Indian War.

The first Jews settled in Pensacola that year and bought property to begin businesses. David Levy Yulee brought Florida into statehood in 1845, served as its first U.S. senator and was the first person of Jewish ancestry to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Fee: members, free; others, $6. For more information, call 305-672-5044, ext. 3164, or see the museum's website (link above). The museum is located at 310 Washington Avenue, South Beach.

Canary Islands: Crypto-Jewish history

Thanks to Harry Stein's Sephardim.com, Tracing the Tribe learned about a century-old paper on Crypto-Jews in the Canary Islands, delivered by Lucien Wolf to the Jewish Historical Society of England in London on December 12, 1910.

The paper is a treasure chest of Jewish names and history. Here's a map of the islands:

Read the complete paper here, but understand that it was posted using OCR (optical recognition software) and there are many errors caused by software inaccuracies (for various reasons). I recommend reading the online version carefully.

Information covers secret synagogues, kosher butchers, the Inquisition, Sephardim in London, buccaneers, sea captains, French merchants, Holland, the plague. Records discussed refer to dates as early as 1480. For many of those names listed below, there is detailed information on their fates, by public burning or other means, such as serving 10 years in the galleys.

In May 1524, several anti-Converso edicts were published in the Cathedral Church of St. Ana in Las Palmas:

-- 1. A general call for the elimination of heresy and confession of erroneous practices.

-- 2. This was directed specifically at Jews and Moslems, providing detailed accounts of their religious and social manners and customs at great length. It is a record of Jewish ceremonies and customs which had survived among the Conversos and helped informers to detect the heretics.

-- 3. This prohibited masters, owners and ship's captains, visiting and leaving the Canary ports, from allowing on board or providing passage to "converts or New Christians, converted to our Holy Catholic Faith from Judaism " under pain of excommunication and confiscation of their ships and other property.

These three edicts generally encouraged "religious maniacs," according to Wolf, and resulted in a large number of denunciations (1524-26).

Here are the names from the paper. If these are of interest, then do read the paper to learn more such as occupations and many geographical location.

Antonio Fernandez Carvajal
Duarte Henriques Alvares
Antonio Rodrigues Robles
Simon de Souza
Domingo de la Cerda
Antonio de Porto
Rodrigo de Leon
Rabbi David
Goncalo de Burgos
Luis Alvares
Luis de Niebla
Goncalo de Cordova
Juan de Ler
Juan Fernandez
Pedro Dorador
Alvaro Esteves
Beatrice de la Cruz
Gutierrez de Ocana
Diego Frances
Alvaro Gonsales
Mencia Vaes
Silvestre Goncales
Maistre Diego de Valera (Isaac Levi pre-1496)
Pedro Gonsales
Alonzo Yanez
Ana and Duarte Goncales
Hector Mendes
Hernan Rodrigues
Fernando Jaryam
Aldonca de Vergas y Vargas
Duarte Goncales
Duarte Perez
Pedro Berruyo
Juan Yanez
Catalina Nunez
Fernan Pinto
Jorge Fernandez
Duarte Henriques Alvares
Diego Rodrigues Aries
Duarte Henriques Alvares
Antonio Rodrigues Robles
Leila Henriques
Antonio Fernandes Carvajal
Domingo Rodrigues Francia
Jorge Francia
Domingo de la Cerda
Joseph Carrera y Coligo
Lourenco Rodrigues (Isaac Lindo) Lindo and wife Perpetua
Goncalo and Lucina Rodrigues Vaes
Manuel Lindo
Manuel Pereira
Jaques Faro
Antonio Fernandez Nunez
Juan de Tarifa

Place names include:

The Canaries:
Santa Cruz
Los Santos
San Lucar
San Lucar de Barremeda
Las Palmas
La Laguna

Marchena, Andalucia

Castel Blanco

Cape Verde
A very interesting paper! For more resources on Sephardic names, go to Sephardim.com and SephardicGen.com.

December 26: This day in Jewish history

"This Day in Jewish History" is an excellent compilation of what happened each day throughout our history.

The blog is part of the study program of the Jewish History Study Group at Temple Judah in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and compiled by Mitchell A. Levin.

Here are some of the events listed for today, December 26:

-- 1424: Barcelona, Spain was granted the right to exclude Jews for all time.

-- 1495: Savonarola expelled the Medici and the Jews from Florence. The Jews, who had previously served as the Medici's bankers, were replaced by a Monte di Pieta, a public loan bank.

-- 1634: Religious freedom granted to Jews and Catholics in Brazil, when it was under Dutch control. In 1654, the Portuguese took Recife, Brazil, and the Jews fled. One small group arrived in New Amsterdam (New York).

-- 1776: Washington ferries his freezing, starving troops across the ice choked Delaware River and leads them to victory at the Battle of Trenton. There were certainly Jewish soldiers among those who joined in the Crossing of the Delaware, two may have been Abraham Levy and Phillip Russell. Since Washington’s Army was on the verge of destruction, defeat at Trenton would have meant the end of the American Revolution, a war which created a nation rightfully described as “the last best hope men” – an appellation with which the Jewish people would heartily agree. One of the most readable treatments of this turning point in American history is The Crossing by the Jewish author Howard Fast which was the source for a film by the same name.

-- 1825: Several Imperial Russia army officers lead force of approximately,3,000 soldiers on the Senate Square in the failed Decembrist uprising. Pavel Pestel, a leader of the failed Decembrist revolt, proposed sending all Jews from Russia to some Asia Minor territory acquired for this purpose, where they would be able to establish independent state.

-- 1897: The American Jewish Historical Association held its seventh annual meeting in Philadelphia. It was chaired by First Vice President Simon W. Rosendale who read the resignation letter from the AJHA president Oscar S. Straus who was serving as United States Minister at Constantinople

-- 1901: The Fifth Zionist Congress convenes in Basel. The Jewish National Fund is established. The Jewish Colonial Trust, the monetary arm or bank of the World Zionist Organization, finally raises sufficient sums to be established. By the end of the year, 250.000 English Pounds have been collected.

-- 1905: Winston Churchill was approached by a leading Jewish constituent, Dr. Joseph Dulberg of Manchester, seeking British support for a Jewish national home.

-- 1907: Months of organizing work by Pauline Newman, 16, resulted in the largest-ever New York City rent strike. One reason for the strike's success was Newman's enlistment of neighborhood housewives. While working-class activists like Newman had to work during the day, the impassioned housewives that they organized could go from tenement to tenement to convince others to strike. Thus, the success of the strike depended on shop floor networks of teenaged girls and on networks of neighborhood housewives and mothers. The strike, involving 10,000 families in lower Manhattan, lasted only until January 9, but about 2,000 families succeeded in having their rents reduced....

-- 1915: In an attempt to “weaken Russia internally, the authorities in Berlin handed Russian Jewish Bolshevik, Alexander Helphand, a million rubles to spread anti-war propaganda through Russia.

-- 1918: Following British elections, Churchill wrote Prime Minister Lloyd George cautioning him against appointing three Jews to a cabinet that had only seven openings. This was not based on any anti-Semitic feelings on Churchill’s part. He was merely expressing concerns for the reality of British politics at a time when Lloyd George needed to build a broadly supported government that could “win the peace” now that the World War had been won....

-- 1931: George and Ira Gershwin's Pulitzer Prize-winning musical play "Of Thee I Sing" premieres on Broadway.

-- 1936: Founding of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, originally called the Palestine Philharmonic. The first concert was conducted by Arturo Toscanini in Tel Aviv.

-- 1948: The Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, which had been meeting in Tel Aviv moves to Jerusalem.

-- 1974: Comedian Jack Benny dies at 80.

-- 1990: Tele 5, a Spanish television station, is scheduled to broadcast an interview with President Hussein that had been taped on December 22 in Baghdad during when the Iraqi leaders says Tel Aviv will be Iraq's first target if war breaks out in the Persian Gulf.

-- 2001: In Moscow, a monument honoring Shalom Aleichem was unveiled at a public ceremony attended by Nathan Meron, the Israeli Ambassador.

-- 2002: Ronald Lauder, Commission for Art Recovery chair and co-chairman of the Research Project on Art and Archive co-chair, describes attempts to reclaim and return cultural treasures stolen during the Holocaust.

-- 2005: The New York Times describes the fate of Porto's medieval Jewish community. “A chance discovery in recent months during renovations of a building in this Atlantic port city has revealed a dark secret from Portugal's past: a 16th-century synagogue. Built when Portugal's Jews had been forced to convert to Catholicism or risk being burned at the stake, the house of worship was hidden behind a false wall in a four-story house that the Rev. Agostinho Jardim Moreira, a Roman Catholic priest, was converting into a home for some older parishioners. Father Moreira, a scholar of Porto's Jewish history, said that as soon as the workers told him of the wall, "I knew there had to be some kind of Jewish symbol behind it." His hunch was confirmed when the wall came down to reveal a carved granite repository, about five feet tall, arched at the top and facing east toward Jerusalem. It was the ark where the medieval Jews kept their Torahs....

-- 2007 (17 Tevet): Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Aaron Zelig Ben Joel Feivush, author of Toldot Aaron and Rabbi Yaakov Wolf Krantz, Maggid of Dubna.

That's just some of what's listed for today. Click on the link to read more.

Are you a poet? Don't know it?

Want to be a visual poet? Yes, you can!

Not particularly genealogical in nature, but still fun, is ResearchBuzz's great post on a new fun application called FlickrPoet.

Click here and input text, a poem, a paragraph and it will search for the words and illustrate them with Flickr images. The input screen is black, but don't let that worry you, just type in the words you desire and click "show story."

Photos illustrating your words show up below the story box. To do a new text input, refresh the screen to remove the previous illustrations and clear the story box.

If you can't remember any song verses or poems, click here, a compendium of many writers, poets, quotes and much more.

For fun, I tried Shel Silverstein's "Bear In There." Here's the whole poem:
There's a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire
--He likes it 'cause it's cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish,
He's nibbling the noodles,
He's munching the rice,
He's slurping the soda,
He's licking the ice.
And he lets out a roar
If you open the door.
And it gives me a scare
To know he's in there
--That Polary Bear In our Fridgitydaire.
And here's the display for lines eight-11:

The app is a bit quirky. I wanted to use the first seven lines, but it wouldn't let me use the word"hairy," admonishing me to keep the language clean. The fact that the bear's paws were covered in butter didn't seem to be the problem.

The words in the picture are sometimes hard to read (light letters on generally light backgrounds). You may also get different pictures if you do a new search with the same words, but you can't replace individual pictures.

Have fun!

25 December 2009

Singing in the snow!

Tablet Magazine's Marc Tracy wrote a piece about the top 10 Christmas songs written by Members of the Tribe.

As a kid growing up in the Bronx (Parkchester), I always loved the music of the season. There was a sort of tent-igloo where Santa resided, opposite Macy's, and the loudspeakers filled the air with many of these melodies. It's impossible not to hum along whenever they are aired.

David Lehman, who authored, A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs (Nextbook Press), listed the numbers in the Tablet story.

In reverse order, here they are with their YouTube links. Read the complete story at the link above for Lehman's comments, including names of the composers, lyricists and other tidbits.

Tracing the Tribe has frequently listed the people connected to these songs. How many do you know?

10. “The Christmas Waltz”
9. “Silver Bells”
8. “Winter Wonderland”
7. “Santa Baby”
6. “Sleigh Ride”
5. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
4. “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”
3. “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”
2. “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”)
1. “White Christmas”


WorldVitalRecords: Free access through Dec. 28

'Tis the season for giving ... and receiving ... and searching!

WorldVitalRecords is offering free access to its database (see below) through December 28, so you'd better get cracking now. This is really free access - no credit card details are required as similar deals frequently do.

Take a look and see what you can find to boost your family tree!

Click here for more information. Annual World Collection access via subscription is now $69.96 - a 30% saving from the normal price.

The World Collection includes:

  • Unlimited access to all records from the UK, Ireland, Canada and more
  • Access to more than 1.4 billion worldwide names
  • Unlimited access to all U.S. Record collections
  • Access to more than 900 million U.S. names
  • Collections include vital records, newspapers, digitized books, immigration records and more
  • New content added every month
  • Unique databases from our partners that include eYearbooks, Newspaper Archives, Genealogical.com, and many others...
Take a focused look and you might be surprised at what you find.

23 December 2009

Fun: New Jewish tunes for the holiday

Many Tracing the Tribe readers - at least those in the US - will be eating Chinese and going to the movies tomorrow.

Here's something else to occupy you if that's a relevant description of your day: The Forward's J.J. Goldberg offers a selection of very funny holiday videos in his blog post, Give It a Rest, Adam Sandler: The New Jewish Holiday Tunes.

He begins by telling us to give Adam Sandler's “Chanukah Song” a rest after 15 years, lists some new ones and provides some very funny videos, straight from YouTube.

Since Tracing the Tribe has already covered the usual Christmas songs written by MOTs, here are Goldberg's choices for more holiday expressions, sure to put a smile on your face.

His choices include "Chinese Food for Christmas," a Chipmunks' parody, rap and gangsta-rap renditions, Lex Friedman's medley of holiday songs that haven't made the top 10 (yet!), the hysterical "Jewish Christmas Song" by an unknown, and a few more.

Go to his blog link above and enjoy a little!

Cleveland: All about Chicago resources, Jan. 3

Chicago genealogy resources are the topic at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland on Sunday, January 3, 2010.

The meeting begins at 1.30pm, at Park Synagogue East. There is no fee.

"Another City by the Lake: Jewish Genealogy Resources in Chicago," will be presented by Chicago historian, genealogist and attorney Charles B. Bernstein, who has been involved in Jewish genealogy since 1965.

Bernstein's great-grandfather founded a congregation in the city in the 1880s. In 1977, he was a founding member of the Chicago Jewish Historical Society, the Jewish Genealogical Society (New York),; he's a member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois.

For three decades, Bernstein has conducted personal research and private research for clients, in addition to lecturing widely, teaching Jewish genealogy and serving as scholar-in-residence.

He has authored or co-authored six books: "The Descendants of Moritz Loeb, A History of Community Service," "Torah and Technology: The History and Genealogy of the Anixter Family," "The Rothschilds of Nordstetten: Their History and Genealogy," "From King David to Baron David: The Genealogical Connections between Baron Guy de Rothschild and Baroness Alix de Rothschild," "Chaya Ralbe Hovsha and Rabbi Yechiel Michel Hovsha and Their Descendants," and "The Loeb Family of Trier and the Myer Family of Illingen." He has contributed to both the "Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy" and the "Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy."

This should be a fascinating meeting with one of Chicago's true Jewish genealogy experts.

22 December 2009

Resources Online: Love comics?

Nothing like a cold rainy day to encourage a blogger to stay home and go through email.

Tracing the Tribe clicked on ResearchBuzz today and learned about a new collection of digitized comics from various sources.

Some include famous cartoon characters used for public service announcements. The cartoon at left is from Security is an Eye Patch, featuring Charlie Brown and his sister Sally. The booklet on amblyopia ("lazy eye") was published by the US Department of Health.

Some comics are in Spanish, most are in English. Other cartoon characters are also featured, such as L'il Abner and Dennis the Menace. Enjoy the 183 comics, which can be downloaded as PDFs. Loading can be slow, so be patient.

How does Tracing the Tribe find some of these interesting items? Resources, resources, resources is the name of the game.

One very useful site is ResearchBuzz, which offers all sorts of interesting items from many diverse sites, all in a convenient email alert.

The site covers the world of search engines, databases, and other online information collections. Recent posts have covered the Library of Congress, Twitter, Worldcat and much more.

In fact, ResearchBuzz learned about the digitized comics from another site called ResourceShelf, which provides updates on resources of interest to information professionals, educators and journalists.

Librarians and researchers share the results of their web searches for resources and information. Among the quirky ones was the comics site above. There's also a weekly newsletter.

Readers may subscribe to both resources.

Food: Chinese food and Jews

Where do you find the best Chinese restaurants in the US? Look for the Jewish neighborhoods. There is an age-old affinity between Members of the Tribe (MOTs) and Chinese food.

MOTs contemplating moves to a new neighborhood or city have a priority list: Where are the best schools, the best doctors, and the nearest (and best) Chinese restaurant? The last has expanded to include Japanese/sushi.

We even had a few excellent Chinese restaurants in Teheran a long time ago. Wherever we traveled, we tried the Chinese food and have memories of interesting places in Amsterdam, The Hague, Barcelona, Zurich and elsewhere. Readers who visit northern California should make a stop at my favorite, Chef Chu's in Los Altos (the tangerine chicken is worth the drive from anywhere) - make sure you go hungry - and drool over their menu! But nothing beats New York or Los Angeles for the sheer numbers of excellent Chinese restaurants.

Unfortunately, Chinese food in Israel is dreadful. Every dish comes adorned with those mystery vegetables, water chestnuts are unheard of, and there are no Chinese chefs. On the other hand, the sushi and Japanese food is very good, so it somewhat makes up for the lack of Chinese food.

Moment Magazine's Nonna Gorilovskaya covers this history of Jews and Chinese food in the November-December issue and even wrote a holiday parody to kick it off:

Twas the night before Christmas and there was hardly a sound,
As Jews jumped in their cars and drove to Chinatown.
Their orders were given to waiters with care,
In hopes that wonton soup soon would be there.

The children finished their noodles and nestled in their beds,
While visions of fortune cookies danced in their heads.
Now, Moment takes an inquiring look,

At how this love affair with Chinese food took. —NG

Gorilovskaya interviewed author Andrew Coe ("Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States").

Here are the questions and some comments by Tracing the Tribe - but you'll have to go to the link above to read Coe's complete answers. It is definitely worth it!

- When and where did the first Chinese restaurants in the United States open?

The first were in San Francisco in 1849......

- When did Chinese restaurants migrate to New York City?

The Chinese arrived in NYC in the 1870s-1880s because of discrimination in the American West, joining the huge mass of other immigrants......

- What is chop suey?

Tracing the Tribe has never understood how anyone can order that dish. I am a Chinese food purist. For example, Kung Pao chicken should only contain chicken, peanuts, red peppers and the sauce (except that I always add water chestnuts!), no mini-corn or broccoli or other mystery ingredients whose sole purpose is to "stretch" the dish with extraneous stuff. To me, chop suey is just a hodge-podge of things all chopped up together - we often called it "left-overs."

- Was chop suey an American invention?

Coe believes that it is a real dish from the town of Taishan in Guangdong province, from where the majority of 19th century Chinese immigrants came to the US. He believes it is really low-class country peasant food and not even recognized it as Chinese. But the Taishanese Americanized the dish. ....

- When did large numbers of American Jews begin eating Chinese food?

The immigrant generation lived together in crowded Jewish neighborhoods, and observant East European Jews didn't frequent restaurants with dubious kashrut. Their sons and daughters, however, were very different. Chinese cuisine, in the 1920s-30s, was considered urban, sophisticated - and cheap.....

- Were there other reasons why Jews preferred Chinese restaurants to, let’s say, American or Italian restaurants?

Chinese restaurant owners, unlike any other restaurant owners, did not discriminate and treated all their customers the same, and they were open every day of the year.....

- How did Chinese food become “safe treif”?

"Treif" means not kosher in Yiddish. You know, things like pork and shrimp. Coe talks about "safe treif." If you cannot see big pieces of the forbidden food, it is OK by some stretch of the imagination. Out of sight, out of mind.

Tracing the Tribe's maternal grandparents kept a kosher kitchen, but also had a set of special plates for Chinese, although they avoided bringing in take-away dishes containing pork and shrimp. I'm sure they were not the only family to have such a set of dishes.

- When did kosher Chinese food come on the scene?

Kosher Chinese food grew in the 1950s to cater to the observant Jewish market.....

- When did they spread to the suburbs?

Wherever Jews moved - to the suburbs, the restaurants followed them....

- When did the tradition of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas begin?

Most places today are closed on Christmas, but 80 years ago, everything was really closed. MOTs had nothing to do until they discovered that Chinese restaurants and movie theaters were open on December 25. That's what Tracing the Tribe's family did in the Bronx and in Brooklyn, along with our friends and relatives.

- What happened?

Hooray for immigration, says Tracing the Tribe. After 1965, chefs from all over southeast Asia began arriving and opening specialty places (Vietnamese became the new Chinese). More regional places were opening (Szechuan). It wasn't just Cantonese or Shanghai-style anymore, but other styles of Chinese and Asian. Many of today's restaurants feature "fusion" menu, including a wide range of regional specialties from egg drop soup to tuna nigiri and everything else....

- Do you have a favorite cultural reference to Jews and Chinese food?

Coe's favorite cultural reference to Jews and Chinese Food is Herman Wouk's "Marjorie Morningstar."....

- What does the fortune cookie say about the relationship between Jews and Chinese food?

According to Coe, more discoveries are on the way in Chinese and Asian food.

- What’s the latest in Chinese food in the United States?

Coe says to look for new Chinese regional places, such as Dongbei cuisine from the northeastern region (formerly Manchuria), which he likens to Korean....

Read the complete interview at the link above, and read more of Moment's articles here.

21 December 2009

Online: Top 10 gen mags

Genealogy in Time has two interesting articles online now.

The first is a list of the top 10 most popular online genealogy magazines, according to Alexa, which measures Internet traffic and monitors millions of online sources including thousands of genealogy sites. The second is a top 10 list of 2009's most popular genealogy themes.

Read the first here.

The list is headed by our geneablogger colleague Dick Eastman, of Eastman's Online Genealogy Magazine. When Dick started writing, there was no such thing as a blog, thus he decided to call it a magazine, but Tracing the Tribe is always proud to call him a fellow geneablogger!

The Top 10 list with links to each:

1. Eastman’s Online Genealogy Magazine [Link]
2. Family Tree Magazine [Link]
3. Family Chronicle Magazine [Link]
4. Journal of Genetic Genealogy [Link]
5. The Global Gazette [Link]
6. Genealogy In Time [Link]
7. Genealogy Roots Blog [Link]
8. Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly – This is the go-to genealogy site for anyone wanting to trace their roots in the State of Georgia. [Link]
9. Genealogy Magazine [Link]
10. Family Research [Link]

For more on each publication, click the link above and also see Alexa's most recent list here.

The second article is a 2009 roundup of top genealogy news stories and themes. Read Genealogy in Time's article here for more on each. Last year, genetic testing topped the list; this year's is more diverse and is topped by privacy or lack of same for online personal gen information.

Here are the top 10 in reverse order:

10. Long Life Does Run in Families – Long Life Runs in Families.

9. Who Owns Your Online Genealogy Information – Who Owns Your Online Genealogy Information.

8. DNA Confirms Final Remains of Russian Royal Family – DNA Confirms Remains of Russian Royal Family.

7. The Drive for Youthfulness Even Extends to the Grave - Obituary Photos are Getting Younger.

6. The Downside of Genetic Genealogy Tests – Germany Bans Genetic Genealogy Tests.

5. Europe Remains at the Forefront of Genealogy Privacy – Europe Demands Privacy Standards for Social Networking Sites.

4. Why Your Ancestors Kept Changing Their Name – Why Immigrants Change Their Name.

3. Facebook and Privacy – Privacy Fears Raised Over Genealogy Application on Facebook, Regulator Finds Facebook has Serious Privacy Gaps, Facebook Announces Tighter Privacy Standards and Google Ads New Privacy Tools: Implications for Genealogy.

2. The Biggest Genealogy Company Lists on the Stock Exchange – Genealogy This Week and Why Are Newspapers Dying?

1. We Now Know How Much We Don’t Know About Our Ancestors

According to Genealogy in Time, "we still do not have definitive answers to some of the really big genealogy questions. So, the next time you feel frustrated in your genealogy searches, take heart. You are in good company!"

Enjoy your read!

Oregon: Jewish Museum reopens

The Oregon Jewish Museum has moved to a new home in the northwest part of Portland.

Its resources include art exhibits and much more, including the Jewish historical society's archives and library (open by appointment to researchers).

Back in the 1950s, the city's Old South Waterfront was a vibrant Jewish and Italian neighborhood. There is a walking tour of the area.

The opening was on Sunday, and various exhibits included:

The Shape of Time: accumulations of place and memory
Arnold Newman – Street Scenes
The Berger Collection of Ceremonial Judaica
Deanne Belinoff – The Book of Keys
Alex Appella – The Janos Book
Shelley Jordon – Family History
The museum also conducts the Oral History Jewish Cemetery Project and the Oral History Project. Seniors' memories are a precious resource that dwindle over time, and both projects are aimed at saving these memories and archiving them.

The first project takes small groups to Portland's Jewish cemeteries to film and interview the seniors as they walk together and talk about family and friends buried there. Gravestone names trigger memories and conversation. The films will be open to archival research and eventually made public. This project is funded by the Oregon Heritage Commission, the Oregon Cultural Trust and Helen and Jerry Stern.

The second oral history project is part of the museum's mission to preserve the state's Jewish history. The current project expands the Oregon Jewish Oral History and Archive collection begun in the 1970s. Its goal is to collect a wide range of oral histories from community members across the state. Volunteers are trained to to conduct interviews and transcribe tapes.

A third project - Museum in a Suitcase - is an outreach program for elementary school students. The goal is to teach diverse students about the successful integration of the Jews, who were one of the state's earliest immigrant groups. Significant objects including Judaica are included in the suitcase, along with curriculum materials and teaching guide. The museum wants to train docents who will visit schools and organize programs. Funding is via The Collins Foundation, Oregon Heritage Commission and the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland have funded this project.

Go to the museum site (link above) and read all about the exhibit... - Shape of Time - which explores urban landscapes and public memory through the Jewish experiences in the state. It utilizes the museums extensive collection of historic photographs.

Bulgaria: Jewish surname dictionary online.

Bulgaria's Jewish community is a fascinating one and a new database on SephardicGen.com will help researchers of this mostly Sephardi community.

If your families of interest lived in Bulgaria at one time, search the Dictionary of Jewish Bulgarian Surnames at Jeff Malka's site, which offers extensive resources for Sephardi genealogists looking for information on family that lived in many countries.

With nearly 800 surnames - most found all over the Balkans - the details include the surname, its variants, its etymology (and original language), meaning and a reference to historical background in medieval Spain.

The notes on name origin are fascinating and offer a different perspective. Even if your family doesn't come from Bulgaria, the notes will help when looking at any list of Jewish Sephardi surnames.

Search with only the first letter of a name, unless you know the exact spelling; that's the simplest method. For example, enter "A," check "begins with," receive a list of all names beginning with A.

Unfortunately, only 10 at a time are shown and you'll have to keep hitting "next 10" to see the rest. I found that mildly annoying and wished for a way to choose how many names to display for each search. But the benefits of this database far outweigh the slight annoyance with having to click on succeeding screens.

Mathilde Tagger of Jerusalem wrote the introduction to the database at the link above. It includes the history of Jewish surnames in the former Ottoman Empire, information on various alphabets and spelling curiosities, in addition to a large bibliography for more information.

She writes that these surnames have been detailed in only three publications, which Tagger analyzes. They include Asher Moissi's booklet on Greek Jewish names, Baruch Pinto's Sephardic Onomasticon (mostly on Turkish Jews), and Isaac Moskona's 1967 article.

Moskona's list of 509 surnames was based on three sources (1895-1967), but gave meanings for fewer than half. Current research covers 798 surnames, and additional ones were found in the passports of Bulgarian Jews when they immigrated to Israel (1948-49). The passports are on microfilm in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (Jerusalem).

Where do Bulgarian Jewish surnames come from?

Take a look at this chronology of immigration into Bulgaria:

2nd century BCE: Romaniote Jews are recorded arriving after the destruction of the Second Temple. Their names are Hebrew or Greek.

1376: Hungarian Jews, without surnames, are expelled; some reach Bulgaria. They receive mostly Turkish nicknames.

1394: Some Jews are expelled from France and reach Bulgaria via the Danube River. Their names reflect places from where they came. (NOTE: Some may have been Jewish refugees from the 1391 riots across Spain who fled by going north into southern France.)

1470: Bavarian Jews are expelled by King Ludwig X, many settle in Bulgarian localities along the Danube and in Sofia, the capital. Few have surnames and receive mostly Turkish nicknames.

1492: Expelled Sephardim from Spain find safety in the Ottoman Empire and reach Bulgaria after 1494, settling in towns where Jews already lived. They soon became the majority and leaders of the community. Spanish Jewish surnames had Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese origins.

1493: Expelled Sicilian Jews reach the Ottoman Empire with Spanish and Italian names. (NOTE: Many Sicilian Jews are originally from Catalunya in Spain, who come to the Catalan-speaking island after the 1492 Expulsion. They thought they would be safe in Sicily, and they were - but only for one year and were expelled again in 1493. Most cross the Straits of Messina into Calabria.

1566-1574: Jewish immigrants from Calabria (southern Italy) arrived; many are descendants of Spanish Sephardim who went to Sicily following the 1492 Expulsion. They had Italian and Hebrew surnames.

Over the next 200 years: all Jews regardless of their origin (including the descendants of the Hungarian and German Jews) meld into the Sephardi community, with Ladino as their common language.

Late 19th-early 20th century: Ashkenazi Jews arrived from Ukraine, Romania and Russia, but the SephardicGen Bulgarian dictionary only includes Sephardi surnames.

Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire 1378-1878, so Turkish was a major influence on the Jewish community.

The introduction includes the quirky transliteration rules of Cyrillic, concerning the non-existent H (which became G in Russia and KH in Bulgaria), as well as letters with the sounds of SH, J, K

20 December 2009

Names: How many of each?

Names, names. How many of each name are there and how do the respondents identify in regard to their ethnicity or race?

A Facebook blog entry was the focus for a Wall Street Journal article on comparing diversity of its members with the US Census Genealogy Project.

How do Facebook members compare to the Genealogy Project listing the most popular surnames?
Facebook data team researchers Lars Backstrom, Jonathan Chang, Cameron Marlow and Itamar Rosenn wrote that they were interested in finding out more about the composition of race and ethnicity among Facebook users. So they compared Facebook users’ surnames with data from the US Census Bureau's Genealogy Project, which measured the frequency of the most popular 150,000 surnames in the United States along with the race and ethnicity associated with the person who had each one.
The Wall Street Journal story appeared in Digits, its blog on technology news and insights, which referred readers to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Genealogy Project.

That link provides three files. The first is the methodology and definitions. The second: an Excel list of the top 1,000 names; the third: a list of names appearing 100 times or more, for a total of more than 151,000 names.

To read more about what the data scientists at Facebook found, read the links above.

Tracing the Tribe did its own look-see on the third list of names for DARDASHTI and TALALAY, as I certainly didn't expect to see them among the 1,000 most popular surnames.

DARDASHTI ranked 112,365 with a count of 145 individuals.

That was surprising as we have more than 1,000 relatives in Greater Los Angeles with this name. If it were only 145 individuals, family weddings - and even Passover seders - would be much smaller.

The probability of finding the name in every 100,000 people is 0.05; 80.69% identified White, 0% Black, 0% Asian, 17.93% as two races, and data was suppressed for American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic.

This is understandable as Persians believe they are Asian (Iran is in Asia), but the Los Angeles School District and other city/federal similar lists put Asian under Caucasian. And there are a few marriages in the family that include other races.

TALALAY did not appear - it is such a rare name anywhere and appeared in no variant spelling of the 35 original name spellings. However, reflecting the name change in 1905 by my immigrant great-grandfather, the adopted surname TOLLIN was in the list and ranked 84.310 with a count of 207 individuals.

While most TALALAY became TOLLIN, so did others named TOLCHINSKY - as I've discovered over the years. Not all TOLLIN are TALALAY. The percentage found in every 100,000 individuals was 0.08%; 94.2% identified white; 3.38% identified black, 0% American Indian/Alaska Native, Data was suppressed for two race and Hispanic.

Have you checked your own names of interest?

Sephardim: Oral history project launched

Five thousand oral histories of Sephardic Jews are sought by the end of 2015 in an ambitious project to give voice to this community, regardless of whether they immigrated or were born here.

"Sephardic America Voices: A Jewish Oral History Project,” is sponsored by the American Sephardi Federation (ASF) in New York, with the University of Miami and Hebrew University.
The New Jersey Jewish Standard carried the story.

Organizer Carlos Benaim is an ASF board member born in Tangiers, and created the project after participating in a Barcelona conference. The event featured author Helene Trigano's film with testimonies of Sephardic Jews living in France.

There was no such initiative for the US Sephardic community, said Benaim, so he decided to preserve these stories that could be lost forever.

A New Jersey resident who also serves on the ASF board, Raquel Benatar (born in Tetuan, Morocco), said the project is a unique opportunity for American Sephardim to convey their history, customs, and traditions of diverse countries of origin, reasons for immigration to the US, and to help preserve Sephardic heritage. She may help conduct some of the interviews.

ASF executive director Stanley Urman says that nobody is capturing the history of Jews who fled, emigrated, escaped, or were expelled from countries throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Gulf region, and this is an important chapter in Jewish history.

As with Steven Spielberg's Shoah interviews, this project has a time element as the elders of this community are getting older. Information needs to be recorded as soon as possible before it is lost forever.

Using New Jersey as an example, there are some 20 Sephardic congregations in various towns (Fort Lee, Teaneck, Englewood, West Orange, Highland Park, Long Branch, and Deal), but not major Sephardic communities, except in Deal, where the Syrian Jews are some 16% of the residents.

People always ask about the definition of Sephardic. There are two definitions, the narrow and the broad. The narrower one limits it to Jews (and their descendants) who come from the Iberian Peninsula and settled around the Mediterranean or Ottoman Empire after 1492. The broader definition includes those who follow Sephardic liturgy, didn't originate in Iberia, and includes Jews who come from Asia or North Africa (known as Mizrahim, "easterners").

The project includes those who are Sephardim in the broader sense.

In 2002, the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, headed by the late Gary Tobin, estimated that there are some 600,000 Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews in the US.

The first "pilot" phase began in August and ended in October and a handful of people were interviewed. Urman is looking for those who want to be interviewed as well as for those who wish to be trained to be interviewers. ASF has already trained, as interviewers, 16 students of the Magen David Yeshiva High School in Brooklyn.

The third and final phase of the project will run from June 2010 to December 31, 2015 and hopes to reach the target of 5,000 interviews.

According to Urman, foreign-born parents may be interviewed with American-born children. In other interviews, children will share stories about their parents and stories from their grandparents. Each subject receives a DVD copy of the interview, which may be up to two hours long. The interview will be archived at the ASF. There are plans to publish educational materials, such as books and videos at the completion of the project.

Shelomo Alfassa is coordinator and did conducted the initial interviews. There are, he said, two different questionnaires. One is for Jews from Arab countries, and one for Jews from the Balkans, Turkey and Greece.

NOTE: One of Tracing the Tribe's pet peeves is that Jews from Iran are included in the first group when Iran is not an Arab country, although it is Moslem. Tracing the Tribe continually informs ASF and other news sources that this is a misnomer, and should be called Jews from Moslem countries, not Arab countries. ASF agrees, but finds that news media prefers to use the other designation, although it is wrong.

In the US, the questionnaire was designed by ASF with professors Henry Green (University of Miami Jewish Studies Department), and Margalit Bejarano (Hebrew University's Oral History Division, Hartman Institute of Contemporary Jewry).

Questions include the subjects' lives in their home countries, the need to leave when life became difficult, life in other countries prior to settlement in the US, and how they rebuilt their lives.

Although the article detailed immigration of Sephardic Jews to the US back to 1654, when 23 refugees arrived in New York from Recife, Brazil, as well as communities in such places as Newport, Rhode Island; Philadelphia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Savannah, Georgia; the 3,000+ Ottoman Empire Jewish immigrants (1885-1908), and 10,000 Turkish Jews after 1908; the story does not mention the huge Persian Jewish community that arrived in both New York and Los Angeles following the Iranian Revolution in the late 1970s-early 1980s.

For a bit of New Jersey history, the most well-known Sephardic congregation was Etz Ahaim, founded in 1929 in New Brunswick. Earlier Sephardim showed up in even earlier according to records, such as Aaron Louzada (Bound Brook, 1698), Daniel Nuñez (Piscataway town clerk, early 1700s), and David Naar, born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands (Elizabeth mayor, 1843).

Tracing the Tribe readers are invited to participate as both interviewees or interviewers. For more information, send an email to the ASF.

Read the complete story at the link above.

19 December 2009

New York: Treasure trove of WPA photos

Tracing the Tribe apologizes for not posting this much earlier. It has been languishing in the drafts folder and deserves to be made public.

This resource will help you locate photos and details for your own addresses of interest, as it did Tracing the Tribe's Bronx apartment building and Brooklyn house.

From 1938 to 1943, 700,000 photos were taken of real estate in every borough of New York. In the 1980s, a second set of 800,000 photos were taken.

Read the story in the New York Times with details about ordering prints. Here's a general shot of the Brooklyn Bridge (1934).

Known as tax photographs. The first set was taken for the city to make property assessments and as a federal employment program for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The second set was for another round of assessments.

The earlier set has been available to researchers for two decades, and the second set is now also available. Photos from both sets can now be purchased from the city.

Each photo carries the property's block and lot number. Find the block and lot number by entering the address at webapps.nyc.gov:8084/cics/fin2/find001i.

I easily found the BBL (block number) for both our Bronx apartment building and our Brooklyn house.

The 1940 shots are black-and-white: $35 for an 8x10; $50 for an 11x14. The 1980 shots are color: $45 for an 8x10; $60 for an 11x14. For up to six prints the shipping and handling is $5, and prices go up by another $5 per address if block and lot number is not included. Payment is refunded if a photo is not found.

According to Brian G. Andersson, city commissioner of records and information services, many of the earlier batch of photos may be the only extant shots of some properties. Some buildings are not there anymore, some have been extensively renovated and some have changed little.

More photographs and the history of specific properties are available at nytimes.com/nyregion.

Have fun finding the shots of your own properties of interest.

Music: Whose Christmas is it?

Musician and author Michael Feinstein's New York Times op-ed - Whose Christmas Is It? - is an interesting read, focused on the fact that much popular Christmas music was written by Members of the Tribe.

Tracing the Tribe has written on this previously; click here.

Read Feinstein's piece here. He addresses a weekend of Christmas concerts he did about 10 years ago, accompanied by a California regional symphony. He played a program of holiday classics the first night, but before the second concert, an orchestra board representative told him the program was "too Jewish." There had been complaints.

What provoked the complaints? Feinstein had mentioned the first night between numbers that almost all popular Christmas songs were written by Jews.

He opened the second concert with "We Need a Little Christmas," by MOT Jerry Herman.

Feinstein also mentions the evolution of Christmas as demonstrated in its music, which is more secular, and about Santa, sleighs and reindeer.
Yet I also hope that those who feel this encroachment will on some level understand that the spirit of the holiday is universal. We live in a multicultural time and the mixing, and mixing up, of traditions is an inevitable result. Hence we have the almost century-old custom of American Jews creating a lot more Christmas music than Hanukkah music.
Here's Feinstein's list of some of the most popular Christmas songs, written by other MOTs.

Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” Mel Tormé's “The Christmas Song,” “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” “Santa Baby,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Winter Wonderland.” Most were written for Tin Pan Alley and appeared in sheet music, not in a show or film.

However, Feinstein says Israel Baline's - excuse me, Irving Berlin's - "White Christmas was introduced in the film, "Holiday Inn," while another classic, "Silver Bells" appeared in "The Lemon Drop Kid."

Read why some very famous Jewish songwriters are not in this list, such as Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Richard Rodgers and Harold Arlen.

Feinstein shares his idea of seasonal expressions:

It doesn’t take Freud to figure out that the sugarplums, holly and mistletoe all tap into a sense of comfort, longing, security and peace that so many fervently desire; that we all wish the clichés were true. As Jews, Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists and everything in between, we are all more alike than we are different.
Read Feinstein's complete piece at the link above, as well as Tracing the Tribe's post.