13 September 2010

Colorado: Steve Morse solves a riddle

Steve Morse solves a Rosh Hashana riddle!

What a great way to remind Denver-area residents that Steve Morse will be visiting Sunday, October 10 to present a full-day seminar of four workshops from 9am-4pm at the Denver JCC, for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado. See registration details below.

He is, of course, the creator of the Steve Morse One-Step website, and began his public genealogical climb to fame with the his One-Step tool to finding elusive ancestors on the Ellis Island Database soon after it went online.

The riddle story was in the Denver Post - Tracing the Tribe is slightly backlogged on Google alerts due to the holidays - right before the New Year holiday.

The Jewish calendar can be very complicated to those of us involved in Jewish genealogy. Days begin at sunset instead of midnight. Vital records written in our ancestral towns generally recorded dates of interest in both the secular and the Jewish calendars.

Many American Jews don't generally know today's date in the Jewish calendar. Most of us have Jewish calendars, which incorporate the secular calendar, hanging on our refrigerators or in our offices.

Steve, as those of us who know and love him, is a Brooklyn boy, as well as major genealogical household name. There's nothing he likes better than a good challenge. Fortunately, his passion in creating some 200 online tools has helped many of us around the world find information that was previously inaccessible.

He had problems with the complex Hebrew calendar - which is both solar and lunar - a necessity to understand historical Jewish records. Sometimes an extra month is thrown in.

When he was a teen - long before personal computers were on every desk and every pocket -he tried to calculate his grandmother's secular birthday from her known Jewish-calendar birth date. He could not find the definitive answer, although wrestled for years with this complex calendar. He finally wrote a program to convert Jewish-calendar dates into the widely used Gregorian or Western calendar.
But Morse was stuck for years trying to unravel why his computer program to convert Jewish-calendar dates into Gregorian dates kept spitting out some disparate results, including the wrong beginning of some years.

The Jewish New Year begins on the first day of the month of Tishri. And in the Book of Genesis — the first book of the Torah and the Christian Bible — it says God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, which Jews observe from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, their Sabbath.

Because of this, Morse said, he had naively assumed that creation and the Jewish calendar both began on a Sunday in Tishri 1 in Year 1. Yet the only way other dates converted correctly in his program was if creation, as described in Genesis, started on a Monday, not a Sunday. That would make Sunday the seventh day, or day of rest.

That didn't compute from Morse's Jewish perspective.

"The rabbis I asked didn't know about mathematics," Morse said. "My mathematician friends don't know the Jewish calendar."
Twenty years later, he finally learned the answer from a One-Step user who pointed him to Talmudic scholars who corrected his assumption.
"Creation didn't start on Tishri 1 in the Year 1, but instead, it started in the last week of Year 1, on a Sunday," Morse said.

He removed the Rosh Hashana bug from his program.
Steve is a great presenter and this all-day seminar of workshops will be a great immersion experience for those who have not heard him at conferences.

Fees include kosher lunch, annual membership (if not already a member) and all-day access: JGSCO members, $18; others, $40. Register with payment by October 1 to attend the courses at the Loup Jewish Community Center. For more information, click here. The registration form is here.

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