11 September 2006

At the IIJG: In the archives

Monday at the symposium began with a discussion of archival priorities, including acquisition and accessibility, by Central Archives of the History of the Jewish People director Hadassah Assouline, and Jean-Claude Kuperminc, director of the Alliance Israelite Universelle Library.

While Assouline and Kuperminc were to discuss Ashkenazi and Sephardic records respectively, it was apparent that there was much overlap, with Assouline stating that CAJHP is the history of one people, not to be divided.

Seemingly Ashkenazi repositories hold records from both communities. In the Lviv archives, there is material on the Belgrad Sephardic community, while there are Sephardic materials in Russian archives.

Assouline mentioned some of the fascinating CAHJP archival holdings:

* Partial list of ledgers of the Jewish Colonialization Association in Argentina, began by Baron Hirsch in the 1890s, which could help descendants to trace back to Europe.
* A list of Vilna Jewish residents who paid taxes in the 1790s, indicating patrynomics, occupations and amount paid.
* A register of the Alexandria, Egypt rabbinical court, shows the betrothal of a couple from Galicia, whose names are written in Ashkenazi script while the record itself is in Sephardic script.
* The Zionist Archives gave a list of 1919 pogrom victims to the CAHJP. From a small town near Bobruisk, Belarus, the list of wounded and murdered gives names, ages and occupations.
* A survey of documents from books and Polish court registers revealed the Lvov District, Chortkov, court records listing plague victims in 1770.
* The property inventory list of a noble family -- owners of the town of Shklov -- list a synagogue, Jewish names and more. These are very early records from 1668.
* A 1913 file contains correspondence of Austrian Jewish organizations with other communities, such as a list of taxpayers in Irkutsk, Siberia.

Assouline’s priorities are acquiring new resources and making the archive accessible by deeper indexing and computerization.

Kuperminc’s efforts have been focused on modernizing records of a wide range of mainly Sephardic countries. Although not a genealogy specialist, he focuses on issues of Sephardic archives for genealogy research, proposes clues and priorities to solve questions.

In 1992, the commemmoration of the Expulsion created new interest. Sephardic studies are taught in universities along with Ladino, while several Sephardic onomastics books have been published. Sephardic genealogy now has to be taken seriously, Kuperminc added.

AIU holds 19th century records for the Ottoman Empire, North African and Middle Eastern. Kuperminc added that the AIU website, www.aiu.org, offers access to some databases.
The AIU covers a great range of geography -- Balkans, North Africa, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, France.

Resources include lists of subscribers, schools and material received from Moscow which was stolen by the Nazis and then captured by the Russians.

Kuperminc also wants to see a Sephardic equivalent to the ground-breaking Jewish atlas WOWW (Where Once We Walked, Avotaynu), which focuses on Russian Empire geography.

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