21 December 2007

Maryland: Double program, Jan. 6

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington's next meeting will be at B'nai Israel in Rockville, Maryland. The Sunday, January 6, 2008 is two-fold with a workshop on Jewish traditions concerning dying and death and a program by the USHMM's Paul Shapiro on the opening of the Bad Arolsen Archives.

From 11am-12.30pm, the member's-only workshop (no registration required) with David Zinner will explore Jewish traditions surrounding dying and death.

Zinner is the founder and executive director of Kavod v'Nichum (Honor and Comfort), which works to restore to Jewish death and bereavement practice, the traditions and values of kavod hamet (honoring the dead) and nichum avelim (comforting the bereaved).

For 700 years, the Chevra Kadisha (Holy Society) was the sole provider of Jewish funerals and burials, and cared for fellow congregants, from sickness through death, from preparing and burying the deceased. Modern day Chevra Kadisha groups continue this work and help families handle logistics while offering comfort and support.

Since its 1998 inception, Zinner has edited and managed the web site “Jewish Funerals, Burial and Mourning,” co-sponsored by Kavod v'Nichum and the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington. This site, visited by more than 120,000 people annually, is a comprehensive resource containing some 350 pages of information and links to Jewish and other sources on death, funeral practice, tahara, burial, cemeteries, mourning and healing, suicide, organ donation, consumer rights and the death care industry.

The workshop will address Jewish traditions and practices relating to death and dying and Jewish communal institutions that can provide assistance. As vice-president of the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington, Zinner participates in developing citywide contracts with funeral homes and is a member of the Cemetery Committee. He also serves on the Maryland Cemetery Advisory Board and will provide an update on issues being discussed

At 1.30pm, the main program will begin with Center of Advanced Holocaust Studies director Paul Shapiro at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The 11 countries overseeing the International Tracing Service (ITS) archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany, have ratified the agreement officially opening the massive Holocaust archive. It contains more than 100 million images of material relating to the fates of approximately 17.5 million people—both Jews and non-Jews—who perished in the Holocaust or who otherwise fell victim to the Nazi regime.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum is the American repository for these materials and is in the process of receiving a complete digital copy of the archive and working to make the documentation accessible in January 2008, so that it can begin responding to survivor information requests. The archive is being transferred in installments, and the Museum expects to have a complete copy of the material by 2010. Mr. Shapiro will discuss efforts to open the archive, material acquisition, and the USHMM's role in making information accessible to survivors and researchers.

Since 1997, Shapiro has led the USHMM efforts to provide leadership in Holocaust Studies in the US and abroad. Previously, he was involved for over a decade in the development of the Museum's archival collections, undertaking numerous archival research and acquisition missions to Romania, Moldova and Ukraine in particular. Before joining the Museum, he served in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the United States Information Agency and Department of State, where he was responsible for the Fulbright Fellowship Program and other major international exchange programs.

Shapiro holds a BA degree (Government) from Harvard University; a Master of International Affairs degree and a Master of Philosophy degree (History) from Columbia University. He has been a Fulbright scholar, IREX scholar, and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Eurasian Studies at The George Washington University.

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