27 February 2008

Canada: Little synagogue on the Prairie

A pioneer synagogue in Canada will be moved to a historical park in Calgary, according to the Canadian Jewish News.

“The proposal was to build a replica of a synagogue that we knew had existed in the Montefiore colony of Jewish immigrants who had settled in Alberta in 1910. We had a photo of the Montefiore synagogue, but assumed the building itself no longer actually existed,” says Karshenbaum, who is the president of a volunteer group she founded, The Little Synagogue on the Prairie Project Society.

“After the project was approved by Heritage Park, one of our board members, Emanuel Cohen, who was born on a ranch in eastern Alberta, did a lot of research and actually found the Montefiore synagogue that we were proposing to replicate,” says Karshenbaum.

The Montefiore synagogue, which is approximately 800 square feet, was built in 1913 by Jewish immigrants from Russia and eastern Europe. It served about 30 Jewish families, not only as a synagogue but also as a school and community centre, and was built near the present-day village of Sibbald, just west of the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

Due to harsh farming conditions, most of the Jewish settlers abandoned the Montefiore colony by the 1920s. Some settlers moved to Calgary and Edmonton, but most of them went to southern California, where they became chicken farmers.

The synagogue was abandoned and sold to a family during the Great Depression, physically moved to a town in eastern Alberta and used as a family home for nearly 70 years. Emanuel Cohen rediscovered it last year and the society bought it for $55,000. The family had not known it was once a synagogue.

For 15 years, Cohen had searched local school maps, museums, archives and spoke to residents to try to find the building. He got started when he wrote a paper on the Montefiore colony for the Jewish Historical Society of Southern Albert. Karshenbaum says there were many little prairie synagogues like this, but that the others have been lost.

Calgary has some one million residents, among them about 8,000 Jews, and Heritage Park draws some 500,000 visitors each year. Most who visit the synagogue will not be Jewish.

The JGS of Southern Alberta has launched a fundraising campaign, to raise one million dollars, to move, restore and equip the historic Montefiore synagogue. Some $400,000 has been raised. Karshenbaum, who founded the society hopes the Canadian Jewish community will support the project, which will be restored by consultant Trudy Cowan.

“The building has an impressive amount of original historical content intact,” she says. “We have been able to access the original ceiling behind the drop ceiling that was added. The tops of the original windows are still there. We can even see they had a separate little library, and we have two books stamped ‘Montefiore Hebrew Free Public Library.’”

Cohen says that the “front of the synagogue had a Magen David, which is gone, but the amazing thing is that the nail holes for it are still there.”

Small weddings, bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies are envisioned in the building, and costumed tour guides will explain Jewish religion and culture to visitors.

It will open in the spring of 2009, coinciding with the 120th anniversary of the settlement of the first Jewish family in Calgary - Rachel and Jacob Diamond. Bobby Libin, their great-grandson, chairs the fundraising committee.

For more information, click here.
For two stories on the project, click here and here.

26 February 2008

A little music, please!

OK, OK, too much reading makes our eyes tired.

It's time for a fun musical break:

Click on this for Jan Peerce singing "If I were a rich man" in Yiddish, where the title becomes "If I were a Rothschild." From "Fiddler on the Roof," of course, Peerce's version of the Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick song was recorded in Vienna in 1967.

Listen to the difference in the rich Yiddish accent above and in this next one.

Even though the season is wrong, here's a Yiddish "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," by Kugelplex.

Here's Tom Lehrer singing "Hanukkah in Santa Monica," which however does mention the upcoming holiday of Purim (at least in passing), Shavuoth and a few others. And if you're a Lehrer fan - who isn't? - this link will also provide click-ons to a series of his songs.


Rashid Kaplanov - a mystery man

Thanks to Joel at the Ha-historian blog - he often writes on Sephardic topics - I learned about Professor Rashid Kaplanov, a Russian historian who knew 36 languages and fostered Jewish learning and culture.

His name was an immediate attraction: Such an obviously Moslem first name like Rashid with a Kaplanov (son of Kaplan)?

His obituary on January 7 in the UK Times is here.

Kaplanov carried many mysteries to the grave. What is certain is that he was one of the world's great polyglots — a scruffy, unworldly, lovable man with a prodigious memory and a mastery of 36 languages, including some of the hardest, such as Hungarian (of which his knowledge extended to regional dialects), and some of the most obscure (such as Mirandese, spoken in a small area of northern Portugal).

A longstanding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences' department of general history, he was the first Russian citizen to preside over the European Association for Jewish Studies and did much to re-establish Jewish learning, secular and religious, as a subject of teaching and research in Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

His family history is fascinating to a genealogist:

Born in Moscow in 1949, Kaplanov's grandfather and namesake was Prince of the Kumyks - a Dagestan Moslem mountain tribe numbering some 200,000. Dagestan extends from Chechnya to the Caspian Sea. Tradition says the Kumyk princes are direct descendants of Muhammad and another theory says they "derive from a lost tribe of Jews — the Khazars."

His grandfather, Prince Rashidkhan Khan Kaplanov had a Jewish wife and was a leader of the short-lived government of the Caucasus during the Russian Revolution. The professor's mother was also Jewish. The obituary offers more information on bothhis father and grandfather.

In the 1990s, although not observant, he became involved in the revival of Jewish studies in the FSU. His doctoral thesis at the Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences was “The political system of Portugal, 1945-74.”

Kaplanov began researching the Sephardic (Spanish and Portuguese) Jews who had lived in Moscow after their expulsion from the Iberian peninsula, 1492-1497.

His interests included:

-The Karaites (a Jewish sect, Black Sea region),
-The Karaims (Jewish origin, Lithuania),
-The Sorbians (Slavic group, East Germany),
-18th-century Sephardic Jews' conversion to Russian Orthodox church in Moscow
-Antonio Ribeira Sanches, Portuguese-Jewish physician to the Russian court
-The Karaite pronunciation of Hebrew.

One of his languages was the unique and difficult Basque. When a Portuguese scholar asked why he learned it, Kaplanov said that the KGB was unlikely to have a censor able to read his letters in that language.

Politics apart, he was genuinely fascinated by topics that required the knowledge of many languages and obscure facts, and which allowed him to bury himself in Russia's greatest library. His background led him to identify with the languages and cultures of lost and endangered tribes and, by studying them, to preserve their memory. ... Kaplanov devoted the last 16 years of his life to the intellectual resurgence of Jewish culture among the remnants of communities almost destroyed by the Nazis and the Communists.

The professor headed the Modern Jewish history department at Moscow Jewish University, and was academic director of Sepher (Book) which he founded (1994) to promote Jewish civilization teaching in Russian universities and elsewhere.

In 2002, he was elected president of the European Association of Jewish Studies, following Sepher's success and many conference apperances in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Poland, Spain, Ukraine, the UK and the US.

Proud of his Muslim as well as his Jewish roots, Kaplanov was saddened that he did not marry or produce an heir, which meant that he was the last of the Kumyk princes.

Professor Rashid Kaplanov, historian and president of the European Association of Jewish Studies, was born on January 19, 1949. He died on November 27, 2007, aged 58.

Joel and I would have liked to ask him many questions - particularly about Sephardic Jews in Moscow - but we're too late.

Florida: Spencer Wells, February 27

Sorry for the late notice, but if deep ancestry DNA is your thing and you live near Palm Beach, here's a chance to hear population geneticist Dr. Spencer Wells of the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project at 2.30pm Wednesday, February 27.

He'll be speaking at The Society of the Four Arts. The event is free and offers a book signing.

While most genealogists are able to track several generations of our families, deep ancestry goes back thousands and thousands of years to where everything really begins and provides information on human migration routes using DNA. Everyone in the world can be traced back to Africa sometime in the past 60,000 years, says Wells.

The Project wants to collect 100,000 samples from indigenous people and as many as possible from the public. To date, there have been 275,000 samples from the public and 31,000 from indigenous peoples. Proceeds from the public participation kits go into the Legacy Fund, supporting cultural and educational initiatives with indigenous people.

The scientist, author and documentary filmmaker has dedicated his career to studying humankind’s family tree and closing the gaps in our knowledge of migration.

The story of the human journey is encoded in our DNA. In 2005, National Geographic and IBM launched the project, and now has more than a quarter of a million participants. Family Tree DNA does the testing for the project.

Wells graduated Phi Beta Kappa (University of Texas, Austin) at 19, earned his PhD at Harvard with post-doctoral training at Stanford. He is the writer and presenter of the award-winning documentary, Journey of Man. Since the project began in 2005, his work with the Project’s 10 global research centers has taken him to three dozen countries including Chad, Tajikistan, Morocco and French Polynesia.

What's in the paper today?

While family history researchers understand that historic newspapers are excellent resources for revealing ancestral information, it's even better when today's paper reunites living families.

The Lower Hudson Journal News (New York) played a big part in recently reuniting two cousins after more than six decades.

Jakub Pomeranz had not looked back on his past after the day in 1944 day when German soldiers dragged his father away to Auschwitz, leaving the boy wandering the streets of the Polish town of Radom.

Moving from one orphanage to another across Europe, Jakub, then 8, lost touch with his known surviving relatives - two cousins and an aunt. His mother and sister had disappeared in 1939, and his three brothers were also were missing.

After the war, a prominent New York Jewish couple brought Jakub to the United States, adopted him and gave him their name - Gartenberg. If in the following six decades Jack Gartenberg wondered about his original family, he put it out of his mind.

The Journal News carried a late December 2007 story about a Monsey (NY) couple who were making aliyah to Jerusalem. Gartenberg's wife showed him the article about Radom native Jehoshua Pomeranz and his wife Miriam.

Gartenberg, 72, said, "How can there be two Pomeranzes from Radom and not be related?"

More amazing was that the two families had lived within two miles of each other for 34 years; the children had gone to the same school; the wives were on the same bowling league and had even worked together briefly. Even the men were acquainted.

Gartenberg's wife, Pinky had wondered if they were related because of the surname, and she had discussed it with Miriam, but dismissed it as Pomeranz was a kohen and Gartenberg wasn't.

Following the article, the women arranged to meet, although Pomeranz had already left for Jerusalem and his wife planned to follow soon.

They met for five hours and concluded the men were related.

"The realization that his only known surviving relative had lived within walking distance for decades, unbeknownst to him, was overwhelming, and tears streamed down his face."

"His father and my father were brothers," Gartenberg said. "How much closer can you get?"

More connections in the form of old memories, photographs and letters proved the relationship.

Gartenberg hid in a Polish basement with his cousins, one of whom was Miriam's mother-in-law, Sara Joseph, who remembered those times.

Both remembered Jack's father Pesach as being tall with blond hair, and working in the mattress business. Joseph has a photo of the two brothers with her mother in pre-war Poland. Jack now has his father's image.

In a French orphanage in 1946, Gartenberg had written a letter to his aunt and cousins at their last known address, asking of their whereabouts and about other relatives, signed with his name then, Kuba. Joseph had the original letter, found among her mother's papers after her death in 2000.

One of Gartenberg's few memories was of his father whispering to him - Don't forget you are a kohen - before they took him away.

Gartenberg's memories had kept him from searching for family, although the Pomeranzes had looked for "Kuba" for years. They would even look up the name Pomeranz in phone books and cold call the numbers, to no avail. Of course, they didn't know he had been adopted and used a different name.

"It was like the coming of the messiah," said Joseph, who now lives in Buffalo. "When you are a survivor, you've lost grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family members. You have very few who remain. You long to find someone you belong to. They are part of your past and your history."

Although Gartenberg, Joseph and Pomeranz haven't met yet, they are planning a future reunion.

Read more here.

Florida: "Best bet internet sites," March 12

Ron Arons will speak in Los Angeles on March 9, and then he's off to Florida, where the author, lecturer and researcher will speak at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County in Delray Beach on Wednesday, March 12.

He will present "Best Bet Internet Websites," at 1pm.

Arons will explore the many "best bet" websites that allow researchers to find materials online, including historical documents, newspapers and articles, living people, maps and photos, foreign language translators and aids and more. He will provide numerous examples of how the Internet has worked for him.

A seasoned genealogist who has traced his roots to England, Poland, Romania, Ukraine Belarus and Lithuania, Arons holds degrees from Princeton University and the University of Chicago. His current research focuses on both famous and lesser-known Jewish criminals and received the 2005 Hackman Research Residency Award.

For more information go to the JGSPBCI website.

25 February 2008

Los Angeles: 'It's Online' workshop, March 9

I have always encouraged Jewish genealogical societies to team up with local institutions such as museums, historical societies and others to present valuable programs to a wider audience. The Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles and the Skirball Cultural Center are doing just that in a half-day computer genealogy workshop from 1-5.30pm, Sunday, March 9.

"It's Online: Internet Sleuthing for the Family Genealogist" is part of the Skirball's "learning for life" adult education program.

Have you wondered where your family members came from in 'the old country'or what their lives were like when they immigrated to the United States? Are you longing to reconstruct your family tree to pass on toyour children, but think the process is too overwhelming ortime-consuming to tackle on your own? This one-day seminar aboutsearching online resources will give you the inspiration, motivation,and tools to begin your own research project.

JGSLA program chair and workshop moderator Pamela Weisberger has brought together three nationally recognized and excellent speakers. She is Gesher Galicia's research coordinator and IAJGS conference film festival coordinator. A special area of interest has been late 19th to early 20th century city directories, newspapers and court records.

Ron Arons
Online Odysseys: Exploring and Exploiting Internet Resources

"Best bet" websites beyond Steve Morse, Ellis Island and more, that allow one to find many other materials online, including historical documents, newspapers and articles, living people, incarcerated (black sheep) relatives, maps and photos, foreign language translators and aids to allow you to become a genealogy detective.

Born and raised in New York, Arons has traced his roots to England, Poland, Romania, the Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. He has given presentations at five of the last six IAJGS conferences, to local JGSs, and at other conferences across the country. He has written articles for Avotaynu and his book, The Jews of Sing-Sing, will be published this spring. In January 2008, he appeared in the PBS documentary "The Jewish Americans." A computer industry veteran, Arons earned degrees from Princeton; he's an expert on prison records as sources for genealogical research.

Suzanne Russo Adams
Advanced Ancestry: Searching Like a Pro!

A genealogist's paradise - more than 3 billion names, 10 million U.S. Federal Census images and over 23,000 genealogical and historical databases make Ancestry.com one of the world's most-used genealogy website. Learn how to better use Ancestry's search technology to find your ancestors. Are you totally new to the process? Now is your chance to learn from an Ancestry expert. Learn valuable tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the most out of Ancestry's search capabilities. Take your genealogical skills to the next level.

An accredited genealogist, Adams is a Brigham Young University graduate with degrees in sociology and family history/genealogy. She currently works as the Professional Services Desk Manager for Ancestry.com and previously worked in both electronic production and content acquisition for more than eight years at Ancestry.com. She serves on the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) Boards.

Beau Sharbrough
Footnote.com: Bringing History to Life

Footnote.com has scored praise in the online world by bringing history to users' fingertips by providing hands-on access to high-quality scans of previously inaccessible primary sources and National Archives records which can be searched, downloaded and annotated. This real-time demonstration will demonstrate how to navigate the portals of historical documentation to bring your family research alive.

A popular writer and lecturer on technology in genealogy, and an expert on searching the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, he is a representative of the historical documents website Footnote. A former president of GENTECH, he worked on tree products at Ancestry.com,

Also, the film, "Past Lives: The Stanley Diamond Story will be shown

The quest of Canadian genealogist Stan Diamond to reconstruct his family to solve a genetic medical mystery led to the creation of the largest index in the world of specifically Jewish vital Records - Jewish Records Indexing Poland. This database has helped countless researchers discover their roots and had reunited families separated for decades because of the Holocaust.

Fee: Skirball/JGSLA members, $20; students, $15; others, $25. Register online here, click "What's On," then click "Courses: Winter 2008."

Australia: National Jewish genealogy conference

Are you an Australian searching your Jewish roots? Or do you live elsewhere on the globe and have discovered Australian relatives during your research?

Here's a good idea that may be perfect for both groups of researchers. It will take place in October - which is spring in the Southern hemisphere.

The Australian Jewish Genealogical Society has announced that a national Jewish genealogy conference will be held Sunday and Monday, October 26-27, in Canberra, followed by two days of optional visits to archives and cemeteries.

The program will offer lectures, seminars and panel forums, as well as visits to national institutions and genealogical resources.

Genners around the world who might attend are asked to email conf2008@ajgs.org.au to express their interest (this is not a conference registration).

The conference program will be posted soon; an accommodations list is available now on the AJGS website, which offers more information.

This is an excellent idea to attract and encourage the growing number of genealogists searching their Jewish roots in Australia.

This may be the time for us to meet cousins in Melbourne and Sydney who, for years, have been asking us to visit.

Inquisition records at Notre Dame

For those interested in the Inquisition and the tragedy of its impact on Sephardim and the Sephardic Diaspora, here is a collection of primary resource material.

Although in force in Spain in the 14th century, it was not until the late 15th century with the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand that the Inquisition evolved into a tool to promote racial purity and Catholic orthodoxy. Its activities lasted into the 19th century in some places.

Notre Dame University purchased The Inquisition Collection in November 1996 from Libreria José Porrua Turanzas in Madrid, Spain, through an estate gift of Harley L. McDevitt. It is a significant collection (565 items) of books and manuscripts on the activities and history of the Inquisition in Spain, Portugal and the New World.

More than 550 items are in the collection, assembled over many years by Porrua Turanzas' late father, who enlarged the collection acquired from earlier Spanish collector Anastasio Páramo.

The collection - with many 15th century items - includes inquisitor's manuals, indices of prohibited and expurgated books, descriptions of autos-da-fé, records of inquisitorial tribunals, certificates of familiars, engravings and other artwork, early commentaries and histories of the inquisitions, modern secondary works and critical studies of the inquisitions.

Collection highlights are in an online exhibit including a searchable database with information on individual items and instructions on downloading an the inventory-catalog.

The website is easy to navigate, with arrows on the bottom of each page, and a table of contents in the left column. Click the search button for the online searchable database. Bear in mind that documents illustrated are in Spanish and Latin.

Go through the collection from here. See the collection index here.

There are other well-known Inquisition collections at the University of Pennsylvania and Indiana University.

Genealogy in a bookstore near you

Libraries hold special interest for family history researchers. For interesting information, try Library Journal.

In addition to breaking news, collection development, technology and tools, there are also various newsletters, blogs, podcasts and more.

The story that caught my eye was "Borders advances the Superstore, and librarians take note," which discussed the first Borders superstore in its corporate headquarters of Ann Arbor, Michigan, one of 14 to be built.

In addition to a cafe and community space, the nearly 29,000-square foot store has a staffed Digital Center for customers to make custom CDs, download books and music, explore genealogy and create books.

After seeing those magic words, I went to the Borders press release:

Yet, we've brought a fresh new look and an exciting interactive dimension to the store with a Digital Center where customers can do everything from mix and make their own custom CDs, download books and music, publish their own books, explore their family history, and create photo books — all without being computer experts because we have trained people there to help every step of the way," he said.

Customers will be able to access "Borders Genealogy Services" provided by Ancestry.com. The Digital Center includes "Borders Personal Publishing" powered by Lulu.com. Some customer-written books may eventually be sold in Borders stores and select customer authors could even host in-store signings.

The Digital Center will offer:

-Search Ancestry.com — Via the Borders digital kiosks, customers can visit Ancestry.com to access family history research services and resources.

-Ancestry.com Subscription in a Box — Customers can purchase a one-month Ancestry subscription for access to census records, immigration records, military records, birth, marriage and death records, historical newspapers and more.

-Family Tree Maker Software - Three versions of this software for building family trees will be offered.

-"Our Name in History" Family Name Books — Personalized books with facts about customers' family names throughout history. Order in-store at the kiosk and ship home.

Additional superstores will open in or near Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco/Oakland, Indianapolis, Hartford/New Haven, Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Seattle and New Orleans.

According to Borders, the company realizes that not all customers are comfortable with technology, so the Digital Center will offer "a friendly environment," with trained staff, to help customers achieve their goals.

Does "trained staff" mean employment for genealogists?

All the pretty horses - Jewish folk art

Remember the merry-go-rounds (also known as carousels) we rode when we were kids? Whether we were at fun fairs or large amusement parks, we enjoyed seeing the colorfully painted horses.

Did you know that carousel horses were Jewish folk art?

"Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel" is a ground-breaking American Folk Art Museum exhibit revealing a little-known aspect of American carousel history and its Jewish culture connection.

It is the first major study of the Jewish contribution to American folk art.

Founded in 1961, the Museum is devoted to the collection, exhibition, study, and preservation of folk art. The exhibit runs through March 23, and then moves to the Fenimore Art Museum (Cooperstown, New York) through September 1.

On display are some 100 rarely displayed artworks from US and Israeli collections. A companion catalog has been published (Brandeis University Press), available through the museum's gift shop.

Many of the artisans who arrived in America carved for their local synagogues; some also found work creating horses and other animals for the flourishing carousel industry. Inspired by the memory of symbolic references carved into majestic Torah arks and gravestones and cut into paper, they translated these motifs into an American idiom, elevating carousel art into a powerful sculptural expression of dynamic and animated forms. Although fanciful carousel animals have long been exhibited in museums, the religious carvings have primarily been known and appreciated only within the setting of the synagogue. Until now, the important historical and aesthetic link between the two has never been documented.

From Eastern European shtetls to the New World's cities, immigrant Jewish artisans, like my great-grandfather and his cousins, brought a tradition:

As Jewish immigrants struggled to balance the continuation of an observant life with the realities of adjusting to a new culture, artisans responded to the vigorous pull of the spiritual and the secular through the perpetuation of familiar forms and the new application of traditional artmaking skills. It was within this powerful dynamic that a surprising link was forged between the synagogue and the carousel.

New York is where many talented carvers arrived (1880s-1920s) and settled, producing detailed carved arks (to hold Torah scrolls) for many Lower East Side and Brooklyn synagogues.

Famous carvers - Marcus Charles Illions, Solomon Stein, Harry Goldstein, Charles Carmel and others - created "fiery carousel horses and menagerie animals with flame-like manes, flaring nostrils, wild eyes, and elaborate floral and jeweled trappings. Their ferocious red mouths gape like those of the rampant lions who guard the Tablets of the Law atop Torah arks."

Back in the shtetls, this art was focused in the synagogue and the exhibit also offers archival photos and wooden models. Synagogues had decorated walls and major furniture. Some elaborately carved arks were 30 feet high or more. Elements included foliage, animals (mythical and real), fruits and columns and were sometimes brightly painted and gilded.

Symbolic themes were the 10 Commandment tablets, hands of the kohanim (priests) and animals, such as lions, which are ubiquitous in synagogue carvings, and are almost always gilded.

The article mentions wooden filgree work which grew out of the Jewish papercut art, mainly produced by men and boys. Most extant examples are from later 19th century Poland. Some were templates for carving larger pieces.

The carousel industry concentrated in large urban centers (Philadelphia, New York, and Boston). Coney Island (Brooklyn, NY) in particular, attracted many creative artisans. The Jewish heritage of some can be verified through documents or signed carvings.

In Coney Island, Charles I.D. Looff set up a carousel with imaginatively decorated horses, believed to have been introduced by Illions.

Illion's year of birth and city are either Vilna, Lithuania, 1865, or Moscow, 1874, says the article. His father was a horse dealer, and Illions he learned much about the animals from observing them. At 14, he went to England and worked in Frederick Savage's workshop for carousels and circus wagons before traveling to New York in 1888 and working for Looff.

In 1909, he founded M.C. Illions and Sons and created animated animals. He was one of few carvers to sign his name.

Yiddish-speaking Russian immigrants Stein and Goldstein met in 1905 after joining William F. Mangel's carousel factory, later opening their own company, where they produced 17 carousels, owning and operating 11 of them. The Central Park carousel is still in use today. They also made the largest carousels ever made, 60 feet in diameter with six rows of horses, large enough for 100 people.

The pair is credited with carving the largest carousel horses, massive, life-size creatures with aggressive and muscular bodies. In the 1920s, they began to carve small horses as children's barber chairs for a Chicago firm.

Born in Russia in 1865, Charles Carmel trained as a carver before arriving in New York and worked with Illions at Looff's shop and then the two also worked with Stein and Goldstein for Mangels. In 1905, he opened his own shop and sold his work to other major manufacturers. He was one of the most prolific carvers.

Carousel owner-operator M.D. Borelli loved to paint Carmel's animals and embellished them with glass jewels.

For more information on the museum, which is at 45 West 53 St. in New York City, click here. The 192-page exhibit catalog is available through the museum shop. Read the complete article here.

I felt an affinity to this story as my great-grandfather, Aaron Peretz Talalay (Tollin), and many of his cousins were master woodcarvers. Aaron was born in 1875 in Vorotinschtina, an agricultural colony southwest of Mogilev, Belarus which was founded by the Talalay and other families. Older relatives described a colony school where young men learned these skills.

Arriving in the US in the late 1890s-early 1900s, family members went into the furniture business, some became builders, decorators or artists. Others translated their creative skills into making decorative patterns for cast-iron stoves or wooden cabinets for radios.

My mother and older cousins spoke in awe how my great-grandfather - who died prior to my birth - could carve, from a solid block of wood, a toy with turning wheels and other moving parts. He produced elegantly carved doors for built-in furniture in my grandparents' home, clock cases, knife handles and lots of toys.

Even today, if I visit a carpentry shop, that special fragrance tugs at me. I think sawdust is in my blood.

My grandmother, Bertha Tollin Fink, said that her father was "woodcarver to the Tsar," and held a special passport allowing him to travel all over Belarus and Russia to work on restoration projects, while other Jews were restricted from traveling freely.

Especially compelling was the story that he had worked on the wooden door restoration of St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg. An historian cousin whose family still lives there has attempted to find records in the cathedral archives but has not yet been able to confirm the story.

23 February 2008

New York Times: Genetics and insurance

Amy Harmon of the New York Times frequently writes on DNA, genetics and genealogically relevant topics. Today, her story on "The DNA Age: Fear of insurance trouble leads many to shun or hide DNA tests" appeared.

The only company mentioned in the article is DNAdirect, noting that hundreds of customers paid for tests costing from $175 to $3,456 to ensure that no third party (including a doctor) had access to results.

Victoria Grove wanted to find out if she was destined to develop the form of emphysema that ran in her family, but she did not want to ask her doctor for the DNA test that would tell her.

She worried that she might not be able to get health insurance, or even a job, if a genetic predisposition showed up in her medical records, especially since treatment for the condition, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, could cost over $100,000 a year. Instead, Ms. Grove sought out a service that sent a test kit to her home and returned the results directly to her.

Harmon addresses the concerns of those who are afraid that genetic information may be used against them, of doctors who say patients who "could make more informed health care decisions if they learned whether they had inherited an elevated risk of diseases like breast and colon cancer refuse to do so because of the potentially dire economic consequences."

Others, she writes, enter "a kind of genetic underground, spending hundreds or thousands of dollars of their own money for DNA tests that an insurer would otherwise cover, so as to avoid scrutiny. Those who do find out they are likely or certain to develop a particular genetic condition often beg doctors not to mention it in their records."

“It’s pretty clear that the public is afraid of taking advantage of genetic testing,” said Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health. “If that continues, the future of medicine that we would all like to see happen stands the chance of being dead on arrival.”

Read the complete article here.

DNATraits - The next step

Population geneticist Dr. Doron Behar spoke last week to the JFRA Israel genealogical society in Ra'anana. Behar, who has appeared several times at the group's meetings, is a popular speaker who makes the most complicated topics seem easy with a great sense of humor.

While his main talk was on "Maternal diversity in the Diaspora," Behar also spoke about Family Tree DNA's launch of a new genetic testing service company - DNATraits - to examine a customer’s DNA for evidence of genetic disease.

Why was the new company formed? If science can tell us whether we carry inheritable disorders, says Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA, we have the right to know, for our own health and for the future of our families.

The company will develop additional programs for other disorders (Sickle Cell Anemia will be added soon) as tests become available, and already offers general tests of interest to Western European populations and for clotting disorders.

But for members of our tribe, the most important panel offered is for 26 Ashkenazi disorders.

Most Jews have heard about Tay-Sachs, a particularly tragic genetic disorder, that has been nearly eradicated through intensive community testing programs. In the 1970s, there were some 40 cases a year. Today there are only four or five cases a year - a 90% reduction, thanks to extensive genetic testing.

However, this is only one of 26 genetic disorders generally affecting Jews of Ashkenazi origin. What DNATraits offers, among other services, is a panel of all 26 for $450, a fraction of the cost of just a few tests done through other institutions and organizations. (DNAdirect's website shows its testing panel of only nine Ashkenazi disorders carries a $1,200 pricetag.)

The DNATraits Ashkenazi panel includes Bloom, Canavan, Cystic Fibrosis, Gaucher, Niemann-Pick, Tay-Sachs Disease and 20 others. For specific information on the panel, click here.

Individuals who aren't sure which test or tests are most appropriate can consult with the company's genetic counselor free of charge. Importantly, the company agrees with recommendations of the American College of Medical Genetics in its statement on direct-to-consumer genetic testing:

“It is critical that individuals ask for a referral to a genetic expert who can help in determining what tests might be advisable and in interpreting results.” In accordance with this recommendation, DNATraits offers consultation with our genetic counselors at no charge both before and after testing.

Greenspan wants people to be tested and to have their children and grandchildren tested before marriage to attempt to lessen occurences. If people learn whether they are carriers or not, they can make informed decisions prior to pregnancy.

Privacy is of utmost importance to the company, and insurance reimbursements are not accepted as this might impact privacy issues.

The site offers quicklinks to an Introduction to Inheritance, the testing process, FAQs and more.

For more information on DNATraits, click here.

22 February 2008

France: Jewish genealogy exhibit

The cover of the new issue of France's GenAmi Jewish Genealogical Society journal is the ketuba (Jewish marriage certificate) for Isaac, son of Abraham Rodriguès-Péreira and Rachel, daughter of Joseph Rodriguès-Péreira, on September 9, 1765 (14 Tishri 5526).

From April 1-15, there will be an exhibit of Jewish genealogy with illustrated explanations focusing on ketubot, family trees, cemetery and family photos. A conference will take place on April 8.

In the autumn, a two-day Jewish genealogy conference will take place in Lyon.

And in 2009, the next French Federation of Jewish Genealogy conference will include Jewish genealogical topics.

Click GenAmi for more information.

Vancouver BC: Family histories requested

Genealogy is also becoming much more interesting in Canada, with the Vancouver Sun (British Columbia, Canada) asking readers to submit particularly compelling family history stories.

Send us your photos and 500 words about a unique chapter in your family's history. We'll publish a selection in The Sun and post most of them online.

Send your submissions to sunnewstips@png.canwest.com and please put "Family History" in the subject line.

Two Sun readers will be selected to take a DNA test so they can trace their family's roots through the millennia.

For more information, click here

Miami: Genealogy workshop, March 16

Do you need help in putting the pieces of your family puzzle together? The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami's seventh annual genealogy workshop will provide assistance on Sunday, March 16, at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

Designed for genealogists at all skill levels, the workshop, from 10am-1pm, will help participants explore genealogy research methods to identify ancestral shtetls and assist researchers to put together their family trees. The session will address genealogical ethics and how to preserve family history. Each participants will receive a syllabus.

Topics include:

-Documents and resources to identify ancestral shtetls and find family
-Genealogical significance of Yiddish/Hebrew and secular names
-Genealogical ethics
-Preservation of your family history for future generations.

JGSGM president and programming vice president, Barbara Musikar will lead the workshop. She taught a 12-week course in Computer Jewish Genealogy at Temple Beth Am, has spoken at the Jewish Museum of Florida as museum docent and given genealogy lectures to Jewish Federation of Broward County, CAJE, AMIT and synagogue sisterhoods.

Musikar earned a CUNY Queens College MS in History Education and a Hofstra University Certificate of Advanced Studies in Secondary School Guidance, taught social studies at Murrow HS and was a Bushwick HS (both in Brooklyn, NY) guidance counselor. Her Master's thesis,"The Early Jewish Community of New York City 1699-1734," employed many genealogical sources.

Registration begins at 9.15am; Part I, 10am; and Part II, 12.15pm; Q&A will follow each session. Pre-registering members are free, others, $5. At the door, members, $5; others, $10.

For more information, contact Musikar at bar945@hotmail.com.

21 February 2008

DNA Day student contest

Congress designated April 25 as DNA Day to commemorate the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003, and the publication by Watson and Crick of the double-helix structure of DNA.

The Third National DNA Day essay contest for middle and high school students is co-sponsored by the American Society of Human Genetics, Applied Biosystems and the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology.

First place winners in each category will receive $350; second place winners, $250; and third place winners, $150. Teachers who submit first place essays will receive $2,000 to purchase classroom equipment. The deadline is March 17; all students in grades 7-12 are eligible.

The contest aims to challenge students to examine, question and reflect on the importance and social implications of genetic research.

Some 200 members of the National Society of Genetic Counselors and the Genetics Society of America will serve as judges.

MIDDLE SCHOOL (grades 7-8):

1. Why is it important for us to discover the patterns of genotypic and phenotypic similarity and difference in living things and why should we understand the theories that describe the importance of genetic diversity for species and ecosystems?

2. Why is it important for us to learn about our family health history? What can our family health/medical history tell us? What doesn't it tell us?

HIGH SCHOOL (grades 9-12):

1. Discuss the practical implications that genetics research is playing in our lives today. Discuss where it might lead us in the next 10 years.

2. If you could be a human genetics researcher, what would you study and why?

For complete contest rules and information, click here. Previous winning essays are also on the site.

I was hoping for something more specifically genealogical in the questions - maybe next year? However, this is a great way to get young people involved early on in this field.

Italian Jewish roots conference now free

The upcoming Italian Jewish Roots Conference is now free, thanks to a generous sponsor. The event takes place Monday and Tuesday, February 25-26, in Sarasota, Florida, organized by Rabbi Barbara Aiello of the Italian Jewish Cultural Center of Calabria, Italy.

Having discovered her own Jewish roots, Rabbi Aiello will share her personal experiences and help conference participants begin their search for Jewish documentation. She is the first Progressive Rabbi and first and only woman Rabbi in Italy.

Participants will learn more about the modern liberal Jewish movements that welcome anousim to study and learn about their lost heritage and steps to take to return to their Jewish roots

Speakers include:

DNA expert Elise Friedman who has been researching her Jewish roots for a decade and enjoys teaching genealogy. She has presented programs and workshops at several local and international Jewish genealogy conferences and meetings. She is active in the field of genetic genealogy, managing several DNA projects at FamilyTreeDNA and co-authoring a genetic genealogy case study published in the Avotaynu and Forum genealogy journals. She volunteers as JewishGen's DNA Projects Coordinator and is a member of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy.

Rabbi Frank Tamburello was born in 1951 into a family of second and third generation Italian immigrants, and taught Italian in the New York schools for 33 years. He studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1980. After discovering his Jewish roots, he made formal conversion to Judaism and was ordained a rabbi in 2004 by the Rabbinical Seminary International in New York City.

Kim Sheintal is president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Southwest Florida and has been researching her family since 1983. Through her local and national work, she has helped countless Jews trace and embrace their Jewish roots.

According to Aiello, several experts will be coming from Italy as well.

Among the events planned will be wedding for a couple, married nearly 50 years, who want to have the Jewish wedding they never had. Years ago, the groom tried in vain to convice rabbis in his town that he had Jewish roots, and received the same response that Rabbi Aiello had received: "How can you be Jewish? You're Italian!"

The conference will offer personalized help, says Rabbi Aiello, who understands how difficult it can be within a family when one or two open the door to the family’s Jewish past. “I have family members whose ancestry dates back to the time of the marranos, when Jews were forced to accept Christian conversion," she writes. "As a result, many of my cousins are practicing Catholics, so I know what it’s like to have a mix of Jews and Christians in the same family!”

“For Italian Americans who have heard family stories and have felt the subtle tug to explore Jewish tradition, the IjCCC conference will bring them into contact with others who have had similar experiences.

For more information, click here.

Registration is required, Email register@rabbibarbara.com and include your name, mailing address, telephone and email address. Registration will be confirmed by email; bring confirmation email to attend.

Sessions run from 11am-6pm both days, and include lunch both days and Monday dinner. All lectures, workshops and proceedings will be in English and Italian speakers will be accompanied by English translators.

For an Italian language article by Rabbi Aiello on the conference, click here.

For a partial list of Jewish Italian names click here, which links to other articles with more name lists.

19 February 2008

JTS launches digital library

Founded in 1893, the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York has one of the most famous Judaica collections. It has just launched its digital library to provide global access to some of the most outstanding treasures of Jewish history.

The first collection to be made accessible includes 250 rare wedding poems which can be accessed by anyone with a computer anywhere in the world. The collection has already attracted scholars and historians, and offers cantors and rabbis new creative material to utilize in wedding ceremonies.

"The Library recognizes that as important as it is to collect and preserve the literatures and treasures of the past, these materials are worth little if they remain eternally on the shelf,” said Naomi Steinberger, director of Library Services. “The digital library brings us closer to realizing our mission of making our extensive collections available around the globe.”

The site already includes Judaica Americana, exceptional manuscripts and other rare materials. Among the resources are the full text of the 1607 Venice Haggadah (one of the earliest printed illuminated Italian hagaddot); the 1290 Esslingen Mahzor from Ashkenaz; and the c1300 Prato Haggadah, an unfinished Spanish illuminated manuscript.

The next collection available will be some 2,500 bookplates primarily from the Leah Mishkin Collection representing personalities, such as Sigmund Freud.

Recently digitized and to be available in the near future is a unique collection of field recordings of biblical chanting styles of different ethnic groups in British Palestine during the pre-world War II period.

The library also has a world-famous ketubbot collection (Jewish wedding contracts).

Access the JTS Library digital library here.

For the Wedding Poem collection, see results in brief form, table view or full view. The poem creators are listed providing additional surnames. Click on the poem to view, save or send it. There are 217 from Italy, 6 from Germany and 14 from other countries.

The collection is a treasure house for those searching Sephardic families and there are some unusual ones in the list:


Tagged on books

I've been tagged by bloggers Colleen and Lidian to answer some questions on non-fiction issues or topics that interest me the most.

Can I simply say "everything" and leave it at that?

What issues/topic interests you most - non-fiction, i.e, cooking, knitting, stitching, there are infinite topics that has nothing to do with novels?

As an omni-voracious reader (if there's nothing new to read, I will read ketchup labels!), there are piles of books all over our house. Cookbooks. History/Jewish history. DNA. Science fiction. Genealogy. Name a topic, it is here somewhere.

I am a "foodie," so cookbooks and books on food are a big part of this. I love cookbooks: Jewish, Italian, Russian, all flavors of Asian, Persian, desserts - just name it. I'd love to be locked in a huge bookstore - like Barnes & Noble - overnight and read through the cooking section! Musicians can look at a sheet of music and "hear" the music in their head. I can read a recipe and "taste" it.

In the old days BG - before genealogy - I amassed a large needlework collection, particularly old manuals of interesting embroidery stitches or working with gold and silver bullion on velvet, which I enjoyed, a real link to the past. Sephardic gold embroiderers were famous throughout Europe working on royal and ecclesiastical robes and decorations, although I don't know if our family was involved in this. No time for that now, unfortunately.

History is a major magnet as genealogy has shown me that my families were in the middle of major historical events. Jewish history anywhere is always of interest as are Jewish genealogical reference works. Sephardic Jewish history and resource books are a major part of this. Whenever I visit Barcelona, I have to send back boxes of collected books.

When I need comic relief, my choice is Terry Pratchett's Discworld series (two favorites: Moving Pictures and Going Postal).

Would you like to review books concerning those?

I have reviewed books on my special interests.

Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose.

Both are interesting and I've done both. Paid reviews are often slanted towards a particular publication's view, while blogging has fewer constraints.

Would you recommend those to your friends and how?

Absolutely, via personal contact, email and blog.

If you have already done something like this, link it to your post.

In addition to books personally read, Tracing the Tribe spotlights works that haven't yet reached my desk, but whose reviews elsewhere reveal that I should read them and let readers know about their important content. Here are some previous postings:

Avotaynu stories from the heart
Book: Moscow Photos 1900-1917
Australia: These are the names
Poland: Post-war atrocities
Helene Berr: France's Anne Frank
A Galitzianer Murder Mystery
Book: Aromas of Aleppo Syrian Jewish cooking
Books: Passing the genealogy torch
Book: Southern Jewish roots
WOWW is wow!
Washington DC: Updated guide for Jewish research

Lidian, Colleen and Lori, have tagged everyone I would have tagged, so I'm just going to enjoy reading the postings. I just saw Lidian's Kitchen Retro blog which spotlights vintage cookbooks and strangely weird old recipes. This is one case when being able to "taste" printed recipes is NOT an advantage. Do take a look and be prepared for laughter.

18 February 2008

California: Celebrating Workmen's Circle

When Yiddish-speaking immigrant Jews came to North America, they found crowded tenements, dangerous working conditions, poverty and disease.

In 1892, a group of cloakmakers gathered in a New York Lower East Side tenement and formed a mutual aid society formally chartered in 1900 as The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring. It established schools and camps for children and adults, published books, operated a famous medical department for members and sanitariums for the infirm, ran credit unions for members, purchased land for cemeteries, and founded the garment workers' unions that agitated for better working conditions.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews have a historic link to The Workmen’s Circle, which today has active branches in New York, New Jersey, Boston, Los Angeles, Michigan, Florida, Cleveland and Toronto.

The Los Angeles Chapter celebrated its 100th anniversary in January 2008.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV) will host Eric A. Gordon, PhD on "100 years of the Workmen's Circle/Arbeiter Ring," at 2pm Sunday, March 2, at Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks.

Many of our immigrant ancestors belonged to this organization. This program will help attendees learn what records might be available to help research family members who were members.

Gordon has served as director of the Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring Southern California District since November 1995. He serves on the Western Region Administrative Committee of the Jewish Labor Committee, and sings with the Mit Gezang Yiddish Chorus of the Workmen's Circle, and with Voices of Conscience, the social action chorus of Los Angeles.

For more information, address, directions and newsletters, visit the JGSCV site.

Carnival of Genealogy - iGene Awards posted

There are now 23 official founding members of the Academy of Genealogy and Family History, following the opening of the envelopes for the 2007 iGENE Awards.

Each blogger submitted their best blog posts in the following five categories: Best Picture, Best Screen Play, Best Documentary, Best Biography and Best Comedy.

Here is the round-up of the best of the best by Creative Gene's Jasia.

The entries cover diverse topics of time and place. Enjoy reading them!

The next topic, due March 1, is technology, and Jasia is asking us to write on what we most rely on for genealogy and family history research.

We are to select one piece of hardware (besides our computer), one piece of software (besides our internet browser), and one web site/blog (besides our own) that we find indispensable. Hmmmmmmmmm ...

Avotaynu stories from the heart

Gary Mokotoff of Avotaynu has announced a new book, Every Family Has a Story: Tales from the Pages of Avotaynu.

Regular readers of Avotaynu: The International Journal of Jewish Genealogy know that each winter issue - for 20 years - offers articles on the human side of genealogy.

The new book offers 72 of the best in one volume. "The book will not tell you how to do genealogical research," writes Gary, but will show how genealogical research affected the lives of researchers, the people they discovered and others.

There are eight sections with the first containing the best of the best; the remaining sections are People, Family, Back to the Old Country, Crypto-Jews, Luck, Genealogy and Holocaust. The complete Table of Contents is here, along with ordering information.

Read the sample story - "The Diary of Miriam Hanania" - by Batya Unterschatz, former head of the Jewish Agency's Search Bureau for Missing Relatives, here.

Current Avotaynu subscribers will receive a prepublication discount here. The 300-page book's regular price is $37, $29.95 until March 3.

Gary writes "this is what genealogy really is all about," and I certainly agree.

The book will be welcomed by those already involved in genealogical pursuits and more importantly, it will surely inspire many more to begin the journey down Discovery Road.

When relatives and friends ask why you spend so much time tracking ancestors and recording family stories, give them a copy and they'll understand that you are not alone in your quest.

16 February 2008

Holocaust memorial images online

Celia Male (London, UK) has placed online her newest group of 42 photographs, including images of public and private Holocaust memorials:

-Czech Republic (5): Pilsen, Kolin, Karlsbad/Carslbad, Valašské Mezíříčí/Valasske Mezerici/Wallachisch Meseritsch

-Poland (1): Opole, Upper Silesia

-Netherlands (2): Amsterdam

-France (9): Paris

-Hungary (3): Budapest

-Auschwitz-Birkenau (3): memorial plaques in German, Czech and Hebrew

-Austria, Burgenland memorials (5): near the Hungarian border, for slave labourers

-Austria (2): Vienna Zentralfriedhof Gate IV memorials

-Vienna, Austria (12 images): Holocaust victims are often cited on graves in Vienna. Take a look at these examples of private grief and how it is expressed on family tombstones.

Celia is also asking for help from Tracing the Tribe's readers:

For Vienna, I still need the house in Judenplatz and house plaques

Czech Republic - others in Bohemia and Moravia.. Prague ... Brno - etc etc???

Can anyone supply them?

View the images here.

Rembrandt, Purim and the Jews

The current issue of the online Jewish Magazine offers a two-part treatise on Rembrandt and his students' fascination with the Jewish holiday of Purim. It is well-illustrated with many relevant paintings.

For Sephardic researchers, there are some resources to follow up:

Eric Zafran ("Jan Victors & the Bible," Israel Museum News, 12, 1977) suggested that Jan Victors' unusual restriction to Old Testament subjects might have been to satisfy a specialised Jewish art market, growing ever more confident in 17th century Amsterdam. He traced some of Victors' biblical images to Jewish wills in the 1670's and thought that Esther, Ruth and Hagar stories would have been particularly welcomed by these patrons.

Michael Zell (Reframing Rembrandt: Jews and the Christian Image in c17th Amsterdam, Uni California Press, Berkeley,2002) identified the Sephardi families who owned significant art collections. Salvador Rodrigues and merchant Abraham Abenjacar had Biblical history paintings; physician Salamon Rocamora had several genres; and Manuel Abelais had paintings but no Biblical art. Mosseh Vaz Farroh had a range of top flight Dutch and Flemish paintings, especially portraits.

Read the complete story here.

New magazine for gen beginners

Publishers of Family Chronicle and Internet Genealogy will now produce a new beginner's magazine, Discovering Family History.

Why yet another genealogy publication? The story behind this decision is enlightening and the 56-page downloadable preview is beautiful, covering many well-written practical topics.

Toronto – 15 February 2008 - Discovering Family History, a new genealogy magazine targeted at beginners, will shortly start publishing. A 24-page preview is included in the March/April issue of Family Chronicle and the April/May issue of Internet Genealogy. A full 56-page preview issue can be downloaded here.

Halvor Moorshead, the publisher and editor of all three magazines, says that the seed of the idea for Discovering Family History was sown when Family Chronicle and Internet Genealogy magazines exhibited at an event in Toronto last September, called “The Word on the Street”. Some 200,000 people attended this event, put on for those interested in books and literacy.

“We sold plenty of subscriptions to both magazines,” said Moorshead, “but I found that I was continually explaining to new subscribers some real genealogy basics, ­ steering them to Cyndi’s List and other places that listed beginner’s courses. These people were smart enough; they just needed something more basic than what we were selling. It was sobering to realize that there might be a big market for a genealogy magazine that dealt with the basics.

“This triggered us to conduct market research among Family Chronicle and Internet Genealogy readers. We sent out questionnaires, via the Internet, to 1,000 readers and were more than pleasantly surprised by the response. A few people said they thought the idea for a beginner’s magazine was a bad one, but for each one of these, 12 people were excited by the idea. We had not expected to find that many people, who had been researching their genealogy for many years, still considered themselves beginners. But then we realized that most of us are beginners when we tackle a new area for research. Most of us are beginners in some area or another."
The free online preview issue contains such articles as Free Family History Websites, Obituaries, the Ultimate Guide to Subscription Databases, Who Else is Researching Your Name?, What is a Vital Record?, Citing Sources, a genealogical Case Study, The 10 First Steps, Computer Basics, It’s All About Parents, Genealogical Societies, Web 2.0 and Making Sense of the US Census. The articles are targeted at beginners, but Moorshead says that great care has been taken not to talk down to the reader.

“I consider myself a fairly experienced genealogist but I continue to come across aspects of research that bewilder me. For example, until recently I had never investigated land records – I would find a basic article on this subject very useful,” said Moorshead. Discovering Family History will be published six times a year. There is an introductory subscription rate of $20 per year (same rate for the US and Canada). For more information visit the magazine’s website.

Do take a look at this first issue online and also notice the upcoming articles page. This is sure to be a successful venture.

15 February 2008

Chicago 2008: Breakfast with experts

The 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (Chicago, August 17-22) has announced this year's Breakfast with the Experts. This year's Q&A format will cover beginners, Chicago resources, JRI-Poland, Sephardic research, the 2009 Philadelphia event, International Tracing Service, Polish document translation and - for the first time - blogging.

I've been invited to lead the Thursday morning Blogs Q&A session (see below), and hope to meet many Tracing the Tribe readers at the breakfast and during the conference week.

The conference website does not yet offer speaker bios, so here's some very limited information for each breakfast leader. Seating is limited; early registration is recommended.

Monday, August 18
Beginners Q&A: Nancy Levin Arbeiter CG is a full-time professional genealogist specializing in Jewish family history research and has taught the beginner's workshop at many annual conferences.

Chicago Resources Q&A: Mike Karsen is JGS of Illinois president, author of the Chicagoland Jewish Resources guide, and a professional genealogy speaker, instructor and researcher.

Tuesday, August 19
JRI-Poland Q&A: Mike Halpern is a JRI-Poland Executive Committee member, BIALYGen founder/coordinator responsible for indexing Galician and Bialystok area records and JGS of Greater Philadelphia past president.

Sephardic Research Q&A: Jeff Malka is a luminary and pioneer of Sephardic genealogy, award-winning author, creator of JewishGen's SephardicSIG and of SephardicGen.com

Wednesday, August 20
Philadelphia 2009 Conference Q&A: Fred Blum is president of the JGS of Greater Philadelphia, which will co-host the 29th IAJGS International Conference of Jewish Genealogy (August 2-7, 2009).

International Tracing Service Q&A: Gary Mokotoff has a strong interest in Holocaust research and heads Avotaynu, publisher of essential Jewish genealogical reference works.

Thursday, August 21
Translating Polish Documents Q&A: Judy Frazin is the former president of the JGS of Illinois, and author of a popular guide to 19th-century Polish-language civil registration documents.

Blogs Q&A: Schelly Talalay Dardashti focuses on Jewish genealogy as researcher, journalist, online instructor, speaker and blogger.

To register for the conference, hotel, special interest group lunches and expert breakfasts, click here. Breakfasts run from 7-8am; the fee is $29 and a kosher option is available. Scheduled conference programming begins following breakfast.

Best of the Best - iGENE awards for 2007

Jasia of Creative Gene has set the topic for the next Carnival of Genealogy.

It is time for The Best of The Best! It's Academy awards time - time for the Academy of Genealogy and Family History (AGFH). All genea-historian bloggers who participate in this event will become AGFH founding members.

We are asked to nominate our best blog posts of 2007 in the following categories:


Unfortunately, I have not made the leap into utilizing images on Tracing the Tribe. I hope to do that in the near future.


Two family stories share equal honors for this: The Story of Little Grandma and Nane-jan covering two countries, two historical periods, and two strong women who lived in interesting times. For best action screen play, here's the run-away winner: A shtetl fashion statement.


These two certainly sum up memories of a time and place, backed by records. Combining both would cover many angles of a good documentary: Remembering the Mountains and Hooked on Maps


Tracing information on Uncle Hatzkell: Ancestry's Passport Database


Since there's no category this year for animated (read animals!) entries - and it isn't often animals figure in our genealogical quests - here are two:
For full-length animated comedy, here's a real turkey:
Thanksgiving, Persian-style. In the theoretical animated wolves category, this overcomes the rest of the pack: Uphill in the snow - both ways

A river of pickle juice?

There are all kinds of pickles, but my favorite is a crisp full-sour - no wimpy half-sours. Bowls of these green gourmet delicacies should appear on the table of all self-respecting delis as soon as diners sit down. The cole slaw provided is just filler!

The Bowery Boys is a blog about New York, covering myriad issues, and a just-posted entry focuses on the Lower East Side's pickle civil war. This one wasn't in our history texts - I might have paid more attention if it had been included.

It offers a glimpse (and even a silent film) of those old days and the environment surrounding our immigrant ancestors in their crowded neighborhoods and, of course, the genealogy of Guss' Pickles.

Pickles were a popular snack in New York as far back as Dutch New Amsterdam. They're New York's first portable food -- long before the knish and the hot dog -- and fairly easy to produce.

With the huge immigrant boom in lower Manhattan, young men in hopes of making a few bucks would operate a pushcart through the streets selling their wares. In the crowded blocks of Jewish Lower East Side, dozens of pushcarts occupied the streets, competing for customers with sidewalk stands and, for those lucky enough to have the money, actual stores!

For a short silent film depicting a police intervention of a pushcart market in 1903, click here. And for more, see filmmaker Ken Jacobs' "Pushcarts of Eternity Street" (2006), here.

Dozens of vendors at the turn of the 20th century sold pickles in the Lower East Side. Izzy Guss, an immigrant from Russia who arrived here in 1910, had a pushcart and sold produce. But he specialized in pickles. Although the competition was fierce -- the area around Essex and Ludlow even called the Pickle District -- Guss eventually bought his own store on crowded Hester Street in 1920, and there, in wooden barrels lining his store front, mastered his recipe for what has become the New York City pickle.

The posting details the decade-old war over this legacy, involving Andrew Lebowitz of United Pickles, the Baker family and Patricia Fairhurst. There are two Guss pickles, one manufacturer has the name, the other the original recipe. In 2007, Whole Foods entered the controversy, as well as the Pickle Guys (former Guss employees).

Will this revolution see rivers of pickle juice in the streets of New York? Read the complete entry here.

And for the National Pickle Tour by Chabad's Pickle Rabbis, click here. This is a twist on Chabad's Matza Factory and Shofar Factory activities.

The recipe is a secret but Rabbi Mendy Margolin will reveal the trick to a good kosher pickle — no authentic kosher pickles contain vinegar. When pressed, Rabbi Shmuel Marcus, Chabad representative in Cypress, CA, is quick to assert that “there is no exact recipe — it is an art.”

The two, affectionately known as Pickle Rabbis, clarify the intricacies of kosher observance through practical pickle-making lessons.

According to Rabbi Margolin of The Traveling Kosher Pickle Factory, five million pounds of pickles are consumed daily.

Rabbi Marcus figured that the public school students he taught at Hebrew High would love to learn pickle-making. The opportunity would allow him to surreptitiously slip kashrut lessons in as well.

What he didn’t count on was the interest the eclectic program would engender among the teens’ parents. Over 200 phone calls poured in as adults vied for the opportunity to pickle their own cucumbers. Organizers had to turn people away as the program spread like wildfire across Southern California.

Since the program began in 2005, some 3,000 people have prepared personalized pickle jars. The Pickle Rabbis, by popular request, launched a 12-stop national tour through the end of March. They expect the Pickle Factory to reach 30,000 people over the next three years.

Enjoy this dill-ectable story and some photos of happy pickle makers of various ages and genders! The family that pickles together .........

Rain, cold, wind call for comfort food

The past few days in Israel have been wet, windy and cold. And, of course, there was that pesky earthquake, which at a desk-rattling 5.3 was strong enough to remind me of our Los Angeles days.

This sort of weather and environmental danger makes me nostalgic for Jewish comfort food, deli-style. And since Israel lacks even one traditional Jewish deli (felafel and humus just doesn't cut it ... sorry!), I had to rely on the New York Time's "Quit Kibitzing and Pass the Gribenes."

The story describes a visit to the new Second Avenue Deli by writer Frank Bruni who recruited three opinionated friends for a lunch visit: former New York mayor Ed Koch, writer/movie director Nora Ephron, and culinary history author Laura Shapiro.

The four diners cover and pick at chopped liver, hotdogs with skin, matzo balls and soup, with hot pastrami piled high.

And I realized that we weren’t so much eating in a specific restaurant as passing through a communal storehouse of memories, on a bridge of babkas from the past to the future.

Ed, the most deeply rooted New Yorker among us, said that at the Second Avenue Deli, “I feel very much at home.”

“I walk out,” he said, “and I feel warm, no matter how cold it is.”

Read the complete article here.

Bruni's blog posting elaborates on the visit. When I checked there were some 118 comments, all very tasty indeed.

Both stories focused on pastrami - which my husband loves but I don't. My own deli favorite is sliced fresh-roasted turkey breast on rye with lots of Russian dressing slathered on. When I fly back from New York, I bring my husband 2 pounds of pastrami and cornbeef extra lean, real deli mustard, rye bread and he has a feast! And that's in addition to my Zabar's run for interesting gastronomic treats.

After reading both Bruni's story and blog, it didn't seem so wet, windy and cold outside. Yum!

The face in a photo

Boston's Jewish Advocate has produced some interesting genealogically relevant stories recently. Just published was "A familiar face in an old photo," by Lorne Bell.

A Holocaust book connects two families' pasts

While reading through author Marianne Meyerhoff’s new book, “Four Girls from Berlin,” Brookline resident Dr. Margot Segall-Blank made an amazing discovery: In a 1936 photograph of the Bar Kochba club – an all-Jewish gymnastics group to which many German Jews flocked after the Nazis barred them from participating in the Olympics – stood a then-10-year-old Segall-Blank.

“I felt like a survivor,” she said. “It made me feel victorious because the story of the [1936] German Olympics is linked with a lot of injustice.”

Segall-Blank recalls her disappointment after qualifying for, and subsequent banning from the Olympics.

Meyerhoff's book also tells the story of her mother, Charlotte Wachsner, and three non-Jewish friends who helped preserve the family's legacy.

After Wachsner escaped Berlin, her friends made regular trips to Meyerhoff’s grandparents’ residence, each time leaving with a new family artifact tucked into the lining of their jackets by the author’s grandfather.

“When I was five years old, a package arrived from Germany with family memorabilia, documents and hundreds of photographs going back to the 1800s,” said Meyerfoff.

The collection is now at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, DC).

Segall-Blank also tells another story of bravery, that of a non-Jewish classroom teacher who defended her after she beat up an SS officer's anti-Semitic daughter following a playground altercation.

The teacher could have been sent to a concentration camp but was spared, while Segall-Blank and her parents escaped to Australia after another non-Jewish woman helped with visas. Eventually, she arrived in the US in 1960.

Read the complete story here.

Massachusetts: Kaifeng program, Feb. 19

Shi Lei was a student at Bar Ilan University in Israel when we met several years ago.

My genealogy society - JFRA Israel - invited him to a meeting which attracted a standing-room-only crowd in our smallish meeting room.

A descendant of the 1,000-year-old Jewish community in Kaifeng, China, he studied in Israel after graduation from Henan University.

Shi Lei returned to Kaifeng and is today a tour guide for Jewish groups who visit the city. He is also the leader of the small community of descendants, teaches Hebrew and is creating a mini-museum of the city's Jewish history.

Those who live within reach of Temple Israel in Sharon, Massachusetts, can hear Shi Lei speak at 7.30pm Tuesday, February 19. It's worth the effort to hear him.

Iran: Purim in Susa

In recent years, Jews in Iran have made pilgrimage to Susa in southwest Iran - where the tomb of Prophet Daniel is located - to celebrate their roots.

Members of Iran's tiny Jewish minority gathered at the holy shrine of the Prophet Daniel in the southwest of the country Thursday to celebrate their Persian roots and keep alive a dwindling community.

More than 200 Iranian Jews embarked on the long journey to Susa from cities across Iran to celebrate their Jewishness in an event organized by a local Jewish youth group to support the community.

When we lived in Iran we visited many places of Jewish interest except for Susa and Hamadan - where the purported graves of Esther and Mordecai are located - and I've always regretted that.

The AP story is a bit ingenuous, saying that Jews in the country face no restrictions other than females being required to wear headscarves, which is not exactly true. Jewish schools must stay open on Saturday and there are restrictions on the teaching of Hebrew.

According to the story, there are some 25,000 Jews today in Iran. On the eve of the Iranian revolution in 1978, there were 100,000 and many left for Isrel, the US and elsewhere following Khomeini's return.

Read more here.

14 February 2008

ResearchBuzz: A great source

ResearchBuzz provides frequent alerts to interesting and sometimes very useful online resources.

Looking for your family's black sheep?

Check The State of Connecticut's criminal convictions online.

Connecticut has put a free database of more than one million criminal convictions (back to January 1, 2000) online. Unlike some other states' criminal conviction databases, this one includes minor infractions like traffic offenses.

Search parameters include last name, first initial, year of birth and range of years (birth dates are not searchable and not displayed on the site) court location, and category type (criminal or motor vehicle.) Results are delivered in a table that includes defendant year, birth name, court, docket number, disposition (guilty, bond forfeit, etc.) and the sentencing date.

Clicking on a name provides a page that includes arresting officer's name (sometimes it's a name sometimes it's a police department indicator), infraction and type, offense date, plea, verdict finding, date, and fines. (Yup, even down to the $35 speeding ticket.) Sometimes there is no fine, but there is sentencing information.

Be sure to check out the disclaimer for additional information on what is and isn't included in this database, and how often it's updated.

Any homesteaders in your background?

South Dakota's index of cemetery records is now online.

Search the state's cemetery Records here. According to the site, this is not an index of all the state burials but the result of a 1940s survey (the "Graves Registration Project").

Search parameters include first and last name, city and county, and cemetery name. A last name search for Smith produced many results, with no count listed, from Fred Bauersmith to James H. Smith.

Results include name, death date (occasionally unknown), block and lot number, city and county, and cemetery name. And that's it. You can request the full cemetery record by going to the archives (of course) or filling out the Cemetery Record Information Request form.

Requesting one name is $10.60, but 2 to 5 names will run you $21.20. So do a thorough index search and save them up for an information request.

Is mathematics your thing - as well as genealogy?

If so, here's the Mathematics Genealogy Project.

The project traces more than 116,000 mathematicians along with their "descendants" (including students mentored).

ResearchBuzz's keyword search for Schubert got 21 results, listing names, institutions, and the year graduate work was completed.

Clicking on Cedric Shubert showed me a guy who'd gotten his PhD at the University of Toronto in 1962.

Also listed were two of his students (those who note him as advisor on their dissertations) with their own information and links. He has a total of two students who are also his two "descendants."

Then you have someone like John Archibald Wheeler, who has only 11 students listed, but 458 "descendants".

I recommend subscribing to ResearchBuzz's alerts, or you won't know when the next best resource will help you put the puzzle pieces together.

13 February 2008

Jewish refugees from Moslem lands

In just 50 years, nearly one million Jews who lived in communities with histories of thousands of years, have left those communities, either by force or in the face of fear.

"Point of No Return" is a blog providing information and links about the Middle East's forgotten Jewish refugees. While not a newly established blog (it began in 2005), it is relatively new to me, therefore the label "new blog."

It is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, and to preserving the stories of those refugees and their struggle for recognition and restitution.

There is a good list of links for more information on related issues.

Normally, in such sites, Iran is labeled as an Arab country, although it is neither Arabic in culture or in language - in the old pre-Revolutionary days it was even anti-Arab and pro-Israel - so it was nice to see Iran properly included on this site.

On the eve of the Revolution in Iran - just after I left Teheran - the community numbered some 80,000 individuals. Today's estimate is some 20,000 throughout the country. Most live in Teheran with smaller numbers in Shiraz, Isfahan and other towns.

The blog includes interesting postings on such communities as Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Africa, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Yemen, Berbers, Libya, and members of these communities living in Israel and elsewhere.

For some basic information on the issue, see this post.

Jewish Genealogy Month poster contest

Here is additional information on the Jewish Genealogy Month poster contest.

From 1999-2006, Avotaynu sponsored the event. To see those posters, click here.

Importantly, only member organizations of the IAJGS may submit entries, which may be created by either members or non-members of that organization. Readers who would like to submit an entry and are not members of a Jewish genealogical society, should contact the nearest JGS for information. For a list of societies, go here and click on Membership -> Member Societies.

Calling all artists with a streak of genealogy creativity.

There are only two months left to submit posters to be considered for selection for Jewish Genealogy Month in 2008. This is the first poster competition sponsored by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS).

Posters (sizes 16x20 to 24x36 inches) must be received by April 1. Wording must include the dates of Jewish Genealogy Month: 1-29 Cheshvan 5769 and 30 October-27 November 2008.

For the new IAJGS rules and regulations, go here and click on Jewish Genealogy Month.

Nu? So go create already!

Canada: Gen quest TV for kids

Now that genealogy television is appearing in more countries, aimed at the adult market - the news below was heartening.

This is a genealogy program where young people - amateur genalogists - are sent out to see what they can uncover. I don't recognize the "names" being spotlighted, but I'm sure readers from Quebec will know them.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if more countries would adopt the same format to bring young people into the field and get them hooked on the possibilities?

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Feb. 12, 2008) - Montreal-based production company Instinct Films, in collaboration with Library and Archives Canada and TFO, will host a genealogy event for Gatineau youth on Monday, February 18, 2008 on the occasion of Heritage Week.

Students from Ecole du Lac-des-Fees will discover their roots through special interactive workshops and will be given a private screening of LA QUETE, a youth series produced by Instinct Films. This exciting and educational event will be held at Library and Archives Canada at 395 Wellington Street, in downtown Ottawa.

LA QUETE is an innovative youth series broadcast weekly on TFO. In each episode, Canadian kids from varied backgrounds are sent on a Quest to uncover their ancestry in Canada or abroad. These amateur genealogists are on the hunt to learn more about those fascinating stories that lie underneath every family tree. In La Quete, we meet the descendants of well-known Canadians like Louis Riel, La Bolduc, Sir Wilfred Laurier and Armand Frappier. The young viewer also learns about lesser-known personalities including Irma Lavasseur and Fabien Brunet. http://www.laquete.ca.

Instinct Films is a production company based in Montreal, QC and has produced acclaimed youth series such as My Brand New Life/Je Vis Ta Vie which garnered three Prix Gemeaux.The company is now in production with the new youth series Active-toi! highlighting young activists.

Library and Archives Canada preserves the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations and, though its Canadian Genealogy Centre, facilitates the discovery of our roots and family histories as an integral aspect of our Canadian heritage.

11 February 2008

Seattle: Genes and Jewish Identity, Feb. 20

"Genes and Jewish Identity" will be the topic when award-winning author Jon Entine (Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People) is joined by breast cancer gene discoverer, geneticist and University of Washington professor Mary-Claire King."

The event, sponsored by Nextbook, is at 7pm, Wednesday, February 20 at UW's Henry Art Gallery.

For tickets and more information, click here. There is a discount for Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State members.

Oregon: Court House questing, Feb. 19

Gerald S. Lenzen will present "Exploring your roots: In the US Courthouse" at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon.

The event begins at 7pm Tuesday, February 19, at Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Portland.

County courthouses are treasure stores for your family history. It is almost impossible for individuals and families to live in a place for a period of time without leaving some record in the local courthouse. Learn about these original records. Lenzen will also describe the Genealogical Forum of Oregon and its resources.

Since 1963, the Portland resident has been conducting historical and family research since 1963, and has researched and co-authored several family history volumes with his wife, professional genealogist Connie Miller Lenzen.

Lenzen has traveled and researched extensively throughout the US, and has conducted on-site research in Prussia and Bavaria. He teaches and lectures at local, state and national seminars and conferences on general family history including introduction to genealogy, census, court and land records, and French Canadian Settlement in the Willamette Valley. He is a Portland State University graduate and retired after 32 years with the Bonneville Power Administration.

The holder of current, past and life memberships in many historical, family history and genealogical societies throughout the US, he has served as a board member of the St. Paul Mission (Oregon) Historical Society, the Archdiocesan Historical Commission (Portland, Oregon), the statewide Genealogical Council of Oregon, and on committees of the Genealogical Forum of Oregon.

From 7-7.30pm, participants can view library items and discuss questions with JGSO experts. The event is free for JGSO members.

For more information, click here.

10 February 2008

South Africa: 2009 Jewish Migration conference

Jewish genealogy is a main category in the call for papers for the 2009 "Jewish Migration and the Family" conference.

Conference dates are January 5-7, 2009, at the Kaplan Centre, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

The concept of the family is perhaps one of the most mythologised and stereotyped in Jewish history and culture. This conference will explore, within a multi- and inter-disciplinary framework, how Jewish families have been constructed, reconfigured and reconstructed from ancient to modern times.

Papers are especially welcome from those exploring ... the reasons behind the phenomenal growth of Jewish genealogy; and developing from the 2007 Kaplan Centre/Parkes Institute conference on ‘Jewish Journeys’, the role of and changing ideas about the family in Jewish migration patterns across the ages.

Program proposals (250 words) are due May 1, 2008 to to Dr James Jordan, jaj1@soton.ac.uk. Acceptance notices will be made by June 30, 2008.

For more information, click here.