31 March 2008

Six degrees of separation?

Gen-blogger Dick Eastman is quoted in today's New York Times story on the family history of Presidential candidates.

Last week, the New England Historic Genealogical Society issued a press release that it knew would get some bounce: the group said it had traced the ancestry of the presidential candidates and found that all of them had blood ties — albeit distant ones — to unlikely famous people.

Barack Obama, the group said, is related to George W. Bush and Brad Pitt. Hillary Rodham Clinton can claim Angelina Jolie, Jack Kerouac and Camilla Parker-Bowles. As for John McCain, who knew he was descended from William the Lion, King of Scots?

However distant the connections (ninth cousins?), the news sped across the Internet, prompting countless people to wonder: could I be related to someone important, too?

According to author Cate Doty, the revelations of the 163-year-old society in Boston did what they were supposed to: "spread a little publicity for a nonprofit group that revels in historic minutia."

Global interest overloaded the society's servers and society director D. Brenton Simons said he'd also been inundated with email, most of it asking "to whom could I be related?" He thought it was amusing.

Some genealogists shrugged their shoulders at the connections, pointing out that if we look hard enough, most of us are related to one another somehow. If the average person goes back 400 years, he or she has around 130,000 relatives, said Chris Child, a genealogist at the society who worked on the candidates’ lineages.

“Everybody thinks it’s unique. It really isn’t,” said Dick Eastman, who runs a genealogy newsletter. “It would be a much more impressive news story if researchers could positively prove that any two public figures are NOT related to each other.”

Roots Television wins 4 Telly awards

RootsTelevision.com 's co-founders - producer Marcy Brown and professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak - frequently refer to themselves as "two chicks and a channel."

As I've watched the progress of the site, I've worked with Marcy on several segments as she filmed at Jewish genealogy conferences and I've even appeared in a few!

It is great to report that the genealogy and family history site has garnered awards for four original productions, and that one was for Jewish genealogy's own gen-comedian Jordan Auslander of New York.

Congratulations to Marcy, Megan, Jordan and all honorees.

Provo, UT, March 28, 2008 --(PR.com)-- RootsTelevision.com, an online channel dedicated to all aspects of genealogy and family history, has been recognized in the 29th Annual Telly Awards for four of its original productions. Selected from more than 14,000 shows were "DNA Stories: A Tale of Two Fathers" (documentary), "Heir Jordan: Extreme Genealogy" (entertainment), "Roots Books: Psychic Roots" (talk show), and "Flat Stanley’s Family Tree" (children’s audience).

"We’re delighted," said RootsTelevision.com co-founder, Marcy Brown. "To receive this kind of recognition during our first year of existence is remarkable, and winning in four different categories is even more astonishing. We take this as an indication that our decision to pioneer online programming for the substantial but neglected niche of millions of genealogists was a risk worth taking."

The four winning shows include an episode of "DNA Stories," a series that focuses on the exploding hobby of genetic genealogy and shows how avid roots-seekers are using DNA testing to solve family history riddles. The award-winning "Tale of Two Fathers" episode features Bob Zins and his efforts to determine whether the man who raised him was really his father.

"Heir Jordan: Extreme Genealogy" showcases the unexpected twin talents of Jordan Auslander, who’s both a professional genealogist and stand-up comic.

"Roots Books," a talk show hosted by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, received its award for the especially popular "Psychic Roots" episode that centers on a discussion of the role of serendipity in genealogy between Sharon and popular speaker and author, Hank Jones.

And "Flat Stanley’s Family Tree" follows the beloved children’s character as he explores his colonial roots in Williamsburg, Virginia and his gold rush roots in California.

Founded in 1978, The Telly is the premier award honoring outstanding local, regional and cable TV programs, as well as the finest video and film productions. The Telly Awards, a highly respected international competition, annually showcases the best work of the most respected production companies in the world.

RootsTelevision.com was launched in 2006 and provides more than 1,000 videos for global enthusiasts.

Feher Music Center update

Today was Yuval Shaked's last day as director of the Feher Jewish Music Center of Beth Hatefutsoth (The Nahum Goldmann Museum of Jewish Diaspora), Tel Aviv. This email was sent to his friends and colleagues:

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Today my activity at the Feher Jewish Music Center of Beth Hatefutsoth (The Nahum Goldmann Museum of Jewish Diaspora), Tel Aviv, is coming to its end. I had the privilege of intensely working here for 12 years, trying to promote an important cause, dear to many.

On the measure of significance attributed to the labor done here over many years I've learned from the measure of support and warm sympathy you bestowed on us, as well as from the deep concern you expressed in letters written to Beth Hatefutsoth's Management and others, and from the remarks you added to your signature on the petitions on behalf of the FJMC.

I draw from these expressions much strength needed for the fight. Your words excited me, sometimes to tears. I appreciate and cherish your support.

Much to my regret, it all didn't suffice. The failure is painful and clearly to be observed. I will go on fighting.

The collection deserves it and I owe it to myself, to my partners, to you, to my parents and family, to the society in which I raise my kids.

A period in my life is being closed. A room full of unbelievable treasures is being closed. I am most grateful to my devoted and skillful colleagues who helped to accomplish the Center's achievements, and am deeply ashamed of those who speak highly of Jewish culture, without having the slightest idea about it, and who goal-oriented work to ruin it.

With sorrow and relief –
Yuval Shaked

It remains to be seen what will now happen with the Feher Music Center and its holdings. We will miss Yuval, his knowledge and dedication.

30 March 2008

Famillion: Exaggerated claims

In his latest Nu? What's Nu? (Avotaynu's E-zine of Jewish Genealogy) for March 30, Gary Mokotoff has written about Famillion's new venture with the Haaretz newspaper in Israel and details the social networking company's exaggerated claims.

Famillion Partners with Haaretz

Famillion, the new kid on the block in the area of Internet family history services, has announced a partnership with the major Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, to provide an “innovate Jewish genealogy service” by providing a new genealogy and social network search engine aimed at connecting the Jewish people worldwide. The initiative aspires to bring together Jews from all over the world and help them construct the narrative of the Jewish people through the stories of millions of families.

This is yet another example of the exaggerated claims of this company. A visit to their site at Famillion.com shows they are focusing on having subscribers build their own family tree online, as can be done at MyFamily.com; merge family trees, as can be done at OneGreatFamily.com; and discover new family and friends, as can be done at ____________ (you fill in the blank).

The existence of this company was first reported in Nu? What’s New? in Volume 8, Number 12 (June 17, 2007) issue. At that time, the company claimed it will have mapped the entire Jewish population of the world by the end of 2007 and the entire Western world in about two years. Inquiries to the company at the end of 2007 to determine if the project is on schedule have gone unanswered.

Famillion is the brain child of Dan Rolls who states at the site that the organization started when he and his wife “produced their family trees through standard genetic testing.” Now that is innovative; a true first. I know of no genealogist who has produced their family tree through standard genetic testing.

Other claims at their site include:
* The Famillion system is the only genealogical system that allows you to find unknown pathways to any other person in the world.
* You may find yourself chatting with Angelina Jolie.
* The Famillion technology offers you a unique, online, family social, network opportunity to discover your genealogic frontiers using the tools of tomorrow.
* The Famillion cutting-edge system goes beyond the boundaries of time, culture, country and language by merging information from the historical generations of all its members.

It is a shame that Haaretz couldn't see through those rather silly claims. All the paper had to do was ask a Jewish genealogist - there are more than a few in Israel!

Many of us have been giggling about the company's publicized plans to map the entire Jewish population of the world by the end of 2007 (recently revised to end of 2008) and the entire Western world in about two years.

Back issues of Nu? What's Nu? can be read here; you can also subscribe.

DNA: Oral history meets genetics

"When oral history meets genetics" is my latest Jerusalem Post story.

It recounts the story of New Yorker Judy Simon's family - an Eastern European Ashkenazi family with an oral history of Sephardic roots - and her geographical project (Iberia in Ashkenaz) at FamilyTreeDNA.com, as well as DNA and genetics, deep ancestry.

Judy's family and many others - including my Talalay - share a similar oral history: Our families left Spain and migrated to Eastern Europe. Since the project began, two-thirds of participants have found Sephardic and Converso genetic matches.

"My grandfather always said we were Marranos. It was a story carried through the generations for 500 years that our family left Spain during the Inquisition," New Yorker Judy Simon tells Metro, adding that this derogatory term meaning "swine" in Spanish has been replaced by "conversos," "crypto-Jews" or "anousim."

Her grandfather's family lived in Rezekne, Latvia as far back as the mid-1750s, according to records. Some cousins believed so completely in the family story that, around 1909, they moved "back" to Spain, while her grandfather went to the United States. "For years, we had contact with these Spanish cousins, but this wasn't proof of our Sephardi ancestry."

Simon's family are not the only Eastern European Jews with Sephardi roots.

"We encountered Ashkenazi families with recent ancestry in Eastern, Western and Central Europe bearing Spanish or Portuguese surnames, an oral history of Sephardi ancestors, or some other indicator of Sephardi heritage, such as a tradition of naming children after a living grandfather or being a Mediterranean genetic disorder carrier," said Simon.

These people could not verify their ancestry through archival records, and she wanted to know whether DNA could support the Sephardi ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews with certain indicators. Some Sephardi surnames date back to 13th-century or earlier in Iberia, and carried through the centuries; sometimes they changed along the way. However, evidence indicates that at least some Ashkenazi Jews with Sephardi roots retained their original surnames.

My own Talalay research - focused on Mogilev, Belarus - turned up other Sephardi surnames such as Abravanel, Aboaf and Don Yakhia.

A cousin on her grandfather's direct male line agreed to be tested. Most of his Y-DNA matches were Ashkenazi Jews originating in the area near her grandfather's shetl. However, two men with Spanish surnames in Mexico and Texas were perplexed when their DNA matched as well. They had clues they were descendants of Converso family, and expected to find Sephardi matches ... but Ashkenazim?

Their matches were Ashkenazi Jews with Sephardi roots. "My family's oral history solved [the men's] puzzle," says Simon. None of the other Ashkenazim who matched her cousin had any idea they had Sephardi paternal roots.

If your family has a similar story and you'd like more information, click here for more details and to order a test kit .

And, in an important new development, the sidebar of the story provides information on Family Tree DNA's new company, DNAtraits.com. Founder Bennett Greenspan hopes that testing within the Jewish community can lead to the near eradication of a host of Jewish genetic conditions, much as widespread community testing has almost eliminated Tay-Sachs.

Among other tests, DNAtraits offers testing for a panel of 26 Jewish genetic diseases at a fraction of what other testing companies charge for a mere handful of tests.

29 March 2008

Texas: Heralding the history

The Centennial year of the Jewish Herald-Voice (Houston, Texas) is being celebrated with an exhibit of 101 front pages from the paper's continuous publication. The Greater Houston Jewish Genealogical Society has also been involved in preserving the paper's archive.

I've had the pleasure of meeting publishers Joseph and Jeanne Samuels several times at American Jewish Press Association meetings. We even lived in Teheran, Iran, when their daughter lived there, and I've written for the paper.

In celebration of the Jewish Herald-Voice’s Centennial, the JH-V has reproduced 101 front pages – one from each of the paper’s 100 years of continuous publication, including 2008 – for a special viewing at the Deutser Art Gallery at the Jewish Community Center of Houston. “Heralding the History of the Jewish Herald-Voice” opens Sunday, April 6, following the community's Israel@60 parade.

“This show, literally, was 100 years in the making,” said the JH-V’s Michael C. Duke, who, for the past four months, had been tasked with perusing the paper’s archives, selecting one front page to represent each year, scanning each page and finally printing copies for the installation. “The most challenging aspect of this project was not the daunting task of having to go through more than 5,000 individual issues of the newspaper, but, instead, was the challenge of staying focused on selecting front pages, avoiding being distracted by major and minor news items, and advertisements, that were published in the Herald over the course of an entire century,” Duke commented.

Pages selected mix local, national and international news.

Remarkably, the JH-V has a complete archive. The first three-and-a-half decades are loose-bound; the late 1930s to the present are collected in bound volumes, with the exception of 1936 and 1944 to 1947. Actual papers from these years are missing, although the JH-V does have digital copies of these issues – and of its entire archive, scanned from microfilm – thanks to the Greater Houston Jewish Genealogical Society.

“It was a phenomenal learning experience, putting this project together,” Duke pointed out. “The Herald has been there to chronicle the growth and development of Houston’s Jewish community – from the birth of new congregations, to the opening of new community centers, to the branching out of family trees. And, it also has chronicled the growth and development of the city of Houston – from the development of the Port of Houston, to the building of the first skyscrapers, to the creation of NASA – it’s all there in the JH-V,” he said.

Over the years, the paper has had several persona - The Jewish Herald, The Texas Jewish Herald and the Jewish Herald-Voice - and the pages also illustrate technology advances in newspaper production, from hot-type print to digital.

Jews came to Texas with the Spanish conquistadores, more than 60 years before the first Jews arrived in New Amsterdam. When Houston was founded in 1836, Jews were among the first to live there. In 1908, when the city's population was about 75,000, the Texas Jewish Herald was the first subscription weekly paper for the 1,000-strong Jewish community.

The longest-running Southwest Jewish paper, it is one of the oldest in the US.

Congratulations to the JH-V and the Samuels family!

2008 Artistry of Genealogy Awards

The 2008 Artistry of Genealogy Awards were just announced by ScanMyPhotos.com, recognizing excellence in preserving family history through genealogy.

Winners include several gen-blogging colleagues. Congratulations to Dick Eastman, Jasia, Miriam Midkiff and Renee Zamora). Miriam and Renee share honors for Best Personal Genealogy Blog.

The full press release is here.

Technology has enhanced the interest in learning about genealogy - the art of studying family history and investigating the ancestry of a family tree. While there are tens of thousands of Blog postings and websites dedicated to genealogy, The Photo Preservation Center - an educational division of ScanMyPhotos.com - has commissioned a study to reveal the very best sites and is announcing the winners of the 2008 Artistry of Genealogy Awards.

Customers were contacted in a telephone survey of 945 ScanMYPhotos.com customers across the US from January 12-March 24, who identified their favorite websites for each category.

The awards coincide with April's ‘The Great American Photo Scanning Month’ to encourage having the 3.5 trillion analog photo snapshots digitally preserved," said Mitch Goldstone, Photo Preservation Center chair and ScanMyPhotos.com president/CEO.

For the complete listing and descriptions, click Tales from the World of Photo Scanning.

Best Daily Genealogy Newsletter
Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

Best Ongoing Family History Story
Creative Gene: Genealogy and More

Best Personal Genealogy Blog
Miriam Midkiff's AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors

Best Personal Genealogy Blog
Renee Zamora, Renee's Genealogy Blog

Best Genealogy Reference Tool
Family Tree Magazine Blog - Genealogy Insider, edited by Diane Haddad.

Best Genealogy Portal
Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet

Most Popular Genealogy Publication
Family Free Magazine

Best Way to Network on The Internet With Your Family

Best Archive of Historical Record - Ancestry.com

Best Way to Reunite Unidentified Photos
Dead Fred Genealogy Photo Archive

Best Family Immigration Story Site
Tell Us Your Story - The Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Best Value/Free Genealogy Software Application

Favorite Genealogy Research Guide:
Genealogy Research Guides, Tips and Online Records

Easiest Way to Share Family Stories Online
One Great Family

Most Popular Genealogy Data Base
Family Tree Connection

Cambodia: Lost pastrami of Angkor

It isn't often anyone writes about Jews and Cambodia in one paragraph, particularly one dating from 1603, but here it is.

In 1603, then Brother Gabriel de San Antonio, in "A Brief and Truthful Relation of Events in the Kingdom of Cambodia" to King Don Philippe, wrote: "at the entrance to the road, (in the same way as we Christians erect crosses) Cambodian people erect high poles at the top of which is a golden snake. They all worship it; their criminals put themselves under its protection and it constitutes a sacred place. If they have a dispute between themselves and they want to contract a new friendship, they bleed, mix their blood in the same vessel and drink it, each one in his turn; then they dip a knife in it, keep it raised, and through ceremony, promise to be of the same blood, to have only one heart and one will, threatening with the knife anybody who would claim to the contrary. That practice, and the custom of putting snakes on the top of masts along the roads as well as that of the monks chanting the chorus seven times originates from some roman Jews who once lived in that kingdom. There are many Jews in the kingdom of china: they are the ones who built, in Cambodia, the city of Angkor which, as I said, was discovered in 1570. They abandoned it when they emigrated to china, according to what the Jews from the East Indies told me when, passing through there, I conversed with them about that matter."

Who knew?

The blog's author asks if this was the last time a good pastrami sandwich could be had in Cambodia - where he lives with his wife and baby girl named Aliyah - and proceeds to expound on Venezuela's Chavez, on a possible Khazar connection and a bit about his own family history:

While the rest of my geneology is a bit obscure (the mid-19th century Mudricks did hail from Byrdichiv in the former Khazaria but I know nothing earlier), the Shapiro line (my mother's father's side) is quite well researched. Indeed, Shapiro is one of two dozen family names whose ancestors researchers believe can be traced directly back to King David.

The genealogy of pastrami is featured with this link:

Where does pastrami come from? Is it even a "Jewish" food? Like a lot of food we identify as Jewish, pastrami is a food that was adopted by Jews and has gone through a radical transformation in the immigration process. Originally, Romanian Jews brought the idea of pastrami with them when they came to the US. In Moldavia pastrama is usually a cured, semi-dry smoked meat, usually made from sheep, that can stay unrefrigerated for months. Jews possibly cured their own kosher pastrama as a food that could be carried along on trips where no kosher meat would be available, kind of like kosher beef jerky - chewing on old truck tires is one way to describe the texture for Moldavian peasant pastrama...But the origina of Romanian pastrama lie in the heritage of the Ottoman Empire,which ruled Wallachia and Moldavia for hundreds of rather productive years, at least as far as Wallachia and Moldavia go. The Turks brought pastirma with them - slabs of beef covered in spice paste and then air dried in high mountain curing houses.

The pastrami link could be titled "Everything You've Always Wanted to Ask About Pastrami and Now You're Glad You Didn't Ask."

Ellis Island: Myth and fact

Oy vey. If we only had a penny for each time someone writes about the myth of name changing at Ellis Island. Genealogists can't believe that people still think this happened, but every so often, a prominent writer at an even more prominent publication perpetuates the myth.

The most recent was in the Forward's Philologos column on March 14, Last Names, Lost in Translation.

The author discusses the name suffix "stein" and its permutations in pronunciation and spelling, and later brings up the Sean Ferguson story ... again (is there anyone left in the world who hasn't heard this?).

Another likely myth is the author's claim that "The Eastern European Jews themselves only knew how to write their names in the Hebrew characters used in Yiddish." This is a rather broad claim, covering people from many countries - some of whom were educated in the standards of the day and many of whom at least knew how to write their own names in the vernacular of their place of residence, be it Polish, Russian or other tongues.

He also neglects the facts that interpreters of many languages and dialects were on duty at Ellis Island to assist the immigrants and to help the clerks. Yiddish was a main language with many interpreters available at any hour.

However, the main myth of Ellis Island name changing is in this paragraph:

Although veytz (with the vowel like that of “ate”) means “wheat” and not “oats” (the word for which is hober) in Yiddish, I see no reason to doubt Mr. Gass’s mother-in-law. Once again, one has to put oneself in the shoes of a harried immigration official at Ellis Island who was obliged every day to hear dozens of strange-sounding Jewish names and make a hurried decision about how best to write them in English. Had the members of Mr. Gass’s mother-in-law’s family given such an official the German spelling of Weiz, or the Hungarian spelling of Vèc, this would have ended up on the their immigration form, but since they could only spell their name in Yiddish, they simply said “Veytz” out loud. The official, however, would have heard this as the more common “Veiss,” which — again under the influence of German (in which, as in Yiddish, weiss means white) — already had the conventional Ellis Island orthography of Weiss, and so the official would have written it down in that fashion.

Luckily, the eagle eyes of Forward readers did not let this go unchallenged, and the author's next column on March 27, Myths and Facts on Language, reveals he has been chastised by readers.

A common belief that turns out to be a myth, and an assumed myth that might be true: This is the balance sheet of my March 14 column, “Last Names, Lost In Translation.”

For believing in the myth, I have been properly chastised by Arthur S. Abramson of Mansfield, Conn., and the novelist Dara Horn. Mr. Abramson writes that he was “somewhat dumbfounded” by my account of the handling of immigrants by American officials on Ellis Island, and continues:

“The Ellis Island official did not depend simply on his understanding of a name as uttered by the immigrant. Rather, he had before him the vessel’s passenger list, which had been prepared well before arrival in New York harbor. Indeed, the lists were generally made up at the port of embarkation in Europe. Once a name was matched with a person from that vessel, the official just had to copy it from the list. The myth about the changing of names by Ellis Island officials has long been debunked in genealogical circles.”

To which Ms. Horn adds the additional corrective:

“By the time Ellis Island was up and running in 1892 (immigrants to New York in the decades prior to this were processed at a smaller facility called Castle Garden on Manhattan proper), the official apparatus was vast enough for there to be no shortage of translators for even the more obscure European languages (and Yiddish hardly qualified as obscure) — Fiorello LaGuardia was one of the more famous ones. Moreover, the immigration officials often didn’t even need to resort to translators, since they themselves were frequently multilingual in the relevant languages. The idea that immigration officers were simply overwhelmed rent-a-cops, filling out forms and accidentally turning Cohens into Kennedys on a daily basis, is a bobe mayse. What’s interesting about it is that our bobes themselves made it up, because names that were changed during the immigration process were almost always changed by the immigrants themselves. Many such changes, including the example in your column of Vaytz being changed to Weiss, most likely reflected Jewish social anxieties that we scarcely remember now, such as the desirability of a German-sounding rather than Eastern-European-sounding name. For many people, it was probably easier to blame Ellis Island for the loss of a family legacy than to take the credit themselves.”

Hooray for Abramson and Horn!

And, as I have always maintained, many name changes took place the minute the immigrant got off Ellis Island and stepped onto the New York streets; sometimes changes were planned in advance, as in my own family.

Letters home from earlier arrivals told prospective immigrants that a new name had been adopted. In our family, the story persists that the first Talalay, back in 1898, met someone on the boat who knew English and who advised Mendl to change his name, as no one would give a job to Mr. "tell-a-lie." He became the first Tollin; his letters home advised the new name and why; it was adopted upon arrival in America by the majority of following relatives.

The Philologos author, however, now takes the issue back a step to Europe and blames the shipping clerks in Europe for the misspellings, because they had to deal with Yiddish speakers who compiled the lists in Latin alphabets.

[They] would have had to make guesses similar to those mistakenly attributed by me to American immigration officials at Ellis Island, so that ultimately the same kinds of inaccuracies and mistakes would have occurred in some of them. These simply would have taken place at an earlier stage in the immigration process.

However, he neglects to mention that shipping lines had agents in many towns who sold tickets to the immigrants. These agents would have been necessarily literate in Yiddish and other languages to handle record-keeping and write tickets, and would have recorded the names properly on the travel documents.

The Sean Ferguson story from the March 13 column is expanded on as another reader of the column sent in an excerpt from "a genealogical website Avoteynu [sic], posted by a researcher named Gary Mokotoff."

Gary expounds on the Ferguson story's roots - back in the 1860s - before Ellis Island was a major port of entry. Do read this section.

And, as I've mentioned over the years, my grandfather swore he knew the real Ferguson ... and I met the man.

I was a young child and we were spending the summer, as usual, up in Kauneonga Lake (near Monticello in the Borscht Belt's Sullivan County, New York). One day, my grandfather, Sidney (Shaya) Fink (from Suchastow, Galicia, now Ukraine) had a visitor, an old friend in the travel business, called Ferguson. He proceeded to tell us the story of his strange name. He swore up and down that he was the real Sean Ferguson.

It was the first time I had heard the story and believed it until decades later when I heard other genealogists discussing the urban legend. I wish I knew who my grandfather's friend Sam Ferguson really was and the true story of his name.

28 March 2008

Texas: Crypto-Jewish Symposium, April 17-18

"Jews and the Inquisition in New Spain" is a two-day symposium focusing on the prominent crypto-Jewish Carvajal family which migrated to 16th century northern New Spain.

Taking place at Texas A&M University, Thursday-Friday, April 17-18, registration is free and there are accommodation discounts. Shabbat services and a reception will be hosted by Hillel.

Main themes are the European background of the Carvajal family, life and times of Luis de Carvajal and his enduring legacy, and expressions of Crypto-Jewish faith.

From a contemporary perspective, this symposium seeks to contribute to the understanding of the multivalent cultural heritage of the Hispanic people in the U.S. Southwest. With the growing importance of the Hispanic cultural in the borderlands region, this symposium intends to provide the Texas A&M University community and beyond a rare inside view of this culture’s Jewish heritage. Apart from its cultural contribution, this symposium looks to place Texas A&M at the forefront of the scholarly discourse on Crypto-Jewish Studies in the Southwest.

Among the committee members are Dr. Stanley Hordes, University of New Mexico and Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies president; Rabbi Dr. Peter E. Tarlow, Hillel Foundation; and others.

For full details and speaker bios, click on these links: here and here.

The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Hordes.

University of New Mexico's Latin American and Iberian Institute adjunct research professor Dr. Stanley M. Hordes is president of the Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies. He is currently exploring the family roots of 15 families from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba, tracing their genealogies to Spain and elsewhere to see if they have converso or Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

European Background of the Carvajal Family
Rutgers University Dr. Samuel Temkin.
"Luis de Carvajal, His Family, and His Recruits," by Dr. Ricardo Elizondo, (Tecnológico de Monterrey) y Dr. Monica Montemayor Treviño (Histroirador Independiente, Monterry, Mexico)

Life and Times of Luis de Carvajal
Dr. Alicia Gojman de Backal, FES, Acatlán, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Dr. Carlos M. Larralde, Independent Scholar, Calimesa, CA. "Las correspondencia, memorias, y su testamento de Luis de Carvajal, El Mozo," and "Descendants of the Carvajal Expedition,"

Expressions of Crypto-Jewish Faith
Rabbi Dr. Peter E. Tarlow, Texas A&M University Hillel Foundation. "Luis de Carvajal, El Mozo, and His Reading of Biblical Scripture," by Dr. Gregory Lee Cuéllar (Cushing Library, Texas A&M University)

The Enduring Legacy of Luis de Carvajal
Mercedes Gail Gutiérrez, Independent Scholar, Davis, CA. "Reconnecting with Crytpo-Jewish roots in the U.S. Southwest," Dr. Dell Sánchez, (Sephardic Anusim Center of the Americas).

The event has a blog to create discussion on the topic and some comments are worth reading. Speaker bios are onsite; some current research includes:

Independent scholar Dr. Carlos Montalvo Larralde has written several monographs and articles in Mexican American studies and Crypto-Jewish Studies; his doctoral dissertation, "Chicano Jews in South Texas (1978)," argued for a Crypto-Jewish presence in south Texas back to the colonial period.

Rabbi Tarlow is the Texas A&M Hillel executive director. Fluent in Hebrew, English, Spanish and Portuguese, he lectures throughout Latin America and served as rabbi of the Circulo Israelita (Santiago Chile). His rabbinic thesis was on the Portuguese Inquisition, and he has been interested in the lives and cultures of Crypto Jews especially in northern Mexican states. His presentation addresses the background of New Spain's Portuguese and Spanish immigrants and how their historical baggage impacted their lives in the New World.

Rutgers University professor emeritus Dr. Temkin has been studying the history of 16th century New Spain, and is the author of several articles on Luis de Carvajal, based on original sources.

Dr. Cuellar is currently doing research on the Crytpo-Jewish presence along the Rio Grande during the 18th century.

Alica Gojman de Backal has been a Distinguished Professor of History in Facultad de Estudios Superiores Acatlán, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México since 1975 and is also the current director of the library Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Comunidad Ashkenazí de México in México, D.F. Her publications include: Los Conversos en el México Colonial (1987), Testimonios de historia oral: Judíos en México. Dirección de proyecto, (1990), Identidad y Cultura en Conversos del Siglo XVII en Puebla de Los Angeles (1995), La inquisición en Nueva España vista a traves de los ojos de un procesado, Guillén de Lampart, Siglo XVII. (2000), and Judaizantes en la Nueva Espana: Catalogo de documentos en el Archivo General de la Nacion (2006).

A retired administrator, artist Mercedes Gail Gutierrez (BA Stanford University; MA UC Berkley) is a descendent of the marrano/monverso/anousim families Perez, Carvajal and Munoz, and has independently studied Sephardic Jews in the New World Diaspora, including Mexico and Occupied Mexico (1987-current). In 2007, she participated in the "Orale Israel: Part I", Anusim conference (El Paso, TX,), "Orale, Israel: Part II", Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies conference (Albuquerque, NM). Her paper was titled: "Lech Lecha: What my mother told me."

Los Angeles: The Carousel Connection

Here's a Jewish Journal story with more on the Jewish origins of carousels and merry-go-rounds - this time with an LA connection.

My previous posting in November on all these pretty horses (and more) and their Jewish craftsmen (such as Illions of Vilna) is here.

In a storage yard in Long Beach, painted ponies in rose garlands prance atop a giant wooden disc, waiting for a new owner.

The Illions Supreme Carousel, which twirled riders for decades at the L.A. County Fairgrounds in Pomona, is one of the most elaborate wooden carousels carved at the beginning of the last century by Marcus Charles Illions and his group of Jewish immigrant craftsmen.

If the current owner, a private collector, can't find a buyer for the carousel -- a city, museum or amusement park -- the historic specimen of Jewish Americana could end up broken apart or shipped to Dubai, where the amusement park industry is flourishing and the weak dollar makes American cast-offs a bargain.

The Illions Supreme isn't the only Jewishly carved carousel in jeopardy. On April 23 in Auberndale, Fla., Norton Auctioneers will take bids on a Coney Island merry-go-round created by European craftsmen trained in the art of carving Torah arks and bimahs.

The 45-foot diameter merry-go-round, carved in 1909 in the shop of William F. Mangels, with horses, giraffes, goats, camels and chariots, has been owned and operated by the same family for 93 years. It is expected to draw at least $500,000, but the auction has no minimum opening bid. Individual horses will not be sold to antiques collectors.

Illions Supremes are considered the most elaborate carousels ever carved according to Carousel News editor Roland Hopkins. The Supreme which ran for 40 years at the LA County Fairgrounds through the 1980s is worth some $5 million. Illions carved only three in this category and this is the only one remaining. Daniel Horenberger of Brass Ring Entertainment in Sun Valley is selling the carousel for the private owner.

The wildly animated menageries and chariots are adorned with more than 10,000 pieces of gold leaf. Among those horses is the American Beauty Rose horse, a gold-maned white mare dripping with colorful roses featured on the cover of "Painted Ponies," the definitive book about carousels.

Today, new carousels are made of fiberglass, often from molds made from the wooden classics. Many of the 200 extant antique carousels are owned by cities or big parks and are thus protected, but many others, such as the Illions, are in private hands and could be sold at any time.

Horenberger restores carousels at a Long Beach shop and is trying to find a home for these two carousels. "The Skirball Cultural Center expressed some interest in the Illions Supreme, occupancy restrictions and space limitations preclude operating a 50-foot diameter carousel." The center's permanent exhibit does include two Illion carved lions from a Torah ark.

The Jewish immigrant carvers created synagogue ritual objects such as brightly painted wooden arks and bimas for Europe's fame wooden synagogues and for synagogues in the New World's new communities, such as New York City.

The Illions connection came about because he moved to Southern California at the end of his career and brought the Supreme with him, settling it at the Fairgrounds.

The article also talks about the relationships of Marcus Charles Illions, Looff, William Mangel, Charles Carmel, Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein. Carmel and Looff's carvings are on the 1926 Griffith Park carousel. Mangels built the about-to-be-auctioned carousel in Florida but it operated in Pennsylvania for many years before it was moved.

For more information, the story points to:

Brass Ring Entertainment
Carousel News and Trade
Norton Auctioneers
Skirball Cultural Center

27 March 2008

DNA: Cracking the Code

Reform Judaism's Spring 2008 issue features "Cracking the Code" on the latest DNA research, while raising perplexing, challenging and controversial questions in terms of Jewish research.

For the answers, the editors interviewed Jon Entine, author of Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People and Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It.

If Entine will be speaking in your area, the article and companion discussion guide will be a great introduction and provide questions to ask the author. I'd also recommend the guide for book clubs, genealogy societies, youth groups and other organizations planning programs on this topic.

There's plenty of food for thought on controversial Jewish survival issues, genetic advances and Jewish history, testing privacy and safety, genetic mapping ethics, gene-testing, cloning, new genes and more.

Among the questions answered in detail:

How did you come to explore cutting-edge DNA research as a window into our Jewish origins? When you talk about different “groups of people” genetically, how does that differ from categorizing by “race”? Besides the fact that Ashkenazic Jews have genes that increase their chances of getting certain diseases, what else have we learned from genetic markers? What was the next step in the quest to trace Jewish origins genetically? Do you mean to say that this is proof that the Abraham of Genesis really lived at that time? Origins of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jewry. Can we track the female line of Jews? What does the DNA show about the female ancestry among Ashkenazim? Does that mean many Ashkenazic Jews are descended from gentiles on their maternal side? Might this theory explain why so many Ashkenazic Jews have blue eyes?

Here are tiny snippets of answers to other questions:

What does DNA evidence reveal about the conversos in the Southwest United States?: Although we say there are only about 13–15 million Jews in the world, I would guess that if we tested everybody in the world, tens of millions of people would have traces of a Jewish past. Entine also discusses "hidden" children of the Holocaust, and more contemporary hidden Jews.

Is the study of Jewish genetics making inroads in medicine? : It’s literally saving thousands of lives around the world. There are some forty known “Jewish diseases,” disorders that originated in single Jews and then spread throughout Jewish communities. ... The great breakthrough in genetic disease screening happened a few decades ago, when the genetic markers for Tay-Sachs were identified and a test became available." He adds the essential role played by Rabbi Josef Ekstein in 1983.

You’ve pointed to the very positive aspects of genetic testing. But isn’t it also true that the same technology can be used to discriminate?: Understandably, there’s great fear that because of genetic research, people will be labeled defective and subject to discrimination by medical insurers. ... And if we’ve learned anything from history, science can be hijacked by the purveyors of such racist theories as eugenics. Therefore we desperately need to discuss the implications of human genome research to ensure that its focus is enlightenment and not enslavement.

What is likely to be the next breakthrough in genetic research that can shed light on the Jewish people?: ...The future is focused on curing diseases, and to do that we must get into the prickly subject of human differences based on our ancestry. We are different populations, with differences in brain architecture, appearance, abilities, and disease proclivities. As yet we don’t fully understand how these differences have evolved, but within ten or fifteen years, each of us will literally be able to carry a genetic score card of all the major genetic influences on who we are. This will really help us to address the specific genetic disorders afflicting us as Jews. It’s going to be quite a revelation.

Read the complete article here. Download the excellent companion discussion and study guide here.

The guide explores genetic mapping, anthropology, history and other issues, arranged in three thought-provoking categories: Genetic anthropology provides a new way of looking at Jewish identity, genetic advances shed new light on Jewish history, and genetic mapping raises difficult ethical questions. There's a small section on our favorite subject: genealogy. There are additional resource pointers, but these could have been more up-to-date.

26 March 2008

Sicily: The ancient mikveh of Siracusa

EyeItalia is not a site for Jewish genealogy. In fact, it is a site for beautifully created items from Italy, such as linens, bedspreads, notepaper, leather journals and much more.

I didn't expect to find Jewish anything on the site, but was surprised with this great story on the ancient mikveh of Siracusa.

The waves of cultures that have bathed Sicily over the centuries have left their traces in the cuisine, language and architecture. The Jews are all but invisible. The island was a virtual melting pot of cultures and an important center of Mediterranean commerce. Because of this prosperity, Jewish merchants were likely here very early in the islands history. Around the year A.D. 63, thousands of Jews, were brought as slaves by Roman armies returning victorious from the Holy Land. Over the centuries, “Giudecca,” or Jewish quarters, varying in size from 350 to 5,000 people developed in 50 Sicilian cities. By the 1300’s many towns were dominated by Jews.

Siracusa, in particular had an affluent Jewish community. Records show that many Jews owned luxurious homes. Their professions ranged from doctors and cloth merchants to goldsmiths and tradesmen. In the mid-15th century Sicily’s Jewish community totaled one quarter of the population. Soon however, the heavy hand of the Spanish Inquisition descended on the Sicilian Jews who dispersed to other parts of the world or converted to Catholicism. Until recently the only remaining evidence of this once thriving culture were the repetitive street names in the Giudecca. Now Jewish history comes alive again with the uncovering of the ancient “miqwe” baths.

The article goes on to explain what a mikveh is used for and technical matters of where the water originates.

How was the ritual bath discovered?

In the 1980’s a Sicilian noble woman, the Marquis or “Marchesa” Amalia Daniele, purchased a crumbling palazzo in the old historical center to convert into a “residence” hotel. During the extensive restoration, an odd pattern in the pavement bricks of a courtyard indicated a walled-over threshold. One torn-down wall and five truckloads of rubble later, a stone staircase was revealed that descended 30 feet underground. The next challenge was to drain the enormous amount of water that pooled in the chamber below. As Sicily is an island, nothing is far from the sea however the most obvious “saltwater theory” proved false. This was fresh water that undoubtedly came from the same source as the Fountain of Aretusa; the nearby sacred Greek fountain.

Once the water was removed, the structure beneath was revealed: a square chamber with a vaulted ceiling supported by four pillars carved completely out of bedrock. Three water-filled baths were located in the floor of the main chamber and off to adjacent sides were two very unusual, smaller private chambers, each with a bath. All the baths are connected by a common source of water, as required by Jewish law. The privacy provided by the smaller rooms was certainly only for those who could afford it. The size and wealth of Siracusa’s Jewish community may explain why this miqwe is unusually elaborate in its dimensions.

The Marchesa researched old records indicating that the Jewish Bianchi family were the original owners of the palazzo. The baths' construction is believed to be 6th century Byzantine, predating the palazzo by hundreds of years.

The Jews were expelled from Sicily in 1493 - a year after the Spanish Expulsion. There are theories that the departing Jews (many also went underground as secret Jews and stayed) filled in the mikveh with rubble before sealing the entryway. While the neighborhood's destroyed synagogue was remembered, the mikveh was forgotten.

Guided tours (in English) of the mikveh are on the hour, 11am-7pm, Monday through Saturday and on Sunday at 11am and noon. Reservations are necessary for groups of five or more. For more information, contact the Residenza alla Giudecca at: allagiudecca@hotmail.com.

Read more here.

3.5 million Holocaust DP names released

The AP reported yesterday that the names of some 3.5 million people displaced after World War II have been provided to Holocaust memorial groups and museums in the United States, Israel and Poland.

The International Tracing Service of the International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday that it had handed over a third round of digitally copied documents to the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Warsaw-based National Institute of Remembrance.

The archive, based in Bad Arolsen, Germany, said the transfer involved copies of index cards that feature the names of people who were freed from Nazi concentration and labor camps as well as prisoners of war.

The move came after a meeting March 18-19 of representatives of national organizations from the member nations of the International Commission, which oversees ITS.

The archive holds millions of index cards, documents and files, some with detailed family histories. The first distribution was provided late last year and it will take the ITS two more years to finish copying onto hard drives the 16 linear miles of documents filling some six buildings. Some 67 million images of documents have already been transferred to the memorials and museums.

The document images allow survivors and victims' relatives to see transportation lists, Gestapo orders, camp registers, slave labor booklets and death books.

Read the complete story here.

Resources for more information:

International Tracing Service
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Yad Vashem
Institute of National Remembrance

SCGS Jamboree: Only 93 days to go

The Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree is only a few months away, set for June 27-29, in Burbank, California. Last year's event was a major success, and this year is expected to be bigger and better.

The committee's program (now online, see link below) features 40 speakers and more than 80 presentations. This is the second year I've enjoyed working with the out-of-the-box creative co-chair Paula Hinkel.

Los Angeles-area readers should know that there is a special Jewish research track on Sunday - so I'd like to encourage you to attend. There are other special tracks for DNA, technology, German and Eastern European research.

A first-ever event will be the Genealogy Blogger Summit, with the participation of Steve Danko, Dick Eastman, Leland Meitzler, George Morgan, Randy Seaver, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak ... and me! Leland will be the moderator.

The genealogy blogging and podcast community has been keeping savvy readers up to date on all the news affecting genealogists and family historians. How do they get the information? How is it disseminated? How have bloggers changed the flow of information between vendors and their customers? How can family history blogs help exchange information and locate cousins? Come hear this exceptional group of information leaders.

The DNA track includes Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA, Steve Morse and Morgan Smolyanek Smolyanek.

Greenspan's "The Evolution of the Revolution:" Since its inception in 2000, DNA testing for genealogists has emerged from a fad to “I’m glad.” The lecture will provide a short historical glimpse of genealogical DNA at its inception and turn to the problems of today: ancestral digs, anthropology, and adoption.

Steve Morse's "From DNA to Genetic Genealogy: Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask:" Learn how DNA can be used for finding relatives you didn't know you had, learn about your very distant ancestors and the route they traveled. Determine if you are a Jewish high priest (Kohen).

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak's programs: "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options," covering more than Y-DNA Surname studies, such as mtDNA, SNP, BioGeographical and ethnic tests, the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation and the National Geographic Genographic Project; and "Trace Your Roots with DNA" focuses on launching and managing a DNA project, test and vendor selection factors, privacy and convincing others to participate.

Sunday offers several programs of interest to Jewish researchers.

Peter Landé's "Holocaust Records as a Source for All Genealogists," focuses on the massive Bad Arolsen Holocaust archive in Germany with information on more than 17 million Holocaust victims. Some two-thirds of the 50 million records relate to non-Jews.

JGSLA program chair Pamela Weisberger's "When Leopold Met Lena: Marriage, Divorce and Deception in 1892 New York" is an example of how the most quirky, fascinating family scandals and stories are discovered and brought to life using court records, graveyard inscriptions, newspaper articles, city directories, census and vital records.

A fascinating new topic by San Diego's Stephanie Weiner is "A Plague on All Our Houses," covering the effects of epidemics and pandemics on archival records, death records, Jewish migration and Jewish communities. European and American events will be discussed from as early as 1348, when Jews were blamed for plagues and entire communities burned, to the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, when Philadelphia’s dead lay in gutters, death carts roamed the streets and steam shovels dug mass graves. These events will help researchers understand why some families and individuals simply vanished from history.

By request, I'm repeating last year's breakfast session on "Creating Hope" for the entire conference. This focuses on how writing about genealogical success gives hope to readers and searchers around the world.

The tech corner will provide access to major subscription databases and software tryouts, and the vendor room will be jammed with the "names" of genealogy. Evening programs feature Megan Smolyanek Smolyanek (on the search for Annie Moore) and Dick Eastman (family health histories), while breakfasts feature "Effective Society Management" sessions.

SCGS has also been creative about registration fees. While daily registration for non-members is $40-45 each day, the full three-day registration is only $80 until May 1 ($90 after). There are fee-added events such as breakfasts, banquet and dinner. The printed syllabus is accompanied by a free CD version.

Download the program and registration brochure here.

Florida: JewishGen, April 9

JewishGen's education vice president Phyllis Kramer will speak on “Getting the most out of JewishGen” on Wednesday, April 9, hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County (JGSPBCI), at the South County Civic Center in Delray Beach.

JewishGen is the Internet's premier source for Jewish genealogy. Among its features: 150+ information files in many categories, the JewishGen Family Finder, searchable databases, with links to many additional resources and websites. JewishGen's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) file offers more detailed information.

Kramer will review the site's databases and offer tips and tricks to access information.

An amateur genealogist with genealogical and computer skills, she is a JGSPBCI board member and chairs monthly Brick Wall Sessions. Her personal research is in Eastern Europe and she has compiled a family tree of 5,400 relatives around the world.

Kramer has headed computer committees and computer labs at two annual Jewish genealogy conferences; taught genealogy classes at Norwalk College, Savannah JCC and NYC's Museum of Jewish Heritage. With a BS from Cornell and Fordham University MBA, before retirement she worked primarily for IBM in systems engineering, product and business management.

For more information, click here.

Chicago 2008: Film Festival

This year, the third edition of the Jewish Genealogy Film Festival will take place during the 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (August 17-22, Chicago), as film festival coordinator Pamela Weisberger of Los Angeles continues her masterful work.

There will be talks on film themes, with producer and director introductions and Q&As. The complete schedule will be announced shortly. It will offer some 40 films covering genealogical, historical and cultural topics, and include documentaries, shorts, feature films and filmmaker appearances.

Previously, screenings were restricted to conference registrants only attendees, but this year there's a registration option (daily, weekly) for spouses and friends who may be film buffs but don't share our all-consuming genealogical interests. The option is also available for Chicago residents and students. For more information, click here.

Focusing on this year's event venue of Chicago, "Maxwell Street: A Living Memory, The Jewish Experience in Chicago," with director Shuli Eshel, will be screened, accompanied by a reading from the book "Jewish Maxwell Street Stories" by noted local author, Roger Schatz.

There are some popular favorites repeated such as "Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream," profiling the history of Jewish involvement in the entertainment history and the immigrant experience, and "Everything is Illuminated," the off-kilter, evocative, portrait of a return to an ancestral shtetl.

For Litvaks, and everyone interested in Holocaust heroism under extraordinary circumstances, there's "Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness," the remarkable story of Chiune Sugihara and the Jewish refugees he helped, along with "Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust," about Menachem Daum's return to Poland to search for the farming family that hid his father-in-law during WWII.

Several films will premiere such as "Tovarisch: I Am Not Dead," a new documentary by two-time British Academy award-winning director Stuart Urban. His father was a survivor - not a victim - of both the Holocaust and gulag.

Born in Stanislawow (Galicia/Ukraine) in 1916, Garri Urban overcame adversity through a mixture of charm, aggression, and chutzpah. Using video diaries that were made over a 14 year quest into Garri's KGB records and the fate of his family in the Holocaust, Urban traveled with his father in 1992 to the former Soviet Union to continue unraveling the truth about his father's amazing life, including the fact that he was still listed as an "international spy" on the KGB most-wanted list. As Stuart Urban cautions: "Sometimes people hear about Tovarisch and they are amazed it is not a catalog of massacres and suffering. It is as much about triumph and the strength of personality. It is about survivors. Who do they leave behind? Who do they love? How do they find them again? And what is the price of survival?"

Food is also featured in Aussie Lesley Sharon Rosenthal's "Buboolah Bagela," which examines our love affair with the bagel, and "888-Go-Kosher," a day in the life of New York's only rapid-response kitchen koshering service.

Operating out of his office in Brooklyn, Rabbi Lebovic helps those in need, answering calls and snapping into action with his full-service team to kosher kitchens across the New York area. 888-Go-Kosher offers a light-hearted portrait of this unique service, and demonstrates the relationship of kashrut to Jewish identity.

Watch for news of the complete schedule.

Seattle: Schwabacher & Co.

Lyn Blyden, president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State, read my post on the Jewish presence in California's Santa Maria Valley.

Recognizing the name Schwabacher as prominent in Seattle history, Lyn pointed me to the following three-part article on the Schwabacher family in Washington, their role in the Klondike Gold Rush and more.

Although the second article includes a family tree focusing on the Seattle branch, I could not immediately determine how Lewis in California was related to several other Louis in the northern branch. In California, according to a Santa Maria Times newspaper article, Lewis Schwabacher and Sam Coblentz were partners for more than 40 years. Lewis died February 19, 1939.

In any case, the northern Schwabacher family's story is fascinating. It was written by Jean Roth of the Seattle Genealogical Society and reprinted on the JGSWS website from the SGS Summer 1997 bulletin

Among the most popular Klondike outfitters patronized by the prospectors who went to the Yukon gold rush was Schwabacher Bros. & Company. It was at Schwabacher's dock on Seattle's Elliott bay that the steamer Portland arrived on July 17, 1897 with her "ton of gold" that electrified the world and sparked the Klondike gold rush. Soon thousands would leave that dock and others on their way to Alaska.

For many years a marine landmark at the foot of Union Street, it now is a waterfront park.

This pioneer Seattle merchandising business was founded by three brothers in Washington Territory in 1869, and they built an empire selling clothing, groceries, building materials and hardware.

The three who eventually made their way to the territory were Abraham, Sigmund and Louis Schwabacher. They joined the thousands of emigrants who left Europe during the 19th century. Born in Germany of Jewish heritage, the young men fled to America to escape the oppression under the rule of Bismarck, prime minister of Prussia, who was know to be a violent anti-Semite.

The article is a great read and details the brothers' history. Louis Schwabacher was the first to come to America, settled in Missippi, went to San Francisco in 1858, and to Washington Territory in 1859. He sent for his brothers from Germany, and on September 1, 1860, opened a store in Walla Walla.

In 1876, they erected a two-story brick building there which was described in newspapers of the day as "the finest building north of San Francisco, its front resplendent with massive iron columns and arches; its seven entrances each with double doors, the outer ones being iron, the inner cedar…. The interior was 16 feet high, painted white. Its six iron pillars were painted and gilded. In the northwest corner, there was a glass space of 12x16 elevated with a fireplace where Mr. Sigmund Schwabacher could observe and direct the activities."

In 1909, a group of businessmen purchased the Schwabacher store and it became Gardner's Department store, closing in the 1970s after 122 years in business.

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin noted at that time, "Sales were often by the barter method and housewives usually exchanged eggs, butter and milk for coffee, sugar and dress goods. Goods were also sold on credit, with year-long accounts — a common financial arrangement. Settlements were made at year’s end when a farmer sold his crop or livestock. At the settling-up the customer would demand his paid-up ledger account sheet and would then burn it in the big pot-bellied railroad stove at the rear of the store. Then, as a cap to the whole business, he was taken to the basement to share a bottle of wine."

After Walla Walla, the Schwabachers went to Seattle as it was becoming a major port. They set up a wholesale business, Schwabacher Bros. & Co., as a hardware, saddlery and ship-chandlery business.

For their opening, the October 1869 newspaper advertisements announced "To the Inhabitants…An Immense Attraction… Monster Opening: and a line of merchandise which not only included groceries but dry goods. The Schwabachers had opened their “new and commodious premises in Seattle … as a general store … where they trust to receive that patronage from the public which their large well-selected stock will justly merit."

They built the first brick building in Seattle, and remained in business for more than 100 years. An 1871 ad claimed the store sold everything "from a needle to an anchor."

Historical ads indicate: 1878: "anticipating the wants of the public during these hard times, Schwabacher Bros. And Co. offers all kinds and classes of domestics regardless of cost…. We still give as an inducement ten per cent off for cash on Dry Goods, Clothing, Boots and Shoes." 1881: "leading mercantile house in the Northwest," advertised "dry goods, clothing, fancy goods, hats, boots and shoes, carpets, oilcloth, groceries, liquor, paints, oils, agricultural implements, crockery, flour, feed, shingles, doors, windows, iron steel, wallpaper…. Everything a specialty, one price only, the largest stock of dry goods ever brought to any interior town."

The store's Seattle wharf became the city's first customs house, offering businessman a convenient way to pay import duties.

Do read the complete article with information on the 1880 Skagit River gold rush: "On a single day, stores sold $500 worth of supplies; by April $50,000, had been grossed. In one eighty-day period in May—some 400 men left Seattle on their way to the Skagit area."

Their pier was the only one to survive the 1859 Seattle fire and became temporary headquarters for the railroad and steamships into the city, as well as trans-Pacific trade. The family also owned land and other companies dealing in real estate and hardware. The company's name changed to the Pacific Coast Wholesale Grocery firm and Schwabacher hardware, later known as Pacific Marine Schwabacher, Inc. and served eight western states. "The Seattle Times of 4 Jul 1976 claimed it was the largest wholesaler of hard goods in the Pacific Northwest."

Part 2 is the Schwabacher Family Tree; click here, for genealogical details on the family with roots in Regensburg and Schwabach. The family's papers and records are held in the Seattle Jewish Historical Society collection, University of Washington Library Manuscripts and University Archives Division.

Part 3 includes a biography of Bailey Gatzert (born in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany) and married to Babette Schwabacher; click here.

Warsaw Ghetto: Oyneg Shabes Archives

Historian Deborah Lipstadt's blog details an article by Peter N. Miller, "What We Know About Murdered Peoples," in the New Republic (April 9, 2008). It is a review of "Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive," by Samuel D. Kassow (Indiana University Press, 523 pp., $34.95).

Miller is a professor and the chair of academic programs at the Bard Graduate Center in New York.

The Oyneg Shabes project was completed at the beginning of April 1943, when the final trove of materials was buried. When the Uprising broke out on April 19, Ringelblum was captured and sent to the Trawniki labor camp. He was there until August 1943, when he was smuggled out by the Jewish-Polish underground, brought back to Warsaw, and sent into hiding on the Aryan side. There, in a bunker seven meters long by five meters wide that he shared with thirty-nine other Jews, including his wife and son, Ringelblum completed four major works: a detailed study of the Trawniki camp, perhaps the first study ever made of the concentrationary universe; a report on Jewish armed resistance; a treatment of the Jewish intelligentsia; and a survey of Polish-Jewish relations during World War II. The first two were lost, the latter two survived. Ringelblum himself did not. The bunker was eventually betrayed, and its occupants were taken away. In prison his fellow inmates again sought to save him, but he refused to abandon his boy, and soon afterward he was executed.

In the ghetto, the archive was not the only thing buried in the earth. But only the archive rose up from it. Biondo Flavio's fifteenth-century words describing the fragmentary survival of the ancient world, later repeated by Francis Bacon, come to mind when contemplating what has come down to us from Ringelblum's world: "like planks from a shipwreck."

Miller offers with examples what he terms Ringelblum's Rules:

Seriousness of purpose is crucial.
Words are powerful.
Facts matter.
Nothing is unimportant.
Understanding the past is an inter-generational project.
All collectivities are made up of individuals, and every individual is a world.

Writes Miller:

In the Warsaw Ghetto, and elsewhere across Europe, thousands of individual Jews put pen to paper, often amid panic and terror, to record details of their existence for readers in the future that they still believed in. The Oyneg Shabes Archive is a collection of such individual voices. It will stand as the outstanding twentieth-century rebuttal to impersonal forms of social science.

Read the complete review here.

25 March 2008

Washington DC: Kosher Nostra, April 13

Ron Aron's' expertise is in researching the lives of criminals (mostly Jews, but others as well), and his book, "The Jews of Sing Sing" will be published this year.

If you haven't caught him at six of the past seven IAJGS annual conferences or at your local genealogy society, here's another opportunity to hear him. In January, he appeared in the PBS documentary, "The Jewish Americans."

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington will host Arons at 1pm Sunday, April 13, at the JCC of Northern Virginia in Fairfax.

In this triple-header talk, Ron provides the "greatest hits" from three of his other presentations. His presentation starts with how he got involved in researching criminals. (It wasn't by choice but, rather, beshert).

Next Ron discusses his research into the thousands of Jews who served time in Sing-Sing Prison "up the river" from New York. His talk concludes with a review of the lives of Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky (neither of whom served time in Sing-Sing) who were life-long friends and the men behind the Fabulous Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.

Along the way you will learn about the various types of records available for both a) researching criminals and b) piecing a person's life together (whether the individual is a criminal or not).

For more details, directions and more, click here.

Seattle: Successful reunions, April 14

Family reunions are a great way to put your research to work and involve many more people.

"Successful Family Reunions: The Important Role of You, the Family Genealogist," with Brad Fanta, is the focus of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State's meeting at 7pm Monday, April 14, at the Mercer Island JCC.

A genealogist can transform a family reunion from a social gathering into a powerful connection of past and present. Whatever your skill level, you can find relatives, create marketing strategies, generate medical histories, coordinate effective photo displays, develop interactive websites, and maximize use of oral histories.

These methodologies and more will be covered in an engaging format that demonstrates the potential for reunion experiences. Examples from a variety of family reunions will be shared to inspire and help any attendee, no matter what size reunion you may be planning.

Fanta - a genealogist for more than 25 years - is JGSWS secretary. His family history research has led to a specialization in 19th century U.S. Southern and Western Jewish experiences. In 2004, he was co-chair for his family's first-ever three-day family reunion; 90 participants from 15 states and Panama were in New Orleans for the event. A marketing manager for Mithun, an architectural and planning firm, he also holds a Masters of Music from the University of Washington and performs throughout Puget Sound.

If you don't live in the Seattle area, don't worry. Fanta will also present this talk at the 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, in Chicago.

For more information, click here.

Los Angeles: Research Day, April 6

If you've never visited the Los Angeles Regional Family History Center in West Los Angeles, here's a great opportunity for assisted research with the experts.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County will meet from 1-5pm Sunday, April 6, at the FHC, 10741 Santa Monica Blvd. Parking is free, but the program is only open to current paid members of JGSCV. However, anyone may join or renew memberships at the door.

Experienced JGSCV members and Family History Center volunteers will be available to help members get the most out of these resources, including computer assistance with many popular genealogical databases including Ancestry.com (full access), Footnote.com, Heritage Quest, World Vital Records, Godfrey Memorial Library on-line resources and more!

The FHC has an extensive collection of microfilms, including U.S. and international census records, Eastern European and other international and domestic vital records, maps and gazetteers. Bring research documents with you, as well as a flash drive to download electronic images of online images. Hard copying is also available.

LAFHC volunteer Barbara Algaze who is the JGSLA librarian, will provide an introduction to the FHC resources.

For more information, click here.

Michigan: HIAS's Valery Bazarov, April 6

New Yorker Valery Bazarov is the director of the HIAS Location and Family History Service. Many researchers have been personally assisted by Valery in making contacts with family recently arrived from the FSU or with family members who never immigrated.

A frequent speaker at the annual Jewish genealogy conferences on a variety of topics, he is a genuine mensch (a good guy!) and I am proud to know him.

Members and friends of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Michigan will enjoy hearing Valery at 1.30pm Sunday, April 6, at the West Bloomfield Community Library; his topic is "History in the Making," including a presentation illustrating case studies of different immigration periods.

Originally from Odessa, Valery Bazarov joined HIAS (The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) in 1988. He is currently responsible for the HIAS Location and Family History Service; helping immigrants of different generations and countries to find family members and friends with whom they have lost contact over years, sometimes decades. He is especially committed to finding and honoring the heroes who rescued European Jews during the Holocaust. He travels to Eastern Europe, working in various archives and locating documents related to HIAS activities, spanning the last 100 years.

The history of HIAS will be shown through the contents of archives from the beginning of the 20th century through the Holocaust and after World War II; including rescue operations occupied Poland, Czechoslovakia, and France. Valery will address HIAS work in DP camps, saving Jews from Moslem countries, work during the Hungarian and Cuban Crises; and the "Let My People Go" project, resulting in saving more than 400,000 Russian Jews from the FSU.

For more information, click here.

Boston: Galician Ancestors, April 6

The lives of our Galician ancestors will be the featured at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston, at 1.30pm Sunday, April 6, at Temple Emanuel in Newton Center.

Speaker Suzan Wynne's presentation will include a geographical orientation to Galicia. Today, Western Galicia is in Poland and Eastern Galicia is in Ukraine.

She will provide an overview of the government-mandated self governing system, the Judischen Kultus Gemeinden (Jewish Culture Committee), a uniquely Austrian construct which governed Jewish life. She will also discuss Polish society's rigid class structure on the Jews of Galicia, their daily life and religious observance, the Hasidic movement, conditions before and after the 1869 Emancipation of the Jews, education, marriage and the tricky issue of surnames for genealogical research.

Since 1977, Wynne has been involved with Jewish genealogy as a teacher, lecturer, author and former professional. A founding member of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, she founded Gesher Galicia in 1993. She has written two books about Jewish genealogical research for Galitzianers, and has contributed to or written articles for Avotaynu and books about genealogy. A clinical social worker, she works as a geriatric and mental health care manager and consultant in the Washington, DC area.

For more information, click here.

Tel Aviv: LitvakSIG seminar, April 2

The Israel LitvakSIG group, in conjunction with the Israel Genealogical Society, will present a one-day seminar on Wednesday, April 2. "Litvak Links: Latvia and Africa."

The mainly Hebrew-language event offers only one English program. Registration begins at 9.30am; programs end at 4pm.

10:30am: "Overlapping research - Lithuania and Latvia (English);" Dr. Martha Lev-Zion.

11:30-12:15pm: "Research methods for a book on the Zilber family, their descendants and the town of Musnik/ Musninkai (Hebrew);" Rabbi Dov Sidelsky.

12:20-13:50pm: "The South African Litvak connection – Investigating movements through databases (Hebrew);" Dr. Rose Lerer Cohen.

14:45-15:50pm: Archive Panel (Hebrew) with Rochelle Rubinstein, Deputy, Director of Archival Affairs, The Central Zionist Archives; Hadassah Assouline, Director, The Central Archive of the History of the Jewish People; and Haim Ghiuzeli, Douglas E. Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center, Beth Hatefutsoth.

For fees and more information, click here.

Dallas: DNA and Jewish History, April 1

Dallas, Texas readers are in for a treat on DNA and Jewish history as both author Jon Entine ("Abraham's Children") and Family Tree DNA's Bennett Greenspan will appear together at 7pm, Tuesday, April 1, at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Entine's book, "Abraham's Children: Race Identity and DNA of the Chosen People," is a geneological, scientific and historical examination of the shared biblical ancestry of Jews and Christians.

Greenspan is the founder of FamilyTreeDNA of Houston, the genetic genealogical service that uses the science of DNA to help trace family histories.

For more information about both individuals, reservations/tickets, click here.

24 March 2008

New York: Hart Island ledgers

The Bronx's Hart Island - home to New York City's potter's field - is in the Long Island Sound. The New York Times features an article by Cara Buckley titled "Finding Names for Hart Island's Forgotten."

The babies’ names are single-spaced, fill hundreds of pages, and seem to share little in common apart from the startling brevity of their owners’ lives. Baby girl Walburton, died Feb. 12, 1990. Age: 9 days. Baby girl Mieses, died March 19, 1990, 2 hours old. Baby boy Suazo, died March 20, 1990, five minutes after being born.

Their bodies were put into tiny pine coffins and buried together in a large grave on a lonely, grassy place called Hart Island, part of the Bronx in Long Island Sound. According to the burial ledger, the babies Walburton, Mieses and Suazo, and dozens more infants, are in babies’ trench “No. 51.”

Hart Island is home to New York City’s potter’s field, the place where hundreds of thousands of the city’s anonymous, indigent and forgotten have been laid to rest, tightly packed in pine coffins in common graves. Hart Island is managed and maintained by the city’s Department of Correction, and inmates dig and fill the graves — three bodies deep for adults, five deep for babies — and mark each trench with a numbered concrete block. The island is off limits to the public, though family members who can prove their relatives are buried there are able to arrange visits.

New York sculptor Melinda Hunt has devoted more than 10 years to assisting people to track down Hart Island's dead. Although the handwritten ledgers listing the names were generally inaccessible, Hunt obtained 50,000 records for every person buried there since 1985 through the Freedom of Information Act. She is hoping to use the thousands of pages to create an online database searchable by name or date of death.

Since Ms. Hunt began exploring the world of Hart Island in 1991, she said, hundreds of people have contacted her, desperate to track down relatives who went to New York City and seemingly vanished, or children who died at birth and were buried in haste because their families could afford little else.

The island's history includes a lunatic asylum, a tuberculosis hospital, a boys’ reformatory and a prison, but the cemetery for the unclaimed is estimated to contain some 800,000 dead since 1869. According to the Times story, another 1,500 arrive annually; half are stillbirths and infants.

In 1997, Hunt produced a year-long exhibit on Hart Island, gaining access to its history with photographer Joel Sternfeld. They published a book of photographs in 1998; and later a documentary was made. She became known as the resource for information about the burials, where the only markers are a numbered concrete block for each trench and a ledger entry.

She believes public visits should be allowed at least once a year, but the Department of Correction says security is an issue because inmates work there. Hunt says the need for Hart Island’s burial records to be databased is urgent, but the Correction Department doesn't have the resources. Thousands of ledger records were lost in a 1970s fire. She planned to apply to a state arts foundation for money to post the records online, and to collect the stories.

“People have the right to know where their family members are buried in the city,” she said. “I’m trying to show a hidden part of American culture that I think is important, that I think is overlooked. These are public records. They belong to the people of New York.”

Read more here.

California: Jewish presence in Santa Maria Valley

Ever wonder who sold newspaper magnate and U.S. Senator Hearst the land for his famous San Simeon castle?

Viennese-born (1818) Leopold Frankl - who served as an engineer for General Fremont -founded and named the village of San Simeon in the mid-1870s and opened its first store. He sold Senator Hearst eight leagues of land for $85,000, the castle's site.

California's Santa Maria Valley has an interesting Jewish history covering the towns of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Lompoc, Guadalupe, San Simeon and other population centers.

The Santa Maria Valley Historical Society has organized a two-month exhibit of Jewish culture, including artifacts, antiques, photographs and memorabilia dating to the mid-1870s. According to a story in the Santa Maria Times, Emily McGinn of San Luis Obispo has spent many years studying the Central Coast's Jewish history.

Much has been written about European Jewish immigrants arriving on the West Coast, some for the Gold Rush. In 1880, Los Angeles had 280 Jews in comparison to San Francisco's thriving 20,000. Most were from Poland, Russia and Prussia, but there were also Sephardim.

Homing in on Santa Maria Valley, the article details the oldest section of San Luis Obispo's cemetery with the graves of French Jews who lived in Lompoc and Guadalupe, including the Cerf, Godchaux and Coblentz families. The brother - Otto - of Supreme Court Chief Justice Felix Frankfurter is also buried there.

In 1849, Lazare Godchaux from France bought the Mexican land grant of El Paso de la Robles for $8,000. He and his partner raised cattle.

The earliest Jewish family was Goldtree in 1858, establishing area branches, including North County where they had a Wells Fargo office and a newspaper. They deeded 200 acres to Union Sugar, which built a sugar plant.

Most merchants were literate, and were soon involved in city, county and state offices, and set up benevolent societies to help transients and the needy. They brought Mexican land grants, helped start towns and were involved in merchandising, mining, real estate, hotel construction and starting land companies. They established stores in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and often exchanged partnerships. Goldtree bottles from their wine company are now collectors items.

One of the first beet sugar growers was Lazar Blochman, whose home is today's Santa Maria Inn. A big landowner, he experimented with nuts, fruits, vines and orchards and was also a weather forecaster. In the 1890s, he conducted High Holy Day services attended by some 100 people at San Luis Obispo's Masonic Building.

Joseph Kaiser, cousin of the Blochmans, was a real estate dealer and president of Kaiser Land and Fruit Company. He first came to work as bookkeeper for his brother at the general store of L. M. Kaiser and Company at Guadalupe.

When Kaiser went into business with Blackman & Cerf, the name was changed to Kaiser Land and Fruit Company, with Joseph as president, who had about 2,700 acres of ranch property suitable for farming. Three hundred acres, called Fair Lawn, were subdivided to be sold to settlers. Joseph Kaiser was treasurer of the Santa Maria Stock and Agricultural Assn.

Kaiser Land and Fruit Company turned 300 acres of land, Fair Lawn, into lots for settlers.

Research shows that many of the Jewish merchants were in business together and marriages often took place among the families.

Even though they were closer to Santa Barbara, Santa Maria Jewish families often went to San Francisco for shopping and High Holy Days. Travel between towns wasn't easy, and it wasn't unusual for them to have to get out and push their coaches up the hills.

In Lompoc, Jewish history begins with the arrival - in 1880 - of Isidore and Hannah Weill. Born in Alsace, he enlisted in the Civil War, serving under General Hancock. He founded the Weill and Co. store, and was the Bank of Lompoc's founder, vice president and manager. Their son, Maier, was born in Lompoc in 1887. He made his first stage appearance - with Sara Bernhardt - while a University of California student. He adopted the stage name Morgan Guild and appeared on the New York and London stage as well as silent films, in more than 500 roles.

Morgan worked in D. W. Griffith's silent films in Long Island. His first screen role was in “Orphans of the Storm.” Comedian W. C. Fields is said to have favored Wallace because of his birth in Lompoc, a city Fields loved to use as a comic target.

He was also a director for Keystone Comedies, appearing in WWI USO shows, and was a theater owner. His greatest achievement was as founder and the third member of the Screen Actors Guild. He also served on its board of directors before retiring in 1946.


The Santa Maria Historical Society has more than 5,000 photographs and more than 1,000 can be searched in a computerized database. If your families are among those noted above, this could be a good resource for you.

Read more here.

Additional stories will be appearing on some of the families over the next few months. The COBLENTZ and SCHWABACHER families are detailed here.

23 March 2008

Food: Preparing for Passover

Purim is over and before we know it, Passover will be here. While Jewish families around the world prepare old family favorites, many of us also hunt for new recipes that may become future family traditions.

Our table includes both Persian and Ashkenazi favorites. While our charoset is always the Persian version, with tens of ingredients processed into a luscious spread eaten all during the holiday, I've never given up my special chicken soup, matzo balls and chopped liver, which appear along side complex Persian stews (khoresht) and wonderful rice dishes. In Teheran, I prepared carrot ingberlach and did the Passover baking for the extended large family.

Gefilte fish is never on our menu. When my husband first saw it, he heard the name as "filthy fish." He's not a fan, but believes that if you put enough chrein (grated horseradish) on anything, it will become palatable.

We attended the seder of Persian cousins one year in Israel. Our cousin Edna brought a huge covered platter, and my husband said he thought it was his not-favorite fish dish. We were surprised - shocked is a better word - to see this on a Persian seder table. The explanation: When her parents arrived from Teheran they lived in a mixed neighborhood in Ramla. Her mother, an excellent cook, shared recipes with her neighbors and picked up their specialties. Edna even makes her own horseradish! Their seders always include her truly delicious version of this standard Ashkenazi dish.

I've previously written about "Jewish Holiday Cooking," (Wiley, $32.50) by Jayne Cohen, and she includes two dishes I'm considering: Snapper Fillets in Pistachio-Matzoh Crust and Mozzarella in Matzoh Carrozza. Do check out this book, which also includes a nice section on Passover requirements and ingredients. We tend to focus on seder menus, and sometimes forget that there are lunches and more dinners following the big night or nights! The days of tuna salad on matzo - while nostalgic - are not quite enough. Although I'm not generally a fan of matzo brie, Cohen's Cinnamon Matzoh Brie with Toasted Pecans and Warm Vanilla-Maple Syrup also sounds delicious enough for a company brunch!

I haven't really started thinking about the specifics of my own menu yet - but Judy Kancigor's article on EmeraldCoast.com mentions four cookbooks providing food for thought.

Ask most Jewish children ‘‘What’s your favorite holiday?’’ and ‘‘Hanukkah’’ is the quick response. For me, all the gaily wrapped gifts in the world can’t hold a candle to the magic of Passover.

When I was growing up, my huge, raucous family would gather for the Seder (‘‘order’’ in Hebrew), the traditional Passover meal commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. My grandpa Papa Harry would officiate at Mama Hinda’s mile-long table, laden with her brisket and tzimmes (carrot stew), stuffed chicken and kugels, and splendid Passover confections. So I’ve heard ... I was never there!

My mom, dad, brother and I spent our Passovers — a magical weeklong celebration — in resorts in New York’s Catskill Mountains, where my dad, singer and cantor Jan Bart, was working, performing his Seders, complete with choir (including Mom Lillian’s contralto) for 850 people.

She goes on to talk about tackling her own first family seder. This year, she found four useful cookbooks and spoke to the authors.

Susie Fishbein’s ‘‘Kosher by Design Entertains’’ (Mesorah, $34.99) offers spectacular menus and beautifully photographed serving ideas with the simple, yet elegant recipes. The book has nine parts, and many of the recipes are appropriate for Passover. Fishbein includes a list of recipe adjustments for the holiday’s dietary restrictions.

Fishbein’s Carrot Coconut Vichyssoise - sounds great - will be on Kancigor's menu; the recipe is in the article. But she'll still make her mother's chicken soup!

Also on Kancigor's menu is Tunisian lamb, which she found in ‘‘Jewish Food: The World at Table’’ (HarperCollins, $29.95) by Matthew Goodman, ‘‘Food Maven’’ columnist at The Forward, the 105-year-old Jewish newspaper.

Goodman told her that although beef is common in Eastern European tradition, the Sephardic uses lamb. Lambs were butchered in the spring and it's part of the abundance of spring. His book offers recipes from 29 countries.

‘‘What I tried to do with this book was to locate and preserve food traditions from communities around the world that are today endangered because the communities themselves are endangered,’’ he said.

Few holiday dishes are common to all Jewish communities and the only shared ingredient is matzo. Creative cooks around the world have found ways to utilize this item. My personal favorites using matzo are Matzo Baklava and Toffee-Chocolate Crunch Matzo.

Kancigor's side dishes will include Moroccan Mashed Potato Casserole from Gil Marks’ ‘‘Olive Trees and Honey’’ (Wiley, $29.95). Marks is a rabbi, historian and chef, and the new book features 300 vegetarian recipes from global Jewish communities, among them India, Alsace, Greece and Uzbekistan.

‘‘A custom arose in Provence beginning about 800 years ago amongst the Ashkenazi,’’ Marks explained, ‘‘to restrict foods such as legumes for Passover, and over the centuries other items were added to this general category, such as corn and rice.’’

Marks discusses Seder traditions, ranging from sitting on the floor to tables and chairs.

For dessert, Kancigor details - and provides the recipe - for Raspberry Meringue Gateau from ‘‘Crowning Elegance’’ (Wimmer, $34.95) by the Arie Crown Hebrew Day School of Skokie, Illinois. She mentions that this isn't an ordinary school cookbook, but a professionally compiled, tested and photographed volume, edited by Valerie Kanter; some 132 parents provided various ethnic recipes.

Here are the ingredient lists for the two spotlighted recipes:

Yield: 6-8 servings

For soup:
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 medium Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled and diced
16 ounces peeled baby carrots or 2 cups sliced carrots
1 leek, washed, sliced white and pale green parts only
1 shallot, diced
Dash ground white pepper
2/3 cup coconut milk; see cook’s notes
1/2 cup nondairy creamer; see cook’s notes

For balsamic garnish:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dark molasses.

Yield: 8 servings

For meringue:
Grease for pans
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher-for-Passover vanilla
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 cup skinned hazelnuts, roasted and ground

For sauce:
1 1/3 cup fresh raspberries
3 to 4 tablespoons kosher-for-Passover powdered sugar; see cook's note.
1 tablespoon kosher-for-Passover orange liqueur

For cream:
1 1/4 cup nondairy whipping cream; see cook’s notes
3 tablespoons kosher-for-Passover powdered sugar, plus more for garnish; see cook’s notes
2 cups fresh raspberries, plus more for garnish

For the complete recipes and how to order "Crowning Elegance," click here.