31 October 2008

Ancestry.com: Gary Mokotoff webinar, Nov. 5

Gary Mokotoff of Avotaynu.com will present an Ancestry.com webinar focused on the new Jewish Family History Collections at 8pm EST, Wednesday, November 5.

While it sounds great, 8pm Eastern is 1am in London, 3am in Israel, etc. I queried Ancestry as to whether the webinar will be archived so all of us can see it no matter where we live. Suzanne Russo Adams of TGN (Ancestry's parent company) replied: "The webinars are always archived. If you go to the help section on Ancestry and click on the “webinar” tab you will see upcoming webinars as well as all the archived webseminars that have taken place in the past."

The combined databases comprise nearly 26 million records of Jews that can be searched by Ancestry's world class technology. Some collections are reserved for subscribers, while millions of records remain freely accessible to the public. Jewish genealogy expert Gary Mokotoff will walk us through the North American, European, Holocaust and other significant Jewish collections on Ancestry.com. He will highlight some of the benefits this collection and search technology will provide to people searching for their Jewish heritage.

A 20-minute Q&A session will follow.

Although Gary's name is familiar to most readers of Tracing the Tribe, here's some background:

Gary Mokotoff is an author, lecturer and leader of Jewish genealogy. He has been recognized by three major genealogical groups for his achievements.

He is the first person to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS); recipient of the Grahame T. Smallwood Award of the Association of Professional Genealogists; and the Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern Humanitarian Award of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Gary is also known for his application of computers to genealogy.

Among his accomplishments is co-authorship of the Daitch-Mokotoff soundex system; the JewishGen Family Finder, a database of ancestral towns and surnames being researched by some 50,000 Jewish genealogists throughout the world and the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index.

Register for the webinar on Ancestry's homepage. Look at the left sidebar and scroll down to Jewish Family History Webinar

30 October 2008

California: Abraham's Children & Jon Entine, Nov. 10

Jon Entine, author of "Abraham's Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People," will be the speaker at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV).

Jon is an enthusiastic, entertaining speaker who connects genealogy and genetics. He has spoken to standing-room-only audiences at several international IAJGS conferences. The book is a great read. I was privileged to see it in galley form before it was published - I couldn't put it down!

The meeting begins at 7pm, Monday, November 10 (note different day and time), at Temple Adat Elohim, Thousand Oaks, California. There is no charge to attend.

Can identity be found in a pinprick of DNA? What can genes tell us about our ethnic and religious roots—what used to be called our “race”?

In ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN, author Jon Entine marries genealogy and genetics to vividly bring to life a new understanding of Western identity and the shared biblical ancestry of Jews and Christians. The book uses the latest DNA technology to reconstruct genealogical trees and captivating family narratives. This is a biblical epic told through the prism of our genes.

He examines the origins of many diseases, from breast cancer to brain disorders.

Jon is an internationally respected author, consultant and public policy expert focused on leadership, sustainability and science and society. He is an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

Attendees may purchase the book at the meeting and have it signed by the author. For more information or details, email publicity AT jgscv DOT org

Florida: 18th Mini-Conference, Nov. 19

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County will hold its 18th Workshop/Mini-Conference on Wednesday, November 19, in the Beifield Auditorium at the Levis JCC campus in Boca Raton.

The full day conference, open to the public, is geared to both beginner and intermediate researchers.

The conference chair is Sylvia Furshman Nusinov, a past president of the society.

Sylvia says that this year several changes have been made, resulting in lower fees, a shorter agenda, and innovative programming sessions focusing on beginner researchers as well as intermediates.

Five well known genealogical educators will present sessions on how to research family history with the latest resources. Here's the schedule.

9.30am: Registration

10am-noon: Concurrent sessions:

- Beginner's Workshop: "The Aleph Bet of Jewish Genealogy - Where do you begin - the Where, How and Why," with Phyllis Kramer, VP Education, JewishGen.

- Intermediate/Advanced Workshop: “Photographic and Document Preservation – Scanning and Restoring Old Family Photos, and Methodology and Technology in Genealogical Data Exchange,” with Beau Sharbrough, VP Content, Footnote.com.

12.15-1pm: Kosher box lunch

Afternoon: Sequential sessions

- How to navigate Footnote.com’s Jewish Records, and other online important historic documents, now available through an agreement between the National Archives Records Administration [NARA] and Footnote.com, with Beau Sharbrough.

- How to use your home computer to access Jewish genealogical resources available through the PBC Library, with Palm Beach County Library System's genealogical research staff: supervisor Bob Davidsson and research librarian Isabel Toolsie.

- How to convert genealogical research into compelling and interesting narratives, with writer/instructor Patricia Charpentier of “Writing Your Life.”

The Resource Room, manned by Natalie and Dr. Marv Hamburg, will be open to researchers and genealogy experts will be on site with displays of genealogically related maps, books, albums and family trees, etc. Translators will be available by appointment, to translate documents in Polish, German, Hebrew and Yiddish.

In the Plough Library, librarians Irving Skorka and Ben Karliner will assist with researching the JGSPBCI Genealogy and Judaic Book collection, along with computers for Internet research.

Fees, including lunch: Members, $25; others, $30.

For more information, visit the JGSPBC website.

Jewish Records: Largest online collection launches

Ancestry.com has announced the launch of the world's largest online collection of Jewish historical documents and databases from JewishGen and the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC - known popularly as The Joint).

Joint and JewishGen databases in this release will be searchable for free in a new Jewish Family History experience on Ancestry.com. The Jewish historical documents - many online for the first time - offer photographs, immigration records, Holocaust records and memorials, for more than 26 million records of Jewish life, in combination with millions of relevant Ancestry.com records such as census records, passenger lists, military records and more.

The Joint's archives contain some 40-50 million pages of archival materials dating from 1914 to the present; many have genealogical interest to scholars and Jews around the world. Two important Joint collections were digitized for the first time:

Jewish Transmigration Bureau Deposit Cards, 1939-1954: This collection shows funds paid by American Jewish citizens to support the emigration of friends and relatives from European countries during and after WWII. There are deposit cards for about 60,000 individuals who emigrated from Germany, Austria, former Czechoslovakia, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, mostly 1940-1942. Some cards show travel completed as late as 1956.

Munich, Vienna and Barcelona Jewish Displaced Persons and Refugee Cards, 1943-1959: This collection contains records of displaced Jews who were provided with food, medical care and clothing and emigration assistance by the JDC. It includes some 85,000 registration cards of Jewish Displaced Persons who registered with the emigration department of JDC in Munich and Vienna after World War II, in addition to cards for Jewish refugees for whom JDC provided care in Barcelona during and after the war.

More than 300 JewishGen databases will be available, representing 14 countries with more than 5 million records. JewishGen's 250,000+ users share genealogical information, techniques and more, utilizing a growing database of more than 11 million records. In July 2008, It entered into a partnership with Ancestry.com which will eventually provide Ancestry with access to some 10 million records, while Ancestry will provide technical support to Jewishgen. Databases available include:

·The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry: More than 1 million names of Jews represented in nearly 2,000 Jewish cemeteries around the world.

·Yizkor Book Necrologies: Names of those murdered in the Holocaust which directs users back to the Yizkor Books themselves – memorials which offer vivid, first-hand accounts of the Holocaust and its aftermath.

·The Given Names Database: Learn possible European, Hebrew and Yiddish translations of an ancestor’s given name.

·A Holocaust Database: Two million names including 1,980 names on "Schindler’s List," in Plaszów, Poland and Brünnlitz, Czechoslovakia.

·Jewish Records Indexing (JRI-PL) Poland and All Lithuania Database: More than 2 million indexed names from databases in Lithuania and Poland containing vital information.

Ancestry.com, JewishGen and the Joint celebrated the collaboration and unveiled the new Jewish Collection Wednesday mornin (October 29) at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (JewishGen is a Museum affiliate).

More on the partners:

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) was founded in 1914, and today works in more than 70 countries to rescue those in danger, provide relief to those in distress, revitalize overseas Jewish communities, and help Israel overcome the social challenges that beset its most vulnerable citizens. It also provides non-sectarian disaster relief and long-term development assistance to the world's least fortunate populations.

JewishGen became an affiliate of the Museum on January 1, 2003. An Internet pioneer, JewishGen was founded in 1987 and has grown from a bulletin board with only 150 users to a major grass roots effort bringing together hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide in a virtual community centered on discovering Jewish ancestral roots and history.

Ancestry.com's global network of family history sites is owned by The Generations Network, Inc, including nine Web sites in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden and China. Ancestry members have access to 7 billion names contained in 26,000 historical record collections. Tree-building and photo upload are free on all the sites. Users have created more than 7.5 million family trees containing 725 million profiles and 12 million photographs. In August 2008, more than 5 million unique visitors logged onto Ancestry.com in August 2008 (comScore Media Metrix, Worldwide).

For more on this collaboration:

Read Newsday's article here, with comments by JewishGen's managing director and a rabbi, on how this release will be valuable for Long Island's major Jewish population.

29 October 2008

Seattle: Putting flesh on the bones, Nov. 10

Author and genealogist Ron Arons will speak at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State at 7pm, Monday, November 10.

Ron's topic is "Putting the Flesh on the Bones: Adding the "Why" to the Who, When and Where. He's a great speaker with a wealth of knowledge, so do try to attend his meeting.

Don't just collect names of relatives; learn an approach that concentrates on research efforts to explore their life examining "why" they may have acted the way they did.

The meeting is at the Stroum Jewish Community Center auditorium on Mercer Island. The JGSWS library will be available and WiFi will be available, so bring your laptops. Fee: JGSWS members, free; others, $5. Doors open at 7pm; the program starts promptly at 7.30pm.

For more information, click here.

27 October 2008

Belarus: Dokshitsy Jewish Cemetery

Aaron Ginsburg, president of the Friends of Jewish Dokshitsy, recently reported that the town has re-erected 134 tombstones on the grounds of the Jewish cemetery, which was destroyed in 1965.

Most of the stones were buried under a road for 40 years.

Read more about the group at Jewish Dokshitsy and view photos of the tombstones here.

Aaron writes that help is needed to translate the inscriptions on the stones. If you can help, have questions or need more information, contact him here.

Read more about the history of the project and the group on our related blog, The Jewish Graveyard Rabbit, which focuses on Jewish cemeteries, preservation/restoration projects, reading Hebrew tombstones, Jewish customs and more.

Poland: Sites of Jewish interest

For an extensive list of Polish towns with sites of Jewish interest (cemetery, synagogue, and others), try JewishTravel.pl.

It offers an interactive map as well as an alphabetical list of towns with remaining sites of interest to family historians and genealogists. Most towns have minimal details (e.g., one cemetery remains), while other towns provide more details.

For a longer posting on the resources at JewishTravel.pl, how to use it for leads to further information and additional information, see this post on Tracing the Tribe's related cemetery site, Jewish Graveyard Rabbit.

26 October 2008

Argentina: Paul Armony z'l

Jewish genealogy has lost a great friend, passionate colleague and dedicated researcher. I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Paul Armony of Argentina, who died October 24, 2008 (25 Tishri 5769).

The founding President of the Sociedad Argentina de Genealogía Judia - today the Asociacion de Genealogia Judia de Argentina - Paul was truly the force behind that society and its many achievements. As editor of the society's journal, Toldot, he was honored by the IAJGS.

Paul is survived by his wife Eva; sons Ariel, Victor and Jorge; brother Alberto and family, two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren.

Burial will be this morning (Sunday, October 26) in the La Tablada cemetery according to Jewish tradition.

For more information and to read messages of condolence, view the AGJA site. Messages may be sent to info@agja.org.ar


I knew Paul for many years, and had known of him for several years before we finally met in person. We communicated occasionally through the years. He was always most generous with his time and assistance to colleagues around the world attempting to research Argentinean family branches.

Although living in Argentina, he spent time in Montreal - two sons are university professors - and returned to Argentina.

Stan Diamond of the Montreal JGS wrote that he experienced "first hand the depth of his [Paul's] interests, the breadth of his knowledge, the intensity of his spirit and the inner drive that has made the Asociacion de Genealogia Judia de Argentina a leader in making important Jewish genealogical resources available to researchers around the world. We are all diminished by the loss of this most generous colleague and friend."

Carlos Glikson of Argentina wrote that "Paul was an example of knowledge, generosity and strength, and - as a tireless, perseverant and devoted leader - resolutely impulsed and organized the advance of Jewish genealogy in Argentina."

He will be missed by everyone who knew him, who was inspired by him and who received his generous help. May his family be comforted.

25 October 2008

Music: Sephardic music website

Sephardic family history researchers now have a chance to listen online to the same recordings their ancestors heard and sang. Perhaps you'll even remember a grandparent singing some of these beautiful melodies, or recognize a synagogue liturgical piece.

Joel Bresler has created the Sephardic Music site, showcasing more than a century of recorded Sephardic music, beginning with old 78s down to today's formats.

On the home page, on the right, are samples of the earliest Sephardic recordings and others more contemporary. Bresler has compiled extensive details about the recordings, the artists and performance styles.

The next section covers the second half-century of recorded Sephardic music, touching on the increasing recordings and diverse performing styles.

There is a discography of Sephardic 78s listed by label, by artist and by song title. Included is information on the record companies, as well as early catalogs and advertisements.

Eventually, the site will offer a comprehensive list of all modern era recordings and more than 10,000 song samples. Just as one example, there is a section for the discography and samples for more than 125 versions of the Sephardic song, a la una yo naci.

Definitions and history are included with the caveat that the site focuses on the music of Jews descended from those exiled from the Iberian Peninsula and who landed in the Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Morocco. An important cultural marker is the use of Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) in most of the recordings.

Bresler does not cover music from Iran, Syria, Yemen, India, etc. even though he says "it is wonderfully enjoyable listening," and that explained why I didn't see our very famous cousin, the classical Persian singer Yona Dardashti, known as the Nightingale, in Teheran, Iran.

Bresler includes a plea to those who may hold old Sephardic recordings, and states that he will collaborate with collectors and record companies to spur re-release of the recordings on CD and the Web.

To date we have processed close to 8,000 song performances, along with accompanying graphics. When done, the digitized collection should include well over 90% of the modern corpus, and half or more of the 78s. The Phase II sephardicmusic.org site will list all known commercial recordings of Sephardic music, including sound samples of over 10,000 performances and cover graphics. Song titles in the broader discography will be linked as they are now for the 78s, enabling users to easily locate all versions of a particular song. We will include selected song texts as well.

He also wants to integrate the site's holdings into Hebrew University's library system, for the benefit of researchers and libraries worldwide. He's also looking for time, money and expertise to help build the future website and integrate with HU.

Contact Bresler through the site link above if you can help, have old recordings or for more information.

New York: Lodz film, Nov. 2

The last Yiddish film produced in Poland will be screened in New York on Sunday, November 2.

Our Children - אינדזערע קינדער - Undzere Kinder - was filmed in an orphanage (Helanovek, near Lodz) in 1948. It is in Yiddish with English subtitles.

The film screening and a panel discussion, hosted by the Freudian Colloquium Committee, will take place from 2-5pm at 802 Kimmel Center, 60 Washington Square South.

The panel moderator is Rivka Greenberg, with panelists Maurice Preter, Isaac Tylim, Judith Eckman-Jadow. Click here for information on the participants.

The film is part docu-drama, part melancholic comedy. Produced in Poland, it was never shown there. It depicts a comedy duo performing for an audience of Jewish orphans, many of whom were survivors of the Holocaust.

Their performance stirs up painful memories of recent events, and offends the children by the sentimentalized and naive depiction of war-time conditions. Having all lived through the reality of separation and loss, the children start telling their stories.

The film has become a tradition initiated by Dr. Preter, at international psychoanalytic conferences to explore post-Shoah psychological trauma and its representation in film.

Click here for information on the film and the participants.

There's a very interesting piece by Shimon Redlich describing Lodz, his experiences and the making of the film here.

Interested in more information for Lodz?

Roni Seibel Liebowitz of the Lodz Area Research Group (LARG) has listed these online Lodz resources:

Lodz ShtetLinks

Lodz Area Research Group (LARG)

Belchatow ShtetLink

Belchatow Yizkor Book Project

Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (JRI-Poland)

'Jewish Names of Morocco' back in print

An extremely useful book for Sephardic genealogy and Jewish names is Abraham Laredo's "Les noms des Juifs du Maroc," (Moroccan Jewish Names). Published in 1978, it has been out of print for many years.

The book offers historical analysis, social and geographical origins of each of the Jewish names in northern Morocco.

Spanish publisher Libreria Hebraica has now reprinted it in a two-volume facsimile edition (the book is in French). The first volume has 480 pages; the second volume is 1,161 pages. There appears to be a new name index in Latin letters. The price is 65 euros.

The publisher offers another book by Laredo, The Origins of the Jews of Morocco (Los orígenes de los judíos de Marruecos). It appears to have been re-edited with an introduction and notes by Jacobo Israel Garzon, and published in July 2007. According to the website, the book is necessary to understand the history of the Moroccan Jews. The 218-page book is 22 Euros.

Israel Garzon has also written The Jews of Tetuan (Los judios de Tetuan, Hebraica Editions, 2005)/ The 264-page volume is 24 euros. This book covers society, architecture (including old and new Jewish Quarters, the cemetery and more), culture, folklore, language, liturgy, as well as other topics.

Jacobo Israel Garzon is president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain.

The website is in Spanish, but it isn't too difficult to navigate. On the left, find the Busqueda Rapida (Quick Search) box, followed by Busqueda Avanzada (Advanced Search). Type in an author or keyword. Under advanced search, there's a filter for a specific search (old books, new books, scholarly books, events, and Hebraica Editiones). The Spanish terms in the drop-down menu are libro antiguo, libro nuevo, libro erudite, eventos, and titulas de Hebraica Ediciones.

There are books in the list about Sephardim in many places (Turkey, various cities in Spain, etc.), dictionaries of Judeo-Espanol and many other topics.

info@libreriahebraica.com is the email for information on any of their works. I'm sure that someone there will be able to read and answer your query in English if you need help.

New Blog: Jewish Art Monuments

Samuel Gruber writes the Jewish Art Monuments blog.

Sam is a cultural heritage consultant involved in a wide variety of documentation, research, preservation, planning, publication, exhibition and education projects. Trained as a medievalist, architectural historian and archaeologist, his expertise for two decades is in Jewish art, architecture and historic sites.

I'm happy to announce that he will be contributing his expertise to the Jewish Graveyard Rabbit. And, if you think the name is familiar, he's the brother of expert Jewish travel writer Ruth Ellen Gruber; they often work together.

Here's how Sam describes his blog:

This blog provides news and opinion articles about Jewish art, architecture and historic sties - especially those where something new is happening. Developed in connection with news gathering for the International Survey of Jewish Monuments website (www.isjm.org), this blog highlights some of the most interesting Jewish sites around the world, and the most pressing issues affecting them.

His blog, he says, "allows me to clear my email and my desk, by passing on to a broader public just some of the interesting and compelling information from projects I am working on, or am following. Feel free to contact me for more information on any of the topics posted, or if you have a project of your own you would like to discuss. Much of this material on this blog I share with the International Survey of Jewish Monuments. ISJM is always looking for volunteers!"

His blog came to my attention with this posting on the Jews of North Carolina, recounting that the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina (JHFNC) premiered its documentary film "Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina" with showings in Greensboro, NC on October 11 and 19, to be followed on February 22, 2009 in Charlotte. The film is the first part of a much larger project (museum exhibit, educational resources and a book).

There's more information in this Greensboro News article.

North Carolina's only Jewish historical group, the JHFNC was established in 1996 and seeks to promote understanding of the Jewish people by educating both Jews and the general public about the history, culture, and religion of the Jewish people and by encouraging appreciation of the beauty of Jewish ritual and practice. It collects and preserves artifacts and records the history of Jewish settlement in North Carolina, presents programs on the state's Jewish experience, and connects state resources.

The exhibit, "Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina" will present four centuries of Jewish life and. in 2010, will travel to the state's major history museums.

The article indicates that Sara Lee Saperstein of Greensboro, a JHFNC board member, remembered only a single sentence about Jews in her eighth-grade state history book. As an adult, she learned about metallurgist Joachim Gans of Prague who arrived in 1585 with Sir Walter Raleigh. She hadn't realized that the state's Jewish history went back that far.

JHFNC research historian Leonard Rogoff has sought project support for 10 years. and said “We heard, 'I thought we were going to be forgotten,’ a lot.”

The documentary's audience is not only Jewish, however. Prior to Ellis Island, many immigrants (including Jews) entered through coastal shipping ports, such as Wilmington and Charleston.

“The interesting thing about North Carolina is not only that the story has never been told or presented, but it’s never really been researched,” Rogoff said.

Many early Jews were peddlers who settled where their money ran out. The story begins there but continues with those same families creating successful companies employing thousands of people and how they built their communities, including Brenner Children’s Hospital (Winston-Salem), Levine Children’s Hospital (Charlotte), Moses Cone Hospital (Greensboro) and the Brody School of Medicine (East Carolina University).

In 1949, Benjamin Cone became Greensboro's first Jewish mayor when Jews were only some 500 in the city of 70,000.

A line producer of the film said that in the 19th century, according to Southern historians, many Christians who lived in the stat had a strong affiliation with the Old Testament. “These people coming in were viewed as the 'people of the book’ and they were viewed with fascination. People would come to them and have their babies blessed.”

The flip side: There were also murders, mob attacks and social discrimination.

There's much more; read the complete story at the link above.

Canada: Woman traces ancestry to 700AD

A Belleville, Ontario paper carried a story that belongs in the "skeptic" category - if I had one.

I kept thinking it was just a typo, and the story said nothing else about these deep roots.

The roots of Linda Harris' family tree are deep, so deep in fact the Belleville woman has not only been able to trace her ancestry back to 700 AD, but learn some of her forebears were prominent Belleville citizens, too.

For the past eight or nine years, Harris has used the Internet as a tool to investigate her heritage and look for ancestors for both she and her husband's families. It's a time consuming hobby which has lead her across the world wide web and has allowed her to resurrect a number of interesting people.
Read the complete story at the link above. Even a casual reader would think that if she had traced family back to 700 AD, the reporter might have been curious and written more about it.

Poland: How Lodz became a casualty

Jewish genealogists researching Lodz, Poland will want to read "Ghettostadt: Lodz and the Making of a Nazi City," by Gordon J. Horwitz (Harvard/Belknap Press, 416 pp.,$29.95).

It was reviewed in the Boston Globe, by John Merriman, a Yale University history professor.

When German forces stormed into Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Lodz was the country's second-largest city and the second-largest Jewish community in Poland. The city's population was well over 600,000, including about 200,000 Jews, most quite poor. The German population of Lodz was about 60,000. The city would never be the same.

German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels proclaimed Lodz a hideous city, industrial, dirty, and diseased, because so many Jews lived there. The city was renamed Lodsch and the following April named Litzmannstadt, after a World War I general and fervent Nazi. Polish names had to go. The largest boulevard became Adolf-Hitler-Strasse.

Litzmannstadt was to be a modern city without Jews or other Poles, ready to welcome ethnic Germans from Soviet-occupied eastern Poland, Galicia, Estonia, and Latvia. Jews would be confined in a ghetto on the northern edge of the city, before being banished. In May 1940, 164,000 Jews lived in a ghetto no more than four kilometers square, barbed wire separating them from the rest of the city. The buildings they left behind were "decontaminated."

In 1941, a film crew recorded the efficient city: a park with pond and walkways, festivals, concerts, sports and a zoo of exotic animals.

The head of the Jewish community in 1939, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski coordinated the implementation of Nazi policies dealing with the Jews, and organized the ghetto, schools, hospitals, orphans and the elderly.

The ghetto was to pay for its upkeep. Gold, silver, currency, and jewelry confiscated from Jewish families and then sold would not be nearly enough. Hans Biebow served as the German director of the industrial work of the ghetto, working with Rumkowski. Biebow's obsession was to assure the productivity of the work force. Tailors, seamstresses, and other workers and more than 5,000 sewing machines would turn out uniforms, underwear, earmuffs, gloves, hats, boots and shoes (200,000 pairs in December 1942) for Nazi soldiers, and clothes for the German domestic market.

The review says:

"Ghettostadt" is wrenching, absolutely heartbreaking. We of course already know the horrific outcome. The Jews then remaining in the ghetto, hoping against hope, did not. Part of the sheer horror of it all is the recounting of daily life, amid disease, hunger, and death, each rumor generating waves of anxiety, anguish, and panic, particularly as deportations increased. ...

The 68,000 people remaining in the ghetto at the end of July 1944 were were taken away to be exterminated.

Read the complete article at the link above.

24 October 2008

New Blog: The Jewish Graveyard Rabbit

The Jewish Graveyard Rabbit is now online with two posts here and here.

In response to fellow geneablogger Terry Thornton's formation of the the Association of Graveyard Rabbits, many established bloggers (see the association site for the continually updated list) have formed local blogs dedicated to their local cemeteries.

According to Terry, the scope includes the premise "that member blogs will be devoted exclusively to cemeteries, grave markers, burial customs and thus promote the study of cemeteries, the preservation of cemeteries, and transcription of genealogical and historical information that may be found in cemeteries." He also suggested that such blogs be local in nature, restricted to a single geographic area.

I believe, however, that since Jewish cemeteries are worldwide and share specific customs, symbols, inscriptions and language - and also due to the growth in restoration and preservation projects - that an encompassing Jewish Graveyard Rabbit, with an international team of contributing writers, would provide much more information in one place, with less duplication and overlap.

JGR welcomes input from Jewish genealogists around the world who can provide information (and photographs) on their local cemeteries, restoration and preservation projects. This scope includes Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrahi customs and traditions.

A team of writers is now being gathered, and readers are invited to contribute relevant postings. If you would like to be part of this effort, email jgrarab@yahoo.com, provide contact details, proposed topic/country, etc.

We'd be happy to welcome you at the Jewish Graveyard Rabbit.

John Newmark of the Transylvanian Dutch blog has established Arnevet Beth Olam (Hebrew translation) for Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis, Missouri.

UK: Sephardim on incoming passenger lists

Celia Male, in London, is one of today's Jewish genealogy research stars, who often focuses on Sephardic information. She has just sent me this report on the UK Incoming Passenger Lists (1878-1960) just released on Ancestry.com.

I believe they will be a boon to Sephardic researchers with ancestors in the Caribbean, USA, South America, Antipodes, India, Burma, etc etc.

Whereas Jewish genealogists looking for the arrival in the U.K. of their families from Eastern {and Western} Europe from the late 1800s onwards will probably be disappointed, many Sephardic records are in fact there as the database shows passengers picked up at various ports of call in the Mediterranean and other areas of the world.

Celia notes that the "small print" of this release provides the following:

1. The database is an index to the Board of Trade's passenger lists of ships arriving in the UK from foreign ports outside of Europe and the Mediterranean from 1878-1888 and 1890-1960.(NB: two years are missing.)

2. The database is an index to the Board of Trade’s passenger lists of ships arriving in the UK from foreign ports outside of Europe and the Mediterranean. Exceptions to this are vessels that originated outside of these areas but then picked up passengers in European or Mediterranean ports en route.

Thus, says Celia, such ports as Haifa, Port Said, Suez, Tangiers, Casablanca, Tripoli, Beirut, Brindisi, Lisbon, Naples, Gibraltar and Istanbul are included. Many of these are listed as transit stops and passengers are listed.

And, she writes, it explains "why I am there in 1945 with my parents and brother travelling from Alexandria to Southampton on a troop ship return with thousands of British troops from the Far East. It also explains why you can see a BROMBERGER travelling from Haifa."

Celia's research has unearthed many Sephardic names in this database, including among others: ABECASSIS, ADES, ADUTT, ALHADEFF, ANZARUT, ARBIB, BELLELI, BENATTAR, DWEK/DOUEK, FINZI, HATCHWELL (was HACHUEL), HENRIQUES, MIZRAHI, MONTEFIORE, SHASHOUA (as variant), ZILKA/ZILKHA and more.

Importantly, writes Celia, "They come from far and wide - it really is exciting to check them out." Her opinion is that "this database will be a very valuable resource for Sephardic research.

Caveat: The lists are searchable, but to see the manifests readers must subscribe to ancestry.com

Celia has also discovered other database tips, which readers should take into account when constructing a search:

If you enter a country into the port of departure field you get no response, i.e., Japan or Egypt - but enter Yokohama or Alexandria and you find the passengers.

However, there are discrepancies - If you enter Hamburg as Ports of Voyage you get over 55,000. Now try the same with Hamburg Port of Departure you get 1,597 passengers and they start with three passengers in 1902. I cannot believe that no ships ever stopped there before to pick up passengers.

Now try Genoa - you get nearly 1,571 with Port of Departure starting in 1928. With Ports of Voyage you get 137,272 starting in 1890. Many of these could have come from the Middle East as I know people from Egypt often travelled to Genoa and changed boats.

Conclusion: as with all databases one has to zap around and never take anything for granted. Careful researchers often discover things others do not know.

Celia suggests researchers try searching only by age or by port - such as Haifa, Port Said, Suez, Tangiers, Casablanca, Tripoli, Beirut, Brindisi, Lisbon, Naples and Gibraltar. Using Istanbul, she located ALHADEFF, a famous Sephardic family from Rhodes.

She adds that Odessa is mysteriously linked to Montreal and sadly shows very few, as does Danzig, although Bremen has many entries and, as expected, Piraeus also has many entries.

On a personal note, Celia says that for the first time, she knows the exact date her father returned to London from a year in New York, working for a bank listed as his address on the 1926 manifest. Following a Constantinople assignment, he was sent to Alexandria in 1927, and that's why her family is on the 1945 manifest noted above.
"This database will be a bonanza for many of us."

And that's why Celia is a star! Thank you, Celia.

Berlin: Kristallnacht remains discovered

Kristallnacht remains have been discovered in Brandenburg near Berlin, covering a site about the size of four soccer fields. The story appeared in the Guardian.

Israeli investigative journalist Yaron Svoray, who made the discovery, is the son of Holocaust survivors. He's a detective, Nazi hunter and FBI operative.

The dumping ground contains personal and ceremonial items looted during the November 9, 1938 night of terror which targeted Jewish property and places of worship. It is believed the items were brought by rail to the village and dumped.

Svoray said the historical significance of the find was pointed out to him by a historian. He was looking for something completely different when he came across the remains. Within two hours, he had uncovered the first items.

"The locals of this site have basically been living with this dark hidden secret for 70 years," he said.

Among the items he found were glass bottles engraved with the Star of David, Mezuzahs, painted window sills, and the armrests of chairs found in synagogues. He also found an ornamental swastika. His search continues, under the protection of bodyguards after threats to his life.

British historian and author Martin Gilbert said the size of the site wasn't surprising - some 1,400 synagogues, additional Jewish institutions, shops and homes were completely or partially destroyed.

The find was verified by educational historian Tanja Ronen-Lohnberg at a Holocaust research center - Ghetto Fighters' House - in Israel. "We don't want to falsify history, so we sent historians who confirmed these items belonged to the time." The center plans to organize a project for German and Israeli children to search together through the remains.

Read the complete story at the link above.

23 October 2008

Philadelphia: Jewish archives to close

A budget crisis means the Philadelphia Jewish Archive Center will be closing after more than three decades as an independent organization, according to "Facing Tough Times," by Anthony Weiss, in The Forward,

The Philadelphia archive has been independent since its 1972 founding, aided by local historians who worried that valuable records and artifacts would be lost. The Jewish federation provided funding and the archive began in a basement at an annual rent of $1. Most local Jewish archives are connected with a historical society or university.

Its collections, which span nearly 200 years of Philadelphia Jewish history, will be absorbed into the archives of nearby Temple University.

“This was a decision that we did not want to make,” said Carole Le Faivre-Rochester, the archive’s president. “We wanted to stay here and be our little independent institution as we have been for 36 years. But given the climate, and the fact that we’re an archive and not that popular in the Jewish community, we couldn’t do it anymore.”

The closing comes at a particularly difficult time for small non-profits — charitable dollars are becoming scarce amidst the economic downturn. In Philadelphia, the fundraising field has been further crowded by a massive capital campaign to build a Jewish history museum. But it appears that the center’s most fundamental problem is that archives simply aren’t a big draw for local Jewish visitors or donors.preserved. On the other hand, they’re not really a funding priority for anybody.”

Brandeis University professor of American Jewish history Jonathan Sarna says everyone wants to see records preserved, but it's not really a funding priority.

Since the archives opened, the federation, synagogues, Jewish organizations and the prestigious Jewish Publication Society (JPS) have used it as a repository. Sarna says it is one of the best of local Jewish archives with "important collections of national significance."

Today, it is located in a downtown renovated factory.

In the modern, climate-controlled room, thousands of carefully labeled and sorted gray boxes hold the story of Jewish Philadelphia: records from Congregation Rodeph Shalom, the first Ashkenazi congregation in the Western Hemisphere; the original resolutions of the Hebrew Sunday School Society, the first organization dedicated to American Jewish education; the first Jewish cookbook, published in Philadelphia in 1871; and the only known records of the immigrant banks that thousands of Jews used to buy tickets for their relatives immigrating from Europe.

Despite the treasures, few visitors visit and an average day, according to staff, sees three or four visitors, if that many. It is mostly used by scholars, genealogists and some school groups.

in 2006, financial problems became severe (despite low rent, federation funding and some donations) and the board voted unanimously - "if reluctantly" - to send its holdings to Temple University's Urban Archives.

Nearby, the National Museum of American Jewish History, under construction and due to open in 2010, has raised more than $110 million of the $150 million needed. The major museum project has received funding from donors who might have given to the Archives if things were different.

Although the move will solve some problems, the Jewish archives is trying to raise funds to hire its own archivist. Some board members wish it could have been done differently and feel that not enough people know the archives exist and what the holdings contain.

Read the complete article at the link above.

22 October 2008

Miami: The Jews of Ioannina, Nov. 2

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Miami will host independent scholar Dr. Annette Fromm on the "Genealogy of the Greek-speaking Jews of Ioannina, Greece," at 10am, Sunday, November 2.

Fromm's book on the Romaniote Jewish community of Ioannina is "We Are Few: Folklore and Ethnic Identity of the Jewish Community of Ioannina, Greece" (Lexingon Books, 2007). She holds a Ph.D. from Indiana University.

The Jewish community of Ioannina, in Northwestern Greece, traces its roots to Byzantine times if not earlier. In the early 20th century, at least half of the community's population emigrated to settle in Athens, Israel, and the United States because of economic and religious reasons. The cataclysm of the Holocaust dramatically decimated the community. This steady outward movement created an abrupt rupture of their patterns of traditional culture.

"We are Few" brings this unique community to life in a series of ethnographic sketches of history and traditional culture in order to understand its intense allegiance to ethnic identity.

The venue is the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, 4200 Biscayne Blvd. Miami. Parking entrance at rear of building; bring picture ID.

For more information, click on the JGSGM site here.

Jamaica: Belisario biography

Isaac Mendes Belisario (1794-1849) was a Jamaican-born Sephardic artist. His biography - "Belisario, Sketches of Character, A Historical Biography of a Jamaican Artist" - by Jackie Ranston and Valerie Facey, was just published by The Mill Press, in Jamaica.
Born in the Caribbean island of Jamaica in 1794 to a family of wealthy Jewish merchants and notorious slave traders, Isaac Mendes Belisario is paradoxically remembered for having preserved the culture of the slaves with his works of art.

In the first historical study of this little-known painter and lithographer, the author begins by tracing the dramatic lives of the old and distinguished Sephardic Jewish families from whom Belisario is descended.

On the distaff side is the family Lindo, living double lives as crypto-Jews until they are denounced by their household slaves and escape the clutches of the Spanish Inquisition to live in seventeenth-century London. Here they are joined by another émigré, Jacob Mendes Belisario and his family; the poor but proud aficionados of the opera who elude the prying, predatory eyes of the Inquisition but still display the emblems of the kings of Spain on their coat of arms and remain loyal to the legend of their family name.

From the chocolate-maker to the rabbi, each generation marks time in London before this swirling Jewish family history moves to the island of Jamaica where its members seize the opportunities offered by the New World; but their meteoric rise is thwarted by the actions of such historical figures as Napoleon and Toussaint L’Ouverture, whose exploits unknowingly combine to witness their downfall.

I became aware of this book through a story in the Jamaica Gleaner, by Laura Tanna, who writes

Every paragraph reveals something about our world and history, which we ought to have known and probably didn't. There's enough material in this book to provide substance for a score more, but she deftly weaves astonishing strands of material into a cohesive whole and this is the real brilliance of the book.

Because Belisario was Jewish, Ranston goes right back to the Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem when Jews were first scattered throughout mankind. She provides the most comprehensive introduction to the horrors of the Roman Catholic Inquisition suffered by Jews and their 1492 expulsion from Spain, accelerating their migration to Morocco, Turkey, Germany, to settlements in London, Amsterdam, Tuscany and subsequently the West Indies. Juxtaposing this story with the horrors of slavery imposed on those from Africa, who also settled in the West Indies, Ranston enriches every reader's understanding of the complexities involved in the creation of our fascinating nation, Jamaica, and the Caribbean region.

Read the complete story at the link above, and learn about Belsario's artwork and much more on Jewish history.

The artist's father served on the jury of the first white man brought up on murder charges for killing a slave in Tortola, and then wrote a London-published report to influence public opinion. Another report he wrote called for protection for the treatment of Africans in the West Indies, to no avail. In addition, the artist's maternal grandfather Alexandre Lindo was involved in the finances of the Haitian revolution.

Included in the book are depictions of the Kingston fires of August 1843, by Belisario and Duperly, as well as reproductions of Belisario's original art work.

There is much more on the book here.

A quote relevant to genealogy

Natan Sharansky spoke at the June 2008 conference of the American Jewish Press Association in Washington, DC. Attendees received copies of his new book, "Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy."

I just got around to reading this book (one of many brought back from my summer travels) and want to share with readers a quote on page 7. Although I am sure the author had a more political meaning in mind, I read it as illustrating the genealogy community and its individual researchers who work together to provide resources for all, in addition to their own personal family research:

Identity, in contrast, is fundamentally about the links to others. The individual understands himself or herself in terms of a community, not only as a singular independent person but also as an individual attached to others and interdependent with them. Here, identity means identification: solidarity with others with whom you identify. Identity in this sense is a kind of communal self.

This tie to community in the past, the present, and the future is what adds a further dimension to your own immediate activities. It requires that you not simply engage the world as a lone individual. What you do contributes to a larger picture: linking your live to the lives of contemporaries who are part of the same community or to past and future generations of that community.

History becomes as Burke described it: a pact between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn. Being part of such a community gives you great strength to defend your values and vision: a strength that comes not only from inside yourself but also in your ties to others who share with you these ideals and who are working to advance them. What you gain is solidarity - the sense of what is common among the members of this mutually committed community, from which each person draws support and strength.

Ukraine-born, Sharansky is a former Soviet dissident and political prisoner, was released and made aliyah, served as a member of the Israeli cabinet, in several posts. He received the Congressional Gold Medal and, in 2006, America's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Music: My Heart Belongs to Daddy

In 1938, Cole Porter wrote "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" for the Broadway musical, "Leave it to Me," introduced by Mary Martin (aka Peter Pan). The song was described by performer Oscar Levant (born to an Orthodox family) as "one of the most Yiddish tunes ever written."

And, if you happen to be a budding poet or song writer, the song offers a rhyme for "daddy" as "fine finnan haddie" (smoked haddock).

Talking about fish: In 1860, a Jewish immigrant in the UK - Joseph Malin - combined Irish fried fish and potatoes to create British fish and chips. It is not known in what newspaper Malin first wrapped his dish. According to Wikipedia - which is sometimes accurate:

Deep-fried fish and deep-fried chips have appeared separately on menus for many years[citation needed], though potatoes did not reach Europe until the 17th century. The originally Sephardi dish pescado frito, or deep-fried fish, came to the Netherlands and England with the Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the 17th and 18th centuries.[citation needed] (History credits the Portuguese with introducing the dish to Japan: see tempura.[citation needed])

The dish became popular in wider circles in London and South East England in the middle of the 19th century (Charles Dickens mentions a "fried fish warehouse" in Oliver Twist, first published in 1838) whilst in the north of England a trade in deep-fried "chipped" potatoes developed. The first chip shop stood on the present site of Oldham's Tommyfield Market.[9] It remains unclear exactly when and where these two trades combined to become the fish-and-chip shop industry we know today. Joseph Malin opened the first recorded combined fish-and-chip shop in London in 1860 or in 1865 while a Mr Lees pioneered the concept in the North of England in Mossley, Lancashire in 1863.[10]

Back to the music.

Here's a 1939 recording of Valaida Snow's voice, with an interesting bit of Holocaust-connected history, in the English version, as well as a Yiddish version by Lisa Fishman (no date given).

Fishman translated the son into the Yiddish "Mayn Hartz Iz Nor Far Daddy" with the help of Zalmen Mlotek of the New York Yiddish Theater and performs it klezmer style.

Attendees at the 2006 New York IAJGS International Conference of Jewish Genealogy were treated to an entire evening of song by Mlotek, one of the conference's major highlights. Those fortunate enough to be sitting in the right place heard the famous Steve Morse singing along in fluent Yiddish. Who knew?

Fishman's version is here.

A 1939 (Decca) English original version sung by Valaida Snow, who also plays trumpet, is here.

Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1903, Snow was part of a musical family with her sisters Alvaida and Lavaida. She turned professional at the age 15, and during the 1920s was part of musical reviews such as the Sissle-Blake show "The Chocolate Dandies" that toured the US and went overseas. She toured with the "Blackbirds" and then the famous Noble Sissle-Eubie Blake musical show "Rhapsody In Black", and in the 1930s, made feature films for black audiences.

In 1939, she went on an extended tour of Europe - perhaps not the best time to do that - with her all-girl orchestra. In Denmark, the Nazis imprisoned her in the Wester-Faengler concentration camp for almost two years until she was freed in an allied forces prisoner swap.

Although she returned to New York, the psychological and physical trauma meant she was never the same, although she tried to regain her career as an arranger, vocalist and trumpet stylist. In June 1956, she died of a cerebral hemorrhage backstage at New York's Palace Theater.

Snow shocked the US with her somewhat eccentric behavior. Orchid was her favorite color (her Mercedes, her outfits, her pet monkey's outfits and her chauffeur's livery).

Enjoy both versions of the song!

Illinois: Skeletons in your closet? Oct. 26

"Skeletons in the Closet" is the next program of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois from 12.30-4pm, Sunday, October 26, at Temple Beth Israel in Skokie.

Join Robin Seidenberg, JGSI executive vice president, who will demonstrate how to use various resources – newspapers, Internet, court documents – in researching family members with a notorious past.

Also included: Learn how to handle research minefields and what to do when sensitive or confidential family information is discovered.

For more information, click here.

Los Angeles: Appraisal Faire, Oct. 25

The Southern California Genealogical Society is holding an Appraisal Faire a la Antiques Roadshow from 9.30am-noon and 1-4pm, Saturday, October 25.

Have you ever wondered about the dollar value of that trinket your grandmother left you, even though you would never dream of selling it?

Ever dream of appearing on Antiques Roadshow and learning that your dumpster-dive doodad is worth a small fortune?

The Southern California Genealogical Society's Appraisal Faire is the place for you.

Bring in up to three items and have your priceless treasures checked by qualified appraisers. Fee: Donation of $5 per item, up to three items.

The Faire will be held at the Southern California Genealogical Society, 417 Irving Drive, Burbank. For more information, click here or email scgs417@yahoo.com.

New Blogs: Graveyard Rabbits

Fellow geneablogger Terry Thornton, the author of Hill Country of Monroe County, has added a new blog to his projects: Graveyard Rabbit of Hill Country. He is the founder of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits (GYA), complete with logo by our talented colleague footnoteMaven (left), founding member of the new association.

The GYA membership requirement is to write about cemeteries, preservation, restoration, grave markers and burial customs. For the most detailed info and the invitation to join the GYA, click here for the post on footnoteMaven's blog.

To learn more about the name and its origins, click on Terry's first post about the new blog here.
It is my hope that the charm of the graveyard rabbit continues to hold --- and that you will join me in this association of geneaBloggers and start writing a blog devoted exclusively to cemeteries, grave markers, burial customs and thus promote the study of cemeteries, the preservation of cemeteries, and the transcription of genealogical/historical information that is written in cemeteries.

May graveyard rabbits spring up everywhere to assist in this task.

Other posts on the newly created blog: "Looking beyond photographs taken in a cemetery" here, and "Tombstone genealogy . . . Getting to the back of things" here. For more information, email Terry.

According to footnoteMaven's post on October 20 here, there are 17 GYA members - I'm sure there will be more:

Terry Thornton: The Graveyard Rabbit of the Hill Country (Mississippi USA)

Founding Member:
footnotemaven: Western Washington Graveyard Rabbit (Washington USA) go to WWGYR to pick up your official badge/logo

Charter Members:
Bob Franks: Graveyard Adventures in Itawamba County (Mississippi USA)
Randy Seaver: South San Diego County Genealogy Rabbit (California USA)
Wendy Littrell: The Graveyard Rabbit of South Denton County (Texas USA)
Denise Olson: Graveyard Rabbit of Moultrie Creek (Florida USA)
Jessica Oswalt: The Rural Michigan Cemeteries Graveyard Rabbit (Michigan USA)
Kathryn Lake Hogan: The Essex County Graveyard Rabbit (Windsor, Essex County, Ontario, Canada)
Janice Tracy: The Graveyard Rabbit of Attala County (Mississippi USA)
Amy Crow: Graveyard Rabbit of Central Ohio (Ohio USA)
Julie Cahill Tarr: The Chicagoland Graveyard Rabbit (Illinois USA)
Julie Cahill Tarr: The Graveyard Rabbit of Bloomington-Normal Illinois (Illinois USA)
Sue Edminster: The Graveyard Rabbit of North Snohomish County (Washington USA)
William Morgan: The Central Florida Graveyard Rabbit (Florida USA)
Midge Frazel: Granite in My Blood (Massachusetts USA)
Henk van Kampen: The Graveyard Rabbit of Utrecht and Het Gooi (Utrecht, The Netherlands)
M.Diane Rogers: The Graveyard Rabbit of British Columbia, Canada (BC, Canada)

I'm sure there will be more.

Nu? So where's the Jewish Graveyard Rabbit? Who's up for the challenge? I have some people in mind and have emailed them, asking them to consider. Where are our Jewish cemetery experts who would welcome this? I'd be glad to participate and will be happy to provide blogging assistance to someone or someones who take up this idea!

Yad Vashem: List of Jews in Germany (1933-1945)

On Thursday, October 23, Yad Vashem will receive a digital copy of the "List of Jewish Residents in the German Reich (1933-1945)" prepared over four years by the German government.

It contains the personal details of some 600,000 Jewish residents in Germany (1933-1945), according to the 1937 borders, who suffered anti-Jewish discrimination and persecution.

Data includes the names and addresses of Jewish residents, details of emigration, detention and deportation, and where and when many died. Information was gathered from registration documents - primarily in medium-sized and larger towns and cities - deportations lists, archives, museums, memorial sites and the Toten-Gedenkbuch (memorial book of the dead) compiled by the federal archives.

Some 2.5 million data records were collected from over 1,000 different sources. The list\ was produced by the Bundesarchiv (German federal archives), with assistance from Yad Vashem’s Archives and Hall of Names experts, on behalf of the “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” Foundation.

The list will be presented on by Bernd Neumann, the German Minister of State to the Federal Chancellor and Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

“This list adds to our understanding of what happened to the Jews in Germany,” said Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem. “Every new piece of information allows us to piece together the story of individuals and communities during the Holocaust. This list, in conjunction with other material in our Archives, helps fill in gaps in our knowledge of what occurred.”

San Francisco: Erin Einhorn, Oct. 27

Erin Einhorn, author of "The Pages In Between: A Holocaust Legacy of Two Families, One Home," will give a reading and talk at 7.30pm, Monday, October 27, at the BJE Jewish Community LIbrary in San Francisco.

Einhorn is a journalist and contributor to NPR's "This American Life." She traveled to Poland, where her mother was saved as a child during WWII by a Polish woman who risked her own life to do so.

She traveled to Poland 55 years later to find the family that had rescued her mother in Bedzin, and finds the rescuer's son. He said they had been promised the family's home in exchange for hiding the mother and asked Einhorn to help fulfill that promise.

A trip down discovery road became a confusing route through 50 years of hurt feelings, resentment and archival records.

The program is co-sponsored by the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society and the Holocaust Center of Northern California.
For additional details, click here.

Food: Goldenberg's Peanut Chews

Anyone else have a penchant for these chocolate delights that are hard to find outside of New York City? I had to categorize this under food, even though it might not be entirely accurate. I just don't have a category for "items to store for the next major disaster."

Blogger Darren Zieger has written a post on his connection to these addictive bits, now manufactured under the name Chew-ets Original Peanut Chews, after the competition bought out the company:

Some more digging, and a thorough reading of my grand-cousin's autobiography, has allowed me to piece together a chronology of the Goldenberg branch of my family tree which includes a few more entertaining nuggets.

In a nutshell (he said, hoping to produce a less long-winded post than usual, a goal which this parenthetical statement does little to advance):

In the beginning (well, as far back as we know) there were Favel and Eva (nee ???) Goldenberg, a typical (for all we know) mid-19th century Romanian couple. Except that they weren't actually Goldenbergs. Favel's surname was Seltzer.

This fact got changed retroactively in the archives because one of his sons, Dovid Seltzer (1865 - 1935) changed his name when he arrived in the US around 1880.

It is said that, as the ship that took him across the Atlantic passed the Statue of Liberty on its approach to Ellis Island, Dovid asked a fellow passenger, a returning US citizen, "What is a good name to have in America?" The passenger replied "Sir, in America, the best name is Goldberg."

(Whether this was accurate is unclear; the National Archive only has Best Name data going back to the 1910 Census.)

And while it is not said, we can assume that at that revelatory moment, the fog lifted and, far off on the deck of next ship, Barbra Streisand began singing.

So, Dovid Seltzer became David Goldenberg (adding an extra syllable for, I'm guessing, subtlety).

David Goldenberg settled in Philadelphia, and, being a late 19th Century Jewish immigrant, he went into the candy business, as the law required (had he been wealthier, he would have had the option of becoming a diamond merchant).

He started out pushing a cart, later opened a candy store, and eventually, on the strength of one particularly successful confection, ran a factory, fulfilling the American Dream(TM) as the law required.

Let me emphasize here: I am a descendant of a man who owned a chocolate factory*. I find this quite marvelous for no practical reason.

The candy in question, you've probably encountered if you're from the Northeast. Goldenberg's Peanut Chews were a staple of my pre-diabetic diet. They rocked. Seriously, we're talking about Desert-Island-List food, here.

And here's my very own Peanut Chew story:

While working for the Jerusalem Post's Metro weekly in the old Tel Aviv editorial office, I sometimes went down the block to a shop offering delicious Iraqi Sephardic specialties cooked by the owner's mother and sister.

While waiting for my order to be packed, I noticed a few shelves holding snacks and candy. Imagine my surprise when I saw an entire box of Peanut Chews. The shop's owner wasn't there, and the manager had no idea where they had come from.

I bought the entire box. "Are they good?" the manager asked, having never tasted them, and I was afraid to give him a taste! The delights went home to live in our freezer, doled out small piece by small piece over the coming months.

Virginia: Solving a lake mystery

Two brothers, whose hobby is genealogy, believe they have found the the identity of the person whose bones were found in Mountain Lake, Virginia. Read about it here.

There's a two-minute video of the TV news segment providing more information on how Jim and John Dalmas used a Clemson University class ring, census records, a WWI draft registration card, a historic newspaper article and other resources to give a name to the bones in Mountain Lake.

They say that the person items near the remains belong to Samuel Ira Felder of New York.

"It's a giant puzzle, and all the pieces fit together and you have one picture," says Jim Dalmas.

It started with bits of pieces reported by the media, including important information investigators released last week about a class ring.

"The sheriff's department figured out the ring came from Clemson University, and of course the ring was the key to figuring the whole case out," says Dalmas.

According to their research, Samuel Ira Felder was born May 10, 1884, was a native of Orangeburg, South Carolina and graduated from Clemson University. He later moved to New York City where he was a telephone company engineer. Some census reports showed he was married, but had no children.

"The newspaper article clinched the deal," says Jim. "It said he had fallen out of a boat."

A July 27, 1921 South Carolina newspaper reported Felder fell overboard and drowned while boating with a party of friends on Mountain Lake.

Jim said Felder would have been 37 when he died. He also said Felder had siblings and might have living relatives.

Another case solved by dedicated genealogists!

21 October 2008

South Carolina: Jewish genealogy, Oct. 25-26

The annual meeting of the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina (JHSSC) will take place Saturday and Sunday, October 25-26, at the College of Charleston's Jewish Studies Center.

"Jewish Genealogy: Explore Your Family Tree" will explore the subject through lectures and hands-on workshops.

Expert speakers leading the conference are Karen S. Franklin of New York, director of the Family Research Program at the Leo Baeck Institute, and Dr. Stephen P. Morse of San Francisco, creator of "One-Step Genealogy."

Karen and Steve together will present "Using Computers at the College of Charleston," using their expertise to guide participants in their person research using a variety of resources and developing strategies to solve a variety of research problems.

Karen will present "Tracking the Winter Family," demonstrating how she found the European roots of a Southern Jewish family in a remote village in Germany. Stories about four Civil War veterans, an “Embalmer on the Plain” (Jewish homesteader in South Dakota) and cousins-in-common will demonstrate search techniques.

Steve will present three talks based on his One Step website:

- "One-Step Webpages: A Potpourri of Genealogical Search Tools."
- "What Color Ellis Island Search Form Should I Use?"
- "Playing Hide and Seek in the US Census"

Fees for the two-day event: Jewish Historical Society member, $90; others, $125. For more information, click on the JGSSC site here, or the event brochure here.

Learn more about local resources and archives here:

The Jewish Heritage Collection documents the Jewish experience in South Carolina from colonial times to the present day. The archives grows out of an active program of collection, field work, and public education that was inaugurated in January 1995 by the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina, the College of Charleston's Jewish Studies Program, and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina. Project staff spearheaded research and development of a major museum exhibition, A Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life, that opened at McKissick in January 2002, beginning a two-year national tour.

Located in Special Collections at the College's Addlestone Library, the Jewish Heritage Collection emphasizes individuals over institutions. It encompasses recorded interviews, manuscripts, photographs, genealogies, memoirs, home movies, and other primary sources. ...

Explore the JHSSC site for more information. Its newsletters and journals are online here.

Tracing the Tribe has previously written eight posts on South Carolina and the Southern US, in general. Topics include: Savannah, Georgia's 275th anniversary; Southern Jewish history grants, Deep South resources, Civil War's Confederate Jewish soldiers and books.

YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe

The Jewish Book Council sends out email alerts for new books. The newest edition offers information on the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, edited by Gershon David Hundert.

The 2,400-page volume was published by Yale University Press in 2008; the price is $400, and includes entries by some 450 contributors in 16 countries. The project ran over 10 years before being published.

The review is by Michael Dobkowski, a professor of religious studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He is co-editor of "Genocide and the Modern Age" and "On the Edge of Scarcity" (Syracuse University Press); author of "The Tarnished Dream: The Basis of American Anti-Semitism;" and co-editor of "The Nuclear Predicament."

This encyclopedia, which chronicles and seeks to recover and represent the rich history and culture of East European Jewry, is truly a treasure of information. It presents the life of this vanished culture, as dispassionately and as accurately as possible, without nostalgia and without undue celebrating.

The contributors are among leading scholars of various specialties of Eastern European Jewish Studies, and include: Jan Gross, massacre at Jedwabne; James Young, monuments and memorials; Antony Polonsky, Brody; J. Hoberman, cinema; Joseph Dan, Hassidic thought, Ruth Wisse, Y.L. Peretz; Elisheva Carlebach, messianism; and Paula Hyman, gender.

The reviewer writes:

The editors, in fact, were conscious of the need to redress the traditional imbalance in the coverage of women. All contributors were instructed to address gender in their entries and to use it as a category of analysis when appropriate. This resulted in some interesting and novel material, particularly in the areas devoted to daily life, economic life, and cultural and artistic expression, not usually found in reference texts of this type.

Geographically, the book generally covers contemporary Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, the Baltic states and Finland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Chronologically, it covers the earliest presence of Jews in the region over 1,000 years ago to the end of the 20th century, focusing on Jews and events in the geographical area.

Dobkowski writes that the encyclopedia is "an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe."

The entries are accessible, written so that nonspecialists can benefit. Ten years in the making, it is the definitive work of its kind, carefully conceived and edited and a most reliable portal into the rich landscapes of Jewish life and loss in Eastern Europe.

Read more about this and other books at the link above.

For a history of the Jewish Book Council, click here.

The Council's origins date back to 1925, when Fanny Goldstein, a librarian at the West End Branch of the Boston Public Library, set up an exhibit of Judaic books as a focus of what she called Jewish Book Week. In l927, with the assistance of Rabbi S. Felix Mendelsohn of Chicago, Jewish communities around the country adopted the event.

Jewish Book Week proved so successful that in 1940 the National Committee for Jewish Book Week was founded, with Fanny Goldstein as its chairperson. Dr. Mordecai Soltes succeeded her one year later. Representatives of major American Jewish organizations served on this committee, as did groups interested in promulgating Yiddish and Hebrew literature. ...

Read more at the link noted, and also read about the quarterly "Jewish Book World" with each issue carrying many reviews. Look through the sample issues on the site. Reviews are categorized: American Jewish Studies, Contemporary Jewish Life, Cookbook, Fiction, Sephardic, Children's and others. Each issue contains author interviews and reviewer bios. There's an annual major Children's Book section. To subscribe, click here.

Kansas: Beginning Jewish Genealogy

I learned about this event too late to post it, but readers may wish to suggest a similar program in their own public libraries, co-sponsored/co-hosted by their local Jewish genealogical societies and/or Jewish historical societies.

The Topeka and Shawnee County (Kansas) Public Library offered a Beginning Jewish Genealogy program on Sunday afternoon, October 19.

Learn the basics of genealogical research and record keeping, including finding vital records, censuses, obituaries, immigration records, marriages, probate records, and cemeteries, as well as compiling pedigree and family unit charts. See how Jewish genealogy differs from that of other groups, including language issues and Holocaust research. Finally, learn what organizations can help with your research.

Participants learned how to use print and online resources offered by the library, and received a pedigree chart and other useful record-keeping forms.

I could not find information on the program presenters.

For more Kansas resources, click here for the state's page on the International Cemetery Project hosted by JewishGen. Learn about colonies, cemeteries and more. The Heart of America Jewish Historical Society is in Overland Park, while the Jewish Community Archives is in Kansas City

Indiana: Photos go high-tech

This Post-Tribune story about a library program on photographs is interesting not only because of its content but also for the list of genealogy magazines the library carries (Ancestry, Family Tree, Internet Genealogy and The Genealogical Helper).

Mary Shultz of Schererville recently acquired two unique photographs -- one of her great-great-grandfather in his Sunday finery, and another of him with one of his friends.

Although the pictures aren't unusual, the tintype on which they are printed certainly is. Shultz recently attended a program at the Lake County Public Library in Merrillville called "Repairing and Dating Family Heirlooms" to see what could be done with the tintype items, plus other photos dating to the late 1880s and early 1900s.

"There are a lot of pictures I need to work on," she said of her new quest to preserve family history. "I came here to see where I should start and what I can do."

The two-session event was co-sponsored by the library and the Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society.

Eric Basir, a teacher and author of "Digital Restoration Book 1," led the program. Basir owns a retouching studio in Evanston, Ill., and sponsored the launch of Lostandfoundphotos.net, a free service to provide a forum for genealogists to identify lost or unknown photos. He serves the genealogical community as a teacher and writer of "Ask the Retoucher," a column for genealogical publications.

Basir used photographs of audience members to demonstrate the techniques. In a nutshell, a photo is scanned into a computer, then digitally altered. To do this at home, one needs a flatbed scanner and a graphics software package. Restored photos can be saved on a computer or CD and printed as needed.

With the advent of graphics software, genealogists can do this themselves. Previously, one would have to pay large amounts to retouch or restore an image.

In addition to Basir's presentation, there was a traveling exhibit from the Indiana Historical Society. "A Perfect Likeness: Care and Identification of Family Photographs" focused on identifying and caring for such common 19th-century photographic formats as the daguerreotype, tintype and cabinet card. The exhibit was co-sponsored by the Lake County Historical Museum.

Check with your own library and see if it carries genealogy magazines such as those listed above. Libraries usually respond to patrons' requests, so if your library doesn't offer them, request that they be offered. You might also suggest that a similar program on high-tech photograph restoration be offered. Contact your local genealogy society or historical society and see if they can schedule, co-host or sponsor such a program.

Museum of Family History seeks Sephardic presence

I was happy to see Steve Lasky's posting on the discussion group at Sephardim.com, which holds a wealth of Sephardic resources, including the major Sephardic Name Search, compiled from many major published resources.

Steve, for those who do not already know him, is the dedicated creator of the online Museum of Family History, currently a treasure trove of Ashkenazi and Eastern European resources.

Steve writes on the Sephardic site:
As many of you know, I am the founder and "director" of the virtual (internet only) museum of Jewish family history. It is meant to honor and preserve the memory of our Jewish families for the present and future generations. I was very pleased that, two months ago, I received the IAJGS Award for "Outstanding Contribution to Jewish Genealogy."

Up to this time, the "Museum of Family History" has, for the most part, lacked a significant Sephardic presence. I have always wanted to include a good deal of representation of Sephardic Jewish history, but I've never had good contacts to do so. I hope this forum will change that.

I am looking for photographs (family and otherwise), mostly taken anytime before the end of World War II; also stories, testimonies about the Jewish experience. I am looking for audio and video, as my site is very multimedia.

It would be nice to talk about Sephardic life over the past 200 years (or more) in both an historical and personal context. I am also looking for those who are willing to write about Sephardic life, etc., even as it exists today where you live, as this would expedite the inclusion of Sephardic material on my site, and would make it more participatory, which can only be a good thing. It might even encourage others to follow suit.

I look forward to hearing from some of you. If you have any questions, just ask.

For those of you unfamiliar with my site, the best overview is via the Site Map page.

If you have resources to provide or questions to ask, email Steve.

This day in Jewish history

This Day in Jewish History is an interesting blog mentioned previously on Tracing the Tribe. New readers may find it useful in understanding the impact of historical events on their families.

Compiled by Mitchell A. Levin, it is part of the adult education Jewish History Study Group at Temple Judah in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Here is a portion of the entry for October 21 :

1553 BCE (11 Cheshvan 2207): On the civil calendar, this date marked the death of Rachel, the matriarch and wife of Jacob, at the age of 36. She died during the childbirth of Benjamin, near Efrat, and is buried in Beit Lechem (Bethlehem).

1096: During the First Crusade, the Turks destroyed the portion of the Crusader army led by Peter the Hermit. Peter escaped and joined the main crusader army. The main body took Jerusalem from the Moslems in 1099. The Crusaders slaughtered the Jews of Europe as they made their way to the Holy Land. When they got to Jerusalem, the continued their bloody behavior as they slaughtered the Jews living in David’s City.

1512: In what may have been one of the most reaching decisions in the history of academia, Martin Luther joined the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg. It would be almost five years to the day (October 31, 1517) from his appointment, that Luther would post his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle. (This gives a whole new meaning to the term “publish or perish”). Seven years after his appointment (1519) “Luther denounced the doctrines” regarding the treatment of the Jews. His final view of the Jews would be codified in the 1544 pamphlet “Concerning The Jews and Their Lies” that included a call for burning synagogues and destroying the homes of Jews.

1553: Volumes of the Talmud were burned in Venice

1781: In Austria, Joseph II rescinded the law forcing Jews to war a distinctive badge. The regulation had been in effect since 1267, more then 600 years.

1833: Birthdate of Alfred Bernhard Nobel, creator of dynamite and the Nobel Prizes. As of 2005,at least 170 Jews and persons of half-Jewish ancestry have been awarded the Nobel Prize, accounting for 22% of all individual recipients worldwide between 1901 and 2005, and constituting 37% of all US recipients during the same period. In the scientific research fields of Chemistry, Economics, Medicine, and Physics, the corresponding world and U.S. percentages are 26% and 39%, respectively. (Jews currently make up approximately 0.25% of the world's population and 2% of the US population.)

· Chemistry (28 prize winners, 19% of world total, 27% of US total)
· Economics (22 prize winners, 39% of world total, 53% of US total)· Literature (13 prize winners, 13% of world total, 27% of US total)
· Physiology or Medicine (52 prize winners, 28% of world total, 42% of US total)
· Peace (9 prize winners, 10% of world total, 11% of US total)3
· Physics (46 prize winners, 26% of world total, 38% of US total)

Take a look at the site. Its entries will help place your ancestors in history and you may learn what happened in their communities during certain historical events.

19 October 2008

New York: Bringing crowns to Berlin

A woman with deep Sephardic roots in Spain, Cuba, and the Canary Islands will dedicate three Torah crowns to her home-away-from-home synagogue in Berlin, on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, as related in this Staten Island Live story.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Esther Rodriguez of St. George will play a meaningful role in Berlin next month as the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht is observed, but her story begins much earlier than that terrible night in 1938 that ushered in the Holocaust.

In 1536, her family fled the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal to avoid a forced conversion from Judaism, or its alternative: Death.

Her mother's family settled in Cuba; her father's, in the Canary Islands. Ms. Rodriguez was born in Cuba, where her family did not live as Jews. For years, she did not know her history. Although she said her family was "as Cuban as could be," she later realized many of their traditions were Jewish. Even her father's name, Abreu, means Hebrew in Portuguese.

In 1961, Ms. Rodriguez was among 14,500 children flown out of Cuba -- without their parents -- following the Communist takeover. A great-aunt in Miami opened her home to Ms. Rodriguez and seven cousins. She was reunited with her parents four years later.

Ms. Rodriguez moved to Staten Island in 1985 and converted to Judaism in 2003 in Borough Park, Brooklyn. She now attends services at Congregation Toras Emes in Oakwood and Temple Emanu-El in Port Richmond.

A radio journalist for the United States government, she travels frequently to Berlin and Geneva. In Berlin, she prays at Adass Jisroel, a yeshiva and synagogue opened in the 1800s by a New York rabbi.

Adass Jisroel was one of 92 Berlin synagogues targeted during Kristallnacht; 35 of its 36 Torahs were burned. The synagogue reopened after the fall of the Berlin Wall; its new rabbi brought two Torahs from Israel.

In April 2007, Rodriguez donated a third Torah to the congregation in memory of her mother, Aida Fernandez de Varona, who died the previous month. The congregation had three Torahs, but no crowns. Her two congregations helped her purchase two silver crowns and a friend whose family fled Leipzig on Kristallnacht bought a third. The crowns will be dedicated at Adass Jisroel on November 7, just before Shabbat begins.

Read the complete story at the link above.