30 September 2009

Place of space: Our ancestors' homes

How do our surroundings, our living spaces impact our families, our thoughts, our history?

Isn't this what our pursuit of genealogy helps to reconstruct? To make sure that our family history remains alive and known and preserved?

In a poem by Leib Borisovich Talalai, a young Yiddish poet whose family was from our shtetl of Vorotinschtina, who later lived in Baranovich and in Minsk, and who was ultimately murdered in the Minsk Ghetto in 1941, he writes about his family house in our shtetl, "If the walls of this house could talk. ..."

What do you know about the spaces in which your ancestors lived? At left are steep steps in the old Jewish quarter of Girona, Spain.

On Yom Kippur, I usually read for a good portion of the day. This year, it was "Sepharad," by Antonio Munoz Molina, one of Spain's most famous writers, who draws on the Sephardic diaspora and touches on the Holocaust and even the purges of Stalin while telling this story I couldn't put down.

The book, praised as "a masterpiece" by "The Lost" author Daniel Mendelsohn, offers some insights into what I'm terming "the place of space" in our lives and in our family history. Mendelsohn wrote in the New York Review of Books:

"Shame and guilt, homelands and exile, ceaseless wanderings and bitter alienations both internal and external, metaphorical and real, are persistent motifs...."
Writes Munoz Molina:

"What is the minimal portion of country, what does of roots or hearth, that a human being requires?" Jean Amery asked himself, remembering his flight from Austria in 1938, perhaps the night of March 15, on the express train that left Vienna at 11:15 for Prague, his troubled, clandestine journey across European borders toward the provisional refuge of Antwerp, where he knew the endless insecurity of exiled Jews, the native's hostility toward foreigners, humiliation from the police and officials who examine papers and certify or deny permits and make you come back the next day and the next and who look at the refugee as someone suspected of a crime. The worst is to be stripped of the nationality you thought was yours inalienably. You need at least a home in which you can feel safe, Amery says, a room that you can't be dragged from in the middle of the night, that you don't have to run from as fast as you can when you hear police whistles and footsteps on the stairs.
Later on he asks the reader:

What do you do if you know that from one day to the next you can be driven from your home, that all it takes is a signature and a lacquer seal at the bottom of a decree for the work of your entire life to be demolished, for you to lose everything, house and goods, for you to find yourself out on the street exposed to shame, forced to part with everything you considered yours and to board a ship that will take you to a country where you will also be pointed at and rejected, or not even that far, to a disaster at sea, the frightening sea you have never seen?
He describes an old Jewish house with a low door, on a narrow street in a neighborhood of 15th century houses. On the two ends of the large stone lintel are two Stars of David, inscribed in a circle. The author adds:

The two Stars of David testify to the existence of a large community, like the fossilized impression of an exquisite leaf that fell in the immensity of a forest erased by a cataclysm thousands of years ago. They couldn't believe that they would actually be driven out, that within a few months they would have to abandon the land they had been born in and where their ancestors had lived. The house has a door with rusted studs and an iron knocker, and small Gothic moldings in the angles of the lintel. Maybe the people who have gone carried with the key that fit this large keyhole, maybe they handed it down from father to son through generations of exile, just as the language and sonorous Spanish names were perpetuated, and the poems and children's songs that the Jews of Salonica and Rhodes would carry with them on the long hellish journey to Auschwitz. It was a house like this that the family of Baruch Spinoza or Primo Levi would leave behind forever.
Quite by coincidence, a Google alert this morning led me to the Genealogy Blog's post which also commented on "the place of space" in our family histories.

This leads me to a thought: what part do places hold in our family histories? It would seem places (like houses) take on a character of their own, a spirit, if you will. They facilitate gathering and celebrating and memories. When they are taken away, it seems there is a disruption in our gatherings until we can find another substitute. In our transient society where we uproot every two years, are we constantly severing these vital ties with the past and memory.
Is there a difference between taking away a house, or taking away the family that lived there? What happens to the generations and centuries of memories? How long do they remain to be passed on to younger generations?

When do those memories disappear?

When does the disconnect occur between history and youth?

29 September 2009

North Cyprus: A new Jewish outpost

Tracing the Tribe is always looking for news of Jewish life in off-the-beaten-track locations. North Cyprus seems the newest edition to this list, as Chabad has opened the area's first Jewish center where more than 100 Jews have moved in recent years.

We traveled to Cyprus two years ago and had an excellent visit which we hope to repeat. It is a very short flight from Tel Aviv and visitors to Israel should consider adding on a Cyprus segment. We drove all over the beautiful island from the sea to the mountains and were very impressed by the friendly people we met. English is widely spoken because of the island's long-time British connections.

Rabbi Chaim and Devora Azimov moved to Kyrenia in March 2008 to open the center which is near major hotels. Their opening Passover Seder attracted 45 participants. Chabad-Lubavitch of North Cyprus hosts a Jewish preschool and weekly Shabbat services, individualized study sessions, visit hospitals and prisons, lead adult education classes, and ensure a reliable supply of kosher food to the community and Jewish tourists.

In a 2008 article, the rabbi estimated that some 200-300 Jewish people live in the area, and that on any given weekend more than 2,000 Israeli tourists pass through, as well as tourists from the UK, US and other countries.

Last week's crowded Rosh Hashanah service was very special, according to Devorah Azimov:

"A woman living here for 24 years, who had no connection to Jewish life, came to High Holiday services for the first time."
How does Cyprus figure into Jewish history? Readers may be surprised to learn about the long and important Jewish connection.

Jews lived on the island before and during Roman rule, with Cypriot Jews reported to have taken part in the great rebellion against Trajan's Rome in 117 C.E.

Ancient synagogues are known to have existed in Lapta and Salamis, and by the late Middle Ages, Jewish communities had developed in Lefkoşa, Paphos and Gazi Mağusa.

In the later part of the 19th century, several attempts were made to settle Russian and Romanian Jewish refugees in Cyprus. Fifteen Russian families under the leadership of Walter Cohen founded a colony in 1897 at Margo, south of Ercan. The abandoned village is now within a Turkish military zone, but a synagogue and Jewish cemetery remain.

During the Second World War, the island served as a haven for hundreds of Jews fleeing Europe. Following the liberation of the concentration camps on the continent, British forces set up a refugee camp in Pile, north of the present-day Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area, for Holocaust survivors and others attempting to enter the Holy Land.
The island and its viticulture is even mentioned in the Talmud:

In a discussion about the incense brought in the Holy Temple, yayin kafrisin is mentioned as a necessary commodity; incense producers would soak the Onycha spice in Cypriot wine to make it more pungent.

Kosher wine is being made on Cyprus at the Lambouri Winery from local Mavro grapes. Read more about the wine here.

Read the complete articles at the links above.

28 September 2009

Footnote's major Holocaust collection, free access

One of the darkest times in world history is seen in the release of an important new digital Holocaust collection.

In a timely move - as some in today's world continue to loudly deny that this tragedy ever took place - Footnote.com, the National Archives and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum have today released these original records and images.

For the first time online, view one million Holocaust-related records, millions of names, 26,000 photos, some 600 interactive survivor and victim accounts, concentration camp records, maps, timelines and more. [Photo at left above: Dachau gates.]

Jews around the world have just recalled our ancestors' names and shared family history at gatherings and in synagogues during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This collection - released at such an important time in the Jewish year - will help preserve and share the history of an event that has touched nearly every Jewish family in the world, regardless of origin.

Most importantly, Footnote is providing completely free access to this collection throughout October.

View the collection here via a special microsite. Be patient if pages seem to load slowly, which will likely be due to the heavy traffic this collection is expected to generate. Also note that some indexing is still coming in, but everything is expected to be linked by Thursday, October 1, according to Footnote.com.

Visitors will be able to create pages to highlight discoveries as they search for names and photos, add comments and stories, share insights. There is no charge to access and contribute to these personal pages.

This collection gives visitors a first-hand glimpse into the tragedy of the Holocaust, a "personal story not included in history text books," according to Footnote.com CEO Russ Wilding. Additionally, these important records will become more widely accessible and help people now and in the future learn more about the Holocaust.

Here is a sample page of a Dachau concentration camp register (click to enlarge):

The collection includes:

- Concentration camp registers and documents from Dachau, Mauthausen, Auschwitz, and Flossenburg.

- The "Ardelia Hall Collection" of records relating to the Nazi looting of Jewish possessions, including looted art.Click
here for more.

- Captured German records including deportation and death lists from concentration camps.

- Nuremberg War Crimes Trial
Footnote.com's special Holocaust site offers:

- Stories of Holocaust victims and survivors.

- Place where visitors can create their own pages to memorialize their Holocaust ancestors.

- Pages on the concentration camps - includes descriptions, photos, maps, timelines and accounts from those who survived the camps.

- Descriptions and samples of the original records from the National Archives.
If you have not yet accessed Footnote.com - a subscription site - free access to this Holocaust Collection will enable readers to become personally familiar with its rich resources.

Poland: Zamosc synagogue renovation project

The town of Zamosc, near Lublin in southeastern Poland, is important for several reasons. One is its grand synagogue built four centuries ago, and the other is that the community's archive indicates that the founders of the Jewish community were Sephardim, refugees of the Spanish Inquisition

According to Alexander Beider, in his Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland (Avotaynu):

In 1588, Polish Chancellor Jan Zamoyski established a special privilege allowing Sephardic Jews to live in his own newly founded private town of Zamosc. (Ashkenazic Jews from neighboring towns were not authorized to settle in Zamosc.) Many advantages were offered to those Sephardic Jews who decided to move there, which prompted a number of Sephardic families to migrate to the town. ...[see more below]
In the Jerusalem Post, read about the 400-year-old synagogue that is undergoing a major restoration.

The restoration work was spearheaded by Monika Krawczyk of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, which is responsible for safeguarding Jewish cultural, historical and religious sites throughout the country.

Monika also spoke about the Foundation's projects at the recent 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Philadelphia.

In the article by Michael Freund, more details are revealed.
In addition to a hall that will be used for prayer services, lectures and concerts, plans call for the structure to house a tourist information center as well as a museum that will celebrate the history of the area's Jews.

The exhibits will utilize advanced multimedia technology, and will incorporate innovative programs such as a "virtual tour" of Jewish shtetls that dotted the region before the Holocaust.
The synagogue was built between 1610-1618, and was in continuous use until the 1939 German invasion of Poland. It was damaged and later served as a carpentry workshop.

Post-war Communist Poland made it a public library.

At the beginning of Word War II, nearly half the town was Jewish, some 12,000 people.
"We have a dream that the Zamosc synagogue will be used for the holy purposes of the Jewish people," Krawczyk said, "but the reality is what it is. I hope that Jewish groups from all over the world who visit Poland will come to see it and use it, as it is specially designed to allow the main hall to be used to hold prayers for interested groups."
Most of the funding is from the European Economic Area and Norway Grants, established by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to support social and economic projects throughout Europe, as well as from the World Monument Fund.

Read the complete article at the link above.

For more on the Zamosc section of Beider's section on Sephardim in Eastern Europe (from "A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland") click here:

Toward the end of the 16th century, they included families from the Ottoman Empire (for example, Moses, the brother of the above Abraham de Mosso Kohen, who moved from Lwow and became the first Jewish inhabitant of Zamosc [Shatzky 1957:85]) and Italy (for example, Abram Misrachi and Salomon Marcus from Venice [Balaban 1906:467]). During the first part of the 17th century, new settlers generally came from Italy and Holland, and the documents of that time cite the existence in Zamosc of families named de Campus/ Kampos, Castiell/Kastiel and Sacuto/Zakuto (Morgensztern 1961: 75,76). The records also show the arrival of Samson Manes, a Sephardic Jew from Braunschweig, Germany (Morgensztern 1962:9). After the chancellor's death in 1605, the growth of the Sephardic community in Zamosc stopped, while during the 1620s some Ashkenazic families moved there. Without newcomers from Mediterranean countries, the little Sephardic group rapidly declined. Some of the Sephardic Jews left the area; others intermarried with Ashkenazic Jews (Morgensztern 1962:14). As a result, during the second half of the 17th century, Sephardic names do not appear in the historical documents of both Zamosc and Lwow. The census of 1664 showed only 23 Jews in Zamosc, most of whom were Ashkenazic (Morgensztern 1962:4).

For other towns and countries and their Sephardic families, read Beider's entire section at the link above. Sephardic surnames in the article include:

If your family has a Sephardic oral tradition, a Sephardic surname, an Sephardic medical condition or other pointers, consider joining the IberianAshkena DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA.com.

China: The Confucius tree revealed

The Confucius family tree was revealed in the first complete edition (80 volumes with some 2 million names) since 70 years ago. The ceremony took place in the great temple in Confucius' home town of Qufu. His name is Kong Fuzi in Mandarin.

The Telegraph UK carried the story here.

"After more than 70 years our family is united again, and we have gathered to witness this historical moment which is not only a commemoration of our ancestors but a continuation of our nation's history," said 83-year-old Kong Deyong.
During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) the family's history was interrupted and the Red Guards destroyed family artifacts and persecuted his descendants.In the 1990s, however, the ruling Communist Party again turned to traditional Confucian ideas and emphasising the need for social harmony and respect for authority.

A recent book on Confucius' sayings sold 10 million copies and a £10 million film on his life began production this year. The ceremony was attended by leading Communist Party officials who praised the 10-year project as a national achievement.

In a nod to modern times, the register will contain the names of women for the first time and will be available on a computer database. A copy will be deposited at China's National Library in Beijing.

"The completion of this genealogy is a symbol that China is trying once again to revive its traditional culture," Kong Lingshao, deputy chief of the Propaganda Department in Qufu told The Daily Telegraph.
The Kong Clan Register, which goes back more than 1,000 years, had not been updated since 1937. The custom is that it should have been revised every 30-years, but the Cultural Revolution precluded it.

With family records scattered or destroyed, the restoration of the complete genealogy has taken more than a decade of international research, conducted by individual Kong clans in China, but also in Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.
Shanghai resident Kong Ming, began researching his branch from Hangzhou in 1998, after his elderly grandfather dug up the coffin in which he had hidden family records to escape persecution.

The young businessman spent more than £40,000 reconstructing the 800-year-old family history. He sent out 100,000 advertisement and posted flyers all over the city to recover lost links.

The Telegraph UK story included the story of a British teen, the 79th generation descendant of Confucius, who attended the ceremony. He is the half-Chinese grandson of the clan's leader, Kong Deyong. It appears from the story that his relatives believe he will be given greater family responsibilities in the future. Says the young man:

"It is stressful. I think about those responsibilities every day, I really do," he says, in between telling a story about how Confucian ideas win him respect on the football pitch, "I know I have to learn Chinese, but it's got to be a hobby rather than a job. It's very stressful to think about it."
Some say that in 30 or 60 years, the young man may follow his grandfather and lead the next revision of the Clan Register.

Read the complete story at the link above.

Florida: Modern researchers' resources, Oct. 14

A professional genealogist who has traced her family back to 1760 and documented more than 6,000 family members will speak on "Genealogy - Then and Now: Resources For the Modern Researcher," at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County, Florida on Thursday, October 14.

Monica Freedman Morris, who began her own research in 1976, will discuss the development of Jewish genealogical research and resource tools available today.

Morris is co-founder and president emerita of the JGSBPCI, and author of “Scattered Seeds: A Guide to Jewish Genealogy.” She has presented many genealogy workshops, been a Palm Beach Community College adjunct professor, keynote speaker at the Professional Librarians Association and presented at the Distinguished Lecturer Series.

The day begins at 12:30pm with a brick wall session, followed at 1pm by a brief business meeting and the main presentation. Poland and Romania special interest groups will also meet at 11.30am.

Meetings are held at the South County Civic Center in Delray Beach, Florida. Fee: JGSPBCI members, free; others, $5.

For more information about the brick wall program or to submit advance questions, email program chair Helene Seaman. For special interest groups, email Marvin Lopatin. For other inquiries and program details, contact Tracing the Tribe's good friend Sylvia Nusinov.

27 September 2009

Who Do You Think You Are? US and Australia, 2010

We are getting closer - perhaps - to seeing WDYTYA in the US.

A Broadcast.Co.UK article indicates two interesting facts: The US premiere will now be in January 2010 and Australians will also be able to see the US version:

22 September 2009: Outright Distribution has sold the forthcoming US version of Who Do You Think You Are? into Australia.

Australia’s Nine Network has picked up broadcast rights to the US adapation of the genealogical show, made by British indie Wall to Wall. It is due to launch in the US on NBC in January next year featuring Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon amongst others.
We could hold our breath, but let's see what happens closer to January.

Australia also produces its own version of the show with downunder celebrites.

Georgia: 'Southern Israelite' digitized, online

Historic newspapers are a fountain of important information and even more so are Jewish historic papers.

At left, find a story from the July 30, 1937 Southern Israelite which has just been digitized, indexed and searchable online. Click on the image to see it expanded and more clearly.

Tracing the Tribe hears frequently about new newspaper digitalization projects. The newest project is that of the "Southern Israelite," which was at first a mere temple bulletin in Augusta, Georgia, in 1925.

Thanks to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Georgia, the Breman Museum and the Digital Library of Georgia, the Southern Israelite (1929-1958, 1984-1986) has now been digitized, indexed, and is freely searchable on line. There are more than 22,000 images in the collection.

This project makes it easier than ever to find information about Jewish families in the Southern states. At right, see the social column from the same 1937 issue (click on the image to see an expanded, more clear version).

As it grew in popularity, founder Rabbi H. Cerf Straus expanded to a monthly publication. He sold it to Herman Dessauer and Sara B. Simmons, who moved operations to Atlanta. The paper circulated throughout the state and the South. M. Stephen Schiffer, a former Atlanta Georgian employee, took over as sole owner in 1930.

Even in the early years, it covered not only southern Jewish news but all national and world issues impacting Jewish lives and communities. It carried columns about Jewish communities in Florida and Alabama, and its society columns mentioned almost every Jewish person who visited Atlanta, making this a valuable resource if your families were connected to southern communities.

Along with the monthly magazine, a weekly edition began publication in October 1934. In 1951, Israelite editor Adolph Rosenberg headed a corporation that took over ownership. One major local issue event that became known nationally was the Atlanta Temple bombing in October 1958.

The monthly magazine ended in 1973 as the weekly edition grew and, in 1987, the paper's name was changed to the Atlanta Jewish Times - owned today by Jewish Renaissance Media.

According to information at the website, circulation is more than 25,000.

A DJVu reader is required to see images, and readers can install one from the first link above.

Mississippi: Last holiday in Lexington

All over the Southern US, there are small towns with synagogues barely keeping their doors open, and other communities whose congregations disbanded long ago. In Lexington, Mississippi, this will be the last Yom Kippur at Temple Beth El after 104 years of services.

The Dixie Diaspora's disintegration makes such archives as the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life even more important.

In Andrew Muchin's article in the Forward, the story of Lexington is detailed.

As the members of Temple Beth El in Lexington, Miss., pray this Yom Kippur for inclusion in the Book of Life, they’ll be attending a funeral of sorts. The Ne’ilah, the day’s traditional closing service, will be the last scheduled worship to be held in their 104-year-old white wooden synagogue.

“Our last regular service had four people,” said Phil Cohen, 72, operator of Cohen’s department store which his grandfather founded on Lexington’s town square in 1908.

“This is it,” agreed Henry Paris, 79, who has led Beth El’s High Holy Day services for the past 39 years. “We can’t continue to have a temple for four people. This is it.”

Lexington is a city of about 2,000 people and covers just 2.5 square miles in west-central Mississippi. It’s the smallest community in the state to have supported a synagogue for scores of years.

Jews have lived in Lexington since the 1830s, when German-Jewish immigrants arrived and soon found success as merchants, according to Stuart Rockoff, historian at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss.
In the late 19th century, Russian Jews arrived; a Reform congregation was founded in 1904, and a synagogue built in 1905. There were 80 Jews in 1927, but the Depression caused a decline in numbers. During World War II, 16 Jewish men served in the armed forces; two returned in 1945, 13 moved elsewhere and one was killed.

Lexington took a hit during the 1960s civil rights movement. While Lexington's African-American citizens praised the Jewish businessmen for treating them correctly - as recorded in oral histories - Freedom Summer volunteers registered African-Americans to vote, and several economic boycotts in the late 1960s-70s also impacted Jewish merchants.

Some 40 people attended Rosh Hashanah services - most of them live elsewhere but showed up for the final services.

The synagogue’s well-maintained interior is 90% sanctuary. Each side wall features four tall stained-glass windows with intricate Tiffany-style patterns.

The simple symmetrical exterior with its tall, gabled front porch resembles a rural church. The only visible Jewish symbol is a round window with a small, six-pointed star above the entry.
One former congregant declared there’s “a time to open the synagogue doors and a time to close them. I guess this is the time to close them.”

Cohen and another former town businessman have ideas for moving the building to the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, but nothing has been formalized.

Apologies were not needed for the synagogue's closing, said congregants, and another attendee said they shouldn't sing the blues: “I’m happy that this small congregation survived for 104 years,” she said. “Who would ever have believed it?”

Thanks, Andrew, for a great look at this community. Read the complete article at the link above.

26 September 2009

Florida: Drew Smith in Tampa, Oct. 11

One of Tracing the Tribe's favorite people, Drew Smith of The Genealogy Guys, will speak on genealogy and DNA at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Tampa Bay on Sunday, October 11, 2009

The meeting begins at 1.30pm at the Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, 14041 Icot Blvd., Clearwater.
Are you afraid to try DNA as a research tool because the science seems too intimidating? This overview will explain how DNA relates to genealogy, what kinds of DNA tests are available, and how researchers can share test results with each other as a basis for determining a relationship.
A genealogist with more than 30 years of computer experience, Drew is nationally known and is an instructor at the School of Library and Information Science at USF. He is co-host of the well-known "Genealogy Guys Podcast," writes columns for two computer magazines, and holds many leadership roles in local, national and international genealogy organizations. He's also a digital genealogy expert, and his new book, “Social Networking for Genealogists,” was very well received.

For more information on the JGSTB or future programs, view the group's website.

Ancestry mag's archives online

A curious group of stories began appearing in Tracing the Tribe's Google alerts a few days ago.

There were many stories with Jewish content coming from Ancestry Magazine. I've seen stories from as far back as 2000 and some as new as August 2009.

Over the years, the magazine has included quite a number of Jewish genealogy content articles, which are now easily accessible online along with the redesign of the website.

Of course, many of the older ones (and even a very new one) leave out great resources for Jewish genealogy, such as Tracing the Tribe, but for those just starting out on personal quests for their Jewish ancestors, the articles will provide interesting content. The DNA articles by my colleague Howard Wolinsky are also listed.

In the magazine's homepage Search Box (upper right corner) just enter the keyword Jewish. Scroll down to see the long list of articles arranged chronologically from most recent to oldest. Not all the articles carry the Jewish tag, but the articles produced by the search do mention Jewish genealogy or ancestry in one way or another.

It was, however, a bit disconcerting to see an article titled National Church Repositories (published in 2000), based on a 1994 list of church repositories in the US and Canada. The Canadian Jewish Archives was included as a "church repository."

Thanks, Ancestry Magazine, for making these available and accessible online.

New Jersey: Monmouth County Jewish Museum

InJersey.com is a place for everything and anything going on in the state. It's where I found out about the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County.

This post mentions one of the county's first Jewish philanthropists, its Jewish history and a program set for October.

The Jersey shore saw such rapid development in the 1800s that the museum calls the area the Jewish Newport. The story focuses on Sigmund and Bertha Eisner.
The first permanent Jewish communities in Monmouth County were established by German-Jewish immigrants arriving in the mid-1800's. By the end of the Civil War, sizable numbers of these businessmen and their families were well established in and around Keyport, Red Bank, Long Branch and Freehold. Synonymous with this development was the career of Sigmund Eisner, who was born in Bohemia in 1859.

The Eisner family eventually bequeathed their family home (photo at right) to the town of Red Bank to be used as a public library.

At the time when nearby Long Branch was America's premiere resort, Sigmund and Bertha Eisner joined the wealthy vacationing German-Jewish elite who made up the in-crowd of the "Jewish Newport on the Jersey Shore" as early supporters of the city's first synagogue.
The museum will present a program highlighting Eisner's career in"The Jewish Newport on the Jersey Shore," at 7pm, Thursday, October 8, at the Red Bank Public Library, 84 Front St., Red Bank, NJ.

25 September 2009

JGSLA 2010: Conference site, blog now live!

The 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy website is now live - and JGSLA 2010 also features a blog.

The conference will run from July 11-16, 2010, at the new JW Marriott at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.

The conference site is here: http://www.jgsla2010.com/

Read the JGSLA 2010 blog here: http://www.jgsla2010.com/blog/

Three posts are now up:

- Go West, Genealogists!

- Get Ready, Get Set, Mark Your Calendars!

- Coming on a Jet Plane or a Slow Train?

Did you know that you can reserve your room right now?
Do you know when the Call for Papers will begin?
Do you know the way to LA?
Did you know JGSLA 2010 is on Twitter and Facebook?

Visit the JGSLA 2010 website and the event blog for details.

Poland: JRI-Poland, Kielce-Radom SIG agreement

Stanley Diamond, executive director of Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (JRI-Poland), has just informed Tracing the Tribe of this important announcement concerning an agreement with the Kielce-Radom Special Interest Group (K-R SIG)

In 2004, following years of outstanding contributions of in-depth research in this geographical area of Poland, the K-R SIG Journal ceased publication of its hard copy journal. During and since that time, the indices of many towns published in the Journal were transferred to JRI-Poland and are available in the online searchable online database.

With the new agreement, full extracts for tens of thousands of records from all towns, originally published in the K-R Journal, in addition to thousands more extracts - that had not been published - will be integrated into the JRI-P database in its freely available and searchable online database.

The extracts are from LDS microfilms of Polish-Jewish records.

- The K-R SIG web pages are now been integrated into the JRI-Poland website and all information concerning K-R SIG data is now available through a thumbnail link at the bottom of the JRI-P home page (link above).

- All K-R SIG Journal editions have been scanned and now online at JRI-Poland, freely searchable and downloadable PDF files.

- To benefit previous Journal subscribers and all researchers with an interest in the geographical area covered in the former Kielce and Radom Gubernia - and as part of the closing of its accounts - the K-R SIG management has made a generous grant to JRI-Poland for the funding of records from these areas.These funds have enabled JRI-Poland to complete funding for the following towns originally indexed under the JRI-Poland/Polish State Archives (PSA) project.The data for these towns is now searchable online:
Bodzentyn: BMD 1885-1904
Checiny: BMD 1885-1903
Daleszyce: BMD 1897-1904
Grojec: BMD 1878~1902
Konskie: BMD1885-1904
Ksiaz Wielki: B1869-71,87-99; M 1862-1880; D_1869-71,97-99 (some Krakow data)
Lopuszno: BMD 1874-1904
Miechow: BMD 1870~1903+1872-74 (some Krakow data)
Mogielnica: BMD 1878-1901
Radom: Books of Residents
Radoszyce: BMD 1885-1904
Warka: BMD 1878-1901,1903
Wloszczowa: BD 1824-1903; M 1823~1903
Wolanow: BMD 1878~1903
On behalf of the board of JRI-Poland and the K-R SIG management, Stanley writes:

I would like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt appreciation to Warren Blatt, founding editor of the Journal and K-R SIG Advisory Group members Debra Braverman and Carol Isaak who made the decision to entrust JRI-Poland with their valuable work.

At the same time, I would like to offer special thanks to Hadassah Lipsius and Meira Puterman who had the major task of adapting the K-R SIG web pages (and PDF links) to the JRI-Poland web site and to JRI-Poland Database Manager Michael Tobias who processed all the new data so quickly for this special launch.

What excellent news to start the Jewish New Year 5770, with so many accessible online resources. Thank you to everyone involved.

Yom Kippur: Who's coming to your break-fast?

For a twist on the usual "name five people you'd like to have dinner with," the JPS Blog posted this question: Name five Jewish authors (living or not) you'd like to break the Yom Kippur fast with.

Sarah's JPS Blog post listed Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead), Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything is illuminated), Philip Roth (Portnoy's Complaint) and Shel Silverstein (The Giving Tree and others).


Tracing the Tribe would like to break-the-fast with this group: Cecil Roth (History of the Marranos ... uh ... Conversos!), Pere Bonnin (Sangre Judia), Dr. Spencer Wells (DNA books), Jon Entine (Abraham's Children) and Mel Brooks (aka Melvin Kaminsky, too many too list), but I'm also adding in Jeff Malka (Sephardic Genealogy). The more the merrier.

Anyone else coming? Let me know as I have to order the bagels.

While searching around, I found some interesting online resources such as Quoteland.com. Here's one of Mel's lines:

"Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him."
Almost like genealogy, except our hundreds or thousands of separate people live in our genealogy software programs.

And this one at Famous Quotes & Authors, particularly fitting:

Look at Jewish history. Unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So, for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy and amuse the breast-beaters. By the time I was five I knew I was that one.
We have a choice of laughing or crying through life. I choose laughter.

Onion or plain? Let me know.

Brooklyn: Conversos follow tradition

The Jewish High Holydays usually produce a plethora of stories about Conversos or Bnai Anousim, and this year is no different.

Moshe and ChanaLeah Nunez have an interesting story on CNN, a video link and photos here. The photo here is their wedding photo before they converted to Judaism.

Every Friday evening, the Nunez family sits down to a traditional religious dinner.

Moshe Nunez and his family moved to Crown Heights, a New York neighborhood with thousands of Hasidic Jews.

Like most families in their Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, their Jewish Sabbath meal includes blessings over the wine and bread, the company of family and friends and excellent food.

But for the Nunez family, the Sabbath table would not be complete without salsa picada and jalapeno dip.
Born to a Mexican father and American mother, Moshe Nunez is an information technology consultant and motivational speaker who was raised in Guadalajara, Mexico. His wife, ChanaLeah is the daughter of a Salvadoran mother and American-born father who was raised in Panama. They have a son,Michael, 17, and daughter Simcha, 18.

"Our home is a Latin American home," Nunez says.

"We bring into our home a mixture of the American and Latin culture, and that's reflected in the way we eat. We also enjoy hosting guests, so it's a very Hispanic thing, and a Jewish thing."
Nunez says that among thousands of Hasidic families in the area, a significant number are Latinos.

"There are a lot of Latin American Jews here," Nunez says. "Some of them have moved from countries like Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina, where there's political unrest. We make a life here, settle down and become part of the fabric of American society, but we still don't lose our roots."

Many non-Jewish Latinos are surprised to see Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn who speak Spanish, carry on their Hispanic traditions and even keep up with soccer scores from their home countries, Nunez says.
While an excellent story about this couple and what they represent, Tracing the Tribe wasn't happy that the pejorative term Marranos (instead of Conversos or Bnai Anousim) was used many times in the article. You might think CNN would know better.

Nunez began working on his family genealogy some 13 years ago when they lived in Atlanta, and he met Lorraine Nunez, raised as a Christian, who believed she was a direct descendant of the famous Portuguese physician Samuel Nunez who arrived in Savannah, Georgia in the 1700s and helped start Congregation Mikve Israel.

Lorraine inspired Moshe - then Marco - to explore his own genealogy. ChanaLeah - then Jacqueline - knew that her army colonel grandfather in El Salvador was Jewish. The couple believed their ancestors were conversos from Spain and Portugal.

[NOTE: According to Tracing the Tribe's copy of Pere Bonnin's "Sangre Judia," there are several listings for this name: Nunes 1634 Toledo, Nunez 1634 Toledo, Nunez 1202 Galicia, Nunez de Leon 1721 Sevilla, Nunez de Najara 1593 Granada and Nunez de Silva 1654 Alcala. It also appears frequently in the various Sephardic name indexes at SephardicGen.com and in the indexed name engine at Sephardim.com, which indicates a strong Jewish connection.]

Moshe began studying the Bible, including the Torah, while working on the family genealogy, and - when they relocated to Milan, Italy for his work, the couple continued their Judaic studies under Orthodox rabbis and had Orthodox conversions to Judaism, changing their names to Moshe and ChanaLeah.
The Jewish community in Milan welcomed the family "with open arms," Moshe said. "The rabbi said to me, 'Moshe, you are Jewish, you were always Jewish.'"
The couple who are both songwriters and musicians were inspired by their experiences and wrote a song - "Jews of Spain" in Spanish, English and Hebrew. It is on Nunez's album, "Kol Haneshema" (Every Soul).

He hopes that sharing the knowledge of Torah through education, songs and acts of kindness will ensure that what happened to the Conversos during the Inquisition won't happen again.

Read the complete story at the link above, and also view a video in which Nunez talks about his life, cooks and sings.

Thanks to Rabbi Gary Gans for this link!

Brooklyn: 3 synagogues named 'Historic Places'

Three Brooklyn synagogues have been chosen for the State Register of Historic Places, according to the New York Landmarks Conservancy's Sacred Sites Program. Several others are waiting approval.

The Brooklyn Eagle story is here.

The three synagogues are:

- Ocean Parkway Jewish Center, Kensington. Built 1924-1926, the Classical Revival-style synagogue/center was designed by Brooklyn architects Samuel Malkind and Martyn Weinstein.

- Shaari Zedek Synagogue, Bedford-Stuyvesant. Built 1909-1910, it is an early work by an important and influential Brooklyn-born architect Eugene Schoen, who was also an interior and furniture designer. Since 1944, it has been St. Leonard’s Church.

- Kol Israel Synagogue, Crown Heights. Built in 1928 and designed by Brooklyn architect Tobias Goldstone, it features a fieldstone facade embellished with Moorish-influenced decoration.

Three more sites - Jewish Center of Kings Highway, Young Israel of Flatbush and Kingsway Jewish Center — have been reviewed by SHPO staff, and will be presented at the December board meeting, according to Friedman. The seventh — Temple Beth El of Boro Park — is still being researched.
Nominations mean eligibility of Sacred Site grant and loan programs and other possible restoration funding sources.

Over 22 years, it has made more than 100 grants to 50 landmark Brooklyn churches, synagogues and meeting houses - some $800,000. During 2007-09, a Brooklyn survey identified 172 religious buildings that have functioned as synagogues; 113 current and 59 former synagogues were surveyed, as well as 118 Roman Catholic churches.

Aliza Ross of Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, who worked on the survey, wrote in an email, “During the summer of 2007, myself and two colleagues working for the Conservancy spent three months looking for historic synagogues in Brooklyn. (Most are not listed in the white pages, therefore, one must drive and/or walk around to find them.) We spent hours upon hours researching their history, documenting their condition, and discussing their eligibility with Kathy Howe of the SHPO. Without the work of the NY Landmarks Conservancy, these synagogues would still be unknown architectural gems.”
Read the complete article at the link above for much more information.

Thanks to Joy Rich for this link!

24 September 2009

Webinar: Footnote.com at Family Tree Magazine

If you'd like to learn more about Footnote.com, Family Tree Magazine is offering a free 30-minute webinar for your enjoyment.

Footnote launched in 2007, and the subscription site offers millions of photographs and other images, such as census, military records, naturalizations, newspapers and much more. Additional resources are added very frequently.

The webinar will cover what records are available at Footnote, search demos, the Footnote image viewer, how to create Footnote Pages about your ancestors with information and images you upload (these Pages are also available for non-subscription members).

To see the webinar, click here to read more at Diane's post in the Genealogy Insider blog. Click the big orange button in the blog post, type in your first and last names and email address. Then click "Register" to launch the webinar player.


Germany: Hamburg's BallinStadt Museum

Stories with Jewish genealogy connections appear around the world, including India.

Hamburg's Ballinstadt museum is the focus of this story at Hindu-.com by Gunvanthi Balaram who visited the site; there are also photos.

The museum was set up in mid-2007 by the Stiftung Hamburg Maritim, a foundation dedicated to preserving Hamburg’s rich maritime heritage, at a cost of 12 million euros. Two-thirds were public funds and private sponsors provided one-third, such as the Hapag-Lloyd shipping company.

The museum is named after Jewish entrepreneur Albert Ballin who, in 1901, built BallinStadt, “a city within the city,” on the island of Veddel to house would-be immigrants who arrived in Hamburg from everywhere to board his Hapag (Hamburg-America Line) ships for the America.

BallinStadt had 30 buildings, including a synagogue, a church, a hospital, cafeterias and a playground. In November 1918, after the Kaiser's empire and his own business collapsed, Ballin committed suicide. The "city" and the Hapag ships were used later by Nazis to move troops.

Today's site has three “replica” BallinStadt buildings, where visitors learn about the immigrant experience through artifacts, photos, documents, film footage, interactive exhibits and via mannequins whose stories are recited through handsets.

“We did not want to stick to a traditional museum concept,” explains BallinStadt’s research chief Jorge Birkner, a German historian with Brazilian roots. “We plumped for the interactive concept; our angle was that people should be able to relate to the exhibits.”

People clearly do. An elderly man seemed close to tears as he listened to the account of a 17-year-old Polish boy whose parents, fearing he would be drafted, had convinced him to flee to America in 1904, after war broke out between Russia and Germany. Teenagers frowned at the tale of a young iron-smelter who had to abandon his beloved worker-grandparents to escape inflation and riots after French and Belgian forces occupied his native Ruhr Valley in 1924, and ended up at the Ford factory in Detroit. Others sighed over stories out of the Jewish exodus.

“What does home mean to you?” asked a mannequin’s sombre voice after one account. And I was reminded of Friedrich Schiller’s words: “Home is probably the most valuable thing human beings can possess.” Home away from home, too: when you consider the sections on émigré success stories — Kellog, Levi Strauss, Heinz, Miller, Steinway, the Vogt family, the Kissingers — and on new migrants in Germany.
Visitors can also view passenger lists with details on 5 million people of all ages who left for America from Hamburg (1850-1939). The museum's computers feature Ancestry.com which has those passenger lists. Its archives feature digital collections of documents, biographies and much more.

Read the complete article at the link above to read personal stories and more details about the museum. For more on the museum, click here.

Israel: $6 million gift to Bet Hatfutsot

It's nice when the birthday boy gives a present to a museum.

Leonid Nevzlin, chair of the International Board of governors of Bet Hatfutsot (Museum of the Diaspora), gave a $6 million donation, through his NADAV Fund, to the museum in honor of his 50th birthday and was announced Wednesday evening, September 23, at his birthday party at the museum.

At the event, Nevzlin said:

“The new museum will be one of the principal tools available to us for ensuring the future of the Jewish People and its prosperity. I believe that visitors at the museum will not only be moved emotionally, but it will also teach them about their Jewish roots, and succeed in connecting them with the collective story of the Jewish People.”
The gift will go towards establishing the ‘Museum of the Jewish People’ in Beit Hatfutsot - the first museum in the world to tell the story of the Jewish people.

Nevzlin has provided several previous donations which helped save the institution during a severe budget crisis a few years ago.

The Museum of the Jewish People will cost some $24 million and is planned to open to local and international visitors in 2012. The 16,000 sq. m. museum will house a new permanent three-story exhibit of 4,200 sq. m., in the Nahum Goldmann building on the Tel Aviv University campus.

The gift marked the launch of an international fundraising campaign which will begin in the next few days with the goal of funding the museum.

Belarus: Lyakhovichi site additions

Special interest groups help researchers focus their research and provide a location for geo-specific resources.

One such site is the Lyakhovichi/Lechovich (Belarus) site at JewishGen. Webmaster Deborah Glassman is always expanding this collection of valuable resources.

Recent changes include the following details:

- 230 webpages, an expansion of more than 25%.
- 5,000+ images, doubled from previous versions.
- 1,200+ New York-area gravestone photos, indexed by surname and full Hebrew name.
- 300+ data extractions - New York City Death Certificates (1893-1943) .
- Names of Lechovichers living in nearby Baranovich, Kletsk and Gorodische.

Additional data includes names from Jewish Colonial Trust documents, World War I Draft records, professional directories, etc. There are more obituaries, a 1937 list of midwives in Lechovich and Baranovich, mortality rate analyses (1834 and 1850 Revision Lists) and other Revision Lists residency changes.

If your family has a connection Lyakhovichi/Lechovich or the adjacent areas, do check out these resources at the link above; check out the "new" section.

Ongoing projects include translating original Russian records. A searchable database now includes 2,258 entries for 12 Supplementary Revision files (1858-1884). Visit the site for surnames in these records.

Congratulations to Deborah for her work on this site.

Southern California: Remembering the victims, Oct. 5

Professor Dan Brown will examine his work with Stephen Spielberg's "Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Project" and the memorials to the memory of those slaughtered by the Nazis during World War II, at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV).

Brown will also address the need to educate today's youth to the dangers of hate groups and their inclination to use violence against innocent people.

The meeting will begin at 7pm, Monday, October 5 at Temple Adat Elohim, 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks. Note that the time and day of the week differ from the usual meeting time.

Author Daniel Patrick Brown is dean of Moorpark College's Social and Behavioral Science Division, a Holocaust instructor and a member of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust Advisory Board. His books include: "The Beautiful Beast: The Life & Crimes of SS-Aufseherin Irma Grese," and "The Camp Women: The Female Auxiliaries Who Assisted the SS in Running the Nazi Concentration Camp System."

"The Beautiful Beast," will be available for sale ($20, including tax) at the meeting.

The meeting is free. For more information on this or future events, contact the JGSCV.

23 September 2009

Genealogy Guys Podcast: Tracing the Tribe's interview

The Southern California Genealogical Society 2009 Jamboree was a great event in every way. Tracing the Tribe was interviewed at the conference by the Genealogy Guys, Drew Smith and George Morgan.

The Genealogy Guys Podcast was posted a few days ago; click here to view the video interview which covered Jewish genealogy in general, FamilyTreeDNA.com, MyHeritage.com, Tracing the Tribe and much more!

Here's another head's up: Tracing the Tribe will be interviewed by Susan E. King on her online radio show on Tuesday, November 3. Stay tuned for more information.

Getting back to the extremely successful Jamboree conference for a moment - I hope readers have their calendars marked for Jamboree 2010, June 11-16 at the Burbank Airport Marriott. Tracing the Tribe will be there again, as will many other geneabloggers, with many special events planned.

Just a few short weeks after Jamboree, Jewish genealogists and those searching their Jewish ancestry from around the world will also be converging on Los Angeles, as the 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (JGSLA 2010) is set for July 11-16, at the new JW Marriott at L.A. Live.

Tracing the Tribe will be covering Jamboree and also working closely in several important areas with JGSLA 2010. Stay tuned for lots of exciting news!

New Blog: Never Again!

"Never Again! An Online Holocaust Memorial" is a new blog written by Chris, who lives in Indiana.

What's interesting about this particular Holocaust-focused blog is that Chris is not Jewish. Here is his introduction:

Welcome to my new blog. I am a Gentile Christian who was not directly effected by the Jewish Holocaust. However, I had relatives who fought valiantly for the Allied cause, including my paternal grandfather. I am forever grateful to Grandpa Doyle and America’s “Greatest Generation” for their bravery in defending freedom. Likewise, I am grateful for the untold masses who were spared execution in Nazi-controlled Europe.

That said, I have dedicated the last year and a half to Holocaust research, devouring every book or video I could check out at the local library. I have subjected my wife to countless hours of documentaries and heated discussions about the unspeakable atrocities we call The Holocaust. And in January 2009, I took her and my two young children to the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute (IN) where we celebrated the 75th birthday of Auschwitz survivor Eva Kor.

Since my introduction to Eva, thanks to her video "Forgiving Dr. Mengele," I have researched The Holocaust with increased vigor, trying to find a way that I might help to ensure that it never happens again. Then, I picked up Abraham Foxman’s book "Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism" and realized that education is the only means to that end. Therefore, I present this blog as a lasting memorial to the 6-million-plus who suffered and died nearly two generations ago.

Visit Chris's blog at the link above.

22 September 2009

USHMM: Holocaust conferences planned

The Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum has announced several conferences and calls for papers.

Lessons and Legacies XI will take place at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida. The proposal deadline (for panels, papers and workshops) is October 31, 2009 and the conference is set for November 4-7, 2010.

The conference is sponsored by the Holocaust Educational Foundation and FAU. Programming includes up to three roundtables, up to 18 panels and up to 14 workshops relating to recent issues and advances in scholarship on all aspects of Holocaust Studies and for further research.

Send proposals for panels and individual papers to both program co-chairs, University of Vermont Professor Frank Nicosia and Dartmouth College Professor Susannah Heschel. Include a title, brief description of the panel as a whole, with names, institutional affiliations, contact information, paper titles and abstracts of all panelists. Applicants will be informed by January 31, 2010. Workshop proposals go to USHMM CAHS Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Denison University Professor Donald Schilling and Hillary Earl.

For more information, go to the Holocaust Education Foundation.
Bearing Witness: Memory, Representation, and Pedagogy in the Post-Holocaust Age will be held at Shenandoah University, Winchester, Virginia. The proposal deadline is October 30, 2009, and the conference will take place April 12-13, 2010.

It will bring together scholars, teachers, students, and community members to explore: (1) how the study of the Holocaust will change without the benefit of eyewitnesses; (2) how literature, film, theater, and music can be used as interpretive voices of memory and teaching tools; (3) how teachers, scholars, and students can preserve and interpret memory responsibly, as the Holocaust becomes a more distant historical event and in the face of persistent Holocaust denial; (4) how Christian and Jewish responses and theologies frame, remember, and respond to this genocide; and (5) how memory of the Holocaust can affect action to halt genocide.

Papers on these subjects are welcome: Teaching the Holocaust through Literature and Film: Sources, Challenges, and Scholarship; The Future of Memory: Defining, Teaching, and Analyzing Testimony; Memory and Faith: Christian and Jewish encounters with the Holocaust; or Engaging Student Activism: How Holocaust Memory Can Affect Actions to Halt Genocide.

Send a 1-2 page double-spaced abstract and CV to Assistant Professor Petra Schweitzer.
Conference on Genocide and Human Experience: Raphael Lemkin's Thought and Vision will be held at the Center for Jewish History, New York City, on Sunday, November 15, 2009.

An international group of historians, political scientists, anthropologists, legal authorities, philosophers, and policy-makers will gather at the Center for Jewish History in New York City to focus a lens on genocide through an exclusive examination of the writings of Raphael Lemkin, author of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The conference will explore the intersection of historical documentation and contemporary interpretation, and to investigate the efforts of new generations of scholars, human rights advocates and activists to address, prevent and deal with the aftermath of genocide.

See the program and participating scholars here.
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc. (Claims Conference) is offering fellowships for PhD candidates in advanced Shoah studies. the application deadline is January 25, 2010.

The mission is to support advanced study of the fate of Jews who were systematically targeted for destruction or persecution by the Nazis and their allies between 1933 and 1945. Studies can include the immediate historical context in which the Shoah took place; political, economic, legal, religious and socio-cultural aspects; ethical and moral implications. The Fellowship program also supports awardees in learning languages of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union which are necessary for the study of Shoah related documents. Fellowships are awarded to outstanding candidates who have a strong personal commitment to Shoah memory, who have demonstrated excellence in academic achievement, and who possess the potential to provide outstanding professional leadership that will shape the future of Shoah awareness and scholarship.

Click here for more information.
Let others know about these events.

GenClass: Family history contest, October

GenClass.com - which provides genealogy education online - has announced its new "Celebrate Your Family History Contest," in conjunction with National Family History Month in October.

The winner will receive a free course of his or her choice - check out the course offerings at GenClass.

Here are the details:

Tell GenClass - in 1,200 words or less - all about the most creative way you’ve honored your ancestors and what inspired you to do so. It could be in a book, a quilt, music, artwork or other form.

Word text only please (no images should be attached, although links to images within the text are accepted). Type or paste the text into the body of an e-mail message with the subject line: GenClass Celebrate Family History Contest. Send it to lisa.genclass@gmail.com.

The deadline for submissions is Monday, October 5 (midnight Eastern Standard Time).

One winner will be randomly drawn from all submissions received by the deadline, and the winning entry will be published in a future issue of the GenClass newsletter.

Have you honored your ancestors in a creative way?

If not, now is the time to do it!

New Hampshire: Living 1919 again!

Tracing the Tribe loves living museums where people and businesses recreate ordinary life as it was in a particular historical period. Williamsburg (Virginia) is one of those places I could visit every year!

In New Hampshire, the Strawbery Banke restoration is a living museum demonstrating some 350 years of preserved Portsmouth homes, stores, churches and history. It's located in Puddle Dock, a rundown neighborhood that was supposed to be torn down for urban renewal. Fortunately, a 1950s-60s campaign, led by the town's librarian, saved 42 houses on 10 acres for the museum.

And there's a Jewish element to the restoration as actor Barbara Ann Paster plays Shiva Shapiro in 1919.

According to this New York Times article, the area was settled in 1623 by the English and named after the wild strawberries they found there. In the early 20th century, the Italians, Irish, English, French-Canadians and Eastern European Jews came to find work. By 1919, there were some 152 Russian Jews, about 25% of the immigrants of Puddle Dock; 18 of them were Shapiro relatives.
“Shlom Aleichem!” Shiva Shapiro said in a heavy Yiddish accent to her visitors.

As she deftly stuffed cabbage leaves with rice and stewed tomatoes, and displayed other dishes she has made on her 1900 Beauty Hub coal stove, Ms. Shapiro drew her guests into her life.

“This is 1919,” she said. “Last year was the end of the influenza epidemic and the end of the war to end all wars. We’re a Jewish family and we’re keeping kosher in our home. I don’t read English, only Yiddish and Hebrew. My daughter Mollie learned about bananas at school. I think that bananas are mushy, but I take her to buy a hand of bananas for 25 cents.”
In her persona as Shapiro, Paster's cooking follows the seasons and the Jewish calendar. She makes strawberry jam, pickles cucumbers with dill and puts up peaches with brandy. For Rosh Hashana, she made pasta dough strips into bowtie noodles for her kasha, as well as honey and poppy seed cakes.
Mrs. Paster, 61, has been portraying Mrs. Shapiro since the Shapiro house opened in 1997. “My entire life was made for this job,” Mrs. Paster said with a laugh. “I married an Orthodox man. I’m Jewish from Russia, so I know the rules of kashrut and family purity. I am also a storyteller.”
The first Mrs. Shapiro arrived in 1905 from Anapol, Ukraine to meet her future husband from the same town in Portsmouth where Abraham worked in a shoe factory and later was the Portsmouth synagogue's president.

As Shapiro, Paster portrays a 34-year-old woman whose time is spent in a kitchen with coal stove and icebox. The museum staff were very careful about the historical accuracy of the foods Shapiro/Paster prepared and what items the family actually would have had available.
“To authenticate the Shapiro house,” said Michelle Moon, director of education for the museum, “the curatorial staff interviewed 30 people from the neighborhood and took pollen and seed analyses to determine what grew and was eaten in their home.”
The immigrants brought seeds of traditional vegetables such as yellow Ukrainian carrots, kale, parsnips, yellow Ukrainian tomatoes and others. Seed catalogs of 1919 included Russian cucumbers and yellow Zubrinski potatoes, which now grow there. Read about Strawbery Banke's historic gardens and heirloom seeds here, which offers information on the Shapiro Garden:
The Shapiro Garden is a recreated Russian Jewish immigrant family’s garden of 1919. It is representative of the many small urban gardens planted by the different ethnicities that made up the early 20th-century Puddle Dock neighborhood. The Shapiros used their garden to propagate many types of vegetables, such as heirloom cabbage, garlic, breadseed poppy, hyssop and yellow Ukrainian tomatoes, which helped to preserve the diet and culture of their homeland.
In the nearby town of Greenland, Jewish farmers even grew buckwheat (kasha), an immigrant staple.

If you are ever near Portsmouth, take some time to visit Strawbery Banke.

Books: Jewish Publication Society's new blog

The Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is directly responsible for my general interest in genealogy and specifically in Sephardic history.

Back in junior high school, when I attended summer music camp at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, I found the campus bookstore and my first buy was the JPS edition of Cecil Roth's "History of the Marranos" - before most of us knew that the word was pejorative.

JPS now has its own blog and one post I found interesting was Don't know much bout Jewish history, which addresses historiography, or the history of history. Some historians write about history, other historians write abut how other historians write history.

Depending on who is writing for whom, their research methodology, philosophy and values, various writers will develop different views of the same event or period.

Naomi wrote in this post about Zakhor: Jewish Memory and Jewish History, by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, a case of Jewish historiography.

In this book, Yerushalmi traces the development of how Jews not only studied, but remembered, their own history. According to Yerushalmi, throughout much of its lifetime, Judaism has had an uneasy relationship with the formal writing and studying of history. He claims that writers of Jewish history over the ages have typically engaged in what should really be called “selective memory” – recording and commemorating some events and not others, couching historical events in a religious language and context, or simply forgoing recorded history in favor of commemorative holidays or liturgical poems. It’s all fascinating stuff, gracefully written, and completely accessible for any lay reader.
She adds that in the near future JPS will be publishing a Jewish history work dating to the medieval period. Sounds interesting!

New Books: Lost tribes and cuisines

Tablet Magazine usually has at least one article that Tracing the Tribe really likes and recommends.

The most recent "On the Bookshelf" feature by Josh Lambert offers several new books that readers may find interesting.

Now on my wish list are these three:

Far From Zion: In Search of a Global Jewish Community (William Morrow, October)

The Ten Lost Tribes: A World History (Oxford, September)

Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora (URJ, October)

Zion, by journalist Charles London, covers the "wide, wide world of Jews," and London visited Myanmar, Cuba, Bosnia and Iran, writing a "paean to Diaspora and the furthest-flung Jews." $25.99, 320pp.

Lost Tribes, by Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, recounts the myths and theories about where all these Jews went after their exile in 800 BCE. Benite previously wrote about the history of Islam in China. $29.95, 320pp.

Entree - by Dallas food writer Tina Wasserman - covers the range of world Jewish food, likely carried around the world by Jewish merchants and spice traders, as she shares histories and recipes of the great Diaspora communities. 274 recipes and many photographs. $39.95.

Others on Lambert's list will be of interest to researchers of specific localities:

- The Agony of Greek Jews, 1940–1945 (Stanford, October), by Steven B. Bowman - Greece

- Gratitude (St. Martin’s, October), by Joseph Kertes - Hungary

- The Jewish Husband (Europa Editions, September), by Lia Levi - Italy

- The Jade Cat (Overlook, September), by Suzanne Brøgger - Denmark

Read the complete article at Tablet at the link above. Books are great gifts for all sorts of occasions and remember that Chanukah arives early this year!

Footnote.com: 60 millionth image added

If one picture is worth one thousand words, what's the value of 60 million images?

Footnote.com has just posted its 60 millionth image. If you find just one image of an ancestor or a document about that individual that couldn't be found elsewhere, the value is priceless.

There's nothing like an original resource and Footnote.com helps researchers by providing photos, letters and documents through its digitization projects. While indexes and transcriptions are very useful, nothing really replaces seeing the original. Researchers know that the more an item is indexed by human beings or a document is transcribed, the more likely an error may creep in. Viewing the original helps to minimize such errors.

I always check the site as new collections are introduced and have found records for many related individuals.

October is Family History Month and Footnote's been busy adding more than a million new records each month, in addition to millions of images. The site's partnerships with organizations, such as the National Archives and Gannett publishers, has produced digitized and indexed historical documents and photos.

Researchers around the world can access these valuable resources online, and scholars, historians and genealogists use Footnote's unique record collections, including:

Historical Newspapers
Revolutionary War Documents
Civil War Records and Photos
The Interactive Vietnam Veterans Memorial
WWII Collection

While the subscription site is for-fee, it also includes a number of free collections, such as the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), which allows visitors to create interactive experiences from a simple index. For each record, there's a page featuring a timeline, map, photo gallery and a place for readers to contribute stories and details about an individual. The index spans those born in 1875 through those who died last week, providing name, birth date, death date and last known residence.

Visit Footnote.com to explore these and other historical collections.

Genius grants: Members of the Tribe

The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles discussed the MacArthur Foundation's list of "genius grant" recipients, based on today's New York Times article.

The MacArthur Foundation gives each of its 24 recipients $500,000 over 5 years in unrestricted funds to continue his or her work. Grants generally go to artists, scientists and thinkers whose work crosses disciplines and boundaries.

Three of the most obvious members of the tribe (MOTs) are

- Short-story writer Deborah Eisenberg, 63, a short-story writer, who grew up in Winnetka, Illinois. The NYT Book Review called her "one of the most important fiction writers now at work."

- Evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro, 33, of Pennsylvania State University, is known for mtDNA analysis of the dodo and ecology articles in journals. Smithsonian Magazine (in 2007) named her one of 37 young American innovators under the age of 36.

- Law professor Elyn Saks, 53, of the University of Southern California, who fights for the rights of the mentally ill and has written of her own mental illness.

Tracing the Tribe believes there may be a few more MOTs on the complete list of recipients.

Read the complete Jewish Journal article and the New York Times report. View the MacArthur Foundation site at the link above for more information on each of the 24 recipients.

21 September 2009

Massachusetts: Portuguese American Archives

A new archive located at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth may provide information for those of Portuguese Sephardic ancestry.

The location of the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese American Archives is important as it is located between the cities of New Bedford and Fall River, at the center of a region with one of the largest Portuguese-origin immigrant communities.

Indeed, there is evidence that numbers of Portuguese immigrants were of Sephardic converso heritage, although this is not addressed in the archival material read by Tracing the Tribe. See "The Sephardic Connection" below.

Read more about the collection here.

Endowed in 2005 and named for Affonso Ferreira-Ferreira Mendes, a well-known radio personality and producer in Taunton, the archives has been actively collecting, since 1996, records of social, cultural, educational and religious organizations and personal and family papers of the Portuguese community in the United States.

There are 19 collections: Manuscripts documenting local and national Portuguese American families and organizations, photos on a wide range of topics, an oral history collection of 87 interviews(see the surnames), more than 150 boxes of original newspapers from the U.S. Portuguese press, and personal papers collections of local politicians, educators, authors and businessmen. There is information on the Azores and Cape Verde.

In 2007, the Archives received an endowment from Edmund Dinis to establish the Edmund Dinis Portuguese American Political, Legal and Public Service Collection. Later the same year the Government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores pledged significant funds to support the archives and share digital resources.

The Archives also seeks additional family papers, business or organizational records to be a part of the permanent history of the Portuguese community in the U.S. See the announcement above for more information on contributing material to the Archives.

The Archives is also sponsoring events through December [Note the PDF takes a long time to load], and topics include: Portuguese Ethnic Media: Quest for Survival; Community, Culture and the Makings of Identity: Portuguese-Americans Along the Eastern Seaboard; Recording Oral Histories Workshop; Finding Your Ancestors Workshop on Portuguese genealogy presented by genealogists Cheri Mello and George Pacheco; Our Lady of the Artichokes and other Portuguese-American Stories; Organizing and Preserving Your Family History Workshop; and others.

There are several additional links: PAA Collection guides, Diário de Notícias, Newspaper Digitization Project The Archives has the only complete run (1919-1973) of the Portuguese newspaper Diário de Notícias. Available on microfilm for many years, it is now available free at this link. If you are searching for your Portuguese link, check out the weddings, births, deaths and social gatherings, passenger ship information and ads and photographs; PAA Photographic exhibit.

The Sephardic Connection

Many Portuguese of Sephardic Jewish ancestry came to Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Anecdotal events include families privately visiting synagogues to be married Jewishly before public church weddings. In Providence, Rhode Island, in particular, Portuguese sweet bread looking and tasting exactly like very good challah is found in many bakeries.

The Jewish history in the Azores and Cape Verde is another piece of the puzzle, as was the tragedy of Sau Tome island. When many Spanish Jews escaped to Portugal in 1492, they thought they would be safe. However, in 1497, Portugal began clamoring for them to convert or leave. Because few converted, the plan to force them to convert included removing their children by force and sending them to the inhospitable island of Sau Tome, where many died in the first few years.

It is possible that those of Portuguese converso background may find information on their own families in this collection. The surnames listed on the 87 oral history interviews are found in many Sephardic name sites and books.