30 November 2009

Calling Galitzianers: Newsletter material sought

Are you a Galitzianer?

If your research takes you back to this Austro-Hungarian area which became Poland and is now in Ukraine, learn about the resources at Gesher Galicia, the special interest group that focuses on this geographic area.

Tracing the Tribe often writes about the area, the group and its activities as our FINK family comes from Skalat and Suchostaw.

Gesher Galicia also has an informative newsletter, The Galitzianer. Managing editor Janice Sellers is now looking for material to be published in future issues (from February 2010 on). It is published in February, April, July and November.

Material includes articles, graphics. Submitted material may be original or previously published, as long as it is relevant to the area and genealogical research.

Have you visited the area? Write about your experience. Researched extensively? Tell others how you did it. Photos are also useful, both recent and historical. Other welcome material includes articles, charts, lists, book reviews.

In short, the newsletter welcomes all material that touches on Jewish family history in the communities that were part of Galicia (a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) is sought.

Click here to see contents from past issues. Back issues are available to members only for US$4 per copy (paper) or US$2 per copy (electronic). That's another reason to join Gesher Galicia.

You don't have to be a Gesher Galicia member to submit material for the journal. But if your family comes from this area, you should join the group to learn more about it.

The deadline for the February issue is January 15, 2010. Write to The Galitizianer's managing editor Janice Sellers if you have material to submit.

Los Angeles: JGSLA celebrates 30th, Dec. 6

It's a party!

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a Chanukah party and film festival, on Sunday, December 6.

The event runs from 1.30-4pm at the University Synagogue.

Join the group at a pre-holiday celebration to schmooze with friends and browse the library while enjoying latkes and applesauce, jelly donuts and other holiday treats.

Learn about exciting JGSLA 2010 conference plans and watch some of the great films shown at the Philly 2009 conference, followed by discussions.

Make sure to reserve, so they'll have enough yummy munchies.

Screenings include:

When a young Jewish man appears in a tranquil Polish village years after shameful local memories of WWII have long since faded, the villagers react with a surprisingly disparate variety of ways, reflecting their own ambivalent attitudes toward their collective past.

Unwittingly, the visitor reminds the local inhabitants of a world that has been out of existence for so long that many had thought it right to believe it never existed. People begin to confide with him, as if they sought to clear their minds of their memories or second-hand stories. When he leaves, the town will never be the same again. 30 minutes.

Who Do You Think You Are? - The Zoë Wanamaker Story

Zoë Wanamaker was born in New York, but when she was three her father, American actor Sam Wanamaker, fled to the UK to escape the anti-communist McCarthy witch-hunts. Hoping to better understand her father's decision, Zoë heads to Washington DC where she visits the FBI headquarters and under the Freedom of Information Act, Zoë gains access to her father's FBI file.

Wanting to explore the roots of her father's left-wing politics, Zoë next looks into the life of her grandfather Maurice Wanamaker, an émigré Russian Jew. Zoë is moved to discover that, soon after his arrival in Chicago, Maurice suffered a series of personal tragedies and hardships that almost destroyed his American dream. Finally, Zoë travels to Nikolaev in Ukraine where she discovers the original form of her unusual surname and the reason why her family left for America. 60 minutes.

Toyland (Spielzeugland)

2009 Oscar for best live-action short film. Set in the early 1940s in Germany, Toyland explores the guilt, the responsibility, and the small and big and lies during one of the most heinous periods in European history. In order to protect her son, Marianne Meisner tries to make him believe that the Jewish neighbors are going on a journey to "Toyland." One morning her son disappears, along with the Jewish neighbors. 15 minutes.
Suggested donation towards the incredible edibles is $10/member, $18/guest, payable at the door.

The JGSLA traveling library will be open from 1pm.

Reservations are essential so there'll be enough for everyone at this festive occasion. Make your reservation (name and number of people) with an email to Pamela Weisberger.

29 November 2009

Gifts for your favorite genealogist?

The holidays are just around the corner. Perplexed about what to get for your favorite genealogist? Here are suggestions to consider. For some of them, the deadline is November 30 - so take advantage of the possibilities

Why not an initial subscription or a renewal to a major data site?

Choose from Footnote.com, NewspaperArchive.com (see the special offer of 60% off the regular price for page reproductions!) GenealogyBank.com, WorldVitalRecords.com or, for those with major UK roots, FindMyPast.com.

What about magazine or journal subscriptions or renewals?

Family Tree Magazine, Family Chronicle and others. For researchers of Jewish families, Avotaynu: The International Journal of Jewish Genealogy, is a must. Avotaynu is now offering a 50% sale on subscriptions along with 10% and 20% on books (November 30 is the deadline for this!).

For the more scientific-minded, why not gift a Y-DNA, mtDNA or combination test at FamilyTreeDNA?

The company is offering major promotional prices for the holidays. Tests must be ordered and paid for by December 31, 2009. On January 1, 2010, prices go up, so why not do it now? That's the company to go to because it has the largest comparative databases in the industry. For researchers of Jewish families, that's even more important as the largest Jewish DNA comparative database is within the larger one.

What about memberships in national or local genealogy societies?

Major societies, including some Jewish genealogical societies, often have members' sections on their websites that only paid members can access. These may include many indexes and unusual databases. Some societies also include a monthly or quarterly journal hat comes with membership.

There's also the option to make it possible for a friend or relative to attend a major annual conference of great interest.

Who wouldn't want to receive a gift of registration for a conference like the 2010 IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, (Los Angeles, July 11-16), or the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree 2010 (Burbank, June 11-13)?

Some sites are offering holiday sales now, like Avotaynu and also the Family Tree Shop at Family Tree Magazine.

Family Tree Magazine is discounting many items in its Family Tree Shop. Even better, register to win your very own "wish list" of items (up to $150). Learn more and register here. Four lucky winners will be announced on December 3, so put this on your to-do list.

The magazine is offering sale prices on items covering various topics and research areas, including CDs. A good buy is the Family Tree Magazine 2008 CD with all the 2008 issues, containing 480 pages. Articles are searchable, printable and portable. Click directly to all featured websites from the CD. After a 21% discount, the sale price is $18.99. Click here and browse for items of interest.

We all know how expensive genealogy books can be, but here's a chance - from Avotaynu - to stock up on resources genealogical at a discount through November 30.

If you're already a subscriber to Avotaynu - and you should be if Jewish genealogy is important to you - receive discounts on useful reference books. If you're not yet a subscriber, now's the time to get a 50% discount to the journal - and the other discounts.

Current subscribers must click here for the discounts, which include a 20% discount on Avotaynu on CD-Rom, a 15% discount on some excellent genealogical reference works, and a 10% discount on all other books. Shipping charges added. Read the information at the site for all the important details.

Avotaynu on CD-Rom contains all issues for the first 24 years (1985–2008) with 93 issues and 5,700 pages, fully searchable (Windows/Vista only). The sale price is $79.60. If you already have it, the upgrade's sale price is $31.95. Tracing the Tribe thinks this full set would be a great gift for a beginning genealogist of any age.

Have fun checking out gifts for others and adding to your own wish list!

NewspaperArchive: Reproductions 60% off until Nov. 30

Two days left to cash in on a fantastic gift idea for a birthday, anniversary or other gift occasion, offered by NewspaperArchive through Monday, November 30.

Genealogists can find pages related to an ancestor's arrival in the US, or a birth, engagement or wedding announcement. The possibilities are endless.

NewspaperArchive is offering a 60% off sale on any page reproduction from its collection. The sale price is $11.95 (regularly $29.95 each)

The unframed pages (22"x30") are printed on 100% cotton, acid-free paper, with archival-quality ink.

You can search for any print in the archives, although the site has some pre-selected collections focusing on sports, famous people, history or film.

Order by December 11 to ensure domestic holiday delivery.

Canada: Online resource additions, updates

Does Canada figure in your family quest? Regardless of whether your ancestors were just "passing through" or stayed in Canada, the updates to the Library and Archives of Canada (LAC) may be quite helpful.

There are some 12 million new records, in total.

Recent updates include:

2,000 digital images added - Board of Guardians database update
104,000 digital images added - Passenger Lists database update
40,000 digital images added - Citizenship Montreal Circuit Court database update
180,000 digital images added - Canadian Naturalization database.

Corrections were made to the databases for Home Children, Canadian Expeditionary Force and Killed in Action.

The Canadian Genealogy Centre (CGC) at LAC has added three pages - Finnish, Ukrainian and German ethno-cultural - to the already online resource pages for Aboriginal peoples, Acadians (French Canadians), Blacks, Chinese, Irish, Jewish, Metis and Poles.

Numerous pages have been updated (many are corrections). These updates include French record abbreviations, bibliography, Canadian Forces (after 1918-WWII), criminal records, divorces, events, WWI, genealogical societies, Irish, Jewish, newspapers, Northwest Mounted Police, notarial records, provincial and territory archives, provincial land records and reference sites.

Additionally, there has been a release of indexes and digital images for the Censuses of 1861, 1871 and 1916; digitized Census returns (1851-1916) are on multiple websites. See the CGC for more information.

By 2011, according to the Libraries and Archives Canada site, all digital images and indexes for Census returns will be on the LAC website, which can be searched here.

28 November 2009

DNA: Calling all Bacharach (and variants)

Has anyone studied whether turkey tryptophans cause an increasing interest in DNA projects at FamilyTreeDNA.com?

Or is it just that these holiday family gatherings precipitate and germinate the idea of using science for family history?
Herb Huebscher's project - just announced on Tracing the Tribe - is on the Loeb family and descendants of the MaHaRal of Prague. And here's another one which also has a connection to the MaHaRal.

A genealogist for 20 years, Rachel Unkefer is calling all males with the surname variants of Bacharach, Bachrach, Bacherach, Backrach or any other variant spelling, or even if the family held that surname in the past.

She created the new Bacharach DNA Project to determine which of the far-flung branches of the Bacharach/Bachrach families originated with a common progenitor.

Her personal interest originates in her husband's family tree. His grandmother descended from the Bacharachs of Fellheim and Osterberg in Swabian Bavaria/

As Rachel contacted other Bacharach researchers, she met many descendants of the Bavarian family, in addition to groups in German towns (Mansbach and Kestrich) and others from Eastern Europe.

So far, she has some results back and have matches for Bachrach descendants from two different towns, with more information at the family website:

-- 2 men trace ancestry to Kestrich, Hesse
-- 1 man traces ancestry to Frielendorf, Hesse
-- 1 man traces ancestry to Fellheim, Bavaria (Bavarian Swabia)
Available information, writes Rachel, is that there were Bacharachs in Fellheim in the 1600s and in Kestrich at least as early as the 1700s.

Results reveal that the current four participants all match 12/12 on the first 12 markers:
-- Kestrich and Frielendorf match 25/25 on the first 25 markers.
-- Kestrich and Frielendorf match 24/25 with Fellheim.

-- Fellheim matches 35/37 with Kestrich.
Anyone with the simple criteria of having a Bacharach or variation name is welcome to participate in this project, based at FamilyTreeDNA.com. A simple Y-DNA test may provide a connection to a long-lost or far-flung branch of your family.

About other surnames: Rachel reports that while looking at matches for the participants, they found those with other surnames (in the FTDNA database) whose markers matched exactly or extremely closely, who had no knowledge of any connection to the Bacharach or variant name. Most listed the generic "Russia" as a geographic identifier.

The matches so far are rather close, and indicate rather clearly that the men share a common ancestor, around 400-600 years ago. Several more tests are in the works and results will appear on the the family site.

Why the Bacharachs? Who are they?

Perhaps participants may be part of the rabbinic Bacharach family, whose most famous ancestor was Yair Chayim Bacharach of Worms, an eminent Talmudist who was also a descendant of the Maharal of Prague.

The Jewish Encyclopedia entry provides some information:
"A name frequent among German Jews. From the 12th, or at any rate from the 15th century, the name Bacharach, in various spellings — as Bacharach, Bachrach, Bachrich, etc. — is found among the Ashkenazim in all parts of Europe. All individuals bearing the name hardly form one family, for the name merely indicates that the family either derived its origin from the city Bacharach in Rhenish Prussia, or that one of its ancestors was at one time a resident of that place.... "
Could there be some connections among these families?

If you'd like to participate, know a male who should participate, or just want more information, go to the Bacharach Family DNA website, or write to Rachel.

DNA: Loeb family, MaHaRal of Prague

Tracing the Tribe first met Herb Huebscher of New York in connection with his WIRTH DNA project at FamilyTreeDNA.com, which is a story in itself.

You may remember that project as the one that genetically matched Litvaks and Galizianers, and then matched them to a Sephardic family in Puerto Rico. Talk about an identity crisis!

He is now involved in another fascinating DNA project, that of the Loeb family and the MaHaRal of Prague.

Herb recently started a research project to identify paternal line descendants of the rabbinical Loeb family - which includes the renowned MaHaRaL of Prague, his brother Rabbi Sinai and Rav Gabriel Eskeles.

(NOTE: As soon as Tracing the Tribe saw the name ESKELES, I knew I had seen it before. Checking my copy of Pere Bonnin's Sangre Judia, I found ESCALES listed as a name on a 1490 document from Mallorca, Balearic Islands. Stranger things have happened. Tracing the Tribe loves DNA!)

A known descendant of the family - Zeev Eshkolot - was Y-DNA tested by FamilyTreeDNA.com. Then, persons already in the company's database - who are close matches to Eshkolot - were identified. They appear to be descendants of the Loeb ancestral line. The newly formed MaHaRal Group now has some 27 persons.

According to Herb, the group has now dsicovered the ancestral Y-DNA of the Loeb family and are beginning to form a DNA-based family tree of the family.

The group is now asking others to participate. If you (or someone you know) is in one of the following categories, you may want to learn more about the project:

-- You know or believe you're a MaHaRal or Loeb family descendant, or

-- You don't know, but would like to find out if you may be such a descendant.
The second category includes persons with the Loeb surname or any of its many variations used historically by family members, such as Loeb, Loew, Loewe, Loewy, Löw, Löwe, Lowy, Lavi, Levai and Eskeles.

Remember that most modern surnames in Europe were not adopted until around 1800, so you may still be a descendant even if your surname doesn't resemble those listed. So far, reports Herb, most participants have seemingly unrelated surnames.

To learn more about the MaHaRaL Group or participate in the project, contact Herb. He looks forward to hearing from all interested parties.

Who was the Maharal of Prague? Rabbi Judah ben Bezalel Lowe (5285-5369; 1525-1609) was likely born in Posen and became famous as a Talmudic scholar very early. He took the position of Rabbi in Nikolsburg (Mikulov), Moravia, in his late 20s and remained there for some 20 years. He was most famous as the head of the Prague Jewish community, then the center of Central European Jewry. He established the Talmudic academy known as the Klaus. Burned some 80 years after Lowe died, it was rebuilt as the Klaus Synagogue.

His secular knowledge of science made him famous among non-Jews, and he was a friend of astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, who introduced him to Emperor Rudolph II. Legend says that the emperor visited the rabbi at night to discuss politics and science.

The most famous story, however, about the MaHaRal was the creation of the Golem from clay, which protected the Prague community. Read more about him here.

Wikipedia states that there is a tradition that the MaHaRal's family descends from the Babylonian Exilarchs and that they are a Davidic Dynasty family.

For more information on the Loeb family tree, compiled by Dr. Daniel Loeb, visit LoebTree.com, and see an article about the family here.

27 November 2009

New York: Jews of Spain conference, Dec. 5-7

The historic link between Spain and the Jewish people will be explored at an international conference - "The Jews of Spain: Past and Present" - set for December 5-7, organized by the American Sephardi Federation/Sephardic House.

The event, at New York City's Center for Jewish History, will bring together experts and scholars from the US, Canada and Israel, with the participation of senior Spanish government officials.

Renowned as both the historic birthplace of Sephardic culture, Spain was also the site of dark moments in Jewish history.addressing both the triumphs and travails of the Sephardic Jewish legacy in Spain.

The event is being organized by ASF with the assistance of the Consulate General of Spain in New York.

Saturday night's opening will feature a gala concert and dessert reception with Spain's Paco Díez, showcasing his voice, guitar, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, percussion and folk traditions from diverse regions in Spain.

The program covers contributions of Jews to Spain through scholarship, culture, the tragic medieval period, and contemporary issues.

Speakers include:
-- From Insiders to Outcasts: A History of the Jews in Spain - Prof. Jane S. Gerber (CUNY)

-- Yehuda Halevi, Poet and Pilgrim - Prof. Raymond P. Scheindlin (JTS)

-- The Challenge of Philosopy on Religious Thought: The World of Moses Maimonides - Dr. Albert L. Ivry (NYU)

-- Jewish Thought: The Mystical Traditions - Prof. Elliot Wolfson (NYU)

-- The Reconquista: Jews and the New Realities of Christian Spain - Prof. Jonathan S. Ray (Georgetown University)

-- The Unknown Jewish Artists of Spain - Dr. Vivan Mann (JTS)

-- Jews and the City in Medieval Spain - Prof. Eleazar Gutwirth (Tel Aviv University)

-- The Inquisition/The Expulsion of 1492 and Don Isaac Abravanel - Prof. Eric Lawee (York University)

-- Spain and the Jews Today - Enrique Mugica Herzog (ombudsman, Spain)

-- The Jewish Communities in Contemporary Spain - Jacobo Israel (president, Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain)

-- The Sephardic Heritage as a Living Part of Spanish Culture - Diego de Ojeda (director general, Casa Sefarad/Israel, Madir) and Assumpcio Hosta Rebes (secretary general, Red de Juderias, Girona)

A book will be published on the conference topics, documenting Sephardic heritage's deep roots in Spain. Translated into Spanish, it will be distributed throughout Spain to universities, libraries and other centers.

Tickets are daily attendance or a Sunday-Monday package ($95, with a discount for ASF members/NextGen members for $75). Fee includes a kosher buffet lunch each day. The Saturday night program is $35/$25, for concert and dessert reception. Reservation deadline is November 30.

The program is funded by the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. Other participating organizations are Casa Sefarad/Israel (Madrid); Red de Juderias (Girona), the Instituto Cervantes (New York) and The Catalan Center (NYU).

ASF/SH is committed to promoting this program to a wider Jewish and non-Jewish audience to enrich public knowledge about the Sephardic Jewish experience.

ASF has a library and archives exclusively devoted to Sephardic/Mizrahi topics and authors - the only one in the western hemisphere open to the public. Its mission is to collect, preserve and provide access to resources for the study of Jews tracing their ancestry to the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and the Orient. Click for the Online Catalog.

"The Jews of Spain: Past and Present" is a year-long ASF initiative. Other components include:

Exhibition: "Jerusalem and the Jews of Spain: Longing and Reality." Free and open to the public through May 2010.

Film Festival: The Sephardic Jewish Film Festival (February 4-11, 2010, New York) will feature selected films on Spain.

Lecture Series: Such topics as "Maimonides, Spinoza and Us;" "Daughters of Sara, Mothers of Israel;" and "The Jewish Presence in Contemporary Catalan Literature."

See the ASF site link above for much more information.

Judaica Librarianship: Genealogy article, Issue 15

Judaica Librarianship is a publication for - as its name indicates - Jewish librarians and those who work with Jewish libraries and collections.

Volume 15 should appear in a few weeks or so.

Tracing the Tribe notes Beth Dwoskin's article, "Genealogy in the Jewish Library: An Update."

Other articles of interest:

A "Mind-Boggling" Implication: The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and the Definition of a Work, by David Conners.

The Bibliothèque Medem: Eighty Years Serving Yiddish Culture, by Gilles Rozier.

Roger S. Kohn reviews "Hebrew Manuscripts in the Vatican Library," ed. by Benjamin Richler

Yaffa Weisman reviews "Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia," ed. by Paula E. Hyman, Dalia Ofer

James P. Rosenbloom reviews "The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe," ed. by Gershon Hundert

Faith Jones reviews "Women" and "Yiddish" in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd edition, Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, editors.

Judaica Librarianship is the scholarly peer review annual of the Association of Jewish Libraries, exploring issues of relevance to Judaica library collections and Judaica librarians. AJL members receive it as a benefit.

Learn more about the AJL, and see the table of contents for past issues here.

Book: Yiddish Given Names

Rella Israly Cohn's "Yiddish Given Names" (Scarecrow Press, 2008) is a new one for Tracing the Tribe. The work, based on the author's dissertation, was mentioned recently on the Jewish librarians' discussion list.

It offers 256 given names used in the modern period (since 1750).

Patrick J. Stevens, selector for Jewish Studies, at Cornell University Library, wrote about the book:

The book, although not inexpensive, is highly worth recommending as a learned and deeply interesting reference source and discussion of Yiddish names, and by extension, of Ashkenazi Jewish naming practices and Yiddish historical linguistics. Chapters preceding the lexicon itself review not only the data fields for the names analyzed, but also the literature on the topic, the history of Yiddish ("Earliest Yiddish" appears to have arisen around 1000 CE) and Ashkenazi Jewish naming (contrasted with Sephardic practices).

According to Stevens, a World CAT search shows that it is available in 67 libraries.

It seems like it would be useful for genealogists researching their Ashkenazi roots, and the information contrasting Ashkenazi and Sephardi naming practices would be useful as well.

Keep an eye out for it.

26 November 2009

Seattle: Jewish libraries conference, July 2010

The Association of Jewish Libraries will hold its 45th convention in July 2010 in Seattle, Washington.

Set for July 4-7 at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, the annual AJL event draws librarians, educators, archivists, authors and others to share their interests.

The call for papers is now open for workshops, panels or presentations on any aspect of Judaic librarianship or scholarship related to libraries, archives, museums, schools, synagogues and related institutions.

Previous topics have included literature and other resources, collection management, programming, reader advisory services, special collections, cataloging and classification, digital and electronic sources, technology and local Jewish history.

This year, three areas are being emphasized: Advocacy, technology and sustainability.

Tracing the Tribe believes that Jewish genealogy might be addressed in a number of these categories.

Submissions should include: Author's name, address, affiliation, email, telephone and fax numbers, brief author biography, title of presentation, proposal summary, and specific technology or access needed.

The deadline for receipt of proposals is December 1, 2009. Send the required information to the AJL

Proposals will be reviewed by the program planning group composed of national and local AJL convention committee members. Accepted speakers will be notified in January 2010.

For more information, see the Northwest AJL website.

Books: 2010 Sami Rohr Prize finalists

Five non-fiction finalists, from among 25 entries, were announced for the 2010 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, the fourth year the award has been given.

Topics range from the role rabbis and Jewish intellectuals have played in forming American public identity, a candid and quirky spiritual memoir, the Jewish renaissance in Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution, the involvement of Jews in the international feather trade and Yiddish radio in America.

The prize is administered by the Jewish Book Council.
The winner gets $100,000, and the first runner-up will receive $25,000. The five finalists will meet with judges on December 6 in New York. The winners will be announced in January 2010, and the awards ceremony will take place March 31 in Jerusalem.
The finalists and their books:

-- Lila Corwin Berman - Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity (University of California Press)
-- Ari Y. Kelman - Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio in the United States (University of California Press)

-- Kenneth B. Moss - Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Harvard University Press)
-- Danya Ruttenberg - Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion (Beacon Press)
-- Sarah Abrevaya Stein - Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce (Yale University Press)

To read the complete press release, please click here.

New York: Jews in the Turkic World

Although Tracing the Tribe missed reporting on this conference earlier, readers should know about such events which shed light on relatively unknown Jewish communities.

On November 23, the Azerbaijan Society of America (ASA) and Azerbaijani-American Council (AAC) joined the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), the "Turk of America" magazine and the Uzbek Initiative organized a one-day symposium on "Jewish Identity in the Turkic World," at New York's Center for Jewish History.

Note that Azerbaijan was part of Iran and that Farsi is spoken there as well as Azeri, a Turkic language. Additionally, the city of Baku was famous for its oil production in the early 20th century, and many of our ancestors from Belarus (including some of mine) and elsewhere, moved there to work in the new industry.

The region is also important as many Russian Jews were evacuated to Uzbekistan and other areas at the time of WWII. Each of these Jewish communities had indigenous Sephardic components as well as Ashkenazi communities.

For centuries, the Jewish peoples have lived in Azerbaijan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and other parts of the Turkic world. Tens of thousands of "Sephardi Jews" lived in present-day Turkey since 1492, when Ottoman Turks provided shelter and acceptance to the Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition. One of the largest Azeri-speaking communities in America are the Mountain Jews. They settled in Azerbaijan over two millennia ago and tens of thousands of them continue to live in northern parts of Azerbaijan today, enjoying prosperity and acceptance. The Bukharian Jews of Uzbekistan thrived in this region for 2500 years in an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect.
The program included speakers representing the Jewish communities of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

Jews in Turkey: History and Presence

David Saltzman (Turkish Coalition of America)
Yildiz Yuksek Blackstone (President, Luca Luca)
Alan R. Cordova (Columbia University):
"Sephardi Jewish history in Rhodes and Marmara region "

Jewish Heritage in the Turkic World

Sergei Weinstein (International Charity Fund of Mountain Jews):
"Islam and Judaism in Russia"
Rashbil Shamayev (Azerbaijani Jewish Community):
"Azerbaijani Jewish community relations with Azerbaijan"
Farkhod Muradov (Uzbek Initiative):
"Bukharian Jewish Congress of the U.S. and Canada"

Art, Music & Film Industry

Barry Habib (Broadway producer, "Rock of Ages")
Victoria Barrett (filmmaker):
"Desperate Hours," Screening and Talk on the role Turkish diplomats played in saving thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

Habib and Blackstone spoke about their life experiences. Paintings by Stass Shpanin were displayed along with the copies of historical documents from the Ottoman Archives which illustrated Ottoman-Jewish historical relations.

The conference was also co-sponsored by the International Charity Fund of Mountain Jews (STMEGI), the Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TACCI), the Bukharian Jewish Community of the US and Canada, the Turkish American Action Committee and "Kavkaz" Jewish Youth Center.

For more information, click here.

25 November 2009

Talking Turkey: Family history holiday

What a shock on my weekly supermarket run last week in Tel Aviv.

I go to the butcher first as there is always a line. Amid the turkey legs, necks, skinless breasts, there was a gorgeous showpiece of a whole turkey with its skin. These are a rarity in Israel, where whole turkeys are often hard to find, and even whole breasts are skinless.

Unfortunately, it was too early for me to bring home a fresh whole turkey. Freezing it would kill the taste. In any case, there was no way to shoehorn it into my smallish freezer here. And it would certainly spoil kept in the frig for a week. Instead I ordered another just like it for this week.

I love Thanksgiving. No matter where we have lived, we have always celebrated the holiday. Even when we lived in Teheran in the 1970s. So it is time once again for my Teheran Turkey story.

Teheran was also one of those places where whole turkeys were exceedingly rare. Turkeys in general were hard to find and were usually available in parts of the whole.

I went off to a big supermarket for my first holiday turkey, and told the affable manager that I needed a big, whole turkey, with the skin, cleaned thoroughly (in my mind, that means all the feathers and insides). No problem, he said. At that point in time, I still thought that "no problem" really meant no problem. Ha!

Mr. Turkey, he said, would be available fresh when I requested it on Wednesday morning and they would deliver it. Wonderful!, I replied and went off to our favorite little store that stocked such "black-market" items as cranberry sauce, Libbys Pumpkin Puree, canned candied sweet potatoes (yams/sweet potatoes were also on the rare list), and, of course, a big jar of Miracle Whip for leftover sandwiches.

Home again, I got cracking with the stuffing, the side dishes, pies and cakes.

Wednesday morning I waited for the doorbell announcing the arrival of Mr. Turkey. Silence. I called Mr. Manager who said it would be there by noon. Noon came and went. Another call. 4pm came and went. Another call. No doorbell. Finally, a call from Mr. Manager who said it would be there bright and early Thursday morning. What could I do (except get more and more nervous)?

Early Thursday morning, the doorbell rang and I was handed a huge package wrapped in brown paper. It seemed warm but I dismissed that thought quickly. Opening the wrapping, I was stunned to see the complete bird - I mean COMPLETE - with feathers, feet, neck, beak, beady little eyes and, yes, it was definitely WARM.

The only thing missing was the gobble. Of course, I might have missed that amid all the screaming. At least it was very fresh, having met its demise only an hour earlier.

To say I freaked out was an understatement. The scream must have woken everyone in the building and the entire street. Are you sure you didn't hear it? My husband got out of bed, took one look and began laughing hysterically. That didn't help much, as I have always reminded him.

What was this Brooklyn girl going to do with a very complete bird?

In my world, turkeys came totally clean, inside and out, with no anatomical realities.

My husband called his mother, who it seemed also was caught up in the mutual laughter. He drove over to my in-laws' home, and brought back their servant, who proceeded to make quick work of the outside and inside of Mr. Turkey, as she sat there giggling over the thought of a foreign daughter-in-law who couldn't handle this ordinary job. Several times a week, she had to clean a pile of kosher chickens, and this guy was only a bit bigger.

Mind you, this was already Thursday at 10am, and people were coming for dinner. I finally got the turkey seasoned and stuffed. Dinner was only a bit late. Mr. Turkey was beautiful and delicious. Everyone ooh'd and ahh'd, which somewhat made up for the earlier traumatic experience - the main discussion topic during dinner.

We always tell the story of Mr. Turkey - that's our family tradition.

And later as people are digging into dessert and fruit, including bananas, we tell the story of my great-grandmother's arrival at Ellis Island with Leib, 2, and Chayeh Feige, 5 months. They wound up in the hospital for some reason, and she was told to give Leib bananas. In Mogilev, Belarus, this was an unknown fruit. She had never seen one and had no idea of what to do with it. How could a toddler eat that thick peel? Eventually, she saw another woman peeling one and knew what to do. If we saw a banana for the first time, we'd likely be just as puzzled as she was.

Every holiday is family history day. Every occasion that encourages families to get together is perfect for generational genealogy.

Begin with the food. Each of us has a traditional family recipe or two. Who first made it? How has it changed? Where did the first person to make it come from ... and when?

Growing up in the Bronx and Brooklyn, we had the good old American standards: Turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and other standard American goodies.

In Teheran, our Thanksgivings were just as celebrated - with American friends - we called it eid-e-bugalamu (Festival of Turkey). There were twists and turns in the menus. One year there was cranberry sauce, one year there wasn't. One year we had Libbys Pumpkin Puree, one year we didn't. We tended to hoard these precious cans until we could replace them, and when they were available, we bought enough for two years!

That's when I began making polo albalu, long-grain aged Basmati rice mixed with sour cherries. It is great with turkey and the pink of the sauce and the cherries, mixed with the white rice and some golden (mixed with saffron) makes it an amazingly beautiful dish for company.

When a dinner guest once asked how I got the grains colored white, pink and golden. I said I had hand painted them individually!

Another great Persian rice dish is a slightly sweet rice mixed with thin strips of carrots and candied tangerine peel, pistachio nuts and other delicacies, which is also great with the big bird. In Los Angeles, one can buy the prepared tangerine peel. In Tel Aviv, I save our tangerine peels, I slice them in extremely thin strips and dry them completely. Stored in jars, they sit in my closet until I make this special rice and simmer the peel in a sugar syrup. I save both orange and green tangerine peels, and the two colors are interesting together.

On my menu is also fesenjan, a thick walnut-and-pomegranate stew with chicken that is a classic of Persian cooking. It is a great fall dish also.

So along with my challah stuffing with chestnuts and pecans, the candied sweet potatoes, roast potatoes instead of mashed, several Persian rices and stews, and the standard pumpkin pies, blueberry crumble and brownies, our celebration combines several traditions.

I know that Latinos add their traditional favorite foods to their Thanksgiving menu, as do Asians. And why not? Every ethnic group has its favorite foods, so why not enjoy them at the most American holiday of them all?

The food is only one part of the day. It is a great time for asking questions about traditions, for transmitting family stories and sharing what you've learned since last Thanksgiving.

If you're having a large crowd, have some family sheets available for updates. You might get new information that way.

Informal is best, your dinner is not a conference, and there's always that football game to contend with. However, not everyone wants to watch football. Really. Even though it feels a bit sacrilegious to say that! Gather the non-sports people in another room to talk anything that isn't football.

You can even pull out the family photos and ask guests if they recognize any of your orphan photos - you know, the ones with no labeling on the back. Maybe someone will have the same photo and theirs will be labeled!

It is a great occasion to catch up with relatives and share what you've learned, while perhaps discovering more from your guests.

The Family Tree Magazine blog, Genealogy Insider, has an informative post with suggestions and related articles. Do take a look here and perhaps you'll find more tips and ideas on working genealogy into your gathering. Related articles include questions for interviewing relatives, tips for oral history interviews, using photos, and other information.

Click here to see the Genealogy Insider post by Diane Haddad.

Florida: 19th annual mini-conference, Dec. 9

How will your children know who they are if they don't know where they come from? How can you transmit and preserve that information?

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County's 19th Genealogy Workshop and Mini-Conference will help you help you learn how to preserve and transmit family history on Wednesday, December 9, at the Levis JCC in Boca Raton.

Geared to the needs of beginners, intermediates and advanced researchers, five experts will offer classes in morning and afternoon sessions, running from 10am-4pm.

-- Educator Phyllis Kramer: "AlephBet of Jewish Genealogy - the ins and outs of modern day research."

-- Writer/instructor Patricia Charpentier: “Writing Your Life - how to turn your research into a family history book.”

--Boca Raton Family History Center director Don Jennings: “How to Use the Family Search Records of Family Search International.”

-- Professional genealogist Mona Freedman Morris: “Ways to Spice up your Genealogy - using newspapers and other sources to make your family history interesting."

-- Past president JGSPBCI Dennis Rice: “Genealogy Research on the Internet - how to use Social Networking Sites (Facebook, My Space, Twitter, LinkedIn).”

The Library Room, with Internet connection (bring your laptops), will be open all day for research. Expert genealogy researchers and translators are available (by appointment). Family records and memorabilia will be on display. Enjoy continuous coffee, tea and snack service and drawings for genealogy door prizes.

Registration begins at 9:30am, with the program from 10am-4pm. The fee, including a kosher box lunch, is $25 for members (via advance registration only), or $30 for all others. Bring photo ID for JCC security.

For more information on the program, the speakers and the registration form, click here.

24 November 2009

Tablet: Toys NOT to buy for the holiday

Titled "Toy Vey," enjoy Tablet Magazine's list of things NOT to get for young people at holiday time.

Here are just the names of the toys.

See the complete article by Marjorie Ingall for more, much more, definitely more than you really wanted to know about each toy, including where not to buy them.

Writes Ingall, "Peruse them all, then buy your child a book." Tracing the Tribe tends to agree.

-- Plush Mohel Scissors (Talk about traumatic!)

-- Ten Plagues Finger Puppets
(Tracing the Tribe kind of like these, but please save them for your seder!)

-- Star of David 3D Glasses

-- Samson Action Figure (Ah, the things you can do to plastic!)

-- Harvey Nagila Dancing Doll (Read the true story on this one!)

-- Techno Draydel with Lights and Sound Effects (Some people have dreidel collections, but not of these!)

-- Kosherland

-- Hanukkah Harry ( a 7 1/2-foot-tall lawn ornament!)

-- Talking Queen Esther Doll

Illuminated Leaves: Medieval manuscripts

Facsimile Editions (UK) offers 450 different illuminated leaves available from the facsimile editions of the Kennicott Bible, Rothschild Miscellany, Barcelona Haggadah and a few from the North French Miscellany.

While the company also offers leaves from additional Hebrew manuscripts that are suitable for bat/bar mitzvah, brit milah, festivals, traveller's prayers, weddings, anniversaries, as well as gifts by name and more, the entire site should be of interest to all those who find medieval illustration fascinating. The notes for each page (just float your mouse over the page name to see the detailed notes) are also interesting.

From the Rothschild Miscellany, find exquisitely illuminated pages for Adon Olam, Shir HaKavod, Mah Tovu, Nishmat, Kiddush, Pirkei Avot, Piyuttim, Sheva Berachot, music pages, Eshet Chayil, and items appropriate for such events as weddings, anniversaries or holidays. From the Barcelona Haggadah, find Sheheheyanu and Next Year in Jerusalem.

Click here to see the outstanding decorated individual leaves. Even pages that are mostly black text include imaginative drawings. One page has a pink-spotted dragon with golden claws, Parashot Behar (folio 73) has a bear dipping into a honey jar. Find lions, centaurs, the red heifer (Parashah Chukkat, folio 88), human figures and design elements.

There are special pages that separated sections, called carpet pages, such as this one (right, folio 122).

The facsimile editions were printed on special parchment paper in up to 9-12 colors (depending on manuscript) with hand-applied gold leaf.

The major collections include:

THE ROTHSCHILD MISCELLANY (Israel Museum, Jerusalem).
The most elegantly and lavishly executed Hebrew manuscript of the 15th century. It was planned as a sumptuous work to encompass, in minute detail, almost every custom of religious and secular Jewish life. More a library than a book, the manuscript comprises 37 religious and secular works including, Psalms, Job, Siddur, Mahzor, Haggadah, Pirkei Avot and Meshal Haqadmoni.
THE ROTHSCHILD HAGGADAH (Israel Museum, Jerusalem)
It is exceptional for its elegant and elaborate illustrations of the Passover story. The illuminated and illustrated Haggadah demonstrates the Ashkenazi Passover seder as we know it. In the margins is Maimonides' Hilkhot Hamez Umatsah, 'Laws Concerning Leavened and Unleavened Bread'. In addition, the piyyutim are exquisitely illuminated with fine miniatures.
Written about 1340 when Barcelona was the center of a thriving center of manuscript illumination, this manuscript is outstanding for rich decorative illuminations scattered throughout the text. Its fanciful figures, medieval musical instruments and pictorial scenes provide fascinating insights into Jewish life in medieval Spain.
THE KENNICOTT BIBLE (Bodleian Library, Oxford)
One of the most exquisite medieval Spanish manuscripts extant. It includes the Tanakh and Rabbi David Kimchi's grammatical treatise Sefer Mikhlol. Moses ibn Zabara was the scribe, Joseph Ibn Hayim the illuminator. In 1476, they created this piece for Isaac, the son of Don Solomon di Braga in La Coruña, Spain. The manuscript includes burnished gold and silver leaf.

And - because genealogy concerns names, dates and people - readers should note that medieval manuscripts often include information on both scribe and illuminator.

On folio page 438, is the page for the scribe, Moshe ibn Zabara (right) indicating for whom and when it was created, while a separate page (folio 447) offers information on the artist Joseph ibn Hayim (left).

Leaves run from £55 each to £130 for a set of leaves.

For more information, click here.

Southern California: Steve Morse, Dec. 6

A plethora of online resources helps genealogists locate appropriate information. The amazing Steve Morse, of course, has done more than his share to make things easier for all family history researchers.

If you live in the southern California area of Ventura County and Conejo Valley, Steve will be speaking at the local Jewish genealogical society at 1.30pm, Sunday, December 6.

Join the members and friends of the JGS of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV) and welcome him at this program at Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks.

He'll be speaking on "One-Step Webpages: A Hodge Podge of Lesser Known Gems." With so many utilities on his site, these talks help to spotlight items that are not as well known as others.

The program will describe the range of available tools and provide the highlights of each. The functions range from genealogical search problems to identify theft to DNA questions.

Steve, of course, is the creator of the One-Step Website. For his work, he has been given the IAJGS Lifetime Achievement Award and its Outstanding Contribution Award, the National Genealogical Society Award of Merit and others. His one-step program has revolutionized performing genealogical searches in large databases!

The program will also celebrate Chanukah, and everyone renewing their JGSCV membership or joining for 2010 will be eligible for the genealogical prizes drawing.

Boston: Finding family in Polish Records, Dec. 6

Did you know that more American Jews have roots in Poland than in any other country?

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston has great programs. If you live in the area, you have the opportunity to learn from the best all year long. Fay Bussgang will speak on December 6 about finding ancestors in Polish Records.

Fay will describe the records - extant in Poland - for genealogical research, what they look like, and how to access them at the meeting that begins at 1.30pm on Sunday, Dec. 6, at Temple Emanuel in Newton.

Poland kept very good track of its citizens through metrical records (birth, marriage, and death records), population registers and other documents. Although many records were destroyed during the war, a surprising number have survived and can be found in Polish Archives, including records for geographical locations no longer in Poland.

Bussgang has authored more than 20 articles in genealogical journals, as well as the “Russian Poland” section of the Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy. She and her Polish-born husband, Julian, have conducted extensive genealogical research during 12 trips to Poland. The couple has also translated two volumes of war-time accounts of child survivors still living in Poland. She was co-president of the JGSGB during 1998–2000.

Fee: JGSGB members, free; others, $5.

For directions, click here; for more information on the JGSGB, click here.

Moment Magazine: A great gift idea!

Tracing the Tribe loves Moment Magazine.

Each issue has excellent interesting articles, many of which are noted in this blog. See what's in the current issue.

It is the world's largest independent Jewish magazine. Founded by Elie Wiesel and Leonard Fein in 1975, and then relaunched in 2004 and recently has improved even more with a great mix of writers and topics.

Moment is offering a great Chanukah offer - an offer you simply shouldn't refuse! Enjoy it yourself or gift it with this special offer available only through November 30.

A one-year subscription is only $8, and if you decide to gift eight (or even more) of your nearest and dearest friends and family, the price drops to only $5 per annual subscription. Give the gift that keeps giving with each new issue.

Hop over here and add names and addresses for gift cards.

See the Moment website and its blog to get an idea of what you and others can find in each issue.

To see articles that Tracing the Tribe has really enjoyed, enter "Moment Magazine" in the blog search box (right side bar, scroll down).

Happy gifting!

23 November 2009

Yiddish: Got a summer or a year?

Our family lost Yiddish and Russian back in 1905 when great-grandma told her kids, upon arrival in Newark NJ, that they were Americans and must only speak English from then on.

Of course, she herself never did!

Yiddish - the Russian disappeared almost immediately - lasted for another complete generation of fluent speakers, and an additional generation of those who understood but could not speak. And then there was the third generation, who knew a handful of words, generally used in the right context. The fourth generation seems to know only those words connected to food or used in Jewish jokes.

I don't remember ever having a full conversation with Little or White Grandma (who was petite and had white hair, so as to distinguish her from the Big Grandma on the other side - whom I don't remember). Our words were always translated by some intermediary.

If you are in the same boat, or your children or grandchildren are showing an interest, here are two programs that might keep Yiddish alive in your family.

The National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts is offering a seven-week Steiner Summer Internship Program (June 6-July 23, 2010). No prior Yiddish knowledge is required for the program which includes intensive Yiddish classes (three hours daily) for beginners and intermediates, studies in Yiddish culture and Eastern European history, distinguished international faculty, free tuition and credit for two undergraduate courses, research opportunities; field trips, workshops, performances, and more.

Full-time undergrad and grad students are encouraged to apply here by February 1, 2010.

And, if you have an academic year (September-June) to devote to keeping language alive, there is the Graduate Fellows Program, a full-time Yiddish academic year practicum. This one requires a basic knowledge of Yiddish, a BA in Jewish Studies/equivalent.

Those accepted will work on new and ongoing projects in: Yiddish bibliography, exhibitions, ethnography, oral history, education, website, publications and more; enjoy hands-on learning with the Book Center's senior staff; and receive $20,000 stipend for the nine-month program plus health insurance.

Click here to apply, with the deadline also February 1, 2010.

What about a similar program for Ladino?

JGSLA 2010: Creativity, tips and details

Tracing the Tribe is sure that many readers are already thinking about programs for the upcoming JGSLA 2010 conference (July 11-16, 2010, in Los Angeles).

Here are some topic tips, how to submit information efficiently and more. See the topic list in a previous post here.

In addition to tips for creative programming, program chair Pam Weisberger is looking for presenters who might be interested in the following suggestions:

- A guide to bad handwriting: You have an old letter in Yiddish, German, Polish, Russian or even English. No one on JewishGen's Viewmate, or a translator can understand it. Everyone says, "I can't make out the writing." This program would show typical confusions between letters and how century-old handwriting differed from today's.

- Genealogy in fiction: Genealogists are immersed in facts, archival data, etc. In addition there are narratives on history and culture related to immigration. More non-fiction books deal with personal family narratives (Annie's Ghosts, Lost, In Search of Six of Six Million, etc.). But how have genealogy and genealogists been treated in fiction? This program would explore themes in novels, short stories, and poems.

- Why me? Catching the genealogy bug: Why do some of us catch the bug and some don't? Are there any studies? Is there a psychology of the amateur genealogist? Arthur Kurzweil's early book is well known for addressing the emotional side of the attraction to family history. This program would examine studies from psychology, sociology and philosophy.

- Organizing your genealogical life using mind-mapping software: Family tree software goes just so far. PIM (personal information management) and mind-mapping software may be helpful tools to tie together, in a flexible manner, many ideas and tasks. This focuses on using the software "Personal Brain."

Writes Pam, "For 2010 the sky's the limit. If we can pull off a few of these out-of-the-box talks, it will be a nice addition to the usual slate of conference offerings."

Remember that a new program (one not presented at the three most recent conferences) or one with substantial updates based on new information is more likely to be of interest. Also, practical research methodology sessions, where attendees can duplicate the procedures for their own quests, are of major interest.

What can you expect to see in July? You will likely be seeing lectures, workshops, panel discussions, theatrical/musical presentations and films, along with highly original topics, such as authors discussing books, computer classes and hand's-on activities like cooking/crafts workshops (related to Jewish genealogy/history).

Want to catch the committee's collective creative eye? A clever title helps, along with a well-written, grammatically correct summary. And, when it comes to time to submit your final version, take the necessary time to edit, fine-tune, spellcheck and proofread everything before clicking the SUBMIT button. If you aren't sure, ask a friend to read it over.

Can your idea be presented in several ways - variations on a theme? Offer them in any number of proposals.

Think about the format (lectures, panel discussion, workshop) and the audience (beginner, intermediate, advanced). Remember that regular lectures and panels are each a total of 75 minutes in length, with 60 for the program and 15 minutes for Q&A. Workshops can vary in length.

Now, open a new word document and write, edit and spellcheck these four items in advance:
1) Brief biographical sketch (150 word limit).
2) Recent presentation experience summary (150 word limit).
3) Brief presentation description (100 word limit).
4) Title of presentation.
Once you've written them and made sure the word-count is accurate, cut-and-paste each into the proper boxes during the online process. Remember: You can always look at each entry and make changes until the submittal deadline of January 15, 2010.

Also, think about optional items to upload, handout material, a few slides or a Powerpoint presentation, published articles, a lecture or book review, film on DVD, talk on CD. If your proposal is accepted, you'll be required (at a later date) to upload session handout material for the syllabus.

To start entering information, click here for the Call for Papers and follow the instructions. It's the only way to submit proposals; no other format or method will be accepted.

Now that you've submitted your proposal, do one or more of the following - until the deadline. Tracing the Tribe recommends that you print the abstract each time you edit it:

- Edit Your Abstract: Click "Edit Abstract" - View/Print Abstract: (Print suggested; click "Print Preview")
- Save & Edit Later: Click “Save & Edit Later.”
- Add a Speaker: Click "Add an Additional Speaker."
- Submit Final Abstract: Click “Submit,” for your final abstract.
Read all the details at JGSLA2010.com.

Tracing the Tribe is working on its own programs to submit.

22 November 2009

South Africa: Mendel Kaplan dead

The South African Jewish community suffered a major loss last week with the death of prominent leader Mendel Kaplan, 73, following a stroke in Cape Town, where the funeral was held on Sunday.

A major Jewish philanthropist, the billionaire industrialist was a citizen of both Israel and South Africa and lived in both.

Kaplan was also interested in Jewish genealogy, particularly the South African Jewish community's Lithuanian roots. He had authored several books.

His grants enabled the computerization of the Registers of the Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter and the database, -at the University of Leicester (UK) School of Historical Studies - is an important source of demographic, genealogical and migration information.

He founded the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town in 1980, and was involved in the founding of the South African Jewish Museum (via the Kaplan, Kushlick Foundation), opened in 2000 by Nelson Mandela. He funded the museum's multimedia equipment as well as the reconstruction of a Lithuanian shtetl.

He promoted Soviet aliya after the Soviet Union's collapse, was known for his commitment to Jewish education and the belief that unless education was at the heart of the Jewish community, the Jewish people would not continue, and he was involved in many social projects in both Israel and South Africa.

He was involved with many global Jewish organizations, serving as chair of the Jewish Agency's board (1987-1995), Keren Hayesod's World Board chair (1983-1987) and Keren Hayesod honorary president from 1995 until his death. Other major organizations also benefited from his leadership and he was Jerusalem Foundation chair (1995-1999), United Communal Fund of South Africa national chair (1974-1978), Israel United Appeal South Africa national chair (1978-1987) and South African Jewish Board of Deputies vice president.

In 1936, he was born in South Africa, graduated from Wynberg Boys' High and the University of Cape Town with a law degree (1958) and earned an MBA from Columbia University (1960). His honorary degrees included UCT, Yeshiva University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He is survived by his Jill Lazar Kaplan, two daughters, two sons and grandchildren.

For additional information, click here.

New York: Seeking Syrian Jewish experts

Do you belong to the Syrian Jewish community in New York?

The Commission on the Jewish People of UJA-Federation of New York works to build
bridges among the various diverse and complex Jewish populations of the New York area.

As part of this, it is currently exploring different elements of the Sephardic Jewish community and specifically the nature of New York's Syrian-Jewish population.

They are searching for potential academics able to conduct research into the Syrian-Jewish community living in Brooklyn today, ascertaining both qualitative and quantitative information such as Jewish patterns of behavior, the socio-economic character of the population, population growth, and interface with the non-Syrian Jewish community at large.

The commission is seeking more on the contemporary nature of Brooklyn's Syrian-Jewish community, rather than historical information. The researcher should be willing to make significant contact with the Syrian community.

For more information, contact the UGA's director of research Jennifer Rosenberg if you are interested or if you know of someone who specializes in this or a related field.

Miami: Cheesecake & stone crabs, Dec. 6

As a former South Florida resident, my brain cells are indelibly imprinted with memories of great Jewish delis, Joe's Stone Crabs and the Cuban restaurants.

I wish I could be at the next Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami meeting which will feature author Seth Bramson speaking on his most recent book, "Sunshine, Stone Crabs and Cheesecake," on Sunday, December 6.

Bramson, a JGS Miami member, has written 16 books, including the first-ever Jewish history of the area, "L'Chaim! The History of the Jewish Community of Greater Miami," which details the part Members of the Tribe played in building the community.

The morning begins at 9.30am for networking, with the main program at 10am at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, 4200 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami. (See below for information on security arrangements).

Also, join in the group's annual Hanukkah celebration, complete with decorations, special treats, and a Hanukkah Party Grab Bag. See the JGS Miami website for directions, or contact president Joan Parker for more information on any details.

(SECURITY PARKING: There is free secure parking; bring ID. The gate is permanently closed. On the left, find a yellow security box, press #001 to connect to security. Announce that you are attending the JGS meeting, the gate will slide open and then close behind you.)

MyHeritage.com: Family by the numbers

Family tree charts are useful for an overall view of a group of your ancestors. Descendant chart printouts help us understand, in a linear text format, how the generations of our family tree relate to each other.

Now there's an entertaining way, via MyHeritage.com's new free tool, to learn family statistics contained in your data.

Called "Family Statistics," the new tool helps researchers access and understand 45 sets of statistics from information in their trees. It will also help locate data entry errors so they can be fixed quickly.

The stats are organized into six Family Zones: names, places, ages, births, marriages and divorces.

Find the oldest and youngest family members, learn who lived the longest, who married the youngest, who had the most children, who married the youngest and other interesting facts that might not be so obvious.

Family Statistics is completely free and easily accessed from the MyHeritage welcome page or from the Reports tab of your Family Tree site.

NOTE: If you've just joined MyHeritage, but have not yet uploaded a Gedcom or entered family information, you won't see the Reports tab. That should encourage you to add data now!

To gain the most from this interesting new tool, keep growing your tree and adding more information.

How can Family Statistics help you in other ways?

As it provides a quick way to demonstrate family facts and figures, the new tool can answer family questions fast.

MyHeritage members gain more insight into their families by growing their trees. The more data in a tree, the more interesting the charts will become.

If you see some strange results, such as siblings born a century apart or an ancestor married at age 10, you'll know a mistake was made somewhere and you can correct it quickly.

Enjoy this new way to learn more about your family!

21 November 2009

JPS: Free readers' guides online

The Jewish Publication Society offers free downloadable teachers/readers guides to some of its titles.

Read about them here.

They can be used for all kinds of groups, schools, adult education and others. They might also lead to more gift ideas for children and teens.

Genealogists should enjoy Vanessa L. Och's award-winning Inventing Jewish Ritual, for which the Leaders’ Guide suggests activities for exploring the meaning of Jewish objects, old and new; new ritual practices; ways to curate a mini-exhibit of contemporary Jewish life; and ways in which to conduct an ethnographic journey through one’s own Jewish life.

Did your family come through Galveston, Texas? Zayda was a Cowboy by June Levitt Nislick has a Study Guide which asks thought-provoking questions and provides background information on the Galveston Plan, a less-studied aspect of Jewish life in America in the late 19th-early 20th centuries.

While there are guides for such children's titles as The JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible, there's also the guide by Neal Scheindlin for The Commentators’ Bible: The JPS Miqrao’ot Gedolot, which has been translated into contemporary English.

One guide that isn't free is a book, Paul Steinberg’s Study Guide to Jewish Ethics, a companion volume to Rabbi Elliot Dorff's three Jewish ethics books: "Matters of Life and Death," "To Do the Right and the Good" and "Love Your Neighbor and Yourself."

Take a look around JPS and view its catalog.

Jewish Women's Archive: Santa Fe trip, March 2010

The Jewish Women's Archive is planning a trip to one of my favorite places, Santa Fe, New Mexico, during March 2010.

The theme is Jewish memory and narrative through art and craft, with a talk by Dr. Stanley Hordes, author of the excellent "To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico."

The trip is set from Wednesday-Sunday, March 3-7. For details, see the JWA.

For a century, artists have flocked to Santa Fe. The work of Jewish artists there combines both their heritage and their understanding of themselves as modern Jews. Life in Santa Fe is influenced by the existence of the hidden Jews - the Conversos - and their descendants who survive in Spanish outposts like New Mexico.

Jews living here have the freedom to be or not to be Jewish - surrounded by the ghosts of Jews who were not free to make that same choice, who were forced to give up their heritage but preserved it anyway as family custom and lore.

The local Jewish community lives alongside two others struggling to keep their cultural heritage. Both the Native Americans, with their extraordinary baskets and carvings, and Hispanics, with their tapestries and folk art, are engaged in the quest of how to remain affiliated and proud despite the forces of assimilation, homogeneity, and modernity.

The venue is the historic downtown Hotel Santa Fe, the city's only Native American-owned hotel. It is in the new Guadalupe Railyard District, called Santa Fe's Soho, filled with museums, galleries, shops and restaurants just outside the hotel.

Each day, meet Jewish artists and visit their studios, enjoy meals with poets and artists at some great dining locations, enjoy private tours of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and the new facility of the Santa Fe Art Institute, visit galleries like the Casa Nova Gallery, tour the School for Advanced Research on the Human Experience, lunch at and and tour the Institute for American Indian Arts with legacy guide Carol Franco and Jewish Native American Lois Frank, visit the Museum of New Mexico with director Fran Levine.

There's a Santa Fe-style Shabbat dinner at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi with Rabbi Malka Drucker and local hosts. On Saturday morning, join Shabbat serves at any of the local synagogues or privately tour the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art. Famed photographer Annie Leibovitz will speak at the O'Keeffe museum (separate tickets) when she receives the museum's 2010 Women of Distinction award, and end the day at a farewell banquet at the Geronimo Restaurant.

On Sunday, listen to one of my favorite people, Dr. Stanley Hordes, author of "To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico," as he discusses the remarkable story of Crypto-Jews and their tenuous preservation of Jewish rituals and traditions over the past 500 years, from their origins in medieval Spain and Portugal to their efforts to escape persecution by settling in the far reaches of the northern Mexican frontier.

What a great way to take a Santa Fe break! Your first visit will not be your last. If you've been to Santa Fe before, this is a new way to enjoy the city's atmosphere.

Israel: New database

In a collaboration that could be the model for other genealogical societies in other countries, the Israel Genealogical Society (IGS) has developed a special relationship with Petah Tikva's Oded Yarkoni Archive, which focuses on the city's history.

The IGS hopes other municipal archives will follow. This model is also useful for encouraging individuals to join genealogical societies, as these particular databases are accessible only to IGS members, in its online Members' Corner.

In recent years, the Oded Yarkoni archive has made a number of databases available - through the IGS website - with information about the city's population in its first 50 years. This is important to those searching family that lived there.

The current databases are the 1922 census, various registries, the 1923-34 birth registry and the 1923-1939 death registry. The 1922 census database has been translitered from Hebrew to English, but the others are only in Hebrew.
Here is additional information about the archival registries which are nine Hebrew-only lists, mostly undated, from the files of the town council.

They include the craftsmen's association, the vegetable marketing branch, the weighers, tradesmen, farmers, Maccabi Avshalom, automobile owners, horse-drawn wagon owners, and farmers living on the moshav. IGS has combined them into one database, including details found in each.

As an example, the tradesmens' list included the type of business and address for most individuals. In the craftsmen's registry, only the address was listed. For weighers, the addresses were given with the year (1943-44), while Maccabi Avshalom's list was dated 1939-1940.

The database includes 947 names. It is in Hebrew and can only be searched in Hebrew.

Some tips: If a surname is a compound, such as Ben Ezer, search for "contains Ben." A joint ownership or partnership with two surnames is listed twice - under both the first and second surname.
There is useful information here for those who can access it. Take a look around the IGS website for its English resources and databases.

USHMM: June workshop, Sephardic Jewry and the Holocaust

A June 2010 workshop on Sephardic Jewry and the Holocaust will take place at the USHMM in Washington, DC. The application deadline is November 23 (see below).

It is sponsored by the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies (CAHS) of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) which is seeking applications for the workshop, planned for June 16-25, 2010 at the USHMM. Up to 14 applicants will be accepted.

It will be led by two leading scholars in the field, Aron Rodrigue and Daniel Schroeter. There are two parts, seminar and research.

The seminar will address interdisciplinary issues, such as Ladino language and Sephardic identity; the Sephardic experience in ghettos, camps, and transports; resistance and rescue; and the experience of North African Jews before and during the war. Geographic areas are Southeastern Europe (Balkans, Bulgaria, Greece) and North Africa (Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco).

The research section will consist of orientation, exposure, and guided research in the Museum's extensive archival and other collections concerning North Africa, Croatia, Greece, Serbia, the Jewish community of Monastir, newly acquired collections in Ladino and Judeo-Arabic, and selected collections of Sephardic-survivor oral testimonies and Sephardic music.

The goals are to acquaint emerging scholars with the breadth of this rich and diverse subject matter; expose them to new scholarly research on Sephardic Studies and the Holocaust; and provide them with the background knowledge, archival resources, and scholarly networking necessary to initiate or continue work in this underrepresented area.

USHMM will accept up to 14 scholars from among advanced graduate students, doctoral candidates, post-doctoral scholars, and early career academics who are currently conducting or considering research on Sephardic Jewish Studies, Holocaust Studies in Sephardic countries or communities, or area studies in countries in which Sephardic Jews resided.

Candidates must be affiliated with an accredited, degree-awarding institution (baccalaureate, the equivalent, or higher) in North America.

Applications, which must be submitted electronically (or postmarked) in English by November 23, include a current CV, a statement on the scholar's interest and background, a supporting letter from an advisor, department chair or dean. Non-local attendees receive lodging for the workshop and $1,000 towards travel and incidental expenses. Local attendees receive $200 for the two weeks.

Questions? Contact Dr. Leah Wolfson, or view the USHMM site for more information.

UK: Meeting the family in Israel

Tracing the Tribe loves family reunions. The Jewish Chronicle covered the recent get-together of the Sugarman family in Israel.

The story was written by one of the attendees - Gita Conn - making it very personal, indeed.

Thirty-six people from the Conn branch of Manchester were among the more than 200 people - including 80 children - at the reunion in LaRomme Hall, in Rehovot. Some were meeting for the first time and some were there in utero, born after the historic event.

The attendees were all descendants of Manchester quilt-blanket manufacturer Chaim Sugerman, born in Vaslui, Romania, and his wife Rosa. Some 80 years ago, in 1929, the couple brought five of their eight children to Palestine.

According to the story, the group was a real mix:

The dairy farmer from Meggido met the financial director from Paris; the radical feminist from Haifa chatted to the head of a yeshivah; the UK’s leading legal pensions expert hung on the words of the retired Ashkelon health inspector, fascinated to hear that, after service in the British Army from 1938, he departed Manchester in ’48 to serve the Hagganah and, at the age of 91, still spoke fluent English “with a Mancunian accent which only exists abroad”.

Secular and Charedi, professionals and blue-collar, kibbutzniks and city dwellers ate, drank and mingled joyfully as they celebrated a Jewish family saga with a rare theme of happily-ever-after… at least so far. We had made it. Grandchildren and spouses, great-grandchildren, great-great and one great-great-great descendant of just one couple — Chaim and Rosa Sugarman, who took five of their eight children from Manchester to Palestine 80 years ago.
Planning a similar reunion?

There are tips in this story for you including badges, activities, recording the historic event, an historic photo display, family tree books, entertaining the children at such an event, displaying memorabilia and much more.

Read the complete story at the link above.