14 November 2009

Florida: Finding family success

Toby Levin's recent family reunion in Israel was the main event at the recent meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami.

This society provides excellent programming and Tracing the Tribe always carries its meeting announcements. We hope the following story will encourage you to attend the meetings of your own local society.

Levin's father came to the US in 1910, leaving his family in Austria, in a town that changed from Austria to Poland to Ukraine. In 1955, when her father died unexpectedly after surgery, she knew nearly nothing about her paternal family, except for her father's birthplace.

The branches of her family tree were bare for 50 years.

The Miami Herald covered the story of how retired freelance journalist Levin, 77, found her cousin Shalom Rosenblatt, 82, in Israel through Yad Vashem's Pages of Testimony, and how the The American Society of Yad Vashem's southern regional director Aaron Bernstein personally called Shalom.

This past August, Levin was inspired by a few events, including listening to a success story at a JGS meeting. She began a dedicated quest, worked all August and made her discovery in September.

Levin typed in her father's last name and his birthplace on Yad Vashem's Internet site. To her surprise, a screen popped up with a Page of Testimony. She had discovered two cousins; one had survived, one had perished in the Holocaust.
"My heart literally stopped,'' Levin said, describing her emotions when she saw a scanned document, hand-written by someone she immediately identified as her cousin.
The entry was for Rosenblatt's younger brother, murdered at 14 in then-Poland.

The Page of Testimony indicated that her only living paternal relative, Shalom Rosenblatt, had moved to Israel. Levin called her brother Jack and told him they were going to Israel.

If you've ever attended a meeting where someone has described such a discovery, you'll know that audience reaction is mixed. Some applaud while others cry. It was the same in Miami, when Levin shared her story.

Following her online discovery, she learned that The American Society for Yad Vashem had opened an Aventura branch a few months earlier. She called and told her story to regional director Aaron Bernstein.

"Within a half an hour, he called me back and said that he had spoken with my cousin in Israel and that he's a very nice man,'' she said, still with a look of disbelief on her face.

She then called Rosenblatt herself. And then her brother.
In October, there was a three-generation reunion near Jerusalem.

The Pages of Testimony at Yad Vashem have helped many family history researchers reconnect with family they thought was lost.

So many of us just don't know what happened to the family left behind after our relatives arrived in the US.

If you ever needed a reason to join a local Jewish genealogical society, this may be it. Hearing a first-hand amazing discovery may encourage you to look for your own. If you are in Southern Florida, why not check out the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami?

Read the complete story at the link above.

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