30 June 2010

Footnote.com: Holocaust Collection free access, July 9-19

Everyone loves presents, and Footnote.com is giving one to all Jewish genealogists.

At the recent Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree, I met with Footnote's marketing director Justin Schroepfer.

I suggested to Justin that it would be really nice if the subscription site would offer free access to its Holocaust Collection, for everyone, during the 30th IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy conference (July 11-16), whether or not researchers are attending the Los Angeles event.

Justin just wrote, saying: "I will have it [the Holocaust Collection] opened on July 9 through July 19. That way people can go home after the conference and still have access through the weekend."

From July 9-19, visit the Holocaust Collection microsite.

Footnote will also be presenting and exhibiting at JGSLA 2010. Try to stop by their booth in the vendor room and thank them for making the collection available.

Thanks, Justin, for providing this resource at a time when many beginning researchers will - for the first time - learn about the fate of family members during that tragic period.

JGSLA 2010: Jewish Journal's cover story!

As more than 1,000 researchers prepare to attend the 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, in Los Angeles, from July 11-16, the event graced the Jewish Journal's cover, and offered three Jewish genealogy-focused stories.

The JGSLA 2010 conference story, by Julie Gruenbaum Fax, provided information about this much-anticipated event which will provide resources, information and research opportunities to attendees of all skill levels, from absolute beginners through professionals.

There were also two related stories, both of which mentioned the conference:

-- Journey of a Lifetime, by Elizabeth Ruderman Miller, author of “How Will I Know Where I’m Going, If I Don’t Know Where I’ve Been? A Genealogical Journey” (AuthorHouse, 2009). Miller provided information on how she researched her book, listing such topics as find a muse, become a detective and research the time periods; and

-- Capturing Your Family’s History, by architectural historian and preservationist Barbara Hoff Delvac, the granddaughter of 19th-century Hungarian immigrants. Delvac discussed how important recording oral histories are to one's family history, as well as Ancestry.com, "Who Do You Think You Are?," the Mormon Family History Library, Jewish geography and online research.

The idea of the conference, according to co-chair Pamela Weisberger, is to "entice, and then enable" everyone in all segments of the Los Angeles Jewish community - no matter their age, origin or level of observance -- to discover their legacy and heritage in diverse ways.

For all information on the six-day event (from Sunday morning through mid-day Friday, click here).

“Most Jews mistakenly believe that they cannot research their family trees because ‘our name was changed at Ellis Island’ or ‘my grandfather’s shtetl no longer exists’ or ‘all the records were destroyed,’ ” said Pamela Weisberger, co-chair for the conference and a professional genealogical researcher. “These are all false concepts, but without instruction on how to do family research, most Jews will never attempt to document their family history or gather the precious stories of elderly family members, and their histories will be lost to time.”
Information was provided on the comprehensive Sunday program on the event's first day. Los Angeles residents can purchase day passes for Sunday or the other days of the conference.

On Sunday, diverse programs focus on how-sessions, beginners and multi-generational workshops. The Market Square Fair will offer expert photo analysts, who can pull clues from the clothes, background and hairstyles in old family photos. The professionally-staffed resource room will help attendees decipher cryptic documents or tangled family stories.

Some topic highlights include culinary history, medical genealogy and DNA genetic genealogy, Jewish surnames in non-Jewish families, Persian and Sephardic Jews, Conversos, genealogist-in-residence Arthur Kurzweil, archivists, technology workshops, writing family history, technology workshops, social networking and blogging, the keynote speaker, Film Festival, guided tours and evening entertainment.

Of course, frequent attendees of the conferences know that the networking at the events is most important and people researching the same geographical areas, technologies or techniques get together to collaborate, share and increase their collective knowledge.

The conference site is the JW Marriott at LA Live, July 11-16. Registration for the entire event is $310 (student/senior rates available). Day passes: $105, Sunday; $85, other days. For more information or to or register, visit jgsla2010.com.

For more, read the story links above.

See you in Los Angeles!

Quest: A mysterious Baltimore tea set

The Jewish Museum of Maryland's blog recently conducted readers through a bit of forensic genealogy.

The post (and photos) revealed how museum Collections Intern Sara Patenaude-Schuster tracked down the history of a mysterious tea set.

It also took Tracing the Tribe a bit of forensic searching through the blog to learn Sara's name, as her post included several photos of her, but not her name. I eventually discovered the intro post with the photos of this year's eight museum interns and searched those photos to find a match to the young woman depicted in the tea set post!

Sara's biggest challenge so far has been confirming the details on a tea set (photo right).

Read the steps she followed as she traced the history of this item.

Last week, my supervisor Jobi and I went to visit a woman who has a tea set that the JMM may be acquiring. The potential donor told us as much as she knew about the family history regarding the tea set, but some important details were missing. The key piece was the inscribed initials “M&S” on the tea pot. The set, she said, belonged to a prominent Jewish Baltimore family. The initials of the members of this family, though, weren’t M and S. She told us that she believed the tea set to have belonged to the wife of the prominent Baltimorean’s parents.
The museum had to confirm the object's details to make a decision on whether or not to accept the object.

Sara realized the names and family relationships were confused, such as identifying the wife for the mother-in-law and a nephew for a son.

Once she figured out the relationships, she attempted to research the wife's mother, but the museum's biographical records held nothing. The Internet had details on the husband and his family, but relatively nothing [pun intended] on the wife, and nothing about her parents.

Sara's then perused the museum's vertical files containing newspaper clippings (obituaries, pamphlets and fliers), and located the wife’s obituary and the name of her family's company. A breakthrough of sorts - although the Internet still showed nothing. Back to the vertical files, where she checked for everyone with the same surname, and hit gold!

A newspaper article revealed the name of a male cousin and the family business, as well as the family history. Sara found the man, M, and his wife, S, mentioned.

See the blog post for her "Eureka!" happy dance photo. Wrote Sara:

There is something immensely satisfying about solving a mystery, even one as seemingly unimportant as identifying the initials on a teapot.
Tracing the Tribe's readers can identify with her "happy dance" moment and congratulates Sara on her successful quest.

Read the complete post at the link above to learn more and see the great photos.

Click here to see the archival holdings of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

29 June 2010

Cleveland: Top 20 Jewish genealogy myths, July 7

Take a light-hearted look at the top 20 misconceptions in Jewish genealogy, with Cynthia Spikell, at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland (Ohio) on Wednesday, July 7.

The program begins at 7.30pm at Menorah Park, 27100 Cedar Road, Beachwood.

Cynthia's program is titled “Myths and Mistakes: What to Avoid When Researching Jewish Families.”

Among these assumptions, myths and mistakes, she'll expose the fallacy of some widely believed myths of immigration and tell how to avoid distractions to productive researching, such as searching for only one spelling of a surname.

A native Clevelander who has been researching her family for 14 years, Cynthia (photo right) has produced the JGS of Cleveland newsletter - The Kol - since 2006.

She's attended eight annual IAJGS international conferences on Jewish genealogy, seven Ohio Genealogical Society conferences, and also served on the IAJGS Strategic Planning Committee (2007-2008).

For more information, directions, and to see Cleveland resources, click the JGS of Cleveland.

28 June 2010

Sephardi/Caucus discussion list to end in August - Addendum

A good source of Sephardi and Mizrahi information will end in August.

The Sephardi/Mizrahi Caucus Discussion List, compiled by Aviva Ben-Ur, is winding down and all Sephardi researchers will feel the loss.

Ben-Ur included this announcement in the list edition received today.

Dear readers of the Sephardi/Mizrahi Caucus Discussion List:

After twelve years of editing and moderating this listserve, I am writing to announce that the final issue of the Sephardi/Mizrahi Caucus Discussion List will appear this coming August 2010. I would like to thank all the subscribers to this listserve (at this writing, a total of 347 in the U.S. and abroad) and the innumerable additional readers, all of whom have contributed in some way over the years.

Sephardi/Mizrahi Studies has become a fully developed subfield in its own right. It has also, in most ways, successfully integrated into the broader field of Jewish Studies and other areas of academic inquiry. The goals stated at the Association for Jewish Studies conference, at the first ever Sephardi/Mizrah Studies Caucus back in 1997, have thus been fulfilled.

The website for this listserve (http://www.umass.edu/sephardimizrahi/) will
continue as a historical record of this subfield's development. The meeting of the Caucus at the annual AJS conference will also continue for as long as scholars see fit.

My very best wishes to all!
Aviva Ben-Ur
Tracing the Tribe has always looked forward to the list, which has provided information on conferences, publications and other relevant details.

As just one example, today's edition (Part I) included:

-- The new edition of Iberia Judaica (#2, 2010)
-- The Catalogue of the Cairo Geniza Fragments at Westminster College Library, Cambridge.
-- The book about Samuel Yecutieli's maternal family, Los hijos judios de Istambul.
-- A book review on Ladino Rabbinic Literature and Ottoman Sephardic Culture (Matthias B. Lehmann).
-- A review of a Yale University symposium: "Jews of the Magreb" (April 2010).
-- A review of a conference: "Between Contact and Contrast: Jews and Christians in the Sasanian Empire" (March 2010).
-- Call for applications for Amado Foundation Trave Grants for the AJS.
-- Call for applications: Honoring Cape Verde's Jewish History Project.
-- An online survey regarding Jewish (especially Sephardic) History and Culture.

[Addendum] Part II included:

-- Call for Papers: African Judaism, University of London, October 30-31.
-- Lecture May 3: Gloria Mound, A Certain Identity - Crypto Jews Around The World."
-- Lecture May 6: Nadia Malinovich, "French Nationalism and Jewish Identity in the Early Twentieth Century."
-- ASF Heritage Tour, July 4-13: The Jews of Spain.
-- New Publication: "Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World."
-- New Publication: "Crown of Aleppo: The Mystery of the Oldest Hebrew Bible Codex."
-- New Publication: "Studies on Judeo-Spanish and Sephardic Culture: Cognitive Scientific Essays."
-- New Publication: "An Ambassador and A Mensch: The story of a Turkish Diplomat in Vichy France."
-- New Film: Rafting To Bombay.
-- Book Catalogue, Wyman Books: Modern Sephardic, Chinese, Indian, Mizrachi & Mediterranean Jewish History.
-- Call for Papers: Jewish Cemeteries and World Cultural Heritage: An Exploratory Workshop, May 31-June 1.

The list was most valuable to Sephardic researchers in many areas, and it will be sorely missed.

Access the archives link above to see what has happened or will happen in the near future in the Sephardic world.

Spain: Cervera archives update report

Archival resources in Cervera is the subject of an extensive report by Maria Jose Surribas-Camps in Barcelona.

My very good friend Maria Jose has done research in Catalan and other archives for many Sephardic researchers, including Jeff Malka, Judy Simon, Dan Laby, myself and others. She knows her way around the archives and her multi-lingual talents are put to good use translating documents in old Catalan, Latin and more.

We first met years ago when I spoke at Congregation Atid in Barcelona, and conducted a hand's-on workshop on Jewish genealogy - Maria Jose was one of the students and we've been good friends ever since.

A former attorney, her research skills are impeccable. Genealogy became her focus as she helped her maternal uncle, a well-known author and physician, prepare a work on medieval medical doctors (many of whom were Jewish) and conducted extensive archival research. Her maternal family comes from around Lerida (also known as Lleida), about 140 km northwest of Barcelona, and she discovered our TALALAY family's first two documents in Spain.

Most recently, she has been preparing a report on her investigations into the Cervera, Spain, archives, a rich primary resource for the history of medieval Sephardic Jews, for the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy.

Maria Jose will be speaking in Ravenna, Italy at July's EAJS (European Association of Jewish Studies) Congress, where she will present “Connecting with the Lives and Lineages of Medieval Catalan Jews.” Other speakers focusing on Jewish genealogy at that conference will be:

-- Valts Apinis, University of Riga: “Jews in Latvia in 1918-1940: a Genealogical Perspective.”

-- Federica Francesconi, University of Bologna and UCLA: “An Alternative Path toward Emancipation: Jewish; Merchants and their Cross-Cultural Networks in 18th Century Italian Ghettos."

-- Neville Lamdan, Hebrew University, Jerusalem:“Village Jews in the 19th Century Minsk Gubernya through a Genealogical Lens.”
According to director Neville Lamdan, in the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy's semi-annual report:

Perhaps the most exciting research results to be reported recently were received from Mrs. Maria Jose Surribas-Camps in Barcelona regarding her study into the “Lives and Lineages of Medieval Jews” in the provincial town of Cervera, in pre-Expulsion Spain.

Maria Jose has uncovered some 3,000 original documents in Latin and old Catalan, dated 1328-1499. The documents have revealed new discoveries on medieval Jews, as well as several important Cervera families, including rabbinical scholar “Rashba,” (1235-1310).

She has proved that unexplored small town Spanish archives are goldmines for the history and genealogy of Sephardi families living today around the world, who trace their families to pre-Expulsion Spain.

From a May 2009 progress report, Maria Jose provides the following two documents (1362, 1365) as examples of what can be found [TTT has added color to emphasize what details are in the documents]:

“Quod ego magister Abraam Astruch Zatorra judeus nunc Cervarie, tutor et curator Moise Abraam Zatorra, filii meum … Testes … Vital Gracia” – from which we learn that, on October 8, 1362 (document date), the aforesaid Jews were in Cervera, that Abraam Astruch Zatorra, Jew, did not originate from Cervera, and that he was the tutor and guardian of his son Moise (uses the same hereditary surname). The brief quote provides useful information on how middle and surnames were used during that period. It is also helpful to come across the same names more than once to avoid erroneous conclusions.

In another Notary book, dated June 30, 1365, we read “… ad hoc ego Abram Astruh Zatorre, fisicus, locumtenenti Vital Fferrari, judeus secretarii aliame iudeorum Cervarie …” from which we learn that Abram was a medical doctor.

Maria Jose is now working on the final version of her report (which will appear on the IIJG website). Additionally, and in conjunction with our good friend Dr. Jeffrey S. Malka ("Sephardic Genealogy"), she will prepare a book on the archival material.

Sephardic researchers worldwide are waiting for the results of what she has discovered. Read more of the IIJG 2010 mid-year report here. Read about the Cervera archives here. Read the May 2009 report here.

New York: Oldest congregation preserves cemetery

The oldest Jewish congregation in North America - New York's Shearith Israel in New York City - has presented the first preservation phase of its cemetery on West 21st Street, in use from 1829-51.

The burial site has more than 250 graves of former members of the congregation. Many are unmarked, and were only recently discovered via a ground-penetrating radar survey.

The oldest known grave (1708) is that of Sarah Bueno de Mesquita.

The congregation was founded in 1654 by 23 Sephardic Jews. It houses archival material and artifacts dating back to colonial days and covering American Jewish life since then. It is planning an archive and museum center.

Members of the congregation paid important roles in the American Revolution. It was the only synagogue in New York until 1825, providing all community needs for more than 170 years.

Some famous members included: Reverend Gershom Mendes Seixas, patriot American religious leader during the American Revolution; Benjamin Mendes Seixas, Ephraim Hart and Alexander Zuntz, founders of the New York Stock Exchange; Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy, first Jewish flag officer in the US Navy; Emma Lazarus, distinguished American poet; Alice Menken, pioneer in social welfare work; Justice Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, US Supreme Court Justice; Judge Edgar J. Nathan Jr., borough president of Manhattan and New York State Supreme Court Justice; Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, Rabbi of the congregation, founder of the Orthodox Union, Montefiore Hospital and the Lexington School for the Deaf; Reverend Dr. David de Sola Pool, Minister of the congregation, 20th century American Jewish life leading figure.

The cemetery site, about 80 by 120 feet, is also known as the Third Cemetery. There are 67 graves from before 1787; they were moved from the Chatham Square cemetery, the second oldest existing Manhattan cemetery, in use 1682-1831. The 11th Street Cemetery - between Sixth and Seventh Avenues - was used 1805-1830.

The initial phase included conservation and cleaning of tombstones, a ground-penetrating radar study to find unmarked graves, historically sensitive landscaping and new access pathways. Later work will focus on historic metalwork restoration and other items.

Funding for the first phase came from the El Ad Group and 21 LLC Corp. Future phases will cost about $1 million.

Click here and here for more information.

27 June 2010

Poland: Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki, new names revealed

Researchers with roots in Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki should be aware of the project led by Ze'ev Shaked and Alan Knecht.

They visited the cemetery on June 7, unearthed numerous gravestones and added the names to their lists.

The Jewish community and cemetery date from the 17th century. During the Holocaust, Jewish gravestones (matzevot) were removed and used in road construction and other works, squatters had set up homes in the cemetery amid graves that had been opened and desecrated.

The men excavated the following matzevot (Jewish gravestones). Abraham Schul, who was born and lived in the town corrected the original list of names, copied below. I also discovered a few more corrections:
Sara Mindel Etke SEGAL
Szmuel Itzchak PERELMUTER
Szmuel Baruch WAINSZTOK
Abraham Baruch BERNSZTEJN
Miriam Gitel KARCOWICZ
Hana Edel MAGID
Itzchak Baruch GRYNER
Miriam Yente SZKLANKA
Ruchama Rachel DOMB
There are a few additional stones (1880s-1930s), but the names are illegible.

Alan Knecht has posted pictures of some of these on the project's Facebook page (Nowy Dwor Jewish Cemetery Memorial), and has added additional information wherever possible. More will soon be posted.

Readers are invited to look at the images and see if they can add more information or make corrections to the transliterations.

There's another photo that the group is wondering about. Here it is:

Do you know any of the people in the image? If so, let the project know.

The project is dedicated to the desire to make sure that the Jewish cemetery in Nowy Dwor is secured and that the descendants of the Jewish community have a place at which to gather, remember and mourn.

The group's major accomplishment has been the start of the fence construction around the cemetery. They have raised $40,000 - with $10,000 from the Chief Rabbi of Warsaw.

Better news is that the city undertook - on its own - to dig up more stones while Ze'ev was there, which permitted more images to be photographed.

For more information, see the Nowy Dwor Jewish Memorial, where you can see a current list of names, a photo gallery, contact information and more.

UCBerkeley: Magnes Museum Jewish collection acquired

The Magnes Museum's 10,000-piece collection of music, art, rare books and historical archives will be moved to several University of California-Berkeley locations, as the university has acquired the collection.

[Photo left: Judah Magnes]

According to the press release (with accompanying photos of collection items):

The UCalifornia Berkeley announced a five-year, $2.5 million gift from Warren Hellman, Tad Taube and the Koret Foundation to acquire the Magnes Museum's Western Jewish History Archives, a 10,000-piece collection of music, art, rare books, and historical archives.

During the summer, all letters, diaries, photographs and other archival documents will be relocated to the Bancroft Library, and will be known as the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at the Bancroft Library. Musical manuscripts and sheet music will be moved to the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library.

Supported by the gift, a building renovation in Berkeley's arts and commerce district will provide lecture and seminar rooms, exhibit space for prints, paintings, photographs, costumes, and Judaica objects such as 15th-century Hanukkiah lamps and Torah ornaments.

See the press release link above for more information, photos and details.

Lithuania: Vilna research group success

The Vilna District Research Group has translated a large number of records and set up a new website to disseminate the data to contributors.

These records, such as the 1897 Vilna Merchants Directory, provide a rich resource of genealogical information not available elsewhere. Here's one original entry and the English translation:

The new site is here. Data files are not at that site, but it does contain accessible content to those who have contributed financially to the project.

Joel Ratner, who heads this group, provided the illustrations for this post. He taught the Lithuanian/Latvian session at the recent Jewish genealogy course at Boston's Hebrew College.

Another illlustration lists individuals with the KAGAN surname in a 1903 business directory:
Vilna District Research Group (VDRG):

The VDRG is concerned with the acquisition, translation and dissemination of non-vital records from the towns of the Vilna uyezd (or district), which was one of seven districts within the province of Vilna.

Towns in the Vilna district during Imperial times were: Antokol, Boguslavishok, Bezdonys, Ciobiskis, Gelvan, Gedrovitz, Inturik, Jasiunai, Laibiskis, Maisiagala, Mikhalishok, Malat, Musnik, Naujoji Vilna, Nemenchin, Novygorod, Podberezhe, Rudamina, Salcininkai, Sheshol, Shirvint, Snipishok, Stundishki, Turgeliai, Vilna (Vilna City), and Yakubantse.

Projects so far include these important collections:

Revision Lists (census)

Antokol - 1858
Boguslavishok - 1858
Ciobiskis - 1858
Gelvan - 1858
Mikhalishok - 1858
Moletai - 1834 and 1858
Musnik - 1858
Novygorod - 1858
Paberze - 1858
Snipishok - 1858
Vilna City - 1858
Family Lists
Boguslavishok - 1907 (underway)
Vilna City - 1875 (underway)
Merchants Lists

Vilna 1877 - 1890
Duma Electors Lists
Vilna City 1st-4th uchastok - 1906
Vilna City 6th uchastok - 1906
Vilna City - 1912 (underway)

Vilna City Directories
Vsia Vilna 1911
Vsia Vilna 1912
Vsia Vilna 1913
Vsia Vilna 1914
Vsia Vilna 1915
Business Directories
1903 Vsia Rossia
Vilner Informator
Other Censuses
1942 Vilna Ghetto Census
Vilna Community Records:
1894, 1897 Vilna Talmud Torah Donors Lists
1909, 1910 Vilna Technicum Donors Lists (ORT)
1902 - 1916 Vilna Free Kitchens Board - List of children given assistance
WWI - Soldiers wives receiving assistance from the Vilna Community
LitvakSIG Vital Records Translation Project:

The LitvakSIG Vital Records Translation Project has produced translations of birth, death, marriage and divorce records for the city of Vilna.

Records exist for other Vilna district towns and Vilna gubernia. The Vital Records Translation Project (VRT) is not directly connected to the Vilna District Research Group, as it raises its own funds. It has already translated more than 159,000 vital records for Vilna gubernia towns. Just over 125,000 of those records are for Vilna city. Some 70,000 additional vital records remain to be translated for Vilna proper, and there are more for other towns.

Vilna gubernia towns with extant vital records include:
Alytus, Antokol, Boguslavishok, Butrimantz, Chabishky, Darshunishok, Daug, Eishishok, Gelvan, Jieznas, Malat, Merech, Mikhalishok, Musnik, Nemencine,
Nemunaitz, Novodvor, Novygorod, Olkenik, Oran, Podberezhe, Punia, Radun,
Shchuchin, Shirvint, Shnipishok, Stoklishok, Troki, Veviya, Vilna, Zaskevichi,
Zhusli and Zhezmir.
Readers interested in either the Vilna District Research Group or the LitvakSIG Vital Records Translation Project, may click here or contact Joel Ratner.

26 June 2010

Lithuania: More internal passport records availabe

Lithuania researchers now have more records to search in the Internal Passport Records database.

The addition of 1,635 records is searchable and includes records from Panevezys (177), Telsiai (843), Birzai (265) and Ukmerge (351). Although many additional records have been translated, they will not appear in the database for 18 months.

However, researchers who wish to receive them without waiting can contribute $100 to Jewishgen for each town of interest (listed below).

For more information, click here to read about the passports and their importance. To contribute to this project (and receive records as they become available), click here and make sure to designate the project and town of interest.

Currently, the database includes 62,075 translated internal passport records:

Alytus City: Fond 399, 192 records (underway)
Alytus District: Fond 1569, 149 (underway)
Birzai: 2,739 (complete)
Jonava: 840 (complete)
Kaunas (City): 27,656 (complete)
Kaunas Uyezd: 3,846 (complete)
Kretinga Uyezd: 131 (complete)
Marijampole: 2,694 (underway)
Naujamiestis: 261 (complete)
Panevezys: 8,993 (underway)
Pumpenai: 245 (complete)
Rokiskis: 187 (complete)
Rozalimas: 67 (complete)
Seinai Uyezd (inc. Kapciamiestis and Lazdijai): 453 (complete)
Siauliai Uyezd: 5,594 records (complete)
Taurage District (Raseiniai): 1,026 (underway)
Telsiai Uyezd: 1,623 (complete)
Troskunai: 504 (complete)
Ukmerge: 5,570 (underway)
Vandziogala and environs: 694 (completed)
Towns and districts still to be translated: Trakai District, Vilnius City, Klaipedai City, Zarasiai City and Utena City (and District).

For more information, click the links above.

New York: Samberg High School Program

Are you interested in getting your children, grandchildren or other members of the younger generations involved in the pursuit of family history?

The Center for Jewish History offers an academic summer fellowship for high school students each summer.

The Samberg Family History Program runs June 28-July 23 this summer.

The program is a multi-faceted exploration of Jewish history and the participants' families pasts.

It draws upon all resources at the CJH, including its world-renowned collections of books, archival documents, photographs, artifacts, paintings, films, sound recordings and textiles. It involves the Center's expert curators, archivists, and librarians, as well as historians and educators.

The Samberg Family Foundation provides full tuition fellowships to all participants, who are recognized as Samberg High School Fellows:
As a Fellow, you are both a student, learning a subject, and an apprentice, pursuing research into the Jewish past alongside the worldwide community of academics, genealogists, and others who come to use the collections housed at the Center for Jewish History.
The program is co-sponsored by the CJH's Genealogy Institute and the American Jewish Historical Society.

Although the program begins in a few days, there may be a few spots still open, so contact them to learn more.

New York: Tenement Museum launches photo database

For some two centuries, many of our immigrant ancestors settled on New York's Lower East Side.

They lived crowded together in dark, crowded buildings called tenements.

One such building - 97 Orchard Street - housed some 7,000 people from more than 20 countries from 1863-1935. Restored as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, visitors can see restored apartments and get some sense of our ancestors' experiences as new immigrants.

According to the Tenement Museum blog, an online photo database has just been launched after four years of work.

It offers images including the neighborhood, historic and contemporary photos of the museum building, as well as portraits of its inhabitants.

The photo database is part of the permanent collection, with more than 5,000 objects and 130 linear feet of archival records.

Anyone with a computer connection around the word can now access the photo archive. Researchers may save their favorite images.

According to the blog, the most popular databases are photos of former residents and their descendants (1860s-2000s); stories of families presented on museum tours, photo essays, WPA photos, Lower East Side images, photos of apartments and the building.

Check out the images here.

Washington DC: Jewish chaplains monument

Plans are set for a memorial to Jewish chaplains at Arlington National Cemetery to be dedicated in October 2010, according to a story in the Washington Jewish Week.

Tracing the Tribe read about the memorial campaign in the DC Jewish History blog of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.

The Jewish Historical Society (JHSGW) has initiated a local fundraising campaign for the monument and for a booklet detailing the cemetery's Jewish sites and the chaplains' history. The goal is to raise a total of $10,000 from at least 100 area residents, to make it a true community project.
The new monument will memorialize nine Jewish chaplains who died in World War II, one in Korea and three who died during the Vietnam War era, according to Sol Moglen of Caldwell, N.J., who is spearheading the project with Ken Kraetzer of Westchester, N.Y.
The project has already raised $30,000 and the current campaign will fund publication of the 30-page booklet, including the Jewish chaplains' history, and to cover travel costs to the dedication for the nine chaplains' family members.

The booklet, in conjunction with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington, will also include information on other Jewish service members buried at the cemetery. For more information on the JGSGW's Arlington Cemetery project, click here. The 31st IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy - DC 2011 - will be hosted by the JGSGW - August 14-19, 2011 - at the Grand Hyatt.

Readers who would like to help this project may click Contribute; make sure to put "Arlington Campaign" in the designation box.

For more information, see the complete article at the first link above.

25 June 2010

New York: Throw the first pitch!

Take me out to the ballgame. Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks. Throw the first pitch for the New York Mets vs St. Louis Cardinals game on Wednesday, July 28.

The US Holocaust Museum's New York Next Generation Board thought up a great fundraiser.

For a minimum donation to the USHMM of $20,000, you can throw the first pitch at the game, set for 6pm at Citi Field. This chance of a lifetime is courtesy of the New York Mets.

The winner of this honor will be joined on the mound by a New York–area World War II veteran who helped defeat Nazi Germany and liberate Holocaust survivors, and will also be invited to a special private-suite Museum event commemorating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the camps.

How to keep your eye on the ball:

The highest pledge received by Friday, July 23, gets the honor of the pitch and also of supporting the USHMM's efforts to promote human dignity, confront hatred and prevent genocide.

Interested? Learn more by contacting Jana Neil in the USHMM's northeast regional office.

24 June 2010

Colorado: JGS honors Steinmetz

It is always good to read about genealogists receiving awards.

The Boulder Jewish News story, by Ellen Schindelman Kowitt (president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado), details the honoring of Boulder resident Howard Steinmetz with the first-ever "Spirit of JGSCO" at the group's annual meeting on June 13.

He received a heart-shaped glass award for representing the best characteristics of a Jewish genealogist and of an organization run 100% by volunteers. According to the awards committee chair Terry Lasky:
“Howard Steinmetz was recognized for his spirit as it positively influences others. His contributions, in this way, are something special that can’t be quantified – but are truly felt.”

Committed to and passionate about doing his own family history, Howard’s spirit is infectious. He is always willing to listen, offer advice to beginners or to participate in sharing resources with more advanced researchers. Howard’s attitude hasn’t ceased, even during very trying times.

This spirit has been so strong that it has gone well beyond his personal genealogical quests and made a special and positive effect on other JGSCO members.

An active member of the local JGSCO since 2005, Howard’s pursuit to continue learning about his family history has been a constant and steady endeavor.

In addition to Boulder and Denver genealogy lectures and workshops, he has attended annual Jewish genealogy conferences in diverse cities. Howard is also a leader of the Rohatyn Shtetl Research Group along with landsman he has met online through JewishGen.
JGSCO founding members (all Denver residents) received “Pillar of the Society"awards: Sandra Greenberg, Miriam Ohr, Myndel Cohen, Anne Fendrich and RitaJo Tensly.

Congratulations to all the honorees!

Ancestry.com: Canadian city directories, 1819-1906

Perhaps we can find our elusive Canadian immigrant ancestors with the help of the city directories (1819-1906) just added to Ancestry.ca.

If you have a World Deluxe subscription, you'll have Canada at your fingertips.

The collection includes 150,000 pages with 7 million names, covering 87 years.

City directories have always been valuable to my own research, offering some unexpected surprises as well as confirmation of details.

Have you used city directories for the US or for Canada? This is what you can find in their pages, according to the press release:
City directories contain an alphabetical listing of citizens, giving the names of the heads of households, their addresses and occupations. When an ancestor is found a researcher can see their name, home or business address and usually an occupation.

For added interest, a further search using the street name will find their neighbours, allowing users to build up a picture of what life was like in the area.

A city directory may also contain a business directory, street directory, governmental directory, and listings of town officers, schools, societies, churches, post offices and other miscellaneous records that help paint a clearer picture of one’s ancestors.
These are the provinces, followed by the estimated number of records, and estimated number of names.
8,4059; 4,202,950
3,3201; 1,660,050
Nova Scotia:
12,566; 628,300
New Brunswick:
11,051; 552,550
National and Multi-Province:
6,201; 310,050
2,514; 125,700
British Columbia:
2,016; 100,800
1,194; 59,700
Prince Edward Island:
927; 46,350
16; 800
Total estimate:
153,745; 7,687,250
For more, click here.

I'm still looking for my great-grandfather's uncle or brother supposedly in Canada and with whom he stayed for several months before settling in Newark, New Jersey. Looks like I'll have some work to do!

Webinar: Finding ancestors in EllisIsland.org

"Ellis Island: Find Your Ancestor in a Sea of Online Records" is a webinar with Lisa Alzo, scheduled by Family Tree Magazine on Wednesday, July 21.

Nearly half of all Americans have relatives who arrived at New York's Ellis Island. Those passenger records - some 22 million online records - are a key resource to help researchers jump back to the old country to pick up the trail.

The 60-minute webinar, presented by Lisa Alzo, will provide the tricks and tips of searching EllisIsland.org. It begins at 7pm Eastern.

Participants will learn:

-- Tricks to searching the Ellis Island passenger list database
-- Secrets from a demo search of a hard-to-find immigrant
-- How to use Steve Morse's One-Step search tools to locate elusive passengers
-- The differences between Ancestry.com and EllisIsland.org

To register, click here.

San Diego: A Jewish story everywhere

Did you have family in San Diego, California? Here's a great newspaper resource for family historians and genealogists searching for Jewish family connections.

The San Diego Jewish World - whose tagline is "there's a Jewish story everywhere" - has put on line, in its blog, the paper's index and also blogs the paper's historical (from 1954, in this case) social announcements, travel notes and more.

"Adventures in Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. The comment at the end of the blog posts:
Our indexed “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.
The social and travel notes for June 25, 1954 are here.

Among the treasures are these:
-- From Near and Far – The Fischbeins write from Tel Aviv that they are “having a fabulous time seeing everything in Israel.” From not so far, the Mac Kaufmans reported last from Portland that the northwest is even more exciting than expected. And from even nearer, the Mickey Fredmans and the Harry Waxes report an exciting weekend in Las Vegas.
As an example of what else can be found, click on July 9, 1954, and scroll down for the wedding announcement of S. Esther Weitzman and Andrew Segal, which took place on July 11. There are many family connections in this one with names of parents, locations, guests, bridal party (bridesmaids, ushers flower girls, ring bearer, best man, matron/maid of honor) and out-of town relatives from New York, Los Angeles, Venice and San Bernardino.


For more, go to the blog at the top link above, scroll down to "Categories" (lower right sidebar), scroll to "Adventures in San Diego Jewish History," and click for all such posts. Readers can also search by date, country, Jewish public official, author, topic or name.


Jewish History: Do you know......?

What happened on June 24 in Jewish history?

Do you know about the Mortara affair in Italy, a British law requiring Jewish parents to support children who had become Protestant, a second exile from France, several massacres, Italian ghettos, a Hungarian residence tax, the Red Cross, or when Jews received full Polish citizenship?

This Day in Jewish History provides a great day-by-day list of such happenings. Today's list goes back to 1298, and covers events in Austria, France, England, Jamaica, Poland, Italy, Hungary, Russia, US, Turkey and Ukraine.

These events may help explain your family's movements to various countries at certain times, and clarify family stories handed down over the generations. I always find the site fascinating!

1298: Massacre of the Jews of Ifhauben, Austria.

1322: Charles IV of France expelled all the Jews from France without the promised one year's warning. This marked the second expulsion of the Jews from France.

1509: Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon crowned King and Queen of England. There were no Jews living in England at this time. Henry’s father (Henry VII) had promised Catherine’s parents (the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella) that Jews would never be allowed the realm of the English monarchs. Thanks to the turmoil that Henry would create when he went to shed Catherine as his Queen and royal mate, small numbers of Marranos and crypto-Jews would be living in England by the end of the century.

1692: Founding of Kingston, Jamaica. By now, Jamaica was an English colony and Jews can practice their religion as opposed to their secret observance that had been the norm during Spanish rule. There were enough Jews living in Kingston that synagogues were reportedly opened in 1744 and 1787.

1648: In Tulczyn, Poland, an agreement between the 2,000 Jews and 600 Christians to defend the town at all costs succeeded in preventing the Cossacks from capturing the town. The Cossacks persuaded the Christians that they would let them go free if they would give them the Jews. The (furious) Jews were persuaded by the Rabbi that if they took revenge on the Poles other Jews would suffer. The gates were opened and most of the Jews killed. The Cossacks then turned on the Poles and killed most of them as well. For the most part, during the entire war the Poles and the Jews were uneasy allies against the Cossacks.

1702: In Great Britain an “Act to oblige Jews to maintain and provide for their Protestant children” took effect. This act of Parliament grew out of case involving Jacob de Mendez Berta and his daughter Mary who became a Protestant. According to one source, the father refused to continue to support his daughter after she converted and her newly adopted Protestant community did not want to shoulder the burden of her support. Hence, this legislation was adopted and would stay in effect until the middle of the 19th century.

1843: The Inquisitor of Ancona, Italy decreed that Jews may not live in any municipality where there was no ghetto.

1846: In Hungary, the residence tax was officially abolished. In order to have it cancelled the Jews had to pay a one-time fee of 1,200,000 florins.

1856: In Rome, a contingent of papal carabinieri “acting at the orders of the local Inquisitor, Father Pier Gaetan Feletti, took six year old Edgardo Mortara from his parent’s apartment because church officials discovered that Edgardo had been secretly baptized by a servant girls five years ago and that he could no longer “be raised in a Jewish household.” Thus began the scandal known as the Mortara Affair.

1873: In a sermon, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher gave the first public warning of rising anti-Semitism in the U.S. Beecher was a fighter for social justice, an abolitionist and the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe.

1908: President Grover Cleveland died of heart failure. As President, Cleveland appointed Oscar Solomon Strauss envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Turkey in 1887. In 1897 Cleveland vetoed an immigration bill that included a literacy test. The literacy test was a thinly veiled attempt to close the doors to immigrants including the wave of Jews coming from Eastern Europe. In 1903, Cleveland, who was by now former President, was the featured speaker at the New York City rally protesting the Kishinev Pogroms.

1918: Jacob Schiff of New York City protests against the Red Cross which has discriminated against Jews from Bulgaria and Turkey, Germany and Austro-Hungary. Red Cross stated Jews from these lands, or children who have fathers who were born in these lands cannot serve in the Red Cross.

1919: In the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, France, Polish Prime Minister Ignacy Paderewski signed the Minorities Treaty that “awarded full civil, religious and political rights to all citizens of the new Poland, with the term ‘citizen’ applied broadly to all person either born or ‘habitually’ resident on Polish territory.” This meant that the Jews of Poland were guaranteed full citizenship in the newly reconstituted Poland ... opening the path to full citizenship for the Jews of Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey.

There's much more. See the link above.

23 June 2010

JGSLA 2010: Tours planned

JGSLA 2010 is just around the corner, only a few weeks away, from July 11-16, at the new JW Marriott at LA Live!

Every conference offers local tours (extra fee required) covering the Jewish community, cemeteries and other points of interest.

Here are the offerings for Los Angeles:

-- Shomer Shabbat Downtown Los Angeles Historical Jewish Walking Tour
Saturday, July 10, 1:30-5pm
Walk from the hotel, no transportation required ($15)

-- Old LA, From the First Jews Forward: A Walking Tour
Sunday, July 11, 9am-noon
Guided walking and public transit tour of Jewish Los Angeles history. Transit includes subway Dash bus ($2 not included). Required: Ability to walk and take public transportation. ($15)

-- Boyle Heights & Breed Street Shul Downtown Jewish L.A. Bus & Lunch Tour
Sunday, July 11, 9:30am-3:30pm
Includes The Breed Street Shul, Welsh Presbyterian Church, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, San Antonio Winery (lunch stop, meal not included). A Jewish Historical Society docent is the guide. ($45)

-- Hollywood Forever Cemetery – The Jewish Heritage Tour: Resting Place of the Stars
Sunday, July 11, 12:45-3pm
Explore the lives and contributions of the Jewish residents interred at Hollywood Forever. Visit Beth Olam Mausoleum. Highlights: Garbo’s agent, Charles Feldman; mobster Bugsy Siegel, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Michael Kanin (“Woman of the Year”); the Ritz Brothers, and the Anne Frank Memorial. ($45)

-- Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust Tour (& kosher dinner)
Tuesday, July 13, 4:15-7:15pm
The Museum is the oldest Holocaust museum in the US. Its board president, Randy Schoenberg, will personally guide participants on a sneak peak of the Museum’s new permanent home built into a Pan Pacific Park hillside. Enjoy a festive kosher buffet dinner and be one of the first to visit. Tour will return to the conference in time for the JewishGen evening. ($59)

-- Hollywood Forever Cemetery: The Jewish Heritage Tour (Resting Place of the Stars!)
Wednesday, July 14, 1:15-3:45pm (repeat of Sunday tour) ($45)

Sign up for the tours:

Already registered? Go to the Attendee Service Center here, log in email and password (received with your confirmation email), click EDIT on your account to add tours.

Not yet registered?
Add the tours as part of the initial registration process.

Visit JGSLA 2010 for more information and all conference details.

See you in Los Angeles!

Oregon: Daniel Horowitz, July 1

Face recognition technology is the topic at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon, on Thursday, July 1.

Daniel Horowitz, genealogy and translation manager at MyHeritage.com, will speak at the event which begins at 7.30pm at Congregation Ahavath Achim, 3225 SW Barbur Bvd., Portland.

Face recognition technology can help researchers identify and tag people in photos, discover related people and recover lost family connections. MyHeritage makes use of this technology as an excellent tool for genealogy research.

Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Daniel graduated from the Moral y Luces Herzl-Bialik High School and earned a BS.c (computer engineering) with specializations in education and management of educational institutions.

He returned to his Jewish high school as a computer instructor and teacher/director of the genealogy project - "Searching for My Roots" - for which he created the educational materials, and presented genealogy workshops for students and parents.

Daniel received awards for the project, including the Gonzalo Benaim Pinto Venezuela national award. His students received nine consecutive awards (1997-2005) in the Beit Hatfutsot / Museum of the Diaspora annual international competition, "My Family Story."

He was a founding member and lecturer of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Venezuela (AGJUVE), and he and his family have lived in Israel since 2005.

He is a member and webmaster of the Israel Genealogical Society (IGS) and the Horowitz Families Association, has lectured at various international conferences and for local genealogy groups. He was elected to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) board in 2008, and is its webmaster.

Admission: JGSO members, free; others, $5.

For more information, visit the JGSO website, or send an email.

Belarus: Gomel project news

Are you researching Belarus? Is Gomel one of your towns of interest?

Tracing the Tribe has an ancillary interest in Gomel as well. Although Mogilev and environs seems to be the focus of our research, Joseph Talalay of Vorotinschtina married Sophie Brusterman of Gomel. They moved to Moscow, Berlin, London and eventually the US.

Forming a rough triangle, Gomel was in the south, with Bobruisk to the northwest and Mogilev to the north. People from one often went to another for marriage or business. We had Mogilev relatives who went to live in Bobruisk over the years. If you are researching any of these three cities, check available records for the other two - you might find a few surprises!

If you are also interested in the town, read this update from Paul Zoglin of the Gomel (Belarus) project.

The group has been working on translating the first set of Gomel records (marriage records 1888-1905). The work resumed a few weeks ago, he writes, but it is slow going because the records are hard to read.

Paul hopes he may have something before the JGSLA 2010 conference, but it might be later. He will be attending JGSLA 2010, and adds that 10 other group members people will also be present.

A conference get-together may take place for the Gomel research group at 9.30pm Sunday, July 11. All Gomel researchers attending the conference should contact Paul for more information - he's very interested in meeting with them during the conference.

He is also working on the old Jewish neighborhoods in Gomel, and has been investigating the passenger manifests of immigrants from Gomel and recording their street addresses, if and when they appear.

Paul asks Gomel researchers to share with him any additional addresses - if known - of their families. He'll be visiting Gomel in July and plans to take photos of the buildings. Although, he says, "not much remains in Gomel from before the revolution" it is possible some of the old buildings survived.

If Gomel is one of your towns, contact Paul to see how you can help the project move forward and to participate.

Yad Vashem: Reconnecting a family

My annual summer trips provide many opportunities to interact with genealogists and family historians, while meeting with old friends and new.

On Sunday, I attended a board meeting of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society. Held at the home of my hosts and good friends, Rosanne and Dan Leeson, it was great to see so many old friends.

One new person was Israeli businessman Avner Yonai, who has been Yad Vashem's area volunteer coordinator for the Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project Pages of Testimony. Avner also attended the group's brick wall session on Tuesday night (see separate blog post on this event).

The new Yad Vashem blog has detailed the story of Avner's successful discovery and reconnection to a living descendant of his aunt Bluma, murdered in the Holocaust.

The reunion was faciitated through Avner's research in the Pages of Testimony and the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names database.

In a tale spanning across Poland, Belarus, Israel and the US, Avner Yonai (38) a native Israeli businessman living in California, recently connected with a lost relative after discovering Pages of Testimony submitted by his grandfather in memory of family members who were murdered in the Shoah.
His maternal grandfather, David Rybak, was born in Gora Kalwaria (Ger), Poland, and Avner recently found David's travel and aliyah documents.

David had emigrated to Mandate Palestine in 1935, before the Nazi invasion of Poland. A brother, Beryl, stayed in Poland and was murdered in 1942 with his wife Bluma (Goldhecht) in Treblinka. Her brother Yaacov survived, moved to Israel and submitted a Page of Testimony (PoT) for her in Israel in the 1950's.

Avner discovered that David had also submitted a PoT for Bluma.

Yaacov and David were both from Ger, and were members of the town's Mandolin Orchestra (photo above), conducted by David's brother, Beryl. The group performed during the 1920s-1930s; most were killed in the Holocaust.

The group is remembered in the Gora Kalwaria Yizkor Book, where Yaacov wrote:
“A unique orchestra directed by Beryl Ryback …who knows? Under different circumstances Beryl could well have gone on to become a world-renowned conductor."

This all exists only in the memories of the survivors of Ger, in all the countries of the world where they have been scattered…from time to time they feel a longing for this beautiful romantic past, that belongs to a past that is dead and buried… The Jews of Ger died the deaths of martyrs by the hands of the vile Nazi murders!”
Avner used the PoT contact information given by Yaakov to trace his family and found Yaakov's grandson Giora. The two branches were reunited at the Goldhechts' home in Israel.

Neither Avner's mother nor his uncle knew their father had submitted the PoTs.

Avner has recently launched a Facebook page dedicated to The Mandolin Orchestra of Ger, as well as efforts to stage a reviva concert of the group.

For more, and to see photos, click the link above.

Tracing the Tribe always advises searching the Pages of Testimony at the link above. Remember that additional pages are added all the time, so even if you've checked in the past and found nothing, there may now be new pages of interest.

JGSA 2010: New Sunday programs!

Opening day (Sunday, July 11) of the 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is even more exciting with three new programs added to the lineup!

Are you trying to involve a friend or relative - perhaps a spouse who doesn't understand your passion - in family history? The many diverse activities planned for Sunday might be just the hook to pique their interest.

In addition to the toe-tapping klezmer music of Hot Pstromi (aka Yale Strom), in the afternoon and evening, there's another way to look at this ubiquitous food.

Were you born in the Year of the Pastrami? Tracing the Tribe previously wrote about comedian Seth Front's "Jewish Zodiac." Start your day with a good laugh as Seth speaks at 9.30am on “The Jewish Zodiac: A Culinary History of Jews in America (Based on the Astrological Signs of the Delicatessen)."

Join in for America's Jewish deli history, from its Lower East Side New York roots through adaptation of tastes, its assimilation into American culture and current survival challenges. He'll cover the foods Jews brought from Eastern Europe, the difference between a deli and an appetizing store, how famous entertainers popularized the deli, and how deli culture eased Jewish entry into American society.

Many Jewish genealogists claim to be descended from King David, so author Jonathan Kirsch will speak at 1pm Sunday at a special lunch and learn lecture.

Grab lunch at the kiosk and bring it along to the talk, as Kirsch deconstructs ”And a Branch Shall Grow Out of His Roots: What Can We Know About the Descendants of King David?” based on his biography of the single most crucial and controversial figure in the Hebrew Bible, King David: The Man Who Ruled Israel.

UCLA Professor Nahid Pirnazar will speak at 3.30pm Sunday on "The Intricate Tapestry of Iranian Jews,” as she discusses the paradoxical survival of the Jews of Persia through 27 centuries of obscure history to today.

Despite the mass emigration of Jews (1978-1979), Iran still holds the largest Jewish community among the region's Islamic countries. Learn about the Jewish community of Babylonia, those who stayed and didn't return to Jerusalem? What happened to those Jews who, over the centuries, greatly impacted the formation of Iranian culture and identity?

Sunday will be a great day for those new to genealogy, with so much going on. There's a full day of lectures, entertainment, classes, exhibits, films, the Market Square Fair, keynote by author Daniel Mendelsohn and a dessert reception.

The day pass for opening day is $105, for everything; an evening pass is available (from 6.30pm) for evening opening events.

Go to JGSLA2010.com for all the details.

See you in Los Angeles!

New York: Sephardic Book Fair, July 25

The first New York Sephardic Jewish Book Fair - with book readings, author signings, book sales and tours - is set for Sunday, July 25.

Hosted by the American Sephardi Federation (ASF), will be held from noon-5pm, at the Steinberg Great Hall at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th Street.

The free event, open to the public, will include authors and book lovers, those who write about and read about the culture, history, philosophy, religion, languages and experiences of the Sephardic Jews, past and present.

Hundreds of titles of Sephardic-oriented books, including many rare titles, will be available for sale by the Sephardic House bookstore, as well as by unique vendors that specialize in Sephardic Judaica.

Several visiting authors will discuss a wide range of topics including personal histories, Sephardic history, philosophy, culture and religion. The day's key author and speaker will be Dr. Marc D. Angel, founder of The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals and Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel, North America's oldest Jewish congregation.
The fair will also feature a display of rare Sephardic books from the ASF Library and Archives, while Yeshiva University Museum will hold tours of their current exhibit: "A Journey Through Jewish Worlds: Highlights from the Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books."

The Braginsky Collection includes handwritten manuscripts and printed books from Holland, Italy, Spain, Greece and India.

There will also be hourly free door prizes for attendees.

The ASF promotes and preserves the spiritual, historical, cultural and social traditions of all Sephardic communities as an integral part of Jewish heritage.

22 June 2010

Hispanics: 'Tug of Jewish Heritage'

At the recent Jamboree, I spoke about our IberianAshkenaz DNA Project from the viewpoint of an administrator, presenting attendees with information on organizing such a project for their own interests, as well as setting goals, criteria, persuading people to test and other topics.

On Sunday, as I waited in the Burbank Marriott lobby for the airport shuttle, I noticed a woman who had attended the session. Before we knew it, we were deep in conversation and missed two shuttles!

She began by saying that she had not intended to come to my IberianAshkenaz talk, but simply found herself there. I explained the meaning of the Hebrew word beshert, destiny or fate.

The San Diego resident shared that her grandmother wore a Jewish star, and so does she. When someone saw it and asked why, she said that it was because of her grandmother. The person said, "there's more to it than that."

Customs observed in her family included not eating pork, covering mirrors when someone died and other traditions. The family had no clue that the family was originally Jewish and thought the grandmother was Greek Orthodox. The family originally came from an area of Mexico I recognized immediately as a known Sephardic center.

The conversation was a moving experience for both of us. I gave her my card, told her about JGSLA 2010, July 11-16 in Los Angeles, which will have several sessions on Sephardim and Conversos, as well as the Sephardic Bnai Anousim conference, July 16-19, in El Paso, Texas.

The Hollywood (Florida) Sun-Sentinel offered a story a few days ago concerning the mysterious tug of Jewish heritage felt by some Hispanics. It includes quotes from Bennett Greenspan of FamilyTreeDNA.com and others.

Growing up in the Catholic faith, Trudi Berglin noticed her mother had a "compulsion" to buy a new set of dishes every spring. No one knew the origin of this family tradition — not even her mother.

Only after Berglin, 70, of Fort Lauderdale, became an adult did she learn about the Jewish custom of using a special set of dishes for Passover, which falls around Easter.

She also figured out her family fled from Spain to Italy at the time of the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century. Under that royal Catholic tribunal for rooting out the unorthodox, Spanish Jews had three choices: leave, convert or die.
Many pretended to convert, athough continued secret observances and maintained contact with other similar families. Some traditions have survived until today, but the reasons why have been lost to many who still adhere to them out of respect for their elders.

Tracing the Tribe was happy to see that the story mentioned the term conversos and also noted that another term - marrano - was pejorative.

The escaping Jews from Spain and Portugal went to Turkey, Holland and Bulgaria. They also settled in Brazil, France, Italy, Mexico and Peru. From around the world, many eventually came to America.
Now people like her are asking questions that spring from a lifetime of nagging feelings about their true background. Some are even turning to DNA testing to see if they have the markers that show they are, at the most basic genetic level, Jewish.
A Catholic priest in Albuquerque NM - Rev. William Sanchez -was, as a child, warned away from eating pork and bacon.
"As an adult he took a test for the Jewish DNA marker, and it came back positive."
That part of the newspaper article is not accurate. There is no Jewish DNA marker; there is a Cohen Modal Signature carried by those who today self-identify as Kohanim, or descendants of the High Priest Aaron, and share a specific marker signature. That is what Sanchez - and many other Hispanic men - carry. And many Jewish individuals are clustered in certain haplogroups.

Sanchez today runs the Sephardim-New Mexico Project (since 2002). It helps to identify of Jewish heritage in New Mexico. He estimates that 30% of the 210 men tested have Jewish ancestry.

But back to Berglin, mentioned in the story's first paragraph:

In Fort Lauderdale, Berglin became so convinced of her heritage that she converted to Judaism in 1989. Her mother's reaction: "Oh, I wondered if anybody
would ever go back."

"I still get chills myself," Berglin said. "I said to her, 'Now I know why you bought all the damn dishes.' She said, 'Is that what they do?'

Purchasing new dishes at Pesach is a common Sephardic and Mizrahi custom. It was also observed by the Jews in Iran, when we lived there. Many families took the opportunity to purchase new sets of everyday china and pots and pans. Others kept Passover dishes separate from year to year as well as the large pots for rice. My late mother-in-law had all her huge copper pots re-tinned on the inside every year and used these for the week of Passover.
Scholars have differing opinions as to how many Jews lived in Spain prior to 1492 and the Exile. Some estimate 100,000 of them decided to leave rather than convert, according to American Sephardi Federation's senior librarian and archivist Randall Belinfante.

As far as tracing families back to Spain over the centuries is not so easy, but many families preserve certain Jewish customs and traditions.
"Now you are seeing the descendants of the descendants of the descendants keep some sort of tradition alive. So now, when we are free in the western world, they can creep out of the shadows and start asking questions," said Bennett Greenspan, the president of Family Tree DNA in Houston, which tests people for genetic markers.

He gets requests for Jewish testing from Hispanics "every single day ... from all over the country," Greenspan said. Although there is no "Jewish gene," there is a detectable pattern that can link an individual to a Jewish gene pool.

Clients tell him they "cannot rest" until they know the truth about their family's past.
The story goes on to cover known conversos on Christopher Columbus's crew, and that among the settlers of Florida's oldest city, St. Augustine (founded 1565) are Jewish names.

There's also the story of native Peruvian Jeannina Torres, now living in Florida, and her hunch about her ancestry. Her Catholic family kept dishes separate for dairy and milk and she later learned that this was one of the tenets of kashrut. Both she and her sister have converted to Judaism. The family believes they went from Spain to Peru and that her mother's family name is Landa [TTT: Landa is also a known Eastern European Jewish name. Perhaps this is another candidate for our IberianAshkenaz DNA Project]. Her great-aunt mentioned, at the time of her sister's return to Judaism, that "somebody's going back to our roots."

Berglin is planning a visit to Northern Italy to interview older relatives, check records and also to visit Spain for more information.

Tracing the Tribe hears stories like these frequently. Those of us in a position to hear these stories must assist these individuals to learn more.

The map above, along with an excellent article on the Ladino language (in English and Ladino) may be seen at Lowands-Lnet.

JGSLA 2010: Mac users to meet

At this year's conference, the Mac users will celebrate the third annual meeting of the Mac BOF and the group's first evening meeting.

At the Salt Lake City 2007 conference, I joined in - as an onlooker - at Doris Loeb Nabel's Mac group, which gathered in a corner of a sitting area. Doris had posted to the conference ist about the Mac users getting together and they really turned out!

Doris wrote to Tracing the Tribe:

Although I loved my Mac, I had experienced little, or no support at various conferences.

On a personal level, when I encountered a computer problem or a question I would have liked to discuss with other users, I often found the situation frustrating, and felt that I was probably reinventing the wheel.
As the result of Doris' SLC digest post, a group of Mac users with similar experiences met informally during the conference, and also joined for dinners, and shared common interests at the hotel's wireless hot spots at various periods of free time. While shmoozing, they learned from each other.

The group soon had a yahoo website enabling discussions, uploads, questions and answers, and is a forum to keep in touch, grow and make progress.

Detailed responses result in posts about genealogy software, hardware, Mac shortcuts, and occasional glitches. Experienced and new users learn from each other, as they share hints and tips.

Writes Doris:

Whether you are an experienced Mac and genealogy aficionado, a newbie, or are considering switching to a Mac, I encourage you to attend our BOF meeting, Monday, July 12, from 6:15- 7:15pm.

The unique BOF meeting slot is a window minus concurrent session conflicts.
Dinner is a possibility, and Doris asks interested Mac users to contact her so that food options will be available for those interested.

If you'll be in Los Angeles, please respond to Doris if you are interested in purchasing a box dinner from a nearby restaurant. The conference culinary chair is one of the Mac BOF’s charter members, and is investigating reasonable options.

Include the following in your email to Doris: if you'll be in LA, if you'll attend the meeting, your email, cell phone (if you'll be at the conference) and hotel name, level of genealogy research proficiency, Mac level of proficiency, and subjects you'd like to see on the Mac meeting agenda.

Doris is the publicity chair and webmaster of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut.

21 June 2010

Youth awards: The way to go!

All genealogists know that new blood is the life of our passion and our commitment to learning about our ancestors.

Bringing new researchers into our world is the way to go. Even better is a determined effort to get young people involved.

In addition to learning about their individual family histories and ancestors, this pursuit increases and hones writing skills, personal interest in world history, language study and other additional skills.

Tracing the Tribe has talked for a number of years about a tiered award system for students (elementary, middle/junior, and high school). From local awards, winners could move to state or regional awards, and then a national award.

Such a competition - especially for Jewish genealogy, but equally applicable to all genealogy societies - would bring much-needed publicity and interest at all levels from students, parents and schools.

High school junior or senior winners could indicate the award on university applications, setting themseves apart from the sea of similar applicants, and this would also help elevate the study of family history in the eyes of academics at many universities.

Here's the announcement of the NGS Rubicam Award, given to 2009 winner Thomas Adams.

Dear Fellow Genealogist:

Young people with an interest in the history of their family, in search of a summer project, seeking to satisfy a school assignment or club project will want to see the videos of Thomas Adams, the 2009 winner of the National Genealogical Society Rubincam Youth Award.

Created by award winning filmmakers Kate Geis and Allen Moore, the videos go live today at the society’s website, http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/ and will soon appear on YouTube. The three short segments are:

· The Award: Genealogy puts history into personal perspective for high school student Thomas Adams, recipient of the Rubincam Youth Award.

· My Research: Young family history sleuth Thomas Adams talks about his "Eureka!" moment.

· Inspiring Others: Thomas' discoveries encourage his friends to follow their own

For more information, contact NGS President
Jan Alpert.

What groups are willing to run with this idea to create more interest among young people in family history?

New York City: Hebrew manuscripts, books, July 1

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will offer three lectures on the art of Hebrew manuscripts and books on Thursday, July 1.

Lectures will be held from 2-5pm, in the Sacerdote Lecture hall of the Uris Center for Education. They are free with Museum admission.

The exhibit - "A Journey Through Jewish Worlds: Highlights from the Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books" - offers recent research in the field and is currently on view at Yeshiva University Museum.

-- "Hidden Treasure: The Intellectual Life of Medieval Ashkenazi Jews," by
Ephraim Kanarfogel, E. Billi Ivry Professor of Jewish History, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Yeshiva University

-- "Making Hebrew Manuscripts in a Gentile World," by Evelyn M. Cohen, independent scholar, New York

-- "Hebrew Manuscripts after Gutenberg," by Emile G. L. Schrijver, Curator, Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, Special Collections, University of Amsterdam

For more information, see the museum website.

20 June 2010

Book: Jews and the Civil War

The New York Jewish Week book column spotlighted a book on Jews and the Civil War.

Sandee Brawarsky's column mentioned "Jews and the Civil War: A Reader," in addition to other books on different topics.
Civil war buffs are an insatiable crew, and here’s a new book that will appeal to them, as well as to others interested in American Jewish history, culture and identity.

“Jews and the Civil War: A Reader” edited by Jonathan D. Sarna and Adam Mendelsohn (NYU) is a collection of essays by noted scholars, edited by Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis and chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History, and Mendelsohn, a professor of Jewish studies and director of the Center for Southern Jewish Culture at the College of Charleston, in South Carolina.

The wide-ranging pieces describe how Jews experienced the war, in the North and in the South, and how the war divided Jews. Contributors take up the subjects of Jews, slavery and abolition; the role of rabbis; Jewish civilian life; Jews in the army — more than 8000 Jewish soldiers fought — and on the home front.
Also mentioned in the article:

-- “Blows to the Head: How Boxing Changed My Mind,” by Binnie Klein (Excelsior Editions).

-- “Keep Your Wives Away From Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires – An Anthology,” edited by Miryam Kabakov.

-- “Bedouin Law from Sinai and the Negev: Justice Without Government,” by Clinton Bailey (Yale University Press).

Read the complete column at the link above.