23 August 2010

Boston: 24 years leads to three databases!

What a great story about a Boston-area Jewish genealogist who's been researching for 24 years and has created three databases linked to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston's website.

The databases include state-wide synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish newspapers.

The news has spurred me to investigate once again our Boston and Springfield branches of TALALAI (TALL, TOLLIN), CONVISER and others.

In fact, I found on the synagogue list the Springfield congregation built by our first TALALAI immigrant to the US. Mendl (Max) TOLLIN from Mogilev/Vorotinschtina, Belarus, arrived in 1898 and was a builder who constructed the first Kadimah synagogue building, its cemetery, the first and second homes for the aging and residential housing.

According to the database, Congregation Kodimoh (sometimes spelled Kadimah), was founded 1916/1919 in Springfield, and closed in 2007 after merging with the Longmeadow Alliance of Orthodox Congregations.

In the database of Jewish newspapers, I found two for Springfield, one running from 1929 and the other from 1952. Accessing those microfilms may well be my first task when attending the 2013 international conference on Jewish genealogy in 2013, to be hosted by the JGSGB. We genealogists plan ahead!

The story, on Boston.com (the Boston Globe's online portal), focuses on Dedham resident Carol Clingan's "hunger" for connection to her Jewish ancestry from Ukraine and Belarus to New England.
Many people tracing Jewish roots find stories with heartbreaking gaps as families were split apart by immigration and the horrors of the Holocaust, and records of birth, marriage, and death are often missing or deliberately destroyed.

Now, three new databases compiled by Clingan, who lives in Dedham, and others with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston are about to go public to help Jews all over the world track their Massachusetts roots.

In the lists, every synagogue in the state is inventoried, as well as all Jewish cemeteries and newspapers, rendering the search for family a little more manageable for those starting out.
Clingan’s labor of love, which included searching through dusty archives and tapping the foggy memories of strangers to trace her grandparents’ emigration, two to Chelsea and two to Burlington, Vt., honors basic Jewish principles, she said.
According to Clingan, her labor of love honors basic Jewish principles. At Passover, as we read the Hagadah we are told to remember the exodus from Egypt as if it happened to each of us.

But, as genealogists know, that's not enough. We want to know much more than names, dates and places. We want to reveal the real stories of the people and their lives and the decisions they made to travel so far from their homes.

Clingan's database with 568 listings offers a listing of every congregation in the state, past and present.
It says when and by whom it was founded, the various locations it occupied, as well as when it closed and what happened to its records, and tracks the many mergers among congregations, to the last surviving one.

That list is cross-referenced to a cemetery database compiled by Groton resident Alex Woodle, and a third database prepared by David Rosen of Boston that lists the state’s Jewish newspapers. The plan is eventually to convert all the information into a database format and to make it accessible using a one-step search tool, but that may take time to implement.
Also quoted is JGSGB president Heidi Urich of Cambridge: “So many families were severed, and so many lost or left behind, that each piece you find is precious.’’

Judy Izenberg of Framingham tracks her work on large poster boards, as she investigates her family from Russia (Novograd Volynsk and Olinka), which settled in Chelsea and attended the Orange Street Shul. Two of Clingan's grandparents - her maiden name was Isenberg - settled in the same place and attended the same synagogue. Their mothers were high school classmates.

In another warm fuzzy part of the story, Isenberg is using the databases to find about relatives who went to Argentina 90 years ago. Using leads from the lists and with the help of others, she's found the South American relatives and is, in fact, leaving for Buenos Aires next week to meet them.

According to Woodle, the first Jew in the Boston area was Solomon Franco, - a well-known Sephardic name - in 1649. He returned to Europe because he could survive economically. However, from the mid-19th century, Boston had a Jewish community of German and Russian Jews.

Another Sephardic Jew, dry goods merchant Judas Monas was a Hebrew teacher at the Spanish-Portuguese synagogue in New York, came to Harvard College and taught Hebrew for 40 years. In 1735, the college published the "Grammar of the Hebrew Language." To keep his post, however, he had to convert to Christianity.

Several other genealogists are mentioned in the detailed story. Congratulations to reporter Michele Morgan Bolton, who got all the details right!

Read the complete story at the link above, and see the database links at JGSGB.org.

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