30 September 2007

Shocks galore: What's in your family closet?

Dr. Nick Barratt of the Telegraph (UK) and "Who Do You Think You Are" television fame, has a skeleton story, shares some secrets and warns of shocks that might be in your closet once you begin digging around.

As a historian, I am used to helping other people find out about their ancestors, but in the course of my research, I stumbled upon a secret that had been kept in my own family for 75 years. My paternal great uncle had disappeared mysteriously in 1932 and none of my living relatives knew what had happened to him.

One day, I was looking through the National Archives with one of my relations and we spotted my great uncle's name. We did some digging and discovered something that none of us could possibly have imagined: he had been a Soviet spy.

Barratt covers illegitimacy, economic secrets, adoptions, convict transports, divorce, remarriage and more. He also offers such tips as

In the mid- to late-Victorian period there was a huge stigma attached to illegitimate children so people went to great lengths to keep such births secret. There was a lot of unofficial adoption within families, where the baby's grandparents would raise a child as their own.

One of the signs to look out for is an unusual age gap in census records; for example, three teenage children registered and then a newborn baby. Birth certificates are also full of clues; a child is likely to have been illegitimate if there is no father recorded or if the baby was baptised with the mother's surname.

And despite the skeletons you might unearth, there is an upbeat note:

We all have an idea of who we are that is derived from our own lives and from what we know of our ancestors; uncovering new facts about our personal heritage can challenge that sense of identity.

So when you begin your research do bear in mind that you might happen upon uncomfortable truths. Be prepared to deal with the consequences of what you learn, but don't let it put you off. Such secrets will make you feel closer to your ancestors than you might if the family tree was more straightforward.

There is much more here.

Sephardic music plays on in London

As a follow-up on my fusion food posting and realizing that man (nor woman) does not live by food alone, here's an interesting Ynetnews story on a Judeo-Spanish Sephardic soul group in London.

Many grandmothers have passed on songs like ‘Almonds and Raisins’ to their grandchildren, singing lullabies to soothe them off to sleep, yet this is from an Ashkenazy tradition. Part of the tragedy of Ladino music is that much of this oral-tradition fell foul of its diverse Mediterranean spread.

In Europe the Yiddish speaking culture was also widespread yet it had a solid body to the language rooted in old German and Hebrew, coupled with the post-pogrom emigration to the US, Yiddish culture blossomed in New York where it is still very much alive to this day and was thus saved from the same tragedy that befell Ladino culture.

Yet it is London, whose Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community stretches back a few hundred years that has given birth to a band that champions that heritage and has been creating quite a stir on the world music scene.

There's information on Ladino and on the rise of Ashkenazi klezmer as well as on the former decline of Sephardic music.

The story focuses on the Los Desterrados sextet organized by Daniel Jonas in 2000. Jonas is described in the story as "a practising Sephardi Jew who brings the Sephardic and Middle Eastern influences."

For more on the group and to hear some of their music, click here or here

To read the article, click here.

Maryland: Using OCR for genealogy, October 14

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington will host Logan J. Kleinwaks on "Searching Online Historical Documents," at 1 p.m. Sunday, October 14, at Bnai Israel in Rockville, MD.

Kleinwaks will describe how to use a search engine he developed based on optical character recognition (OCR) software to search Eastern European directories, with an emphasis on how to find what you are looking for despite errors introduced by the OCR process. The OCR-based approach allows data from print sources to be made searchable very quickly, with little manual intervention. Its applications to other Jewish genealogy projects will also be discussed.

His new tool - Shoah Connect - to reunite families separated by the Shoah allows email addresses to be associated with Pages of Testimony found on Yad Vashem's website, and automatically matches people associated with same Pages.

Kleinwaks is the creator of the online tools ShoahConnect, for Page of Testimony research, and www.kalter.org/search, for searching historical business directories, as well as the general genealogy site Family Tree Registry. His broader genealogical interests include the photographic documentation of Jewish cemeteries, improving Internet access to genealogical information, and privacy.

For more information and directions, click here. Free for members; $5 for others.

Boston: Jewish Genealogy intro, October 7

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston will host a free program, Introduction to Jewish Genealogy, at 2 p.m. Sunday, October 7, at the Needham Free Library, Needham, Massachusetts.

Describing many records available locally and in Eastern Europe, how to acess them and myriad materials on the Internet will be former JGSGB vice president Fay Bussgang and vice president Carol Clingan, who will demonstrate what they have discovered from these sources.

Bussgang holds a BA in psychology (Wellesley College) and a doctorate in education (Harvard University). She and her Polish-born husband, Julian, have travelled 11 times to Poland for extensive genealogical research. the couple has translated into English two volumes of child survivors' war-time accounts, "The Last Eyewitnesses: Children of the Holocaust Speak."

Clingan holds a BA (Wellesley College) and an MA (Columbia University), majoring in Modern European History. She retired two years ago as a director of strategic communications at a major bank, and worked in publishing and corporate communications for four decades. Today, she is a genealogical researcher, Temple Beth Elohim vice president and Action for Post-Soviet Jewry president.

For more information, click here or here for maps and directions to the library.

Florida: Research in Israel, October 7

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami will host Harriet Kasow of Israel who will speak on "Family Research in Israel: Personal Experiences," at 10 a.m., Sunday, October 7.

For 20 years, Miami native Kasow was media librarian at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and has been the Israel Genealogical Society librarian for a decade. She graduated from the University of Miami and earned a library degree from Florida State University.

She will present genealogical resources in Israel for family history research based on her own searches. Her mother's BELFER family emigrated from Bar, Ukraine to the US in 1922-23 and her father's SADOVNIK (SADOFF) family emigrated from Chotin, Bessarabia in 1920. Kasow has also researched her husband's KACEW family from Grodno and Lunna, now in Belarus, and his BLOCH and HARMETZ families from Iwye, Belarus and Svencionys, Lithuania.

The meeting will be at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation on Biscayne Boulevard. Picture ID is required for entrance.

For more information, click here.

Lithuania: Internal passport database update

An update to the Lithuania Internal Passport Project (1919-1940) reveals that more than 8,000 records have been added to the database which now totals more than 38,000 records.

According to the announcement by project coordinator Howard Margol, only parts of Lithuania have so far been translated, another 100,000 records remain to be translated and financial support is needed to continue the project.

To learn more about the record group (1919-1940), click here to read the introduction and see a breakdown of the records.

29 September 2007

UK: Society of Genealogists events

The UK's Society of Genealogists offers many events. Reservations are required for these programs; some are free, some for-fee. For more information, check the website.

Upcoming programs cover general topics as well as one on searching Jewish roots:


*3, Wednesday, 2-3pm. Jane Cox: London and the East End Slums; from their earliest times, with focus on Stepney (fee);

*15, Monday, 1:30-4:30pm. Using Pay-per-view Websites workshop; intro to major pay-per-view genealogy websites, access free with course fee; half-day (fee);

*17, Wednesday, 2-5pm. Anthony Joseph: My Ancestor was Jewish; update on researching Jewish sources; half-day (fee);

*20, Saturday, 2-5pm Colin Chapman: Understanding Wills; differences between wills, testaments and letters of administration, complex probate jargon explained; half-day (fee);

*24, Wednesday, 2-3pm. Geoff Swinfield: I'm Stuck; Most family historians reach a point in their research when they are unable to identify their ancestor with certainty. Either they have too many possibilities or none; sources and techniques; half-day (fee);

UK: Jewish Historical Society resources, events

Founded in 1893, The Jewish Historical Society of England is the oldest historical and learned society of its kind in Europe, and has active branches in Birmingham, Essex, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.

Past presidents have included such prominent individuals as Cecil Roth, Isaiah Berlin, Israel Zanwill, F. D. Mocatta and others.

Tracing the Tribe's readers will be interested in the group's monthly meetings covering Anglo-Jewish history from the middle ages to contemporary times. The society's goal is to bring interesting historical scholarship to both general and specialist audiences.

The group's Jewish Historical Studies has been published annually since 1893. For the full contents list of all volumes, clicking here.

Topics cover Ashkenazi and Sephardic, art, music, crypto-Jews, communities, synagogues, Jews in other countries (such as the Canary Islands, Jewish colonies in Cyprus, etc.), cemeteries, publications, Jewish history, events, personalities, lists of names in various documents and records, Jewish glassmakers, Jewish shipowners, physicians - all of interest to genealogists and family historians. The full list is extremely interesting.

Volume VI of Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews (National Archives, Kew) is listed as a new publication:

The Plantagenet Kings of England derived a considerable income by licensing Jewish moneylenders and taxing them and their debtors heavily. The ‘Exchequer of the Jews’ in Westminster administered that part of the Crown estate in accordance with its own rules. Their records are surprisingly complete and their study reveals much about medieval English administrative and judicial procedure.

This volume opens with a long and detailed Introduction by Dr Paul Brand, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, explaining the location, staffing and activities of the ‘Exchequer of the Jews’. It includes detailed biographies of the ‘Justices of the Jews’, who controlled it under Edward I. There follow the Latin texts of the Plea Rolls or Memorandum Rolls, from 1282, and comprehensive indices of names, places and subjects. From these the reader can trace additional information about the business activities of medieval English Jews in the period shortly before the expulsion.

Upcoming events include:

OCTOBER: Monday, 1 - Leeds - Dr Henry J Cohn: Guckel of Hameln (1646-1724) - A Jewish woman in a gentile world who was an early advocate of business ethics; Tuesday, 9 - Essex - Raymond Sturgess: Alfred Dreyfuss - A Lawyer’s Dream: a 100 year trial; Sunday, 14 - Manchester - Sara Gremson: The View from Nebo - Jewish North Wales;

NOVEMBER: Sunday, 4 - Birmingham - Dr Nathan Abrams: Remote Jews: Uncovering the lost Jewish communities of Scotland; Tuesday, 6 - Essex - Ron Shelly: The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen; Sunday, 11 - Manchester - Dr Nathan Abrams: “I Don’t Roll on Shabbos!” American Judaism on Film 1990 to the Present; Tuesday, 13 - Herts & Middsx - Prof Michael Alpert: Jews & the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939; Thursday, 15 - London - Professor Marc Saperstein: Ploughshares into Swords: Anglo-Jewish Preaching in Times of War,1800-2001; Sunday, 18 - Liverpool - Michael Gillis: I Did Not Think That Was Jewish History; Sunday, 25 - Manchester - Dr Shaul Itzhaki: The Cairo Conference of 1921 and the present-day map of the Middle East

Other elements of interest on the site: A Chronology of Jewish Events in England from 1066, is here, an impressive list of British Jewish "firsts" here, and a list of Chief Rabbis (Ashkenazi from 1696 and Sephardic from 1664) here.

26 September 2007

UK: Inbound immigration records coming online

The records of 18 million UK immigrants will be available online in mid-2008, according to an announcement by Ancestry.co.uk, which detailed that the National Archives granted it a license to digitise, index and house online the UK Inbound Passenger Lists 1878-1960.

The collection is known as the Board of Trade Passenger Lists, Inwards 1878 to 1960 or BT26.

The lists hold the names of 18 million immigrants and tourists who arrived in the UK over nearly a century from destinations outside Europe and the Mediterranean. Some one million pages are organised by port of arrival and may offer the passenger's name, age, occupation, intended UK address, purpose of journey, ship's name, owner and port of origin.

For Jewish researchers, the lists cover major historical immigration waves to the UK.

These lists complement Ancestry’s international passenger list collection, which holds names of 100 million UK and European immigrants who travelled to America between 1820-1960, as well as records for Canada, Australia and Germany.

To read the complete announcement, click here.

Israel: Making music, preserving traditions

From the Jerusalem Post, a story about one of my favorite people, Dr. Yuval Shaked, director of the Feher Music Center at Beth Hatefutsot, whose job it is to preserve traditional music of the many Jewish communities in Israel.

Here's a bit of unsolicited career advice for Yuval Shaked, director since 1999 of Tel Aviv's Feher Jewish Music Center: If you ever want to work at a commercial record label, stop saying things like, "Will it sell? No. But does that mean we shouldn't make such a CD? Also no."

The article includes information about ethnic recordings released by Beth Hatefutsoth, including those of the Bene Israel of India and the newest release, Kamti Lehallel, a double disc of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam, London and New York - a co-production with the Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam.

The goal of the Center and the Museum is to raise awareness of our Jewish past and to preserve memory so it isn't forgotten when the older generations are no more.

"In this room, there are real, real treasures," Shaked says, gesturing at two walls of shelving in a windowless Beth Hatefutsoth office. The items range from a 19th-century Austrian prayer book to a Yiddish satirical recording called "Lenin and Trotsky," and indeed confirm the old maxim about one man's trash being another man's treasure.

One set of sheet music, Shaked recalls, was literally saved from the dump. "People just throw [material] away," he says. "They just consider it of no interest to future generations."

Read more here.


I have visited Shaked's office several times and his desk is always piled high with esoteric recordings from around the world, including some recorded on wax cylinders in my family's ancestral town of Mogilev, Belarus, and made available on CD from the National Archives in Kiev, Ukraine. He receives material much faster than the Center can archive it.

The music is restored, digitized and added to Beth Hatefutsoth's musical archives. Some 10,000 recordings are available now, with about 40,000 waiting to be archived.

Languages cover the Jewish world, from Yiddish, Hebrew, Aramaic, Ge'ez (Ethopia) and Juhuri (spoken by Azerbaijani Jews) and many others, while music categories include liturgical, folk, opera, classical and pop music. What is Jewish music? There's no definition of Jewish music, says Shaked, although there are scholarly definitions. While he collects music composed or performed by Jews, the archives also include non-Jewish performers singing Jewish music.

Looking for a new "Lecha Dodi" or "Adon Olam" (the archive has more than 40 versions of each)? I've never asked if he has the USY version to the tune of "Deep in the heart of Texas," or to "Silent Night," which I heard in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And if you are looking for biographical information on the performers, singers, musicians and poets, his database has some 3,000 listings.

Shaked stresses that he will go anywhere at any time to track down and record Jewish music. Israelis do contact him when they have music collections to dispose of - he's found some treasures this way. He recorded an elderly Polish immigrant at his business, and the sound of machinery is also on the tape along with his boyhood memories of liturgical melodies.

Last year, he recorded a group of elderly Egyptian immigrants, who sung at the Alexandria synagogue as young men and boys. They performed and recorded their community's unique sound for posterity.

The Feher Music Center and the museum only have about another 10 years, says Shaked, to record traditional music preserved by older members of ethnic immigrant communities.

An African proverb says that when a community elder dies, it is as if an entire library has burned down.

Germany: 12th century Jewish gravestones found

JTA notes that about 20 ancient Jewish gravestones - some as early as the 12th century - have been found in Mainz, Germany, during excavations for housing construction next to the city's old Jewish cemetery wall.

Experts said the stones are among the oldest ever found in the Rheinland-Pfalz region. Construction plans were halted pending a decision from the Berlin-based Orthodox Rabbinical Council. If the site is a graveyard - not simply a stone repository - it may impact construction plans.

Mainz Jewish community president Stella Schindler-Siegreich said an investigation will determine whether bodies had been buried there. A recent meeting at the site brought together representatives of the Jewish community, city, rabbinical groups, landmark preservationists and construction people.

Jewish studies expert Andreas Lehnardt of Mainz told a German news agency that the find was a "sensation" and some of the stones included the names of famous learned rabbis.

For more information on Mainz, called Magenza in Hebrew, go to the site titled, "The Magic Land of Magenza, Jewish Life and Times in Medieval Mainz" here, which offers many links for those interested in more information on Mainz, including documents, history, tours and inquiries.

Mainz on the Rhine's large Jewish population suffered from both the first and second Crusades; many survivors left and moved to Poland and Russia. The city is one of the oldest European Jewish communities, their history is well documented and Jews have lived there for at least 1,000 years.

Among famous individuals who lived and taught in the city were Rabbi Gershom ben Yehuda (960-1028/1040), who founded a 10th century yeshiva there, and Rashi (Shlomo bar Isaak, 1040-1105), who studied and taught there.
According to the city history, its first Jews came with the Romans, but most relocated there from the south of France, Sicily, southern Italy and other southern regions. They travelled along the Rhone and the Rhine. Important rabbis descending from Moses ben Kalonymus brought the Italian-Palastinian liturgic tradition.

Prior to 1938, there were two famous synagogues, the Moorish-style built in 1879 (Orthodox) and a classic-style building (Liberal) from 1912. There was also a syngogue for Eastern European immigrants.

Every few years, former Jewish Mainz residents living abroad are welcomed back to as honored guests. A book, "Magendza II," documents those who return. Commemorative ceremonies are held every November 9-10 by the Mainz Municipal Government and the Mainz Jewish Community.

Currently, some 900 Jews, mostly Eastern European, reside in Mainz; more than 60,000 Jews lived there pre-war. There is a Jewish hospital, Jewish community center and kosher food.

Israel: "Wandering Jew" seminar, November 12

The Israel Genealogical Seminar will hold its Third One Day Seminar on Monday, November 12. This year's topic is "The Wandering Jew: Jewish Migration between the 18th-20th Centuries."

The line-up includes English and Hebrew parallel sessions, beginning at 9.30 a.m. and ending at 5.15 p.m. The venue is Beit Wolyn in Givatayim, near Tel Aviv.

For the registration form, detailed program, session abstracts, presenter bios and other details, click here

Space is limited. Registration for IGS members is NIS 75 through October 29, and NIS 90 after; others, NIS 90 through October 29, NIS 105 after.

The opening session features the IGS Awards and the keynote address (Hebrew) by Prof. Yaffa Berlovitz, "Zerach Brendt: Wandering Jew in a Zionistic Version."

English language presentations include:

*The Romanian Jewish Fusgeyers, 1899-1907, Jill Culiner
*Litvak Migratory Decisions in the second half of the 19th century and their consequences, Dr. Ruth Leiserowitz
*Migration patterns among the Jews of Finland, Meliza Amity and Serah Beizer
*Glimpse of a one-time merchant family from Libya and some of their descendants, from archival material in Israel and other countries, Rosemary Eshel
*The Wandering Jew: Jewish migration between the 18th-20th centuries (Kopcheva/Kapciamiestis, Lithuania), Carol Hoffman

Hebrew language presentations include:

*Between the World Wars: Vilna as a crossroads in Eastern European migrations, Prof. Dov Levin
*Romania: Migration of some Jewish Maskilim in 1850s-70s, Lucian-Zeev Herscovici
*Migration to Freedom: The agricultural settlement sssue in Argentina in the latter 19th Century, Silvio Gryc
*Migration of Aleppo Jews, Avraham Safadia
*The Breakdown of the Jewish family migrating from Eastern Europe to England (1991-1914), Yael Bein-Granot

The Angel of Ahlem

Tireless Lodz, Poland researcher Roni Seibel Liebowitz of New York has been involved for several years in the story of Vernon Tott, his role in the Ahlem Camp's liberation and his important photos. I was privileged to work with Roni on a Jerusalem Post story about Tott and his quest to find Ahlem survivors - he eventually found 30 of them - despite his own failing health.

The late Vernon Tott (deceased 2005) of Sioux City, Iowa, was with the U.S. infantry liberating Ahlem Labor Camp in Hannover, Germany. Most male prisoners (men and boys) were from the Lodz Ghetto, a town of particular interest to Liebowitz, who handles the Lodz ShtetLinks , Lodz Area Research Group (LARG) and Belchatow ShtetLink.

The 18 images Tott took during liberation are the only ones known to exist of that event. The photos sat in a shoebox on a basement shelf until 1995, when an Ahlem survivor contacted Tott via an Army newsletter. From this chance meeting, Tott was inspired to locate and reunite as many Ahlem camp survivors as possible.

In May 2007, the documentary, "The Angel of Ahlem," was screened at Lincoln Center. Guest speaker Dr. Henry Kissinger was a correspondent with the 84th infantry and visited Ahlem following liberation. His comments and the NPR broadcast are on the site below. A group of Ahlem survivors also attended.

National Public Radio aired an interview Tuesday morning with members of the Tott family; it is posted here. See a narrated slideshow of Ahlem survivor Ben Sieradzki's family album, hear other survivors and view several related stories.

NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg spoke with Tott's family and Ahlem survivors in Sioux City during the premiere week.

25 September 2007

California: Persian hereditary diseases, October 11

Today, family historians and genealogists are also interested in tracing their families' medical histories.

Although the pursuit of genealogy is not yet as common among Iranian Jews as in other communities, I was happy to see that a free upcoming seminar on hereditary diseases has been scheduled for the Iranian Jewish community.

It will be held at 7 p.m., October 11, at the Iranian congregation Nessah Educational and Cultural Center, 142 S. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills, California.

Topics and presenters include:

*Introduction: Faramarz Naeim, MD; Professor Emeritus UCLA, Director of Hematopathology, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

*Diagnosis, preventive measures and counseling: Wayne Grody, MD; PhD, Professor of Pathology and Pediatrics, Director of Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, UCLA

*Prevalence in Iranian Jewish Community: Siavash Kurdistani, MD; Assistant Professor of Biological Chemistry, UCLA.

*Therapeutic approaches: Richard A. Galti, MD, Distinguished Professor of pathology and Co-Director of Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, UCLA.

Some presentations will be in English, with Farsi translation. The program is sponsored by the Fariborz Fred Matloob chapter of Bnai Brith as part of its series of educational conferences in memory of Parviz Pirnazar, M.D.

Ohio: HUC's Jewish library treasures

Rare Jewish treasures await in the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's Klau Library, according to a story in Ohio's Cincinnati Post.

When HUC was founded in 1875, the librarians could "lock up everything in two trunks to keep them safe from the river rats," libraries director David Gilner said.

Today, the library grows by some 7,000 items annually, holdings total some 465,000 items, an internal computer network can access more than 200 Judaica databases and 10,000 digitized images of works from the museum's collections.

It is the largest printed Judaica collection in North America; the only larger one is in Jerusalem at the Jewish National and University Library.

Among its precious holdings are:

*A 1490 Passover Seder Haggadah - only 44 similar Middle Ages items have survived.
*An 18th-century scroll of the Book of Esther.
*A 17th-century manuscript printed in Hebrew and Chinese in the 1660s, recording 13 generations of one clan in the Kaifeng, China Jewish community.
*A 1479 Samaritan book from 1479, written on parchment in Paleo-Hebrew.
*A 1,000-year-old Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, the Bible's first books, which demonstrates both Persian and Byzantine styles.
*An extensive collection of miniature books, 4-inches or less in height.

David Gilner's eyes light up as he roams the double-locked room beneath the rare book room in Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's Klau Library.

Each of the thousands of volumes crowded onto the shelves has a story to tell, and Gilner, the director of libraries, seems to know them all.

He picks up an Ethiopian edition of the Psalms written on parchment, with wood covers bound together with string and wrapped in a leather bag for easy carrying. It's written in Ge'ez, an ancient South Semitic language spoken in the Horn of Africa.

"Look it up on Wikipedia," Gilner suggests, with a grin and nudge with his elbow. "That's what we do."

The school has just broken ground for a renovation and expansion of the library, at a cost of $11.5 million, and Gilner has recently been moving holdings thousands to temporary storage.

Among its holdings: the largest collection of early Jewish America, American Jewish music manuscripts, Christian Hebraica and a Spinoza collection. It is one of three worldwide conservators of Dead Sea Scroll negatives, and offers on microfilm some 900 newspaper, journal and synagogue bulletin titles at the American Jewish Periodical Center, books printed before 1501, 16th century Hebrew volumes and a special Chinese-Hebrew collection.

Learn more here.

24 September 2007

Chicago's Map Festival

The Chicago Tribune carried a story about that city's Festival of Maps, to begin November 2, at 30 venues with 37 participating institutions featuring thousands of maps over the coming months.

The unusual collaboration of so many cultural organizations around a single topic was the brainchild of the Field Museum, the Newberry Library and private collectors who for years had dreamed of launching an exhibition of history's "100 most important maps," said Chicago industrialist Barry MacLean, a map collector.

But the more organizers talked, MacLean said, "We realized there were a lot of other extraordinary maps that wouldn't make the list of the top 100 but would be exciting to display, so we decided to expand."

The organizing committee eventually brought in 37 participating institutions, including the 30 signed up as exhibit venues.

Participating venues will display maps relating to that institution's specific interest, such as the Botanic Garden's display of "maps illustrating how seeds are spread by wind and birds, why a certain tree will grow in one place but not 100 miles away. Brookfield Zoo will have maps showing the migration of animals."

The Field Museum's exhibit will run through January 27, featuring many of the 100 greatest maps among 130 items it has gathered from the Vatican, the British royal family, libraries and other collectors.

Festival items will include Mercator's maps, and those of da Vinci and Tolkien; a 19th century driftwood carving of the Greenland coast, a 19th century British map shows a London well as the focus of a London cholera epidemic, a 200-year-old geological map, and a British soldier's powder horn from the French-Indian War carved with Hudson and Mohawk Rivers maps.

Other offerings:

*The Newberry Museum exhibit will demonstrate Chicago's growth, while population densities and transit systems will be displayed at The Chicago History Museum.

*See rare Paris maps (1789-1914) at the The Art Institute; 16th century Rome maps at the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago, while The Oriental Institute will display extensive 15-18th century Ottoman Empire collections

*Maps of Lithuania and Poland at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture and the Polish Museum of America.

*Antique African maps at Northwestern University Library.

*Adler Planetarium's exhibit focuses on mapping the universe, including a 1630 celestial globe.

*Spertus Museum/Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies exhibit (March 1-June 30) "Mapping Dystopia" features the work of contemporary Israeli- and Palestinian-born women artists whose work explores national borders along with antique maps of the Holy Land from the famous Spertus collection.

According to the story, museums will offer the map displays free or free with usual admission fees.

For more, click here. There is more information at the Festival's web site. The Festival Blog is here and mentions George Washington's only map, the famed Ptolemy's 14th-century Geography, da Vinci's colored relief map of Italy, a 3,500-year-old clay tablet of a Babylonian city, and even Tolkien's Middle-Earth. There are more map links for those who can't get enough.

23 September 2007

Family history is also gastronomic!

As we investigate our families, their roots and their traditions, gastronomy necessarily plays a big part.

Who hasn't heard about the debate about savory versus sweet kugel and the perpetual Litvak-Galitzianer debate about which is best?

Should matzoh balls be fluffy (my preference) or sink like cannonballs? Is the gefilte fish sweet or not?

And as Chanukah is coming up in a few months, there is the eternal discussion about the proper garnish for latkes: Nothing, salt, applesauce, sugar, cinnamon sugar or sour cream? Ketchup, maybe? Culinary traditions and holiday dishes can be a clue to our roots. In any case, they are a delicious area of research.

All this holiday work, preparing for family and friends, feasting and fasting and feasting again was somewhat tiring. I don't mind the shopping, love the cooking (but not the cleaning up), and before we know it, there's another holiday to prepare for.

Our holiday meals incorporate the traditions of our backgrounds: Ashkenazi, Persian and Sephardic Mediterranean - "fusion" would be the best description.

We break the fast with faludeh-sib, glasses of the traditional very refreshing Persian grated apple, honey, rosewater and ice confection; drink hot sweet tea (Earl Grey, of course), a piece of warm challah with butter. After everyone has relaxed a bit, my native Brooklyn bagels, lox and trimmings appear (this was never seen in Teheran, for sure!), where we generally stop. However, our post-fast guests - starving students - were still hungry, so they hit the pre-fast leftovers.

This year, the pre-fast dinner included Ashkenazi long-simmered chicken soup with matzoh balls, and then the soup as Persian abgusht over white steamed Basmati rice, polo havij (rice mixed with finely chopped sauteed onions and shredded carrots), Sephardic fidellos (noodle coils toasted, then simmered til they completely absorbed a delicious tomato sauce - an Island of Rhodes recipe from Seattle cousins) and served with armiko, chicken cooked in a tomato, lemon and cinnamon sauce.

Going back to last week's Rosh Hashanah dinner, I made my grandmother's chopped chicken liver, served alongside Persian Shirazi salad (finely chopped cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, parsley and mint, lemon juice-oil dressing). More chicken soup and matzoh balls over white rice, and also polo cheved va nokhod sabz (tons of chopped dill and tiny green peas mixed into white rice). Of course, we did the Sephardic seder over leeks, beets, pomegranate seeds, tongue and pumpkin. Leeks were made to a Sephardic recipe with tomato and onion, tongue was cooked Persian-style, and the pumpkin was an Italian recipe.

And to those who know and love Persian food, there was plenty of two varieties of tahdig (literally, "bottom of the pot") the crispy, crunchy golden bottom layer. The white rice (chelo) had the normal rice tahdig, while the polo (mixed rice) had golden crisp ovals of potato.

Now, what do I make for Sukkot?

Meanwhile, I just kicked back with a video from Roots Television about the Sockish immigration to America. Learn about some prominent sockish families, the ANKLETS, the NEEHIGHS, the TUBES (I'm not sure if they were included, but they should have been), and some famous Sockish celebrities. Click here.

Podcast: Jewish genealogy

Did I mention that DearMYRTLE interviewed me on Jewish genealogy on her September 4 DearMYRTLE's Family History Hour?

Our conversation covered many topics: Sephardic and Ashkenazi genealogy, the start of Jewish genealogy in the U.S., DNA, JewishGen, the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy and the annual conference on Jewish genealogy, including the upcoming 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (August 17-22, 2008, Chicago). There are also resource links.

More details and the link to the free podcast are here.

It's always fun to do these podcasts, and DearMYRTLE makes it so easy!

22 September 2007

Online genealogy classes: October & November

Registration is now open for GenClass's upcoming online genealogy classes include October's Basic Jewish Genealogy (Part I) and November's Jewish Genealogy Internet (Part 2). Micha Reisel and I team-teach those two classes.

There are a host of other classes (see below) all taught by enthusiastic, experienced instructors. These short-term four-week classes are packed with all the information you need to get started and to continue on discovery road.

Visit GenClass to learn about the other instructors and for more details.

Starting October 4, other classes are:

* Adoption Investigative Class:
* Canadian Research - Part 2:
* Jump Start Your Genealogy!
* Lost Friends and Family Investigative Class:
* Northeastern United States Genealogy
* Salt Lake City - The world's largest genealogical library- Part 2:
* Scottish Genealogy:

Starting November 1, other classes are:

* Adoption Investigative Class:
* Canadian Research - Internet Resources - Part 3
* Eastern European Genealogy Research: Part 1 (Basic)
* Genealogy Research in the Great Lakes States
* Lost Friends and Family Investigative Class
* Native American Genealogy
* Organizing Your Family History

Humor: DNAstream.TV

Eye on DNA's Hsien mentioned DNAstream.TV, so I decided to check it out. A bit confusing, and I don't get the concept of how we are to create our own "TV DNA."

For pure comedy, however, there are two classic Monty Python skits ("Spam" and "Customs Inspector"), an episode of something called "Shaun the Sheep," and two Hugh Laurie ("House") songs.

No genealogy, Jewish or other, but definitely good for a laugh!

Genealogy and Chabad

Jewish genealogy featured in a story about Chabad and its outreach to Johns Hopkins University students as well as the non-academic community in Baltimore, Maryland.

Like the one this year, when a woman in her sixties, one of the few female Hopkins’ grad school alumnae (the university was boys only at the undergrad level into the seventies), who selected Chabad as her first point of re-entry into organized religion since the Nixon administration. A genealogy enthusiast, the woman traced her roots to an attic, to a bundle of letters all written in Yiddish. When she found out that her great-great-great-and then some grandfather was none other than Reb Rafael of Pershan, a noted devotee of the first Rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi--she felt she belonged at Chabad.

Jewish genealogy is everywhere!

The Mobile Genealogist: A new blog

Jasia of Creative Gene posted about a new blog, The Mobile Genealogist, created by Kevin Phillips of Northern Hills Software, creator of Pocket Genealogist.

The blog is billed as "The Mobile Genealogist: Windows Mobile, Pocket Genealogist, Genealogy and other Ramblings."

According to Phillips' intro post, the blog "will contain articles on new devices or software, tips, tricks and other items related to Pocket Genealogist and just about anything else that we think you might find useful."

Says Pocket Genealogist user Jasia, "It's a great piece of software and Kevin provides the best tech support in the industry. He is also one of the best technology writers I've ever read."

Phillips' first article is on HP's new VGA Pocket PC.

Tracing the Tribe has recently entered the digital age (camera, recording equipment). Perhaps now it's time for the Pocket Genealogist?

Thanks, Jasia, for the head's up on this one.

WSJ: Leisure activities?

The International Herald Tribune's story on a Wall Street Journal announcement started my mental wheels turning.

NEW YORK: The Wall Street Journal announced Monday that it will launch a glossy monthly magazine next year that it will distribute with the Saturday edition of the newspaper.

The magazine, to be called "Pursuits," marks the latest expansion of the Journal's efforts to attract consumer advertising with coverage of leisure activities and lifestyle topics, following the launch of a Saturday edition of the paper two years ago.

Is anyone taking bets on whether genealogy will be covered in the new section to begin this month? Will we see ads for gen events, private researchers, subscription sites, software or roots travel?

Australia: Document detectives

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote about document detectives in Australia:

According to the story, Australian genealogy societies have tens of thousands of members, and some 6,000 belong to the Society of Australian Genealogists.

Although not mentioned in the story, there are also very active Jewish genealogy associations in Sydney and Melbourne. For details concerning groups in Adelaide, Perth and Canberra, click "contact details" here. See "links" on that page for many useful Jewish genealogy links.

Driven by digitising and the internet, genealogy has become a global obsession - but Australians might be losing access to valuable records, writes David Humphries.

Among the dozens of "live" files about dead people on Jan Worthington's North Shore desk is a job from England, where an aristocrat wants to know if any of a long-departed ancestor's vast Sydney land-holdings might still be available for inheritance.

"The family contacted me to search for any Sydney land still in the family but previously overlooked," says the document detective, a professional genealogist for 24 years, who says her Worthington Clark consultancy is always inundated with work.

It's a work in progress, given the huge task of checking every bit of property that was in the ancestor's enormous holdings.

But the presumably cash-strapped Brits should not give up hope, even if such inquiries can open the gate to competing claims. "I did a case years ago where a strip of land in central Sydney had been overlooked because of faulty title," Worthington says. "I had to chase down this huge family tree over several generations, because each and every survivor was entitled to a share. Everything had to be proved."

Worthington's business is an eye-opener to anyone who thinks genealogy - the tracing of pedigree - is a fuddy-duddy world of cobwebs and indexes, where participants might appear as dead as those they pursue.

New South Wales just finished History Week, and five events related to genealogy, including information on tracing family members.

According to the story, "There is an army on the march, rolling back the details of generations lost or obscured by the dust of time."

"It's something you become terribly wrapped in," says Malcolm Sainty, the president of the Society of Australian Genealogists, who got his start 45 years ago through curiosity about his family origins and now runs a publishing business built on joining the dots of lineage.

"It becomes like a detective story, and it sort of grabs you because you've got various bits of evidence and they don't quite fit. Why they don't fit, and where to find the missing bits, becomes an all-embracing interest."

When he worked on his family history, he wrote hundreds of letters to find documents and traveled frequently to England, from where his great-grandfather had immigrated.

In these amazing days of internet resources, such searches are much easier although the question of accuracy still remains, and not everything is available online ... yet!

The story also brings up some points of contention:

Therein is one pitfall of internet research. Global attempts to suck up all detail, to index and catalogue it, and to digitise each record, have met resistance for reasons that range from intellectual property argument and disputes over compensation, to jealousy and interdenominational suspicion.

For instance, in the middle of the last century the Mormons started filming English parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials - which can go back to 1538 - so they could baptise ancestors into their faith.

"What's there is pretty accurate, but a lot of churches in England didn't like the idea and refused to have their records filmed by the Mormons," Sainty says. "So there are big holes in it, and that can lead to big errors."

The story deals with record digitization and its challenges. One archive staffer says of her materials: "If the cartons of records were put side by side, they'd stretch for 60 kilometres," adding that 75 percent of clients - some 20,000 - are doing family histories. Her archive has negotiated with Ancestry.com which arrived in Australia about a year ago and "has been buying access to records at a hectic pace."

Lack of public investment is discussed, and one official worries that private entrepreneurs will obtain large collections and charge premium prices, denying access to those who can't afford it. He adds that only large state libraries and universities can afford the fees, and the problem is balancing private interest and public good.

The document detective who figures in the story reveals that some clients have paid up to Aus$20,000 for their family trees, with cases ranging from heirlooms to attempted false identity. "Every family has its skeletons in the closet."

Read more here.

20 September 2007

Auschwitz: USHMM receives photo album

A few days ago, we read the mystery of an album of photos and drawings. Yesterday, we read in the New York Times about a photo album donated to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

How many other resources will turn up, retrieved from high closet shelves, from attics, from basements? As the people who care for these items get on in years, perhaps they begin to think about the future and how important these artifacts are to our understanding and view of history.

Today, I spoke with Cynthia Wroclawski, outreach director for Yad Vashem's Shoah Victim's Database, albeit it on another issue. We discussed the drawings and these photographs. She believes that many more such objects will be coming out of hiding in the future.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 — Last December, Rebecca Erbelding, a young archivist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, opened a letter from a former United States Army intelligence officer who said he wanted to donate photographs of Auschwitz he had found more than 60 years ago in Germany.

Ms. Erbelding was intrigued: Although Auschwitz may be the most notorious of the Nazi death camps, there are only a small number of known photos of the place before its liberation in 1945. Some time the next month, the museum received a package containing 16 cardboard pages, with photos pasted on both sides, and their significance quickly became apparent.

The 116 photos, from June 21, 1944 detailed the lives of senior SS officers, collected by the camp commander's adjutant, Karl Höcker. It shows the men singing with an accordionist playing, lighting of the camp’s Christmas tree or staff on a smoking break. The photos contain eight of Josef Mengele, the first authenticated pictures of him at Auschwitz.

Previously, the so-named Auschwitz Album (owned by Yad Vashem) contained the only preliberation photos, taken by SS photographers from spring 1944, and depict a Hungarian Jews transport's arrival and the Birkenau selection process.

The collections contain both life and death, from the "horrific reality within the camp" to SS communications specialists eating bowls of blueberries.

The Höcker album photos are available online on the museum’s Web site this week. Some of the new photos are compared with Auschwitz Album images:

In one, SS women alight from a bus at Solahütte for a day of recreation; meanwhile, in a picture from the Auschwitz Album taken at about the same time, haggard and travel-weary women and children get off a cattle car at the camp.

Museum director Sarah J. Bloomfield believes that other undiscovered caches of photos or documents exist in attics and might soon be lost to history.

The donor, who had asked to remain anonymous, was in his 90s when he contacted the museum, and he died this summer. He told the museum’s curators that he found the photo album in a Frankfurt apartment where he lived in 1946.

The photos of the Auschwitz Album were discovered by Lili Jacob, a Hungarian Jew who was deported in May 1944 to Auschwitz, near Krakow in Poland. She was transferred to another camp, Dora-Mittelbau in Germany, where she discovered the pictures in a bedside table in an abandoned SS barracks.

She was stunned to recognize pictures of herself, her rabbi and her brothers aged 9 and 11, both of whom she later discovered had been gassed immediately after arrival.

Read the complete story here.

Plan ahead: Down under conference, 2009

I spent several days last week putting together a spreadsheet on upcoming genealogy conferences, including major regional, ethnic and national events like the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in late June, the 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in August, the Who Do You Think You are? LIVE in May, and others, including the three gen cruises.

I discovered the 12th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry, set for Auckland, New Zealand from January 16-19, 2009. The website is still somewhat bare.

It is is sponsored by the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations, (AFFHO). However, Dick Eastman did interview one of event organizers, Jane Gow, and the interview is playing now at Roots Television.

If you've been thinking of visiting down under, this might be of interest. Your cousins in Australia and New Zealand are probably asking when you're coming to visit - I know mine are - so this is something to think about.

This major event will be held at Kings College in an Auckland suburb in New Zealand.

Roots Television: Steve Morse interview

It's hard to remember what genealogy was like before Steve Morse became involved. He's been working with technology for a long time - having invented the 8086 processor, which he calls the ancestor of all processors used in our computers today.

Frequent attendees at the IAJGS International Conferences of Jewish Genealogy have packed Steve's presentations on many topics. His good humor and general helpfulness have always impressed me.

He became a household name with his creation of a utility for accessing the Ellis Island Database after he experienced great frustration with the provided search engine. Without his One-Step pages, many of us would never have found our relatives in that database. And the rest is history.

Dick Eastman recorded an 11-minute interview with Steve at the recent FGS conference, and Roots Television recorded it. He talks about his One-Step pages, future plans and background. Click here to see it.

Israel: Planting the Family Tree

A few months ago, I received an email from Dr. Adam Smith in New York. He had been a fan of my former Jerusalem Post column ("It's All Relative," 1999-2005) and wanted to know if I was interested in a family reunion he was planning.

That initial email started a flurry of communications and brought out a very interesting series of "six degrees of separation" coincidences involving Dardashti cousins.

Four days after he took his medical boards in New York, Adam arrived in Israel for the Oberlander family reunion, which I was also privileged to attend. In a short time, some very gracious cousins told me I was an honorary Oberlander. It was a delightful afternoon and evening at Neot Kedumim, a combination nature reserve and botanical garden between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Thank you, Adam, for allowing me the honor of participating and writing about this project.

More than 100 cousins from several countries and Israel descended on the park for a tree planting and dinner. Some readers may remember Adam who also attended the 2006 IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in New York.

My Jerusalem Post story of Adam's detailed research over more than seven years tracing 2,300 descendants of a single Hungarian ancestor is here.

18 September 2007

Genes in Genealogy: St. Louis, Oct. 13

The St. Louis (Missouri) Genealogical Society will host a one-day event, "Putting the Genes in Genealogy," from 8.30am-3.45pm on Saturday, October 13. The featured speaker is Bennett Greenspan, founder and CEO of Family Tree DNA.

Click here for registration and and other details. The StLGS website also has a page on DNA.

The The St. Louis Genealogical Society is the largest local genealogical society in the US and is staffed by volunteers. Among its resources is a 20,000 research library.

The StLGS includes the Jewish Special Interest Group (J-SIG), which began in June 2005 as a revival of the Jewish Genealogical Society of St. Louis, formerly associated with United Hebrew Congregation. For more information, click here.

The genetics day will address the following questions: What is DNA? Why is it important in genealogy? What are those strange diseases our ancestors died from? How do I write a medical family history?

Sessions include:

DNA 101: In layman's terms, learn to understand the basics of this valuable new resource. What is DNA? How is it used for genealogy?

What Did They Die From?: Ancestors' strange illnesses and stranger "curing" methods. Family medical histories are easier to develop when you know what your relatives died from.

DNA 201: More detail on DNA testing: how testing works, what the numbers mean and how the tests can help your family.

Documenting Medical Family History: How to research causes of death and turn data into a medical family history.

Maryland: The Jews of Ioannina, Oct. 14

I am a great fan of Jewish genealogical societies. These groups assist newcomers and experienced researchers, provide reference libraries and great programming. Many societies are now celebrating the start of their program years, so check out your local group. For a list of gen societies around the world - members of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies - click here.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington has organized a members-only workshop on Sunday, October 14, at Bnai Israel in Rockville, Maryland. If you live in the area and have been thinking about joining, this might be the impetus you need to take action.

The program includes a film, discussion and demonstration.

At 11 a.m., “The Last Greeks of Broome Street" - about the Jews of Ioannina - will be screened, followed by a talk by Dr. Michael Matsas, born in Ioannina.

In Manhattan, a small shul on the Lower East Side has been named a “National Treasure.” It was built in 1926 by the descendents of Jewish slaves deported to Rome in the early days of the Diaspora. Their stopping point was Ioannina, then Greece during the reign of Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE), a part of the Roman Empire. The earliest reported evidence of Jews in Ioannina is 1319. There they developed a litany written in Greek and Hebrew and developed unique customs; they are neither Sephardim nor Ashkenazim. Filmmaker Ed Ashkenazi, son of a founder of Kehila Kedosha Janina, tells the story of the synagogue's founding and of members' attempts to retain their rich traditions.

Retired dentist Dr. Michael Matsas was born in Ioannina, Greece in 1930. Following the film, he will speak about Ioannnina and its Jewish community - where they came from, their occupations, way of life, and what happened in 1944. He has spoken at the United States Holocaust Museum, Kehila Kedosha Synagogue in NY, the JCC, and other places about the Greek Jews in relation to his book, "The Illusion of Safety, the Story of the Greek Jews during the Second World War."

The movie and discussion will end at 12:15 p.m. for a lunch break before the afternoon session begins at 1 p.m. for networking, followed by Logan J. Kleinwaks program on "Searching Online Historical Documents."

Many pre-World War II Central and Eastern European business and address directories have been scanned and made available online as part of library digitization programs. Unfortunately, they are presented online as images, not as searchable text.

Kleinwaks will describe how to use a search engine he developed based on optical character recognition (OCR) software to search these directories, with an emphasis on how to find what you are looking for despite errors introduced by the OCR process. The OCR-based approach allows data from print sources to be made searchable very quickly, with little manual intervention. Its applications to other Jewish genealogy projects will be discussed also.

As a bonus, there will be a brief presentation of Kleinwak's new tool to reunite families separated by the Shoah, allowing email addresses to be associated with Pages of Testimony found on Yad Vashem's website, and which automatically matches people associated with same Pages.

Logan J. Kleinwaks, coordinator of the JewishGen Danzig/Gdansk SIG, is a hobbyist genealogist living near Washington, D.C. with a research background in physics and mathematics. He is the creator of the online tools ShoahConnect, for Page of Testimony research, for searching historical business directories, and the general genealogy site Family Tree Registry. His broader genealogical interests include the photographic documentation of Jewish cemeteries, improving Internet access to genealogical information, and privacy.

For directions and details, click here.

Kleinwaks is part of the younger generation of major contributors changing the face of Jewish genealogy demographics. I certainly applaud his important, dedicated work. Jewish genealogy needs to do more to recognize the younger generation of up-and-coming researchers.

Seattle: Stephanie Weiner, Oct. 8-9

Stephanie Weiner is an avid genealogist who presents at IAJGS conferences. She will be speaking on two very different topics for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State and the Jewish Education Council in Seattle.

During dinner with a relative who was a Holocaust survivor, she began gathering family information, scribbling madly on paper napkins. She has graduated from napkins to a software program but continues, 27 years later, to add data to her family tree. Weiner is a librarian for San Diego County (California) Library and has taught online genealogy searching to staff members and the public. A Jewish adoptee, she has been active in adoption issues for 22 years.

At 7 p.m. Monday, October 8, Weiner will present "Doing the One-Step in Ancestry.com," sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State, and at 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 9, she will present "Judaism, Adoption and Assisted Reproduction," in conjunction with the Jewish Education Council. Both programs are at the Stroum JCC, Mercer Island. See below for more details on each topic.

"Doing the One-Step in Ancestry.com" will enable participants to learn some of the Steve Morse One-Step tools that provide alternate ways of accessing U.S. census and immigration information on Ancestry.com. The program is appropriate for both newcomers and experienced genealogists.

Searchable databases found on the Web can provide useful information to genealogists. Unfortunately, many websites are not easy to use; they don’t always offer all the versatility that is possible. Different databases and programs may produce varying results.

She will demonstrate and compare search screens and searchable fields in Ancestry.com and One-Step. If time permits, she will discuss additional Ancestry.com databases.

JGSWS members, free; others, $5.

"Judaism, Adoption and Assisted Reproduction" is suitable for teachers, educators and others interested in these issues. Weiner will speak about genealogical problems faced by adoptees and AR children. These include family trees in classroom situations, personal timelines, heritage exploration and genetic traits charts.

How many times were you - as a child - asked to draw a family tree? What about a timeline of major life events or a report about your culture or heritage? Learn how these common assignments can be challenging for adopted children and families who have chosen assisted reproduction – and solutions to these challenges.

For details or to register, email Tammy Kaiser, tammyk@jewishinseattle.org, for more information. Cost: $10.

For both events, photo ID is needed to enter the JCC.

For more information, click here or email JGSWS president Lyn Blyden, president@jgsws.org.

UK: British Library contest winners

Those who love old books, documents and history will enjoy this announcement. Imagine if such a project were centered on Judaica items of interest to genealogists now kept in Jewish museums and libraries. While indexes and translations of historic documents are extremely useful, viewing originals adds another dimension and provides insight.

Winners and semi-finalists in a British Library-sponsored national competition to make public library treasures available via the web were announced earlier this month.

The Hidden Treasures competition ran from May 2006 through June 2007; librarians sent in some 82 entries deemed valuable for digitization and online access.

"Turning the Pages is a wonderful development technically, but its real value is in the way it makes often hidden treasures widely accessible,” said Tony Durcan, President of the Society of Chief Librarians. “I am delighted with the results and I hope that this is the start of many Turning the Pages 2.0 facilities across the United Kingdom.”

The winning libraries will each have 30 pages of their nominated item digitised, converted into Turning the Pages 2.0 format and shared with a global audience for three years via the British Library website.

The competition is designed to signify the direction of library services in the digital age. According to Elaine Fulton, Director of the Scottish Library and Information Council, “The ability to provide digital access to unique material held in our public libraries is a critical part of supporting cultural heritage, history and diversity.”

The winners are:

· Dorset Federation of Women’s Institutes War Record Book 1939-1945 (Dorset Library Service in partnership with Dorset History Centre and Dorset School Library Service) (England) – a unique volume which provides a compelling snapshot of life on the Home Front.

· The Textus Roffensis (Medway Libraries, Kent) (England) – an iconic work, compiled 1123-24, containing the first recorded English laws and the coronation oath of Henry I, which influenced the barons who drafted Magna Carta.

· The Arbuthnott Manuscripts (Renfrewshire Council) (Scotland) – a spectacular illuminated missal, containing a blood-curdling rite of excommunication, which was one of the few Scottish items of its kind to survive the Reformation.

· Sir George Leonard Staunton’s Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China, 1797 (Belfast Central Library) (Northern Ireland) – volumes containing finely detailed mezzotint plates, which describe and illustrate the visit of the first British envoy to China.

· The Diaries of William Searell of Beddgelert, Caernarfonshire, 1844-46 (Conwy County Borough Council: Libraries, Information and Culture Service) (Wales) – begun when the author was 14 and providing vivid and unique insights into mid-19th century Welsh rural life.

Semi-finalists included the Foundling Hospital Billet Book, circa 1760 (City of London Libraries) – admissions book recording the details of abandoned babies.

Read more here.

Poland: A Holocaust mystery UPDATE

A new Holocaust mystery - and some answers - is the basis of an AP story released today.

BAD AROLSEN, Germany (AP) — Deep in Shari Klages' memory is an image of herself as a girl in New Jersey, going into her parents' bedroom, pulling a thick leather-bound album from the top shelf of a closet and sitting down on the bed to leaf through it.

What she saw was page after page of ink-and-watercolor drawings that convey, with simple lines yet telling detail, the brutality of Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp where her father spent the last weeks of World War II.

Arrival, enslavement, torture, death — the 30 pictures expose the worsening nightmare through the artist's eye for the essential, and add graphic texture to the body of testimony by Holocaust survivors.

Klages now wants to make the album public. Scholars call it unique and a treasure.

It is the story of both her Jewish father Arnold Unger (then 15) and much older Roman Catholic artist Michal Porulski, who may have crossed paths as inmates of adjacent blocks in Dachau's main camp during three weeks that Unger was there. Both men are dead (Unger in 1972 and Porulski in 1989) and cannot provide answers to the many quetions.

Porulski's signature on some of the drawings provided clues to his life, and the story covers Klages' quest to find out who he was and how her father was the album's custodian. The AP has helped answer some of the questions.

What unfolds is a story of Holocaust survival compressed into two tragic lives, a tale with threads stretching from Warsaw to Auschwitz and Dachau, from Australia to suburban England, and finally to a bedroom in New Jersey where a fatherless girl makes a traumatic discovery.

It shows how today, as the survivors dwindle in number, their children and grandchildren struggle to comprehend the Nazi genocide that indelibly scarred their families, and in the process run into mysteries that may never be solved.

This is Shari Klages' mystery: How did Arnold Unger, her Polish Jewish father, a 15-year-old newcomer to Dachau, end up in possession of the artwork of a Polish Catholic more than twice his age, who had been in the concentration camps through most of World War II?

Read the entire story here. The same page offers eight photographs related to the story. There is also a related video and a narrated slide show here. Click on "In Search of a Holocaust Mystery" for the video. If you scroll down - to a box titled Multimedia - there is a link to a slide show narrated by Shari Klages.

Some links in the story:

National Center for Jewish Cultural Arts
International Tracing Service

What's in a rare name?

People always ask about my TALALAY and DARDASHTI names, their origins and how I became interested in genealogy. Nearly everyone with either of these unusual names is sure to be related - although there have been some infrequent exceptions.

I first met Zelmon Zook - another member of the rare name club - through Israeli researcher Patricia Wilson when he visited Israel last spring. We reconnected on his current visit to his daughter and her family in Jerusalem. Here's his story:

He's still surprised at what he finds, says Zelmon Zook, 71, of Kew Garden Hills, NY.

A genealogist for over 30 years with more than 1,200 people on his tree, a nearly two-decades member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Long Island, has self-published a family genealogy, volunteered at the U.S. National Archives and helps friends and family discover their roots.

Nothing beats the experience of discovering an online database clue to lost family, which is what Zook found on a spring visit to Jerusalem.

In April 2007, the retired traffic manager visited Yad Vashem and found a Page of Testimony for Zalman Zhuk in the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names.

For someone with Zook's rare name, it was like looking in the mirror. "How could I not be related to this fellow?" he asked.

In 1899, Zook's great-grandfather - Shlomo Zalman ben Yaakov Yoneh Zhuk - left Minsk for New York; His grandfather, Shlomo's son Joseph (Josel Zuk on the passenger manifest) went to Odessa, married and arrived in New York in 1913. His father Max (Mordche) didn't make it until 1921, after WWI.

Zook printed and translated the Russian page - Pages of Testimony are available in a host of languages - learned the submitter was Rachel Tzalolichina in Lod. Israeli researcher Patricia Wilson in Ra'anana helped make contact; and Zook went to Lod.

Tzalolichina made aliyah with her husband Mikhail 11 years ago, and submitted the Page for her uncle Zalman Zhuk in 1998. Unfortunately, her family tree is limited and, although Zook and Tzalolichina could not establish an immediately verifiable connection, the name indicates ancestral connections.

"Seeing the name Zalman Zhuk alongside mine - Zelmon Zook - opens the door to more research," he says.

Tzalolichina is also trying to locate a cousin Richard (last name unknown), born 1945 and living somewhere in the U.S., whose mother was Klara Gimelshteyn (Himelstein), daughter of Rosa Zhuk Gimelshteyn. Zook plans to assist her - and Wilson - in continuing international networking.

Yad Vashem's online Pages of Testimony are used by increasing numbers of people like Zook and Wilson (who has reunited numerous families). Even if an immediate connection can't be made, as in Zook's case, pages may provide further clues. A Page's submitter - often a close relative - may still be alive and contact will prove fruitful.

Yad Vashem was not set up for genealogy - its mandate is to collect names, not to connect families - but researchers use the online searchable database to do just that.

17 September 2007

Historical handwriting: Resources for help

Here's information on some resources to help you decipher family documents.

Paleography - the study of early handwriting - is an essential skill needed to decipher old documents, whether they are originals or digitized versions. Just think about the Ellis Island Database and the difficulties of locating the proper records because the transcribers had so much trouble with old handwriting.

We may find our ancestors' letters or other records, but cannot understand what is written. Add in foreign languages and alphabets or simply archaic English, along with faded ink and deteriorating paper, and it can all be rather frustrating.

An article by Kenton County Public Library staff in the Cincinnati Post offers some tips for researchers, offering books and online resources.

"Reading Early American Handwriting," by Kip Sperry, offers basic guidelines and tips, sample alphabets and handwriting styles, antiquated terms, abbreviations and contractions. Other books include "If I Can, You Can Decipher Germanic Records" by Edna M. Bentz; "The Handwriting of American Records for a Period of 300 Years" by E. Kay Kirkham; "Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin and French in Vital Records Written in Germany" by Roger P. Minert; and "Understanding Colonial Handwriting" by Harriet Stryker-Rodda.

Online, Cyndi's List features a plethora of links to articles, tutorials and web sites on handwriting. Family Tree Magazine has useful links on handwritten data, medieval paleography, early handwriting and more.

To read more, click here.

Avotaynu offers several useful publications for the special needs of researchers tracing their Jewish families, such as examples of Jewish documents, Jewish names, information on Yiddish and Hebrew and more.

Following the Paper Trail: A Multilingual Translation Guide, Jonathan Shea & William Hoffman
A guide to translating vital statistic records in 13 languages: Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Latin, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.

In Their Words: A Genealogist's Translation Guide -- Polish, Jonathan Shea & William Hoffman.
A detailed buide translating Polish documents.

In Their Words: A Genealogist's Translation Guide -- Russian, Jonathan Shea & William Hoffman.
A detailed guide to translating Polish documents.

16 September 2007

Massachusetts: A living family tree

In the heart of the Berkshires - a stone's throw from Tanglewood - is Congregation Knesset Israel (Pittsfield, Massachusetts), founded in 1893.

The Berkshire Eagle carried a story about the congregation's living family tree project.

"It's really a living family tree," said Myrna Hammerling, director of the Hebrew School at the Pittsfield synagogue. "Last year, our theme was telling our story: the history of the faith and the congregation. The premise behind the wall hanging is that everybody has a story to tell."

The wall hanging, presented during Shabbat service Friday, tells stories in 64 fabric blocks of pictures, colors and even 3-D objects. Hammerling calls it a mini-history of the Jewish Berkshires just in time for Rosh Hashanah and the High Holy Days.

Members have spent a year exploring synagogue history, visited Ellis Island, enacted immigration scenes and more.

In one block of the wall hanging, a black-and-white photo whispers of the congregation's founding in 1893. The portrait of Joseph Z. Klein, a founding member, was provided by his granddaughter, who is currently among the oldest members of the synagogue. Another square of stories memorializes original members in a photograph taken just after the liberation of a Polish concentration camp.

The congregation commissioned local fiber artist Fern Leslie who met with members to design the art work: "I wanted to keep the theme of a family tree, and it touches you because there are so many stories. People snuck in before it was presented and they were just like, 'Wow, look at that. And, do you remember this? And I didn't know that.'"

This year, at Rosh Hashana services, the art work will attract members who will also view the collection of family letters that accompanies it.

"If people go over and read the testimonies that we put together from the families, it will be perfectly like a prayer," she said, motioning toward the birch stand beneath the middle fabric panel.

'It's overwhelming'

Both women said that the book also allows other members to add their own stories, even if they did not have a family block in the wall hanging.

"When I first saw it, I had tears in my eyes," said Rabbi David Greenspoon, standing in front of the display. "When I look at the details people thought to include, it's overwhelming. In many ways, it's a really intimate look into who this community really is."

Read more here

DNA: The Lost Colony's Jewish connection

A Rocky Mountain Telegram story on a DNA project tracing Roanoke's Lost Colony was interesting because the 1585-6 colonists' list included the first Jew in America, Prague-born metallurgist Joachim Gans.

A conference held September 7-9 featured Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA, the Lost Colony Center's DNA research director Roberta Estes and others.

Researchers hope genetic testing will connect the dots of a 420-year-old mystery that has lingered since England's first attempt to colonize North America.

In 1587, a group of English colonists on Roanoke Island disappeared, leaving behind a single clue – the word "CROATAN" carved into a tree.

The Croatan were a group of American Indians who lived near Roanoke Island.

The Lost Colony Center for Science and Research, the pre-eminent group investigating the Lost Colony, will hold a symposium the second weekend of September to present recent findings and collect DNA samples officials hope will eventually solve one of America's oldest mysteries.

What happened to the 115 missing people? Some believe they perished; others think they were taken as slaves. The multidisciplinary project is incorporating DNA tracking, geography, geology, history, biology, anthropology and oceanography to track possible descendants of the lost colonists. Family Tree DNA will do the genetic testing.

Read more here.

For more on Estes and the project, click here.

The Lost Colony website offers much information including a list of names of those connected with the Lost Colony and various expeditions (investors, crew, colonists and Native Americans).

Gans returned to England prior to the colony's mysterious disappearance. He was the subject of an online Jewish Magazine article by Gary Carl Grassl. I first learned about Gans in the lead-up to the 26th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (New York, 2006), because he was a metallurgist, the same profession as 2006 conference co-chair Hadassah Lipsius.

The Prague-born Gans was, according to Grassl, "the first Jew in English America and probably the first documented, non-baptized Jew in the New World." Gans was chief technologist at what National Geographic Magazine calls "America's First Science Center." He was a relative of Prague Renaissance genius David Gans.
In 1585, Joachim Gans participated in Sir Walter Raleigh's expedition to establish an English settlement in Virginia.

The article details how he built a furnace from local bricks to test for silver content from copper obtained from the natives. The sole remaining artifacts made by this English settlement are the oven bricks and two copper nuggets smelted by Gans.

For more, click on an earlier Tracing the Tribe posting, with additional links, here.

The Roanoke names include Enrique Lopez, described as a Portuguese merchant. In England at that time, Portuguese was synonymous with Jewish, but I have no further information on him. There are others on the various lists with Spanish and Portuguese names who might have been Sephardic.

Click here for an extensive list of newspaper and magazine articles on the Lost Colony.

Happy New Year - and thank you!

As we enter the Jewish New Year, I wish each of you a sweet, happy, healthy and prosperous year, filled with everything good for you and your extended families. May this year bring great genealogical achievements and major research breakthroughs.

At this season, as families gather, take this opportunity to share your family's unique history with older and younger relatives. Ask questions of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives. Make sure that younger relatives hear these conversations. Perhaps one may become inspired and set out on his or her own quest for information.

Tracing the Tribe recently completed its first year and I sincerely want to thank readers and genea-blogger colleagues for their public and private support and encouragement. Nearly 44,000 readers have read more than 74,000 page-views of 660-plus posts. Google "Jewish genealogy blog" and Tracing the Tribe is at the top of the list.

When Tracing the Tribe went live, we expected readers from the US, UK, Israel, Canada and Europe. There are also Eastern European readers and those from the Caribbean, Central and South America; Africa, Australia and New Zealand; the Middle East, Asia and the Far East.

Along the way, we've addressed Jewish history and many international communities, pointed to relevant news stories, new databases, important events and much more. If there is a topic you'd like to see, let me know.

Tracing the Tribe is here because JTA saw the importance and value of our mutual passion - Jewish genealogy - and made it possible. You may know JTA as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, which has brought Jewish news to the world for more than a century. JTA's vision and support are deeply appreciated.

With best wishes - Shana Tovah and Hatima Tovah!


09 September 2007

Poland: 19th-century Lodz cemetery unearthed

JTA's Breaking News included information about a recently unearthed 19th-century Polish cemetery in Lodz:

Poland's chief rabbi called for preserving the sanctity of a 19th-century Jewish cemetery discovered during construction in Lodz.

Remains of the graveyard, which dates back to 1811, were unearthed during work on a new tram line in the central Polish town. It had been covered by a housing state erected when Poland was under post-war Communist rule.

Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich over the weekend urged Lodz planners to respect the Jewish ban on disturbing human remains.

"Our goal is to find a solution that will enable respecting the dead whilst doing good for the living," he told Rzeczpospolita newspaper.

Upon learning of the discovery, Lodz Mayor Jerzy Kropiwnicki, known for his promotion of Jewish heritage, immediately canceled work on the tram and opened consultations with Schudrich.

Prior to World War Two, Lodz was home to 233,000 Jews - one-third of the city’s population and the second-largest Jewish community in Europe outside Warsaw. Only a few thousand Lodz Jews survived the Holocaust and most later emigrated. Today, the city has a small Jewish community.

Save those seats! UPDATE

Synagogues often hold interesting collections of member records, memorial plaques, weekly newsletters and commemorative journals - all can be useful research tools for Jewish genealogists searching for details about relatives.

Here's an item that could make future generations of a family happy. The Associated Press reports that Conservative congregation Temple Emanu-El in the trendy South Beach area of Miami Beach, Florida, has placed two seats on eBay. Bidding on the lifetime front-row seats starts at $1.8 million; the winner's family name will be engraved on Seats 1 and 2, Row 1, Section DD.

The package includes free parking, two custom-made prayer shawls and kipot and a nice tax write-off. The winner can pass the seats down to his or her children.

Said Rabbi Kliel Rose - in a confirmation of Jewish genealogy - "It's a gift that goes from one generation to another."

Founded in the 1940s, the 1,400-seat congregation once had thousands of members but, when Rose arrived a few years ago, there were only 200 families.

For more, click here.

08 September 2007

Humor: Congress to ban same-Soundex marriage

Got a minute? Check the archives of your favorite genealogy blogs - you might be surprised.

Chris Dunham's The Genealogue always has something to laugh about, such as this one (June 2006).

Congress Considering Marriage Ban
A Genealogue Exclusive
Today in Washington, conservatives in Congress continued their push to ban same-Soundex marriage.

"It just confuses the children," explained Nebraska Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, who is running for re-election this year. "And Lord knows the children in my state are confused enough, what with the hippity-hop music and all."

Same-Soundex marriage is legal in twelve states, with seven others considering legalization. The problem arises when a couple married in one state moves to another which bans the practice.

"We had a case where a feller named 'Strader' went off to Vermont with a woman named 'Streeter' and got married," Nelson said. "Now you just know their kids are going to ask someday, 'Why were my parents born with the same Soundex code?' I think I'd be too embarrassed to explain it to them."

Opponents of the proposed ban charge that Nelson and his Republican allies are just being "homophonophobic."

"Having similar-sounding surnames doesn't mean two people can't fall in love and raise a family together," responds Patricia England-Engelman, founder of Same-Soundex Americans for Marriage Equality. "It just means that their kids might be born with webbed toes."

Senator Nelson isn't buying it.

"Marriage should be between a man and a woman with different-sounding names. I'm just following what the Bible says. The first two people were named 'Adam' and 'Eve'—not 'Adam Martin' and 'Eve Morton.'

Thanks, Chris, for keeping us laughing!
To keep up with the lighter side of genealogy, subscribe to The Genealogue.
To keep up with Jewish genealogy, subscribe to Tracing the Tribe.

Roots Travel: Ruby's wild, crazy journey

All of us have heard family stories, but can they be proven? What other information can our genealogical research uncover, and how will a return to our roots help our quest?

New York's Jewish Week offers Walter Ruby's self-described "wild-and-crazy roots journey" entitled "A Few Things Are Illuminated."

My journey into my family’s tangled roots began with the resolution of a mystery that was locked in the New York Municipal Archives for 65 years — that my grandfather, Walter Ruby, committed suicide in 1939 instead of dying of a heart attack as my father always believed.

Later, I learned that my great-great-great grandfather was none other than Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor (1817-1896), the most prominent rabbi in the Russian Empire during his heyday and a symbol of a kind of unabashed fealty to Yiddishkeit that has both inspired and repelled his American Jewish descendants during the century since his death.

Somewhere between these two discoveries, genealogical research became an obsession for me as it has for many of my fellow baby boomers. My roots journey has provided me with startling insights into the psychological makeup of family members who died many decades before my birth as well as fascinating new perspectives on my own character and inner struggles.

Yet I also found my family’s back pages to be representative of the wider sweep of Jewish life in the 19th and 20th centuries, revealing classic intergenerational conflicts over Jewish observance and assimilation, as well as German Jewish/Russian Jewish animosities that have likely played out in thousands of Jewish families who made their way from the Old World to the New.

Walter Ruby, his brother Dan and sister Joanne began researching their family history soon after their parents Stanley and Helga died in 2004 and 2005.

Ruby's journey leads from dusty city archives to Yeshiva University's Gottesman Library, from the southern Russian town of Rostov-on-Don to Belarus and Lithuania's Vilnius (Vilna) and Kaunas (Kovno).

He found some answers and learned more about his ancestors:

I have to acknowledge that the whole Jewish roots thing has become a kind of narcotic for me, but as someone who has sampled less edifying substances in my lifetime, I can testify that roots research is the most uplifting addiction I’ve yet succumbed to.

There is much more. Read the complete story here; visit the Ruby family website here.

Read Ruby's companion piece, "Taking the Roots Plunge: The nuts and bolts of the journey," here. It offers tips for researchers considering a similar journey, providing contact emails for guides and researchers, websites, recommendations, details on prices and more.

07 September 2007

UK: A "cultural archaeologist" on Brick Lane

As we travel discovery road looking for our ancestor's roots and learning about our unique family histories, it's also important to investigate where and how earlier generations lived.

London's East End and its famous Brick Lane are featured in a Telegraph story.

Originally a Hasidic neighborhood - where Orthodox immigrants had settled in the late 19th century following Russian pogroms - the story spotlights two books by Rachel Lichtenstein, whom writer Ian Thomson calls a "cultural archaeologist."

Her current book is "On Brick Lane;" the other is "Rodinsky's Room."

Brick Lane, east London's most mythologised street, was once a labyrinth of Jewish immigrant culture and Hasidic custom. Orthodox Hasidim had settled round Brick Lane in the 1880s after fleeing the pogroms in anti-Semitic Tsarist Russia. Many of them changed their names and even their accents. The trappings of orthodoxy - Old Testament beards and sidelocks - were rejected as backward: assimilation promised an escape from the sorrows and derision of the East European past.

By the late 1960s, when I was a bewildered habitué of Brick Lane's Sunday market, the Jewish presence had all but disappeared. Only a few Yiddish cockneys survived in the fur workshops north of Whitechapel Road and the stalls selling shmatter under the railway bridge on Cheshire Street.

Read "From Jewish cockneys to city slickers" here.

Illinois: Cook County's 24 million records to go online

If you live far from Chicago and you're searching ancestors there, this announcement will make your quest much easier.

The Chicago Tribune reports that in January 2008, some 24 million Cook County records, dating back to 1871, will be searchable online from your home computer. To read the complete article online, readers must register (free).

Digitized online records will include birth certificates at least 75 years old, marriage certificates more than 50 years old and death certificates more than 20 years old. Certified copies will not be available online; social security numbers will not be on the online documents.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said "It's going to be a big boon for us and for the genealogy folks who have to go through us to get the records," Orr said. "It will allow them to go online to see if the records exist, to find relatives and purchase copies online."

Records date from 1871, following the Chicago Fire which wiped out older records. They've been stacked for decades in the basement of the county administration building at Clark and Randolph. Rats, floods, fires, bugs have played havoc, so digitization is a way to preserve valuable data.

The county has made efforts to save some records, including a "freeze-drying" process to restore water-damaged documents.

In June, record scanning and indexing were complete; about 1 million files per week are being uploaded. That should be completed at the end of 2007, when Cook County will one of the first US counties to have its materials stored online

The county is also planning a genealogy website which will offer a tutorial for those interested in researching family trees, permit users to search by name for relatives and, when found, pay a fee to download records and print them at home.

06 September 2007

Remembering the mountains

Coming on the heels of the annual Catskills Institute in August is this New York Jewish Week story: "A Catskills Afterlife: Summer ends, a museum remembers, and the mountains live on," by Jonathan Mark.

If the Catskills are dead, may we all be blessed with such an afterlife: cold beer, slow-dancing and songs under moonlight that remind us of each other.

Of course, the Catskills aren’t dead. The population of Sullivan County, the heart of the Jewish Catskills, still triples in the summer, from 78,000 to more than 250,000 — down from a peak of 400,000, a few decades ago, but hardly dead.

Back in the 1950s, the approximately 2,000 square miles of the Jewish Catskills were perhaps the densest rural resort in the world. In 1953, by one count, there were more than 400 bungalow colonies (with 50,000 cabins), 538 hotels, and about 1,000 boarding houses. In the summer of 2007, pairs of Orthodox Jews are still frequently seen strolling along the two-lane blacktops.

Mark points to a current exhibit (through December) at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. “The Other Promised Land: Vacationing, Identity, and the Jewish-American Dream” is a history of Jewish resorts (Atlantic City, Miami and the Catskills among them).

Yes, there was once a time, the museum tells us, when “Gentiles Only” signs prompted Jews to create their own resorts, but in the end, Jewish vacations were less about external hatred and more about the insatiable love we had for each other. Imagine, we loved each other so much that when we had the slightest chance to get away from it all we chose to spend time with the Jews we already knew from work, school, shul and summers past.

The museum reports one woman saying that the mountains were a place “to dance, kibitz,” a place where many experienced their “first real crush.”

A first crush, then a second and a third. If you ever spent time in the Catskills there is probably someone reading this article right now who was in love with you then, and maybe still is.

Part of the museum exhibit is a home movie loop: "A family of four, hand-in-hand, wobbling while ice skating at Grossinger’s; movies shot from the window of the car as it drove up into the mountains; faded films of young mothers in polka-dot sundresses at the hotel pool, as children toweled off, squinting into the sun."

My own memories of Kauneonga Lake - where my maternal grandparents owned Sidney and Bertha Fink's Kauneonga Park bungalow colony - include hide-and-seek around the flagpole at night, pinball and the jukebox in the "canteen," salamander races in the puddles under the swings, picking blueberries behind the baseball field, the haunted house across the road in what became the West Shore Country Club and buying sweet corn and delicious red ripe tomatoes at Max Yasgur's farm - long before Woodstock was a glimmer in anyone's eye.

How could we city kids ever forget the summer that the cows (from the adjacent farm) broke through the baseball field's back fence and wandered all over the colony, frightening city mothers. Does anyone else remember the summer of the lost horse? We raided our mothers' kitchens for carrots, apples and sugar cubes, so the animal would stay around until its owner arrived.

I also clearly remember when my father took me down the road to the colony's dock on Kauneonga Lake - before the colony's large pool was built. We were going to fish for lox, he said, using a bagel for bait. I wasn't much older than 4 - a little kid. Initially, I thought it might have been possible. What did I know? We didn't fish much in the Bronx! Afterwards, as the story was told and family and friends laughed hysterically, I realized I had been "taken."

Fortunately, the Catskills Institute - founded by Prof. Phil Brown at Brown University - archives everything about the Catskills, preserving memorabilia, writings, objects and - most important - our memories.