The Jewish Americans: A documentary

The history of Jewish America dates back some 350 years, from the first arrivals in 17th-century Nieuw Amsterdam to the present.

A six-hour documentary covering this journey through time will be shown on PBS stations during January 2008.

The project of JTN Productions, WETA Washington, D.C. and David Grubin Productions in association with Thirteen/WNET New York, is based on “The Jewish Americans: Three Centuries of Jewish Voices in America” by Beth S. Wenger’s book (Doubleday); she also served on the program’s board of advisors.

Wenger is the Katz Family Term Chair in American Jewish History, University of Pennsylvania, where she is Jewish Studies Program director. She also authored the award-winning “New York Jews and the Great Depression: Uncertain Promise” (Yale University Press, 1996).

Click here for program clips and other details. It seems many PBS stations will air the series from 8-10pm or 9-11pm Wednesday evenings, January 9-23. Some stations will also rerun each segment later in the week. Check local PBS stations for the exact schedule in your area.

Some communities are also scheduling additional activities.

In Philadelphia, PA, a pre-screening and discussion with Wenger is set for 6-8pm, January 8, 2008, with the National Museum of American Jewish History, while St. Louis, MO is planning to produce additional programs its local Jewish community, inspired by the documentary. Boston and Washington DC will also see additional events.

Those interested in resources for American Jewish history will find many ideas in the credits for each two-hour installment, here, here and here.

New York: Jewish genetics weekend, Jan. 11-12

New York City’s venerable Upper West Side Congregation Rodeph Shalom was established in 1842. It is still in tune with today’s Jewish world as it presents a cutting-edge Jewish genetics weekend, featuring Dr. Harry Ostrer, M.D., on Friday and Saturday, January 11-12, 2008.

If you’re in the neighborhood and want to know more about Jewish genetics and DNA, this is for you.

Ostrer – an excellent speaker – is familiar to many Jewish genealogists as he has presented at recent annual international Jewish genealogy conferences. The last time we met was this past summer in Seattle as he was collecting DNA samples in that major Sephardic community.

The study weekend is titled “Who are the Jews? A Genetic Perspective.”

At 6pm, Shabbat evening, January 11, Ostrer will speak on “Founders, or How I Got to be Who I am,” featuring historical views of Jews as a tribe, race and people and will trace the formation of contemporary groups – Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrahi.

At 10.15am, Shabbat morning, Ostrer will present “Identity, or Who I Think I Am,” focusing on the use of genetic information for disease treatment and how contemporary Jews are determining who future Jews will be. He will argue that this shared genetic legacy will be a source of Jewish identity.

Shabbat lunch and learn, at 12.30pm, will focus on Case Studies: Bioethics and Halacha (Jewish law). This session will address defining Jewish identity based on genetic make-up, and the use of contemporary genetic technologies to influence the genetic make-up of offspring.

Ostrer is Professor of Pediatrics, Pathology, and Medicine and Director of the Human Genetics Program in the Department of Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine. He studies the genetics of Jewish populations and is currently completing a book on Jewish history and genetics.

The program is sponsored by the congregation’s adult education department; neither fee nor reservation is required. For more details, click here. Rodeph Sholom is located at 7 West 83rd St., Manhattan.

Marian L. Smith: West Coast tour, January 2008

An increasingly frequent movement among Jewish genealogical societies is to organize grouped visits for major speakers. This collaboration is always a fascinating process, as such tours may be grouped by state, region or a wider geographical range.

During January 2008, popular speaker Marian L. Smith, Senior Historian of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS), Department of Homeland Security, will speak at seven West Coast US Jewish genealogical societies and 2 NARA branches.

Smith’s depth and range of knowledge never fail to impress her audiences, and she regularly lectures at national and international genealogy conferences – including the annual international Jewish genealogy event – on the history and uses of immigration and naturalization records. Her articles appear in the National Archives journal Prologue, the FGS Forum and other publications, while her research focus primarily involves official immigration agency records held in the National Archives in downtown Washington, DC.

“Documenting Immigrants to America, 1882-1954” is the topic for all her appearances.

The program will focus on immigration and naturalization records of a typical late 19th-early 20th century immigrant. Records at both the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS) and the National Archives will be discussed. These include ship passenger lists, Board of Special Inquiry records, land border arrival records, visa files, legalization records, Alien Registration, and naturalization and citizenship record. A Q&A session will follow.

USCIS houses records documenting arrivals and naturalizations of millions of American immigrants. If you have an ancestor who immigrated after 1882 and was naturalized 1906-1956, USCIS may hold significant records for your family history research.

Smith will provide an overview of all types of records that were created and maintained over time, and how the records are distributed between the two agencies. She will also cover services and records becoming available through the new USCIS Genealogy Program.

Dates and times are as follows. Please see each genealogy society’s website for details on location, directions and additional information.

Sunday, January 6, 2pm; Thousand Oaks, CA; JGS of Conejo Valley and Ventura County

Monday, January 7, 7.30pm; Los Angeles, CA; JGS of Los Angeles

Tuesday, January 8, 7pm; San Diego, CA; San Diego JGS

Sunday, January 13, 1pm; San Francisco, CA; San Francisco Bay Area JGS
Monday, January 14, 7pm; Seattle, WA; JGS of Washington State

Tuesday, January 15, 7.30pm; Portland, OR; JGS of Oregon

Wednesday, January 16, 7.30pm; Eugene, OR; JGS of Wilamette Valley, Oregon

This type of consortium activity was trailblazed by pioneer Jan Meisels Allen of California, when she organized the first 2004 US tour of Yale Reisner of the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw, on his visits to six JGSs (Toronto, Michigan, Los Angeles, St. Louis, New York City and Long Island).

An active Pacific Northwest consortium also brings speakers to JGSs in Vancouver, B.C.; Seattle, WA; Portland and Eugene, OR.

Maryland: Double program, Jan. 6

The Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington’s next meeting will be at B’nai Israel in Rockville, Maryland. The Sunday, January 6, 2008 is two-fold with a workshop on Jewish traditions concerning dying and death and a program by the USHMM’s Paul Shapiro on the opening of the Bad Arolsen Archives.

From 11am-12.30pm, the member’s-only workshop (no registration required) with David Zinner will explore Jewish traditions surrounding dying and death.

Zinner is the founder and executive director of Kavod v’Nichum (Honor and Comfort), which works to restore to Jewish death and bereavement practice, the traditions and values of kavod hamet (honoring the dead) and nichum avelim (comforting the bereaved).

For 700 years, the Chevra Kadisha (Holy Society) was the sole provider of Jewish funerals and burials, and cared for fellow congregants, from sickness through death, from preparing and burying the deceased. Modern day Chevra Kadisha groups continue this work and help families handle logistics while offering comfort and support.

Since its 1998 inception, Zinner has edited and managed the web site “Jewish Funerals, Burial and Mourning,” co-sponsored by Kavod v’Nichum and the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington. This site, visited by more than 120,000 people annually, is a comprehensive resource containing some 350 pages of information and links to Jewish and other sources on death, funeral practice, tahara, burial, cemeteries, mourning and healing, suicide, organ donation, consumer rights and the death care industry.

The workshop will address Jewish traditions and practices relating to death and dying and Jewish communal institutions that can provide assistance. As vice-president of the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington, Zinner participates in developing citywide contracts with funeral homes and is a member of the Cemetery Committee. He also serves on the Maryland Cemetery Advisory Board and will provide an update on issues being discussed

At 1.30pm, the main program will begin with Center of Advanced Holocaust Studies director Paul Shapiro at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The 11 countries overseeing the International Tracing Service (ITS) archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany, have ratified the agreement officially opening the massive Holocaust archive. It contains more than 100 million images of material relating to the fates of approximately 17.5 million people—both Jews and non-Jews—who perished in the Holocaust or who otherwise fell victim to the Nazi regime.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum is the American repository for these materials and is in the process of receiving a complete digital copy of the archive and working to make the documentation accessible in January 2008, so that it can begin responding to survivor information requests. The archive is being transferred in installments, and the Museum expects to have a complete copy of the material by 2010. Mr. Shapiro will discuss efforts to open the archive, material acquisition, and the USHMM’s role in making information accessible to survivors and researchers.

Since 1997, Shapiro has led the USHMM efforts to provide leadership in Holocaust Studies in the US and abroad. Previously, he was involved for over a decade in the development of the Museum’s archival collections, undertaking numerous archival research and acquisition missions to Romania, Moldova and Ukraine in particular. Before joining the Museum, he served in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the United States Information Agency and Department of State, where he was responsible for the Fulbright Fellowship Program and other major international exchange programs.

Shapiro holds a BA degree (Government) from Harvard University; a Master of International Affairs degree and a Master of Philosophy degree (History) from Columbia University. He has been a Fulbright scholar, IREX scholar, and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Eurasian Studies at The George Washington University.

For directions and additional details, click here.

Boston: Advanced genealogy Googling, Jan. 6

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston’s next meeting will focus on advanced Googling for genealogical purposes. The event will take place from 1.30-4.30pm, Sunday, January 6, at Temple Emanuel in Newton Center, Massachusetts.

Google is a simple and helpful way to search the internet, but are you getting just what you want or need? When you get a promising looking return, do you know how to get the most out of it? Did you know there are many more very useful things Google can do beyond that simple search screen? These and many more questions will be answered at the program.

Presenter Michael Marx of Lexington has been researching his German roots since 2001 and can now trace his ancestors to the mid-1600s. Much of his success has come from searching the World Wide Web, and his primary tool has been Google.

For directions or more information, click here.

The Jewish Americans: A documentary

The history of Jewish America dates back some 350 years, from the first arrivals in 17th-century Nieuw Amsterdam to the present.

A six-hour documentary covering this journey through time will be shown on PBS stations during January 2008.

The project of JTN Productions, WETA Washington, D.C. and David Grubin Productions in association with Thirteen/WNET New York, is based on “The Jewish Americans: Three Centuries of Jewish Voices in America” by Beth S. Wenger’s book (Doubleday); she also served on the program’s board of advisors.

Wenger is the Katz Family Term Chair in American Jewish History, University of Pennsylvania, where she is Jewish Studies Program director. She also authored the award-winning “New York Jews and the Great Depression: Uncertain Promise” (Yale University Press, 1996).

Click here for program clips and other details. It seems many PBS stations will air the series from 8-10pm or 9-11pm Wednesday evenings, January 9-23. Some stations will also rerun each segment later in the week. Check local PBS stations for the exact schedule in your area.

Some communities are also scheduling additional activities.

In Philadelphia, PA, a pre-screening and discussion with Wenger is set for 6-8pm, January 8, 2008, with the National Museum of American Jewish History, while St. Louis, MO is planning to produce additional programs its local Jewish community, inspired by the documentary. Boston and Washington DC will also see additional events.

Those interested in resources for American Jewish history will find many ideas in the credits for each two-hour installment, here, here and here.

New York: Jewish genetics weekend, Jan. 11-12

New York City’s venerable Upper West Side Congregation Rodeph Shalom was established in 1842. It is still in tune with today’s Jewish world as it presents a cutting-edge Jewish genetics weekend, featuring Dr. Harry Ostrer, M.D., on Friday and Saturday, January 11-12, 2008.

If you’re in the neighborhood and want to know more about Jewish genetics and DNA, this is for you.

Ostrer – an excellent speaker – is familiar to many Jewish genealogists as he has presented at recent annual international Jewish genealogy conferences. The last time we met was this past summer in Seattle as he was collecting DNA samples in that major Sephardic community.

The study weekend is titled “Who are the Jews? A Genetic Perspective.”

At 6pm, Shabbat evening, January 11, Ostrer will speak on “Founders, or How I Got to be Who I am,” featuring historical views of Jews as a tribe, race and people and will trace the formation of contemporary groups – Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrahi.

At 10.15am, Shabbat morning, Ostrer will present “Identity, or Who I Think I Am,” focusing on the use of genetic information for disease treatment and how contemporary Jews are determining who future Jews will be. He will argue that this shared genetic legacy will be a source of Jewish identity.

Shabbat lunch and learn, at 12.30pm, will focus on Case Studies: Bioethics and Halacha (Jewish law). This session will address defining Jewish identity based on genetic make-up, and the use of contemporary genetic technologies to influence the genetic make-up of offspring.

Ostrer is Professor of Pediatrics, Pathology, and Medicine and Director of the Human Genetics Program in the Department of Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine. He studies the genetics of Jewish populations and is currently completing a book on Jewish history and genetics.

The program is sponsored by the congregation’s adult education department; neither fee nor reservation is required. For more details, click here. Rodeph Sholom is located at 7 West 83rd St., Manhattan.