Texas: Sephardic scholar in residence

Sephardic history is part of my personal research, and Tracing the Tribe’s readers note my affinity for all matters Sephardic, as I present interesting programs, books, author appearances, concerts and more with those who share these interests on a personal or cultural level.

Those in Houston, Texas, are in for a treat as this year’s scholar-in-residence for the Horvitz program (in its 20th year) is Dr. Renée Levine Melammed; the theme is “Insights into Jewish History: Studying Women, Sephar­dim and Oriental Jewry.”

A Jewish history professor who heads the Women’s Gender Studies MA program at Jerusalem’s Schechter Institute, Dr. Melammed has authored numerous articles dealing with women in Jewish history, Conversos of Spain and the Inquisition, and edits the gender and women’s studies journal, Nashim.

Among her books: “Heretics and Daughters of Israel: The Crypto-Jewish Women of Castile” (Oxford University Press, 1999), received two National Jewish Book Awards; and “A Question of Identity: Iberian Conversos in Historical Perspective” (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Melammed’s first program (7.30pm, Sunday, January 27) will be “The Spanish Inquisition: Fact or Fiction,” focusing on historical accuracy.

For three weeks, she will offer programs on Ladino poetry, Crypto-Jewry, Jewish women’s history and Converso Jews. Sessions will be at 11am Sunday mornings and at 8pm Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The final lecture is at 8pm February 13. All programs are free to the public.

A concert is also scheduled by singer/songwriter Consuelo Luz, a descendant of Crypto-Jews, who will explore her Sephardic roots in adapting ancient Jewish prayers and ballads from Spain, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Click here for more information.

Matzo memories: Moving on out

Streit’s Matzo Factory is leaving the Lower East Side for New Jersey after 75 years.

The family-owned company turns out 16,000 pounds of it every day, but the neighborhood isn’t the same.

It hopes to get $25 million for the antiquated six-story building in a part of New York where tenements and sweatshops have given way to fine hotels and condos, expensive restaurants and trendy nightclubs.

“We’re doing this with a heavy heart,” said Aaron Gross, the great-great-grandson of founder Aron Streit, an Austrian immigrant. “We’re America’s last family-owned matzo factory.”

Gross, 32, details some problems: Streets too crowded for the big tractor-trailers and complaints about noisy machines that prepare the dough before baking in steel ovens.

Many of the company’s 60 employees have worked there for decades. Streit’s does tens of millions of dollars in annual sales and garners some 40% of the US matzo market. Manischewitz is its main competition.

The Lower East Side, once home to 500,000 Jews, now has only some 30,000 Jews. The neighborhood has changed and old buildings (such as The Forward’s 1912 structure) are now million dollar condos after major revamping and recycling.

Read the rest of the story here.

Understanding the culture of genealogy

Genealogists of all religions and ethnicities should understand how other groups view family history, traditions and how they preserve and transmit that knowledge to future generations.

As we learn about others’ creative methods, we may find new ways to think about our own work.

Here’s a story that sheds light on genealogy in the Armenian community.

Armen Afrikyan, a historian-lawyer by training, explains what importance a family tree has for Armenians and shows the family tree of the well-known dynasty of the Afrikyans authored by himself.

“It is typical for us, Armenians, to have a family tree. And it is not accidental that when we gather around tables, we don’t forget to drink a toast for our forefathers. And I think it is good when people know the history of their families,” he says.

Afrikyan’s ancestors emigrated from Bayazet and Alashkert to Eastern Armenia, settled near Lake Sevan and founded Nor Bayazet village.

“Our great grandfather was Abraham, who married Khanum and had 10 sons and one daughter by her. In 1830, the branch of my grandfathers moved from Gavar to Yerevan,” Armen says.

The family was also in the Armenian capitol of Yerevan, where they owned several stores and factories, and built a water conduit as a charity project.

In 1842, Abraham’s name was changed (in church records) to Aprik. His children were called Aprikyants and, from 1870, Afrikyans, who worked and lived not only in Armenia but also in Tbilisi, Georgian Republic, Baku, Azerbaijan and Black Sea ports.

In a statement reminiscent of what all genealogists – no matter our personal backgrounds – have experienced as we embark on our quests, Afrikyans says there’s “a gene sleeping in all of us that only needs to be awakened.”

“Old photographs of the family had an influence on me and I began to study the history of the family. Nothing was spoken about our family for a long time during the Soviet years, because in 1922 my grandfathers were dispossessed of their property as kulaks and all their belongings were nationalized,” Armen says.

In 2002, he began to collect documents connected with his family and learned that Matogh Agha of the Gavar Afrikyans branch received the title of prince in Gavar, and that Arakel Agha’s son became a Russian nobleman. He now considers himself to be of princely origin with all these certificates.

He produced a family album and a family tree, displayed at his recently opened inn, and he began to prepare albums for nine families who wanted them.

“Then I understood that simply a service needed to be established that could help people to get to know their roots if they wanted to,” Armen says.

In 2006, he established the Afrikyan & Bianjyan Group Co. that restores the history of customers’ dynasty and family. During research work the company works at archives in Yerevan and abroad, applies to state bodies and nongovernmental organizations for information.

“We do huge work with representatives of a given dynasty, collecting memories, recording interviews, making photographs, studying archives,” Armen explains.

Family archives of a dynasty are arranged into “Dynasty Book”, “Photographs Book”, “Documents Book” and “Family Relics Book” sections.

Afrikyan says that the service is an expensive indulgence.

“Usually, when they inquire about the cost, we cannot answer. The final expense depends on the size of a given dynasty,” he says.

The largest order ($6,000-$7,000) so far was from the Yerevan Brandy Company to create an album for the company’s 130th anniversary. Research took six months and the 130-page album is made of silver and bronze, beginning with the family tree of original owner Tairyan and ending with the current owner’s tree, Gagik Tsarukyan.

The story ends with a comment about the Afrikyans Inn that everyone can relate to: “Everything here feels sort of warm and dear. The past and the present appear to converge here, which makes visitors think about their forefathers for a moment.”

Read more here.

One family’s food

Some time ago, two researchers who shared the same shtetl kicked around the idea of writing a shtetl cookbook together. As things go, we became sidetracked by other matters – even though we believed it would have been a wonderful project. There are only so many hours in a day!

Thus, I was delighted to learn that Judy Bart Kancigor has accomplished what many of us wish we could do if we were more focused or had more time. She’s gathered more than 500 Rabinowitz family recipes into Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family (Workman, 2007).

According to the review in the Cleveland (Ohio) Jewish News:

As Kancigor awaited her first grandchild, she also watched her aging aunts’ lives fading. She feared her favorite family stories and recipes would be lost before they could be passed on to the younger and yet-to-be-born generations. So she rallied her aunts, cousins, and their in-law families – the whole mishpochah -to contribute recipes. They gathered in each other’s kitchens for testing, tasting and telling tales.

“Unlike a photo or even a video, a treasured recipe, passed down from mother to daughter for who knows how long, summons the past with all five senses,” Kancigor writes.

The book also details family stories, anecdotes, descriptions. The article gives two family recipes, Crusty Potato Kugel and Luscious Noodle Pudding.

Moral of the story: Genealogy isn’t only family trees or photographs, it’s also gastronomic. Preserving our history also means preserving family comfort food.

Texas: Sephardic scholar in residence

Sephardic history is part of my personal research, and Tracing the Tribe’s readers note my affinity for all matters Sephardic, as I present interesting programs, books, author appearances, concerts and more with those who share these interests on a personal or cultural level.

Those in Houston, Texas, are in for a treat as this year’s scholar-in-residence for the Horvitz program (in its 20th year) is Dr. Renée Levine Melammed; the theme is “Insights into Jewish History: Studying Women, Sephar­dim and Oriental Jewry.”

A Jewish history professor who heads the Women’s Gender Studies MA program at Jerusalem’s Schechter Institute, Dr. Melammed has authored numerous articles dealing with women in Jewish history, Conversos of Spain and the Inquisition, and edits the gender and women’s studies journal, Nashim.

Among her books: “Heretics and Daughters of Israel: The Crypto-Jewish Women of Castile” (Oxford University Press, 1999), received two National Jewish Book Awards; and “A Question of Identity: Iberian Conversos in Historical Perspective” (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Melammed’s first program (7.30pm, Sunday, January 27) will be “The Spanish Inquisition: Fact or Fiction,” focusing on historical accuracy.

For three weeks, she will offer programs on Ladino poetry, Crypto-Jewry, Jewish women’s history and Converso Jews. Sessions will be at 11am Sunday mornings and at 8pm Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The final lecture is at 8pm February 13. All programs are free to the public.

A concert is also scheduled by singer/songwriter Consuelo Luz, a descendant of Crypto-Jews, who will explore her Sephardic roots in adapting ancient Jewish prayers and ballads from Spain, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Click here for more information.

Matzo memories: Moving on out

Streit’s Matzo Factory is leaving the Lower East Side for New Jersey after 75 years.

The family-owned company turns out 16,000 pounds of it every day, but the neighborhood isn’t the same.

It hopes to get $25 million for the antiquated six-story building in a part of New York where tenements and sweatshops have given way to fine hotels and condos, expensive restaurants and trendy nightclubs.

“We’re doing this with a heavy heart,” said Aaron Gross, the great-great-grandson of founder Aron Streit, an Austrian immigrant. “We’re America’s last family-owned matzo factory.”

Gross, 32, details some problems: Streets too crowded for the big tractor-trailers and complaints about noisy machines that prepare the dough before baking in steel ovens.

Many of the company’s 60 employees have worked there for decades. Streit’s does tens of millions of dollars in annual sales and garners some 40% of the US matzo market. Manischewitz is its main competition.

The Lower East Side, once home to 500,000 Jews, now has only some 30,000 Jews. The neighborhood has changed and old buildings (such as The Forward’s 1912 structure) are now million dollar condos after major revamping and recycling.

Read the rest of the story here.

Understanding the culture of genealogy

Genealogists of all religions and ethnicities should understand how other groups view family history, traditions and how they preserve and transmit that knowledge to future generations.

As we learn about others’ creative methods, we may find new ways to think about our own work.

Here’s a story that sheds light on genealogy in the Armenian community.

Armen Afrikyan, a historian-lawyer by training, explains what importance a family tree has for Armenians and shows the family tree of the well-known dynasty of the Afrikyans authored by himself.

“It is typical for us, Armenians, to have a family tree. And it is not accidental that when we gather around tables, we don’t forget to drink a toast for our forefathers. And I think it is good when people know the history of their families,” he says.

Afrikyan’s ancestors emigrated from Bayazet and Alashkert to Eastern Armenia, settled near Lake Sevan and founded Nor Bayazet village.

“Our great grandfather was Abraham, who married Khanum and had 10 sons and one daughter by her. In 1830, the branch of my grandfathers moved from Gavar to Yerevan,” Armen says.

The family was also in the Armenian capitol of Yerevan, where they owned several stores and factories, and built a water conduit as a charity project.

In 1842, Abraham’s name was changed (in church records) to Aprik. His children were called Aprikyants and, from 1870, Afrikyans, who worked and lived not only in Armenia but also in Tbilisi, Georgian Republic, Baku, Azerbaijan and Black Sea ports.

In a statement reminiscent of what all genealogists – no matter our personal backgrounds – have experienced as we embark on our quests, Afrikyans says there’s “a gene sleeping in all of us that only needs to be awakened.”

“Old photographs of the family had an influence on me and I began to study the history of the family. Nothing was spoken about our family for a long time during the Soviet years, because in 1922 my grandfathers were dispossessed of their property as kulaks and all their belongings were nationalized,” Armen says.

In 2002, he began to collect documents connected with his family and learned that Matogh Agha of the Gavar Afrikyans branch received the title of prince in Gavar, and that Arakel Agha’s son became a Russian nobleman. He now considers himself to be of princely origin with all these certificates.

He produced a family album and a family tree, displayed at his recently opened inn, and he began to prepare albums for nine families who wanted them.

“Then I understood that simply a service needed to be established that could help people to get to know their roots if they wanted to,” Armen says.

In 2006, he established the Afrikyan & Bianjyan Group Co. that restores the history of customers’ dynasty and family. During research work the company works at archives in Yerevan and abroad, applies to state bodies and nongovernmental organizations for information.

“We do huge work with representatives of a given dynasty, collecting memories, recording interviews, making photographs, studying archives,” Armen explains.

Family archives of a dynasty are arranged into “Dynasty Book”, “Photographs Book”, “Documents Book” and “Family Relics Book” sections.

Afrikyan says that the service is an expensive indulgence.

“Usually, when they inquire about the cost, we cannot answer. The final expense depends on the size of a given dynasty,” he says.

The largest order ($6,000-$7,000) so far was from the Yerevan Brandy Company to create an album for the company’s 130th anniversary. Research took six months and the 130-page album is made of silver and bronze, beginning with the family tree of original owner Tairyan and ending with the current owner’s tree, Gagik Tsarukyan.

The story ends with a comment about the Afrikyans Inn that everyone can relate to: “Everything here feels sort of warm and dear. The past and the present appear to converge here, which makes visitors think about their forefathers for a moment.”

Read more here.