New York: Jewish Merchants 1500-1800, October 18

In 1714, Spanish Inquisition refugee Luis Moses Gomez purchased 6,000 acres along the Hudson Highlands and built a fieldstone house by a stream known as “Jews Creek.”

For 30 years, he and his sons ran a thriving fur trade from the house with three-foot thick walls. He was the first president of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York City and family connections included the poet Emma Lazarus and Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo, who some consider to have been the real first Hispanic member of the US Supreme Court.
There is a new website, but most of it is “under construction.” To see the old site, click here.

To learn about the family history, click here for a genealogy written by Isaac Gomez, born in New York on July 28, 1768, who begins with his great-great-grandfather Isaac Gomez.

The genealogy of our family as far as I can trace from my own knowledge as well as what I have had from my ancestors, it being necessary for every family to know from whence they sprung particularly when they came from respectable parentage which is the reason why I have been thus particular.

Related family names in the Gomez genealogy: MARKAZE, GOMPAS, JESURUM, DE LUCENA, DE TORES, LEVY, SILVA, DE LEON, HIMES, LOPEZ, HENDRICKS, WAGGE, RIVERA, SEIXAS, EMANUEL and JUDAY. Localities include Jamaica, Curacao, Barbados; Newport, Rhode Island; New York City and Philadelphia. Click on the genealogy link above for more details.

A conference on “Merchants Jews in the New World 1500-1800” will be held at the Center for Jewish History on Sunday, October 18, sponsored by The Gomez Foundation for Mill House (the former home of Luis Moses Gomez. Click here for event details.

The program will focus on lesser-known aspects of Jewish contributions to economic expansion in the New World and the U.S. The Gomez Foundation manages and operates the 300-year-old Gomez Mill House in Orange County, New York, which was used as the Gomez home and trading post.

Presenters include Dr. Ruth K. Abrahams and Andrée Aelion Brooks, Gomez Foundation; Randall C. Belinfante, American Sephardi Federation; archivist Ainsley Henriques and author Edward Kritzler, Jamaica, West Indies; author Dr. Kenneth Libo, NYC; Jewish Studies assistant professor Dr. Jonathan Ray, Georgetown University, Washington D.C.; Dr. Jessica V. Roitman, Birkbeck College, University of London UK; Jewish Heritage Collection curator Dr. Dale Rosengarten and visiting professor Dr. Barry Steifel, College of Charleston, SC; John Hay Library Special Collections’ Dr. Holly Snyder, Brown University, RI; and Hilit Surowitz, Columbia University, NY.

The event runs from 9am-7pm, and includes several panels:

– Exploration & Expansion: Forces that brought merchant Jews to the NewWorld.
– The impact of Jews on Caribbean Trade.
– The importance of Jewish merchants in early America.

There will be a kosher continental breakfast reception, buffet lunch and wine and light supper buffet reception, along with book sales/signings and exhibits.

Early registration, through September 15, is $65 ($75 later). For more information, email gomez@cjh.org. Download the registration brochure here.

New York: Jewish Merchants 1500-1800, October 18

In 1714, Spanish Inquisition refugee Luis Moses Gomez purchased 6,000 acres along the Hudson Highlands and built a fieldstone house by a stream known as “Jews Creek.”

For 30 years, he and his sons ran a thriving fur trade from the house with three-foot thick walls. He was the first president of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York City and family connections included the poet Emma Lazarus and Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo, who some consider to have been the real first Hispanic member of the US Supreme Court.
There is a new website, but most of it is “under construction.” To see the old site, click here.

To learn about the family history, click here for a genealogy written by Isaac Gomez, born in New York on July 28, 1768, who begins with his great-great-grandfather Isaac Gomez.

The genealogy of our family as far as I can trace from my own knowledge as well as what I have had from my ancestors, it being necessary for every family to know from whence they sprung particularly when they came from respectable parentage which is the reason why I have been thus particular.

Related family names in the Gomez genealogy: MARKAZE, GOMPAS, JESURUM, DE LUCENA, DE TORES, LEVY, SILVA, DE LEON, HIMES, LOPEZ, HENDRICKS, WAGGE, RIVERA, SEIXAS, EMANUEL and JUDAY. Localities include Jamaica, Curacao, Barbados; Newport, Rhode Island; New York City and Philadelphia. Click on the genealogy link above for more details.

A conference on “Merchants Jews in the New World 1500-1800” will be held at the Center for Jewish History on Sunday, October 18, sponsored by The Gomez Foundation for Mill House (the former home of Luis Moses Gomez. Click here for event details.

The program will focus on lesser-known aspects of Jewish contributions to economic expansion in the New World and the U.S. The Gomez Foundation manages and operates the 300-year-old Gomez Mill House in Orange County, New York, which was used as the Gomez home and trading post.

Presenters include Dr. Ruth K. Abrahams and Andrée Aelion Brooks, Gomez Foundation; Randall C. Belinfante, American Sephardi Federation; archivist Ainsley Henriques and author Edward Kritzler, Jamaica, West Indies; author Dr. Kenneth Libo, NYC; Jewish Studies assistant professor Dr. Jonathan Ray, Georgetown University, Washington D.C.; Dr. Jessica V. Roitman, Birkbeck College, University of London UK; Jewish Heritage Collection curator Dr. Dale Rosengarten and visiting professor Dr. Barry Steifel, College of Charleston, SC; John Hay Library Special Collections’ Dr. Holly Snyder, Brown University, RI; and Hilit Surowitz, Columbia University, NY.

The event runs from 9am-7pm, and includes several panels:

– Exploration & Expansion: Forces that brought merchant Jews to the NewWorld.
– The impact of Jews on Caribbean Trade.
– The importance of Jewish merchants in early America.

There will be a kosher continental breakfast reception, buffet lunch and wine and light supper buffet reception, along with book sales/signings and exhibits.

Early registration, through September 15, is $65 ($75 later). For more information, email gomez@cjh.org. Download the registration brochure here.

Lithuania: Cemetery dispute settled

JTA reported that the Vilnius Jewish cemetery dispute has been settled.

Read the article here.

A long-running dispute over construction on the site of a historic Jewish cemetery in Lithuania was settled on August 26. It will provide protection to the Snipiskes cemetery in the center of Vilnius. The cemetery was in active use from the 16th-19th centuries.

Most of the site was destroyed during the Nazi occupation, and a sports center was built over part of it during the Soviet era.

In 2005, an apartment and office complex construction on the site set off worldwide Jewish protests. The Lithuanian government permission for the construction was condemned in a motion by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Buildings on the site will however not be demolished. The agreement set official boundaries for the cemetery site.

Signing off on the plan were The Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Cultural Heritage Protection Department, according to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

The Jewish community rejected a compensation plan offered by Lithuania for Nazi-seized Jewish communal buildings which were held by the Soviets and never returned. Lithuania offered $53 million over 10 years beginning in 2012, but the community said the amount is only one-third of the buildings’ value.

Sign up for breaking news alerts at JTA.org.

Lithuania: Cemetery dispute settled

JTA reported that the Vilnius Jewish cemetery dispute has been settled.

Read the article here.

A long-running dispute over construction on the site of a historic Jewish cemetery in Lithuania was settled on August 26. It will provide protection to the Snipiskes cemetery in the center of Vilnius. The cemetery was in active use from the 16th-19th centuries.

Most of the site was destroyed during the Nazi occupation, and a sports center was built over part of it during the Soviet era.

In 2005, an apartment and office complex construction on the site set off worldwide Jewish protests. The Lithuanian government permission for the construction was condemned in a motion by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Buildings on the site will however not be demolished. The agreement set official boundaries for the cemetery site.

Signing off on the plan were The Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Cultural Heritage Protection Department, according to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

The Jewish community rejected a compensation plan offered by Lithuania for Nazi-seized Jewish communal buildings which were held by the Soviets and never returned. Lithuania offered $53 million over 10 years beginning in 2012, but the community said the amount is only one-third of the buildings’ value.

Sign up for breaking news alerts at JTA.org.

Philly 2009: You thought it was over?

The excellent Philly 2009 event isn’t over, not by a long shot!

Conference program co-chair Mark Halpern, who is also the JGS of Greater Philadelphia webmaster and editor of the group’s publication, Chronicles, has informed Tracing the Tribe that the society is archiving for posterity relevant material for the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

So far, the JGSGP has gathered a selection of thank-you messages posted online or received by the society.

And here are links to articles about the conference in newspapers and other media (such as Tracing the Tribe’s blog postings for Philly 2009) about the conference or speakers.

Read about JGSGP founder/first president/author Harry Boonin who was honored by both the IAJGS and the society.

The online Philadelphia-Area Jewish Genealogical Resource Guide, prepared by Steve Schecter and a team of volunteers is here.

New geneablogger colleague Steve Lasky, award-winning creator and founder of the Museum of Family History, created an exhibit honoring Philadelphia’s Jewish heritage.

The JGSGP is also planning an extensive photo exhibit. If you have conference photos, please send the images (or a link to them) to jgsgp@comcast.net

Additionally, Mark is planning a special conference edition of Chronicles, and he’s also asking speakers and attendees to submit articles about their experience in Philly. Suggestions are research you did at the conference, a brick wall breakthrough, a new family connection, a great session you attended, general observation of the event regardless of whether you were a first-timer or a veteran. Speakers can even submit their talk or a summary of it. Deadline for article submission is September 30.

What a great idea, Mark! Contact him to submit photos, links or articles (by September 30). Tracing the Tribe hopes future conferences will do the same.

Wisconsin: Land of milk, Houdini and Jewish heritage

Remember this classic New Yorker magazine cover (March 29, 1976) where Saul Steinberg’s “View of the World from 9th Avenue” demonstrated a view of the country? There was New York, something on the West Coast, and some other places in the middle.

One of those something-in-the-middle states is wholesome Wisconsin, where Jews have lived since 1793.

Andrew Muchin has written a great story on the Wisconsin Jewish story here.

To learn about Swiss immigrants to Wisconsin, visit New Glarus. For the Welsh, it’s Mineral Point. Cedar Grove is the town for Dutch heritage. Belgians, not surprisingly, are remembered in the hamlet of Brussels.

To fully experience Wisconsin Jewish history, however, you must plan a statewide road trip. The Dairyland-scape is dotted with former synagogues large and small, all with intriguing histories. Jews are remembered in dedicated museums in Milwaukee and Stevens Point, at an apartment building near Hurley’s former red-light district and in business districts from Ashland to Beloit.

In the years since 1793, Jews have lived in more than 300 Wisconsin communities as hardy settlers, ubiquitous main-street merchants, dedicated public servants, your occasional felon and drinkers of their fair share of milk, though not necessarily with their meat meals.

The state’s oldest Jewish community is Green Bay. British and French fur traders were already there when Jacob Franks arrived in 1792/3 as a Montreal fur company rep. He formed his own business in 1797 and his nephew John Lawe, also of Montreal, came out to help him.

In Heritage Hill State Historical Park, the living-history museum has a fur trader’s cabin built c1800 on land near Lawe’s. Inside, the home and trading post has shelves displaying jewelry, alcohol jugs and tools that traders would have given for pelts.

In the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, are photos of Nate Abrams, Charlie Sauber and a Milwaukee MOT, Charles Goldenberg.

From Jacob Franks and his nephew, the state’s Jewish population increased to some 40,000 prior to WWII and to today’s estimated 26,000. Milwaukee’s fledgling community began with a few German Jews arriving in 1842 and it eventually became the largest in the state.

Some 2,000 German and Hungarian Jews arrived during 1840-70, founding the state’s first communities in Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, Appleton and Wausau.About 15,000 Russian and Eastern Jews arrived 1881-1924, and eventually founded congregations in 23 localities.

Milwaukee’s history is on display at the Milwaukee Jewish Museum. The article mentions congregations in Madison, Appleton (home to both author Edna Ferber and Erich Weiss AKA Harry Houdini), Stevens Point and Hurley.

In Hurley, a far north city, which Muchin calls “bordello central for the miners and loggers of northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula by 1890.” Some 200 Jews lived there and worked mainly as merchants in the early 20th century. They worshipped in Sharey Zedek (1895-1940). The building is a short walk from the old Silver Street bordellos. A plaque marks it as Iron County’s only synagogue, and the house next door was the mikvah site. The local Iron County Historical Society displays religious items from the synagogue.

Some 20 communities have at least one Jewish cemetery. “Most hold more Jews than currently live in the city,” writes Muchin, who also mentions additional communities with other attractions.
Muchin is a freelance writer and programming director for the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Mississippi.

Los Angeles: The Bielski story and more

Everyone’s back from busy summers and genealogical societies are beginning their program years.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles has planned a great kick-off to this special year, which will culminate in the 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, hosted this year by the JGSLA, from 11-16 July 2010.

You won’t want to miss this program on Sunday, September 13 event at the Milken JCC in West Hills.

The main event is Sharon Rennert speaking on “The Bielski Partisans: A Granddaughter’s Story.” She presented this multi-media lecture to a standing-room-only crowd at the Philadelphia conference. The program also includes a recap of the Philly 2009 conference, and a screening of Jordan Auslander’s very funny “Genealogy Goes to the Movies.”

Presented by filmmaker Sharon Rennert, granddaughter of Tuvia Bielski (played by Daniel Craig in the film “Defiance”). Sharon will delve into the real story behind the Hollywood motion picture and break down historical fact from fiction. She’ll provide a unique glimpse into the real characters behind the film and will show scenes from her work-in-progress documentary, “In Our Hands: A Personal Story of the Bielski Partisans.”

If you haven’t seen “Defiance,” view it before the meeting to enhance appreciation of this program. It is available via Blockbuster, Netflix or Amazon.

An award-winning independent filmmaker and television editor with a Boston University BS (Broadcasting & Film) and a USC MFA (Cinema-Television), Rennert’s been editing and producing documentary series and television specials for more than 15 years.

The time schedule:

1.30-3pm: Rennert’s program.

3-3.30pm: Philly 2009 recap and exciting plans for the upcoming JGSLA 2010.

3.30-4pm: “Genealogy Goes to the Movies.” A screening of Jordan Auslander’s hilarious compilation of genealogically-themed clips from classic and kitschy films and TV shows, ranging from The X-Files, Grey’s Anatomy and The Sopranos to the works of Alfred Hitchcock, Mel Brooks and Frances Coppola.

Those who arrive early (1-1.30pm) can enjoy refreshments, browse the JGSLA’s traveling library and speak with members who attended the Philly conference.

Fee: members, free; others, $5. Invite your friends to this great program.

The Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus is at 22622 Vanowen St., in West Hills.