Who Do You Think You Are? US and Australia, 2010

We are getting closer – perhaps – to seeing WDYTYA in the US.

A Broadcast.Co.UK article indicates two interesting facts: The US premiere will now be in January 2010 and Australians will also be able to see the US version:

22 September 2009: Outright Distribution has sold the forthcoming US version of Who Do You Think You Are? into Australia.

Australia’s Nine Network has picked up broadcast rights to the US adapation of the genealogical show, made by British indie Wall to Wall. It is due to launch in the US on NBC in January next year featuring Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon amongst others.

We could hold our breath, but let’s see what happens closer to January.

Australia also produces its own version of the show with downunder celebrites.

Georgia: ‘Southern Israelite’ digitized, online

Historic newspapers are a fountain of important information and even more so are Jewish historic papers.

At left, find a story from the July 30, 1937 Southern Israelite which has just been digitized, indexed and searchable online. Click on the image to see it expanded and more clearly.

Tracing the Tribe hears frequently about new newspaper digitalization projects. The newest project is that of the “Southern Israelite,” which was at first a mere temple bulletin in Augusta, Georgia, in 1925.

Thanks to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Georgia, the Breman Museum and the Digital Library of Georgia, the Southern Israelite (1929-1958, 1984-1986) has now been digitized, indexed, and is freely searchable on line. There are more than 22,000 images in the collection.

This project makes it easier than ever to find information about Jewish families in the Southern states. At right, see the social column from the same 1937 issue (click on the image to see an expanded, more clear version).

As it grew in popularity, founder Rabbi H. Cerf Straus expanded to a monthly publication. He sold it to Herman Dessauer and Sara B. Simmons, who moved operations to Atlanta. The paper circulated throughout the state and the South. M. Stephen Schiffer, a former Atlanta Georgian employee, took over as sole owner in 1930.

Even in the early years, it covered not only southern Jewish news but all national and world issues impacting Jewish lives and communities. It carried columns about Jewish communities in Florida and Alabama, and its society columns mentioned almost every Jewish person who visited Atlanta, making this a valuable resource if your families were connected to southern communities.

Along with the monthly magazine, a weekly edition began publication in October 1934. In 1951, Israelite editor Adolph Rosenberg headed a corporation that took over ownership. One major local issue event that became known nationally was the Atlanta Temple bombing in October 1958.

The monthly magazine ended in 1973 as the weekly edition grew and, in 1987, the paper’s name was changed to the Atlanta Jewish Times – owned today by Jewish Renaissance Media.

According to information at the website, circulation is more than 25,000.

A DJVu reader is required to see images, and readers can install one from the first link above.

Mississippi: Last holiday in Lexington

All over the Southern US, there are small towns with synagogues barely keeping their doors open, and other communities whose congregations disbanded long ago. In Lexington, Mississippi, this will be the last Yom Kippur at Temple Beth El after 104 years of services.

The Dixie Diaspora’s disintegration makes such archives as the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life even more important.

In Andrew Muchin’s article in the Forward, the story of Lexington is detailed.

As the members of Temple Beth El in Lexington, Miss., pray this Yom Kippur for inclusion in the Book of Life, they’ll be attending a funeral of sorts. The Ne’ilah, the day’s traditional closing service, will be the last scheduled worship to be held in their 104-year-old white wooden synagogue.

“Our last regular service had four people,” said Phil Cohen, 72, operator of Cohen’s department store which his grandfather founded on Lexington’s town square in 1908.

“This is it,” agreed Henry Paris, 79, who has led Beth El’s High Holy Day services for the past 39 years. “We can’t continue to have a temple for four people. This is it.”

Lexington is a city of about 2,000 people and covers just 2.5 square miles in west-central Mississippi. It’s the smallest community in the state to have supported a synagogue for scores of years.

Jews have lived in Lexington since the 1830s, when German-Jewish immigrants arrived and soon found success as merchants, according to Stuart Rockoff, historian at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss.

In the late 19th century, Russian Jews arrived; a Reform congregation was founded in 1904, and a synagogue built in 1905. There were 80 Jews in 1927, but the Depression caused a decline in numbers. During World War II, 16 Jewish men served in the armed forces; two returned in 1945, 13 moved elsewhere and one was killed.

Lexington took a hit during the 1960s civil rights movement. While Lexington’s African-American citizens praised the Jewish businessmen for treating them correctly – as recorded in oral histories – Freedom Summer volunteers registered African-Americans to vote, and several economic boycotts in the late 1960s-70s also impacted Jewish merchants.

Some 40 people attended Rosh Hashanah services – most of them live elsewhere but showed up for the final services.

The synagogue’s well-maintained interior is 90% sanctuary. Each side wall features four tall stained-glass windows with intricate Tiffany-style patterns.

The simple symmetrical exterior with its tall, gabled front porch resembles a rural church. The only visible Jewish symbol is a round window with a small, six-pointed star above the entry.

One former congregant declared there’s “a time to open the synagogue doors and a time to close them. I guess this is the time to close them.”

Cohen and another former town businessman have ideas for moving the building to the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, but nothing has been formalized.

Apologies were not needed for the synagogue’s closing, said congregants, and another attendee said they shouldn’t sing the blues: “I’m happy that this small congregation survived for 104 years,” she said. “Who would ever have believed it?”

Thanks, Andrew, for a great look at this community. Read the complete article at the link above.

Florida: Drew Smith in Tampa, Oct. 11

One of Tracing the Tribe’s favorite people, Drew Smith of The Genealogy Guys, will speak on genealogy and DNA at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Tampa Bay on Sunday, October 11, 2009

The meeting begins at 1.30pm at the Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, 14041 Icot Blvd., Clearwater.

Are you afraid to try DNA as a research tool because the science seems too intimidating? This overview will explain how DNA relates to genealogy, what kinds of DNA tests are available, and how researchers can share test results with each other as a basis for determining a relationship.

A genealogist with more than 30 years of computer experience, Drew is nationally known and is an instructor at the School of Library and Information Science at USF. He is co-host of the well-known “Genealogy Guys Podcast,” writes columns for two computer magazines, and holds many leadership roles in local, national and international genealogy organizations. He’s also a digital genealogy expert, and his new book, “Social Networking for Genealogists,” was very well received.

For more information on the JGSTB or future programs, view the group’s website.

Ancestry mag’s archives online

A curious group of stories began appearing in Tracing the Tribe’s Google alerts a few days ago.

There were many stories with Jewish content coming from Ancestry Magazine. I’ve seen stories from as far back as 2000 and some as new as August 2009.

Over the years, the magazine has included quite a number of Jewish genealogy content articles, which are now easily accessible online along with the redesign of the website.

Of course, many of the older ones (and even a very new one) leave out great resources for Jewish genealogy, such as Tracing the Tribe, but for those just starting out on personal quests for their Jewish ancestors, the articles will provide interesting content. The DNA articles by my colleague Howard Wolinsky are also listed.

In the magazine’s homepage Search Box (upper right corner) just enter the keyword Jewish. Scroll down to see the long list of articles arranged chronologically from most recent to oldest. Not all the articles carry the Jewish tag, but the articles produced by the search do mention Jewish genealogy or ancestry in one way or another.

It was, however, a bit disconcerting to see an article titled National Church Repositories (published in 2000), based on a 1994 list of church repositories in the US and Canada. The Canadian Jewish Archives was included as a “church repository.”

Thanks, Ancestry Magazine, for making these available and accessible online.

New Jersey: Monmouth County Jewish Museum

InJersey.com is a place for everything and anything going on in the state. It’s where I found out about the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County.

This post mentions one of the county’s first Jewish philanthropists, its Jewish history and a program set for October.

The Jersey shore saw such rapid development in the 1800s that the museum calls the area the Jewish Newport. The story focuses on Sigmund and Bertha Eisner.

The first permanent Jewish communities in Monmouth County were established by German-Jewish immigrants arriving in the mid-1800’s. By the end of the Civil War, sizable numbers of these businessmen and their families were well established in and around Keyport, Red Bank, Long Branch and Freehold. Synonymous with this development was the career of Sigmund Eisner, who was born in Bohemia in 1859.

The Eisner family eventually bequeathed their family home (photo at right) to the town of Red Bank to be used as a public library.

At the time when nearby Long Branch was America’s premiere resort, Sigmund and Bertha Eisner joined the wealthy vacationing German-Jewish elite who made up the in-crowd of the “Jewish Newport on the Jersey Shore” as early supporters of the city’s first synagogue.

The museum will present a program highlighting Eisner’s career in”The Jewish Newport on the Jersey Shore,” at 7pm, Thursday, October 8, at the Red Bank Public Library, 84 Front St., Red Bank, NJ.