Belarus: Dunilovichi 1834 census, cemetery

Artist and genealogist Susan Weinberg of Minnesota spent six weeks studying Yiddish at the Vilnius Institute and also visited Dunilovichi, Belarus, during the summer of 2009.

While there, she made a copy of the 1834 census for Dunilovichi, which has 375 entries and some 60 surnames.

Susan would like to have it included – to benefit other researchers – on JewishGen’s All Belarus Database, but there is a cost to get the translation done. She has already created a ShtetLinks page for the town with extensive information (see link below).

Readers with roots in the area may wish to contribute to this effort.

Where is the shtetl?

It is 82 miles N of Minsk, 80 miles ENE of Vilnius, 18 miles WSW of Hlybokaye (Glebokie) and 16 miles ESE of Pastavy (Postawy). Interestingly, Tracing The Tribe had a TALALAY branch that lived in Glebokie for a short period of time.

Readers might know this shtetl by some of its other names: Dunilovichi (Russian), Dunilowicze (Polish), Dunilovitsch (Yiddish), Dunilavichi (Belarus), Dunilavicy, Danilevitch, Dunalovitch, Dunovitz, Duniloviche, Danilevicai, Dunilovicy, Dunilaviciy. It looks like this in Belarusian: Дунілавічы; in Russian: Дуниловичи; and in Yiddish: דונילאוויטש


She also visited the Dunilovichi cemetery, but it was nearly impossible to walk through as it was so overgrown and stones have fallen (see above photo).

Susan reports that there is now an opportunity to work with the Jewish Heritage Research Group of Belarus to arrange for an annual site clean-up, during which vegetation would be cut back and fallen stones lifted.

“We are fortunate that there is an intact cemetery in this shtetl as so many others have been destroyed,” she writes.

Photos on these pages were received from Susan, who writes that she would very much appreciate the efforts of Tracing the Tribe and its readers to assist in both these projects.

The Dunilovichi site contains extensive information, including name lists, gravestones, families, maps, photographs and more.

Contact Susan directly for more information.

She researches and paints her family history, which focuses on Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. During her Vilnius summer, she conducted research in the archives and traveled to her family’s Belarus shtetls.

Since her return, Susan has created Shtetlink websites for Dunilovichi and Radom, published an article in Avotaynu and is now developing a body of artwork based on her travels. Her art addresses family history themes through painting and collage. She also does genealogy consulting and lectures frequently on genealogy topics.

Additionally, Susan is a geneablogger – see her Layers of the Onion: A Family History Exploration. She began blogging last summer when she studied Yiddish at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute for six weeks.

Nice Ice: Jews on skates

Did you know that, from 1867, Jewish ice skating clubs existed in Lvov, Cracow and Warsaw?

Members of the Tribe who wanted to be part of Polish society were interested in sports, according to Yeshiva University professor American Jewish history Jeffrey Gurock, who is quoted in the story below.

The New York Jewish Week article, by Alina Adams, covers Jewish (or those with Jewish background) skaters and ice dancers, and the reasons for increased participation.

Skaters include Sasha Cohen, US; Emily Hughes, US; Irina Slutskaya, Russia (Jewish father); Benjamin Agosto (Jewish mother, Puerto Rican father); and Maxim Staviski, Bulgaria

Ice Dancers include Melissa Gregory and Jamie Silverstein, US; Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhanovski, Israel; and Alexandra and Roman Zaretski, Israel.

Agosto and the Zaretskis will compete in the upcoming Vancouver Winter Games.

Why the increased Jewish presence?

Kenny Moir, director of figure skating at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, says he has witnessed an increase in Jewish students at all levels since the Israel Skating Federation was created two decades ago. “Very quickly, Jewish skaters who lived and trained in countries that had a high density of competitive skaters, such as Canada, the United States, Russia, etc., could move to Israel or at least compete for Israel,” Moir says.

Another reason: the breakup of the former Soviet Union, which sent trained skaters and coaches throughout the diaspora.

Another important event was the 1995 completion of Israel’s first Olympic-sized ice rink – Canada Centre in Metulla. Those interested in the sport now had a place to train. The Israel Skating Federation was formed following a wave of Russian immigration in the late 1970s.

Russian skaters often hid their ancestry to represent the FSU.

The article provides interesting views of the USSR Skating Federation by former athletes and others. Basically, if a Jewish athlete could bring home a medal, they let him or her on the national team, but might not allow their Jewish coaches to travel internationally.

Odessa-born Mikhail Shmerkin, who made aliyah and became the first Israeli to enter the Winter Olympics, as a figure skater, asserts that while he was training with coach Galina Zmievskaya alongside eventual 1992 Olympic Champion Victor Petrenko, he was informed by the Soviet Skating Federation that if he intended to represent his country internationally, he would need to stop being Jewish.

As a result, Shmerkin’s mother divorced his father and married a non-Jewish friend so that, on paper, her son could be considered Russian. He went on to represent the USSR at the 1990 Junior World Championship.

Read the complete story at the link above.

Cooking up our family histories

Have you ever thought that writing your family history is like cooking up a stew?

Idaho historian and writer Debra Holm is writing a series of four articles to help those who want to write their own family history stories. This was the first.

Writing family history is like making a good stew. We labor over good things and let them simmer, and the end result proves that the sum is much more meaningful than the parts.

Here is her recipe:

  • Assembling ingredients: Keep a box for photos, documents or other memorabilia. Add note cards with information.

  • Select veggies and herbs: Getting ready to cook? Organize the box to find the proper pieces of information.

  • Meat: The basis of a family stew is names, dates and places, “carefully chosen, chopped and browned.”

  • Add ingredients and stir: Chose the flavorful items – ancedotes – and mix them well.

“For instance, unique family stories and photographs offer as much savor as sautéed garlic—like the time when a maiden aunt was worried that the “vicious dog” would attack my brother, an innocent six-month-old baby. But when the dog yelped and my brother cried, it was because the teething infant had chomped into the dog’s wet nose!”

  • Onions: Holms calls these the times that make you cry – deaths, accidents, diseases and war.

  • Carbohydrates: Ingredients relevant to your family’s origins – Idaho potatoes, Japanese rise, Scotch pearl barley or Native American corn – to give body to your history.

  • Add color: Carrots and tomatoes are local color – local history – that adds to the family epic.

  • Salt and pepper: Simmer the family history stew, add seasonings and adjust the flavor – via editing.

  • Serve: The dish should be warming, rich, colorful and well seasoned. “Fun to consume, but also good for you.”

Tracing the Tribe has often compared genealogy to a road trip, but never thought about it as a culinary experience!

UK: ‘Crossing Borders’ manuscript exhibit opens

“Crossing Borders: Hebrew Manuscripts as a Meeting Place of Cultures,” is a major exhibition at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. It opened in December and will run through May 3..

It is based on the library’s own Hebrew holdings – one of the largest and best Hebrew manuscript collections in the world.

The Bodleian’s Hebraica curator Dr Piet van Boxel is also librarian of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies Centre.

The exhibit describes how Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together during the Middle Ages, and illuminates the Jewish experience across Europe and the Middle East in the 300 years between the 13th-15th centuries.

On display are manuscripts written in Hebrew, Latin and Arabic which illustrate how Jews and non-Jews interacted socially and culturally in both the Muslim and Christian worlds.

Similar decorative patterns, writing styles, script types and text genres appear in manuscripts in different languages from the same region, showing how communities in the same localities shared taste and technology. While Hebrew manuscripts from Spain, Italy or Northern Europe look different, they resemble non-Hebrew books from the same places.

Hebrew scribes adopted elements of the surrounding culture, sharing co-existence, cultural affinity and cooperation between Jews and their neighbors.

The illustration above left is a carpet page from the Kennicott Bible, an illustrated Spanish Hebrew manuscript of the 14th and 15th centuries.

According to the exhibit site, interactive digital technology allows visitors to “turn the pages” of the manuscript virtually.

One prayer book – the Michael Mahzor – produced in Germany in 1258, was illuminated by a Christian who didn’t know Hebrew; the first illustration is painted upside down.

The exhibit runs through May 3 in the Bodleian’s exhibition hall. It is open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday 9am-4.30pm and Sunday 11am-5pm. No admission fee.

For more information, click here.