Boston: Dokshitsy shtetl reunion, August 20-22

Are your roots in Dokshitsy, Belarus? Aaron Ginsburg is planning a shtetl reunion weekend in the Boston area, August 20-22. More than 50 people have already indicated they will attend.

He writes:

The reunion will give us a chance to meet in person with our extended families – both the families we know, and the families with whom we are interrelated. It will give us a chance to share family stories, to learn about recent and not-so-recent trips to Dokshitsy and work recently performed at the cemetery and Holocaust sites. It will give us a chance to learn about the lives our Dokshitsy families built in the safer, greener pastures they found after they left. And it will give us a chance to connect in person with the friends we have made since this project began.

To plan properly for the Dokshitsy Reunion Weekend, Aaron needs to know who will be attending. He also needs volunteers to help with all reunion aspects, such as programming, organizing and communicating with other individuals in the Dokshitsy Diaspora.

Aaron stresses that you don’t have to attend to volunteer to help. For more information, send an email. Indicate your name and contact details, who will accompany you to the reunion, ages of children who may attend and whether you would like to help plan the event

For more information on Dokshitsy, click here.

Hong Kong: DNA Project and blast from the past

Tonight I presented the IberianAshkenaz DNA Project at the Jewish Community Center of Hong Kong (JCC logo at left), and also experienced a blast from the past.

I reconnected with someone I haven’t seen since 2002.

Joining us (Mira, her husband, me) for the Wednesday night buffet at the JCC coffee shop was Gary Stein of Toronto. Longtime Jewish genealogists will remember Gary, particularly if they attended the IAJGS conference there in 2002, when some 1,200 people attended that week-long event. Gary has been been living in Hong Kong for a year and loves it.

The good turnout included people of many different backgrounds: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, spouses who were one or the other. They represented Israel, Australia, the UK, the US, France, North Africa, Iran and elsewhere – a great mix of people.

I’m also doing a hands-on Intro to Jewish Genealogy tomorrow night, and many people will be attending that as well.

It was great to see Gary, and we will be going to Shabbat services and dinner at the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong (the Liberal congregation). I’m also looking forward to their Saturday night Purim Shpiel, billed as “The Little Theater of West South Northampton presents Mordechai Python’s Flying Purim.”

Nothing really scheduled yet for tomorrow (Thursday) yet, and if it all works out, I’m hoping to take the Kowloon ferry tomorrow and visit the Jewish cemetery on Friday morning.

Hong Kong: A desire for dimsum

Dimsum have been on my mind since I arrived.

Traveling means enjoying good food with great people. Hong Kong has provided several opportunities this week to do just that. And we did it again today!

Today, vegetarian versions were on the menu at Pure Veggie House in Coda Plaza. The same building also holds other restaurants serving hotpots, regular dimsum and more.

Here’s their card:

Here’s the regular menu (the dimsum menu is a printed list, something like a sushi order sheet, where you check off the items and how many of each dish):

We arrived at around 12.30, only one other table was occupied. By 1.15pm, every table in the place was filled; 1pm is lunchtime in HK.

We sat at a large round table with a revolving glass center.

Every dish looked delicious, but this group has gone there often and knew exactly what to order.

We started off with what turned out to be fried bean curd skins. They tasted a bit like vegetarian bacon bits – chewy, crisp, interesting.

The other dishes began arriving in bamboo steamers, small platters and bowls: transparent wild mushroom dumplings with black truffle sauce, steamed vegetarian BBQ buns (these were fantastic), turnip puffs (a yellow fried shell surrounding soft melting turnip), pure veggie siu mai, noodles in soup with sesame sauce and peanuts (very delicious), and wonton in red chili soup. Of course, green tea and jasmine tea were on the table. For our group of five, we ordered two of most items and stuffed ourselves silly. The bill? About US$10 per person.

We could also have had other deep-fried pastries – such as wild fungus spring roll, vegetarian cake, pan-friend pumpkin cake or vegetable turnover – or other steamed offerings – fried rice in lotus leaf, steamed eggplant with bean paste, bamboo fungus bundle or steamed rice flour pancakes with vegetables or mushrooms, or another 15 rice or noodle dishes.

Frequent diners get a 10% off card, which one of our group had today.

I learned that there are two types of vegetarian restaurants. One serves dishes that look, smell and taste like various meat products but aren’t – such as platters of roast “pork.” The other type doesn’t try to imitate meat products, like Pure Veggie House.

How did I enjoy it? A simple one-word answer: YUM!

There were some interesting dishes on other tables and asked about them. One was a delicious looking spiced bean curd. Next time.

We didn’t have dessert, but if we had room, we could have had sesame pudding, red dates and snow lotus seeds, red date pudding, or sweet rice dumplings.

Back to the hotel to prepare for tonight’s talk. More later.

Hong Kong: A walk through the market

Even genealogists need a break occasionally.

This morning, Erica Lyons and I walked through the lanes of a market. Here are some shots.

Dried snacks and candies:

A vegetable stand:

Here are the fishies:

Lots of nuts:

And this was before lunch!

Hong Kong: Markets, magazines and more

Erica Lyons – who has been here for some seven years with her family – and I went to an old temple – I love the smell of incense – and a walk through the market.

We later met some of our dining companions from the other night for a fabulous vegetarian dim sum lunch.

Erica, a lawyer by training, is editor-in-chief and publisher of the new Asian Jewish Life: A Journal of Spirit, Society and Culture.

The now-quarterly free publication – hopefully to become more frequent – focuses on the Jewish experience in Asia. It is handed out on El Al flights from Asia in business and first. It is also online.

She gave me a copy of the 40-page premier issue which features an excellent group of articles by some very interesting writers, covering artists, book reviews, personal stories and much more. Read it online at the link above.

Erica (photo right) is also on the board of the Hong Kong Jewish Historical Society, and shared some information about the century-old Jewish cemetery, which I hope to visit Friday morning.

I have discussed the possibility of forming a Jewish genealogical society here under the auspices of the historical society. I hope to meet more of the historical society members when I return through HK from Australia towards the end of March.

San Francisco: "Annie’s Ghost,’ March 4

Steve Luxenberg, author of the award-winning “Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret,” will speak at the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society on Thursday, March 4.

The program begins at 7.30pm at the Jewish Community Library, 1835 Ellis Street (free parking).

Don’t miss meeting Steve and hearing about how he uncovered the family secrets. As a good investigative journalist – he’s been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years – Steve’s quest utilizes the same skills that all genealogists should be using.

Tracing the Tribe couldn’t put the book down and read it at one sitting. It’s a must-read for everyone who knows there are secrets in his or her family.

Part memoir, part detective story, part history, Annie’s Ghosts untangles one family’s long-protected silence. Steve Luxenberg employed his skills as a journalist while struggling to maintain his empathy as a son to piece together the story of his aunt’s unknown life, his mother’s motivations, and the times in which they lived.

An investigation that began with a lifelong family secret turns into a journey through imperial Russia and Depression-era Detroit, the Holocaust in Ukraine and the Philippine war zone, and back to the hospitals where Annie and many others languished in anonymity.

Steve is an associate editor at The Washington Post and has worked for more than 30 years as a newspaper editor and reporter.

From 1996-2006, he was the editor of The Washington Post’s Sunday Outlook section, and he currently focuses on special projects and in-depth reporting including the causes and consequences of the financial crisis.

For directions and more information on the SFBAJGS, click here.