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South Jersey’s Jewish genealogists spotlighted

I first met Rabbi Gary Gans back at the Boston IAJGS conference a very long time ago.

He’s the First Rabbi of Rabbit World, over at the International Jewish Graveyard Rabbit blog (in fact, I’ve got to get some of his new posts up there!). His congregation, Beth Tikvah in Marlton, is the meeting place of the South Jersey affiliate of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia, and he’s also active in DNA genetic genealogy.

So with all these interconnections, Tracing the Tribe was happy to see this story in Jewish Voices, published by the Southern New Jersey Jewish Federation, which covered several South Jersey Jewish genealogists.

For Rabbi Gary Gans of Marlton’s Cong. Beth Tikvah, the best week of the year is when the international conference on Jewish genealogy takes place.

“This is one of the most creative weeks, when fellow genealogy addicts end up in the same place. It brings about a great new energy level,” said Gans, whose synagogue is the meeting site for the Jewish Genealogical Society’s South Jersey affiliate group. The rabbi, a tombstone maven, presided over two well attended workshops on the history of grave markers, focusing on how to decipher Hebrew inscriptions and use them to gain clues valuable in family research.

At the conference, Gans also discovered more contacts and resources to aid his own research. He has already found his great-grandmother’s Lithuanian postal bank account in rubles, and noted that with the fall of the Iron Curtain and archives from Eastern Europe resurfacing, there has never been a better time for budding genealogists.

The story noted that conference co-chair David Mink who lived in Cherry Hill (where the paper is published) for more than 30 years before moving to Philly. The area proved important at the conference:

“South Jersey’s Jewish agricultural communities are a story that isn’t told too often, but this was an opportunity to tell that story,” he said. Workshops and panel discussions about the Jewish agricultural colonies were followed by a mid-week bus tour of key sites.

The story covered other researchers from the area, such as David Brill, whose great-great-grandparents settled in the Carmel colony in the early 1880s but later moved to Philadelphia.

“A lot of the Philadelphia Jewish community find they have connections to these Jewish colonies,” Brill said. He ran one of the workshops that gave the conference a unique local flavor, and helped lead the bus tour, which stopped at the one-room, circa 1890 Garton Road Shul in Rosenhayn, and visited the Alliance, Carmel and Woodbine colonies.

Ruth Bogutz, also of Cherry Hill, is president of the Tri-County Jewish Historical Society, and the story mentioned Rosenhayn, Jewish community buildings in Camden, Springville and Mount Laurel. Her conference session attracted area residents as well as those who had moved away.

“The dedication of the generations that came before me was quite amazing,” said Bogutz, who plans to make a film about the Jewish communities of Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties.

Mount Laurel resident Steve Schecter, who created the excellent 200-page Philadelphia and New Jersey resource guide for the conference (which he’s planning to turn into a book or larger CD), was mentioned as well. He became interested when his mother talked about the old days in South Philadelphia.

“She’d refer to folks as ‘boat relatives,’ meaning they came over (from Europe) on the same boat. After my mother died and I did more research, I learned that they did come over and band together, but frequently they were related through marriage or were distant cousins,” Schecter said.

Read the complete article at the link above.

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Germany: Learning to farm in the 1930s

My eyes are always looking for Sullivan County (New York) news, and here’s one about a Loch Sheldrake exhibit at Sullivan County Community College. It details the story of the Gross Breesen agricultural training camp.

The exhibit is not your typical Holocaust exhibit, but focuses on the pictures and words of young men and women learning to farm, despite the chaos around them in 1930s Germany. It was created by Dr. Curt Bondy who saw it as a way to counter Nazi oppression, to create a place where young people could learn skills and languages which would allow them to emigrate.

The project gathered the stories and photos of the 130 young men and women who found refuge there.

The farm has been an obsession of Steve Strauss for nine years.

Strauss, a photographer who used to work for “60 Minutes” and now splits his time between New York City and Sullivan County, started the project when he met George Landecker, a farmer from upstate New York who is a survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp and a former student at Gross Breesen.

Strauss began to restore and blow up for display Landecker’s nearly microscopic photographs of the farm.

The result is “Learning Seeds,” a multimedia exhibit, portions of which are on display for the next few weeks at the Sullivan college.

According to Strauss:

“The majority of (the Gross Breeseners) survived the Holocaust and went on to contribute great things all over the world,” Strauss said. But he said an accounting of all 130 wasn’t possible.After Kristallnacht, the Nazis took over Gross Breesen. They sent all the 18-year-olds to concentration camps and essentially made the farm a prison for the rest. But most had learned the skills to survive.

The exhibit will move to the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture later this year.

Read the complete article here. Learn more about Gross Breesen here.

Canada: Calgary’s Montefiore settlers

Calgary marked the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jewish settlers as a crowd of 2,000 viewed the dedication and grand opening of the Little Synagogue on the Prairie, built in 1916 to serve the Montefiore colony of Eastern European Jewish farmers.

Years of research and planning and more than $1-million in donations transformed the synagogue from its former use as a private home in Hanna into the first Jewish house of worship to be housed in a Canadian historic park.

Although the Montefiore settlers had a difficult time farming, they used their resources to build the synagogue to celebrate the freedom of religion they had found in Canada.

Rabbis and representatives from all four Calgary synagogues joined forces in leading prayers.

Read the complete article here.

Ukraine: Jewish agricultural colonies resources

If you have relatives that settled in or founded Jewish agricultural colonies in Southern Ukraine, Chaim Freedman has some excellent resources for you.

Colonies of Ukraine is a JewishGen Shtetlinks site offering much information about the history of Jewish agricultural settlement, mainly in southeastern Ukraine.

Archival material includes revision lists, election voting results, photographs, maps and personal memoirs of colony life, pogroms, war and the Holocaust.

Added this year: Photos of Ekaterinoslav colony synagogues, schools, administrative offices and general scenes from St.Petersburg Central State Archive; click here.

For maps of 1865 colonies, see Yakov Pasik’s site, The Guide to Jewish Agricultural Colonies of South Ukraine (software needs to be installed, so make sure you are okay with doing that).

Resources include:

– Zatishye colony – donor list, Hamaggid Hebrew newspaper, 1872
– Translation of names, Dobra colony
– List of Novozlatopol massacre
– Victims of the Holocaust (Russian, Cyrillic and English)
– List of Jews of Vitebsk Guberniya settling in Novozlatopol (Russian, Cyrillic and English)
– Prenumeranten list, 2,000 names in colonies and towns of Yekaterinoslav and Kherson Guberniyas, ‘Imrei Shmuel’, Part 3, 1912
– Grafskoy revision list, 1858
– Mezherich revision list, 1858

Some material has not yet been translated from Russian; volunteers are welcome. Volunteers are also sought to key in list details so all lists can be included in the JewishGen Ukraine database.

Readers with additional material should contact Chaim Freedman

Argentina: Basavilbaso community site


For 25 years, Yehuda Mathov (Monosson, Israel) has collected information on more than 6,000 residents of the town of Basavilbaso, Argentina, also known as Lucienville. It was established by Baron Maurice de Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association in the 1890s.

The photo above shows immigrants arriving at Buenos Aires port circa 1900.

Mathov has created a new JewishGen ShtetLinks website for the town; view it here.

Many settlers emigrated from Kherson and Bessarabia (southern Ukraine and Moldova). The first South American agricultural cooperative was established in this settlement.

To see names of immigrants in the smaller settlements of the area, click here. These smaller areas were Novabuco, Aquerman, Villa Mantero, Las 1300, Escrinia, Gilbert, Lucienville, Colonia San Juan, Linea and others. This link shows the size of the plot and plot numbers for each person/family.

Under Historical Records, find documents from many sources, including business records, occupations, farm records and censuses, town residents and addresses, abandoned farms. One interesting example lists the assets of a farm back in 1896 and compares it with the much more extensive assets in 1926.

Under Family Stories, find memoirs (PDF format) in English, but mostly in Spanish. The Photo Gallery shows images of people and documents. There is a list of useful links and a bibliography.

Readers with connections to the town are invited to contribute memories and material. Contact Mathov here.

Argentina: Basavilbaso community site


For 25 years, Yehuda Mathov (Monosson, Israel) has collected information on more than 6,000 residents of the town of Basavilbaso, Argentina, also known as Lucienville. It was established by Baron Maurice de Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association in the 1890s.

The photo above shows immigrants arriving at Buenos Aires port circa 1900.

Mathov has created a new JewishGen ShtetLinks website for the town; view it here.

Many settlers emigrated from Kherson and Bessarabia (southern Ukraine and Moldova). The first South American agricultural cooperative was established in this settlement.

To see names of immigrants in the smaller settlements of the area, click here. These smaller areas were Novabuco, Aquerman, Villa Mantero, Las 1300, Escrinia, Gilbert, Lucienville, Colonia San Juan, Linea and others. This link shows the size of the plot and plot numbers for each person/family.

Under Historical Records, find documents from many sources, including business records, occupations, farm records and censuses, town residents and addresses, abandoned farms. One interesting example lists the assets of a farm back in 1896 and compares it with the much more extensive assets in 1926.

Under Family Stories, find memoirs (PDF format) in English, but mostly in Spanish. The Photo Gallery shows images of people and documents. There is a list of useful links and a bibliography.

Readers with connections to the town are invited to contribute memories and material. Contact Mathov here.

Argentina: Basavilbaso community site


For 25 years, Yehuda Mathov (Monosson, Israel) has collected information on more than 6,000 residents of the town of Basavilbaso, Argentina, also known as Lucienville. It was established by Baron Maurice de Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association in the 1890s.

The photo above shows immigrants arriving at Buenos Aires port circa 1900.

Mathov has created a new JewishGen ShtetLinks website for the town; view it here.

Many settlers emigrated from Kherson and Bessarabia (southern Ukraine and Moldova). The first South American agricultural cooperative was established in this settlement.

To see names of immigrants in the smaller settlements of the area, click here. These smaller areas were Novabuco, Aquerman, Villa Mantero, Las 1300, Escrinia, Gilbert, Lucienville, Colonia San Juan, Linea and others. This link shows the size of the plot and plot numbers for each person/family.

Under Historical Records, find documents from many sources, including business records, occupations, farm records and censuses, town residents and addresses, abandoned farms. One interesting example lists the assets of a farm back in 1896 and compares it with the much more extensive assets in 1926.

Under Family Stories, find memoirs (PDF format) in English, but mostly in Spanish. The Photo Gallery shows images of people and documents. There is a list of useful links and a bibliography.

Readers with connections to the town are invited to contribute memories and material. Contact Mathov here.