Yom HaShoah: 2,000 memorials database, April 12

On April 12, Yom HaShoah – Shoah (Holocaust) Remembrance Day – commemorates Jewish communities that vanished all over Europe. It also marks the results of pogroms following the creation of Israel in Arab countries.

The Israel Genealogical Society has a database of nearly 2,000 memorials and monuments for such communities. They are in cemeteries and towns, synagogues, forests and also live in street names.

IGS invites readers to search the database and see if your ancestral towns have memorials in Israel, see photos of them and note their locations. Here’s the search box:

Search parameters:

— Select the “country” list to see all lands where Sephardim used to live. According to IGS, the project is dedicated to an Algerian Jew who perished in Auschwitz.

— Search by town name, region name, or country; near town, country, or location of the monument in Israel.

— Places may be listed with different spellings depending on pronunciation in native language or in Yiddish.

— Search by “is exactly,” “starts with” (three-letter minimum), “contains”(three-letter minimum).

— Search by Hebrew name of the community.

— If you can’t find a memorial in Israel that you know is there, search by country (today) name of that location.

— Use creative spelling.

Readers aware of memorials in Israel not found in the database are invited to send in photos and documentation so locations may be added.

UK: Portuguese Inquisition lists published

A two-volume work published in the UK will be valuable in the quest for family history information by those with Sephardic, Converso and Bnai Anousim heritage.

It is available through the Jewish Historical Society of England, which was established in 1893.

Tracing the Tribe reader Barbara Barnett sent this information as a comment to Tracing the Tribe’s post, DNA: Portuguese conversos’ genetic identity, but it is too important to leave as only a comment.

The 2008 volume is Lists of the Portuguese Inquisition, transcribed and indexed by Joy L. Oakley

— Volume I Lisbon 1540-1778
— Volume II Evora 1542–1763, and Goa 1650–1653
From Delices de L’Espagne et du Portugal (1707) by Don Juan Alvares de Colmenar.

The Register of Inquisition lists were assembled in 1784 and entitled “A Collecção das Noticias.” It was in the Library of the Dukes of Palmela and is now in the Jewish Theological Seminary Library in New York, which has kindly agreed to its publication.

The great majority of persons sentenced by the Inquisition were New Christians – descendants of the Jews of Portugal baptized in 1497, by order of Manoel I.

The book gives an unrivalled picture of the entire range of the Inquisition’s activities and is a primary source of the first importance for Jewish, Portuguese and Brazilian history and genealogy.

The lists of 16th century Autos da Fé give the numbers of persons sentenced by the Inquisition and the proportion of males and female, but only give the names of those who were burnt at the stake.

However, for the much larger number of cases in the 17th and 18th century, the name of each person is given, together with their nickname, parentage, occupation, place of origin alleged offence and sentence.

There are indices of names, nicknames, occupations and places to guide the reader.

The books – totaling 810 pages in soft-back format- include the register’s original Portuguese text together with an introduction and foreword in English.

The price for both A4 size volumes is £55 or US $110, including postage.

The JHSE site contains much information for readers interested in the Jews of England throughout history, as well as information on Sephardim. Their newsletters may be downloaded (no charge) and contain information about personalities, new publications and more. For additional information on its publications, click here.

The JHSE also sponsors events in London and at other regional branches.

In London, Dr Hilary Pomeroy (Visiting Lecturer, University College London) will speak on “Sephardi History through Sephardi Ballads: Spain, Portugal, Morocco,” on February 18. In London, meetings are held at St John’s Wood Synagogue.

See the Events calendar for more; remember to also click on “External Events” for the activities of other historical and genealogical societies and institutions.

Some material is available to members only; annual membership is £40.00. If you’d like to take a look around, do a search for your specific interests and see if that online material is of use to you, sign-up for a 24-hour pass for £7. Click here to register.

New Blog: Jewish food – and genealogy!

Tori calls herself a shiksa (a Yiddish term, generally negative, for a non-Jewish female) married to an Israeli-born Jewish husband.

Her blog is all about Jewish food. Her most recent post is Part I of “Uncle Dov’s Memoir: Polish Ashkenazi Food and Traditions.”

My friend Etti Hadar descends from a Polish family. Her maternal ancestors, the Levin family, lived in the Pinsk region of Poland (now considered Belarus) in a small town called Luninets. While researching her ancestry, Etti found a 280 page memoir written by her late uncle, Dov Shimon “Beraleh” Levin. Dov grew up in Poland in a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish family. He later served in Italy in the Jewish Infantry Brigade, and fought the Nazis during World War II. His memoir describes in great detail what Jewish life was like in Poland during the 1920’s and 30’s.

The post provides many glimpses of Eastern European Jewish life that should be very interesting for Jewish and other genealogists. Part II will cover some recipes and dishes prepared by the Levin family. Tori and her friend Etti selected a few of them and recreated a Polish Shabbat dinner. With Etti’s mother, they spent a day preparing a feast.

Since meeting her husband, Tori has traveled the world learning about Jewish cuisine, and friends and family have shared their culinary knowledge, keeping traditions alive.

She’s now working on a first cookbook, “The Shiksa in the Kitchen,” which will include recipes gathered from international Jewish family kitchens.

I am fascinated by the traditions and history associated with Jewish cuisine. Food is a way of communicating; the energy we pass on through our cooking feeds the body as well as the soul. By recording the stories and recipes of Jewish family cooks, I hope to help preserve and cherish the past, present, and future of the Jewish people.

Visit Tori’s blog and read Parts I and II about Uncle Dov’s 280-page manuscript.

Everything has a Jewish genealogy hook to it, including cuisine!

Music: Jewish Sound Archives news

Housed at Florida Atlantic University (Florida), the Jewish Sound Archives has just sent out its newsletter.

Among the topics:

– Jack Saul’s record collection

Jack Saul (Cleveland, Ohio) played a major role in that city’s music community, but was very well known as a record collector. His collection grew until his home was crammed with recordings, filling the basement, dining room, hallways and other rooms. No one has ever tried to count them, but JSA founder/director Nathan Tinanoff estimates there are some 150,000 recordings.

At 86, Saul died May 1, with his wife Hinda, and children Marlene, Howard and Ken. Just a few months earlier, during a February visit to JSA, he told his family that the archives would be a good place for the collection’s Judaica section.

About one third of Saul’s collection will go to FAU libraries. Some 6,000 recordings (about 12%) is going to the JSA, and includes Jewish performers, composers, conductors and Jewish content. About 85% will be used to create a vintage 78rpm collection at the FAU Libraries and the rest will be added to the library’s jazz collection.

According to Tinanoff, this is the largest single donation of Judaica records the archives has received, and is one of the finest private US collections.

Tracing the Tribe’s food for thought: Do you own some sort of collection with a Judaic focus? Do you know an older relative who might have amassed a collection? What will happen to those collections? Have you or they made provisions of the disposition of those collections to archives, libraries, universities, historical societies or other locations? Do your families know of your wishes? Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of what will happen to your collections?

– Recordings sought

JSA is looking for recordings featuring Marvin Hamlish, Stephen Sondheim, Burt Bacharach and Aaron Copeland. The archives wants recordings by all Jewish performers, composers and conductors for its collection. It also wants to expand its Sephardic and European record collections.

– JSA Home Page

The archives’ home page allows visitors to access more than 7,000 songs by more than 40 performers and performance groups.

Cick PERFORMERS tab for collections by specific performers.
Click RECORD LABELS tab for collections by recording label producers.
Click COLLECTIONS tab for a drop-down list of specific genres, ranging from Cantorial to Yiddish, and available recordings within the genre or language.

Happy listening!

Waxing nostalgic about inspiration

Today we wax nostalgic about the event or person who inspired us to start our genealogy research, as challenged by Genea-Musings’ Randy Seaver.

Like everyone else of thinking age back in the late 1970s, I had seen “Roots” and thought it was a fascinating story, but I didn’t know anything about genealogy. I had not yet caught the bug as did the early pioneers, such as Dan Rottenberg and Arthur Kurzweil, whose books later proved inspiring.

I had always heard the story about our Talalay name – “This was our name when we left Spain.” One sentence. One idea. Everyone laughed about it, no one believed this could be the origin of our strange and rare name. How could Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazim from Eastern Europe be Sephardim from Spain?

This despite the fact that in New York, my mother with her dark hair and eyes, olive skin, was always being spoken to by strangers in Italian, Spanish, Greek. The story was told that when my father brought the Brooklyn girl home to meet his Orthodox parents in the Bronx, they asked him (in Yiddish) why he was bringing this non-Jewish girl to them.

I filed all of this away in a small corner of my mind, much more interested in needlework, cooking, reading, etc. Until 1989.

Until our daughter was a year away from her bat mitzvah ceremony. She came home from a Hebrew school class with a fateful homework assignment that would change my life forever – a sheet of paper with a few questions. Write your name and Hebrew name, your parents’ names and Hebrew names, your grandparents’ names and Hebrew names, your great-grandparents’ names and Hebrew names (if you know them).

That weekend we attended a big Dardashti family event in Los Angeles for a multitude of relatives – hundreds of them. We worked the room and came home with stacks of cocktail napkins scribbled with information. She wrote blue and pink labels, organized family branches, and everything was glued on four large poster boards. We had hundreds of family names and branches going back to about 1820 – as a result of talking to our family’s “walking encyclopedias.” Needless to say, she got an A!

Our daughter then said to me, “Now we have to do your family!”

Easier said than done. Whereas Los Angeles was crawling with Dardashti relatives eager to share their knowledge, I wasn’t even sure where in White Russia (as my grandmother said) we came from. I remembered “Molyah,” and it took a long time to discover that was Mogilev. Some tried to tell me I was looking for Mogilev Podulsk, but my grandmother talked about the Dnieper River her mother had described. Mogilev Podulsk is nowhere near that river which does, however, run right through through “our” Mogilev.

We spent time together at the Santa Monica Family History Library and saw my great-grandmother’s New York passenger arrival manifest, evidencing for the first time the family name and a location. A Happy Dance moment, if there ever was one.

I knew Newark, New Jersey was where they settled, but who else from the family was there? Digging around among the few relatives, we heard “well, there was Uncle David, but I don’t know if he was really an uncle,” (he was my great-grandfather Aron Peretz’ brother) or “There was Mariyasha who had several husbands,” (she was their sister) or “Ask about the Jassen cousins” (I did – cousin Charlie’s father, William Zev, was the brother of Aron Peretz and David Aryeh’s mother, Kreine Mushe). Little by little, information accumulated.

As her bat mitzvah approached, our daughter had to begin working on her talk. Her parasha was Chukat, detailing rules and regulations about the red heifer. She wasn’t thrilled with that topic and received the go-ahead to speak about family history and her project. And so she did to a congregation of more than 1,000 on Shabbat morning. I don’t know if anyone else was inspired to start a project after that, but it was interesting and a departure from the norm.

My obsession with family history has continued until now, expanding to archival records in Minsk, Belarus and Lerida, Spain; finding lost Talalay and misplaced Dardashti; a fascination with Sephardic genealogy and resources; a connection with DNA and genetics; and locating other Eastern European Ashkenazim who are really Sephardim.

Above all, there continues an abiding fascination with Jewish history and how my ancestors – all of our ancestors, including yours – were impacted by historical events throughout history. For us, it meant the Babylonian Exile which resettled my husband’s ancestors in Isfahan, Iran. The 1391 riots across Spain and the Inquisition. A trek into Eastern Europe. Major waves of New World immigration followed by the Holocaust. Our own contemporary expeditions from New York to Iran, back to the US and to Israel. Talk about the wandering Jews!

So, the person that truly inspired me was our daughter who said so long ago, “Now we have to do your family!” and the event was her bat mitzvah.

Most of my professional life since then has hinged on family history. Writing “It’s All Relative” for the Jerusalem Post. Continuing research on both sides of the family since 1990. Being asked by JTA.org to start “Tracing the Tribe – The Jewish Genealogy Blog.” Teaching genealogy online and co-founding GenClass.com. Speaking at conferences and to groups to encourage each person to get started in recording his or her unique family history.

Amazing what one sentence can do!