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.

GenAmi: Paris Archives, journal articles

GenAmi (Paris, France) has announced information on new online access to the Paris Archives and the list of articles in its new issue. Read on for more.

If your quest includes family that had lived in Paris, remember that GenAmi is an important resource.

Click GenAmi for more information on the organization, its publications and other events, such as its annual meeting, set for March 9, 2010.

Paris Archives

In the photo above, see (left) Victor Hugo’s death certificate on May 23, 1885.
At right, see a ledger page for 10 births from 1872-1881.

The Paris Archives are now online, click here to view. Records include reconstructed data through 1859, as well as decennial lists and records through 1902.

The site is only in French, which Tracing the Tribe reads but doesn’t speak. I also used Google Translate and the English translation was sufficient for those who do not read French.

The first section: 1860-1902. It contains civil records for each of 20 districts. In the The research is done in conventional tables and decadal records of acts within each of 20 districts. Birth certificates, however, in the 12th arrondissement were destroyed for the period 1 January 1870 to May 25, 1871.

Choose the type of record (birth, marriage, death) and the district; these two fields are required. The date of the record is optional. There are 20 districts, so you might need to run multiple searches to find the individual you are looking for.

For the decennial records, there are alphabetical surname lists for each 10 year period for each of the 20 districts and by type of document. Records found will include the person’s name and surname and the date. Again, if you do not know where they lived for each record, you will need to run multiple searches.

The second section: reconstructed records 16th century-1859. Of some 8 million records destroyed by fire in May 1871, only some 30% has been restored. You can check for a record in the alphabetical surname database – organized by type of document – to see if it has been reconstructed. A digitization program is ongoing.

Each sheet has the year of record, where recorded (parish, former district or municipality annexed to Paris), name and surname of the person, and the date the event. For weddings, there is a record for each spouse with the wife’s under her maiden name. sheet has been developed for each of the spouses, the wife is to look at his birth name.

I checked for Cohen under marriages and found this:

Click on the second record and see this:
New Journal Issue

GenAmi has also announced the articles in its new journal issue. See the site link above for more information.:

– Bond to the soil and ties of blood: foundation of Jewish tradition, by historian Stephane Encel

– Simon Hayem and his descendents: Merchants, artists and doctors.

– Chief Rabbi Abraham de Cologna: Four known children.

– UK research:

– Tunisia’s civil records during the French Protectorate Acquisitions

– “Une Memoire de papier”, (Silvain, Perret) – Jews of Belgium in postcards

– “Atlas des Parisiens” from the Revolution to today

– “Mes anciens et la mer” by Lionel Levy- “Jews of Morocco”, bibliography

– “Durmenach se souvient”

– Booklets on Jewish Basel (Switzerland)

GenAmi is a good source of information.

Kulanu: Chinese, Indian Jewish articles

If the stories of Jews around the world in some exotic places capture your imagination, you aren’t alone.

Kulanu’s Fall 2009 Newsletter is now online. Some of the articles are:

— “French Black Jews” by Cynthia Weisfeld
— “Endings and Beginnings in Uganda” by Lorne Mallin
— “Kaifeng Descendent to Tour U.S.”
— “What I Did on my Summer Vacation” by Janis Colton (Elderhostel trip to New Mexico on Converso/Crypto-Jewish story)

Some notes on the stories:

A descendant of one of the original Jewish families in Kaifeng, China, Shi Lei spoke to our JFRA Israel group in Israel a few years ago while he was attending Bar Ilan University (2001-2002). Nearly 100 people came to hear him speak. He is now back in his home town. A spring 2010 lecture tour to the US is planned. Perhaps your JGS is interested in inviting him to speak. Email Kulanu to get details.

Colton’s story on her New Mexico trip this summer was interesting. For those who are so inspired, the Jewish Womens Archive is planning a long weekend trip to Santa Fe, NM, where some of these issues will be on the program, including a talk by Dr. Stan Hordes, who specializes in Converso/Crypto-Jewish studies.

There was also information about the Jews of India, including information on a new documentary about Mumbai’s Bene Israel community; a new website,; and a new book, “Being Indian, Being Israeli,” by Maina Chawla Singh. Near Haifa, Israel, a new Indian Jewish Community Center (called Shaare Rahamim) has been established. It will house a permanent museum displaying Indian Judaica and historic documents. For more information, send an email.

Do read all the articles at the main Kulanu Newsletter link above.

France: Issue 99, Revue du Cercle de Genealogie Juive

The newest issue of Revue du Cercle de Genealogie Juive (Paris, France) is available.

Issue 99 contains the following articles:

— The descendants of Raphael Vorms from Bionville (Moselle).

Louis Vorms and Guy Worms, descendants of Raphael Vorms (d. 1763) and his two sons Hayman and Salomon, trace the family. The article offers copies of the documents used to accomplish their research.

— How to find and obtain vital records in Poland and Galicia.

Basile Ginger and Daniel Vangheluwe provide a step-by-step “how-to” manual for genealogists in France who speak no Polish, but some English. This articles updates the chapter on Poland in the Guide pratique de genealogie juive en France et à l’etranger, by Ginger, which was published by the Society. New accessibility of catalogues and databases online make it easy now to obtain many documents.

— Vital records from Constantine (Algeria) 1843-1895.

Fernand Deray announces the completion of his project which indexes all existing vital records of the Departement Constantine, one of three Algerian administration areas. The source is the “CAOM-Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer” in Aix-en-Provence. His work, with some 15,000 entries, is searchable on on the society’s website. with full access in the Members’ Corner.

— Algerian Jewish assimilation after the Cremieux Decree.

Joëlle Allouche-Benayoun provides a description of the life, culture, religious and social practice of the Algerian Jews after the 1870 Cremieux Decree transformed “natives” into full-fledged French nationals. The assimilation process is shown over more than a century, compiled from a massive bibliography.

— Hebrew monograms.

Eliane Roos-Schuhl focuses on the Hebrew monogram (lamed peh quf) on Mordechai (Simon II) Marx’s headstone (i.e. a graphical arrangement combining the three characters in one elegant composition). The set of characters indicates that the date following is 770 and not 5770 for the complete Hebrew year.

–ASF rehabilitates the Jewish cemetery in Crehange (Moselle).

Pascal Faustini details work by young Germans, Poles and Russians from ASF – Aktion Suehnezeichen Friedensdienste – who, during the summers of 2007-2009, restored the Jewish cemetery in Crehange (Moselle). They were guided by two staff members of the Brussels Jewish Museum.

— The 19th century registers of the Nuremberg commercial school.

Francoise Lyon-Caen writes about the registers (1809-1905) of a Nuremberg school that can be a genealogical source.

For information on the society, how to join or to obtain the new issue (or previous issues), send an email or see the society’s website. The website is in English and French versions.

France: New issue, Sephardic gen journal

The new issue of ETSI, the Sephardi Genealogical and Historical Review is now out.

Among the articles:

— In “An unfulfilled dream – The saga of Anusim families.” Raphael Benghiat traces the history of the previous owners of Montfavier castle in the Gironde, France. It likely belonged to Jews of the Bordeaux and Bayonne area, where many New Christians (Conversos, Anousim) settled.

— Laurence Abensur-Hazan explores the 1841 fire which partially destroyed Smyrna, Turkey. The Jewish residents were the ones most affected by this catastrophe.

— There’s also a book review of the recently published “Tanger, entre Orient et Occident.” The Jews of Tangier (Morocco) were never required to live in a specific geographic area. The book details many aspects of this community, such as Jewish businesses, the city’s first Freemason society, and provides information on the Fuente Nueva quarter where many Jews lived.

To see the indexes for this and past issues, click here. For membership information, click here. Here’s more about ETSI:

“Etsi” (my tree, in Hebrew) is the first Sephardi Genealogical and Historical Society, founded in 1998 in Paris by: Mrs Laurence Abensur-Hazan, Anne-Marie Rychner-Faraggi, Lucette Marques-Toledano, Mr Sidney Pimienta, Jimmy Pimienta, Philip Abensur, Claude Missistrano

The purpose of “Etsi” is to help people interested in Jewish Genealogical and Historical Research in the Sephardi World. “Etsi”‘s field of study covers the Ottoman Empire (Turkey, Greece, Palestine, Syria, Libya, Egypt…), North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia), Spain, Portugal, Italy and Gibraltar. The study of every Sephardi community or family who lived in other regions is equally within the society’s aim.

The objective of the founders is to create an international exchange forum for genealogists and historians interested in research into the Sephardi world.

“Etsi” supports and encourages all research work on Sephardi Genealogy and History, especially archives records, cemeteries records, ketubbot (Jewish marriage contracts) and circumcisions registers inventories.

To obtain this issue or back issues of ETSI, contact Philip Abensur in Paris, France.