Illinois: Midwest Jewish Genealogy Conference, June 6

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois has organized a one-day Jewish genealogy conference, “From the Shtetl to the 21st Century,” on Sunday, June 6, in Skokie.

The full-day event features experienced instructors on topics to expand knowledge of genealogical resources, including a two-part Beginners’ Workshop. Five time slots each feature three concurrent programs.

This event can also be considered a great lead-in and preparation for the main event of the Jewish genealogy year, the 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy – JGSLA 2010 – which runs from July 11-16, in Los Angeles.

Speakers at the Illinois event include Ron Arons (keynote speaker), Judith R. Frazin, Harriet Rudnit, Abby and Bill Schmelling, Ralph Beaudion, Leslye Hess, Robin Seidenberg, Irwin Lapping, Alvin Holtzman, Louisa Nicotera, Everett L. Butler and Mike Karsen.

Topics include: Beginners’ Genealogy Workshop, Using the Internet to Research Your Family History, Travel to Your Ancestral Shtetl, Find That Obituary Online, Holocaust Research in Libraries and Internet, Polish Translation Guide, Mining for Gold: Online Newspapers, Waldheim Cemetery, Basics of DNA Testing, Mapping Techniques, Cook County Genealogy Online, Genealogy Research Reasoning, Write Your Family History Now, Ask the Experts.

Before May 15, fees are: Members (of any Jewish Genealogical Society), $45; others, $50, Conference plus JGSI membership (new member only), $70. After May 15, each category increases by $10.

Download an event brochure, and find more program details, at the JGSIllinois website.

Ohio: Cleveland’s cemetery database, May 5

Do you have roots in Cleveland, Ohio?  There’s a new database that may help you document individuals of interest in some 71,000 burials from 16 Cleveland-area cemeteries.

The project was carried out by the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland’s Commission on Cemetery Preservation. The Federation staff person coordinating the project is Susan Hyman and she will be the speaker at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland on Wednesday, May 5.

The program begins at 7.30pm, at Menorah Park, 27100 Cedar Road, Beachwood, Ohio.

The topic is “Using 21st Century Technology To Find Your 19th Century Ancestors – Jewish Cleveland’s New Cemetery Database.”

She has been, since 2007, the Federation’s Information and Referral Specialist in the Community Planning, Allocations and Community Services Department. In addition to helping those affected by the economic downturn, sharing information about community programs and services, her portfolio includes cemetery preservation and other areas as well.

On March 13, a story – “A new database helps Jewish families find graves of ancestors” – by Grant Segall appeared on detailing the project and successes.

According to the story, genealogists in Cleveland and elsewhere are networking via computers to share and collaborate on family history.

A California woman slogged through Cleveland snow this month and found more than 50 family graves.

In a way, the snow helped. Ricki Lee Davis Gafter of San Jose used handfuls to moisten headstones and make the letters stand out in her photos.

Gafter got much more help from a new database compiled by the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland’s Commission on Cemetery Preservation. A dozen volunteers, some of them from the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland, spent about six years compiling some 71,000 records of burials in 14 Jewish cemeteries and in Jewish sections at two other cemeteries.

“It’s been really helpful,” said Gafter, who spent a few days here in her hometown visiting the living and finding the dead. “My family came to Cleveland in the late 1800s, and no one knew where everyone is. There was no record.”

Using the database, she discovered not just stones but facts. “I just found my great great-grandma, who I didn’t even know had made it to the U.S. Now I know who paid for her plot.”

While some area Jewish cemeteries are professionally staffed, others are run by volunteers and there are no burial lists.

The project brought together data from cemeteries, synagogues and other sources. In one example, someone had filled a scrapbook with Jewish obituaries.

There are some estimated 85,000 area plots, so the 71,000 records in the database offer a good sense of history. Volunteers will continue to expand and update it, and it is expected to be online in a few months.

If your family comes from the Cleveland area and you’d like more information, email Hyman. New searchable databases holds excellent resources for those researching their Sephardic families from many countries.

Search the Consolidated Index of Sephardic Surnames with more than 85,800 names.

Among the new searchable databases on, compiled and maintained by pioneer Sephardic genealogist Dr. Jeff Malka, are the following:

– Dictionary of Bulgarian Jewish surnames
– Jewish surnames, Juderia of Tarrazona
– Personal files, Amsterdam Community, CAHJP
– Records of Portuguese Inquisition Trials (1583-1656, 1716-1717), CAHJP
– Victims of the Libya Riots
– Census of Jewish Family heads; Belgrade, Serbia
– Sephardic graves, Mount of Olives cemetery, Jerusalem
– VazDias database of aliases, Amsterdam
– Names from the Pautas (orphan girls, etc.), Amsterdam
– Names from the old cemeteries of Algiers

– Sephardic tombstones, marriages, births; Vienna, Austria
– Surnames from all Hispania Judaica books
– Tombstones, Trieste cemetery
– Jewish Surnames, Lebanon
– Craiova memorial of Jews who died in Balkan Wars and WWI

Access all these and many more here. Mathilde Tagger created these databases for SephardicGen.

France: Strasbourg Jewish cemetery vandalized

A Jewish cemetery in the eastern French city of Strasbourg was vandalized, according to a story on the World Jewish Congress website.

The attack occurred on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Over 30 gravestones at the Cronenbourg cemetery were either spray-painted with swastikas and the Nazi slogan “Juden raus!” [Jews out], or toppled, according to the French Jewish community organization CRIF.

Laurent Schmoll, president of the 1,000-member Jewish community in Strasbourg, told reporters that he believed the cemetery was defiled in connection with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was being observed on Wednesday. “These are absolutely inscriptions from the Nazi period… I think there has to be a link.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement in which he “firmly condemns this unbearable act, the expression of odious racism.” The mayor of Strasbourg said that the perpetrators were “evil cowards. It is no coincidence that the attack came on the international day when the Holocaust is commemorated.”

Obermayer Awards: The honorees’ stories

The 10th annual Obermayer German Jewish History Awards were given in Berlin on January 25, 2010.

The winners and their towns were:

— Angelika Brosig (Schopfloch)
— Helmut Gabeli (Haigerloch)
— Barbara Greve (Gilserberg)
— Heidemarie Kugler-Weiemann (Lübeck)
— Walter Ott (Muensingen-Buttenhausen)

To read the complete profiles of the honorees, click here.

This year marks the tenth annual presentation of awards that were created to honor the past and enrich the future. German life was once filled with contributions made by Jewish scholars, writers and artists. Music, science, literature and architecture were often collaborative efforts that brought diverse talents together. The collective history of Germans and Jews was profoundly connected and served to benefit the world. The Nazi regime and its obliteration of the German Jewish community ended a long period of collaboration and mutual trust.

However, many German citizens, ranging from academics to those working in business and professions, did not let go of their interest and commitment to Jewish history and culture. Many worked at great personal cost to preserve and reconstruct aspects of Jewish life, which had contributed to the cultural richness of their lives and the lives of their respectivecommunities. These individuals have researched, reconstructed, written about and rebuilt an appreciation of Jewish culture that will enrich life today and in the future.

Diverse individuals, without thought of reward, have helped raise awareness about a once vibrant community. Their ongoing efforts pay tribute to the importance of Jewish subject matter and its value to German society as a whole.

Many volunteers have devoted years of effort to such projects, but few have been recognized or honored for their efforts. The German Jewish Community History Council and its cosponsors believe it is particularly important for Jews from other parts of the world to be aware of this ongoing work. The annual Obermayer German Jewish History Awards provide an opportunity for the Jewish community worldwide to acknowledge German citizens who have rekindled the spark of Jewish thought that once existed in Germany. The award winners have dedicated themselves to rebuilding destroyed institutions and ideals. Their achievements reflect a personal connection to Jewish history and a willingness to repair a small corner of the world.

— Angelika Brosig launched a Web site to document her town’s Jewish cemetery and to help finance its restoration. Her town is Schopfloch.

“My friend wanted to see the Jewish cemetery,” Brosig recalls, “and when we went and saw the conditions there, she started to cry. She said ‘It’s terrible, the stones aren’t readable, the plants and trees are all overgrown.’ I was surprised because it seemed natural for a cemetery to decay. But she said, ‘No, it’s not good for the descendants,’ and this was my start.” …

— Helmut Gabeli

The lawyer Helmut Gabeli moved to the small Swabian town of Haigerloch, on the edge of the Black Forest, when his wife was hired there as a teacher in 1968. Shortly after, the couple discovered that the town market where they bought their food was once a synagogue, and they instantly stopped shopping there.

“My wife and I said ‘No, we will not buy there in the future,’” Gabeli remembers. “I had respect for the Jewish religion. My moral standards told me it was not possible to buy from a building where the Jews once prayed.”

Twenty years later, on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Gabeli helped form the Gesprächkreis Ehemaliger Synagogue Haigerloch (Discussion Circle for the Former Haigerloch Synagogue). …

— Barbara Greve

Ask Barbara Greve what motivates her to unearth the Jewish past around theKreis Ziegenhain region of Hessen, and you get a not-so-German response.

“It may not be the right way to say it, but I think of it as a kind of mitzvah,” she says. “It’s a moral duty. I’m giving people back their history.”

Indeed, for Greve, a primary school teacher who has become a crusader dedicated to rescuing 400 forgotten years of Jewish history in her area, much of her passion stems from the desire for local residents to get their facts straight. …

— Heidemarie Kugler-Weiemann

For nearly two decades, Heidemarie Kugler-Weiemann has been wrestling with her city’s Holocaust history through research, teaching, tours, exhibitions, forums, memorials, articles and books. Not only has she made an impact on her community, but she has developed very strong personal relationships with survivors as well.

When she thinks how it all began, her memory returns to her grandmother’s nervous eye. Born in Lübeck in 1951, Kugler-Weiemann recalls that “the war was very present for me as a child” because of the strong memories lingering in her family, and one in particular: the day the Gestapo came and arrested her grandfather for listening to the BBC. Though her grandfather was eventually released, her grandmother’s eye never stopped twitching after that. …

— Walter Ott

It was in 1973, when the castle outside Buttenhausen was being renovated, that Walter Ott’s home became a temporary storage place for chests and boxes belonging to the city— some of which, he discovered, contained eye-opening documents like a letter from Baron von Liebenstein, inaugurating the town’s 200-year-old Jewish history.

“I was impressed with that history. It was taboo,” says Ott, who was born in 1928 near Stuttgart and spent most of his life working as a farmer. “The subject wasn’t talked about in Buttenhausen; it was new to me. So I asked people, ‘Why don’t you speak any more about the Jewish community?’ and they answered, ‘Oh, it was so long ago.’ This is a small village and no one wanted to talk, but the truth is that three-fourths of the citizens here were Nazis.”

With the material he found in the boxes, and later in the town archives, Ott sorted and catalogued Buttenhausen’s history into a first-ever Jewish archive—from 1787, when the first 25 Jewish families were granted the right to settle in Buttenhausen, to the residents’ deportations to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and other concentration camps in the final years of the war. (Located in a remote part of the Swabian Alps, Buttenhausen was used as a collection point for Jews deported from across Germany, before their shipment to the camps).

Read these inspiring full-page stories for each honorees at the link above, and view the links to their projects.

Jerusalem: Mount of Olives now online

The world’s oldest Jewish cemetery just went online, according to the Jerusalem Post.

More than 20,000 gravestones have already been documented, but there are some 200,000-300,000 in the cemetery. There’s a lot still to do.

Mount of Olives burials go back some 3,000 years, to the First and Second Temple periods, and continues today. From 1948-1967, when Jordanians were in charge of the area, there was severe destruction, including broken and destroyed tombstones, with others used to pave floors in Jordanian army camps. During that era, a road was paved south from the top of the mountain. The road to Jericho was widened. All of this took place on top of the graves.

Following the Six Day War, the cemetery was slowly restored. Until now, however, there has been no major effort to map and record graves or to decipher and restore names on the tombstones.

Workers identify the graves and locate them on the map. The website allows global viewers to zoom in on an aerial photo and see a photo of each grave. Each name listed shows available information and a photograph, while users can upload additional data and photos about their loved ones and others who are buried there.

Those planning a visit can also create (and print) a map and route of graves to visit.

Read the story here, about the website, which is available in English, Hebrew and Russian.

Tracing the Tribe’s experience with the database:

Search the database with only one letter. I searched for D (Dardashti) and for T (Talalay/Talalai) and J/I (Jassen/Iasin), but none were listed yet, although I know some who are buried there. I’m sure they will be listed eventually. Using the first letter or the first two letters of the surname produces a drop-down list of possibilities. However, if you put in the first three letters of a surname, there is no drop-down list. However, the list appears if you put in the first three letters of a given name.

Doing a search for COHEN, I found COHEN YAZDI. I clicked on the results and found the grave of Lea Cohen Yazdi who died March 27, 1944. On the map I could zoom to the specific grave. Here’s a portion of the map that showed (the red dot is the grave):

I clicked on Grave Details and saw this:

This was interesting as the burial society was listed as Spanish, yet the surname of YAZDI indicates a Persian origin.

Here is the actual gravestone photo, after using Snag-It and adjusting brightness and contrast.

According to the news story:

A new project undertaken by the City of David archeological Park, located south of Jerusalem’s Old City and at the foot of the Mount of Olives cemetery, has begun the process of identifying and documenting tombstones throughout the entirety of the Mount of Olives and uploading the data to the Web.

Tens of thousands of graves on the mount have already been mapped and incorporated into a database, in the first-ever attempt to restore the graves and record the history of those who were buried there. The project includes the creation of a Web site ( ) that aims to raise awareness of the City of David and to honor the memory of those buried in the cemetery, as well as to inform about the tours and activities available.

Additionally, the Web site tells stories of the people buried in the cemetery and, through a simple search window, one can locate the documented graves by name.

The project’s public relations director Udi Ragones hopes the web site will give people around the world an opportunity to clear the dust from generations of their loved ones’ graves. The project is fascinating from both personal and historical perspectives.

Read the complete story here.

Poland: Lodz ghetto Cemetery list online

Steve Lasky of the Museum of Family History has added two lists, including 1,400 names of Jewish residents who perished in the Lodz Ghetto and buried in its cemetery.

Later this year, he will announce a large online exhibit on the Jewish ghettos of Europe.

View the Lodz Ghetto cemetery list here; all names are on a single web page.

For each person buried, the fields are: the grave number, name and surname, death date and age, along with the Polish and Hebrew forms of father’s given name (as well as the surname and given name variant transliterations and spellings). Section one has only the English date of death, while the second section has both English and Hebrew dates; there are other differences between the first and second lists.

For example: Goldsztajn Gawryl Arja, son of Mojsze is also noted as Goldstein Gavriel Arye, son of Moshe in the first list. This should help researchers who know the contemporary surnames but not the original Polish name forms. In turn, this will assist them to check other online resources using the original spellings.

These lists are by no means complete, as there were no doubt many more of our ancestors who died in the Ghetto and were buried there. However, these lists might just help some of you who had family in the Ghetto during World War II with your Lódz family research. The lists give the names of the deceased, and often the father’s name, the date of death and age at death.

The lists come to you courtesy of the Lódz Jewish community through the agency of Yad LeZehava (YZI) in Kedumim Israel and with the dedicated cooperation of the officers and men in the IDF ‘Witnesses in Uniform’ Program.

Visit the Museum of Family History.

Read Steve’s blog for frequent updates on the Museum. Questions? Ask Steve.