Israel: Already preparing for 2014!

Every 10 years, the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is held in Israel and 2014 is the next one.

The Israel Genealogical Society is already preparing a list of documents to convert into databases to be available at the event.

IGS webmaster Rose Feldman says that many families or parts of families immigrated to Eretz Israel. Some remained and built their lives in the country, and some moved on to other places.

Databases available now may be viewed here. Those which have been completely funded are available for viewing by the public.

The Montefiore Censuses are being prepared as a joint project of IGS and London’s Montefiore Endowment.

The IGS is currently considering the following collections:

—  Names changes as published in the official government publication Yalkut Hapirsumim through 1954;

— 1928 Pinchas Habogrim –  which is the equivalent of electoral lists of those over 18 years of age. Currently, they have been located in Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

They are already working on some early 20th century Mukhtar Ledgers of Jerusalem’s Ashkenazi population.

Readers who are aware of any other documents dealing with Eretz Israel covering the early 19th-century through 1930, are asked to contact Rose.

Florida: Share success, May 12

Researchers are often frustrated by brick walls and remaining gaps in family history, but we also love to hear about colleagues who have made considerable progress and to share their success.

Some 15 years ago, Tracing the Tribe was looking for relatives from Mogilev, who had settled in Detroit, Michigan. The strategy included sending out, via snail mail, a stack of letters to those with the same or similar names. The letter explained why I was looking for those family members and included my contact information. I received quite a few answers.

My favorite response: “I’m not a member of that family, but I do know them. Here’s their contact information.” While some may consider this strategy a long shot – only one good response is needed to find those whom you seek.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County – celebrating its 19th year – will hold its annual SOS (“Share Our Success”) membership meeting on Wednesday, May 12. The day runs from 12.30-3pm at the South County Civic Center in Delray Beach.

The agenda includes a Brick Wall Session, election and installation of officers and the main program starts at 1pm.

Three members will share their successful research stories and explain the methods used to trace their families:

  • Dr. Gary Stone will give a PowerPoint presentation “Barney’s Story,” a moving narrative of a family member who was responsible for bringing most of his family (more than 50 persons) to the USA.
  • Dorothy Bernstein will share her research success finding family members despite the many changes in the spelling of the family name. Her persistence in searching for vital records enabled her to discover the various spellings were actually in the same family.
  • Glenn Segal will discuss how to make successful research contacts through phoning.

The annual program provides a wealth of genealogical research information. It is always one of the most popular events of the year. Q&A follows the presentations; members are invited to discuss their own success stories.

For more information on the program, or to submit questions for the Brick Wall discussion, e-mail program chair Helene Seaman.

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 Cleveland.com 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.

JGSLA 2010: New programs, classes, workshops!

In addition to lectures, JGSLA 2010 will offer programs on maps, roots travel, films and filmmakers, classes and crafts.

“This year in LA” is the 2010 mantra for Jewish genealogists around the world.

Don’t miss the early registration discount for the 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, July 11-16, in Los Angeles. Discounts end April 30, don’t miss out. Go to JGSLA 2010 and register today.

Two fascinating speakers have been added to the program, and see further down for even more additions to the program.

Holocaust

USC Shoah Foundation Institute executive director Dr. Stephen Smith will speak on Wednesday evening, July 14.

He was founding director of The UK Holocaust Centre, the UK’s first dedicated Holocaust memorial and education center. For this work, he was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.). Additionally, Smith co-founded the Aegis Trust, withe the goal of prevention of crimes against humanity and genocide. He chairs the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, which organizes the UK national Holocaust commemoration.

A dynamic speaker, he is dedicated to bringing the Shoah Foundation’s survivor testimonies into the 21st century by making them accessible to a worldwide audience. His talk will address this topic.  The conference resource room will offer streaming Shoah Foundation survivor testimonies daily during the conference, beginning on Sunday, July 11, at 10am.

Sephardim

Professor Delores Sloane will discuss her new book, “The Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal: Survival of an Imperiled Culture in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries,” a storyteller’s account of what happened to the expelled Iberian Jews who built new lives in exile after leaving what had been their home for 1,500 years.

Sloan believes that history is best understood through the experiences of those who lived it.

In 1996, she traveled through Spain and Portugal for five weeks, by train, bus and by foot, looking for footprints left by the remarkable Jews who had created a golden age of learning and discovery.

Her new book offers a compelling portrait of Sephardic Jews, who created a Golden Age on the Iberian Peninsula under Moslem rule for nearly seven centuries, and continued to advance science, medicine, political economy, government and the arts under Christian rule that followed. See the link above for more information.

Here’s even more to absorb:

Maps and more

Ukraine and Galicia are on the menu with the famous Brian Lenius speaking on cadastral maps and landowner records; Alexander Dunai (from Lviv) on maps in the Ternopil (Tarnopol) archives; and Alexander Denysenko (from Lviv), on roots travel. Dunai and Seattle’s Sol Sylvan will present how you can plan the trip of a lifetime. Other experts will be able to discuss roots travel to Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Latvia and Lithuania.

Films

Filmmaker, researcher and travel planner Michael Masterovoy of Moscow is flying in to  speak at the Belarus SIG luncheon (don’t forget to sign up for this added event!). He’ll speak about his recent trip to several Belarus towns, including Vitebsk, home to Movsha Shagal (AKA Marc Chagall).

He has created documentary and campaign videos for North American Jewish organizations and the film festival will screen several of his films, including “Brailov: A Town Without Jews.”

In about two weeks, the complete Film Festival schedule will be online.

Arts & Crafts, Workshops, Classes

Frequent conference-goers know we all need breaks from lectures.

Some classes and workshops:

  • Sunday, Lil Blume will offer a two-part workshop on “Writing Family Stories and Memoirs.”
  • Monday-Thursday: Lynn Saul – “Creating and Retelling Your Family’s Stories: A Participatory Writing Workshop;” Mike Karsen – “How to Create Your Family History;” and Marlis Humphrey – “I Couldn’t Put it Down! New Ways to Publish Family History.”

Crafts:

  • A Tallit–making class will cover the history of the Jewish prayer shawl, the Hebrew prayer for the atarah (or collar), the aleph bet chart with various Hebrew fonts, images to stitch to decorate the tallit, how to tie tzitzit (corner fringes), and sha’a’tnez. (prohibition of using two different fibres in the same textile).
  • “How to Create a Genealogical Quilt” using ancestral photographs as the artwork.
  • “Pomegranate Jewish Papercut” session to learn the art of Jewish paper cutting, using scissors. References to Jewish paper cutting date from 14th century and it became an important folk art among both Ashkenazim and Sephardim in the 17th-18th centuries. Each participant will have a papercut that they can display at home. There’s a $10 kit fee for the project materials.

Holocaust, Sephardim, maps, roots travel, writing, films and filmmakers, along with arts and crafts! No matter your specific interests, there will be something – and lots of somethings – for you.

Tracing the Tribe looks forward to greeting you in Los Angeles.

South Africa: Seeking Ochberg Orphan descendants

Genealogists are detectives, so here’s a case many of us might be able to help solve.

David Solly Sandler of Australia is seeking 2,000 South Africans – the descendants of 60 Ukrainian war and pogrom orphans, known as Ochberg’s Orphans.

Writes David: 

In 1921, Isaac Ochberg, representative of the South African Jewish Community, travelled to Poland and the Ukraine and brought back with him to Cape Town 167 “Russian, Ukraine and Polish War and Pogrom Orphans” plus 14 “attendants and nurses,” mainly older siblings.

Half the children were placed in the care of the Cape Jewish Orphanage (later Oranjia) and half went to Johannesburg, under the care of the South African Jewish Orphanage (later Arcadia). Many children were adopted by Jewish community members, who contributed generously to a fund to bring the children to South Africa and care for them.

What’s David’s connection to Arcadia? Born in 1952, David grew up from age 3-17 at Arcadia, the South African Jewish Orphanage in Sandringham, Johannesburg. Now a semi-retired chartered accountant, he lives in Western Australia and has completed two books on Arcadia (see below for more information). For the history of the orphanage – established in 1899 – click here.

David is now in month 18 of the 27 months he’s allocated to record the life stories of the Ochberg Orphans. Of the 181 children, the stories of 90 have been recorded, contact has been made with another 30, but 60 still remain to be contacted.

How did he arrive at this number? David believes – for the so far “missing” 60 – that each child was born around 1910, married and had three children, nine grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren, thus there should be more than the estimated 2,000 descendants cited above. Of course, no one knows for sure.

However, what is really important in this story is that many descendants might not know their connection to the Ochberg Orphans. The children did not often speak about this and many tried to hide the fact from their children because of the stigma of being an orphan.

One descendant wrote, says David:

Today, as for the general South African Jewish community, half  of the 2,000 descendants likely have left South Africa and now live around the world in Israel, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

“The general attitude of the community was that it was a mitzvah to have adopted one of those poor orphans, a good deed in a dark world, but you really wouldn’t want one of them to marry into your family, would you? After all, you knew nothing of their parents and extended family, their health history and their genetic background. This is a generalisation that isn’t true of all the adopters but it was certainly true of a fair number, nervous, insecure, only to do nothing that would jeopardise their increasing prosperity and emergent social solidity.”

Here’s the kicker – here are the names of these orphans. If you have someone with this name in your family tree, born c1910, there’s a chance you might be an Ochberg Orphan descendant, so read the list carefully and if you find a name of interest, contact David (email below).

— BARMATCH Sara, BARUCH Leya, BERNFELD Hersh,
— CWENGEL Saul,
— ELMAN Blume, ELMAN Jentl/ Izzy, ELSHTEIN Abo, ENGELMAN Jakob,
— FREMD/FRIEND Max,
— GARBUS /GOLDSTEIN Shmul, GAYER Chawa, GEBENCOL/GOLZ Rochel, GERYNSHTEIN Abram, GINSBURG Mintcha, GUBER/GEIBER/GRUBER Tcharna (Charlotte ODES),
— H/GURWITZ Rosa,
— ISRAELSON Chaim,
— JUDES Rubin,
— KAHAN Channe, KAHAN Golda, KAHAN Morduch/Mordche, KAHAN Shachna, KAILER Rywka, KAUFMAN Cypora, KAUFMAN Soloman/Shlama, KAWERBERG Mayer, KAWERBERG Mees/Moshe, KIGIELMAN Jacob, KNUBOVITZ Zlata, KREINDEL Rejsel, KRUGERr Rejsel, KRUGER Abram, KRUGER Jacob,
— LIPSHIS Moishe, LIPSHYTZ Perel,
— MARGOLIN Sara, MILER Braindel, MORDOCHOWITCH Gutro, MORDOCHOWITCH Estel,
— NUDERMAN Gdalia,
— OCHSTEIN Salomon, ORLIANSKY Abram,
— PERRCHODNIK/PERECHODNIK Ussr, PINSKY/PINSKA Faywel, PINSKY/PINSKA Feyga (Birdie GLASER), PINSKY/PINSKA Maisha, PINSKY/PINSKA Zlata,
— REICHMAN Abram, REICHMAN Chaim, REISENDERRubin, REKLER Leya, RINSLER/RINZLER Chaskiel/Chaykel, ROSENBAUM Leon, ROSENBLIT Gdalia, ROSENBLIT Szamay,
— Y/J/SAGOTKOWSKY Jacob/Jacov, SCHTERN/SHTERN Szlema/Solomon, SCHWARZ Josef, SHTEINER/STEINER Chaskel, SHTEINER/STEINER Hersh, SHTEINER/SZTEINER/STEINER Isaac, SMITH Morduch/Mordche, SHTRASNER Feyga, STILLERMAN Hersh/Harry,
— TREPPEL Jacob
— WEIDMAN Sheindel.

David adds that by the end of 2010, the lifestories of some 130 of the children will have been collected. They will be included in a book to be published and sold internationally with all proceeds going to Arcadia and Oranjia, as are the Arcadian Memory Books.

Readers who recognize names of interest should email David for more information, or if you are a descendant and want your family’s story included.

“100 Years of ARC Memories” (March 2006) celebrates the centenary book of Arcadia, formerly the South African Jewish Orphanage.

“More ARC Memories” (December 2008) is the sequel to the first volume, and includes 17 chapters on the Ochberg Children.

Together, the books total 1,100+ pages and hold the memories of more than 250 children. All proceeds go to the Arcadia Children’s Home that still exists and looks after children in need. By the end of 2009, some Rand 365,000 had been raised and the target is Rand 1 million. The set of two books costs $100 plus $10 shipping (click here for more information).

Lebanon: Ashkenazi, Sephardi Beirut burials online

Jeff Malka, creator of SephardicGen.com, informed Tracing the Tribe that Beirut Jewish Cemetery data is online now at his site.

In 1948, some 24,000 Jews lived in Lebanon. Most of them were in Beirut. Today, there only 30 seniors.

Jewish community symbols in Beirut today are the Magen Avraham synagogue and the Jewish cemetery (with 3,300 burials).

Tracing the Tribe has previously written about Beirut and its Jewish community.

 During the Lebanese civil war, the cemetery was the border of  the Christian Phalange forces. Although damaged by bombs, it was never desecrated.

A Lebanese Christian, Nagi Georges Zeidan, has memorialized the Jewish community of his country by researching its history and creating a database, using both cemetery and civil registrations, with 3,184 gravestone inscriptions
.
Both Ashkenazi and Sephardi burials are included in the searchable database.

Click here for the English database and here for the French version.

Do check out the many searchable databases covering numerous countries and topics at SephardicGen.com.

Sephardim: The Portuguese story

Here is a new and fascinating book of great interest to Sephardim around the world. Unfortunately, it is currently available only in Hebrew.

Thanks to Ruth Almog for her Haaretz review of “Portuguese Jewry at the Stake: Studies on Jews and Crypto-Jews,” (Hebrew) edited by Yom Tov Assis and Moises Orfali (Magnes Press and the Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, 259 pages, NIS 89).

In the preface to “Portuguese Jewry at the Stake,” Yom Tov Assis writes: “This is the first book in Hebrew that is dedicated exclusively to Portuguese Jewry, a subject that has been rather neglected by scholars in Israel. This book is designed to partly remedy the situation.”

This extremely interesting compilation of scholarly articles does indeed reveal new facets of an extinct Jewish community. That said, it is not by chance that the study of Portuguese Jewry has been neglected, but because Portugal’s Jews have in large part been lumped together with those of Spain, since the two countries, whose borders fluctuated throughout the Middle Ages, were both part of medieval Iberia.

There’s a short description of how Portuguese came to be. It developed in the 11th-12th centuries following encounters between Galician and Lusitanian languages, and influenced by Arabic. Historically, Moslems conquered much of Portugal in 713. It was reconquered at the end of the 9th century and only a century later did Portugal separate from Galicia. In the second half of the 12th century, Lisbon was conquered when Portuguese were assisted by troops on their way to the Second Crusade. The Moslems left, the Jews stayed. At the time, estimates are of only 35,000 people in the whole country.

The Jewish history of Portugal is short, some five centuries:

The first Portuguese king, Alfonso Henriques (1109-1185 ), encouraged Jews to settle in the areas he had conquered. By appointing a Jew, Yahya Ibn Yaish (also known as Yahia Ben Rabbi), as state treasurer, Alfonso paved the way for his successors to employ Jews in financial and administrative positions. Ibn Yaish was not only “chief rabbi,” but also the “chief cavalier.” The king’s heirs expanded the employment of Jews as administrators in the kingdom. So it was that during the reign of Portugal’s first five kings, the situation of the Jews was good and they lived in security. The problems began later, but even during the period surrounding the 1391 pogrom against the Jews of Spain, Portugal served as a haven for the Jews of Castile.

According to Assis, the well-organized community (alfama) lived in its own neighborhoods was headed by a chief rabbi, was recognized by the crown and protected by the king. Persecution came from the church. The Jewish population increased and after the 1492 Expulsion from Spain, some 120,000 of them went to Portugal.

The Jews were never expelled from Portugal in 1496. Manuel I wanted to marry the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, who demanded he first get rid of his Jews. He didn’t want to lose them, but announced a plan for their departure. When the Jews arrived to board the ships, priests demanded they convert, and no one was allowed to leave. Thus baptised, the king could claim there were no Jews in his country and he could marry the princess.

Says Assis, most of the Jews became Conversos – converted under force – and the Jewish percentage there was the highest in Europe. Many of them succeeded in leaving and reaching other safe geographic destinations. There are the Conversos of Belmonte, whose matriarchal society has kept Judaism alive since the Inquisition.

Articles include:

— Historian Elvira Azevedo Mea’s “New Christian Women and the Inquisition” is based on her study of Inquisition files, which suggest that almost until the 20th century, it was the women in New Christian families who were responsible for passing on Jewish traditions.

— Eric Lawee writes about philosopher and financier Isaac Abarbanel (1437-1508 ), during his Portuguese years.

— Late historian Elias Lipiner deals with Jewish religious law problems that concerned the Conversos.

— co-editor Moises Orfali’s “Jews and Judaism in Christian Polemics in Portugal,” shows how, even after Jews had “disappeared,” accusatory writing against them did not stop. This article also relates the long reach of the Inquisition – into Goa, India (then a Portuguese colony) – where many Sephardim lived. In 1560, the Goa Inquisition center was founded and persecuted Jews, Hindus and Moslems.

— Edgar Samuel writes about the Curiel Sephardic family over a century (16th-17th centuries) as some branches remained in Portugal, others went around the world, some were burned alive at the stake, others acquitted, some became devout Catholics and others became public Jews again in South America.

— Historian Jose Nunes Carreira’s “Portuguese Diaspora in the Near East (in the 16th and 17th Centuries ) in the Light of Travel Reports,” covers the travelogues of Portuguese missionaries. He describes travelers who reported on meetings with Portuguese Jews in Aleppo, Tripoli, Basra, Cairo, Persia and Palestine. He includes clergyman Gaspar de Bernadino who says most Jews he met in Aleppo were Spanish speakers; he met Portuguese Jews in the Galilee, where there were more than 400 “Portuguese origin” households. The reports reveal that Sephardim were on the Persian Gulf island of Hormuz and Syria’s community longed for Portugal. And he includes Frey Pantaleao de Aveiro, who discovered many Portuguese Jews in the Middle East (in Jerusalem, Galilee, Damascus and Tripoli). Aveiro wrote about Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi who leased Tiberias from the Turkish sultan in 1558. In Damascus, he met a man from Braga, Portugal, who had fled after his father was burned.

— Claude (Dov) Stuczynski’s article deals with religious identity and economic activities of the “New Christians.”

Now we need the English version to make these articles accessible to the worldwide community.