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!

Portugal: Faro Jewish Heritage Center

Jewish history is found in surprising places, often by visitors who simply stumble by chance onto something rather interesting.

Tortoise Tales (a diary of motor home adventures) is a blog covering slow travel in a motorhome through Europe by two rather adventurous UK retirees Frances and Bernard Platman, who began their travels in October 2003.

In this post, they discuss their December 2009 visit to Faro, Portugal, in the Algarve region.

The Faro Jewish Heritage Center is the focus of this post.

The site covers the center, the cemetery, the museum and much more, as well as activities and events for the tiny permanent Jewish community (augmented by visitors) in this area – all thanks to former South Africans Ralf and Judy Pinto, who host holiday celebrations and other activities. If you’re planning a trip to the Algarve, contact them.

At right, see a photo of the Faro Jewish cemetery.

How did Frances Platman learn about the Pintos?

Shortly after arriving at Armacoa de Pera, on the Algarve in Portugal, I was reading the Portuguese English paper and noticed in the “what’s on” columns for 13th December a snippet saying if we wanted an invite to a Chanukah party just phone….. So I did and spoke to a charming man who originally hailed from South Africa but had been living full time in Portimao on the Algarve for a number of years.

He and his wife are instrumental in setting up the Algarve Jewish Community,

They have been organising events for special occasions since their arrival in Portugal. He is also the director of the Faro Jewish Heritage Centre, Cemetery and Museum, and offered to take us there.

The Centre is the only remaining vestige of the first post Inquisition Jewish presence in Portugal and the cemetery contains marble gravestones from the period 1838 to 1932. The small museum has many artefacts and original furniture from an 1820 synagogue together with a video, “Without the Past”.

There’s more in her blog post and much more on the Faro Jewish Heritage Center.

How was the Chanukah party?

The Chanukah party on the 13th December was very jolly, held in our hosts’ apartment. There were people there who were visiting just like us but also residents from all over the Algarve , some permanent and some who come and go from their country of origin. Fried foods were eaten, candles were lit and songs sang to remember the miracle of the holy oil in the temple which lasted for eight days although there was only enough for one when the Jewish people were besieged.

Jewish visitors to the area are always welcomed by this enthusiastic couple. We intend to keep in touch with them in the future as we have enjoyed our new friendship.

Thanks, Frances, for this post.

Readers interested in mobile home travel will also find Tortoise Tales interesting.

NYPL: New blog, ‘orphan works’

Tracing the Tribe just discovered the New York Public Library blog, and this post by fellow genealogist and music specialist Bob Kosovsky.

This is the official blog of the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts of the Music Division, a part of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, at Lincoln Center, in New York City.

This post covers “orphan works” and also has some very nice illustrations.

With digitization of books being a hot topic, some of you may have heard of the term “orphan works.” In brief, an orphan work is a work where the copyright holder can not be found. For musical works, many assume that “the copyright holder” is simply the composer, but this not always true. The copyright holder can be the composer’s descendents, relatives, lawyers, or anyone that the creator designates as a legal successor after the creator’s death. (When the musical work has been composed “for hire” then the copyright holder could be the corporate entity that commissioned it.)

Even when the copyright holder can not be found, generally one is not allowed to reproduce their work. Fortunately, exceptions are made for museums, libraries, archives, and similar institutions when reproducing orphan works for non-commercial study, when such reproductions will not have a negative impact on the value of the product. (You can read more about about the issue at: The “Orphan Works” Problem and Proposed Legislation by Marybeth Peters, The Register of Copyrights.)

The story mentions composers Jakob Schönberg (1900-1956), Kurt Schindler (1882-1935), Alexander Grechaninov (1864-1956). No heirs have been found for any of the three.

Do read the entire blog post at the link above and see how Bob works in genealogy.

New Blog: Through young immigrants’ eyes

There’s a new blog, Half-Remembered Stories, written by more than a dozen young Jewish immigrants, aged 16-25. If you have immigrant ancestors – don’t we all? – readers should relate to the words of these young people.

“I am up to my ears in bits and pieces. I am immersed in parts of my family’s story, in clues to follow-up on, in tales that must continue to be reinvented, imbued with life. But because there is so much, so much, so much time gone by and so much family I must consult …,” writes Hannah, one of 16 young Jews invited to blog for the New Jewish Filmmaking Project (NJFP).

The NJFP project is subtitled, “Emerging media from the borderlands of Jewish identity.”

For the past seven years, 50 young Jews (ages 16-25), have collaborated with a team of documentary filmmakers to create sophisticated, personal documentaries; 16 are blogging.

The NJFP project, sponsored by the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF), also creates films about and co-directed by these new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Latino Jews and Jews of North African origin, who are “coming of age at the intersection of multiple ethnic and national identities.”

In July 2010, the projected multi-media exhibit will launch under the auspices of the SFJFF’s New Media Initiative.

It will be about lost people, lost places and the quest to reclaim lost memory, and will combine films, text, photographs and audio to show what it means to come of age on the border between Jewish identity and mainstream American life.

Some of the young bloggers are Adam, Alex, Ashley, Corey, David, Hannah, Jason, Klaira, Lee, Mayana, Samantha, Yelena, Yenny and Zoe.

Samantha writes, “The streets you resided in as a child stick with you for life. Your childhood home, so to speak, is where memories reside. I bet almost all of you reading this can remember the address, or at least the street name of the house where you began your life. For myself, and those around me … .”

“We’re all familiar with the timeless adage ‘write what you know,’ and it continues to guide writers both young and old. The NJFP has long offered a unique opportunity for young Jewish filmmakers to ‘film what they know,’ taking us on tours of their homes, histories, streets, and cities—exploring their fears, passions, and dreams….,” shares Lee.

See the videos here, including “Four Short Films About Love,” where a Latino-Jewish couple strolls through San Francisco’s Mission district, a triad of sisters laze on a sunny Sunday morning, four grandmothers face off at a Russian family dinner. It demonstrates how families come together and sometimes fall apart. The film won the 2004 Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Produced by documentary production company Citizen Film, the NJFP is a program of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival which provides showcase venues. More than 300,000 people have viewed the NFJP films through public television and exhibits in classrooms nationwide.

Tracing the Tribe thinks this project and exhibit will be of interest to help young people get involved with family history research. It would be an interesting exhibit for the upcoming international conferences on Jewish genealogy.

New Blog: The Jewish Narrative

Tracing the Tribe has discovered a new blog called Jewish Narrative.

Its preface reads: “You don’t have to be Jewish to be interested in Jewish history. Author Constance Harris reviews interesting and little-known aspects of the Jewish experience over the centuries.”

Harris is the author of (see below) “The Way Jews Lived: Five Hundred Years of Printed Words and Images.”

Jewish Narrative’s introductory post (October 6, 2009) reads:

You don’t have to be Jewish to be interested in Jewish history. The Jews were important players in world events from almost the beginning of recorded time. Jewish stock produced Moses, Jesus, Paul, Spinoza, Disraeli, Freud, Marx, and Einstein.

Mark Twain wrote in 1899 “If the statistics are right, the Jews contribute but one per cent of the human race… His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstract learning are away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers… and he has done it with his hands tied behind him.”

While religious, ethnic, and racial hatred have beset all of mankind, in length of time and relentlessness of purpose no other people have endured the unhappy fortunes of the Jews. But their history transcends a recital of pain and misfortune. They gave the world unique ethical systems. Their Sabbath day of rest and study gifted a society that knew week long drudgery and endless toil. Their festivals, rituals, and customs offered more than legislation, more than aesthetics; they inculcated tradition and cultural continuity and offered opportunities to alleviate the bad and savor the good. Mainstream Judaism historically denied magical practices or human sacrifices, restricted slave ownership, regulated tillage of the soil, and limited the collection of debts.

In her blog, Harris will discuss how Jews resolved – or failed to resolve – basic issues among themselves and well as how Jewish culture interfaced with Christianity, sometimes as colleagues, more often as dissenters.

Other topics this month have included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Poem on Jewish History, A Tree Grew in Amsterdam, True Passover Seder Stories, “Anti-Jewish” and “Anti-Semitism” – Is there a difference?, The Jews’ Expulsion from, and Return to England, and Consideration for the Poor and the Weak (and Women).

“The Way Jews Lived” has received good reviews:

According to Senior Rabbi Steven Weil (Beth Jacob Congregation, Beverly Hills, California):

[Harris] masterfully explores over six centuries of Jewish social history with keen eye and balanced perspective. This important study skillfully offers the reader a rare glimpse into the interconnection between complex world events and how Jewish life, with all its triumphs and challenges, is woven irrevocably through them. This enlightening book is a thorough, clearly organized examination which seems to leave no stone unturned, particularly in its fascinating analysis of the rise of anti Semitism in 19th century central Europe. Sometimes inspiring, occasionally bittersweet, this collection which personifies the heroic struggle of our people is a consistently thought-provoking, entertaining read. I heartily recommend The Way Jews Lived to anyone, regardless of faith, who has a healthy appetite for knowledge.

Check out the blog and more about her book online.

JGSLA 2010: Conference site, blog now live!

The 30th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy website is now live – and JGSLA 2010 also features a blog.

The conference will run from July 11-16, 2010, at the new JW Marriott at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.

The conference site is here:

Read the JGSLA 2010 blog here:

Three posts are now up:

Go West, Genealogists!

Get Ready, Get Set, Mark Your Calendars!

Coming on a Jet Plane or a Slow Train?

Did you know that you can reserve your room right now?
Do you know when the Call for Papers will begin?
Do you know the way to LA?
Did you know JGSLA 2010 is on Twitter and Facebook?

Visit the JGSLA 2010 website and the event blog for details.

Books: Jewish Publication Society’s new blog

The Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is directly responsible for my general interest in genealogy and specifically in Sephardic history.

Back in junior high school, when I attended summer music camp at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, I found the campus bookstore and my first buy was the JPS edition of Cecil Roth’s “History of the Marranos” – before most of us knew that the word was pejorative.

JPS now has its own blog and one post I found interesting was Don’t know much bout Jewish history, which addresses historiography, or the history of history. Some historians write about history, other historians write abut how other historians write history.

Depending on who is writing for whom, their research methodology, philosophy and values, various writers will develop different views of the same event or period.

Naomi wrote in this post about Zakhor: Jewish Memory and Jewish History, by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, a case of Jewish historiography.

In this book, Yerushalmi traces the development of how Jews not only studied, but remembered, their own history. According to Yerushalmi, throughout much of its lifetime, Judaism has had an uneasy relationship with the formal writing and studying of history. He claims that writers of Jewish history over the ages have typically engaged in what should really be called “selective memory” – recording and commemorating some events and not others, couching historical events in a religious language and context, or simply forgoing recorded history in favor of commemorative holidays or liturgical poems. It’s all fascinating stuff, gracefully written, and completely accessible for any lay reader.

She adds that in the near future JPS will be publishing a Jewish history work dating to the medieval period. Sounds interesting!