Iraqi Jewish books made it to Israel

Some 300 rare and valuable Jewish books from Iraq have ended up in Israel.

The books, from a collection of books confiscated by Saddam Hussein's secret police, include a 1487 commentary on Job and a volume of biblical prophets printed in Venice in 1617, according to Ha’aretz.

The Iraqi secret police confiscated and stored a large number of Jewish books. Many were damaged in the beginning of the 2003 U.S.-led war in Iraq during the bombing of Iraqi government buildings. After the war, many of the books were sent to Washington's Library of Congress and some made their way to private dealers, who bought them from thieves.

One such dealer, Mordechai Ben-Porat, who was born in Iraq, began by sending an emissary to Baghdad who shipped the books to Israel directly. Eventually, U.S. authorities discovered his activities and barred further shipments. Ben-Porat then smuggled in the remaining books.

These books are the remnants of a once large and vibrant Iraqi Jewish community, numbering 130,000 Jews in 1948. Soon after Israel’s creation, Iraqi Jews began to suffer discrimination and fled the country en masse. At present, Iraq is believed to be home to less than 30 Iraqi Jews. (Source: JTA)

Gravestones sink while Des Plaines River rises

At Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, a sacred Jewish burial ground, there is a section near the Des Plaines River where the tombstones are sinking. Morris Kaplan's and Rose Neiman's gravestones have sunk so low that the dates of death are barely visible.

After a heavy rainstorm this spring, World War II veteran Emil Kleppel's grave was submerged in standing water. Nearby, a pile of mangled branches covers Sam Getzberg's gravestone, which apparently was removed from his grave and discarded.

Here at Waldheim, where more than 200,000 Jews are buried, the Hebrew headstones speak to the history of Chicago's Jewish community. But the areas suffering from occasional flooding and other unkempt sections tell of the struggle to carry Waldheim's legacy into the future.

As a Jewish cemetery, Waldheim faces unique problems because of the Jewish tradition that bodies be buried in a plain wooden coffin with no concrete vault. As the wood decays over the years, monuments atop those graves are more likely to tilt or fall. In addition, the cemetery's nearness to the river brings sporadic flooding in areas now used primarily to bury the indigent.

"It's a very, very difficult cemetery to maintain," said Irwin Lapping, vice president of Waldheim Cemetery Co., which manages about 85 percent of the area. "We underwent a physical renovation that improved much of the cemetery. But still there's a great deal to do."

Lapping's firm maintains about 170,000 graves at the cemetery. Silverman & Weiss Cemetery, a smaller business, handles the remaining graves—at least 26,000—including the section near the Des Plaines River that sometimes floods.

"I have no idea how [the flooding] would be resolved," said Steve Schwitzman, owner of Silverman & Weiss. "You can't really build up the land because there are graves there. You'd have to take out every single headstone, monument and redo the land and then put everything back where it's supposed to be. It would be almost impossible."

Monica Karbin, whose parents are buried in the section near the river, calls that response unacceptable and thinks Silverman & Weiss should invest in a drainage system to prevent flooding.

"How disgusting, how degrading and how disrespectful to the dead, to the people you love, to be underwater," she said. "It's senseless. Why should my mom be sinking?"

Waldheim's history dates to the 1870s, when early Jewish immigrants established synagogues and fraternal organizations that bought cemetery lots for their members. Eventually, the massive area was divided into 288 small cemeteries, each with its own leadership and rules.

"Each one of these cemeteries did whatever they want. If someone wanted to put up a large monument, they did," said Lapping, also Waldheim's historian. "It was kind of chaotic because you had different people in control."

In the 1940s, as Jewish immigrants migrated to suburbs and early synagogues closed or merged, Waldheim became severely neglected. Lapping got involved in the late 1950s because his grandfather owned one of the caretaker businesses. Soon, Lapping's firm took over the operations of most of the early groups, except for Silverman and Weiss, which Schwitzman purchased in 1991.

Major restoration
Under Lapping, much of Waldheim gradually underwent an extensive renovation that restored much of its beauty. An endowment was established to care for older graves. Today, Waldheim continues to attract Jewish families who want to be buried there. The company performs about 350 burials every year.

"We're like an old neighborhood," Lapping said. "It had its heyday. Then, it went down. So, it needed to be gentrified and renewed."

Both caretakers struggle with two costly maintenance issues: tipping monuments and caring for older graves with no family left. Lapping said the monuments are the largest expense. Last year, for example, Waldheim spent $17,000 renovating more than 800 monuments, he said.

Even so, one disturbing section contains dozens of cracked tombstones that look like they were bulldozed from another area. Here is where Getzberg's stone lies among brush and yard waste. Both caretakers deny the stones are theirs.

Schwitzman said he is limited in what he can repair because his company lacks the equipment to lift larger stones. Rising gas prices have affected cemetery upkeep as the cost of lawn care soars. And some Jewish organizations still own cemetery land and are failing to pay for upkeep, he said.

"The organizations owe us so much money. But we're not going to let the cemetery go. We care about how it looks. Even though I don't get paid for cutting the grass, and even though the price of gas now is high, we still do it anyway," he said.

Schwitzman bears the extra burden of maintaining the section on Roosevelt Road that periodically floods. He thinks the problem may have been exacerbated by excavations required to build a nursing home beside the cemetery.

The company discussed possible remedies for the flooding with Forest Park officials, he said, but was told it could not pump flood water back into the river or into the sewer system because of the potential for disease.

Schwitzman said his firm no longer sells graves in that section. However, some burials still occur there, as it is one of the sections that early Jewish immigrants designated for needy families.

"I don't think they decided this when it was flooding," he said. "If they knew the area was going to be flooding, I don't think it would have been used for the graves."

Emily Soloff, executive director of the American Jewish Committee's Chicago chapter, said flooding in a Jewish cemetery is a serious issue because the wooden coffins raise the possibility that bodies could be disinterred.

No central authority
"It's a challenging question because there isn't an overarching cemetery authority in the Jewish community," she said.

When Karbin's mother died in 1995, family members had little money, so they went to Lloyd Mandel Levayah funeral home in Skokie and asked for financial assistance.

The funeral home contacted Silverman and Weiss to request a public aid burial and was given a plot where the Karbins could be buried next to each other. Her father died in 2003.

"It's an unfortunate situation that flooding does happen," said Doran Puckett, the funeral home director. "But these cemeteries date back to the time of the Civil War. When it floods, it floods. Stuff like that is an act of God."

Solutions elsewhere
Puckett said other cemeteries in the Chicago area also have flooding issues but some have found solutions. At Shalom Memorial Park in Arlington Heights, for example, water pumps keep the graves dry, he said.

In recent years the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago has spent weekends sprucing up Jewish cemeteries that have fallen into disrepair, but only when asked by the Illinois attorney general's office, federation spokeswoman Linda Haase said.

Karbin said she was not told the section where her parents were buried was susceptible to flooding. She said she has gotten two letters from Silverman and Weiss saying her mother's stone was sinking and requesting $45 to correct it. She has refused to pay.

"Even if it only floods one week a year, that's too many," she said.

"My parents took care of me, so now it's my turn to take care of them."

(Source: Chicago Tribune)

***Click here for pictures***

60 Years Later - Survivor Discovers Fate of Rescuer

It took Jerry Rawicki 60 years to find the man who saved his life. When he did, his rescuer was already dead.

But Rawicki, now a retired optician living in Seminole, persevered with the rest of his quest. He wanted to properly honor Janusz Rybakiewicz, the Polish Catholic teenager who befriended him and gave him a chance at life denied millions of other European Jews.

The two teenagers met in 1943, a chance encounter unfolding against the backdrop of World War II, its Nazi-fostered anti-Semitism, persecution and slaughter.

At 16, Rawicki had fought in and survived the Warsaw ghetto uprising that ended in the capture and death of thousands of Jewish residents. He escaped the demolished ghetto and decided that with his blond hair and false papers he'd attempt to pass as a non-Jew by day and spend his nights hiding wherever he could: this at a time when those who assisted Jews faced execution.

One day, Rawicki felt so despondent, he went to a riverside beach to try to escape his troubles for a few hours. There, he ran into three other teenage boys, non-Jews playing hooky from school. When the small group started to break up a few hours later, one of his new friends, Janusz Rybakiewicz, remained behind but soon suggested they go home. Rawicki told him the truth.

"I said, 'I'm a Jew,' '' he said.

Janusz' response stunned him.

"He took me home and introduced me to his mother, who was in shock. They decided to put me in the cellar overnight. They kept it from the father, because they didn't know how he would react to it. They brought me food and blankets, then, during the day, I would go out and roam the streets.''

Rawicki remained with the family for more than a week, then escaped from Warsaw into the countryside.

"I never got to talk to Janusz again,'' he said.

Rawicki tried to find his friend at the end of the war, but the family's home had been destroyed.

"Nobody knew where he was, and then I gave up,'' said Rawicki, who moved to the United States in 1949.

"Then one night, I had a dream, and I resumed the search again.''

Three years ago the American Red Cross gave him the news that Janusz was dead. According to a book by a Polish author, he was arrested in May or June of 1943 — weeks after he and Rawicki met — and executed at dawn on Feb. 11, 1944. He was 18 years old.

"I finally knew what happened,'' said Rawicki, who lost his parents and a sister in the Holocaust.

"This word closure is overused, but I knew this chapter was closed.''

He thinks often of Janusz' fate. It's "a morbid coincidence,'' he says, that his rescuer was hanged from a balcony on the same street where Rawicki once lived.

Rawicki wanted Janusz honored by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, in Israel. The program has recognized more than 22,000 non-Jews — 6,066 from Poland — for risking their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust, said Estee Yaari, a Yad Vashem spokesperson.

Last summer, Janusz Rybakiewicz was added to the roll of Yad Vashem's "Righteous Among the Nations.''

"To me, I think he was deserving of it,'' said Rawicki, 81.

"He was a hero to me.''

(Source: TampaBay)

JOWBR UPDATE - Orhei, Moldova Cemetery Project

This message comes from the coordinator of the Orhei, Moldova cemetery project and was recently posted on the JewishGen Discussion Group. (For further information about the discussion group, click here).
We have a unique opportunity to have pictures of every gravestone from the Orhei Jewish cemetery and at the same time help the dwindling Orhei Jewish community restore the cemetery. However, this opportunity will only occur if we can raise $800 in the next few weeks. The Orhei Jewish community has agreed to photograph every gravestone at a cost of only 25 cents per stone and then use the money to help restore the cemetery. The gravestones will be translated and put on JOWBR at no additional cost. This cemetery dates from the early 1700's making it one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the region. Most of the old stones have deteriorated but there are readable ones from as early as 1820, possibly earlier. It is estimated that there are around 3000 readable stones. If I can't raise the $800 in the next few weeks this opportunity will be missed.
  • Click here to donate funds for the Orhei, Moldova Jewish Cemetery Project.
  • Examples of the cemetery and some of the stones can be seen here.

Henryk Mandelbaum, 85; Jew was forced to empty the gas chambers at Auschwitz

Henryk Mandelbaum, a member of the Sonderkommando -- Jewish prisoners who were forced to empty the gas chambers at Auschwitz after fellow Jews were gassed and burned -- died Tuesday. He was 85.

Mandelbaum died at a hospital in the southern Polish city of Bytom several days after undergoing heart surgery, said Igor Bartosik, a historian at the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum who has co-written an upcoming book on Mandelbaum.

Bartosik said he did not know the exact cause of death, and hospital officials refused to comment.

Mandelbaum was Poland's last surviving member of the Sonderkommando, in which he was forced by the Nazis to search the body cavities of fellow Jews for valuables and pull out gold teeth and fillings after they were executed. They then had to carry the bodies to crematories for burning and when the crematories were filled to capacity they dug huge pits to burn the bodies.

"I thought I was in hell. Fire and smoke were everywhere. I had to clean the gas chambers and put the bodies in the crematoria, or burn them outside when the extermination was in full swing and the crematoria were not enough," he told reporters some time ago.

Mandelbaum was forced to do the work from his arrival in Auschwitz, at age 21, on April 10, 1944, until January 1945, when the Nazis forced him and other fit inmates on a death march to flee the advancing Red Army. He was able to escape the march and hid at a farm for several weeks. The Soviets liberated the camp Jan. 27, 1945.

During his months in the camp, Mandelbaum -- inmate No. 181970 -- witnessed the death of some of the 400,000 Jews brought in transports from Hungary in the summer of 1944, and handled their dead bodies.

"He saw people going into the changing rooms, he saw people changing, he saw the moment of the gassing, the throwing of the Zyklon [B gas] into the gas chambers, he heard the screams," Bartosik told the Associated Press.

Mandelbaum was born Dec. 15, 1922, in the southern Polish town of Olkusz.

As the oldest of four children, he went to work cutting stone in a quarry to help support the family when his father's butcher's business became bankrupt. He developed physical strength that helped him pass an initial selection at Auschwitz, separating those capable of work from those who were sent immediately to the gas chambers.

Bartosik said Mandelbaum spent decades trying to teach younger generations about what happened during the Holocaust. He gave guided tours of Auschwitz and spoke frequently to groups about his experience.

Mandelbaum found himself in the spotlight in May 2006 when Pope Benedict XVI visited Auschwitz. In an emotionally charged event, the German-born pope prayed at the Wall of Death, where the Nazis executed thousands.

There he met with 32 camp survivors, most of them Catholics; he stopped to speak to each one, and kissed Mandelbaum -- the only Jewish survivor in the group -- on both cheeks.

Mandelbaum's parents, along with a brother and sister, were killed in the Holocaust. He is survived by his wife, a son, a sister and grandchildren, Bartosik said. (Source: LaTimes)

JOWBR Update: Orhei, Moldova

The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) is a database of names and other identifying information from cemeteries and burial records worldwide, from the earliest records to the present. Its latest project will be to photograph every one of the 3000 (approx) gravestones in the Orhei, Moldova Jewish cemetery. The pictures - including a translation of each gravestone - will be added to JOWBR and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

There are an estimated 3000 or more gravestones in the Orhei cemetery. The stones usually contain name of the deceased, father’s name, date of death, and sometimes date of birth. The information on the gravestones is primarily in Hebrew and Russian. There is currently no access to the information on these gravestones for most researchers without actually traveling to Orhei.

This project will enable individual researchers who have ancestors from Orhei, Moldova fill in gaps in their family history. The information from the gravestones will help researchers determine when their ancestors died and also who their parents and possibly siblings might have been.

The Jewish community of Orhei has agreed to take the gravestone pictures for the price of 25 cents per gravestone. It is estimated that there are about 3000 readable stones in the cemetery. At 25 cents per stone, the total cost is estimated at $750. The camera and memory chips (or CDs) will be supplied by the Jewish community of Orhei so there will be no additional cost. The translation of the gravestones and the generation of the data for incorporation into JOWBR will be done by the Project Leader, so there will be no additional cost. The cost to send the money by Western Union to Orhei is estimated at $75. Total project cost is estimated to be $825.

For further information, and to make a donation, please click here
Learn more about Orhei, Moldova on ShtetLinks click here
Visit the Yizkor Book page here

Warsaw Ghetto fighter dies at 92

Stephan Grayek, one of the last survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, died over the weekend. He was 92.

During the Nazi era Grayek took advantage of his Aryan features to move with relative ease in and out of the ghetto, fighting against the Nazis with both Jews and Poles. Grayek's wartime exploits were recorded in his book, Shelosha Yemin Krav (Three Days of Battle).

Eli Zborowski, chairman of the American and International Societies for Yad Vashem and vice president of the World Federation of Polish Jews, wrote in a condolence notice in the Hebrew press that he had lost his mentor and close friend. He referred to Grayek as the "commander and hero of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and worldwide leader of Holocaust survivors."

Grayek, who was the founder of the World Organization of Partisans, Underground Fighters, Ghetto Rebels and Camp Inmates - the first body to focus public attention on the needs of Holocaust survivors - swore in 1943 to fight anti-Semitism for as long as he lived. He frequently led groups of Holocaust survivors accompanied by the children and grandchildren of survivors on journeys of memory in Poland. For many years he lobbied tirelessly for a Jewish museum pavilion in Auschwitz and against the establishment of a Catholic convent there. He declared in 1989 that no convent would go up in the largest Jewish graveyard in the world.

In a Jerusalem Post interview 20 years ago, Grayek was asked why he had not experienced the trauma so common among many Holocaust survivors? He answered: "Perhaps, because like other people in the resistance, I fought back."

Grayek was buried on Sunday at the Herzliya Cemetery. He is survived by his daughter, Ora, his son, Yitzhak, grandchildren and a great granddaughter.

(Source: The Jerusalem Post)

Back To The Future - In Art

IT'S like humanity's two-way memory lane through art, back and forth. "Memories for Tomorrow: Works from the UBS Art Collection" recounts some collective memories of mankind as well as individual recollections and dreams.

The UBS (United Bank of Switzerland) Art Collection is comprised of artworks from the 1950s to the present, created by artists worldwide, from China to Colombia, Albania to Australia.

The exhibition of selected works by 19 artists in the collection is underway at the Shanghai Art Museum.

The exhibition opens with "The J. Street Project" by Susan Hiller, a monumental work comprised of around 300 framed photos, plus a wall-mounted index of nearly 300 place names and a map.
Hiller spent three years locating and photographing every rural lane, town square, street and alleyway in Germany whose name includes the word Jude, the German for Jew. Jews had settled there from the 4th century and many place names refer to these old communities. However, after the Nazis came to power, they removed all names related to Jews. After World War II, many Jewish place names were restored.
When the visitors scan these pictures on the wall, the street signs can be easily missed amid the ordinary street scene. Through the work, Hiller tries to tell how easily history can be forgotten and then tragically repeated. (Source:

Click the title of this post to read the entire article.

Shanghai remembers its Jewish past

An exciting new initiative to document the thousands of refugees who found shelter in China (occupied by Japan) during the Holocaust.

SHANGHAI - There is little evidence today in Shanghai's Hongkou District of the 30,000 Jews who once called the neighborhood home. But thanks to the efforts of local government and business organizations, a nearly forgotten community is being remembered.

In an effort spearheaded by the Israeli Consulate in the city, a database is being built that will document the thousands of refugees who found shelter in China during the Holocaust.

"For me it's something very meaningful and very unique because it creates a historical document of a community that vanished. It gives tribute to what happened here during the Nazi persecution," says Israel's Consul General Uri Gutman.

The database will contain the names of the "Shanghailanders", as they were known, as well as their professions and former addresses. A ceremony will be held this week with the participation of the Hongkou District government and the consulate to launch the database, which will available to the public at the Jewish Refugees in Museum in Hongkou. The ceremony is also an official celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary and will inaugurate a new "Israel-China Relations" exhibition at the museum.

"Usually countries do a small cocktail where a few hundred people come, give some meaningful or less-meaningful speeches, and the next day no one remembers it. What I'm trying to do is to make a difference. To do something that really influences the relations, to do something that will be remembered," Gutman says.

Funded by the Israeli Consulate and local Israeli-owned businesses, the database is part of a broader campaign to show gratitude to Hongkou's senior citizens for their hospitality to Jewish refugees years ago. Previous projects included the renovation of an elders' activity center and the donation of air conditioners, TVs, a piano and exercise equipment to a local nursing home.

Though today Shanghai's Jews are mostly young professionals who have come to the metropolis to work, the city's Jewish community has its roots in the 19th century. Sephardic families such as the Sassoons and Kadoories moved their business interests to the booming city, where they erected local landmarks such as the Peace Hotel.

A further influx of 7,000 Jews came to Shanghai following the Russian Revolution, but the greatest wave of immigration occurred in the late 1930s when tens of thousands of German, Austrian and Eastern European Jews found refuge in Shanghai from Nazi persecution. At the time, the city was the only place in the world that required neither a visa nor a passport to enter. Chinese officials such as Ho Fengshan, a diplomat stationed in Vienna, aided Jews fleeing German-occupied Europe by issuing thousands of exit visas.

Ho died in San Francisco in 1997. Yad Vashem recognized him as a "Righteous Among the Nations" in 2001 and his daughter, Manli Ho, will help inaugurate the database.

"No one knows about it," Gutman complains. "Everyone knows about Schindler, but no one knows about Ho Fengshan."

The Hongkou District, where the many of the Jews settled and where they were eventually ghettoized by the occupying Japanese army, became known as "Little Vienna." Though poor, the community boasted a rich cultural life including newspapers, concerts and theaters. Following the war, nearly the entire community emigrated, going to places such as Israel, Australia, and North America.

"This community disappeared - they all immigrated by the late '40s, so there is no collective memory of what was here," Gutman says.

The lack of a continuous community and a scarcity of historical documentation have made research for the database difficult. While some help is provided by organizations such as Yad Vashem and the Sydney Jewish Museum, Gutman has put out a request to anyone who can help fill in the blanks. Currently the database contains only about 600 names, though organizers are confident that it will continue to grow.

"It's accumulating slowly, slowly. It's a process that can take months and years but at least I feel satisfied that it could make a difference by making a historical document of Shanghai Jewry," Gutman says.

"We're trying to find out as much information as we can," adds Lilian Yun, a graduate student in international politics at Tongji University who volunteers at the Jewish Refugees Museum. "But we still have a lot of work to do."

For many years local authorities overlooked the Jewish history of Shanghai. The Ohel Moshe Synagogue, where the Jewish Refugees Museum is housed, was used as an office building and a mental hospital. But in 2007 the Hongkou District Government renovated the synagogue on the basis of its original blueprints and reopened it to the public.

In addition to the small collection of artifacts housed in the synagogue, a more extensive multimedia exhibition is located in an adjacent building and features photographs of the old Jewish Ghetto as well as recorded interviews with its former residents. Though already completed, this portion of the museum will also be officially inaugurated.

"This is a very important event," Gutman says, "for the Jewish people, for the Chinese people, and I would be presumptuous enough to say even for history."

Passage from Iraq

Hannah Menashe was only 21 when she was abducted from her family in Baghdad ahead of their immigration to Israel. Decades later, Hanna is finally making aliyah to reunite with her family who had lost hope of ever seeing her again

Itamar Eichner -


Fifty-five years after she was abducted from her family's home in Baghdad by her Muslim neighbor and forced to renounce her Judaism, Hannah Menashe managed to flee Iraq and find her way to one of Israel’s European embassies. Her long, exhausting journey is finally coming to an end these days, as she will soon be reunited with he family in Israel, who thought her murdered all these years.

Hannah’s fascinating story begins in the 1950s, when her Baghdad-native family – parents and seven siblings – decided to immigrate to Israel. Hannah, already married to a Jewish Iraqi, was also planning to make aliyah, when fate struck: A Muslim neighbor, who was aware of the family’s plans to immigrate, kidnapped the striking Hannah to keep her by his side. Her siblings only have a vague recollection of that horrible day. They went looking for Hannah, they say, but the earth had swallowed her.

Decades passed, the siblings made aliyah and the family expanded, all the while keeping their bitter secret to themselves. Shortly after arriving in Israel, Hannah’s mother died at 37, her heart broken by losing her child.

Six months ago, out of the blue, the family received a surprising phone call. The woman on the other side of the line was Ravit Topol from the Ministry of Interior, with an extraordinary story she was looking to verify.

It turns out Hannah had been forced to become a Muslim and had raised her neighbor’s children for 50 years. No one in the Baghdad neighborhood knew about her secret or her Jewish roots, and she was afraid her husband would kill her if she tried to contact her siblings. When her husband died a year ago, the now 76-year-old Hannah escaped Baghdad under the guise of being being a war refugee. She was able to reach Europe through an Arab country and decided to locate an Israeli embassy.

“I am Jewish, I want to go to Israel,” she said in fluent Arabic and with great excitement. The embassy found it hard to believe her story; but when she named her relatives in Israel, the embassy officials realized the truly incredible nature of the story unfolding before their very eyes and quickly contacted the Ministry of Interior’s population administration.

'Only she can answer'

“What happened? Did they find her?” asked Ephraim Menashe, Hannah’s brother, upon receiving the moving phone call. “We were in shock. Some of us hung up the phone, finding it hard to believe it was real,” Ephraim told Yedioth Ahronoth on Wednesday. “I always kept the faith that one day we would find her, my beloved sister.” Meanwhile, the Israeli consul of the European city Hannah had arrived at took her into his private residence until she was able to board the plane taking her to Israel.

It's hardly an easy task to make up for 55 lost years, her relatives agreed, especially since Hannah’s parents and some of her brothers and sisters have passed away. “It won’t be easy, but we love her and will help her adjust.”

Hannah will be arriving in Israel shortly, where she will be acknowledged as the long-lost sister of a Jewish family and be granted new immigrant status. Her relatives gathered late Wednesday at her brother Ephraim’s home in Ramat-Gan. “He hasn’t slept a wink from all the excitement,” his wife said. “My heart is loaded, but I don’t want to say too much right now,” said Ephraim. “I must ask her a questions which only she can answer.”
According to Hannah’s brother, only he knows the true details of her disappearance, since he was her closest sibling. “As soon as we had reached Israel, I decided to return to Iraq to look for her, but it the timing was wrong, and didn't make it there.”


JOWBR is the acronym for JEWISHGEN'S ONLINE WORLWIDE BURIAL REGISTRY. JOWBR is a database of names and other identifying information from cemeteries and burial records worldwide, from the earliest records to the present. .Currently there are over a million records from over 1900 cemeteries and landsmanschaft plots all over the world.

JOWBR is a searchable database of burial records and photos of matzevot (tombstones). The database is searchable at The contents of the database are listed at The cemetery inventory is arranged by country, then region or state, then city. The number of burials in each country is given.

Following is a list of the contents of the database.

• Country: Austria (9 cemeteries, 149327 burials)

• Country: Belarus (18 cemeteries, 4796 burials)

• Country: Belgium (3 cemeteries, 3507 burials)

• Country: Belize (1 cemetery, 4 burials)

• Country: Canada (299 cemeteries, 129745 burials)

• Country: China (2 cemeteries, 520 burials)

• Country: Croatia (1 cemetery, 30 burials)

• Country: Cuba (2 cemeteries, 1616 burials)

• Country: Czech Republic (5 cemeteries, 5693 burials)

• Country: Denmark (6 cemeteries, 1300 burials)

• Country: Egypt (6 cemeteries, 109 burials)

• Country: England (21 cemeteries, 29395 burials)

• Country: Finland (2 cemeteries, 1608 burials)

• Country: France (1 cemetery, 554 burials)

• Country: Germany (48 cemeteries, 6357 burials)

• Country: Greece (1 cemetery, 81 burials)

• Country: Hungary (20 cemeteries, 15809 burials)

• Country: India (31 cemeteries, 1499 burials)

• Country: Israel (17 cemeteries, 103242 burials)

• Country: Italy (1 cemetery, 297 burials)

• Country: Latvia (3 cemeteries, 797 burials)

• Country: Lithuania (21 cemeteries, 4041 burials)

• Country: Mauritius (1 cemetery, 127 burials)

• Country: Moldova (3 cemeteries, 4744 burials)

• Country: Mozambique (1 cemetery, 36 burials)

• Country: Netherlands (15 cemeteries, 1648 burials)

• Country: Netherlands Antilles (2 cemeteries, 1245 burials)

• Country: Poland (37 cemeteries, 27304 burials)

• Country: Portugal (1 cemetery, 39 burials)

• Country: Romania (17 cemeteries, 25992 burials)

• Country: Scotland (8 cemeteries, 1174 burials)

• Country: Serbia (1 cemetery, 7 burials)

• Country: Slovakia (58 cemeteries, 15717 burials)

• Country: South Africa (18 cemeteries, 43883 burials)

• Country: Switzerland (1 cemetery, 2699 burials)

• Country: Syria (1 cemetery, 103 burials)

• Country: Turkey (1 cemetery, 2825 burials)

• Country: USA (1239 cemeteries, 415093 burials)

• Country: Ukraine (34 cemeteries, 20802 burials)

• Country: Wales (1 cemetery, 624 burials

To search the database, input the surname you are looking for. In other boxes you can list the given name of the deceased and names of parents and a town name.

Obviously, there are all too many cemeteries which have not been indexed –in the Western Hemisphere, the United States, Canada, and Central and South America; in western, eastern and southern Europe; in Asia;, in the Middle East; and in Africa. Many of these cemeteries are in areas where there no longer a Jewish presence and thus the cemeteries are grown over or deserted, or have been victims of war and vandalism.

JewishGen's aim is to preserve our Jewish heritage, and JOWBR is an important part of that mission. But we need everyone to help, to photograph tombstones, to enter data, to get our youth groups and retired people to be part of this important effort.

Please read the JewishGen blog at to see what a few people can do to preserve our history.

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