Wednesday, August 20, 2008

IAJGS Jewish Genealogy Conference – Everyone Has A Story To Tell

As expected, we received allot of feedback regarding the JewishGen agreement with Ancestry. Due to the large volume of questions, it will be impossible to respond to each one publicly tonight during the JewishGen session, however we will address each question right here on the blog. 

A special post will be designated for people to submit their questions (they may use their name or submit anonymously), and each question or comment will be addressed by Warren Blatt, Managing Director of JewishGen, and/or Dr. David Marwell, Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
 
Until then, however, let me tell you a little bit about the day so far.
One of the early highlights of the day was when Howard Margol (of Litvak SIG fame), was kind enough to stop by and share with us some of his amazing stories and experiences. Of particular interest was an incident that took place after the end of WWII, when Howard was still in the US Army.

It was after the camps were liberated that his unit received orders, directly from Washington DC, to take a group of Jews and bring them to a luxurious resort in the Swiss Austrian Alps, where they would receive some much needed rest and relaxation in the lap of luxury.

They were travelling to the resort when suddenly all of the trucks stopped and the Jews got out of the vehicles, refusing to go any further. Howard understood that the Jews would not travel on Shabbat, and would therefore not travel after sundown on Friday night until sundown the following evening. 
This event made an everlasting impact upon Howard, as he has never forgotten the significance of this first act of religion practiced openly and freely by concentration camp survivors.

After Howard left, we were fortunate to meet two separate people who had stories about the Jews who escaped to Sosua during WWII (the subject of the museum’s recent exhibit). One person was very familiar with Sosua, as his uncle was born there and still lives there. Another person told us that travel guides in the Dominican Republic will often credit Jews who lived in Sosua during WWII with organizing the meat industry on the island. This led to an interesting discussion as to why General Rafael Trujillo actually let the Jews into the country to begin with, but that is for another time.

We met another individual who currently lives in Australia and escaped from Germany during the holocaust via Shanghai.  

Such are the people who I have been privileged to meet with and converse these during this conference.

The last hour or so at the booth was markedly quieter than it has been the past few days, and it afforded me the opportunity to see some of the other exhibitors at the conference. 

Some of the notable exhibits included Family Tree DNA and the DNA Shoah Project, two organizations that provide many different opportunities and approaches to genealogical research. In addition, Gary Mokotoff from Avotaynu was there, among a number of other organizations, which provide some very interesting resources for those seriously researching their family history.

As I closed the booth for the evening, I did so with the awareness that the night is just beginning. At 8:30 this evening we will have the much anticipated JewishGen presentation, followed by a Q/A period. There is still much that will happen tonight, so stay tuned for all the details!

In the meantime, please enjoy these pictures from the conference today, and don’t forget to check back later tonight and submit your questions and comments about the exciting new agreement between JewishGen and Ancestry.


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