By Ann Rabinowitz
As new technology advances, there are many ways now to establish communications links with like-minded individuals on the subject of genealogy and ancestral shtetls. One means which compliments JewishGen is Facebook. Founded as a social networking website, on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg, whilst a student at Harvard University, it was initially utilized by high school and college students. Facebook has broadened its appeal and now is used by adults, particularly genealogically-adept adults.
It is a free service which you have to sign up for. You provide information about yourself which can include your city, workplace, school, and region and this connects you to others who have the same interests. An example of how this works is the newly organized group entitled “Jewish Roots in Paterson, New Jersey”.
This group was formed by Roni Seibel Liebowitz with the intent of determining if there were sufficient individuals interested in having a Paterson Birds-Of-A-Feather meeting at the IAJGS Conference in Philadelphia in 2009. Since its inception, the “Jewish Roots in Paterson, New Jersey” group has attracted thirty members and it is growing daily. The membership runs the gamut from individuals who are and are not genealogists as anyone can join. There are families who came to Paterson from Galicia, Belarus, Lithuania, and other places in Eastern Europe.
The site provides a means of sharing and exploring one’s roots in an American shtetl and beyond. You will find member’s posting memories of Paterson on the section called “The Wall”, and loads of wonderful old photographs. It is possible to also download videos as well to the site. In addition, the Discussion Board on the site contains topics such as “Memorabilia I have from Paterson and area”, “Synagogues and Jewish Groups”, and “Where I lived in Paterson.”
There are also various bits of information about the town and Jewish community there. One such is about what famous Jews are from Paterson. These, it turns out, are: Nathan Barnert, Mayor, 1883-86, 1889-90; Eddie Einhorn, Vice President, Chicago White Sox; Philip Elman, civil rights attorney; Allen Ginsburg, poet; Congressman Charles Samuel Joelson, 19961-69; Senator Frank Lautenberg, 1982 - ; Bette Midler’s parents; and Frederick Reines, Nobel Prize Winner, Physics.
One of the nice things that I found from belonging to the group was that several members who were non-genealogists told me that they would look up info for me in resources they had as they lived either in Paterson or the nearby suburb of Fair Lawn, NJ.
The end result of all of this interaction will be a JewishGen shtetlink site for Paterson, NJ. The Facebook interaction serves as a continuing resource to gather materials for the site and enables Jews from Paterson, whether they are genealogists or not, to interact with each other. It is therefore important to research alternative forms of communication such as Facebook and discover how it can enhance your store of genealogical sources.
© Ann Rabinowitz, 2008