Monday, September 29, 2008

כתיבה וחתימה טובה

On behalf of the professional staff, I would like to thank all of our volunteers who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication this past year and have helped us remain as the premier online resource for Jewish genealogy.

Much has been accomplished this past year and we look forward to further success in the year to come.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and sweet new year,

Warren Blatt
Managing Director

Jewish Community of Barbados

The Jewish community of Barbados celebrated a joyous milestone this year with the opening of the Nidhe Israel Museum, which overlooks the Jewish cemetery and historic Nidhe Israel Synagogue in Bridgetown.

The museum documents the contribution made by Jews to the island, one that set off profound ripples throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

Barbados is home to the oldest synagogue in the Americas, built in 1654 by Sephardic Jews who were fleeing the Portuguese Inquisition in what was then Dutch-owned Recife. When they arrived on the island, they brought with them invaluable experience from 25 years of working on Brazilian sugar plantations. With their input, Barbados' production technologies exceeded those of any other sugar-producing island, enriching the country considerably.

There are only 16 Jewish families remaining in Barbados, but, says Altman, Friday night services are always augmented by Jews visiting from the world over. Many express an interest in holding their Jewish celebrations at the historic synagogue, and Altman is already making plans to acquire land alongside the cemetery and build a reception facility that will allow such functions to happen. (Source: Jewish Exponent

Click here for the full article.

For further information on the Jews from Barbados:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cleaning up of Jewish cemetery in Basra

Municipal authorities in the southern city of Basra have mounted a campaign to clean up the Jewish cemetery there.

The cemetery is seen as one of Basra’s ‘cultural landmarks’ and the authorities want to keep it clean and tidy, said Ahmad al-Yasseri who heads the cleaning-up campaign.
There are no Jews left in the city which used to house a sizeable Jewish community of tens of thousands before the creation of Israel in 1948.
They were the finest goldsmiths and the most adventurous traders of Basra, known as the Venice of the Middle East.
The lived in one of the city’s smartest quarters with spacious villas adorned with palm trees and oranges.
Yasseri said in the tumultuous post-Saddam period, 62 houses were built on the cemetery grounds illegally.
“This cemetery is one of the cultural landmarks of Basra and we are determined to remove the illegal dwellings,” he said. (Source:azzaman)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Spielberg Holocaust Testimonials Now Available at Yad Vashem


Visitors to Yad Vashem are getting access to the world's largest visual Holocaust archive, officials at the institution said Thursday, because of the work of famed film director Steven Spielberg.

The collection (at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute) now has nearly 52,000 testimonials.

Copying and moving the files from Los Angeles to Israel took nearly two months of work, but now the foundation's testimonials are available at Yad Vashem, along with its own 10,000 testimonials.

Friends and relatives of Holocaust survivors and other visitors can search for testimonials by using survivors' names. Michael Lieber, a Yad Vashem official, said he hopes visitors will be able to search using more abstract criteria, like life details or family connections, within a year.

The Shoah Foundation has catalogued in detail more than 90 percent of its 200,000 hours of footage, Lieber said. Copying and transporting the footage with basic logs, like name and country, took about two months, but he said it will take more funding and time to transfer more detailed logs.

Yad Vashem also hopes to make the testimonials available globally by putting them on the Internet, but Lieber said this was a complicated task. (Source:JPOST) 

Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dutch Cop Posthumously Recognized as Righteous Among the Nations

A 23-year-old Dutch military policeman who refused to obey the orders of his superiors to arrest Jews in a Dutch village during WWII and then deserted the police force to join the resistance was awarded the State of Israel's highest honor for non-Jews on Monday at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

Henk Drogt was one of 12 Dutch military policemen who refused orders to round up the remaining local Jews in Grootegast, Holland on March 9, 1943, in a rare case of open police resistance to the arrest and murder of Jews of Europe during WWII.

The policemen were pressured and threatened by their commanders with incarceration at a concentration camp themselves, but steadfastly refused to carry out the orders.

The group was subsequently arrested and taken to the Vught concentration camp in the Southern Netherlands, but Drogt managed to evade arrest.

Following his escape, Drogt deserted the police force and joined one of the Dutch resistance groups, where he took part in the smuggling of downed Allied pilots to the Belgian border as well as helping to keep Jews out of the hands of the Nazis.

In August 1943, Drogt, along with others in the resistance group, were betrayed, and they were all arrested. He was taken to prison and sentenced to death.

Drogt was killed on April 14, 1944, eight months after his arrest, at the age of 24.

After the war, Drogt was posthumously decorated by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Dutch Government for his actions in the resistance movement.

His 11 colleagues had been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem two decades ago, although Drogt's name had previously been missing from the list of honorees submitted to Yad Vashem in the 1980s due to his initial escape from arrest.

Drogt's story was uncovered anew with the help of an El Al pilot, Mark Bergman, who heard it from Drogt's son, Henk Brink, on a visit to South Africa, where Brink lives, and contacted Yad Vashem with the story. (Source: JPOST

Click here to read the entire story

Monday, September 22, 2008

JewishGen

The JewishGen site is currently experiencing technical difficulties. We are working to resolve this issue quickly and we appreciate your patience and understanding.

Further information and updates will continue to be posted here.

Should you require immediate assistance, please contact us using the 'contact us' form located on the right hand side of this page.

***UPDATE: 5:00 PM EST***
We have identified the problem and hope that the JewishGen site will be back up soon.

Thank you for your continued patience and understanding.


***UPDATE: 12:05 AM EST***
JewishGen is now operational again. Thank you for your patience - good luck with your research! 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

IMPORTANT - German Jews persecuted by Hitler listed for first time

BERLIN - Researchers have for the first time compiled a detailed list of around 600,000 German Jews persecuted by the Nazis, officials said Wednesday.

The list gives information such as addresses and deportation dates for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who lived in Germany between Hitler's rise to power in 1933 and his defeat in 1945, said a government statement.

Between 500,000 and 550,000 Jews lived in Germany before 1933. By the end of the war in 1945 only several thousand remained.

The list, however was not definitive and would require further work to make it more accurate, said Germany's Remembrance, Responsibility and Future Foundation which compiled it, adding that it also included the names of Jews who travelled through Germany briefly, such as those fleeing Russia to settle in the United States.

Aimed at facilitating research by both private individuals and historians, it gave victims a "name and a dignity," and ensured that they would not be forgotten, said Hildegard Mueller, minister of state in the chancellery.

Copies would be sent to different museums and institutions.

The foundation was created under the government of Gerhard Schroeder, who stepped down in 2005, in order to compensate the victims of forced labour under the Nazis' Third Reich.

The list was compiled over a period of four years during which researchers scoured hundreds of registers and archives for details.

It constituted another step towards the "reconstruction of the Jewish identity," added foundation director Guenter Saathoff. (Source: EJP)

Click here for the full article

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Buchach: A Ukraine Town Determined to Suffer Amnesia

The 12,000 people who live in the western Ukrainian town of Buchach are mostly Ukrainians. Probably, they consider that fact both unremarkable and altogether proper, but for many centuries Buchach was partly Ukrainian and partly not. Many Poles also lived there. Early in the 20th century, Jews made up half the population.

Lee Strasberg, a great teacher of actors in America, was born there in 1901; and Simon Wiesenthal, the famous pursuer of war criminals, in 1908. In the 1930s, thousands of Jews still lived in Buchach.

It was Polish territory until 1939, when the Soviets (following their agreement with Germany) annexed it as part of their Ukrainian republic. The Poles, made unwelcome, soon left. Then the Germans came and most Jews were murdered by Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators.


The Wall of the Great Synagogue
Today in Buchach you can easily find evidence of the Polish community; there’s a Roman Catholic church that they built, which is well maintained. But it’s hard to see any sign of the Jews. Evidence of their presence seems to be carefully eradicated. The Great Synagogue, for instance, was torn down in 1950 because the locals decided it was no longer needed. The site became an open market, with no indication of what it replaced. The study house for scholars, next to the synagogue, came down in 2001, replaced by a shopping centre.


The study house has a place in literary history as a crucial setting for the novels of S.Y. Agnon, a Jew who was born in Buchach, settled in Palestine in 1909, and won the 1966 Nobel Prize for literature. In the town’s little museum, several glass cases hold books by Agnon, most of them donated by visiting Israelis in 2001, but there’s nothing to explain why he’s part of Buchach’s past. In 2003, the municipality renamed the street where he lived Agnon Street but the marble plaque identifying his home was stolen soon after it was installed. A notice in a wooden frame replaced it but doesn’t mention that he was Jewish or wrote in Hebrew.


Buchach, like many other Ukrainian towns, practices a kind of reverse archaeology. It obliterates the civilization of the past rather than uncovering it. That’s the point of an unsettling and highly revealing book, Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine (Princeton University Press), by Omer Bartov, an Israeli-born, Oxford-educated historian who now teaches at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

Mass grave holding 3635 martyrs who perished on 27 Shvat 5703 (February 2, 1943).
This picture was taken in 1945 after the war.
The killing of the Jews in the towns of western Ukraine (about 500,000 died there) was not, he points out, a neatly organized undertaking, directed from far away. It was “a vast wave of brutal, intimate, and endlessly bloody massacres.” Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase, “the banality of evil,” doesn’t describe this case. There was nothing abstract, distant or bureaucratic about it: “Far from meaningless violence, these were often quite meaningful actions, from which many profited politically and economically.” (Source: National Post)
Click here for the full article

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hurricane Ike


We are currently experiencing technical difficulties with the JewishGen website as a result of Hurricane Ike (see here). We hope that service disruptions will lessen as full power is restored in the Houston, TX area. 
Most importantly, our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been affected by Hurricane Ike and those who are still in danger. The American Red Cross is organizing a massive rescue effort and they are in desperate need of funds to help provide basic necessities such as food, water and shelter. Please click here for further information.
We will continue to update this blog with further information as necessary.

Friday, September 12, 2008

'Chosen Towns' documents small town Wisconsin Jewish life

Although he started off with the expectation that his organization’s research might find that Jews have lived in some 100 Wisconsin communities, a local historian has been surprised by evidence of Jews living in more than 300 villages, towns and cities throughout the state.
"Most of the 300 towns have no Jews left in them," said Andrew Muchin, director of the Wisconsin Society for Jewish Learning’s Wisconsin Small Jewish Communities History Project.

Muchin’s research will result in a soon-to-be-released documentary film, “Chosen Towns: The Story of Jews in Wisconsin’s Small Communities,” made in collaboration with docUWM.

“Chosen Towns’ tells the story of the Jews of Wisconsin’s smaller communities through the voices of nine Jewish families spanning the breadth of the state and 150 years.

Many were merchants, some were farmers and others pursued other commercial endeavors including cattle brokering, and the wholesaling of furs and scrap metal. They lived in Arpin, Sheboygan, LaCrosse and Appleton, among other communities. (Source: The Jewish Chronicle)

Click here for the complete article

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11 Remembered

Abby Spilka (Director of Communications at the Museum) writes movingly about 9/11 and working at MJH.

Please click here to read her post on the MJH Staff Blog.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Community Battles to Save Jewish graves

Europe’s largest Jewish cemetery, located in east Berlin, is a vast jungle of overgrown headstones and crumbling monuments decaying so fast that the city has mounted a campaign to rescue it.
Weissensee Cemetery’s grand tombs date to the heyday of Jewish life in Berlin in the early 20th century, but they have been left untended and fallen into disrepair because the sons and daughters of the 115,000 people buried here were killed in the Holocaust.
“Very little was done to maintain the site in communist times, and we don’t know where the money is supposed to come from to restore it,” said Maya Zehden, a spokeswoman for Berlin’s 12,000 strong Jewish community.
“We are preparing an application to get the cemetery recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site.”
That would place Weissensee in the same league as the Great Wall of China, the pyramids of Egypt and the rock-carved city of Petra in Jordan.
Berlin says it is too strapped for cash to finance a complete overhaul, but is backing the application for world heritage status that would guarantee long-term funding from the federal government.
Click here to read the full article

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Volunteer To Adopt A ShtetLink Page


JewishGen ShtetLink webpages are cyberspace Yizkor Books: memorials that commemorate the Jewish communities that once lived in a particular shtetl or city and provide a valuable resource for future generations. Making sure the webpages are maintained and updated is an important project.

Some of our shtetlpages were created by people who are no longer able to maintain them.  If you have the technical skills and are willing to adopt one of them please contact us for a list of "orphaned" shtetlach.

Susana Leistner Bloch
JewishGen VP, ShtetLinks
Email: bloch@mts.net

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Last Jewish Grave in Shasta, CA


State officials rerouted Highway 299 just west of Shasta to preserve the grave of pioneer baby Charles Brownstein, the only remaining grave in what was once the only Jewish cemetery in this area.
Photo courtesy of Dottie Smith (Redding.com)
Shasta, CA was little known before it rapidly grew during the gold rush in 1857. Redding.com has an interesting story about the Shasta Jewish Cemetery that was established that year. The grave of pioneer baby Charles Brownstein, is the only remaining grave in what was once the only Jewish cemetery in this area.
The IAJGS Cemetery Project has a brief summary here and I also found some interesting pictures here.

What are JewishGen Value-Added Services?

JewishGen Value-Added Services are a special “Thank You” to all who contribute a minimum of $100 annually to the JewishGen General Fund. These Value-Added Services currently include: 
  • The JGFFAlert System
  • Additional Email Addresses
  • Advanced Database Search Features
  • Basic Genealogy Course

The JGFFAlert System
The JGFFAlert System is an “immediate advisory system”, which constantly monitors all entries and changes made to the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF), and alerts participants immediately if a new entry into the JGFF is a potential match with one of their own entries.
As a participant in the Value-Added Services, whenever any JGFF entry is made which matches any of your current JGFF entries, the JGFFAlert System will notify you immediately via e-mail, alerting you about the matching entry. The JGFFAlert System relieves you of the need to check periodically for new entries... JewishGen does it for you!
For more information about the JGFFAlert System, please click here.

Additional Email Addresses
JewishGen recognizes the fact that some people prefer to use different email addresses for different aspects of JewishGen, so we have developed a system to accommodate this.
JewishGen's systems have been programmed to allow participants in the Value-Added Services program to have up to five email addresses in their JewishGenID record — a primary email address (for the JGFF) and up to four alternate email addresses (for mailing list subscriptions). This feature will be provided to all those who make a minimum $100 a year donation to the JewishGen General Fund.
For more information about using alternate email addresses, please click here.

Advanced Database Search Features
In JewishGen's "All Country Databases", participants in the Value-Added Services program will have the ability to use our Advanced Database Search Features, which let you combine multiple search criteria, using Boolean AND/OR searches. This allows more focused, targeted searches.
For example, you can search for all persons whose surname sounds like "Katz" and whose first name starts with "Abr". Or you can search for family groups containing a particular set of given names, within a particular town.
You can also filter searches for data updated since a specific date. So if you've already searched a database, you can now search only for data recently added/updated, since a certain date, without re-viewing data that you've previously searched.
While we never subtract anything from the basic search capabilities which always have been available, and will continue to be freely available to all, the Advanced Database Search Features is a Value-Added Service — our way of saying “Thank You” to those who provide financial support and help us pay the bills for all the programs and projects JewishGen offers as a public service.

Basic Genealogy Course
The Basic Genealogy Course is geared to beginners, and consists of eight weekly downloadable lessons. The lessons cover using genealogy forms, assembling family trees, organizing and utilizing information gathered from United States vital records, census and passenger manifests. It also demonstrates how to use the JewishGen website and databases. In an online discussion environment, we share tips on how to best use your computer and the Internet, as well as provide individualized assistance.
Our courses are fee-based, but the Basic Course is part of the Value-Added Services program.
For more information about the Basic Genealogy Course, please visit the JewishGen Learning Center by clicking here.

How to Participate
JewishGen Value-Added Services are available to all who contribute a minimum of $100 annually to the JewishGen General Fund. (Donations to hosted organizations, or to any of the SIGs or their projects do not qualify for JewishGen Value-Added Services). We urge you to participate in this program — to insure your JGFF research information is kept current and up to date, to search our databases more effectively, and to support JewishGen.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

JGSLA - Upcoming Meeting

Join us at the next Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles Meeting:

IAJGS 2008 Conference and Film Festival Highlights

Sunday, September 14th - 1:00PM to 4:00PM

University Synagogue - 11960 W. Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90049

12:30PM - 1:00PM

Come early for the traveling library and IAJGS conference materials available for viewing.

1:00PM - 1:30PM
Film: "Word Travels: Lithuania - Digging Up Roots."

1:30PM - 2:00PM

Warren Blatt, Managing Director of JewishGen, will review where JewishGen has been and where they are going, outlining their expanding databases, new tools and services.

2:00PM - 2:30PM

Film: "A Torah Returns to Poland"

2:30PM - 3:00PM

Gesher Galicia Cadastral Map & Landowner Records Project Update, Lviv vital records, H-SIG Update and South American programs and IAJGS elections.

3:00PM - 4:00PM

Film: "Nicholas Winton: The Power of Good" (Czech)

Click here to view complete schedule, and details.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

DNA Helps Reunite Son With Father


There was an interesting news story today about a man who saw his father on television – five years after he had purportedly passed away. It turns out that after John Renehan’s father went missing in 2003, the local police investigated, discovered a body that bore similar resemblance to John’s father and declared that John’s father was dead. The police closed the case and the family moved on.

But then, five years later, John was watching a television show about people who went missing and saw someone who looked just like his father! The man he saw suffered from memory loss and had a different name, but John was sure that this man looked like his father. After running a DNA test, they were able to confirm that indeed John’s father was alive, and they have now been re-united!

Before you read the full article (a link will be at the end of this post), imagine what would have happened without the benefit of the DNA test. John would have continued to live his life as he had the past five years, yet with the doubt that perhaps his father was still alive.

While a DNA test cannot always provide absolute proof of relation (as it seemingly did in this case), it can often serve as a compelling piece of evidence when coupled with other research. Genealogists (both professional and amateur) have been turning to DNA testing for a few years already in their quest to discover lost relatives, and it has become an incredibly valuable tool.

JewishGen has partnered with Family Tree DNA to make this important resource available to JewishGenner’s, and you can learn more about it here.

Click here to read the full news article.

Have a great day.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Yizkor Book Project Report - August 2008

In August 2008 the Yizkor added one new book, two new entries, and updates to nine books.  All additions have been flagged at here to make it easy for researchers to find them.

New Books
New Entries

Updates

Also remember to check the Yizkor Book Database,a master bibliographic database of most published yizkor books and other books written about particular towns or areas. Another valuable resource is the necrology index, an index of the names of persons in the necrologies--the lists of Holocaust martyrs--published in our translated yizkor books.  The necrologies are also searchable at the Holocaust Database, located here.

Please contact me if you are interested in starting a new yizkor book translation project.  Check the Yizkor book Database to see if a book has been written about your ancestral town and also check the listings of articles in the Pinkas HaKehillot to see if there is an article about your town. These books are listed under "Regions."



Shana tova to all the JewishGen family.

Joyce Field
JewishGen Vice President, Data Acquisition