Military Issued Prayer Book finds its way back to WA WWII vet after 60 years

It's an answered prayer more than 60 years in the making.
A war veteran from Mercer Island has reconnected with a precious heirloom thanks to a boy from a small town in Iowa.
During his three years in the South Pacific, Ted Mogil always kept his military-issue prayer book close to his heart, carrying it in his breast pocket. He says the book helped carry him through the brutalities of World War II.
"It was just a feeling of being home. It was something that was close," said Mogil, now a spry 85 years old. After the war, Mogil returned home to his native Nebraska where he married his wife, Etta, 64. The couple moved to California in 1948, but the book was lost and left behind. "I didn't know where it disappeared to," Mogil said.
The Marine's prayer book was MIA for 61 years - until last week, when the phone rang.  Twelve-year-old Wil Beach from Harlan, Iowa was on the other end. Mogil thought it was a crank call at first, but then heard the boy’s excited shouts to his dad. "He turned to his father and said, ‘Dad, dad! This is the man!'" Mogil said.
The prayer book had ended up in a pile of books the Mogils had donated to their synagogue before leaving Nebraska. Young Wil recently bought it for $15 at a book fair while visiting Omaha, and made it his mission to find its owner. "He did what's called a mitzvah, a blessing," Mogil said. It’s a blessing that Ted Mogil says he couldn't appreciate more. "That book carried me through some really tough times. It was one of the things that really helped me a lot," he said. "Now that I'm 85 years old maybe it will help me a lot right now." (King5)

IAJGS 2009 Conference Update

Posted By Anne Feder Lee

The Philly 2009 conference team is pleased to share the following updates and 
reminders with you:
  1. You can now download a PDF file (in grid format) showing the schedule of the conference program. Please note that the schedule is subject to change.  However, this file will help you start planning which of the many wonderful presentations you will want to attend.  To find, and print-out, this schedule, go to the conference web-site and click on the Program button on the left. At the top of the first Program page you will see the sentence: "To download and print a matrix version of this program in PDF format, please click HERE."  Click and it will be available for you. 
  2. We have added a new section to the website called Where to Eat.  You will find that button down at the very bottom of the left hand side of the conference home page. Click on that button to find a list Restaurants that are quick and close to the conference hotel, 1-2 blocks away, 3-5 blocks distance, highly recommended and kosher. There is also a category of markets, prepared food and takeout.
  3. Registration desk hours at the conference are now set: Saturday, August 1, (9:01 PM - 11:00 PM) at the Conference Registration Desk at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel. On-site registration will resume at 7:00 am on Sunday, August 2. Registration will be open from 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM daily except on Friday, August 7, when it will be open from 7:00 AM - 10:00 AM.  If you have already registered on-line, you can pick up your registration materials during those hours. On-site registration will take place during those same hours.
  4. Please remember that computer workshops during the week, and the two special workshops on Friday morning, require a fee and are limited in attendence. To make sure that you can participate in them, you are advised to sign up as soon as possible.  If you have already registered, go to Registration Update and log-in using your log-in and password information received in your registration confirmation e-mail. If you have not yet registered, please go through the registration process and add those optional fee based items that you want to attend.
  5. Also, don't forget to check out the SIG luncheons.  And, we encourage everyone to attend the Welcome dinner on Saturday evening and the Banquet on Thursday. The Welcome dinner is a perfect place to begin the week - meet new people and start networking. The Banquet is a great way to spend the last evening of the conference - celebrate the IAJGS Achievement Award winners and enjoy a great entertainer (to be announced shortly).
We look forward to seeing everyone in Philly!
Anne Feder Lee
David Mink

Issues with Internet Explorer

There have been reports that this (and other) blogs have not loaded properly for users who access the internet via Microsoft Internet Explorer. Removing the "Followers" widget sees to have resolved the issue and, at this time, the blog is now loading properly for users connecting to the internet with Microsoft Internet Explorer.
We will continue to monitor the situation and thank you for your patience and understanding.

Holocaust survivors spend lives searching for sibling

For 70 years, Rachel Nurman of Tampa has peered into the blue eyes of strangers. 
Always looking for a glimmer of familiarity. Always nursing a secret sense of hope. 
Brutalized during her teenage years in the Warsaw Ghetto, Majdanek, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, Nurman never stopped searching for her four brothers. Her parents รข€” she accepted they were gone, killed in the Nazi death camps. But her three older brothers were strong.

Always, the wrenching guilt weighed upon her. Her blond, curly-haired little bubba, more like a son to her than a brother, had vanished one terrible day as women and children were loaded onto trucks bound for the Polish ghetto. She had been holding his tiny hand before he became lost in the chaos of barking dogs and screaming women.

If only she had kept hold of his hand.

In December, the 85-year-old woman spotted an old photograph of a little boy in a Holocaust survivor newsletter. Once blond, an aging Janusz Suralinski was searching for the family he lost as a little boy, as dogs barked and women were loaded onto trucks.

Could his be the blue eyes she had sought all these years? (TBO)

Click here to read the entire article

Warren Blatt to Speak at June 14th JGSNY Meeting

Posted By Edith Ewenstein

Jewish Genealogical Society (NY) – Sunday, June 14, at 2 pm, at Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th St.  Free to JGS(NY) members, $5 non-members.  Guest Speaker: Warren Blatt, will talk about latest developments at JewishGen, the leading internet site for Jewish genealogy,  including its partnership with, newly released historical records, online data transcription projects and previews of future developments.  JewishGen is a division of Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

The Jewish Year Book, An Annual Record of Matters Jewish (9th September, 1907 – 31 December, 1908) A Resource for Jewry of the British Empire Including South Africa

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

As one of the American coordinators for the Southern Africa SIG, I am always looking for new resources, especially ones that can be converted into databases.  In the past, I had utilized the South African Jewish Year Books and their “Who’s Who” listings to establish a resource based on those Year Books.  This is found on JewishGen at:

The earliest South African Jewish Year Book was the one published in 1929.  However, Jews were prominent in South Africa long before that and I had hoped to find other resources to establish that in the form of Who’s Who listings.  So it was that, by accident, whilst looking for information on the Pretoria Hebrew Congregation, I happened upon a major find in this regard. 

The resource is the “The Jewish Year Book, An Annual Record of Matters Jewish (9th September, 1907 – 31st December, 1908)”, edited by Rev. Isidore Harris, M.A., published 1907, London, England.  It was the twelfth edition of the Year Book which had been published annually since 1896.  It is located with the assistance of that great resource Google Books at this site
As is the case with many other such Year Books, it has descriptions of the following:
  • Communal Institutions – Metropolitan (London)
  • Communal Institutions – Provincial (the rest of Great Britain)
  • Communal Institutions – Colonial (European Possessions, Australasia, Canada, Africa, West Indies, India, and China and Arabia)
  • General and Communal Jewish Statistics
  • Jewish Peerage and Baronetage, Knightage, M.P.’s, Jews in the military, world     celebrities, etc.
  • Who’s Who in British Jewry
Many other matters are covered and all are to be found in the searchable text of this resource.
In regard to South African references, most of the entries did not include such critical information such as the names of parents, spouses or number of children or marriage dates, as did the South African Jewish Year Books.  However, there were many entries in the 1907 book that did not appear in the 1929 edition of the South African Jewish Year Book and therefore filled in many holes in the documentation of the community.  I noted one such entry for Hyman Liberman who died in 1923 and for that reason was not in the 1929 Year Book.  The entry gives a rather detailed glance at his particulars:

Liberman Hyman.  Mayor of Cape Town. (Elected 1904, re-elected 1905.)  Born 1853.  Senior partner in the firm of Liberman & Buirski, produce merchants, Cape Town, and Robertson Swellendam.  Returned twice at head of poll as Member of the City Council.  Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Corporation until his election as Mayor.  First Jew appointed to the latter position in the Metropolis of the Colony.  Justice of the Peace for the district of the Cape.  Council of University of Cape of Good Hope.  President, Cape Town Hebrew Congregation.  Commissioner, Table Bay Harbour Board.  Board of Management and Finance committee of the Somerset Hospital.  Vice-President, Hebew Public Schools.  Address - - “Rosecourt,” Breda-street, and City Club, Cape Town.
One of the individuals who I have written about in the past is Morris Alexander who was also not listed in the 1929 South African Jewish Year Book.  His entry listed his birthplace and birthdate which was quite helpful:
Alexander, Morris, Councillor, M.A., LL.B., J.P.  Advocate, Cape Town.  Born at Zinn, Germany, December 4th, 1877.  Educated in South Africa and at Cambridge University.  Admitted to practice as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Cape Colony in 1900.  Lecturer in Law at the Cape Town Diocesan College.  Has laboured to promote the naturalization of Jewish aliens.  Has occupied various offices in connection with the New Cape Town Congregation, the Jewish Philanthropic Society, the Roumanian committee, the Kishineff Relief Fund, etc.  Elected on the City Council, 1905.  Address. – Cambridge House, 7, Hastings-street, Cape Town.
Another section in the Year Book contained a listing of the South African Jewish officers in the British Army.  This listing is one that is not easily gotten otherwise.
Colonel D. Harris, V.D., C.M.G.               Kimberley Regiment
Captain H.M. Landsberg                          Umvoti Mounted Rifles
Lieutenant F.O. Stiebel                    Natal Mounted Rifles (Reserve)
Captain S. Salaman                    Kimberley Regiment
Captain F.H. Solomon                    Capetown Highlanders
Lieutenant R.N. Woolf                    Western Province Mtd. Rifles
Surgeon-Captain H. Goodman, M.A., M.B., Ch.B.    Rand Rifles
Captain F.C. Baumann                    Johannesburg Mounted Rifles
Lieutenant W.A. Rosenburg                Bechuanaland Rifles
Lieutenant A.H. Friedlander                S. African Light Horse
Given this information, researchers can then investigate their ancestors’ military record.  In addition, one can look further in the Year Book for other listings of these individuals.  One, in particular, Colonel D. Harris, V.D., C.M.G., is listed again as follows:
Harris, Colonel David, C.M.G., V.D., M.L.A.  Public Worker, South Africa.  Born 1852, in the City of London.  Educated at the Jews’ Free School and Coxfords’ School, Gt. Prescot-street, London.  Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Cape of Good Hope.  Lieut.-Colonel in the Cape Colonial Forces, Volunteer Officers’ Decoration.  Served in the Gaika Galecka Campaign, 1877-8, Medal; served Griqua Campaign, 1878, clasp.  Mentioned in dispatches for “highly distinguished conduct and gallantry.”  Commanded the force that quelled the rebellion in Bechuanaland, 1896-7.  Received the thanks of the Government.  Organized and commanded Kimberley Town Guard, numbering 2,700 of all ranks, during siege; received the thanks of his Excellency the Governer; and mentioned in dispatched.  C.M.G.  Committee of the Griqualand West Jewish Congregation; formerly Treasurer and President.  Member of all the Jewish instititutions of Kimberley.  Board of Management, Kimberley Public Undenominational Schools.  Committee, Kimberley School of Mines.  Committee, Kimberley Public Gardens.  Address. – Kimberley, SA.
Another research which is possible in the Year Book is searching for specific towns in South Africa such as Port Elizabeth.  There one finds an entry as follows which not only gives quite a bit of data on a prominent citizen of the town, but the types of institutions which existed in 1907 and to which Jews could belong:
Cotton, Ephraim H.  Communal Worker.  Born at Birmingham.  Educated, Jews’ College.  President of the Port Elizabeth Hebrew Congregation.  Founder of the Port Elizabeth Jewish Ladies’ Association.  Life Member and Vice-Patron of the Port Elizabeth Town Guard Rifle Club.  Address – Main-street, Port Elizabeth.
A rather fascinating tidbit in another entry was the following which mentions the individual’s imprisonment by the Boers during the Second Boer War:
Rev. Mark L. Harris, Minister, Doornfontein Congregation.  Founder of first South Africa Chevra Kadisha at Kimberley, of Jewish Schools, Johannesburg, and of the Doornfontein Synagogue.  Taken prisoner by the Boers, August, 1900.  Educated at Jews' Free School, and has served in various English and South African congregations.  Address.-113, Sivewright-avenue, New Doornfontein.
Rev. Mark Louis Harris was a well-known early clergyman in Johannesburg as well as Kimberley and Doornfontein who passed away in 1932.
Another insightful entry was for Port Elizabeth, Cape Colony, Jewish population 960 in 1907:
The Port Elizabeth Hebrew Congregation is one of the oldest established communities in South Africa.  Some of its past and present members have filled very honourable public positions in the port, and the late Hyam Henry Solomon, Philip Barnett, A.M. Jackson, Henry Godfrey, Frederick Marcus and S. Rudolf were among the early settlers.  The congregation was founded in the year 1862, and a synagogue was acquired on the summit of the Whites Road Hill.  This place of worship was, however, converted later into a grammar school, and finally has been acquired by the German residents of the town, who have turned it into a Lutheran Church.  Prior to 1862 some of the oldest Jewish residents held regular services in the Queen Street.  The present handsome synagogue, which stands in one of the most prominent and best parts of the town in the Western Road, was consecrated by the Rev. Samuel Rapaport on September 2nd, 1877.  The reverend gentleman was the first regular minister, and he occupied the position for many years.
Given the depth and breadth of the data in this Year Book, it is well worth looking at.  It is one of the benefits of the Internet that books such as these that would be ordinarily unavailable to researchers all over the world are now accessible with the flick of the on switch on your computer.   Take advantage of this and other Google Book items to locate new, interesting and sometimes arcane information about your ancestors.

New Website Helps Russian Jews Track Ancestors

A new Russian language website – – is helping Jewish families discover their ancestors and visit their gravesites in St. Petersburg’s Preobrazhenskiy Jewish Cemetery.

The extensive site, developed by the Jewish Community of St. Petersburg and supported by local businessman Mikhail Khidekel features a searchable archive and photographs of headstones and gravesite.

Project coordinator Moishe Treskunov said that “For years, people from all over have been calling or visiting the community for help navigating the local registry and finding grave sites.”

“They are interested in their family history or want to honor their ancestors by visiting their graves.”

Before the website, says Treskunov, there was no way of finding the exact grave even if someone knew their relative was buried somewhere in the Preobrazhenskiy Cemetery. “The site lets you search and verify that your relatives are there, and locate the burial site.”

Soon to be added services include gravesite restoration and regular caretaking.

“It puts peoples’ consciences at ease knowing that their relative’s grave is cared for and the gravestones restored,” said Treskunov. “Our staff will regularly send photos of the grave via e-mail so that they can see its condition with their own eyes.”

The Jewish community of Saint Petersburg is a member of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia. (Lubavitch)

Click here to read the entire article.

Note: The project already contains information on approximately 75,000 graves. You can use to translate the page from Russian into English. The translation is a bit rough, but it will allow you to understand the information.

Another Online Florida Resource

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Very much on point is a newly accessible group of death records for the state of Florida covering the years 1877-1939.  The records are brought to researchers gratis courtesy of the Mormons and join the equally helpful Florida State Census records for 1885, 1935 and 1945.

In order to access these records, the researcher should go to the site, click on Search Records and then Record Search pilot.  A map will appear and click on Canada, USA and Mexico. A listing of record groups will then appear and click on Florida Deaths, 1877-1939.
The Pilot Site provides record groups which are very often added to as sections of the data are transcribed.  These particular death records were created from a name index located within the Florida Department of Health and Vital Statistics in Jacksonville, Florida.  The originals are available at the Family History Library and Centers throughout the world.  The exact locale for the records is located here.
Types of information that are often, but not always contained in the records are:
  • Name of the deceased 
  • Birth date of the deceased
  • Sex of deceased
  • Age and race of the deceased
  • Country or state and sometimes the town and county of birth for the deceased
  • Marital status of the deceased such as single, married, widowed, or divorced at the time of death
  • Names and birthplaces of the parents of the deceased
  • Dates of death and burial
  • City, County and State of death
  • Residence or address of the deceased, often including length of residence at the place or in the US, if foreign-born
  • Residence and occupation of the deceased
  • Name of attending physician or attending medical professional
  • Name and location of the cemetery where buried
  • Name and address of funeral home used
  • Name of the informant, who is often a child or other family member
The search engine allows searching by First or middle name(s), Father or Mother, Last or family names(s), Spouse, Life event, Year range and Exact & close match.
An example of what one can find is a search for one of my favorite names:  COHAN/COHEN.  This name brings up nineteen pages of records.  I did something unusual this time and looked for the name COHAN as a first name.  What did I find, but someone named Levi Cohan Middlebrook.  Whatever possessed his non-Jewish parents to give their son such a lovely “Jewish” first and middle name?
Now, onto the “real” Cohan/Cohen individuals, who numbered sixteen pages worth of names.  One of these was Julius COHEN, the son of Isaac and Anna Cohen, husband of Gussie, who was born in Lithuania on May 10, 1882 and died in Miami, FL, on October 14, 1939. 
Given this information, a researcher could then check the 1935 Florida State Census and confirm the decedent’s address and other family members at that specific address.  Or, you could check the database for places of prior residence and/or other family members such as children.  There were three Julius Cohen’s with wives named Gussie in the New York area.  One was born in approximately 1880 and may be the match for the Florida Julius Cohen.
Other COHEN records include such unusual ones as Jane COHEN, a resident of the Florida Hospital for the Insane, who was “colored”, along with a number of other “colored” and Caucasian non-Jewish Cohens.
Searching for a female death record produced one for Yetta NATHANSON, from Minneapolis, MN, the wife of Benjamin Nathanson, born Taurage, Lithuania, November 15, 1852, daughter of Hirsh Lippman and his wife whose last name was Goldberg.  This record then is chock full of information which might be quite helpful as there are very little in the way of actual Taurage vital records to be had in Lithuania.
Another aspect of this search for Yetta is that it provides an enormous amount of information on a female ancestor which is usually difficult to come by.  Other female death records in this group are equally as informative.
The records also provide interesting information on occupations of the deceased such as the one for Louis SINGER which revealed that he was the son of Jacob and Rachel and the husband of Tillie.  He was then listed as a cemetery owner in Brooklyn, New York.
Another name I always like to research is RABINOWITZ.  Usually a name which is found in profusion in many towns, it was not well-known or distributed in Florida during this time period.  In this case, I found Hanon Rabinowitz, a rabbi, born in Russia, the husband of Julia, and the son of Jacob Rabinowitz and Libby Schurick.  There were very few others in the database with this last name.
Coincidently, in my various searches in the database, I happened upon several individuals whose had the same birthplace.  An example was the small shtetl of Zaslav, Belarus.  Unfortunately, the database does not allow search by birth location which would be a remarkably easy way to find others from the same shtetl.  I have quizzed Family Seach to determine if this capability will be added at some later date and am awaiting a definitive answer.
This record group also reflects the wide distribution of people who came to Florida during this time period from various countries such as Egypt, Germany, Gibraltar, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Russia and Syria.  They came from small towns in America such as Salon Springs, WI, or Bristol, PA, and large ones such as Chicago, IL.  They went to live in small places in Florida such as Arcadia and Groveland, and larger towns such as Jacksonville and Miami.  
Indeed, it is a wonderful tapestry of Jewish life that unfolds in these records.  Suddenly, one can envision that Florida was not only populated by New Yorkers as has been stressed in many books and articles over the years, but by so many others from every state in the union as well as many foreign countries.
So, if you don’t have a clue as to whether you have any relatives in Florida, do take the opportunity to search this database and you may be pleasantly surprised to find a lost or forgotten relative there.

Crossing the River

Posted by Linda Cantor
The Jewish Genealogical Society (NY) will hold a meeting on Sunday, May 17 at the Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY (between 5th and 6th Avenues).
The Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute at CJH will be open 12:30 to 1:45 PM for networking with other researchers and access to research materials and computers.
The book, Crossing the River, is both a personal memoir and a valuable historical resource. Against the backdrop of Lithuania's occupation - first by the Red Army, next by the Germans, and then again by the Russians - it is a story reflected through the prism of a sharp-eyed young child, Shalom Eilati
His story starts in the occupied Kovno Ghetto and ends with his flight across the Soviet border, through Poland and Germany and finally, his arrival in Palestine. The adult survivor, while recalling the terrorized child that he was and how he then perceived the adult world, also takes stock of his present life. Throughout the memoir, Eilati attempts to reconcile his present life as a husband, father, scientist, and writer, with the images, feelings, and thoughts from the past that have left an indelible mark on his life and that continue to haunt him.
Shalom Eilati, born in 1933 in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, was the son of Israel Kaplan, a teacher, historian and author, and mother Leah (nee Greenstein), a nurse and poet. In 1941, he and his family were imprisoned in a ghetto created by the occupying Germans. In 1944, at his mother's initiative, he escaped from the ghetto alone. He survived the ghetto (as did his father) and reached Palestine in 1946.  
He was a member of Kibbutz Tel-Yosef, earned a Ph.D. in the cultivation of citrus fruits, and became a lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University in Rehovot.  Later he was among the founders of Israel's Environmental Protection Service, and coordinating editor of Cathedra, a quarterly on the history and settlement of Israel.  He is married with three children and five grandchildren, and lives in Jerusalem.
Mr. Eilati will be available for book-signing in the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Bookstore and Gift Shop following the meeting.

Google provides advanced search tools

Google Inc. unveiled new tools Tuesday for Internet users to narrow and organize their search results as the company tries to maintain its dominance against a sea of challengers.

The products are largely intended for more complex research and for sophisticated searchers who fail to find what they're looking for in their initial queries.

Google Squared, an experimental service, automatically compiles details from several Web pages and organizes them into a table on a single page, with multiple columns like a spread sheet. A search for "small dogs," for instance, returns a list of breeds, an accompanying image and a brief description, plus the average height and weight of each breed.

Squared, to be available in Google Labs this month, marks a radical departure for the company, which has gained a huge following by retrieving a list of links to other Web sites. In this case, Google is creating pages of its own from information culled from several sources and then displaying it in a grid.

"It really pushes search in an entirely different direction," said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search and user experience at Google.

But how much information Google lifts from other Web sites is a sensitive topic. The more Google uses, the less users may feel compelled to visit the original sources, potentially upsetting some of those site owners, even if there is a link to the original source, said Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land, an online newsletter about the search industry.

Users who don't get the information they want from Squared can add criteria, which will appear in additional columns. Searches can be saved and accessed later for users who have Google accounts.

As part of its preview of Squared, Google showed that the product is imperfect. A table listing vegetables included an image of people playing squash, the racket sport.

Google's foray with Squared comes as startup Wolfram Alpha plans to introduce a search engine that collects facts and charts from around the Web about particular topics. Wolfram's technology has generated intense buzz about whether it poses a threat to Google.

Google remains the most dominant search engine, with a U.S. market share of 63.7 percent, according to ComScore Inc., followed by Yahoo at 20.5 percent and Microsoft at 8.3 percent. A number of upstarts have tried to unseat Google over the years by promising better search results, only to vanish into obscurity.

In addition to Squared, Google introduced a way for users to filter results by different criteria if they're not satisfied with what Google's more generic algorithm returns.

After making an initial search, a "show options" button appears under the Google logo on the upper left side of the search results page. From there, users can refine their query by how recently the material was posted or by the type of content such as video or a review.

A search for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown can be adjusted to return more newsy items, for instance, by clicking on the option for the most recent results. A time line option gives a visual representation of when his name was mentioned through the years, with the amount rising along with his political power.

Mayer said that the enhancements address some problems users had in crafting queries to get newer information and for more complex topics. Some of the options had been available by using Google's advanced search or its news search.

Sullivan, the editor, said it's doubtful that many people will use the feature and pointed out that other search engines can add similar tools, if they don't have them already. (SFGATE)

Click here to read the entire article

IAJGS Summer Conference Update

Posted by Anne Feder Lee

We are pleased to let you know about 3 new items of interest regarding the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (taking place in Philadelphia, PA from 08/02/09- 08/07/09).
In addition to the 9 Breakfasts with Experts, the 9 SIG lunches, the 15 Computer Training Workshops being offered, the Welcome Dinner and the Banquet, we have recently added 2 Special Hands-On Workshops in our list of optional fee based programs.

  1. Preserving Documents and Photographs Workshop with Laura Hortz Stanton, Director of Preservation Services, Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts and Kim Andrews,Preservation Services Officer, Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts. This workshop will take place on Friday, August 7, from 8:15 AM to 10:15 AM and costs $10. 
  2. Tasting World Jewish Cuisines: Turkish, Syrian, and Ashkenazi-Italkeni Recipes with Sheilah Kaufman and Aliza Green, two accomplished cookbook authors. This workshop will take place on Friday, August 7, from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM and costs $20.
If you have already registered for the conference, you can easily add one or both of these exciting workshops by going to and clicking on Registration Update. You will need the Login and Password that you received when you registered.  Select the “Optional Programs” to add any of the fee based options being offered.

If you have not already registered, please do so now and include those optional programs you want to attend.  Registration is very simple. Just go to and click on the Registration button.

Participation in the Computer Training Workshops and the Special Hands-On Workshops is limited. So, don’t wait until it is too late to get a space.

We also want to bring to your attention a new registration option recently added:  individuals under the age of 21 may register for the entire conference for just $50. We hope you will encourage those you know who are under 21 to register and join us. This is a great opportunity to give your children, grandchildren or other young relatives a taste of the exciting adventures facing genealogists.

We look forward to seeing everyone in Philadelphia!

Mystery of message in a bottle found at Auschwitz solved

Sixty-five years ago Waclaw Sobczak hid a message in a bottle between the bricks of a wall in a building of the Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, a last sign of life as he prepared to die.
"I put the bottle in the wall," Sobczak, 84, who survived Auschwitz but still bears the ID number -- 145664 -- the Nazis tattooed on his forearm, told AFP via telephone from his home in Wrabczyn, western Poland.
"It was an attempt to leave a trace of our existence as we thought we were going to die," said Sobczak, sent to Auschwitz in 1943 as a slave labourer.
The note in the bottle written September 20, 1944 included Sobczak's name and Auschwitz ID number along with those of five other fellow Poles and one Frenchman, all Auschwitz slaves at the time aged 18 to 20.
It was found in April by chance by workers demolishing a wall in what is now a school, but was part of the death camp during World War II.
Since, it has emerged that three of the men on the list are still alive.
"We were taught how to be masons by engineers and master masons, primarily French Jews," said Karol Czekalski, 83, another of the Poles named on the list, which was formally handed over to the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in southern Poland, this month.
"From the spring of 1944 some of the apprentices were deemed ready to work," he added. "They joined the 'Luftschutzbunkerbau' responsible for building anti-air raid bunkers."
"We were used for various jobs: plastering, laying tiles... Finally we were chosen to construct this building. It took 8 or 15 days. I vaguely remember some faces. I am certain there was a Frenchman among us," Sobczak recalled, but admitted he cannot remember who came up with idea to write the message.
"Someone found a bottle. I put it in the wall," he said.
The Frenchman on the list was Albert Veissid, now a sprightly 84 and living at Allauch in southeastern France.
"It's incredible. I remember everything from the camp, from A to Z. As I speak to you now, I can see the images before my eyes," he told AFP after the bottle surfaced.
"But this bottle business is an enigma. The biggest surprise of my life," said the former fairground worker, who was arrested by collaborationist French authorities in 1943 and deported to Poland the following year.
Veissid said that while it was a mystery to him how his name appeared on the list, he remembered meeting the six Poles in question while working as a builder at the camp.
"It's true I did them some favours. There was food supplied upstairs and they used to steal tubs of marmalade, which I would hide downstairs," he said.
"Maybe they wrote my name in the bottle as a way of thanking me."
After news of the bottle's discovery spread, a Swedish woman identified the man who wrote the list -- Bronislaw Jankowiak, Auschwitz ID number 121213 -- as her father.
Told about the discovery of the bottled message by relatives in Poland, Irene Jankowiak, 49, said she was stunned.
"I recognised the handwriting. It must be my father's handwriting," Jankowiak told AFP by telephone from her home in Uppsala, north of Stockholm. We have compared it to other things he has written, we have old letters and things that he wrote in 1945 in a diary so I'm 100 percent sure actually," she said after seeing photos of the list in published in the local media.
Born in 1926 in Poznan, Bronislaw Jankowiak, a Catholic Pole who was sent to the camp in 1943, fled to Sweden in 1945 where he worked in a factory for typewriters and calculators in Aatvidaberg, in southern Sweden, and died in 1997.
"I think it made him suffer, he wanted to forget it. We asked our parents to write, to leave testimony, but they never wanted to," Irene's sister Margareta told AFP. (AFP)

Click here to read the entire article.

JGSCV June 7 Meeting:Facebook: The Ins and Outs of the On-Line Social Networking Utility to Find Relatives

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County (JGSCV) will hold a general meeting, co–sponsored with Temple Adat Elohim, on Sunday, July 12, 2009 at Temple Adat Elohim 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.

The Topic:
"Facebook: The Ins and Outs of the On-Line Social Networking Utility to Find Relativesand Others"

Originally launched in 2004 at Harvard, Facebook grew to be the most popular social networking web site in English-speaking countries today with over 200 million users. In minutes, with no prior experience you can find, those elusive cousins (and maybe some others you did not know about).

Michael Gallop, JGSCV's former webmaster, will discuss his success on Facebook and demonstrate how to make your family tree come alive and provide invaluable knowledge about your family! Michael has been working on his genealogy for almost 20 years and has collected a tremendous amount of information about his family. However, it wasn't until he joined Facebook that he actually developed a relationship with many of his relatives and realized how useful those relationships were in helping him uncover information on his relatives he never would have been able to obtain otherwise. Imagine being able to use your computer to connect with your relatives and have them help you with your research just as if you had interviewed them all personally. Michael is an estate and charitable planner. Following Michael's presentation, JGSCV Board Members will share their successes with Facebook.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County is dedicated to sharing genealogical information, techniques and research tools with anyone interested in Jewish genealogy and family history.

There is no charge to attend the meeting. Anyone may join JGSCV. Annual dues are $25 for an individual and $30 for a family.

For more information contact:
Jan Meisels Allen

Cryptic list of British POWs surfaces near Auschwitz

A list of 17 names believed to refer to World War II British prisoners of war held by Nazi Germany near its infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp has surfaced in Poland, an Auschwitz museum historian said Tuesday.

The list of names on the left-hand margin of the card reads as follows, three of them illegible: "OSBORNE LAWRENCE GARDINER LAMB SYMES SAUNDERS DUNNE DUNN HUTTON HOLMES ..., ..., CLARK MANSON ..., AUTY STEINGER."

"I can confirm the document's authenticity," historian Piotr Setkiewicz, an expert from the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in Oswiecim, southern Poland, told AFP Tuesday.

The card of white celluloid material bearing 17 surnames handwritten in pencil in block capital letters was found by Dominik Synowiec, a Krakow-based historical monuments conservator.

Check marks are placed next to the names Gardiner, Dunne, Dunn, Holmes and Clark as well as one of the names which is illegible.

A list of numbers is visible on the top right corner of the same page.

The reverse side of the card bears a list of some 20 German words with their English translations including "jetzt - now, niemals - newer, oft - often, seitdem - since then" also handwritten in pencil.

Areas of the card which Synowiec has cleaned of grime appear white.

"I was looking for something else entirely," Synowiec told AFP Tuesday.

He says he discovered the list of names by chance under debris inside a WWII-era bunker located on the site of the Nazi German Monowitz prisoner of war (POW) camp holding primarily British citizens.

The POW camp in question was located next to the Monowitz slave labour camp, known as Auschwitz III, a branch of the main Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp holding labourers working at the nearby Nazi-run IG Farben rubber factory.

Historian Setkiewicz was able to determine the fate of a man bearing the name Gardiner, believed to be James William Gardiner of Britain's Royal Artillery, who died in a US bombing raid and is buried in Krakow's Rakowicki cemetery.

A separate list of seven Auschwitz prisoners surfaced last week after workers found it packed inside a bottle fixed in the mortar of a wall of a building in the southern Polish town of Oswiecim (AFP).

Click here to read the entire article.

Social Networking

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

One of my genealogy colleagues, Roy Ogus, just brought to my attention a book review to be found in the very helpful Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. The book review covers Drew Smith’s “Social Networking for Genealogists” which is a comprehensive discussion of the whole new generation of Internet-based tools which have sprung up in the last few years.  These now are becoming known for accommodating the needs of an internationally-based on-line world of roots researchers.

The book appealed to me as I had recently mentioned the use of such social networking tools in one of my postings to the JewishGen Blog.  My feeling was that these tools would become the wave of the future for genealogical research.  Indeed, the topic had come up again when Roy and I had our recent conversation about his use of NEXO to create an interactive site for the Ukmerge Uyezd (District), Lithuania group.

NEXO was first utilized on the Litvak SIG by Deena Berton who perfected its use for developing web sites for the Litvak SIG District groups.  Now, sites for Kaunas, Siauliai and Telsiai as well as Roy Ogus’s Ukmerge District site, have been set up and further customized by their District Coordinators.  In the future, the remaining District Coordinators will be trained to utilize this technology.

The NEXO site allows materials to be published on it such as all of the existing Lithuanian records for the District and has a number of other sections relating to members and inquiries and postings about families.  However, only members are allowed access to the site.

This year, the NEXO company,, was purchased by Shutterfly,  It is expected, in the months ahead, as NEXO is transitioned to Shutterfly, that this will provide the users with further enhancements to the existing platform.

Another example of the use of such a tool is Roni Seibel Liebowitz’s “Jewish Roots in Paterson, NJ” which is on Facebook.  This group has enabled both genealogists and non-genealogists alike, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, to interact about their roots in the town.  Photos, history and reminiscences abound in this lively group.  It blurs the boundaries of what is genealogy and what is just plain good old-fashioned networking.

As far as Drew Smith’s book is concerned, it mentions a number of the tools that I have begun to use regularly including Facebook, YouTube, LibraryThing, Geni, and others.  In fact, Geni was first brought to my attention last year by my cousin Deborah Josephson Diamant.  She and her husband created a family tree in preparation for the bar mitzvah of their son.  This resulted in the reaching out to family members to participate in this activity and adding items and photos from all branches of the family.  The follow up was the ability to be notified for family events such as birthdays and anniversaries as well as the addition of new members to the family which has broadened our family’s ability to interact with each other.

Another trend I am seeing is that the Jewish Genealogical Societies are now posting on Facebook which enhances their ability to communicate about their resources and programs.  This is especially true for JGSs which have no local-based newspapers to publish notices about their activities such as the JGS, Inc. (New York).  It would also be true for JGSs in Florida such as the one in Greater Miami and also the one in Palm Beach County which would appeal to “snow birds” from up north who might be visiting.  It allows them to plan and include this type of activity in their itinerary.  In addition, the JGSs are now posting on the JewishGen Blog which is another means of enhancing their presence on the Internet.  Lately, even JewishGen is now part of the Facebook generation as they have a group established there.

The creativity on the Internet is astounding and I look forward to many more interesting tools to be developed in the near future.  Hopefully, this creativity will not result in what someone on one blog termed “Multiple Social Networking Disorder”, the inability to communicate in more than 140 characters.

At 103, Still Telling Students of Resisting Nazis

He would not bend to their political will or join their army, nor would he deny his religion, and for that Leopold Engleitner was sent to a concentration camp in wartime Germany.

"Every morning . . . you would not know whether you would live to see the evening," the Austrian native said through a translator, his broken voice showing his years.

But again he saw each evening throughout World War II. And some 70 years later, at age 103, Engleitner told his story of six years in three concentration camps under Nazi rule, never losing faith.

Beginning the latest US tour of his book, "Unbroken Will," Engleitner, sitting hunched over in a wheelchair, draped in a baggy coat and pink tie, told a crowd of about 400 Harvard University students, faculty, and others at a Center for European Studies seminar last night that no hardship could break his will.

Believed to be the oldest-known male survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, he told of the beatings he took whenever he showed weakness, and the suffering of others that he saw, particularly Jews, when Adolf Hitler starved his "slaves."

But his story is of a nonviolent resistance.

He was arrested for being a Jehovah's Witness, called a Bible researcher at the time.

Click here to read the rest of this story.

Preserving Yiddish memory from before World War II

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded two Indiana University faculty members $267,000 to preserve and annotate oral histories they collected from Yiddish-speaking residents of Eastern Europe and make the material available to scholars, educators and the public.

Professors Jeffrey Veidlinger and Dov-Ber Kerler were awarded the grant through the NEH Preservation and Access program. Their project, which also received a 2005 NEH grant, is called Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memories, or AHEYM -- aheym is the Yiddish word for homeward.

On 10 expeditions, the two recorded more than 750 hours of interviews with 350 elderly people who grew up speaking Yiddish in the years before World War II. They have worked mostly in Ukraine but also in Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Moldova, visiting more than 100 cities, towns and villages and conducting detailed interviews that were professionally recorded on digital video.

"Many of these people we interviewed hadn't spoken Yiddish for 20 or 30 years. But the minute you turned it on, they were completely fluent," said Kerler, the Dr. Alice Field Cohn Chair in Yiddish Studies, professor of Jewish studies and Germanic studies at IU Bloomington. Veidlinger is the Alvin H. Rosenfeld Chair in Jewish Studies and associate professor of Jewish studies and history at IU Bloomington.

With the recent NEH grant, the scholars will:
  • Preserve the collected interviews and recordings, producing digital copies for secure electronic storage
  • Catalogue and index the materials for preservation at the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music and provide annotation, partial transcription, and translation in collaboration with the Ethnomusicological Video for Instruction and Analysis (EVIA) Digital Archives at IU
  • Create a public Web site that will feature recorded interviews, songs and stories and video tours of the Jewish neighborhoods of Eastern European towns, guided by longtime residents
Separate from the grant, Veidlinger will rely on the material to produce a book, tentatively titled In the Shadow of the Shtetl, Jewish Memory in Eastern Europe.

Click here to read the entire press release.

Contract Signed by for On-Line Transcription Of New York State Census Records

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

In a much welcomed announcement on’s Webinar session which was held on Monday, May 4, 2009, it was stated that an agreement had been reached to place the New York State Census on-line.  Beginning in March, 2008, began serious deliberations with New York State authorities.  After much in the way of negotiations had taken place, an agreement was signed on April 29, 2009. will be forthcoming with more detailed information on this agreement in the very near future. 

The New York State Census covers various years starting with every ten years from 1825-1875 and then again every ten years from 1905-1925.  However, it will be interesting to learn which Census year will be done first and which counties.  It is always easier to do the smaller more rural counties first, but so many researchers are interested in Manhattan and the inner boroughs, particularly for 1890 onward. already has utilized the Mormon Family History Center microfilms to transcribe the New York City 1890 Police Census which originally covered the 24 assembly districts of New York County.  Of the 1,008 census books created with the resulting census data, only 894 are still available and, of these, there are 26 which have been put on-line. 

In regard to the New York State Census, already has partial transcription of the 1880 Census (Rockland County), 1892 Census (Broome, Chautaugua, Essex, Herkimer, Lewis, Orleans, Rockland, Schoharie, Warren, and Wayne as well as a number of records where no area was stated) and the 1905 Census (Lewis, Orleans, Schoharie, Warren and Wayne as well as a few unstated areas).  As you can see, these counties are primarily rural and not that helpful to the majority of metropolitan New York researchers.  

So, for the moment, it is a wait and see attitude until gives researchers further information on this topic.  I, for one, am eagerly looking forward to the announcement.   

Yizkor Book Update: April 2009

The JewishGen Yizkor Book database has been updated. Click here to search the general database or here to search the necrology database.

Below is a quick list Yizkor Books that have have been updated during April 2009:

We are always looking for volunteers to manage a translation project. For more information, please click here.

Tracing the Family History of Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld, whose grandfather Simon Seinfeld was a 15-year-old tailor from what is now Ukraine when he arrived at Ellis Island in 1903, is receiving a family heritage award from the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.

The New York Times and the foundation traced the path of Seinfeld's family through passenger manifests, census records and naturalization papers. (JPOST)

Click here to read the entire article.