Posted By Ann Rabinowitz
Nowadays, when one wants to find out about Jewish genealogy, you turn on your computer and search the Internet and make a first stop on JewishGen before proceeding to more in detail stops at other places, all on-line. You will usually interact with other Jewish genealogists on digests or choose to attend International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Annual Conferences.
Mainly though, your contacts will not be directly with other human genealogists. Not so when I started my genealogical career prior to the Internet (Can you believe there was such a time?). The main means was joining a Jewish Genealogical Society or JGS as it is commonly termed.
These societies still exist and are an important part of the Jewish genealogical landscape despite the advent of the overwhelmingly popular Internet. The very first person I met when I joined the JGS of Greater Miami, Inc., was Eleanor Laub, who was a founding member from February, 1989, a Board member and the meeting Registrar.
She put me in the know about how the Society ran, who was who and how to get the most out of the experience. She was helpful and succinct in all that she told me and encouraged me to participate directly in the Society. When I became involved in “Branches”, the Society newsletter, she was there to help with other volunteers and made sure that it went out on time. She was also active in the collection of Dade County, Florida, cemetery data and her work is part of the IAJGS Cemetery Project.
Through the years, I would occasionally meet Eleanor when I came to meetings and she would often write to me about various topics we had in common. Or, if I, in turn, found items about her Austrian Laub family, we would share those. She would often make me smile with her quirky sense of humor.
So, it was with real regret that I just learned that Eleanor had passed away. I thought she would be at the registration desk for each meeting of the Society forever. She was the type person who is the stalwart of any organization, one of the many volunteers who keep things going in a quiet and effective way.
I often wonder what we would do in Jewish genealogy if it were not for people like Eleanor, those who selflessly give of their time and energy, year after year, for the benefit of others. I hope that the JGS of Greater Miami will find other volunteers like Eleanor and will carry on their valuable work as before.
If anything can be learned from Eleanor and her passing, it is that JGSs are important and the people who participate in them can be the very ones who can assist you in your research. Never mind the e-mailers on the Internet, try the real people in your local JGS. They have done the gritty work of researching their families and are always there to lend a hand at helping you out with your brick walls.
I hope that in this New Year, many of you will volunteer either in your local JGS or with JewishGen or other hosted organizations such as the Litvak or other SIGs, or JRI-Poland and many of the other genealogically-related groups or whatever you have a fancy for. You are needed and will be welcomed with open arms.