Historical Postcards

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

(Courtesy of Willy Landwer)

I have always loved vintage postcards and their very often beautiful depictions of places and people both near and far. Since the time when I was a young child I have collected postcards, especially ones with ornate and intricate stamps or unusual photographs. This was quite easy as my mother’s family was disbursed on several continents and there was a constant stream of such correspondence from them.

In today’s world, when the genealogical researcher looks for photographs or pictures of places in their ancestral shtetl or beyond, it often involves a protracted search to find something. Unless, that is, one searches through postcard collections which have safely preserved those hard to find images of the Jewish past.

The postcard phenomenon began in the so-called Postcard Era of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It was then that a mania to retain a vision of one’s homeland and family emerged amongst emigrants and was matched by tourists’ needs to retain an image of their travels and adventures. This encouraged the collecting of postcards by individuals as well as large institutions. The mania spread and it is now possible to find the residual residue of collecting in a number of diverse venues. A few of these that genealogical researchers should be aware of and make use of are:

There are academic centers which have permanent postcard collections such as the Joseph and Margit Hoffman Collection of the Folklore Research Center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This collection has an amazing 7,000 plus postcards. Unfortunately, the collection is not online and has to be visited in person.

There are a number of museums which have permanent postcard collections. The Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam obtained a collection of 1,000 postcards from collector Jaap van Velzen that they have on exhibit. One of these postcards is of Chief Rabbi Tobias Tal.

Chief Rabbi Tobias Tal (1847-1898)
(Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam)

A popular museum in America which has a large holding of postcards is the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California.

In addition, there is the Curt Teich Postcard Archives at the Lake County Discovery Museum in Libertyville, IL, which bills itself as the largest public postcard collection. There are a total of 365,000 postcards that cover the period of 1898 to 1978. The cards are cataloged and include a subject heading specifically relating to Jews and Hebrews.

There are also museums which have temporary exhibitions of postcards. One such was the Jewish Museum in Prague, Czechoslovakia which selected 450 individual postcards from the private collection of František Bányai. Another was the exhibit organized by the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary and shown in the Herbert & Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica at Congregation Emanu-El, New York, NY .

There are many outstanding private collections and a number of them were created as the collector was interested in the philatelic value only. However, the following were created for their Jewish historical value.

The collection of Steven Lasky, the creator of the online Museum of Family History, contains more than 1,000 postcards which can be searched by either town or family name. This exhibition of family postcards and photographs can be found here.

Countries covered on the site include Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Towns covered, for instance, in Lithuania, are Alytus, Birzai, Druskieniki, Gruzdziai, Kalvarija, Krakes, Lozdzieje, Novy Dvor, Siauliai, Simnas, Ukmerge, Vilkaviskis, and Vilnius.

In Vilnius, the following photo of Yenta and Gerhson Radovsky was found on the site. It was taken by the well-known photographic studio of I. Chonovitz . The discussion of I. Chonovitz is part of the larger "Photographic Studios of Europe" exhibition, which contains information on additional such studio photographers and their trade.

Yenta and Gershon Radovsky
(Courtesy of Steven Lasky, Museum of Family History)

The above postcard has been identified as the paternal great grandparents of Solly Radowsky. They came originally from Roduka near Merkine and lived in Eisiskis for some years as well as in Vilnius. They had nine children, the sixth of whom was Solly’s grandfather Michel. Solly’s father Gershon (named for his grandfather) married Ethel Sacks whose mother was Sheina Rochel Gordon, who came from my ancestral shtetl of Kupiskis, Lithuania. And that is how I came to find out about the Radovsky family! It is always amazing to make these kinds of matches.

An outstanding site for a private collection of postcards is that created by Stephanie Comfort to provide a home for her magnificent collection of 11,000 or more cards covering the period of 1898 to 1914. The site is located here, and includes a variety of ethnic Jewish cards and synagogues, many of which do not have specific names or dates. One for a synagogue in Lima, Peru, does not provide the name:

Synagogue in Lima, Peru
(Courtesy of Stephanie Comfort)

Another interesting photograph is that of a Jewish store featuring Singer Sewing Machines in Serbia:

Jewish Store in Serbia,
Leon Abravanel, 1930

(Courtesy of Stephanie Comfort)

The subject of Singer Sewing Machines was quite popular a topic as there was mass advertising regarding this product throughout Eastern Europe and beyond. Many times Jews were not only salesmen and trainers, but purchasers as well.

There were many, many cards from France of both places and people. Two of the postcards depicted “Juif Errant” or wandering Jews. They looked very much like threadbare peddlers or even beggers. The image was probably quite popular due to the ten volume book by that name published in 1844-1845 by Eugene Sue and the 1852 opera by that name written by Fromental Halevy which was performed by the Paris Opera.
As can be seen in the above images, these Jews come from different parts of France and appear to be in village or rural settings. That someone took the time to capture these individuals is really amazing.

Several postcards from the Ukraine were of interest including one from Czernowitz. The town of Czernowitz, the Austrian capital of the province of Bukovina, was a hotbed of Yiddish culture and language. It certainly provided a welcoming and nurturing place for the development of writers, actors and painters in great numbers.
Jewish National House
Czernowitz, Ukraine

(Courtesy of Stephanie Comfort)

It was there that the first Conference on the Yiddish Language was held on August 30, 1908 through September 3, 1908. In addition, it was there that Yiddish was declared the national language of the Jews. The Jewish National House was supposed to be the venue for the Conference, but, at the last minute, this was changed to other available sites.

Another postcard from the Ukraine depicts a Mud Bath in Pyatigorsk.

Jewish Mud Baths
Pyatigorsk, Ukraine
(Courtesy of Stephanie Comfort)

Of note is that Pyatigorsk is located in the Caucasus and was founded in 1780. It was one of the oldest spa resorts in Russia with curative sulphur springs and medicinal mud baths. Not only that, it is the birthplace of Joseph Trumpeldor (1880-1920), the founder of the Zion Mule Corps and early Zionist, whose father Wulf settled there after his service as a cantonist soldier.

A final postcard from this collection is one taken outside a shul in Vilnius, Lithuania, where the women are going in as well as congregating on the steps. There were over 250 synagogues in Vilnius at one time or another, but it appears that this synagogue is the Great Synagogue, built in 1663, which was bombed during World War II and then razed afterwards.
Jewish Women Outside Shul
Vilnius, Lithuania

(Courtesy of Stephanie Comfort)

One can just see one of the women going into the shul who is dressed in modern attire with an umbrella and hat. Other women going in are dressed in a reasonably modern fashion, but still adhere to the kerchief on their head. The women on the steps appear terribly old and tired and are dressed in worn clothing with aprons and head scarves, perhaps indicating that they are probably poor and beggars.

Another large private collection is that of Frantisek Banyai which covers the period 1885-1930 and has many aspects of Jewish life in a broad range of countries. I searched under Lithuania and found two postcards from Rokiskis, Lithuania, which had Hebrew inscriptions and a date of 1936. The postcards turned out to be of graduates of the Tarbut Hebrew Gymnasium in Rokiskis who were going on aliyah. These pictures had not been seen previously and can now be added to the roster of images on the Rokiskis ShtetLinks site on JewishGen.
Tarbut Hebrew Gymnasium
Rokiskis, Lithuania, 1936

(Courtesy of Frantisek Banyai)

One of the special things about finding such photos is that miraculously sometimes one finds someone who is still alive and remembers those who are pictured in the postcard. In this case, one of the Holocaust survivors from Rokiskis recognized her own father Chona Samet (the third row, fifth from the right) and mother, as well as Sima Shmushkevich, the brother of the famous commander of the Russian Air Force, Yacov Shmuskevich, who was killed by Stalin (just below Chona Samet and leaning to the left). The person who is the seventh from the left is Chona’s nephew Israel Samet and two boys in the second row are Yenoch Kur and Sleima Kagan.

There were a number of other people she remembered as well and this now helps others who are looking for members of their family from Rokiskis. This is why it is so important that these types of visual aides be made available online for identification.

From the town of Rivne, Ukraine, there is a postcard taken in 1933 of an ORT school group who are quite well-dressed and modern in appearance.
ORT School Group
Rivne, Ukraine, 1933
(Courtesy of Frantisek Banyai)

It was only eight years later, in 1941, that 28,000 of the Jewish residents of Rivne were liquidated by the Nazis. The people in the photo, so young and eager to start a new and exciting career for themselves; were gone forever, along with their hopes and dreams of a future. They are only to be remembered in postcards such as this one.

A further outstanding private collection is that of Willy Lindwer, who lives outside Amsterdam. His collection was gathered over twenty-five years and amounts to over 6,000 postcards of Jewish content from all over the world. It is not online, although he has published a book, “Classic Jewish Postcards for all Occasions”, publisher: Schocken Books, NY, 1996, which contains information about his collection.

Another venue for locating postcards is a commercial postcard dealer. Many of these are now online and their wares can be seen in advance of sale. Of course, their wares change as they sell and get more items. Major sites such as E-bay and Amazon.com have postcards, but there are other smaller sites which are of interest too.

I have previously referred to Tomas Wisniewski and his Bagnowka site on this Blog . It is a fascinating site which goes beyond mere postcards.

There are numerous commercial dealers, but several which I happened to view and found interesting are the following:

VintagePostcards.com – They have a remarkable selection on offer and many include Sephardic Jews from Tunisia, Morocco and Yemen. Quite a number of these were taken from photographs by German traveler and photographer Hermann Burchardt (1857-1909), who traveled in the Middle East and North Africa from 1893 to 1904. In 1911, his estate gave the Ethnology Museum in Berlin an unrivaled collection of approximately 2,000 negatives as well as glass and celluloid plates.
Yemenite Village Jews
(Courtesy of VintagePostcards.com)

They also have a variety of synagogues from small places which would ordinarily be mainly unknown and from larger places where the synagogues may no longer exist such as the Park Synagogue in Johannesburg, South Africa, which was demolished in 1912.

The Park Synagogue
Johannesburg, South Africa

(Courtesy of VintagePostcards.com)

Lotsofcards.com – They have a postcard from Czernowitz of the Jewish bank building on the Ringstrasse which was completed in 1899 and was built by “Developer and Master Builder Bochner” As the info on the site states, the Bochner family was one of the first documented Jewish families in Bukovina in which the town of Czernowitz is located. The street signage mentions Jacob Buchbinder, a Jewish banker.

“Gruss aus Czernowitz”
(Courtesy of Lotsofcards.com)

Postcardman.net – This site has a few Sephardic-related postcards. One of which is from the town of Ouijda where a number of cards originated. The town was where many travelers came due to its position as the capital of eastern Morocco and the courts being located there.

Moroccan Jewish Mother and Child
Ouijda, Morocco

(Courtesy Postcardman.net)

This photo typified the focus on Oriental or exotic themes which permeated not only photography, but the written word and design as well at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Centuries. Fortunately, for the researcher, these images have endured into our era.

Oldpostcards.com – This site has a Judaica section which has many cards featuring individuals, synagogues and other items. One of interest is that of Polish Hebrew writer David Frischmann (1859-1922) who was born in Zgierz, Poland, which is north of Lodz.

David Frischmann
(Courtesy of OldPostcards.com)

Frischmann was a noted writer and publisher and was known for imposing standards on written Hebrew. He is one of many prominent Jewish leaders in various fields of endeavor who are documented through postcards on this site.


A final resource for Jewish postcards is books which have been written about various aspects of the cards or their production. One such is “Old Jewish Postcards from Marek Sosenko’s collection: Dawna Pocztowka Zydowska” by Eugeniusz Duda and Marek Sosenko and published by the Museum of Cracow, Poland. Mr. Sosenko is a well-known Krakow antique dealer whose obsession with postcards is amply shown in this lovely book.

Another is “Past Perfect: The Jewish Experience In Early 20th Century Postcards” by the Jewish Theological Seminary. There are also articles in magazines and journals on the topic of postcards such as “Jewish Postcards” by Galit Hasan-Rokem in “Jewish Quarterly Review”.

Many others abound and can be found by “Googling” the word “postcard” on the Internet.

It is clear that collectors of postcards can provide genealogists a vivid window into the world of their ancestors. Collecting has also produced a fascinating adjunct science to historical preservation and proven its mettle for those of us who find these small remnants so enticing and rewarding.

The ‘Nakba’ of Morocco’s Jews

From the Jerusalem Post

Imagine a frightened six-year-old girl trying to catch her balance in the stifling and cramped hold of a violently tossing ship. She is not alone on the turbulent sea – her parents and sibling are nearby. But fear is in the air, along with the sight and smell of terrible sickness. The child understands little about her circumstances. She is aware that she is going to a place called Israel, where three of her brothers now live. She realizes that she is saying good-bye forever to her Morocco home. But that’s all she knows about her journey.

Meanwhile her present misery, and that of her beloved family, eclipses all else. The girl’s name is Dina Gabay. The year is 1955. Dina, her parents – Avraham and Rachel – and the family are fleeing ever-increasing dangers in their town of Sefrou, near Fez.

Only in later years did Dina come to appreciate the constant pressure her parents had endured before their departure. There were small things—insults and ceaseless intimidation. For example, her father, who owned a large and successful butcher shop, was at the mercy of local thieves, who sometimes simply walked into his business and demanded that he give them whatever they wanted – at no cost. “Not once and not twice,” Dina explains, “but whenever they wanted something. These were our good Muslim neighbors, you know?”

There were bigger threats too, including mysterious disappearances. First her father’s best friend vanished. Then one of Dina’s cousins, a remarkably beautiful 14-year-old girl, also disappeared, never to be seen again. In the Moroccan Jewish community, such things weren’t exactly unusual. And they happened more and more frequently after 1948, when Israel declared itself an independent state. At that moment, the centuries-long, low-grade oppression Jews experienced in their role as dhimmis under Muslim rule was ignited into ugly confrontations, humiliation and random attacks. These episodes sometimes exploded into full-blown pogroms in which hundreds were killed or wounded.

An article in Commentary magazine published in September 1954 described the difficult circumstances of Morocco’s Jews during the early years of Dina Gabay Levin’s life. “In disputes with Muslims, or on civil commercial and criminal issues among themselves, Jews are almost entirely subject to Islamic courts... even under the best of circumstances [the courts] regard Jewish litigants as unclean, inferior beings.”

AS IN many Jewish communities that fled hostility in Muslim majority nations in the 20th century, numerous Jews who left Morocco had been leaders in their communities; they were wealthy, successful and comfortable in their way of life. Doctors, lawyers, merchants and bankers were among the frightened masses that sailed away from their homelands. The day of their departure has often been described as their Nakba – the Arabic word for catastrophe that is often used by Palestinian activists to describe Israel’s Independence Day. In their catastrophic departures from their homes – many families had lived in North Africa since the 15th century and some even before – most of the Jews of the Maghreb lost everything but the clothes they wore. In a stunning riches-to-rags reversal, they found themselves among the poorest of the poor.

In 1948, Algeria had around 140,000 Jews. By 2008 there were none.

In 1948, Libya had more than 35,000 Jews. Today there are none.

In 1948, Tunisia had as many as 105,000; today there fewer than 2,000

And as for Morocco, there were around a quarter of a million Jews in 1948. Today there are fewer than 6,000.

Click here for the entire article

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Volunteer Spotlight: Sam Schleman

Posted by Joanna Leefer

Sam Schleman

Sam Schleman does not take retirement lying down. While many people consider retirement as a time to relax, Sam has done just the opposite and has become one of the vital forces behind the scenes at JewishGen.

Over the past five years, Sam has coordinated the Hungarian Vital Records Project.

At any one time, Sam will have between 100-125 people from eighteen different countries transcribing records. In the time he has been on this project, about 400,000 records have been transcribed. Prior to this project, Sam worked on the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR), compiled Borislav Forced labor lists, and transcribed Hungarian vital records.

Despite all these translations, Sam speaks no Hungarian. He admits he has picked up a lot of words from working with the records, but admits he is sometimes accused of mispronouncing Hungarian “…worse than anyone alive.”

Sam became interested in his roots about 8 or 9 years ago when out of the blue, he received an email inquiring if he had relatives who had lived the Bronx. The woman who wrote explained her grandmother had lived in the same house with a "Nathan Schleman." Sam had never heard of him and neither had his sister or cousins. He soon found out that Nathan Schleman was his great-grandfather! From that moment on, he was hooked.

Sam Schleman lives in Malvern, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. He has been married for 41 years has three grown children, two grandchildren, and Bruno, an enormous 190 pound Great Dane, “the gentlest dog alive.”

Before retiring, Sam was a management consultant specializing in solving business problems and in the management of projects, usually having to do with computer systems and/or operations improvement.

We are grateful that Sam has turned his problem-solving and management expertise towards working on JewishGen’s Hungarian Vital Records.

Sam, JewishGen thanks you for all your hard work!
If you would like to nominate a JewishGen volunteer to be spotlighted, please email us by clicking here. If you would like to join JewishGen as a volunteer, please click here.

Announcement: JGS of NY

The next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of NY will take place on May 16, 2010.

Topic: The JDC Archives: Resources for Genealogists
Location: Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16 St., NYC
Cost: Free to JGSNY members; $5 non-members

Speaker: Linda Levi, Director of Global Archives, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

About the JDC
Since its inception in 1914, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC, or popularly known as "the Joint") has borne witness to the greatest events of twentieth-century Jewish history. The JDC Archives documents JDC operations and activities overseas and serves as a record of life in Jewish communities throughout the world. Its extensive holdings include eye-witness accounts, correspondence, reports, logs, passenger lists, emigration cards, photographs, and much more. Participants will learn how the Archives are organized, see examples of rich genealogical records in the JDC archival collections, and find out how to conduct research at its repositories. New efforts to digitize the JDC collections will also be included in the discussion.

About the Speaker
Linda Levi is Assistant Executive Vice President for Global Archives at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and is responsible for archives centers in NY and Jerusalem. Ms. Levi is a graduate of New York University and received her MA in Contemporary Jewish Studies from Brandeis University.

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.

Announcement: JGS of Palm Beach County

The next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Palm Beach County will take place on Mat 12, 2010.


Location: South County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road, Delray Beach, FL

Fee: Non-members--$5 (guest fee may be applied toward membership dues)

Schedule: 12:30 pm – 3 pm
Brick Wall 12:30 pm-12:55 PM
Election of officers, brief business meeting and program 1 PM

Description of Program
“SOS!!!” Share our Successes” is the program for the May meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society Palm Beach County Inc. Wednesday, May 12 at the South County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road, Delray Beach, FL.

Four JSPBCI members will share their successful research stories and explain the methods used to trace their families. The program, held annually at the May meeting, provides a wealth of genealogical research information. Each year members offer their exciting genealogical break-throughs. A question and answer period will follow the lectures and members are invited to briefly discuss their own success stories.

The election and installation of officers for the year 2010-2011 will be held at a brief business meeting beginning at 1:00 PM. The popular Brick Wall Session begins at 12:30 PM.

For further information about the ‘Share our Success” program or to submit questions in advance for the Brick Wall discussion, e-mail Program Chairperson Helene Seaman helene@jgspalmbeachcounty.org.

Guests are welcome. There is a guest fee of $5.00 (fee may be applied towards membership dues) For further information contact:
Sylvia Nusinov: (e) curiousyl@bellsouth.net (p) 561 483-1060
Marilyn Newman: (e) mnewman714@aaol.com (p) 561 775-4920

Six Jewish babies born in Dachau reunite 65 years later

U.S. soldiers who liberated a Nazi concentration camp in April 1945 were amazed to discover, among the countless famished and dead, seven Jewish mothers and their babies, who had somehow avoided execution or starvation.

This week, six of those former babies are to gather for an emotional reunion at Dachau on the outskirts of Munich.

German television is to air a television documentary which explores the miracle of how these three infant boys and four infant girls slipped through the cracks of the Nazi killing machine. (Haaretz)

Click here to read the entire article.


Dear JewishGen,

Several years ago I posted on the JGFF (JewishGen Family Finder) my fathers-in-law 's name and details and pretty much forgot about it. Several days ago we received a message from a cousin of our whom we knew nothing about or her family.

Thanks to JewishGen for your work!

Yoni Ben-Ari
Efrat, Israel

Would you like to share a success story of your own?
Please email us by clicking here.

JW or Jewish Way Magazine

Posted by Ann Rabinowitz

(Courtesy of JW Magazine)

Every once in a while I come across new Jewish-oriented web sites or magazines and find that they are sometimes good sources of information in regard to genealogy or learning more about Jewish culture and our ancestors’ lives. One new publication which just came out is JW or Jewish Way Magazine. It is published four times a year and is distributed through a variety of channels to affluent families in Palm Beach, Aventura, Bal Harbour, Miami and South Beach, Florida.

It is a production of publisher Salomon Levy and Editor-in-Chief Nathalie Levy, who states that “it is the first lifestyle magazine created for the Jewish community of South Florida”. Further, she says that . . . “it will serve to guide, entertain, educate and inspire readers to think in new ways and try new things, presented with visual elegance and intelligent prose”. Quite a goal.

What I noticed is that there were a number of quite fascinating articles in this first issue, one of which was entitled “Return of the Ritual” by Monica Haim. It discusses a rooftop henna party in Tel Aviv. The Henna ceremony is held a few days to a week prior to the wedding or ketubah ceremony of a Sephardic bride and reflects the ultimate separation from her family to that of her husband to be. It was something I had heard about, but had not seen. The photographs of the design of the event were exotic and beautiful. The attention to such traditions of unique segments of our Jewish culture are well-worth reading about and perhaps give a fuller picture of the lives of those who came before us.

Another article was entitled “A Treasure in the Ukraine” by Jen Karetnick. It dealt with the beautiful cosmopolitan formerly Jewish town of Czernowitz, known in the olden times as the Vienna of the east. The photographs which accompany the text give a wonderful eye-view of some of the famous buildings of the town, many of which had Jewish origins.

While now only in hard copy; you can contact the magazine about subscriptions or information on articles which have been published. Their new online presence is located at: http://jewishway.com/index2.html.

Jewish Navy Pilot Dies Protecting His Crew

The plane had blown an engine over the northern Arabian Sea, and the lead pilot, Lt. Miroslav "Steven" Zilberman, had to make lightning-quick decisions.

The E-2C Hawkeye, returning from a mission in Afghanistan, was a few miles out from the Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier. Zilberman, 31, was a veteran U.S. Navy pilot who had flown many times in the Middle East with the Hawkeye, a turbo-prop aircraft loaded with radar equipment.

The starboard propeller shut down, causing the plane to become unstable and plunge. Zilberman ordered his three crew mates, including the co-pilot, to bail. He manually held the plane as steady as possible so they could jump.

"He held the plane level for them to do so, despite nearly uncontrollable forces. His three crewmen are alive today because of his actions," Navy Rear Adm. Philip S. Davidson wrote to Zilberman's parents.

Zilberman went down with the aircraft on March 31. The 1997 graduate of Bexley High School was declared dead three days later, his body lost at sea.

The Navy soon will start recovery operations to try to pull the wreckage from the sea, said Lt. Cmdr. Philip R. Rosi II, a public-affairs command officer for the Naval Air Force Atlantic fleet in Norfolk, Va. The crash is being investigated.

Zilberman's last act earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the highest honors the U.S. Navy bestows, Rosi said.

The medal was presented to his wife, Katrina Zilberman, in Norfolk, where she lives with their children, Daniel, 4, and Sarah, 2. A copy of the medal also was given to his parents - Boris Zilberman and his wife, Anna Sokolov - who live in the Eastmoor area of Columbus.

"Now we have unbelievable pain," Sokolov said this week. "He was our one and only son."

After an April 8 memorial service in Norfolk and through conversations with fellow officers and friends, Zilberman's parents have learned how highly regarded their son was.

"He saved three lives. He's a hero," his mother said.

Zilberman was born in Ukraine, and his flight nickname was "Abrek," the name of one of the first two monkeys that flew into outer space for the Soviet Union.

Making a better life for their son was a major reason his parents decided to emigrate from Kiev, Ukraine. They were fearful of living only 90 miles from the leaking nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, and that their son would one day be forced into military service. They joined a wave of Jewish emigrants from the Soviet Union who settled in Columbus in 1991.

Click here for the entire article.

Genealogy In The Round: Share Your Successes, Failures, Artifacts and Brick Walls

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, May 2, 2010 at Temple Adat Elohim 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.

The Topic:
"Genealogy In The Round: Share Your Successes, Failures, Artifacts and Brick Walls"

Come and share a genealogical success, failure, brick wall, or genealogical artifact! This is YOUR meeting—We all learn from one another—take this opportunity to share your genealogical story—success or failure, ask questions about your brick walls, and more!

If you wish to participate in the program, please contact Jan Meisels Allen at president@JGSCV.org. Each participant will be given 5-10 minutes to share—depending on the number of presenters. Whether you are a JGSCV member or a potential member—we'd love to hear your genealogical story.

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: information@jgscv.org
or visit our website: www.jgscv.org

Jan Meisels Allen
President, JGSCV

Alleged Nazi Under Investigation for Mission Harvest Festival massacres

Prosecutors have reopened an investigation in which a 95-year-old former SS officer is accused of being involved in two 1943 massacres of Jews in the Polish city of Lublin.

The prosecutors' office made the decision based on a letter that suspect Erich Steidtmann wrote in October 1943. Steidtmann was a captain in the Nazi's elite force, the SS, and also the head of a company belonging to the infamous Hamburg Polizeibataillon 101.

The prosecutor said a new understanding of an abbreviation in the letter could indicate that Steidtmann was not on home leave when the shootings of thousands of Jews took place, as he had told prosecutors during earlier investigations in the 1960s.

The abbreviation in question was a military code to indicate that the sender of the letter was in the field. The letter itself was dated October 31, 1943 - three days before the massacres began.

During the so-called "Mission Harvest Festival" massacres on November 3 and 4, 1943, tens of thousands of Jews in the district of Lublin were shot by Nazi officers, among them members from Steidtmann's Hamburg Polizeibataillon 101 company.

Soefker said her office was searching archives and contacting witnesses for further proof that Steidtmann was in Lublin when the shootings took place.

"We have contacted the federal archives in Berlin to find out if they still have a record of when exactly Steidtmann was on home leave," Soefker said.

Steidtmann's involvement in Nazi crimes has been investigated several times in the past, including his alleged involvement in killings at the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, but there has never been sufficient proof to convict him of any crimes.

Click here for the entire article. (CBS News)

For further information, click on the following JewishGen Resources

Announcement: JCC in Manhattan

The JCC of Manhattan invites the community to a special presentation:

Piecing Together Our Ancestors’ Stories

The event will take place on Thursday, May 6 at 7:00 PM.

$10.00 Members; $15.00 Non-Members.

JCC in Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10023

About the Presentation
As Jews, many of us have connections to the wartime experiences of our parents, grandparents, or more distant relatives. Some pieces have been handed down as stories; others remain mysteries.

How do we go back to discover these pieces of Jewish history? How do we pass them on to the next generation? And how do our own memories transform what we transmit?

Our panelists will describe their searches for family roots during both physical and emotional journeys and the books they have written about their ancestors’ struggles and survival during the most wrenching conflicts of the 20th century. Joining us will be: Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer, both at Columbia (Ghosts of Home); Irene Kacandes, Dartmouth College (Daddy’s War: Greek American Stories); Nancy K. Miller, CUNY Graduate Center (I Found My Family in a Drawer); and moderator Judith Greenberg, NYU/Gallatin School (Cypora’s Echo).

Scar on John Demjanjuk's arm may be the site of a former SS tattoo

A scar on John Demjanjuk's arm may be the site of a former SS tattoo, a police doctor has told the German court where the Ukraine-born man is accused of war crimes.

The SS routinely marked its auxiliaries with their blood group code so they could be identified and treated in emergencies.

Wolfgang Eisenmenger said Demjanjuk, 90, had an oval scar about one centimetre across on the inner upper side of his left arm. This was consistent with skin changes after a tattoo had been removed.

"It has a faint bluish-green colour," added the pathologist, who is former head of the Munich Forensic Medicine Institute.

Eisenmenger executed a court order to survey Demjanjuk's body for tattoos after the Ohio man was expelled last year from his US home.

Demjanjuk has been on trial since last year. He is accused of being an accessory to the murders of 27,900 Jews during 1943 at Sobibor extermination camp.

Eisenmenger was also called to testify on how death in a gas chamber caused far more physical and mental suffering than other forms of death.

He said that being gassed as one of 80 people in a 16-square-metre gas chamber would have been an "indescribable torment." (Earth Times)

Click here for the entire article.

Bagnowka, A Collaborative Web Site

Posted by Ann Rabinowitz

Mme. Eliza Orzeszko, 1842-1910

Many JewishGen researchers have had the pleasure of interacting with Bialystok researcher Tomek Wisniewski in regard to his huge collection of over 2,000 post cards of Eastern Europe, his tour guiding, and now his collaborative web site Bagnowka . Bagnowka is named for a section of Bialystok that was shared by various nationalities and religions and therefore is a fit name for a site which features, amongst other things, photos of Jewish cemeteries and shtetls of Belarus, Latvia, Lithuanian, and Poland as well as other fascinating aspects of Jewish life.

Tomek contacted me the other day and provided a link to his video of the Kupiszki cemetery (aka Kupiskis, Lithuania). The video was based on a post card which was taken in 1910 that depicts Jewish tombstones. Where possible the tombstones are translated from the Hebrew.

Unfortunately, the majority of the twelve tombstones shown do not match any of the existing death records for the community. Therefore, I was unable to identify the individuals who had died. However, I looked at photograph #8 which showed two tombstones which had been imbedded in the hut in the cemetery (probably the tahara house). The first tombstone on the left states the following in English:
Here lies a man upright and honest, our teacher and rabbi Yehudah Leib, son of Reb Noah. Gave from his bread to the poor?? Died 20 days to the month of Second Adar in the year of 5670 by the abbreviated era. May his soul be bound in the bond of everlasting life.
When I looked at the death records for Kupiskis, I found: Iudel-Leiba Trapido who was born in 1832 and died March 18, 1910. He was married to Khaia who was born 1837 and died March 13, 1906.

My next link was to the Trapido family tree which confirmed the same information. Given that, I went back to the photograph and looked at the second tombstone and found that it stated:
The modest woman, Chaya, daughter of the prominent our teacher and rabbi Menachem Mendel of blessed memory. Extended her hand to the poor and stretched out her hands to the needy. Died 28 days to the month of Adar in the year 5666 (March 25, 1906) by the abbreviated era. May her soul be bound in the bond of everlasting life.
Sure enough, as can be seen, it was for a female named Chaya which was actually Khaia bat Menachem-Mendel. It became apparent that this was the wife of Iudel-Leiba and their tombstones were placed together.

After looking again at the family tree, I also realized that Khaia’s father, Menachem-Mendel, was not on the tree and this information was new. It took the family back another generation to the beginnings of the 19th Century. This was a remarkable discovery for Iudel-Leiba and Khaia’s great granddaughter Fay, who I knew personally and was therefore able to pass on the information to.

The site and its various photographs and videos are a treasure for those researching the various shtetls covered. A listing of the shtetls where cemeteries are shown on the site is here. As you will note, the shtetls include a wide range of places in Belarus to Lithuania, Poland, and the Ukraine.

The variety of what one finds is amazing as there are not only cemeteries, but other places and activities pictured as well. One that I was not aware of was a memorial for the twin cities of Drohobycz and Boryslaw, Ukraine, which is located in Holon, Israel. Another is for Baranowicz, Belarus, which I have an interest in.

Under the topic Wooden Synagogues/Minorities, one can then see two subtopics of Jews (with 87 entries) and Jews – Orthodox (with 44 entries) and also another subtopic of Karaites (with 5 entries). Under the subtopic of Jews – Orthodox, I noticed a beautiful illustration of a Meir Ezofowicz. The illustration was one of many done by Michael Elwiro Andriolli (1836-1893), an architect and painter. He was born in Vilnius, the son of an Italian immigrant captain in Napoleon’s Army.

Intrigued, I looked further and found that Meir Ezofowicz was character in a Polish novel, which was from a story by Eliza Orzeszko published in “Klosy” in 1878. The story was later translated into English as “An Obscure Apostle, A Dramatic Story” by Mme. Eliza Orzeszko, translated by C.S. de Soissons, London: Greening & Co., Ltd, 1899.

The author was born in Milkowszczyzna, Poland, a village 40km from Hrodna, Belarus. She was known as the Polish George Sand and wrote a number of Jewish-related works. Her novel may be of interest to those researching Polish Jewish life in the 19th Century as it captures many themes prevalent at that time. The novel was an exposition on the conflicts between the traditionalism of the past and the coming liberalism of the future in a Jewish shtetl.

It can be found in a number of on-line versions. One is here, and another is here. In addition, a full description of Orzeszko and her book can be found in “Stranger in our midst: images of the Jew in Polish literature” by Harold B. Segel.

Not only was the story captured in novel form, but it became a film in 1911 which was directed by Jewish banker Aleksander Hertz who headed the Sphynx, the largest production company in pre-World War II Warsaw. His co-director was strangely enough the anti-semite Jozef Ostoja-Sulnicki and the film starred Maria Duleba, Wladyslaw Grabowski, Mila Kaminska, Wiktor Kaminski, and Jozef Zielinski.

The story was also adapted into a play as mentioned in “The Jewish Chronicle” issue of August 7, 1936. It was also performed in London in 1957 in Yiddish with a portion in Polish as again reported in “The Jewish Chronicle”.

It was felt that Eliza Orzeszko had a great influence on the discussions about the relationship between Jews and the Poles and this was further mentioned at length in “The Jews in Polish Culture” by Aleksander Hertz and Lucjan Dobroszycki, published in 1988.

In the end, Eliza Orzeszko was much admired by Jews of her time and when she died, “The Jewish Chronicle issue of June 3, 1910, stated that:

Authorities did their best to prevent Jews from paying tribute to the author when she died. So well-esteemed was the author that memorial services were held in several synagogues and the more important communities of Poland and the western provinces sent delegations and wreaths to the funeral. Jews formed an important section of the 15,000 who participated in the procession at the funeral. All Jewish shops were closed.

This research into the offerings on the Bagnowka site seems to have gone in all sorts of interesting directions as often happens when one starts at one place and goes onto another. My feeling is that it is important to view sites like Bagnowka which present wonderful visual and textual information which may be found no where else regarding places once home to vibrant and active populations of Jewish residents and now gone forever. I hope you will visit the site and find information that will enhance your family research as I did.

Jewish Genealogy as a Spiritual Pursuit

Interesting interview with Arthur Kurzweil from the Jewish Ledger. Excerpts below: 

Q: How does an absolute beginner start to research his or her family's genealogy? What are some useful resources?

A: The first step is to talk to relatives. That's always the first step. The documents will wait. The people don't wait. Talk to every relative you can find. Talking to relatives is the most important thing to do. After that, I'd say you should explore www.jewishgen.org. This is cyberspace headquarters for Jewish genealogy. If you are interested in Jewish genealogy and you go to this website, we won't see you again for months!

Q: How does your Jewish spiritual life mesh with your genealogical research?

A: It seems to me that every step of the way when we pursue our genealogical research, we are involved in mitzvahs. Who more than we honor the elderly? Who more than we reach out to the elderly people in our family and our communities and make them feel like we need them - because we do. And what is that but a mitzvah, to honor the elderly. Who more than we ask questions? The Talmud consists of questions, thousands of ways of asking different questions. Did you ever ask the question, "Where did you get that information from?" Well, there is a little code word in the Talmud for the question, "Where did you get that question from?" And who has perfected the art of asking questions more than we have?

Who like we genealogists performs the mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael, the love of the people of Israel, which really means tolerance. What Jews in the world are more tolerant than Jewish genealogists? Why are we tolerant? We are tolerant because we learn that on this branch of the family there are Galicianers, and on this branch there are Litvaks, and on this branch there are assimilated Jews and on this branch there were intermarriages! And we see that each of our families really is everybody, and in the process we become tolerant.

The fact of six million Jews being killed during the Holocaust is unfathomable to us, but when we have the specific names of the people in our families.... I don't know what to do with the Holocaust. Most people in the world don't know quite what to do with the Holocaust. But I think we genealogists have found out what to do with the Holocaust. We remember names. When the Nazis rounded us up, they took away our names and they gave us numbers. What we are involved with doing is taking away the numbers and giving them back their names.

I believe that in the same way that the Talmud says that when the Temple was destroyed, they rebuilt by doing their family trees, in our generation we have the same task. As a rebuilding generation, we are doing our family trees to rebuild, to put the pieces back together again, to take that shattered people and to bring them back together again. Our work is mitzvah work. I think we are doing a good job.

Click here for the entire article and don't forget that Arthur Kurzweil will the "Genealogist-in-Residence" athe 2010 Jewish Genealogy conference. Click here to learn more.

Israel - New National Library

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Lord Jacob Rothschild and other members of the Rothschild family Sunday and thanked them for their pledge to donate more than $150 million for the building of a new National Library. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu said that, "Establishing a new National Library is an important part of our comprehensive plan to preserve Jewish heritage sites in Israel and strengthen our nation's heritage among the younger generation and future generations.”   

The National Library is currently located in the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University. It is currently housed in a relatively old building with outdated infrastructure and cannot offer its visitors services on par with many other modern national libraries. The new library will be furnished and equipped with advanced digital technology and will include large storage spaces and innovative  display areas. (INN)

Click here for the entire article.

Yom HaZikaron - Israel prepares to mourn its fallen defenders

When the nation bows its head on Sunday evening for Remembrance Day, it will be mourning the 22,682 servicemen and women who fell defending the Land of Israel since 1860 – the year the first Jews left Jerusalem’s Old City walls to settle other parts of the country.

In the past year, 111 soldiers and security personnel were killed in the service of the state. Remembrance Day officially begins at 8 p.m., when a one-minute siren will sound across the country. President Shimon Peres will open the official ceremony at the Western Wall.

On Tuesday, the main memorial will take place at the capital’s Mount Herzl military cemetery. A two-minute siren will sound at 11 a.m.

This year is also the seventh year that the Defense Ministry has provided a service to assist people in locating graves of the fallen. It not only provides the block and parcel of a soldier’s grave, but also gives a map of the best route to take from the gates of the military cemeteries. The ministry said it anticipated that 1.4 million Israelis would visit the 43 military cemeteries.

The service is available on a Web site sponsored by the Defense Ministry’s Department for Commemorating Soldiers and programmed by a civilian firm, at http://www.izkor.gov.il. (JPOST)

Click here for the entire article.

Posthumous Award for Bulgarian King Who Saved Jews

King Boris III of Bulgaria has received a posthumous award for saving his country's Jews during the Holocaust by refusing to surrender the 50,000 Jews in Bulgaria to the Nazi army despite heavy pressure from Adolf Hitler.

The award was given to his grandson, Toronto banker Hermann Leiningen, and Chabad organized the award ceremony. The award itself was presented by a group of Bulgarian Jews whose lives were saved when the king refused to deport them.

However, his legacy remains somewhat controversial: while he refused to hand Bulgaria's Jews over to Hitler's army, he did allow the deportation of Jews from Thrace and Macedonia, which at that time were under Bulgarian rule. In addition, some historians say the king expressed willingness to deport Jews, but was stopped by the heads of the Independent Orthodox Church.

Leiningen, the king's grandson, told the Canadian Jewish Press that King Boris III had remained firm in his insistence that Bulgaria's Jews not be deported.

Whether or not the church intervened to save Jews as well, “the final decisions had to be made by [the king],” he noted.

Boris III was unable to save the Jews of Thrace and Macedonia because those territories, unlike Bulgaria, were occupied by the German army, Leiningen explained.

King Boris III died in 1943 shortly after a meeting with Hitler. His body was never found.

Leiningen noted that his own father, Prince Karl, had moved to Israel in 1969 and had spent the last two decades of his life there, on a horse ranch in the Galilee. “No one could really figure out” why his father was drawn to Israel, he said. (INN)

Click here for the entire article. Click here for more information about the situation in Bulgaria during the holocaust.

JewishGen Researcher Honored by Yad Vashem

Sara Israeli

Sara Israeli, a transcriber for JewishGen's Hungarian SIG, was honored this past Sunday, Yom HaShoah, as one of the torchlighters at the Holocaust Remembrance ceremony.

Yad Vashem's website has a release about it. Also on their website, you can find a video of the ceremony as well as a list of the names of Holocaust victims recited aloud during the ceremony, organized by country of origin.

Click here for the link.

(hat tip: Sam Schleman)

Israel seeks heirs of early Zionists

They were the early adopters of the Zionist dream: Jews who invested in pre-state Palestine but didn’t survive the Holocaust. They left behind cash, stocks, real estate and objects of art worth an estimated quarter of a billion dollars. Perhaps better late than never, Israel is now launching a search across North America to find their heirs and make restitution.

There are some 55,000 unclaimed accounts and properties, including abandoned buildings and fallow land. Unclaimed assets will eventually be used to support Holocaust survivors and honor the victims.

“What we want people to do is go onto the Web-site and see if there’s someone who’s a relative, and submit a claim,” explained Jeremy Ruden, a spokesman for the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets LTD, which was founded in 2005 at the direction of the Israeli government. A number of members of the company’s board of directors are survivors themselves.

“We do our own research, depending on what records are still available.” he said. “Did this person have family? Did they have brothers or sisters? We want to give this to the rightful owners.”

The Web-site for claims is www.hashava.org.il/eng. Its name translates in English to “return.” A list of all the unclaimed assets is online, though it is short on details in order to minimize fraud and illegitimate claims. Specific locations of properties are not provided, nor are details about art objects or unclaimed accounts. Potential heirs can enter the first and last names, as well as towns of origin of Holocaust victims.

“There are some prime properties that are just abandoned,” said Ruden. “They haven’t been used. There are places in Rishon Letzion, Haderah, Tel Aviv. All over the place.” (Source: The Jewish Star)

Click here to read the entire article.

Nechama's List

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Grandmother Nechama and Family, Belarus
(©Nancy Goldberg Hilton 2006, ISBN 0-9776403-2-9)

The Mormon’s Family History Library has vast resources for Jewish genealogy and one tool for tapping into those resources is Nechama’s List prepared by Nancy Goldberg Hilton in memory of her grandmother Nechama and family from Belarus. This list is comprised of 638 Jewish record additions to the Family History Library Catalog during the period Ja
nuary 8, 2001 – November 8, 2006. This is an addition to the original inventory of 4,500 holdings at the Mormon Library which Goldberg did previously and which can be found here.

Whilst there are several other ways of looking up the items in this list, most of which are on-line now, this is a comprehensive look at what was added at a pa
rticular time. My first check at what was available was to look at the listing to the left side of the page where I found England and then Manchester, England.

There, I located the following reference for Cemetery Records for Southern Cemetery, Manchester, 1879-2002, which included the Jewish part, 1892-1910. This interested me as I was familiar with the cemetery as one of my favorite British artists (non-Jewish), L.S. Lowry, was buried there. Looking on the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (JGSGB) site, under the Jewish Communities and Records – United Kingdom (JCR-UK) Manchester records, I did not find any cemetery records listed. In the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) listing of Manchester cemeteries, Southern Cemetery was listed, but not the yea
rs that there were Jewish burials.

Not to be deterred, I continued my search for Southern Cemetery and found an on-line searchable registry sponsored by the Manchester City Council, Using my favorite name “Cohen”, I plugged it in and came up with seven pages of listings from Abraham Cohen to Winifred Cohen. So, the mention in Nechama’s List led me to a resource I w
as not familiar with, but I could just have easily have looked it up directly, if I was interested in that particular cemetery.

Another reference was “South African Personalities and Places”. Identifying this reference would take an extra step as the Mormon catalog had not specified an author or date. I looked it up on-line and found that there was a book by Bernard Sachs published in 1959. Unfortunately, the book was not available under Google Books.

However, as I was looking for this book, as one thing lead
s to another, I found a different book, “New Dictionary of South African Biography” by E.J. Verwey. As it so happened, I was able to look up Solly Sachs (brother of Bernard Sachs) and confirmed that the family came from Kamajai, Lithuania.

Looking further into Nechama’s List, I found a lot of references to Polish Jews:

  • Yizkor Books - Yizkor Book for Zamosc was referenced and JewishGen’s Yiskor Book site had a translation from the Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland. In addition, it had in its Yizkor Book Database, two different books - Zamosc be-genona u-be-shivra and Pinkes Zamosc; yizker-bukh. Since, again, there was no actual name, author or date, it was hard to determine which book was referenced in the Mormon’s catalog.
  • Family Histories – There was a family history for the Raphael/Rafalin family of Punsk, Poland, including Krasnopol, Kalwaria, Sejny, Augustow, Suwalki, Filipow and Klonorejsc. Punsk was approximately 5km from the border with Lithuania and most of the residents were Lithuanian and Jewish. One of the prominent members of the Rafalin family was David Shlomo Rafalin, who left Punsk for New York and ended up in Cuba where he was a rabbi at Adath Israel in Havana in 1929-1932.
Rabbi Rafalin Wedding Invitation

He then left and went to Mexico where he was a rabbi there from 1933- 1979.

  • Jewish History - A history of the Jews of Lubraniec, Poland. This place is in north central Poland and it turns out that the reference is for Żydzi w Lubrańcu: z dziejów Lubrańca, an untranslated Yizkor Book which one can locate referenced on JewishGen’s Yizkor Book Database.
In addition to the above sources, there were many, many other listings. These were items that might be available online or in other libraries or archives, but sometimes not.


As it is always good to check all resources when you are researching your family, Nechama’s list could provide you with just that tidbit of information to either help resolve a family brick wall or roadblock or lead you to some new avenue of discovery as it did for me.

NOTE: I’d like to give a hat tip to Dr. Saul W. Issroff for bringing the site to my attention.