A Faith in Song

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

One of the largest synagogues in the world is the Portuguese Synagogue located at Mr. Visserplein 3, Amsterdam, Netherlands, a magnificent edifice built in 1675 by Elias Bouwman and Danield Stalpaert. A revered Sephardic place of worship, it has been known as Esnoga, the Portugees-Israëlietische Synagoge, or just the Portuguese Synagogue.

It survived World War II intact and worshippers and visitors alike can enjoy the beautiful renovated interior. Most remarkable are the brass chandeliers containing the light of 1,000
candles which cast a magnificent glow during the services. Also, notable are the twelve stone columns in the women’s gallery which remind the worshippers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

A fine covering of sand on the floor is reminiscent of the Caribbean Sephardic synagogues such as Mikve Israel in Curacao; Shaare Shalom Synagogue in Kingston, Jamaica; St. Thomas Synagogue, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; and Tzedek v
eShalom, in Suriname. Meant, some say, to represent the time the Israelites spent in the desert with Moses or, more commonly, a means of muffling the sound of feet and as a cover for the floors during the times of the Inquisition.

In later years, the synagogue has served for many community functions which have included musical concerts. The rich tapestry of the Sephardic heritage and music, both liturgical and of the everyday, provides a welcome match of threads co
nnecting many cultures.

One of the best known of these concerts was held in 2003 and entitled “Cantors, A Faith in Song and featured three of the world’s most famous cantors: Benzion Miller, Naftali Herstik and Alberto Mizrahi.

Due to the Internet, one can now research and hear these three cantors who each have their own web site and whose cantorial music can be found in places such as the FAU Judaica Archives and the Miliken Archives.

One can learn about American-born Cantor Benzion Miller, who lives in New York, and listen to him online by clicking here.Cantor Benzion Miller

In regard to Israeli Cantor Naftali Herstik who was born in Salgotarjan, Hungary, one can hear him by clicking here.

Cantor Naftali Herstik

And the third, is Greek-born Cantor Alberto Mizrahi who lives in Chicago, IL, can be heard here.,

Cantor Alberto Mizrahi

Other musical interludes, in the Portuguese Synagogue are a wonderful concert of baroque Jewish music as well as an excerpt from the repertoire of the Santo Servico choir of the Portuguese Synagogue who sing Baruch Habba.

It is well-worth researching these links and others to further exploration of Sephardic synagogues, music and culture and also links to cantorial connections in your family.

New website for the Petah Tikva historical archives

Posted by Rose Feldman

The Oded Yarkoni Archives for the History of Petah Tikva has just launched its website. It is in Hebrew and available by clicking here.

It has a special section dealing with genealogy (available here)

For those of you with roots in Petah Tikva, I hope it will help you.

In addition, The Israel Genealogical Society has made the following materials available to all researchers. The two databases were originally in Hebrew and the names have been transliterated in to English.

1. 1915 Census of Tel-Aviv

2. British Mandate Census 1922 - Petah Tikva & Tel-Aviv - Jaffa
This database is about 1/5 of the Jewish population in Eretz Israel at that time. This is all that remains of the original census to the best of our knowledge.

Special thanks to the municipal archives of Tel-Aviv - Jaffa and Petah Tikvah for making these materials available to us.

Rose Feldman
Webmistress of the Israel Genealogical Society
follow updates of databases, archives and genealogical information on

New Life in U.S. No Longer Means New Name

For many 19th- and 20th-century immigrants or their children, it was a rite of passage: Arriving in America, they adopted a new identity.

Click here to read the entire article from the NY Times.

Update on Maine Law Regarding Access to Vital Records

Earlier this year I reported on the legislative debate and enactment on Maine Chapter 601 LD 1781 which effects everyone, including genealogists in accessing vital records less than 100 years old. Until this bill was enacted into law, Maine was one of a few "open access states" which permitted anyone to obtain a vital record without waiting for a specific time period.

The law became effective July 12 and the new rules are now posted to the Maine Division of Public Health Systems Office of Vital Data, Research and Vital Statistics:

The requirement for a researcher card is part of the law as is the $50 annual fee.
The genealogical research application may be found at:
by scrolling down the page under Program Activities.

The application states..."In order to receive a Maine CDC issued researcher card, an applicant must be a member of an established genealogical society, provide positive proof of identity, and submit the required fee ($50) along with this application."

Regarding proof of being a member of an established genealogical society, as of this posting there is no stated requirement as to how to comply with providing such proof (not all genealogical societies provide membership cards, and the unanswered question is whether a letter from a genealogical society on letterhead will suffice). I have been in touch with several Maine genealogists who represent the genealogical community on the law-mandated work group. While they provided a list of genealogy societies to the Division of Public Health which were basically state-wide organizations, and some ethnic-based genealogical societies as well as the
Association of Professional Genealogists definition of a genealogist, they have not heard anything further. I have recommended they also submit the list of IAJGS member societies as found on the IAJGS website.

The state has issued directions to the local town registrars to request photo ID, proof of relationship to the person whose record is requested, and (for those not related) the state issued ID in order to get a copy of at vital record. The same rules hold for getting vital records from the state. Those doing research for someone else need a notarized authorization from the person to access vital records.This was posted to this forum on July 6.

The state registrar, Don Lemieux, has recently retired and it is not yet known when a replacement will be appointed/elected ( I am not certain if this is an appointed or elected position). As with many states, budget deficit issues prevail which may delay any appointment. The Task Force has not met since early June and until a replacement for state registrar is
made, the Task Force may not meet until that occurs.

When more is known about proof of being a member of an established genealogical society it will be posted to this forum. At this time I have no further information. You may wish to contact the Division of Public Health Systems Office of Vital Data and Vital Statistics. You can find their
contact information on the url listed above.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Director-at-large
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Canadian Parliament Committee to Meet On Census Long-Form

I recently posted on this forum about Statistics Canada abandoning the long-form for the 2011 census and turning over to the National Household Survey (NHS) a voluntary long form without the "check-off" question for authorizing release of the individual census questionnaire in 92 years (the required length of time by Canada for releasing such information). There has been much "discussion" within Canada about this controversial decision.

For those in Canada who are interested in this debate, The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology will be meeting again on the issue of the removal of the mandatory long form from Canada's Census of Population.

The meeting is scheduled for Friday, 27 August 2010 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Ottawa time. Panel members have yet to be announced. The meeting is to be televised and should be available on your local CPAC television channel, as well as on the Parliamentary Webcast (ParlVu) at:

Thank you to Gordon Watts, Co-chair, Canada Census Committee for bringing this meeting to our attention.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Director-at-large
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Hungary Adopts Citizenship Law and Slovakia Retaliates

Hungary's new Parliament adopted a law in late May granting citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring nations nearly 9 decades after Hungary lost 2/3'rds of its territory under the Treaty of Trianon following WW I. It is estimated there are 3 million ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine and Romania. Persons wanting to take advantage of this new law would have to prove they are of Hungarian origin and speak the language. The law would become effective January 1, 2011.

Slovakia immediately retaliated with introducing legislation banning double citizenship, with the Slovak Cabinet passing an amendment to its Citizenship Act to revoking it from any 'Slovak' who applies for foreign citizenship anywhere in the world.

To read more on this see: http://tinyurl.com/27lcw4o and http://tinyurl.com/2a9pjod

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Director-at-large
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

New Hungary Law Requiring 90 Years From Entry Into Register for Records Release

Act 1 of 2010 on Legal Procedures for the Registration of Birth, Death and Marriages (Register Act) [Hungary] requires 90 years passage since the entry of the data into the registry for release of records. (*not from the birth, marriage or death occurrence). The law becomes effective January 1, 2011. As a result of the new law, FamilySearch.org is no longer delivering
images to the Internet beyond 1920. To date, FamilySearch has not received any request to remove the films from circulation.

In speaking with Kahlile Mehr, IAJGS Director-at-large and FamilySearch manager of the Slavic Collection he indicated that archivists in Hungary are attempting to have the new law amended before it takes effect . Current wording in the new law states:

Act .. of 2010 on the amendment of Act I of 2010 on Legal Procedures for the Registration of Birth, Death and Marriages (Register Act)

Current text

§79 (1) The release of data recorded until December 31, 1980 and contained in duplicate copies of birth, death and marriages registers ("Registers") stored in Public Archives is subject to regulations applicable to the release of data from birth, death and marriages registers - with the exception given in section (2).

(2) As for access to data entered into the Registers stored by Public Archives, provisions regarding the research into records of public archives contained in the Act on Public Archives shall be applied if 90 years have passed since the entry of the data into the Register.

Kahlile advised that Family Search was told that archivists are trying to get the law amended by the newly elected government. This is the wording of the proposed amendment:

Proposed text for §79. (2)

(2) As for access to data entered into the Registers stored by Public Archives, provisions regarding the research into records of public archives contained in the Act on Public Archives shall be applied depending on the date on which the data was first entered into the Register.

Reason for change

Act I. of 2010 on Legal Procedures for the Registration of Birth, Death and Marriages will take effect on January 1, 2011. Preliminary analyses of the bill reveal that at some areas of the proposed legislation do not comply with reality, while some are inconsistent with other legislation already in effect. This would make it necessary for Parliament to make amendments before the new act takes effect in view of the arguments detailed below.

If you are interested in more detail please contact me.

As IAJGS learns more about any amendatory legislation being enacted it will be reported on this forum.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Director -at-large
Chairperson, Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

ShtetLinks Update

Posted by Susana Leistner Bloch

We are pleased to welcome the following webpages to JewishGen ShtetLinks.
We thank the owners and webmasters of these shtetlpages for creating fitting memorials to the Jewish Communities that once lived in those shtetlach and for providing a valuable resource for future generations of their descendants.

Some of our shtetlpages were created by people who are no longer able to maintain them. We thank them for their past efforts and wish them luck on their future endeavors. The following webpages are "orphaned" and are available for "adoption"
ShtetLinks webpages recently updated:
If you wish to follow their example and create a ShtetLinks webpage for your ancestral shtetl or adopt an exiting "orphaned" shtetlpage please email shtetl-help@jewishgen.org.

GOOD NEWS!! As a result for our appeal for HTML volunteers we now have a team of dedicated people who will help you create a webpage for your ancestral home. Please contact us if you would like help in creating a ShtetLinks webpage.

Susana Leistner Bloch, VP, ShtetLinks, JewishGen, Inc.

Barbara Ellman, ShtetLinks Technical Coordinator

Launch of AmericanAncestors.org by the New England Historic Genealogical Society

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), announced today the launch of AmericanAncestors.org, the organization's new website that will serve as the home of its growing regional and national genealogical resources.

NEHGS is inviting people to sign up for the NEHGS "Guest User" program. This free registration gives anyone access to the popular weekly news stories as well as special access to a variety of databases, resources, articles, and other tools to help with their research. http://tinyurl.com/2ev35wf

In addition to the paid/subscription access ($75 per year) there are selected free databases available.

The full url is:

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Director-at-large
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

The 2011 Great Britain Census

A census of population has been carried out in Great Britain every 10 years from 1801 to 2001, except in 1941. The last census released to the public is the 1911 census due to the 100-year privacy rule. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) designs, manages and runs the census in England and Wales. The General Register Office Scotland (GROS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) are responsible for the census in Scotland and Northern Ireland. All three have agreed to conduct their 2011 censuses on the same day in order to produce consistent and coherent information that covers the whole of the UK.

The next census of England and Wales will take place in 2011 and includes a number of new approaches designed to improve census return rates in all areas and with all population groups. Information on the 2011 census is available at:

To see what the 2011 census will look like go to: http://tinyurl.com/2b8wy8s
The full url may be accessed at:

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS, Director-at-large
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

First Holocaust Museum in Greece

(hat tip Ann Rabinowitz)

The Guardian has an interesting story about the unveiling of the first Holocaust Museum in Greece. Click here for the article.

For more information on Jews from Greece please visit one of the following links:
  • Pinkas Hakehilot Greece - (You can also read this on JewishGen's Yizkor Book site, but without the photos and other links.)

American Schindler’ helped 4,000 Jews escape the Nazis

From the Telegraph

Those saved by Varian Fry, known as the American Oskar Schindler, include Marc Chagall, the Jewish French-Russian artist, Claude Levi-Strauss, the French anthropologist, and surrealist artist, Marcel Duchamp.

But while Schindler, a German Industrialist, has been internationally recognized for saving an estimated 1,200 Jews - his story was made into the 1993 film Schindler’s List, directed by Steven Spielberg - the full extent of Fry’s heroic efforts is only now coming to light.

The passenger lists of ships bound for New York from Europe have revealed the true extent of his work with the French Resistance during the Second World War to smuggle Jews out of Nazi occupied territory.

A Harvard Classical scholar, who had covered Hitler’s rise to power before the outbreak of war for an American newspaper, Fry returned to New York and dedicated himself to raising funds to help persecuted Jews escape to America.

Fry arrived in the French port with a chequebook and a list of 200 intellectuals deemed at greatest risk from the Gestapo. He spent a year fighting bureaucracy to bring them, their families and several thousand other Jews to start a new life in America.

The list of those he saved has been traced through historical records published on the family history website Ancestry.co.uk.

Fry, who died in 1967, a month before his 60th birthday, was posthumously named 'Righteous Among Nations’ in 1995 by Yad Vasham, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, the first American to be awarded the honour reserved for those non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis.

Click here to read the entire article.

Volunteer Spotlight: Barbara Ellman

Posted by Joanna Leefer

Some people are born to be genealogists. Barbara Ellman, JewishGen’s Technical Coordinator for ShtetLinks, is one of those people. She inherits her passion for genealogy from her mother, and between the two of them, has researched her maternal family line as far back as the mid-1700 to Drohobych, Ukraine.

Now Barbara is applying her genealogy expertise to JewishGen’s database. She assists ShtetLinks site managers set up FTP (File Transfer Protocol) access, or in less technical terms, she helps managers upload sites, answers technical questions, and recovers/reconstructs sites that disappear.

These are not simple tasks. As one site manager described her, “Barbara is my right and left hands.”

Barbara began working at JewishGen approximately five years ago.“JewishGen has been such a wonderful resource to me in my research, that I wanted to give back to the community through volunteering.” She initially volunteered to become a ShetLinks site manager, but ended up with this much larger and rewarding role. When the JewishGen servers were moved last year, she worked to insure that all sites where in working order, while at the same time holding down a more-than-full time paying job.

Barbara is a computer systems analyst by occupation, and an avid photographer and traveler by avocation. She has already traveled to six of the seven continents and has her heart set on visiting Antarctica. She has a master’s degree in travel management and would love to work in ecological tourism. She is also a member of the Board of Directors at the local genealogy society in Bergen County, NJ.

Thank you, Barbara for offering JewishGen your time, your talents, and your passion for Jewish Genealogy. Your help has been invaluable in keeping JewishGen’s ShetLinks current and functioning!

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.

Availability of WWI Military Records (USA)

The following information was provided by the National Archives (US) in response to an inquiry made to the US Archivist during his "Meet the Archivist" meeting during the National Genealogical Society conference last May. The query was: "Despite the fact that the last World War I veteran died several years ago, the entire class of service and pension records from that conflict still requires paperwork and signatures of spouses or children before they can be accessed. Why is this and what can you do to change it?" NB: One WWI Veteran is still alive: Frank Buckles, who he lives in West Virginia. He is 109.

The reply from Susan Nash, Archives Specialist with the Archival Programs Division at the National Personnel Records Center (Military Personnel Records), stated: "Any military personnel service record that is 62 years old or older since the veteran was discharged, died in service or retired is an archival public record and does not require any kind of authorization from the next of kin nor proof of death."

The following has permission to be posted by the National Archives (in fact they suggest this should be posted to a website or blog for edification of the genealogical community) and as attachments are not permitted on this forum I am copying the written below. As stated in the memo the records have been available for several years and have been added to , but due to a freeze on website updates at the St. Louis National Personnel Records Center they have not been able to provide the information on availability to the public.

The memo is dated May 14, 2010 from Maureen McDonald to the Archivist of the United States:

The World War I official military personnel files (OMPFs) were opened in November 2007. The opening of these records allows genealogists, historians, and other members of the public full access to these records. Prior to the legal transfer, access was limited to the specific veteran, the primary next-of-kin, and Federal agencies.

Researchers can receive a complete copy of the file for a fee. These records are subject to a limited exemption under the Freedom of Information Act. All social security numbers are redacted before releasing the record to the public.

Records opened include:

U.S. Navy Enlisted OMPFs with discharge dates beginning in 1885 through 1947;
U.S. Navy Officer OMPFs with discharge dates beginning in 1902 through 1947;
U.S. Marine Corps Enlisted OMPFs with discharge dates beginning in 1906 through 1947;
U.S. Marine Corps Officer OMPFs with discharge dates beginning in 1905 through 1947;
U.S. Army OMPFs with discharge dates beginning in 1912 through 1947; and
U.S. Coast Guard OMPFs with discharge dates beginning in 1898 through 1947;

Additional military personnel records will be made available to the public each year, for individuals who served in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard who have been discharged, deceased, or retired for at least 62 years. For example, records for veterans who were discharged, deceased, or retired in 1948 will be opened 62 years to the day in 2010.

Researchers can access these records by:

1. Visiting the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), Archival
Research Center, in St. Louis, MO

2. Requesting copies of the records (for a copy fee) via mail, fax, or
online. NPRC encourages interested individuals to submit requests via
www.vetrecs.archives.gov or on a Standard Form 180, available at

The fee schedule for OMPFs is:
OMPF of 5 pages or fewer: $20
OMPFs of greater than 5 pages: $60 (Most OMPFs fall in this category.)
Persons of Exceptional Prominence OMPF: $.75 per page.

Besides getting up-to-date information on the web site, a blog posting could definitely help spread the word about the availability of these records, especially to the genealogy community.

A new brochure for NPRC might also help researchers understand what records are open for military service. This brochure could be handed out at NARA research facilities and conferences to get the correct information out there to researchers. NPRC is working on a brochure, but they do not want to print anything since they are moving next year. In the interim, they are doing a rack card which gives basic information about the facility, hours of operation, phone, and address. It does not address what records are there and the availability to the public.

The OMPF information for St. Louis is available in Reference Information Paper 109 Military Service Records at the National Archives. Also, NPRC has created a handout to explain what records are now open and how much it costs to get copies of these records. Distribution of this handout in all research facilities would help spread the word.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Director-at-large
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Jewish Identity Cards

Posted by Ann Rabinowitz
Self Portrait With Jewish Identity Card” by Felix Nussbaum, 1943
The use of Identity Cards has been pervasive in civilization and it was especially utilized to differentiate Jews during World War II. The self-portrait above of artist Felix Nussbaum is just such a reference to these cards. For genealogists, the identity card can provide much family information. It is worthwhile searching in family archives and other resources for such documentation.

A group of identity cards or passports can be seen on the following site which focuses on documents utilized by Jews to successfully leave Germany during World War II: http://www.edwardvictor.com/Holocaust/emigration_main.htm. These include the Nazis’ Kennkart for all Jewish civilians over 15 years of age.

Cover of a Nazi Kennkarte
(Courtesy of the Neufeld Family Archive, a collection of Holocaust/family artifacts donated by Anne Neufeld Levin. The collection is housed at Special Collections in UCSC’s McHenry Library)

The Kennkarte, as one can see, was issued with a “J” to indicate that the individual holder was Jewish. Not only were there the Kennkartes, but there were some identity cards issued for the ghettos which were established for certain Jewish populations. One of these is seen below for the Krakow Ghetto.

A remarkable identity card found on the http://www.postcardcircuit.com site is a Provisional Identification Card for a civilian internee of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, Jakob Machat, whose card was stamped by the Allied forces on the day the camp was liberated. Also, one can view his original photo taken later in Palestine, commemorating his own concentration camp prisoner's uniforms. This young man served as a pilot in the IDF Air Force. [D]

Jakob Machat Ausweis Card, Buchenwald, Germany, 1945
(Courtesy of the http://www.postcardcircuit.com site)

There were also identity cards given to residents of Mandatory Palestine by the British. These cards identified individuals as Jews. One such example is for Ruth Goldman.

Ruth Goldman, Palestine, 1940

Another example of a Palestine Identity Card is one for Esther Yoskowitz Reiss which was issued in May, 1946.

Identity Card for Esther Yoskowitz Reiss, May 24, 1946

Another Mandatory Palestine Identity Card was the following for Paul Mortge which was issued in 1946.

Mandatory Palestine Identity Card for Paul Mortge, 1946
(Courtesy of the http://www.historama.com site)

In addition to the Identity Card required in Palestine, the British government after a first attempt at identity cards during World War I, established a temporary wartime scheme during World War II. This required their own civilians over the age of 16 to carry an Identity Card from October, 1939, to May, 1943. Cards were issued until February 22, 1952, when their use was abolished..

Unlike many other identity cards, this one did not have a picture of the individual nor did it provide date or place of birth or religion. Merely, the name and address of the individual was given.

British National Registration Identity Card

Additional information had been collected for the National Register in 1939 prior to the issuance of the identity cards which contained the name of the individual, their sex, date of birth, marital condition, occupation and whether they were a member of the armed forces or reserves.

The National Health Service now provides access for genealogical purposes to this 1939 Identity Card database as part of its Central Register. Information can be garnered, at present, only for those individuals who can be proved to be deceased.

Returning to Jewish identity, after the State of Israel came into being, they issued their own certificates of identification which were called Te’Udat Zehut. One of these is shown below from 1947. The card was issued to Leah Melnik, born 1916, who had come to Israel from Latvia and lived on Kfar Blum.
Israeli Identity Card, Issued January 9, 1949
(Courtesy of the http://www.historama.com

An interesting source of information on identity cards is found on the Israel State Archives site. Here there is a “Jews and their Wanderings” online exhibition. The exhibition is composed of twenty-nine different types of identity/travel documents which can be viewed in four segments:
  • Pre-World War II
  • Persecution of the Jews and Flight
  • Aftermath of the Holocaust
  • Immigration to Israel
As a concluding comment on identity cards, you will remember that there were temporary schemes for British identity cards which existed primarily during the War years. Recently, the first person to be issued the new electronic United Kingdom National Identity Card was British Jew Angela Epstein from Manchester. She obtained the card at the inception of the cards in 2009. Unlike others in the past, this card did not identify Angela Epstein by religion.

So much of what can be learned of the Jewish struggle to exist as a free and independent people can be seen through the images of these identity cards. From their initial negative purpose to separate and distinguish the Jewish population during the War years to the later positive identification as citizens of the State of Israel, it has been quite a journey, albeit fraught with pain and suffering.

Jews of Ireland

From the Jerusalem Post

Irish history is rich, complicated and dramatic. While the Jewish population is not large, never more then 6,000, influential figures, such Chaim Herzog, the sixth president of Israel, were born in Ireland, and have made an impact in international as well as Irish politics.

The earliest reference to a Jewish presence was in 1079, when scholars believe merchants arrived for a short visit. However, the first Irish Jewish politician was William Annyas, elected mayor of Youghal, County Cork in 1555. The tradition continued, albeit a few hundred years later, when Gerald Goldberg became lord mayor of Cork in 1977.

Not to be outdone, Dublin also boasts two Jewish mayors, a father and son, Robert Briscoe, twice lord mayor of Dublin (1956- 1957 and 1961-1962) and his son Ben Briscoe in 1988.

Dublin, home of the writer James Joyce, is charming and a manageable city to navigate. Many locations Joyce writes about in Ulysses, which his famous Jewish character Leopold Bloom frequents, such as the restaurant/bar Davy Byrnes, on Grafton Street, are still open for business and marked with metal plaques.

Trinity College also has a Jewish connection. The Weingreen Museum, donated by Prof. Jack and Bertha Weingreen, who taught Hebrew at the university, consists mainly of pottery and other artifacts from the ancient Near East. The collection encompasses the entire Mediterranean world from North Africa to Mesopotamia and from the ninth millennium BCE to the Crusades and is open to the public by appointment.

Ireland also boasts a Jewish Museum. Once a synagogue, it was established in 1984. It was opened by Chaim Herzog, whose father, Isaac, was the first chief rabbi of Ireland. The ceremony was held in 1985 during his state visit. The museum is filled with photos, paintings and Judaica and it chronicles the last 150 years of Irish Jewish communities and their contributions to the country.

I wandered over to the Dublin Hebrew Congregation. Call it dumb luck or good travel karma, I arrived just as Saturday morning services were ending, and stopped to chat with Stuart Rosenblatt, the preeminent scholar of Irish Jewish genealogy who created an enormous database of more than 42,000 Irish Jews, their family histories and their global connections dating back to 1664.

Click here to read the entire article.

A French Connection

Posted by Ann Rabinowitz

Presently, the Off-Broadway St. Luke’s Theater is hosting “Dietrich & Chevalier: The Musical” which tells the story of the purported relationship between the two great stars, Marlene Dietrich and Maurice Chevalier.

Mentioned in the musical is the wife of Maurice Chevalier, Nita Ray, a French actress, singer and dancer, who was Jewish.
One of the Blog readers, Linda Cantor, who attended a performance of the musical, asked me to find out more about Nita Ray. Apparently, she was unfamiliar with her as were many other theater-goers.

Nita Raya

Evidently, she played an important role in the life of Chevalier. It was said that it was Ray who was perhaps the reason Chevalier may have been blackmailed by the Nazis into performing for them during World War II. According to some sources, his “collaboration” was the result of trying to protect her and her parents and provide a secure hiding place and false papers for them.

With this in mind, I decided to start my research with who she was with Google.com. There, I found a number of references to her, not all of which corresponded to each other.

Generally, it can be stated that Nita Ray met Chevalier when she was nineteen in 1934. She married him in 1937 after his divorce from actress Yvonne Vallee. They lived together in Cannes, France. In turn, Nita and Chevalier were divorced in 1946.

Wanting more information which I thought might be in French, I contacted Eve Line Blum, a French researcher I have known for some years. She reported back to me that Nita Raya (not Ray) was the correct stage name in France for Raya Jerkovitch, the wife of Chevalier. She was born on October 15, 1915 in Kishinev, Romania, in what is now Chisinau, Moldova.

I had looked at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) which is usually a good source for information on performers. In this case, it only had Nita Raya’s name, birth date and birthplace. However, Eve Line was able to direct me to a complete listing of Nita Raya’s career performances on the French site called Les Gens du Cinema.

She made her first performance in 1933 in “Primrose”. Fortunately, YouTube provides a number of extracts from her later films which she appeared in. For instance, in 1937, she can be seen in a dancing and singing performance with famed French star Fernandel and actor Andrex in “La Mexicana

She appeared again with Fernandel in the film “Ignace” which was her most memorable performance.

Poster, Nita Raya, “Ignace”, 1937

She carried on until 1939 where she is seen with well-known French actress Paulette Dubost in the film “Becassine” which was based on a well-known French cartoon character. An extract of the film can be seen here.

Due to the War, there is a large gap in her career. She was not heard from again until her last recorded performance in 1953 in “La rafle est pour ce soir”, where she appeared with French star Blanchette Brunoy.

My next step after finding the data on Nita Raya’s career was to go to the front page of JewishGen. There I looked at the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) . Unfortunately, there were no individuals who were researching either the Raya or Jerkovitch family names on the JewishGen Family Finder. So, I was unable to locate who her family might be that way.

Looking again on the front page of JewishGen, I chose FAMILY NAME/ROMANIA and up popped loads of families with the name YURKOVITCH. It is possible that this is the same as JERKOVITCH. Many of these families lived in Soroki, Moldova. Other records showed the name IURCEVETCHI and JURCOVICI. It appears that there are lots of possible alternative spellings then for JERKOVITCH which is often the case when searching for family records.

As a final tantalizing tidbit about Nita Raya, there was even a mention on a resource on Google.com regarding the fact that she might still be alive at the venerable age of ninety-five. I did not find anything regarding her death, so it might be true. If so, perhaps she or one of her descendants will read this posting and respond and confirm the facts of her life and her family.

Announcement: JGS of NY

The next meeting of the JGSNY will take place on September 19, 2010 at 2:00 PM.

Memories of Ancestral Homes
Location: Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16 St., New York, NY
Cost: Free to JGSNY members; $5 non-members

Panel: Professors Mihai Grunfeld, Mimi Schwartz, Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer.

Moderated by: Renee Steinig

The presenters will discuss life in the towns after the Holocaust, personal experiences, impressions, and anecdotal stories.

Mihai Grunfeld, author of Leaving, Memories of Romania, offers a rich and stimulating account of growing up in post-war Romania, haunted by the Holocaust his parents do not speak about. At age 18, he and his brother travel to Czechoslovakia and escape to Austria, Their journey takes them through several countries and finally the United States where he settles. Mihai Grunfeld is a professor of Spanish and Latin American Literature at Vassar College.

Mimi Schwartz, author of Good Neighbors, Bad Times, Echoes of My Father’s German Village, grew up in America, hearing her father’s boyhood stories about his German village. Only when she heard about the remarkable story of the Torah being rescued by Christians on Kristallnacht, did she begin to understand what these stories mean. For twelve years, she traveled seeking answers, collecting stories, checking historical records. Mimi Schwartz, the author of five books and numerous essays, is a professor emerita at Richard Stockton College in N.J. where she teaches workshops in memoir and creative nonfiction.

Federal Judge Orders Russia to Return Religious Documents

From the Legal Times Blog:

A federal judge in Washington has sided against Russia in a dispute over the return of thousands of religious books, manuscripts and rabbinical teachings that remain overseas.

The Chabad-Lubavitch sect sued the Russian Federation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to recover some 12,000 books and manuscripts seized during the Bolshevik Revolution and Russian Civil War, and 25,000 pages of handwritten teachings and writings of Chabad religious leaders that Nazi Germany seized during the 1941 invasion of Poland. Click here for background on the dispute.

The federation said it would not find an order of the court binding.

Click here to read the entire article.

Jewish records in Milwaukee

Guest Post by Lisa Grayson

A reader on the JewishGen Discussion Groups recently asked about finding information on relatives who lived in Milwaukee years ago.

The Jewish Museum of Milwaukee has a wonderful resource, an index of obituaries published in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, 1921-1996, which can be accessed by clicking here.
The museum will charge you $10 per obituary copy; you need to indicate the person's full name, plus the date of the Chronicle issue and the page number given in the index. The index page contains a link to ordering copies by e-mail.
You can visit in person with an appointment:
1360 N. Prospect Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 390-5730

Please note that the Chronicle did not publish general death notices, so only a small percentage of Wisconsin Jews will have obituaries -- but it's definitely worth checking. I found a living relative from information provided in a 1955 obituary.
Best wishes,
Lisa Grayson
Chicago, Illinois USA

Yizkor Books - Update

Posted by Lance Ackerfeld

I hope those who attended the recent IAJGS conference left it with renewed energy and motivation to continue your genealogical research. Of course, if your research leads you to the realm of Yizkor Books, I am here to help and direct you.

Meanwhile, the Yizkor Book Project continues to hold a wealth of genealogical and historical information and to improve access to this precious data, we recently initiated something called the Yizkor Book Master Name Index (YBMNI) Project. The aim of this project is to collect all the names appearing in the Yizkor Book translations (apart from necrologies), to organize them into a database through which researchers can seek out names and be directed to the online translated pages themselves.

We have been very fortunate in that Osnat Hazan has agreed to be the YBMNI Project Manager and together with a small group of volunteers, has begun the enormous task of collecting and organizing this data. Note that the YBMNI can be located here.

If you have a good understanding of Excel, are methodical, have time available and would like to assist in this groundbreaking project, please contact Osnat via the link appearing on the main YBMNI page.

As far as the Yizkor Book Project itself goes, during this last month we have added these 9 new projects:

- Dzyarzhynsk, Belarus (Koidanov; Memorial Volume of the Martyrs of

- Halmeu, Romania (In memory of the communities of Halmin-Turcz and vicinity)

- Lipnishki, Belarus (Memorial Book of the Community of Lipniszki)

- Lowicz, Poland (Lowicz; a Town in Mazovia, Memorial Book)

- Rafalovka, Ukraine (Memorial book for the towns of Old Rafalowka, New Rafalowka, Olizarka, Zoludzk and vicinity)

- Svir, Belarus (There once was a town Swir; between the two world wars)

- Trakai, Lithuania (Troki)

- Utena, Lithuania (Memorial Book of Utyan and Vicinity)

- Volodymyr Volynskyy, Ukraine (Wladimir Wolynsk; in memory of the Jewish community)

Added 2 new entries:

- Gliniany, Ukraine (Pinkas Poland)

- Peremyshlyany, Ukraine (Pinkas Poland)

We have continued to update 31 of our existing projects:

- Bedzin, Poland (A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Bedzin)

- Biecz, Poland (Memorial book of the Martyrs of Biecz)

- Byten, Belarus (Memorial book of Byten)

- Chorzele, Poland (Memorial Book of the Community of Chorzel)

- Czyzew-Osada, Poland (Czyzewo Memorial Book)

- Dabrowa Gornicza, Poland (Book of the Jewish community of Dabrowa Gornicza and its destruction)

- Dotnuva, Lithuania (Letters from Dotnuva)

- Gargzdai, Lithuania (Gorzd Book; A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Gorzd)

- Glinyany, Ukraine (The tragic end of our Gliniany)

- Goniadz, Poland (Our Hometown Goniondz)

- Gostynin, Poland (Book of Gostynin)

- Grajewo, Poland (Grayewo Memorial Book)

- Garwolin, Poland (Garwolin Memorial Book) [Polish]

- Kutno, Poland (Kutno and Surroundings Book)

- Leova, Moldova (Our House in Leova)

- Narach, Belarus (Memorial Book of Kobylnik)

- Ostrow-Mazowiecka, Poland (Memorial Book of the Community of

- Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland (A Tale of One City)

- Pruzhany, Belarus (Memorial Book of Pruz'any and its Vicinity)

- Rozhishche (Rozyszcze), Ukraine (Rozyszcze, My Old Home)

- Ryki, Poland (A Memorial to the Community of Ryki, Poland) [Polish]

- Serock, Poland (The Book of Serock)

- Shumskoye, Ukraine (Szumsk, memorial book of the martyrs of Szumsk)

- Sosnowiec, Poland (Book of Sosnowiec and the Surrounding Region in Zaglebie)

- Svencionys, Lithuania (Svinzian region; memorial book of 23 Jewish

- Svisloch, Belarus (The community of Swislocz, Grodno District)

- Tykocin, Poland (Memorial book of Tiktin)

- Valkininkai, Lithuania (Olkeniki in flames; a memorial book to the community of Olkenik in the Vilna district)

- Wierzbnik, Poland (Wierzbnik-Starachowitz; a Memorial Book) [Whole book now online]

- Zelechow, Poland (Memorial Book of the Community of Zelechow ) - addition of pictures to Polish section

- Zychlin, Poland (The memorial book of Zychlin)

Please remember that all this month's additions and updates can be accessed by clicking here.

The Yizkor Book Project recently has added a number of new Translation Fund Projects - Koidonov (Dzyarzhynsk, Belarus) and Rafalovka, Ukraine and these join the some 40 or so other projects already listed. These Translation Fund Projects are geared to raise funds for the professional translation of the Yizkor Books for the sacred communities that they so vividly describe.

Please take a minute to look at the list of books appearing here - needless to say, any donation would be very much appreciated.

Wishing you all the best,
Lance Ackerfeld
Yizkor Book Project Manager


Posted by Phyllis Kramer

The July 2010 edition of the
JewishGen Success! Stories webzine can now be accessed by clicking here.

 Meredith Hoffman and Nancy Siegel have worked with the authors to edit these stories of ancestor and family connections made through JewishGen -- the kinds of success stories we regularly read about on the JewishGen mailing lists and discussion groups.

Several years ago, JewishGen Vice President Michael Tobias played a critical role in one of our more intriguing stories of reconnection – literally thanks to JewishGen. Michael tells of the startling coincidences and the exciting role that he played in bringing together two cousins who had last seen one another in 1940, and who each had reason to believe that the other had perished in the Holocaust.

Geoff Isaacs and Laurie Rappeport tell two sides of another fascinating, and different, story of discovery and connection. In his sixties when he first learned the truth about his origins, Geoff traveled from New Zealand to the UK searching for more information. Then, using the JewishGen Family Finder, Geoff connected with Laurie, who’d waited ten years to find any others researching her great-grandfather’s family of Birmingham, England. The cousins met, and the story ends with a satisfying twist.

Four brief stories in “From Our Mailbox...” highlight successes made using the JewishGen Family Finder and the JewishGen discussion lists from Debbie Kopstein Burr, Judith Elam, Edmond Cohen, and Rachelle Leaf Berliner.

Do you have a similar success story? We would love to publish it! Please send us a note by clicking here.

The final moments of Nazi Heinrich Himmler

From The Daily Mail

The final moments of Nazi Heinrich Himmler can be revealed 65 years after his suicide following the discovery of an old soldier's war diaries.

Corporal Harry Oughton Jones wrote an account of his top-secret encounter with the head of Hitler's SS police force while he was stationed at a prison camp at the end of the war.

According to his personal recollections, Hitler's number two bit on a cyanide capsule and dropped down dead.

And while Himmler's final words are widely believed to have been: 'I am Heinrich Himmler', according to the diaries he laughed in the face of a young officer before swallowing the pill.

Unbeknown to the British, Himmler was among the German soldiers captured after the Nazi surrender - disguised in a sergeant's uniform with a patch over one eye.

But his ruse was blown by his own shocked comrades who immediately informed their British captors of Himmler's presence.

Corporal Jones - then 27 - and another officer were tasked with challenging Himmler before he took his life.

According to the diary he scoffed: 'You my boy are just a young captain and to take me I want to see your colonel in charge.'

His account continued: 'As we made to get him he just put his hand to his mouth and before we got to him he dropped dead on the bed.'

Two days later and under the cover of darkness, Corporal Jones helped bury Himmler in an unmarked grave on Luneburg Heath, in northern Germany.

He was made to sign the Official Secrets Act and told never to speak of the matter again.

The episode has been classified by the Ministry of Defence until 2045 - 100 years after the momentous event.

Due to the level of secrecy involved, there have been various speculative accounts of Himmler's death over the years, with one being that he took cyanide while being examined by a British doctor.

But the actual circumstances of his demise have emerged following Corporal Jones' recent death aged 92.

Click here for the entire article.