From the NY Times - by David Laskin
...Our final days in Israel were dedicated to learning what we could about the lives and deaths of these relatives. To pursue this search, we left behind the mountains and coastal farming villages where we had spent the first part of the week and headed to the nation’s two major cities — one of them ancient, the other not even a century old, both rushing rapidly into an uncertain future. Specifically, we were intent on visiting two major cultural institutions, one in Tel Aviv, the other in Jerusalem, dedicated to helping the Jewish people untangle and come to terms with their past.
In Tel Aviv we devoted most of our time to Beit Hatfutsot (the Museum of the Jewish People, commonly called the Diaspora Museum) on the campus of Tel Aviv University. Two floors of multimedia galleries packed with dioramas, replicas of Jewish artistry and architecture, historic film clips, snatches of music, photos, models of synagogues, and searchable computer terminals conjure up 2,000 years of Jewish exile in all corners of the world. I was most interested in the shtetls of Eastern Europe, where my family had lived for hundreds of years, and though I found much that was redolent of the spirit of the past, there was little specific to my search.
I had hopes of learning more in the ground-floor database room, where a couple of helpful English-speaking archivists are on hand to guide visitors at no charge through searches of digital genealogical and historical files. But I had already visited the museum’s Web site before I left home, and the same information came up. Far richer was a search for our family’s shtetls on the Yizkor (memorial) Book Project run by Jewish Gen (www.JewishGen.org/yizkor).
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