NYC conference to feature speakers from 18 countries
Photo: AP

It’s All Relative: Getting down to it

Global Jewish genealogists prepare for an intense annual event offering 180-plus programs

International Jewish family history researchers are signing up for an intense Jewish genealogy adventure offering more than 180 program sessions in 23 topic categories, more than 30 meetings and luncheons of special interest groups, and networking with global colleagues.


The 26th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, set for August 13-18 in New York City, will offer conference speakers from 18 countries and an extensive computer education center sponsored by


The event, hosted by the Jewish Genealogy Society (New York) at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square, is the most comprehensive of any Jewish or general genealogy conference. Each of the 5 1/2 days offers sessions from early morning on, while evenings are for special events, including musical performances. Tours to Jewish sites and cemeteries are also arranged.


Programs are geared to all levels of researchers, whether beginners, intermediate or advanced. Conference-goers will find special beginners’ workshops and basic computer skills classes, in addition to geographic, topical and how-to programs for everyone, including advanced technical skills for the 21st century Jewish genealogist.


The annual meet is the place to learn about everything new or updated, achievements and resources. Web-based sources in every research category increase daily, and a few examples are Turkish marriage and burial records to how DNA is helping to connect families to burials in an obscure Polish shtetl. Researchers are always looking for meaningful resources – this is where to find them.


New York is known for its outstanding libraries, archives and other repositories, and opening day will feature the first-ever Repository Fair, with representatives from many resources providing information about collections, policies and procedures, easing the way for attendees to access information during the week or after returning home.


Each conference features the world’s leading experts. The most difficult part for researchers is to choose which program to attend of six to eight possibilities at each time slot, and still manage to get in special interest group meetings, personal meetings with experts, lunches and dinners with friends and networking over coffee with global colleagues.


Some programs are:


  • New York University’s Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History and author Hasia Diner will speak on “Into and Out of the Lower East Side” about the history of that neighborhood, while “Jewish Women in America: A history of their own,” will discuss how American Jewish women differed from Jewish women elsewhere and from other American women.


  • Internationally acclaimed klezmer performer Joel Rubin (Syracuse University Rothman Family Visiting Lecturer in Judaic Studies, Ithaca College Jewish studies and ethnomusicology lecturer and Cornell Society for the Humanities visiting scholar, Cornell and Syracuse University klezmer ensembles director) has written books on Jewish musical tradition and klezmer music. In addition to a performance with colleague Pete Rushefsky, he will present “Our Middle Name was Klezmer: Jewish musical families in the 19th and 20th century Poland,” and “Beyond Bagels and Klezmer: Reflection on Contemporary American Jewish Popular Music,” musical movements which are part of an American Jewish identity.


  • Environmental planner and Environmental Simulation Center architect Philippe Amstislavski develops and applies Geographic Information System (GIS) tools to help communities in distress. He will speak on “Using Geographic Information Systems to map Jewish roots: Tools and opportunities to enhance genealogical research,” introducing basic GIS concepts and use in Jewish genealogical research, while focusing on using it to track Jewish migration and settlement patterns from Eastern Europe to North America and Israel.


  • A cemetery preservation panel will include: “Challenges facing preservation and restoration of Jewish cemeteries in Poland,” Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich of Warsaw; “The Documentation, Protection and Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Central and Eastern Europe,” Dr. Samuel D. Gruber, Jewish Heritage Research Center director, research director, US commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad research director, Syracuse University Judaic Studies lecturer and International Survey of Jewish Monuments president; “Remembering Our Ancestors,” Heritage Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries assistant director Toby Mendlowitz Grunhut; “Reclaiming Jewish Heritage in Poland,” Jewish Cemeteries Restoration Project volunteer executive coordinator Dr. Norman Weinberg; and International Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Memorial Sites director Rabbi Shlomo Besser.


  • Sarah Lawrence College Professor of Judaic Studies Glenn Dynner will speak on “New Material on the Rise of Hasidism,” indicating how Polish archive materials on the rise of Hasidism and its leaders can be valuable genealogical resources. His new book, “Men of Silk: the Hasidic Conquest of Polish-Jewish Society,” indicates that understanding the 19th century Hasidic movement in Poland and Ukraine will help us to better understand the world of our ancestors.


While the majority of available Jewish genealogical resources are Eastern European and Ashkenazi, Sephardic genealogy resources are increasing daily. Sessions include overviews and updates, surnames, the Farhi family project and website, Sephardic DNA projects, Italian Jews, Ottoman and modern Turkish Jewish resources, Sephardic/Oriental female given names database, indigenous Romaniote Greek Jews and Sephardim in the Baltics.


A first-ever DNA and genetics track covers medical and genetic family history, using genetic information, genetic genealogy perspectives, genealogy as a subset of anthropology, genes for genealogists and genealogical family puzzles.


Another conference first will be two expert panels on teaching family history – to children (in the family, in Jewish education and in secular school classrooms) and to adults (college courses, distance learning and writing).


Holocaust resource programs include monuments, Yizkor books, finding family in Israel, tracking survivors, roots travel, the Arolsen-International Red Cross files and tracing victims.


If the Baltic States are your interest, explore programs on Vilna, the Litvak SIG vital records indexing project, finding family in 18th century records, updates on Lithuanian research and archives, the Holocaust in Latvia, recreating a Lithuanian shtetl and WWI exile from Lithuania to Ukraine, among others.


Is your target Eastern and Central Europe? Learn about history, archives, villages and cemeteries, linguistics, Budapest treasures, Prague archives, Hungarian gazetteers, Lviv archives, Polish government Belarussian files in the Vilnius archives, identifying female lines without surnames, small German towns, Ukrainian/Galician archives, Galician Jewish self-government, Prussian Poland vital records, Kremenets translations, archival holdings, magnate landowner records, Russian encyclopedias, a klezmer concert, unlocking Polish and Russian documents, Bremerhaven research and much more.


Polish-focused programs include Jewish Records Indexing-Poland updates and website, Jewish musical families, uncovering surnames, unlocking documents, problems and solutions for research, parish records for Jewish research, notary documentation, Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, archival holdings, untapped resources, residents’ books, 19th century records and Galician research, cemeteries and others.


North American sessions will address cataloguing cemeteries or burial societies, children rescued, Jewish agricultural colonies, immigrant manifests, American Jewish women, university libraries, unexpected records, property records, 20th century military research, census research, computer courses, landsmanshaften societies, probate research, Washington DC, Chicago, death information, the Catskills, court records, finding living descendants, WWII immigration resources, newspaper research and others.


Nearly 40 technology and internet resource sessions will look at online auctions, family web sites, using geographic information systems to map roots, creating one-step research tools, one-step webpages, tours of websites and resources, find relatives on the internet, using Excel to produce databases, creating genealogy websites, preserving family stories, using optical character recognition, new JewishGen developments, using census, Pages of Testimony, photography, internet, workshops, workshop in adoption reconnecting, digging deeper and linking, using the internet to research Israeli sources, cyberspace memorials, genealogy of a NYC tenement and the benefits of internet exposure.


There are more than 70 “how-to” methodology programs: Publishing family histories, reducing research clutter, writing a family history, genealogical documentary films, basic Hebrew, reading tombstones, software, breaking through brick walls, non-traditional relationships and teaching genealogy.


There is much more at this conference: From identity theft to non-traditional families, debunking research myths to border changes, to organizing remembrance projects for our ancestors or their communities, the choices are fascinating and information is practical.


While some programs may provide answers to the age-old questions of who we really are and where we come from, others may raise even more questions as we dig deeper into Jewish history, anthropology, sociology and technology.


For all event details, including conference and hotel registration, go to Early registration discounts expire May 15.


פרסום ראשון: 04.27.06, 07:45
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