159Genealogy Meeting Next Sunday
- May 11, 2009
Our Meeting Next Sunday:
The Musical “Chicago” and All That Genealogical Jazz
Sunday, May 17, 2009, 10 a.m.
You may not realize it, but the Broadway musical / movie 'Chicago' was based on the lives of two real-life women, Belva Gaertner and Beulah Annan, who lived in Chicago in 1924. In this presentation, Bay Area genealogist and author Ron Arons pieces back together the fascinating life of Belva, using a variety of documents. Come learn the backstory and sequel to the musical/movie!
Ron’s program is part of a presentation originally given at the 2008 International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies -- in Chicago.
Join us on Sunday morning to learn more.
Preserving Jewish Cemeteries
The Heritage Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries has a Web site that lists the status of 402 Jewish cemeteries primarily in Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. Visit the site at www.hfpjc.org.
36 Hours in Philadelphia
From Sunday’s New York Times travel section, a “36 Hours in…” article on Philadelphia, site of this year’s international conference. For a look at the Times’ recommendations for the city, go to http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/05/10/travel/10hours.html?scp=1&sq=philadelphia&st=cse
A few articles that may be of interest..
Correct format saves genealogical work
By Stefani Evans, West Valley News, Clark County, Nevada Thu, Apr 30, 2009
We are not immortal, and each of us will someday become the ancestor on the wall. I write about mortality because most genealogists collect paper. Lots of paper.
By the time we prove our final ancestor we will accumulate boxes and binders full of paper. Where will our work go? Some few genealogists have family members who are willing to receive their collections. But most genealogists do not, and they must seek other custodians for their materials. The two largest genealogical libraries emphasize that organization matters. If you would like to preserve your work and make it available to future researchers, they say, assemble it into a format that researchers can use.
The world's largest genealogical library, Salt Lake City's Family History Library (FHL), does not accept genealogical collections in file boxes or loose unorganized papers. The FHL is not a repository, such as a state archives, and it does not have space to store every type of personal genealogical work product. The FHL gladly accepts electronic GEDCOM files (Genealogical Data Communication), a standard format that all family tree programs can read and produce; the library will incorporate donated GEDCOM files into the FamilySearch Pedigree Resource File database (www.familysearch.org). The library accepts written, indexed, family histories with title page and table of contents. With the author's permission, the FHL will digitize family histories for access through the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Archives Web site, and will bind a copy for patron use in the FHL. Carolyn Bellamy in the Donations unit emphasizes that compiled family histories must be "camera-ready" as staff cannot organize and edit donated materials.
One library will take your genealogical collection. The Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, Ind., houses the second-largest genealogical collection in the United States, and seeks such collections. However, Steve Myers in the genealogy center points out that the better you organize your collection, the quicker the library can process it and get it on the shelves. The ACPL will not index your collection; volunteers will broadly organize volumes behind cover sheets. You will make your collection more user friendly if you include a table of contents for each binder or file.
Genealogist Richard A. Pence of Fairfax, Va., exemplifies the proactive stance we should emulate if we wish our work to outlive us. Pence, charter inductee into the Genealogy Technology Hall of Fame, co-authored the first book on using computer technology in genealogy, "Computer Genealogy." Pence's heirs did not want to take custody of his research, and he offered his collection to the ACPL. The ACPL recently accepted Pence's collections. His database, "Pence Descendants," holds Pence's one-name study representing more than 40 years of research. His main database contains nearly 18,000 Pences and serves to index narrative files on each individual. This database and associated text files will shortly be online and available to researchers everywhere. Pence's collection also includes some 12 linear feet of correspondence, research notes, documents, etc. (mostly predating 1995) and thousands of electronic files.
Both libraries urge genealogists to organize their papers. Thank you, Richard Pence, for demonstrating how we might allow others to benefit from our work..
Stefani Evans is a board-certified genealogist and a volunteer at the Regional Family History Center. She can be reached c/o the Home News, 2275 Corporate Circle, Third Floor, Henderson, NV 89074, or TheNews@....
The Big Baby-Naming Battle
As "Cohen" climbs the rankings of popular first names for babies, naming expert Pamela Redmond Satran discovers a holy war being waged over the classic Jewish surname.
Pamela Redmond Satran is the coauthor with Linda Rosenkrantz of nine best-selling baby-name guides, including Beyond Jennifer & Jason and Cool Names for Babies, and a developer of the new baby-naming site Nameberry. A former fashion editor for Glamour, she is also a columnist for that magazine, writes for the New York Times, and is the author of five novels. Her children are named Rory, Joe, and Owen.
It started out innocently enough. Which name sounds better, a mom-to-be asked on nameberry’s message boards. “Nathaniel Cohen or Cohen Grey?”
The first few responses tiptoed around the issue: What about Nathaniel Grey? How about Ezra, Gideon, or Levi instead of Cohen?
And then the gloves came off.
“All these hillbillies are sitting around drinking their Mountain Dew and eating their Ho Hos and naming their babies Cohen.”
“A Cohen is a Jewish priest and a religious name, so… it would pretty much be like a non-Christian person naming their child Jesus, a non-Muslim person naming their child Mohammed, or a non-Catholic person wearing a rosary as jewelry simply because it looks cool,” one poster wrote. “If you're not Jewish, please be aware that many Jewish people may be understandably offended by a non-Jewish Cohen.
“I am not even religious so I couldn't care less what the religious fanatics think,” the Cohen-loving mom fired back. “I’m not going to not name my baby something just because it might offend someone.”
If you haven’t spent any time lately in the wild world of baby-naming, you may be surprised to learn that Cohen is one of the hottest new names for boys, rising from No. 650 in 2004, when it debuted on the Social Security’s most popular names list, to No. 393 last year, when 761 baby boys received the name. It’s in Canada’s Top 100, and has gained a following in the U.K. as well.
The initial inspiration: The character on television’s The O.C., Seth Cohen—typically called just plain Cohen—with a little pop-culture help from fellow Cohens, Sacha Baron and Leonard, along with the filmmaking Coen Brothers.
All Jews, of course, Cohen being the most common Jewish surname in the United States. But the problem is it’s not just any Jewish surname. Call your sons Greenblatt or Rosenberg, the objectors say. But the name Cohen is reserved for the priestly caste descended directly from the biblical Aaron. Cohens are accorded certain privileges in the Jewish religion and are subject to certain restrictions: They’re not allowed to marry a widow, a divorcee, or a non-Jew, for instance, which has kept the Cohen bloodline exceptionally pure.
There’s even a Kohen gene, identified as a marker on the Y chromosome shared by over 90 percent of Kohanim and about 5 percent of all Jewish males. Not to mention the positioning of the kohen’s hands during a priestly blessing, adopted as Mr. Spock’s Vulcan salute by Leonard Nimoy, who was raised an Orthodox Jew.
What’s especially ironic, and to some galling, about the rising popularity of Cohen as a first name is that the people who love it seem to be just about as un-Jewish as you can get. Google “Cohen is my favorite name” and you’ll find family pictures featuring toy guns and rebel flags. On being assured on one name board that using the name Cohen would not necessarily offend Jews, one mom-to-be wrote, “That's great to hear!! We live in a small town in the Midwest and I've never met a Jewish person IRL.”
In Real Life.
“This is exactly why Orthodox Jews stay in Brooklyn, in their own communities, and don’t have anything to do with outsiders,” says my friend Diane, who spent six years in Brooklyn as an Orthodox Jew and now calls herself “a Christian believer who feels guilty on Jewish holidays.” “Once you leave Brooklyn, you go to Hollywood and become a television writer who puts a Jewish character on TV and names him Cohen, and then people in Iowa copy you and those little Cohens grow up and move to New York and marry real Jews and ruin everything.”
Most parents choosing the name Cohen seem unaware of the name’s quintessential Jewishness—or are actively in denial of it. Some posters equate Cohen with such Biblical names as Sarah and David or choose to identify it with the Irish Cohan or Coen, a patronymic related to Coyne; the Scottish Cowen or Cowan; the Dutch Koen or Coen, which means "daring,” and the German Kohn, a short form of Konrad.
“You needn't feel guilty about using Cohen, because the name has been percieved [sic] in so many different ways by many different faiths,” writes one online Cohen-lover to another, “much like the Bible itself.”
“All these hillbillies are sitting around drinking their Mountain Dew and eating their Ho Hos and naming their babies Cohen,” says Anne, a New York teacher who hasn’t been to temple since her bat mitzvah but finds the use of Cohen to be akin to “taking a name in vain.” “They’re ignorant that they’re stealing a sacred name from a religion to which they don’t belong, and even if they find out, they don’t care who it offends.”
But the real reason people love the name Cohen is not because of any religious connection or lack thereof, but because they see it as a “unique” spin on the two-syllable, n-ending, surname-y names so popular for boys today: Colton, Rohan, Logan. One online poll pitted Cohen against Coby (Cohen won, 67 percent to 33 percent), while another debated the merits of Cohen Ray versus Desmond Reeve. And a downmarket baby-name site lists Cohen as an American form of Cody.
“No. 1, it’s just such a cool name, we fell in love with it,” says Hector Cervantes, the guitarist for the Christian rock group Casting Crowns who lives in Rome, Georgia, and has a two-month-old son named Isaiah Cohen, called simply Cohen. “It felt right to me because of its connection with Aaron and the Levites, which is meaningful because I’m a firm Bible believer. It wasn’t until afterward that we learned some people might find Cohen as a first name offensive.”
Cervantes’ experience playing Christian rock convinced him to stick with the name despite potential objections. “Ninety percent of people are positive but 10 percent say how dare you throw stones at the church. If we worried about what other people were saying, who knows what kind of life we’d live.”
Not every Jew, or even every Cohen, is offended by the growing use of Cohen as a first name. If she were called upon to preside at the bris of a baby boy named Cohen, says Jamie Korngold, “The Adventure Rabbi” of Boulder, her reaction would be “Mazel tov.”
“I don’t find it offensive at all,” says Benyamin Cohen, the son and brother of Orthodox rabbis and the author of My Jesus Year, which recounts the tale of his tour through the world of Christianity. “If you’re not Jewish, I have no reason to expect you to follow my laws. I’d rather if people name their kid Cohen than if they name it Britney. At least Cohen means something.”
Those who do find the use of Cohen as a first name offensive are every bit as vociferous as those who don’t.
“Calling someone Cohen is NOT the same as calling someone priest,” wrote one message-board poster. “It's more in the same category as calling your kid "Jesus is dead"—it’s like making a statement that you don't respect the religion.”
On the other side, someone wrote, “I'm not naming my child Hitler, or Saddam, I think that those names may evoke bad feelings from others... but Cohen? Really?”
The bottom line: No matter what anyone says, the name Cohen is unlikely to go away any time soon and is expected to leap even higher up the list when the 2008 name statistics are announced Friday. Even the most eloquent objections often fall on deaf ears.
When a new post appeared on what I’ve come to think of as Nameberry’s Cohen Debate Board this afternoon, I held my breath, expecting another heated volley. Here’s what it said:
“I like the name Cohen for a first name but not too fond of Grey. Maybe Cohen Nathaniel?”
Pamela Redmond Satran is a developer of the baby-naming site nameberry.com and the coauthor of 10 books on names, including Beyond Ava & Aiden, due out next month.
See you next Sunday....
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