Jewish Genealogical Society
April 4, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 10 a.m. – Daniel Horowitz, Facial Recognition Technology for Genealogy
Sunday, May 16, 10 a.m. – Leslie Nye, Handwriting Analysis
Monday, June 21, 7 p.m. -- Marilyn Ulbricht, “Digging It, Researching Outside the Box”
Notes from March 21, 2010 Meeting
Bob Wascou called the meeting to order; President Mort Rumberg was away visiting a new grandchild.
Bob noted that Sacramento’s Central Library allows you to book a 30-minute genealogy session for free. Call 916-264-2920 or register online at www.saclibrary.org. There are upcoming programs on May 16 and 23.
The Sonoma County Genealogical Society is holding a seminar April 24 in Santa Rosa. For details go to www.scgs.org.
Family History Day at the State Archives is set for Saturday, October 9. We’ll plan to have a table once again.
In May, our JGSSS will hold an election for next year’s officers. Burt Hecht and Carl Miller are on the nominating committee and would like to hear from you if you’re interested in serving in a position.
Mark Heckman encouraged people to make use of our library. “There’s probably at least one book on almost any topic.” Members are allowed to check out books for a month at a time.
Bob said he’s working on a database for Sacramento’s Home of Peace cemetery and researching to verify that the information he has is correct. “There is no complete list of the burials in the old cemetery,” Bob said, “and we’re trying to recreate that list.”
Allan Bonderoff treasurer’s report for March 21: there is $1661.70 in our account.
March Speaker – Liz Igra
Holocaust survivor Liz Igra of Sacramento shared her fascinating personal story with us in March. Liz is a retired teacher and speaks to schools about the Holocaust. She is 75 years old but was only about four when the events of World War II began to impact her life.
“Iris Bachman (a JGSS member) urged me to keep speaking to groups, and found documents for me, “Liz says. “She gave me the energy to go ahead.”
Liz found that in talking to people about the Holocaust, they knew history, dates and places “but didn’t understand. It became my quest to help teachers and kids understand.”
“I was not aware that what I was remembering was Hitler’s strategy of deception – I just remembered that it happened.”
Liz said her father was a surgeon educated in Switzerland; both he and her mother, as well as Liz, were born in Krakow, Poland.
“I was the first and only grandchild on both sides of the family and terribly spoiled,” she says. “I had a nanny and my mother had maids.”
Liz said her parents were pretty assimilated and did not speak Yiddish.
“The first thing I remember is when the Germans came to town and my aunt was told her husband wouldn’t be coming home tonight – he was needed for the war effort. He went to the Black Forest, where he was killed – although we didn’t know it at the time.”
Soon after that, Liz says the Germans came to their house and “very politely” asked if we could share the house with a German officer, and they did,.
Then they were told they needed ID badges with a star or armband. “Within weeks or months, we were told we needed to move to a certain part of town.” Liz says one part of their apartment faced the ghetto, the other side, the town. She said they were not hungry at first, since her father often received food in payment for his medical work.
“In 1942, the commandant of the ghetto told my father that there would be a relocation of women and children. My father took me and my mother to the bus stop, and that was the last time we saw him.”
Liz said the next morning the commandant said they could return and take what they could carry into the ghetto, which was made much smaller. “I was allowed to take my buggy with my doll.”
There wasn’t much food, Liz recalls. “What I remember most is the bread ration – black bread, sometimes with straw.”
Not long after she recalls a jeep coming down the street, with a man standing on top, shouting. He made everyone come out. “A mob of people was walking down the street, and not long after we heard horrible sounds of people screaming and crying, and shots being fired, and then cheering as people were being killed in the marketplace. There was a children’s massacre. The cobblestones started to turn pink. I never saw my aunt or little cousin after that.”
Liz said her nanny who had stayed in their house overhead that the ghetto would be liquidated. She was able to smuggle Liz and her mother out after they hid under her bed.
“We got on a train for Krakow and went to a safe house. Within days, there was a knock at the door, two uniformed and two non-uniformed men. The woman getting money from us was also getting money by denouncing us.”
Her mother asked to get a glass of water, and they were able to run downstairs to the street and escape. They got new papers and her mother got a job, putting Liz with a family while she worked.
“One day at lunch, someone told my mother, ‘I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but someone told me you were Jewish.’ That night, my mother and I got on the train and got off finally somewhere near the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. Then we started walking.”
Liz says they walked at night and hid during the day in the forest. “Our food was snow, sugar cubes and alcohol drops.”
Her mother recited children’s poetry, family stories and started teaching the multiplication tables. And then Liz got the chicken pox. Her mother had two choices – to risk being caught to get help for Liz, or to bury her in the forest. She picked the first and went to a forester’s hut.
The pair ended up joining a family with a guide – “my mother bribed everybody, she was prepared” – and they went from Czechoslovakia to Hungary. The guide told them at 6 o’clock that evening they should cross the road and would be in Hungary. Except that they were intercepted by border police and taken to jail.
“I thought I was in heaven,” Liz says, “with a shower and soup.”
A few days later Liz, her mother and others were marched down the street to a convent school. They heard terrible sounds from the room where people were taken, and they didn’t come back out. Liz’ mother was interviewed and told her husband looked Jewish. She slapped the officer’s face and they escaped the fate of the others.
Not longer after Liz and her mother ended up in the Budapest jail which wasn’t pleasant. They spent several months there but were released in fall 1943, probably due to lack of space. The next challenge? Liz contracted scarlet fever. She was placed in an isolation ward in a hospital.
The two remained in Hungary and were there when Budapest was liberated, which took six months, street by street.
“I was hungry a lot of the time during the war but this time we were starving,” Liz says. “My mother found a bag of horsefeed, wet it and put pieces on the stove and we had one meal a day. I remember asking my mother to remember, after the war, how to make these.”
The two were put on a cattle truck to go back to Krakow, still using their false names after the war. One day her mother finds her brother --Liz’ uncle. Aside from Liz, they were the only two from both sides of the family who survived the war. The uncle would not let them pretend any longer they weren’t Jewish.
Liz’ nanny, who had stayed in their house, had saved a lot of their possessions. They set her up with an apartment in Krakow and decided to go to France. They had tried to go to the United States but couldn’t get in. Eventually they made their way to Australia, where Liz went to school and later met her husband.
Liz talked about the deception of the Nazis. She learned that her father was taken to the Belzec camp, but not before he and the others got off the train at a building the Germans had made to look like a real station. They gave people tokens for their luggage and escorted them to the showers, where they received another token for their clothes. “600,000 people were murdered, and they were deceived until the last minute,” Liz says.
She says the Belzec camp existed only about nine months, and was one of only three camps set up explicitly for killing people, no labor.
Since she retired, Liz started organizing training for teachers about the Holocaust and created the
Central Valley Holocaust Educators’ Network, working with the U.S. Holocaust Museum. The Network offers model curricula, teacher lesson plans, reference material, fiction and nonfiction for children and adults, and video and audio tapes. She also stresses the importance of studying the roots of anti-Semitism.
The network is totally non-profit and can be reached at info@.... It worked with 60 teachers in February.
“Has my experience stopped me from living a full life? No,” Liz says.
Root Cellar Annual Seminar
This year’s Sacramento Root Cellar conference March 27 featured Daniel Lynch, author of “Google Your Family Tree” (and a book we have in our library.) Lynch spoke to several hundred local genealogy buffs and shared tips on how to narrow your Google searches, use Google books for genealogy research, use Google news archives, Google alerts, video and images.
Among Lynch’s tips for filtering Google searches:
Use the minus sign to exclude terms
Use the tilde sign (~) followed by your search term (for example, ~genealogy --no space between the tilde and the word --) to get words with similar meetings. (In the case of the word genealogy, the search also pulled up items with the words “family history, family tree, vital records” and other terms in them.)
The tilde in front of the word vintage -- ~vintage + postcards + a town name – in Google images will bring up old photos and postcards.
Use the wild card asterisk in between two words to capture anything that might show up in between in your search -- for example – “Patrick * Lynch” where it could be a middle initial or a full middle name.
Don’t hesitate to click on “cached” pages – which may be a capture of the last Web page, even if it isn’t currently available.
Root Cellar’s 2011 seminar will feature Geoff Rasmussen of the Legacy-Millennia Corporation on Saturday, April 9, 2011 in Sacramento. Rasmussen has spoken twice before and was invited back by popular demand.
From Gary Mokotoff’s Avotaynu E-Zine, April 4:
Footnote.com Makes U.S. Census Available at No Charge
Footnote.com is making its U.S. census index and images available at no charge. That is the good news. The bad news is that they have available only 6% of the 1900 census, 4% of the 1910 census, 3% of the 1920 census, 98% of the 1930 census and 100% of the 1860 census. The good news is that the 3% of the 1920 census includes much, if not all, of New York City. The 1910 census data includes Pittsburgh, and the 1900 census includes Chicago.
I use the Ancestry.com collection, but the value of another index is that it may not include the errors that exist in the first index. For example, I found a Mokotoff family in the Footnote database that was misspelled in the Ancestry index as Bokotoff.
Footnote still provides Holocaust-related records from the National Archives and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum at no charge. Both the Holocaust and census databases can be accessed from the home page at http://www.footnote.com.
Online Education Courses by Family History Library
The Mormon Family History Library is now offering online education courses at no charge. The initial offerings are:
• England Beginning Research (5 courses)
• Germany Research (3 courses)
• Ireland Research (5 courses)
• Italy Research (1 course)
• Principios básicos para la investigación genealógica en Hispanoamérica (México) (3 courses)
• Research Principles and Tools (6 courses)
• Russia Research (2 courses)
• U.S. Research (4 courses)
I (Gary Mokotoff) listened to the first Russian course, given by Daniel Schlyter, and it was a good overview of the history and geography of Russia. The second course, also given by Schlyter, is about records and resources. The Library is reaching out to the professional genealogy community asking for people to volunteer to provide additional lectures for the collection.
The list of courses can be accessed from the home page by clicking “Free Online Classes.” The exact URL is http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/education/frameset_education.asp?PAGE=education_research_series_
From the JGS of the Conejo Valley newsletter:
Ancestry.com has listed its new or improved collections (both US and International) in one handy place: http://tinyurl.com/ye9ppt4.
Who Do You Think You Are?” the NBC prime-time show depicting celebrities searching their family history, is attracting more viewers. The March 12 episode that followed NFL star Emmitt Smith’s efforts was seen by 13% more adults than the previous episode (Sarah Jessica Parker, right) according to Media Life Magazine. It also represents an increase of 50% over NBC’s previous offering on Friday night at 8 p.m .an indication of the growing interest in genealogy.
If you missed the episode where Lisa Kudrow traces her Jewish roots to eastern Europe and the Holocaust you may view it at http://tinyurl.com/cfp55h.
It appears Sarah Jessica Parker’s show will repeat April 9, followed by profiles on Susan Sarandon and Spike Lee on succeeding Friday evenings.
Turner Publishing buys Ancestry.com's books division
Turner, which has produced more than 800 genealogy titles since 1984, adds more than 100 titles to its roster, including bestsellers “The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy,” “Ancestry’s Red Book,” and “1-2-3 Family Tree.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Ancestry.com actually grew out of Ancestry Publishing, which was founded in 1983.
- March 9, 2015In Memory of Bob WascouBob was a longtime member, mentor and past president of our society and a tireless advocate for the JGSS and friend to members new and old. In Sacramento he coordinated efforts to photograph each headstone at the Home of Peace cemetery, among other efforts. But he also took a leadership role in Romanian research and more.Bob was placed on the JewishGen Wall of Honor for his work as project coordinator for the Kishinev (Moldova) databases and also became the Research Coordinator for ROM-SIG, the Romanian Special Interest Group. Through his guidance, more than 290,000 items were added to JewishGen's All-Romanian database.Rosanne Leeson, co-coordinator of ROM-SIG, has advised us that a special fund has been set up in memory of Bob at JewishGen:http://www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen-erosity/v_projectslist.asp?project_cat=20 The fund will be used to help obtain materials for the SIG in places closest to Bob's heart.And we were honored to note that in Bob's obituary his family requested any donations in his memory be made to the JGSS.We extend our deepest sympathy to Bob's wife, Linda, and son, Danny, at this difficult time.Bob Wascou at far right, at 2010 IAJGS Conference in Los AngelesOur Sunday March 15 Meeting, 10 a.m."Anusim -- Crypto Jews on Your Family Tree"Join the Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento for the presentation by Jason Lindo and Susan Aguilar on "Anusim" or "Crypto-Jews” from the Iberian Peninsula, Jews forced to convert to Christianity. The program will focus on customs and countries of origin, the clues most descendants of Anusim first discover.Sephardic Jews have their origins in the Iberian Peninsula, what today is Spain and Portugal. Both countries had a sizeable population of Crypto-Jews.Jason will discuss customs in the home, food customs, religious customs and those associated with death. Jason is the descendant of Portuguese Crypto-Jews (Marranos). While raised in the Greek Catholic faith in Hawaii, he grew up in a home that continued many of the customs of his Portuguese family's Crypto-Jewish heritage. Jason converted to Judaism in 1996 and is an active member of the Congregation B'nai Israel.Susan Aguilar of Elk Grove is a doctoral candidate in Jewish History and Culture at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Her area of specialization is medieval Iberia.From Gary Mokotoff's Recent Avotaynu E-Zines:
A Bit of History:
Convicts to Australia and the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System
A recent news release by Ancestry.com noting they have records of Australia’s “First Fleet” of convicts sent to colonize the area reminded me that the first article in the first issue of AVOTAYNU, January 1985, was written by the late Chief Rabbi of Australia, Israel Porush (1907–1991), about the history of Australia.
The British permanent presence in Australia started on January 26, 1788, when a group of 750 convicts landed there to establish a penal colony. Known as the “First Fleet” to Australians, the penal colony was created because the British colonies in North American had recently gained their independence and Great Britain had no place to dump their excess convicts. Rabbi Porush noted that some of the members of the First Fleet were Jewish but “…Most of the Jewish convicts were guilty of petty crimes such as pick-pocketing, shop-lifting and receiving stolen goods…” He then went on to note that many of these Jewish convicts eventually were freed and became prominent citizens in the early history of Australia.
In rereading the article, when I came to its end, I noticed it was immediately followed by an article written by me titled “Proposal for a Jewish Soundex Code.” This article was read by Randy Daitch, another Jewish genealogist, who at that time was also contemplating the inadequacies of the conventional Russell Soundex System for German and Eastern European surnames. The two of us collaborated and the result was the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System, which today is the default search option for most of the databases on JewishGen.
The Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System also is used by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) as its standard soundex system for retrieving case histories and is the standard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. It is used to search the Ellis Island database of 24 million immigrants at the “Stephen P. Morse Searching the Ellis Island Database in One Step” site.
Israel State Archives to Digitize and Place Its Records Online
Yaacov Lozowick, Chief Archivist at the Israel State Archives, is in the process of fulfilling a dream. His dream is to digitize the documents held by the Israel State Archives and place the records on the Internet (if privacy considerations do not apply). This is the year we can anticipate results. Lozowick indicates that the first record group to be available later this year will be either the 80,000 files of requests for citizenship during the British Mandate period, or the 800,000 files of Israel's first census in 1948. He notes that the paper document collection at the archives is so huge, it might take 25 years to complete the project.
FDA Eases Access to DNA Screening for Inherited Diseases
In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the DNA service 23andme from claiming they offered health-related information stating “...you are marketing the 23andMe Saliva Collection Kit and Personal Genome Service (PGS) without marketing clearance or approval in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act).”Now the FDA has reevaluated the situation and says they are easing access to DNA tests used to screen people for devastating genetic disorders that can be passed on to their children. The Associated Press states, “This announcement offers a path forward for the Google-backed genetic testing firm 23andMe, which previously clashed with regulators over its direct-to-consumer technology.”
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU describes how a woman used the 23andme service before the ban, which lead to the discovery that she had a genetic propensity for breast cancer (BRCA2 gene). An MRI proved she had the early stage of the disease.
GenealogyIndexer Adds Automated Hebrew, Yiddish Transliteration System
Logan Kleinwaks has hundred of scanned directories at his website, http://genealogyindexer.org. It includes, to date, 129 yizkor books, most of which are written in Yiddish and Hebrew. To search these books previously required that you use Hebrew/Yiddish characters to search the site. Kleinwaks has now added a new way to search Hebrew and Yiddish sources.
There now is an option for automated transliteration, so the search term can be typed in Latin letters and the system will find matches in Hebrew and Yiddish. To enable this option, change the pull-down menu, "Add Latin -> Cyrillic," to "Add Latin -> Cyrillic + Hebrew" or "Only Latin -> Hebrew." The transliteration only works with single-word search terms and the Regular Match option (not D-M Soundex or OCR-Adjusted). It is limited by the accuracy of the OCR software used to convert scanned documents to (Hebrew, Yiddish) text..
Guarding Denmark’s Jewish HeritageCredit Leonhard Foeger/ReutersCOPENHAGEN — The attack on Copenhagen’s synagogue earlier this month that left a volunteer Jewish watchman dead is a tragedy for a society that, for more than two centuries, has insisted that there is no tension between being Jewish and being Danish. It was precisely this sense of national solidarity across religious lines that helped save Denmark’s Jews from the Nazis during World War II.And that’s why it rubbed many Danes the wrong way when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Danish Jews to “come home” to Israel after the attack. Even if Denmark’s Jews clearly face a new threat, this time from a small group of extremist Muslim Danes, Mr. Netanyahu seemed to be belittling the social unity that is so treasured by most Danes and denying both Denmark’s proven ability to protect its Jewish population — something that Danes are very proud of — and Danish Jews’ affinity for their country.Denmark is a very unusual case in the troubled history of Europe and its Jews. Two hundred years ago, many European thinkers argued that there was an insurmountable contradiction between being patriotic and being Jewish. Much of Europe’s subsequent anti-Semitism was rooted in this idea.But in Denmark, Jews were welcomed and in 1814 obtained a charter assuring them access to employment while submitting them to civil law. With the Danish Constitution in 1849, Jews became citizens with full and equal rights. Although prejudice and a hint of anti-Semitism existed, there was no basis for the ideological anti-Semitism that flourished in Europe in the 1930s. Indeed, in 1939 the Danish Parliament passed laws against it.With the German occupation of Denmark in 1940, the nation’s relationship with its Jewish minority was put to a fateful test. The Danish government ruled the country under German “protection,” and in many areas caved in to German interests. Still, the government insisted that there was no “Jewish problem,” and declined repeated German requests to single out the Jews. King Christian X told the prime minister that if the Germans obliged the Danish Jews to wear the Star of David, then “we must all wear yellow stars.” The remark led to the myth that the king wore the yellow star during his daily ride around occupied Copenhagen.Resistance to the idea of discriminating against the Danish Jews became a patriotic symbol. When the government resigned in August 1943, and thus could no longer grant the Jews protection, the Nazi occupiers moved against the 7,000 Danish Jews. A raid was organized on Oct. 1, 1943, but few were captured. The vast majority of Jews were warned in advance — when Hitler’s own representatives tipped off leading politicians, who then spread the word within the Jewish community. Even leading Nazis feared the raid would provoke an uprising in the Danish population and in total less than 500 Jews were deported. The rest sought refuge and with the help of their countrymen managed to escape to safety in neutral Sweden.The rescue was perceived as an act of patriotism and as a quiet rebellion against the occupation and its terror. After the war, most Jews returned to Denmark, where they generally found their property and apartments untouched and often cared for by neighbors and friends. Of the 500 who were deported to Theresienstadt, approximately 90 percent were rescued and brought back to Denmark in a dramatic last-minute operation just before the collapse of the Third Reich.The fact that the vast majority of Danish Jews were spared the horrors of the Holocaust has become a national rallying point and a central part of modern Denmark’s national self-understanding.The targeting of Jews today is particularly troubling because, with immigration, mainly from Muslim-majority countries, rising in recent decades, prominent members of the Jewish community have been among the foremost advocates of integrating these new Danes deeply into society. While right-wing parties have grown in popularity here, Danish Jewish leaders have emphasized the dangers of exclusion, prejudice and intolerance.While anti-Semitism isn’t widespread in Denmark, there are a number of radicalized second- and third-generation immigrants who project the Israeli-Palestinian conflict onto local Jews, and see any Jew as a representative of Israel. This creates a latent threat of violence against Jews — as was so sadly demonstrated earlier this month.Most interesting is the number (or lack of numbers) of comments to this article. Apparently concern for and/or fighting antisemitism,...Other groups have been targeted as well. Newspapers and cartoonists have been forced to beef up security due to direct threats and failed attempts to attack them. Indeed, the first deadly attack this month was on a seminar about the freedom of expression. Still, handling this threat presents the Jewish minority and the rest of Danish society with a particular dilemma.For two centuries, Denmark’s strategy of not treating Jews differently has been highly successful. Yet the threat from violent extremists is now undeniable, and no one can guarantee that a similar attack won’t happen again.But how do we provide for special protection when nobody wants the Jewish minority to be seen as special? How can we protect not only the security of Jews and Jewish institutions, but also their traditional position as a well-integrated part of Danish society?The key is to address directly the extremism and the radicalization leading to threats against Jews, cartoonists and others targeted by violent extremists without erecting walls and barriers.In the short run, protection measures will be necessary, but in the end it’s about avoiding escalation and safeguarding Denmark’s open and safe society, and the idea that religious minorities shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other citizens. That’s a much harder challenge — and a more important one.Bo Lidegaard is editor in chief of the Danish daily Politiken and the author of “Countrymen: The Untold Story of How Denmark’s Jews Escaped the Nazis.”~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~See you at next Sunday's meeting, March 15, 10 a.m.