Jewish Genealogy Mtg.
- Reminder, our next meeting will feature Web site guru Steve Morse, focusing
on his newest one-step approach for the New York censuses from 1905, 1915 and
1925. Steve will speak at 10 a.m. on Sunday, December 18.
Minutes from November 20, 2005
Bob Wascou called the meeting to order in Mark Heckman's absence and welcomed
members and guests. Allan Bonderoff presented the treasurer's report --
there is $830.85 in our account.
Art Yates reported that he attended the recent council meeting of
Sacramento-area genealogy groups. It was noted that the Family History Center on Eastern
Avenue will be closed from November 19-27 and from December 17 to January 1.
He said Barbara Leak, the council president (and our February 2006 speaker)
noted the LDS is digitizing all its records, including more than two million
rolls of microfilm and eventually will digitize books as well. The whole effort
is expected to be completed in 6-8 years; volunteers are being sought to help
with the massive undertaking.
Art said the Federation of Genealogical Societies will hold its annual
conference in Boston August 30-September 2, 2006 and is expected to be the group's
largest conference ever. And the Genealogy Association of Sacramento (GAS)
will sponsor a trip to Salt Lake City April 30 to May 6, 2006.
Vice-President Burt Hecht gave an overview of upcoming programs:
Sunday, Dec. 18 -- Steve Morse, New York Censuses, 1905, 1915, 1925
Sunday, January 22 -- Joyce Buckland, British and Canadian Censuses
Sunday, February 19 -- Barbara Leak, "GenSmarts" genealogy software
March -- Genealogy Round-Robin
April -- David Hoffmann
May -- Les Finke -- Oral Interviewing and Videotaping
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"What happened on March 13th, 1881, at 3 p.m., changed everyone's life in
this room," November speaker Stuart Tower told us.
Tower is the author of the historical novel "The Wayfarers" as well as
several other books, and came up from Southern California to speak to his 6th
Jewish Genealogy Society and 67th group since the book came out.
He just returned from two weeks in Romania, where his novel began, escorting
16 readers of his book. Their itinerary followed in the footsteps of the
locations described in his book. Tower says he personally has no Romanian roots,
"but the story really intrigued me."
There are only 7,000 to 8,000 Jews left in Romania, he said, most of them
very old. One of his biggest surprises on his recent trip was the number of
Jewish young people in Romania who assisted them, setting up hosts in each town.
He said they are trying to revive Judaism in Romania, but many leave for
Israel or Canada.
"It was an emotional trip," Tower said. They brought medicines (heart,
diabetes, arthritis, etc.) to leave in each town they visited.
"What happened on March 13th, 1881, at 3 p.m., changed everyone's life in
this room," Tower declared. "The pattern of our lives changed due to the
assassination of Czar Alexander II in St. Petersburg." He had survived 11 previous
assassination attempts, but not this one. Tower read a passage in his book
describing the fateful day. Six of those involved in the assassination attempt
were known to be Jews, and this became the focus of Czar Alexander III.
There were then four and 1/2 million Jews; his persecution of them caused
efforts caused 2 1/2 million to leave between 1881 and 1914 -- 90 percent ended
up in the U.S. and Canada.
Tower said the next 33 years were the most horrible 33 years until the
There were pogroms, always by paid hooligans. There were trade boycotts in
every Jewish business. In the Romanian town of Yasch, there was a horrible
pogrom in 1899. The young people in the town of Berlad were already beginning to
Tower said the typical family income was about $100 a year; the trip by ship
across the Atlantic cost about $200 per person. To take the train to the port
cities would be another $200, so many walked, and many in groups. Their goal
was to get to the North Sea.
What did each group of wayfarers, or "fusgeyers" in Yiddish, look like? There
were many young people, and they were organized with committees for food, en
tertainment and defense. "These kids made flags with the Mogen David," Tower
said, and flew them with the flag of the country. They wanted to be seen.
"Flying the Mogen David was a supreme act of chutzpah," Tower said.
What was it like, leaving town forever, never to see parents, relatives,
friends again? Tower's book touches on their reflections and experiences.
Tower says a minimum of ten groups left from all over Romania, with 60-70
people in each group. At first there were no women, but later they were part of
the groups as well. With some 7,000 people in all who made the treks, you
will now find their descendants all over the world.
Tower said the newspapers of the times picked up stories about the fusgeyers
leaving Romania, like a "brain drain" of young people. This got the attention
of people around the world, including President Theodore Roosevelt.
Roosevelt had his secretary of state write to the King of Romania-- "what you're doing
to the Jews is wrong
In his novel, Tower has the fusgeyers run into Buffalo Bill Cody, who
performed in Berlin six times. This is their first brush with Americana. Tower says
Cody was more popular in Europe than America.
They are also exposed to Rosa Luxembourg, the socialist based in Berlin. She
met with people at the ports going to America, encouraging them to join the
Socialist party when they arrive.
The Jews of Berlin didn't want them to stay in Berlin, and gave them money to
Once the fusgeyers reached the port cities, their problems weren't over.
Tower says life in the ports was terrible -- kidnapping, robbery, rapes. Local
police turned their backs and didn't care.
Tower said he's now writing a new novel based on the life of his most
colorful character, the defense minister, after he gets to America.
"The Wayfarers" is now about to made into a motion picture, Tower reports,
with Theodore Bikel in the role of the rabbi, Yael Strom as music director.
They hope to start shooting next spring in Romania, where "Cold Mountain" was
filmed. Steven Spielberg, who wrote one of the blurbs printed on the back cover
of the "Wayfarers," will hopefully be involved in the distribution of the
film, Tower says. "He's a mensch in every sense of the word."
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Two other items:
Mark Heckman would like to pass on the information below about nominations
for the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies' four annual
1. IAJGS Lifetime Achievement Award
2. Outstanding Contribution to Jewish Genealogy
via the Internet, Print or Electronic Product.
3. Outstanding Programming or Project that Advanced
the Objectives of Jewish Genealogy
4. Outstanding Publication by a Member Organization
Please go to iajgs.org/awards_files/awards.html
Click the Achievement Awards "Call for Nominations"
for full details on each award and on the nomination
process, including criteria, eligibility, format of
nominations, and where to send them. You will also
find there a listing of all previous winners.
Please note that nominations may be submitted only by
member organizations of the International Association
of Jewish Genealogical Societies but you are certainly
free, and in fact encouraged, to seek recommendations
from your members.
Nominations must be postmarked or emailed by April 1,
2006. The awards will be announced and presented on
August 17 at the 26th IAJGS International Conference
on Jewish Genealogy in New York City.
Also, member Allan Dolgow forwards the url for a JewishGen site focusing on
voter registration records in New York.
See you Sunday morning, December 18!
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