Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland

         

Past Programs

-

Date

Speaker/Topic

January 12, 2020

Peter Haas
Abba Hillel Silver Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies
Case Western Reserve University

Speaking on:
Amsterdam, a Photographer and an Amazing Discovery

Professor Haas shared the fascinating story of Annemie Wolff-Koller, a German Jew who fled with her husband Helmuth to Amsterdam when the Nazis came to power in 1933. There they reinvented themselves as photographers. With the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands, both tried committing suicide but Annemie survived. After the war she returned to industrial photography but after a dispute with the city in 1971, she threatened to destroy all her work. A photo historian rediscovered her in 2006 and came across registers and hundreds of posed portraits of German Jewish families taken in 1943-44 on the eve of deportations. Among the photos are members of Peter’s family. An historian, An Huitzing began researching the over 400 people that were photographed and published in 2011 the stories of all those she could identify. It was an amazing insight into the German Jewish refugee in Amsterdam.

Click here to see a copy of the article published by the Cleveland Jewish News about the program.

December 8, 2019

Annual Meeting
Election of Officers and Trustees
and
Dr. Sean Martin shared highlights of his sabbatical in Poland.

Dr. Martin taught as a Visiting Professor in the Institute of History at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, during the spring 2019 semester. He taught in a special, English-language program within the Institute, Studies in Central and Eastern Europe: Histories, Cultures and Societies. He taught twentieth century Central and Eastern European survey courses, with a focus on Jewish history. During his stay in Krakow he also spent time doing research on Polish Jewish history and re-acquainting himself with Kazimierz, the city's Jewish neighborhood. Martin told us about Jewish studies and Jewish life in Poland today and about his travels throughout the country and region.

November 17, 2019

Kirsten Fermaglich
Author of "A Rosenberg by Any Other Name"
&
Associate Professor of History, Michigan State University.

Two sessions co-sponsored by the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland (JGSC,The Laura & Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program of Case Western Reserve University, and the JCC Jewish Book Festival.

Session 1: 1:30-2:30 p.m.
TOO LONG, TOO FOREIGN....TOO JEWISH?: RISE OF JEWISH NAME CHANGING IN NEW YORK CITY BETWEEN THE WARS

We tend to think of name changing as something that only immigrants do—or perhaps movie stars—hoping to escape their families and find their way in a glamorous, rich New World. But beginning in World War I and intensifying during World War II, thousands of native-born American Jews in New York City changed their names together as family units. Why would these ordinary Jewish Americans seeking jobs not as actors or singers, but as businessmen, lawyers, and secretaries change their names? We discussed their motivations, their experiences, and their struggles.

Session 2: 3:00-4:00 p.m.
I CHANGED MY NAME: CULTURAL DEBATES OVER NAME CHANGING AFTER WORLD WAR II

How did leaders in the Jewish community respond to name changing? How did Jewish comedians, writers, and directors respond? How did name changers' neighbors and co-workers respond? We talked about negative responses from Jewish leaders after World War II, who tended to assume that name changers were trying to escape the Jewish community. Quietly challenging these negative images, however, were the voices of Jewish name changers who continued to describe themselves as Jews, explaining they changed their names so that their Jewish identities would not impede their ability to get through daily life.

October 2, 2019

Getting Our Records Back
Brooke Schreier Ganz

Our guest speaker, Brooke Schreier Ganz, founder and president of Reclaim the Records, provided an update on her efforts leading Reclaim the Records, a not-for-profit group that files Freedom of Information requests to get public data released back into the public. Their goal is to get these record sets put online for free, open to everyone. And if the government doesn’t comply, they take them to court. To date, they have been successful in reclaiming over 25 million records. She reported Learn about the work of Reclaim the Records, including their most recent success stories and what is on their “To-Do” list.

Brooke Schreier Ganz is the first genealogist to successfully sue a government archive for the return of records to the public. A computer programmer, she is also the creator of LeafSeek, a free open source records management platform and multi-lingual search engine that won second place in the 2012 RootsTech Developer Challenge. Her work has helped non-profit organizations like the Israel Genealogical Research Association (IGRA) and Gesher Galicia publish over 1.5 million unique genealogical records online for free use. She also designed and built one of the first public API’s for records sharing between non-profit genealogical organizations.

September 4, 2019

Report on the 2019 IAJGS conference in Cleveland

Ken Bravo gave a report on the attendance and some of the programs at the conference. He was followed by Robin Selinger, Feige Stern, and Jaime Klausner, who each had not previously attended an IAJGS conference. They each spoke about their experiences and what they considered to be highlights of the event.

August 7, 2019

Genealogy Activities You Can Do With Your Kids and Grandkids
Sunny Jane Morton

The best way to TELL family history often involves SHOWING it. In her presentation, Sunny Morton shared experiences that have inspired her own kids' interest in history and their family's place in it. These included activities that teach younger generations the value of their OWN stories; thoughts about finding the right "hook" for each person; how to tell a good short story (with an emphasis on SHORT); and hands on experiences that fire historical imaginations young and old.

July 28, 219
through
August 2, 2019

IAJGS 2019
International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies
39th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy
Hosted by The Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland

Over 1,000 attendees, exhibitors, volunteers, guests, and others, were hosted by the JGS of Cleveland at  the annual IAJGS conference, held at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown. The attendees came to Cleveland from 16 countries on 5 continents, and those from the USA represented 36 states plus the District of Columbia.

July 10, 2019

A Town Called Brzostek
A Documentary Introduced by Russ Maurer

The program consisted of a screening of the award-winning documentary, “A Town Called Brzostek.”  This documentary is a compelling tale of a professor from London who goes looking for his Jewish past In Poland and how a reconciliation takes place that reverberates around the world.

This one-hour film, which won awards for its beauty and sensitivity at two Jewish film festivals in eastern Europe, presented the story of Professor Jonathan Webber, who returns to the place of burial of his grandfather.

Upon his arrival, he learns that a vacant plot of land is the only remnant of the former Jewish cemetery. With the help of the mayor, priest and local community, the main protagonist restores the burial site and brings about its consecration. It also includes the interesting stories of three different families with roots in Brzostek—from Australia, France and the United States—who returned to Brzostek for the commemoration ceremonies.

June 19 & 24, 2019


My Parents Were Holocaust Survivors and There Are No Records...

In conjunction with the Kol Israel Foundation, we conducted a two-part beginner genealogy workshop geared to Second and Third Generation Holocaust descendants who know very little about their fa mily history.

Topics covered included:
  • Learning how to get started
  • Locating ship manifests
  • naturalization records
  • Explore key websites and International Tracing Service (ITS)

June 5, 2019


The Temple Archives—A Valuable Resource for Genealogists
Jane Rothstein, Archivist for the Temple-Tifereth Israel

Jane Rothstein is used to hearing genealogical questions like “was my ancestor a member?” and she generally answers by saying “maybe.” The Temple-Tifereth Israel Archives are a relatively untapped treasure for exploring Cleveland Jewish history and genealogy. Holdings include records from the congregation’s founding in 1850 through the congregation’s growth under Rabbi Moses J. Gries and Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, and on to the present. Jane provided an overview of the Archives’ collection and discussed the type of records genealogists may find especially interesting.

May 15, 2019

How Jewish Ancestry Impacts Genetics

Sarah Mazzola and Megan Quinlan, two board-certified genetic counselors with the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare provided a general overview of common conditions in individuals with Jewish ancestry such as Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome due to BRCA mutations. They also provided helpful information for those who are considering meeting with a genetic counselor, and what to expect from genetic testing.

Sarah's presentation focused on non-cancer related inheritable disorders such as Gaucher, and also touched on prenatal risk screening. Megan shared information related to inherited cancer risk in the Eastern European Jewish population.

April 3, 2019


Tracing Our Ancestral European Roots—A Panel Discussion

Five members of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland shared their journeys to ancestral villages in Europe in conjunction with last year’s IAJGS Conference in Warsaw. Helen and Paul Wolf, Muriel Weber, Anne Lukas, and Henny Lukas Fierman have all gone to great lengths to trace their families' ancestral roots and identify unknown, missing and lost relatives over many years, if not decades. They reveaedl some of the twists and turns in the road that led to some amazing discoveries—not to mention a few surprises.

March 3, 2019

Peter J. Haas
Abba Hillel Silver Professor Emeritus
Case western Reserve University

The Clubs: What Excelsior and Oakwood
tell us about Jewish Life in Cleveland

In 1872 about two dozen Jewish business men, excluded from other clubs in Cleveland, met to form their own social club. The result was the Excelsior Club which hosted Jewish high society life in Cleveland for the next nearly 60 years. Due to changing social, demographic and financial factors, the Excelsior Club voted in 1930 to end its separate existence and to merge into the newer suburban Jewish club, Oakwood. This Oakwood Club continued to be an important part of the Cleveland Jewish community until it was dissolved in 2010 and its membership combined with Mayfield Sand Ridge Country Club.

This talk focused on the social history of our community from the character, trajectories and experiences of these two institutions. It also focused on how these clubs throw light on larger trends that were shaping North American Jewry.

Peter Haas

February 3, 2019

Russ Maurer, JGSC Trustee
Spoke on
The Latest and Greatest in Litvak Records
the Vilnius Household Registers

Russ Maurer, who coordinates the household register project for LitvakSIG, recounted the events that led to the introduction of household registration to Vilnius in 1919. He explained how household registration worked, information which provides the background necessary to understand these records and the unique insights they can provide into one's family over the inter-war years. The presentation was illustrated with specific examples.

Russ Maurer

January 6, 2019

The business meeting included Installation of our Officers and Board for 2019 and a drawing of prizes for early payment of dues for 2019, followed by our speaker,

Amy Wachs, Immediate Past President, Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland

OUR EASTERN EUROPEAN ROOTS: WE ARE WHAT OUR ANCESTORS ATE

Amy described what family recipes can tell you about your ancestors’ places of origin and life in the shtetls of Eastern Europe.