Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland


Past Programs




September 9, 2020

Getting the Most out of Family Tree Maker®

A Virtual Presentation by Duff Wilson

The presentation highlighted all the latest features of Family Tree Maker 2019 as well as older features you may not use, but should. 2019 marked thirty years since Family Tree Maker was born, and it's only fitting that this new edition takes this grand old brand to places its original creators could only have dreamed of. Where every change you make to your tree on your Mac or PC can be instantly and automatically viewed from your smartphone or tablet. Where you can turn back time to erase mistakes you made even a thousand changes ago. Where you can arrange for your tree to be passed on to a relative of your choice along with your Family Tree Maker license to ensure your legacy lives on. We saw all this and much more in this session.

In addition, all attendees became eligible for a discounted price on Family Tree Maker by ordering through a special link that was provided during the program, and a complimentary copy of Family Tree Maker was presented to a member of the JGS of Cleveland that attended the session, in a virtual drawing at the conclusion of the webinar.

August  5, 2020

The Benefits, Limitations and Ethical Challenges of Genetic Testing in Health and Genealogy Settings

Dr. Aaron Goldenberg
Vice Chair & Associate Professor
Department of Bioethics
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

As commercial genetic testing becomes cheaper and more available, many individuals and families are using these technologies to explore their own health, as well as their ancestry. However, the use of genetic testing also raises many ethical and social questions regarding the accuracy of genetic ancestry tests, the impact that genetic information may have on one’s identity, and the potential misuse of personal genetic data. This presentation explored the benefits, limitations, and ethical challenges of genetic testing in health and genealogy settings.

July 8, 2020

The Problem of “Grave” Errors in our Cemeteries

Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

The use of words, names and phrases on Jewish headstones is an ancient way of remembering a soul when they can no longer speak for themselves. Jewish custom is rich with traditions, insights and guidance on how to write these expressions. The presentation included a review of the common expressions, naming conventions, calculation of dates and certain other aspects while focusing on the need for accuracy and completeness. Our speaker, who worked as a chaplain for many years, shared his concerns and offered possible solutions to preserve this beautiful tradition for those unfamiliar with Hebrew names and conventions. Many examples were cited to highlight important laws and customs. Rabbi Feinstein demonstrated how even those who do not have a strong Hebrew background can learn how to decipher Hebrew names and dates on headstones.

June 3, 2020 A Mid 2020 Review

Betty Franklin

Betty Franklin described many of the enhancements  that have been made to the website. She explained that the goal is to have as many items free and available online as possible. In addition the spaeker described the site's learning centers, community groups, activities to involve the whole family and new ways to add sources to Family Tree or to merge individuals. The discussion included the changes that have been made, and some of the upcoming changes to

May 13, 2020

Getting Started as a Search Angel:
Solving Mysteries to Reunite Families

Robin Selinger

Robin Selinger discussed her volunteer work as a “search angel”. A member of the JGSC, Robin got started in family tree research as a hobby in 2007. As a search angel, she helps others locate long-lost parents, children and other family members. In just one year, she took on and solved three such cases including a woman whose father used a false name and disappeared when she was only four-years old. Robin discovered the father’s true identity and found two half-siblings who welcomed their long-lost sister into the family.

April 29, 2020

Ask Us Anything. . .About Genealogy!

Three experienced JGSC genealogists gave answers to questions that members raised while conducting family research in a virtual interactive meeting. Topics propsed in advabce included these:

  • What would you like to know how to do, or do better?
  • What frustrates you most when doing genealogical research?
  • How do you deal with languages you don’t know?
  • Where can you look for information beyond the obvious vital records, census data and immigration/naturalization sources?
  • How do you track people after name changes, immigration, marriage, etc.?
  • How do you make a family tree and why would you do this?

March 4, 2020

Jewish Ballplayers in Major League Baseball

Scott Longert

Scott gave us a look at Jewish ballplayers and those that played or were part of the Cleveland Indians organization, including a discussion of some of the experiences of ballplayers that came from minority groups who faced a difficult time from rival players, fans and even teammates.

The presentation covered ballplayers like Jonah Goldman, Cleveland’s first Jewish shortstop, Harry Eisenstat, Al Rosen and Hank Greenberg, who served as the Indians general manager starting in 1948, plus others such as Max “Lefty” Weisman, Indians trainer for twenty-seven years and Max Rosenblum, the leading supporter of amateur baseball in Cleveland.

February 9, 2020

Reflections on the 2019 Katz Family Reunion:
Lessons Learned
the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

Deborah A. Katz, JD, PhD
Reunion Organizer

DEborah Katz

Dr. Katz described the process, pifalls, and results of her activities as the organizer of a reumion of members of the Katz Family.  There hadn’t been an official Katz family reunion since 1905, and she hadn’t lived in Cleveland for years. But when the IAJGS annual conference was announced for Cleveland, she was inspired .The resulting reunion of over 200 members of her family took place over 3 days, in various venues in the Cleveland area  She explained questions like, "Why plan a family reunion?",  "Is there any value in bringing our past to our future and at what costs?", and gave examples of “how-to’s,” next steps and lessons learned.

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
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.

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.

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
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


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