Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland


2018 Program Descriptions

Listed below are descriptions of selected programs we held in 2018

December 2, 2018

ANNUAL MEETING - Election of Officers
Report on the 2017 IAJGS Orlando conference.

Speakers Phyllis Bravo, Kenneth Bravo, Sherri Routman, and Helen Wolf reported on the 37th Conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies which was held in Orlando in July. The panel shared conference sessions and experiences such as: deciding if a family tree should be private or public; how to evaluate records; special interest groups; and featured speakers.

The meeting also included the annual election of officers and trustees.

November 11, 2018

Lara Diamond, President, Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland

Session 1/DNA 101: How to Use Genetic Testing for Genealogical Research

Recent scientific advances in genetic sequencing allow consumers to test their own DNA in a quick and non-invasive process. In this lecture, Lara Diamond explained how you can leverage such tests to assist in your genealogical research. She discussed the various sorts of tests available (including autosomal, yDNA and mtDNA) and explains the types of genealogical questions each one can help to answer. She also explained how each company presents results, the strategies for transferring results from one company to others, and how to use them to assist in your genealogical research.

Session 2/Sorting Out Distant Cousins From Close Family:
Genetic Testing in Cases of Endogamy

Genetic genealogy is particularly daunting for those whose forebears come from endogamous populations (such as Ashkenazi Jews, native Hawaiians and Cajuns, who have married in a closed group for generations). The work of identifying actual relatives from the mass of genetic distantly-related family can be frustrating. Drawing on case studies, this lecture explained how you can have success in such a situation. For Lara Diamond, this work has led to reunification with many relatives, including a family branch thought to have been killed in the Holocaust.

Lara Diamond

Lara Diamond’s appearance was sponsored by
The Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland
Siegal Life Long Learning Program of Case Western Reserve University

October 10, 2018

Patricia Edmonson
Curator of Costumes and Textiles
Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society

The Way We Were: What Photos Tell Us

Ms. Edmonson provided valuable tips to understanding and preserving family photos (1870’s- 1920’s) plus

  • Creating a photographic family tree
  • Using clues from clothing and hair styles to date images
  • How to organize and store archival materials properly
Patricia Edmonson

September 5, 2018

Mark Jamba, DVM

What Killed Grandma: Dissecting Death Certificates

Before the introduction of antibiotics and certain vaccines there were common illnesses that were often life-threatening and could be found handwritten on death certificates.

Understandably, it would become challenging for family genealogy researchers to comprehend fully what were common causes of death in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Veterinarian Mark Jamba helped demystify historical medical terminology in his lighthearted presentation, as he explained the common causes of death dating back more than a century ago with emphasis on understanding the impact that sickness had on our ancestors and history. His presentation covered each of the major organ systems with the necessary scientific terminology broken down into prefix, root and suffix to further comprehension. Fourteen infectious diseases that often killed our ancestors were introduced and for each the cause, transmission, diagnosis and treatment was highlighted.

Mark Jamba

August 5, 2018

Judy Cetina

Cuyahoga County Archives
3951 Perkins Avenue

We had a guided tour of the Cuyahoga County Archives now located in the former Halle Brothers warehouse at 3951 Perkins Avenue, Cleveland.

The Archives encourages the use and scholarly research of all County records and makes staff assistance available for that purpose.

This was an opportunity for members and guests to learn about the holdings and resources available to the general public as well as research policies and procedures.

Time was available for questions and responses from archivist Judy Cetina and members of her staff.

July 11, 2018

Harry Brown
Partner - Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP

Creating an Ethical Will

There is an old Jewish custom whereby a parent writes not one, but two wills. The first is a conventional or disposition will to pass on material possessions. The second, equally or even more important, is an ethical will. The ethical will states the values in which the parents want the children to subscribe. Attorney Harry Brown shared examples of ethical wills and how they are prepared in contemplation of death to create something of meaning that will live on after we are gone, providing a sense of completion for our lives.

Harry Brown

June 6, 2018

Betsie Norris
Founder and Executive Director of the Adoption Network Cleveland
and Mark Elliott

Accessing Adoption Records

Betsie Norris spoke about current laws regarding adoption records in Ohio and other states, including the movement to open previously closed birth records to adult adoptees. In addition, she also addressed how DNA testing can help reunite adult adoptees with their birth families. Mark Elliott, who was adopted at the age of 2-1/2 from Bellefaire, shared his journey to a successful reunion with his biological family members.

Betsie Norris

May 2, 2018

Sunny Morton

Comparing the Genealogy Giants,, and

These genealogy giants all provide international audiences with tools and records for researching family trees online. But which should you use? We learned why we should be familiar with all four sites; subscription and free access options; and how they compare for historical record content (including records for Jewish research), family trees and DNA tools, and we were told about insider tips on each site’s best features—and cautions or challenges for working with each.

Sunny Morton

April 11, 2018

Sylvia Abrams, President, Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland,
Ken Bravo, President, International Association of
Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS), and
Chuck Lissauer, Past President, Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland


The speakers shared valuable techniques that led them to experience “aha moments” in researching their own ancestors, and revealed insights from years of examining marriage records, census documents and school yearbooks to enhance family research. Each cited specific examples of breakthroughs they had made and invited questions from the audience on how to get the most value out of their investigative research. Tips from “how to” video clips on census records, marriage documents and school yearbooks were also featured courtesy of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island, New York.

Sylvia Abrams discussed marriage record information that can further family research. Ken Bravo provided tips on making the most of federal census reports. Chuck Lissauer spoke about examining school yearbooks as a source of useful information for genealogists.

March 4, 2018

Matthew Skvasik
Innovation Programming Specialist
Cuyahoga County Public Library

The Memory Lab at the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Library Branch
An Asset for Genealogy Research

Matthew Skvasik explained the equipment, capabilities and software that can be used for free in the library’s lab to digitize and preserve family photographs, artifacts and other items.

Matthew Skvasik

February 4, 2018

Mitchell Balk
President, Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation

Whither Jewish Hospitals - the Mt. Sinai Legacy

Mitchell Balk discussed the history of Jewish-sponsored hospitals in the United States, with a focus on Cleveland’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center, In his presentation, he explained how the medical institution has had a lasting impact on the community through the grantmaking Foundation formed from its sale in 1996 and the people who fondly remember the history of the hospital.

Mitchell Balk

January 7, 2018

Ken Bravo and Richard Spector

Installation of Officers
Learn how to “Break down Brick Walls”

Two past presidents of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland, gave advice on how to break through a brick wall while researching your family tree. They shared research strategies and examples of how they have found missing ancestors.

Ken Bravo Richard Spector