Moving Your Family Memories from Nostalgia to History with Samuel Gruber, PhD
Date & Time: May 3, 2023 at 7:00 - 8:30 PM ET
Program: Once we have populated our family tree, filled in the names and dates, what have we learned? What does it mean to know an ancestor’s name but not much more? What makes genealogy different from lepidoptery or philately (collecting butterflies or stamps)?
Genealogy is only a doorway to begin an investigation of the past. We can do this by collecting and circulating legends, hearsay, stereotypes, and biases, OR we can combine these and other tools to dig deeper to make useful history. We can frame questions and use our genealogical research as the beginning of larger explorations about Jews and Judaism, immigration and America, economic and social castes and hierarchies, and about a wide range of cultural and social expression.
In this talk – and discussion – Dr. Gruber will review ways Jewish genealogy and family history can be expanded beyond the strictly personal. He’ll draw on his own experience helping American Jews reconnect with places of their family origin and discuss his own ongoing research using family history sources – memoirs, letter, scrapbooks, photos, etc. – to better understand his own family histories, and how these fit in the broader immigrant and American experience. He’ll discuss how personal stories can be used to recast older narratives to have relevancy today.
Speaker: Samuel D. Gruber is an internationally recognized expert on Jewish art, architecture and the historic preservation of Jewish sites and monuments and has been a leader in the documentation, protection, and preservation of historic Jewish sites worldwide for thirty years. He is president of the not-for-profit International Survey of Jewish Monuments.
Sam received his BA in Medieval Studies from Princeton University, his Ph.D. in Art and Architectural History from Columbia University and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Rome, where he won the prestigious Rome Prize in Art History. He has lived in Syracuse, NY since 1993, and has taught part-time at Syracuse University in the Jewish Studies Program, and Departments of Religion and History of Art since 1994. During the pandemic, he has been sorting, cataloguing, transcribing, and otherwise considering family papers and memories.
Dr. Gruber is an expert in synagogue architecture about which he writes and lectures frequently. He is author of American Synagogues: A Century of Architecture and Jewish Community (2003) and Synagogues (1999) and scores of published reports and articles. Since 2008, he has written the blog Samuel Gruber’s Jewish Art and Monuments. During the pandemic, Sam has curated two on-line exhibitions: Romaniote Memories for Queens College under the auspices of the Government of Greece, and Synagogues of the South for the College of Charleston, for which he previously curated Life of the Synagogue. Beginning in 2021, Sam is a planner and lead researcher on the Holocaust Memorial Monument Database project based at the Canter for Jewish Art at Hebrew University which is supported by the Claims Conference.
Sam was founding director of the Jewish Heritage Program of World Monuments Fund, has consulted on cultural heritage projects for numerous organizations and institutions around the world. He served as Research Director of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad from 1998 through 2008 for which he organized and published over a dozen countrywide surveys of historic sites and monuments of Jewish and other ethnic and religious minorities in Europe.