Volume 6, Number 6 | May 1, 2005
Mormon-Jewish Dialogue Continues
The first meeting of the committee that hopefully will provide a solution to the Mormon posthumous baptism of Jews will take place on May 9 in Salt Lake City. The purpose of the committee is to evaluate a planned system developed by the Church that will cause them to have greater control over posthumous baptisms. Church policy is that individual Mormons should limit baptisms to their ancestors. (Note: This policy is observed about as much as the speed limit on a highway...and the police are perpetually out to lunch.)
Representing Jewish interests will be Gary Mokotoff, Sallyann Sack and Carol Skydell. Representing Mormon interests are David E. Rencher, Director of the Records and Information; Wayne J. Metcalfe, Director of Acquisitions; Paul Starkey, Manager of Official Temple Record.
The group has an interesting makeup in that five of the six are from the genealogical community. Mokotoff and Sack are past presidents of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Skydell is a vice-president of JewishGen. (They are on the committee acting as individuals, not as representatives of the named groups.) Rencher is one of the most respected persons in American genealogy and has filled numerous roles including president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Metcalfe's role is to manage the acquisition of records worldwide for the Family History Library.
In an agreement signed in 1995, the Church made a commitment to limit posthumous baptism of Jews to those who were ancestors of Mormons and to use only those records that did not identify the individual as Jewish. At the meeting on April 12 between Church officials and representatives of the Jewish community, the Jewish group showed thousands of violations of this provision. Some Jews were baptized by submissions of individual Mormons less than 30 days before the meeting. They included Yitzhak Rabin, Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weitzmann. Church-originated baptisms continued as late as six years (2001) after the agreement was signed. The sources were batches of Jewish records distributed prior to the 1995 agreement--ones the Church never recalled. The agreement did not call for the winding down of baptisms using Jewish records; it calls for the end of baptisms as of the signing date.
Apropos to the Mormon practice of posthumously baptizing Jews, including Holocaust victims, Sallyann Sack recently reminded me of an addition to the Jewish High Holy Day prayer book in the martyrdom section called "The Martyrdom of the Ninety-Three Maidens." During the Warsaw ghetto period of the Holocaust, 93 girls who were students at a Jewish parochial school barricaded themselves in the school because they heard the Germans intended to turn them into prostitutes for the German army. When it appeared they were doomed, the girls elected to commit suicide by poisoning themselves.
Thankfully, these children were never named. Otherwise, some Mormon child, roughly the same age as one of these Jewish girls, would have stood in a baptismal font in a Mormon temple and uttered the following words, as an act of love, "Sister [Mormon girl], having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you, for and in behalf of Chaya Feldman, who is dead, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." In a second ceremony called "Confirmation of the Dead", as an act of love, the following would have been stated for each of the 93 Jewish girls: "Sister [Mormon girl], in the name of Jesus Christ, we lay our hands upon your head, for and in behalf of Chaya Feldman, who is dead, and confirm you a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and say unto you, receive the Holy Ghost. Amen."
It is the Church's position that there is nothing wrong with performing these Mormon ceremonies on the hundreds of thousands of Jews murdered in the Holocaust, because, each one, like Chaya Feldman, should be allowed free agency--to make the choice of accepting or rejecting the proxy baptism. (Note: Chaya Feldman's last correspondence with the outside world was expressed in a letter just before her death; that she feared there would be no one to say Kaddish for her, the Jewish prayer for the dead.) What the Church does not state in their literature is that it is the Mormon belief that if Chaya rejects the baptism, she will not be permitted to live in Heaven in the presence of God. It appears that free agency has strings attached. See http://www.mormon.org/learn/0,8672,1295-1,00.html
Complete Program for Las Vegas Conference Now Online
The complete program for the 25th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy is now online at http://www.jewishgen.org/lv2005/planner.htm. There are from four to seven concurrent sessions Monday through Thursday. As in past conferences, lectures start at 8:15 a.m. and continue to 10:00 p.m. with planned luncheons and a dinner break.
The deadline for early registration has been extended to May 8. You can register at http://www.jewishgen.org/lv2005/regist.htm.
The conference runs from July 10-15 and is at the Flamingo Hilton Hotel. A new feature this year is an IAJGS Management Sub-Seminar on Sunday afternoon, July 10. It is designed to assist people active in Jewish genealogical societies to better run their organizations.
News of Interest to Canadian Researchers
An index to more than 12,000 divorces in Canada has been posted by Library and Archives Canada at http://www.collectionscanada.ca/022/008/index-e.html.
A database of more than 193,000 Canadian immigrant records between 1780 and 1906 has been added to Ancestry.com. A large majority of the entries have been extracted from the 1901 census records for parts of Ontario and Quebec and represent those individuals who indicated a year of immigration and a place of birth outside of Canada. Additional information can be found at http://www.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?sourceid=831&dbid=3795
By a vote of 51-16, the Canadian Senate has passed bill S-18 which will make historic census records available to researchers starting with the 1911 census. It is now headed to the House of Commons where it must pass three readings before it becomes law. Censuses prior to 1911 are available to researchers but Statistics Canada, keeper of these records, claimed that starting with the 1911 census, participants were told the information they supplied would be kept confidential forever. If S-18 becomes law, information in the 1911 census would be released immediately and other 20th-century censuses would be released 92 years after they were taken. However, effective with the 2006 census, persons participating in the census would have to indicate they wanted the information they provided made available 92 years later. Failure to so indicate would keep the information private forever.
USHMM Filming in Ukraine
The United States Holocaust Museum is filming records relevant to the Holocaust in Ukraine. It is based on an agreement signed in 2000 between the State Committee on Archives of Ukraine and the Museum. Now additional archives in Ukraine have agreed to cooperate with the Museum. These include the Central State Historical Archive of Ukraine (Lviv); the State Archive in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea; State Archives of Vinnytsya, Transcarpathian, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, and Chernivtsi oblasts. The Museum's proposition for cooperation is currently being considered by the management of the State Archive of Khmelnytsky Oblast. Information can be found at http://www.archives.gov.ua/Eng/News/pr-2005.03.php#Top
Databases on Amsterdam Jewry
The Dutch Jewish Genealogical Data Base of the Center for Research on Dutch Jewry now has eight databases specific to Amsterdam. The main site is located at http://dutchjewry.huji.ac.il, and the Amsterdam data can be found at http://www.dutch-jewry.org/Mokum/mokum_e.html. A search engine is included. The Amsterdam databases are:
<> 1. An inventory of Ashkenazi-Jewish inhabitants of Amsterdam in the 18th century.
2. Trouwen in Mokum. 15,278 Jewish Marriages in Amsterdam 1598-1811. Based on the book by the same name.
3. Marketing permits. Archives of marketing permits. 16448 marketing permits from 1912-1954.
4. 6,389 Portuguese marriages from the year 1664-1926.
5. 19,642 burial permits from 1834-1935.
6. 10,697 family names adoptions from 1812-1835.
7. 22,336 burial details from 1834-1954.
8. 12,139 marriages from 1830-1937.
New York Law May Make Vital Records More Accessible
There is a trend in the United States and elsewhere toward limiting access to vital records under the guise of reducing identity theft and combatting terrorism. New York Assembly Bill 7209 is moving in the opposite direction. The bill would reduce the current cost to obtain vital records for genealogical purposes by half, and for applicants who show current membership in a genealogical society, review of vital records will be at no charge.
A summary comment of the bill makes the statement that "the fear that has been voiced that vital records could provide information which could lead to identity theft is unfounded. In a recent survey of 500 victims of identity theft, not one was due to information gleaned from vital records." Additional information can be found at http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A07209.
Time To Be Thinking About Passover 2006
A genealogist has come up with a creative way to personalize the Passover Seder--a family haggadah. Vivian Singer will print 40 copies of a haggadah that contains up to 25 pictures of family for only $800. She also provides a customized cover for the book. (The haggadah is the book from which the Passover Seder service is read.) She is also willing to provide custom prayer books for other religious occasions. Additional information can be found at http://www.singersiddur.com.
Getting Popes Mixed Up
In the last issue of "Nu? What's New?" I stated that Pope Pius XII was Giuseppe Roncalli. Pope Pius XII was born Eugenio Pacelli. It was John XXIII what was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli.
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