Nu? What's New?
The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy
Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 7, Number 4 | April 9, 2006

Happy Passover to all! Chag Sameach!

Outcry for Release of ITS Records Continues
In an editorial titled "A Holocaust Denial," a leading American newspaper has demanded that the International Tracing Service in Arolsen, Germany, make their vast collection of Holocaust-related data available to the public. The Washington Post accused the International Committee of the Red Cross and the German government of conspiring to prevent historians from gaining access to the world's largest Holocaust survivor archive. The editorial claims that the German government's concern about privacy is not directed toward the privacy of Holocaust survivors but to the privacy of the relatives of camp collaborators. The complete editorial can be seen at

Meanwhile, an online petition for release of the ITS record has begun. You can add your name to the more than 2,300 signatures already on the petition at

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum had previously made a public demand for the release of the records. Yad Vashem in Jerusalem has a significant portion of the ITS records on microfilm which it acquired in 1955. For more than a year they have been digitizing these records along with the rest of their archival collection, but they have made no commitment to place them on the Internet.

The holdings of the International Tracing Service are one of the most valuable sources of information about the fate of people, both victims and survivors, caught up in the Holocaust. Their records place an individual at a specific place and time during the Holocaust period. They claim to have 40 million such pieces of information. Their sources, to name a few, are deportation lists, concentration camp death lists, ghetto records and post-war refugee records.

ArchiveGrid Launched
The Research Libraries Group (RLG) has launched ArchiveGrid, a database that contains nearly a million archival collection descriptions held by hundreds of libraries, archives and museums. It is located at

RLG, is a not-for-profit membership organization of over 150 libraries, archives, historical societies and other institutions with collections for research and learning. But thousands of institutions have contributed to ArchiveGrid including more than 20 Jewish institutions in the U.S. including American Jewish Archives, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Jewish Theological Seminary, Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center and numerous Jewish historical societies.

The extent of contribution from these Jewish institutions is unclear. I know there are records of persons named Mokotow at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee archives, but they were not cited in the ArchiveGrid search. Yet when I used ArchiveGrid to search with my favorite keyword "Mokotow," it located a letter from a "H. Mokotow, Paris" at YIVO institute that was part of the collection of the papers of Moses Kligsberg, a longtime YIVO archivist. Interestingly, I went to the YIVO site at and did the same search and came up with no hits.

Access to ArchiveGrid is a fee-for-service database that is free only until May 31, 2006.

New Book: Guidebook for Sephardic and Oriental Genealogical Sources in Israel
Avotaynu has just published a new book: Guidebook for Sephardic and Oriental Genealogical Sources in Israel. It is written by two of the world's experts on Sephardic genealogy: Mathilde Tagger and Yitzhak Kerem.

The book reveals the wealth of resources on Sephardic and Oriental Jewish history and genealogy in Israel. Even though research can be conducted abroad, the essential sources and collections are located in Israel. It encompasses important archival collections such as the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People; Central Zionist Archives; Jewish National and University Library - Department of Manuscripts and Archives; Jewish National and University Library - Institute of Hebrew Microfilmed Manuscripts; Ben Zvi Institute Library; Yad Vashem Library; and countless other repositories maintained by research institutes and museums and managed by various immigrant and other ethnic associations in Israel.

The book is organized alphabetically by country. There are more than 40 countries represented. The 29 appendices contain name lists, the majority of which were found in the archival material. The book's web site is at It includes ordering information, a Table of Contents and a list of the more than 2,000 surnames that appear in the name lists of the book. The book is 412 pages, hard cover and costs $45.00 plus shipping.

Update on the 26th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy
The program for the 26th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy now includes more than 175 sessions. The conference will be held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York from Sunday, August 13 to Friday, August 18. You can view the planned lectures at http://www.jgsny2006/sessions.cfm. The schedule of programs is expected to be posted to the conference site shortly.

The conference is more than lectures. It is a worldwide gathering of Jewish genealogists who interact in a number of ways. Most important are the annual meetings of the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that are Internet-based societies primarily oriented toward geographical areas of ancestry. There currently are 32 meetings planned. You can view them at Nine of the major SIGs are also holding luncheons: Belarus, Galicia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, South Africa and Ukraine.

Other, more causal, sessions are Birds of a Feather meetings. They usually are spontaneously created when a group of people with some common interest decide to get together. The meeting notice is posted on a bulletin board at the conference showing the nature of the group, as well as the date and place of the meeting.

You can register for the conference at The early registration discount ends May 15.

Two Other Conferences Worth Considering
If you live in the U.S., there are two other conferences worth considering. The annual National Genealogical Society Conference will be held in the Chicago area from June 7-10 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at O'Hare Airport. The annual Federation of Genealogical Societies "Conference for the Nation's Genealogists" will be held from August 30-September 2 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

Both conference typically offer about 150 lectures on a variety of subjects. I have found them most valuable for Jewish genealogists in the area of topics that are independent of individual research such as methodology, publishing family histories, skill building, document preservation, etc. I will be giving two lectures at each conference on some basic topics of Jewish genealogical research plus a third lecture at the FGS conference on a society-related topic: "It Ain't No Sin to Make a Profit."

Information about the NGS conference can be found at and the FGS conference at

Searching "AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM" for Moments in History
The updated version of AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM" (1985-2005) was just shipped this past week to purchasers. If you have an older version of the CD you can purchase the new version for just $29.95 plus shipping ($4.00 in U.S., $7.50 Canada, $9.00 other countries) by sending in the old disk with payment. With the availability of the CD, I became nostalgic and decided to use the full-word search engine to locate the first occurrence in AVOTAYNU of some keywords important to genealogy. Below is the keyword and the first issue in which the word appeared:

JewishGen: Spring 1991. "The JewishGen computer bulletin board echo can be reached via modem at (713) 630-0553, net node 260/170, Sysop Susan E. King. As there are several local boards that carry this echo, consult a local Sysop for availability."

Internet: Summer 1993. "Internet is a vast, worldwide network of academic, commercial and government computers. The embodiment of the so-called `Information Superhighway,' Internet has become the fastest growing computer network and perhaps contains the most online genealogical resources. It allows users to log directly into a remote computer (Telnet). It allows for extremely quick data file transfers (FTP). Finally, it has worldwide discussion groups (Usenet). If you have an Internet E-mail address, people can mail personal letters to your own private electronic 'mailbox'. This also means that you can communicate with anyone else who has an E-mail address. For instance, a subscriber to America OnLine can send a message to someone on GEnie."

DNA: Summer 1994. "DNA research independently done on [Stanley] Diamond's blood last year by Dr. Charles Scriver of the McGill University-Montreal Children's Hospital Research Unit was recorded; soon after, Oppenheim and her colleagues found the same mutation in Pharan. 'Now all we have to do is the triangulation (finding the genealogical connection) between my forebears and hers,' Diamond said."

Stephen P. Morse: Summer 2001. "Stephen P. Morse of San Francisco has developed a valuable searching aid that may become a permanent feature in a future update of the [Ellis Island] system."

AVOTAYNU on CD-ROM contains all articles that have appeared in the journal from 1985 to 2005 accessible with a full-word search engine. In the past 22 years more than 2,300 articles of interest to persons tracing their Jewish family history have appeared. It contains a wealth of information about Jewish genealogical research. You can view the titles to these articles at Order the CD at

Spring Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Spring issue of AVOTAYNU will go to the printer shortly. If you have not renewed your subscription, you can do so at

The Spring issue is unusual in a number of ways. It is four pages larger than normal--72 pages instead of 68--and contains an unusual number of long articles. The lead article, by H. Daniel Wagner of Israel, focuses on genealogy as an academic discipline. In the article, Dr. Wagner coins two new terms that may become commonplace in our vocabulary in the future: microgenealogy and macrogenealogy. Microgenealogy is what we all have been doing all along; that portion of genealogy that focuses on the immediate needs of the researcher. Macrogenealogy, he notes "involves issues and tools relevant to genealogy as a whole, such as the development of improved mathematical models for the study of human migration or of backward or forward population growth, generic tools to facilitate merging and comparing databases, or genetic research techniques designed to trace the ancestors of homo sapiens." Dr. Wagner will be speaking at the first academic symposium on Jewish genealogy to be held in Jerusalem this September. The symposium is sponsored by the newly founded International Institute on Jewish Genealogy.

Another major and large article, by Chaim Freedman, demonstrates that the commonly accepted ancestry of the Maharal of Prague back to King David is faulty. But there is hope because Freedman deomstrates that this distinguished rabbi and scholar was descended from King David thorough another line.

Carole Vogel addresses the problem too common for Jewish genealogists. How do you reconstruct a tree showing that portion of your family that was murdered in the Holocaust? Using her own personal research, she shows the wealth of resources available that permitted her to accomplish the task.

Finally, Stephen Denker provides a lengthy article on the history of the Jews of Cuba using his own family as a case study. There are seven other articles in the Spring issue plus the usual sections: From Our Contributing Editors, U.S. Update, Ask the Experts, Book Reviews and From Our Mail Box.

You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

"Evelyne Reclaims Her Identity"
Never has AVOTAYNU received such a response from its readership as it did to an article published in the Winter issue titled "Evelyne Reclaims Her Identity." It describes how I helped a child survivor of the Holocaust, whose parents were murdered at Auschwitz, locate relatives she was unaware of until quite recently. It also describes how I am helping her return to Judaism.

Typical of the comments were "I received my Winter 2005 issue of AVOTAYNU today. My husband and I live an hour and a half out of town and driving home this afternoon I read him your story about Evelyne. We both had tears running down our faces - at some parts I had to stop reading. My poor husband, I don't know how he kept driving with tears running down his face. It was so well written and very moving."

Now that Evelyne is in contact with the Jewish genealogical community, she is using the skills she has acquired in reclaiming her identity to help other genealogists who have interest in Belgium during the Holocaust era. Typical was a request from Daniel Wagner, the same Daniel Wagner who wrote the lead story in the Spring issue of AVOTAYNU. Daniel's mother, now deceased, was a Hidden Child in Belgium. He wanted to make contact with the other Jewish girls (now women) who were hidden in the same convent where his mother was kept. Evelyne has found three of them so far.

Those of you who read the story would be interested in knowing that Evelyne again will be joining my family for Passover and will fly to Florida to meet her cousin during her stay in the U.S.

"Grain of Truth"
Do you have a family legend that has been found to have a "grain of truth" which you uncovered in your research? AVOTAYNU has started a new column called "Grain of Truth" that will tell these stories. Submit you article to AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Amdur Sack, at Describe the legend but more significantly, describe to the reader the resources that permitted you to discover the facts about the legend.

It's Not Genealogy, But
The Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam are having an exhibition of the works of the two greatest painters of the Baroque period: Rembrandt and Caravaggio. The web site, located at, is one of the most sophisticated--and beautiful--sites on the Internet. After reaching the Home Page, click on the picture at the top to gain entrance to the rest of the site. On the pages that show pictures by the two artists side by side, click the zoom button to get a closeup look at the paintings. You can also shift around the view to look at the detail of a painting. It is worth a visit. Of course if you live in Amsterdam or plan to visit the city in the next few months, there is nothing like the real thing. The exhibit ends June 18, 2006.

Nu? What's New is published biweekly by Avotaynu, Inc.
Copyright 2006, Avotaynu, Inc. All rights reserved

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