Gary Mokotoff, Editor
Volume 9, Number 8 | April 1, 2008
Susan King Retires from JewishGen
How do you get hundreds of people to volunteer for your project? How do you get tens of them to be willing to follow you off a cliff with no questions asked? It is not that difficult; all you have to be is Susan King.
Susan King, founder of JewishGen, has announced her retirement effective March 31, 2008. David Marwell, Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, of which JewishGen is a part, stated “Perhaps more than any other person, Susan, through JewishGen, has changed the way research on Jewish family history is conducted...She has left a profound mark on a pioneering institution.”
JewishGen started in 1989 as what was then called a Bulletin Board which today is a small component of the JewishGen environment: the JewishGen Discussion Group. At that time, it required a long distance telephone call to Houston, Texas, where King lived, to connect to her computer to post a message. At the same time, you could read the postings of others and respond to them if appropriate. It then was called the Jewish Genealogy Conference.
In 1995, Apple Computer recognized the value of bulletin boards to the Internet community and invited bulletin board owners to join the Apple World network. After affiliating with Apple World, there was a dramatic increase in the number of researchers utilizing the Jewish Genealogy Conference services. King realized the need for a more extensive presence of Jewish genealogy on the Internet to help newcomers obtain information in a personalized, efficient manner and at the same time avoiding endless repetition for other, more experienced genealogists. Thus JewishGen was born.
As the Jewish genealogical community recognized the value of what King was creating, hundreds flocked to JewishGen to volunteer to make it grow. Today it has more than 100 databases containing more than 10 million records.
In 2005, the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies gave King their Lifetime Achievement Award “recognizing her twenty years of pioneering vision and leadership in making resources freely available to the worldwide Jewish genealogical community. Through her tireless devotion many thousands of people who might never have explored their Jewish roots have successfully done so, benefitting from the continually expanding array of online resources offered by JewishGen. She has changed the face of Jewish genealogy with a clear and focused goal of preserving our history for future generations.”
In January 2003, JewishGen was acquired by the Museum of Jewish Heritage located in New York. At that time, in Nu? What’s New? I stated, “In recent years, JewishGen has been struggling under the enormous weight of a volunteer-based organization that relied on contributions for its operation. This curtailed its growth, which was quite remarkable despite these handicaps. With the burden of day-to-day matters, such as administration and fund raising, lifted from King's shoulders, she can now focus on the growth of JewishGen and the improvement of its quality.”
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