Nu? What's New?
The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy From Avotaynu

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 9, Number 26 | November 23, 2008

This edition is going to 8,235 subscribers

Dates Established for 2011 Conference
The International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in 2011 will be held in Washington, DC, from August 14–19 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The hotel is well located for rapid access to the National Archives, Library of Congress, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and other area sights. The hotel room rate will be $199, rather low cost for a major U.S. metropolitan area hotel.

Other dates for the annual conferences, the premier event of the Jewish genealogy year, are:
2009 August 2
7 Philadelphia
2010 July 11
16 Los Angeles

Yad Vashem Library Catalog Now Online
The Yad Vashem Library Catalog is now online at The institution states that this is the world's most comprehensive collection of published material about the Holocaust, containing more than 115,000 titles in 54 languages. Their photo archives of some 130,000 pictures, some contributed by family members of persons murdered in the Holocaust, can be linked to from this site. A greater description of the photo archives was given in the June 15, 2008, issue of “Nu? What’s New?” It is located at

Hungarian Name-Change Book on Google Books
A book that lists about 15,000 19th-century name changes of Hungarians, many Jewish, has been digitized by Google Books. Századunk névváltoztatásai 1800–1893 (
Surname changes of our century) was published in Budapest in 1895. To access the book, click here. The name-change list starts on page 23.

The book offers the following information: Surname taken, previous surname, occupation, town name (not clear if this is the birthplace or abode), the name of children who also took the same surname, number of the decree which authorized the name change. The last two digits indicate the year in which the change was authorized.

A company,, has indexed the book, but it is available on a subscription basis only. Minimum cost is $15.00. Radix has a number of other Hungarian databases. Descriptions can be found at

Canadian Immigration Records
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has a number of searchable databases online associated with immigration to Canada. They can be seen at Recently they added a pre-1865 record group. In the group, there are no persons named Cohen and only one person named Levy. Another collection of immigrants for the 11-year period 1925–1935 has 637 persons named Cohen. It demonstrates how recent was Jewish migration to Canada.

Book Identifies Belgian Deportees
A book titled Mecheln-Auschwitz 1942-1944 that identifies each of the 18,500 persons, mostly Jews, who were deported in 28 convoys from Malines (Mecheln in Dutch) to Auschwitz from 1942–1944 will be published shortly. Plans call for a portrait of each of the deportees. The cost of the book is €155. Information can be found at

In 2007, Malines Center in Belgium created a wall of photographs of 1200 people who were deported on Convoy 20 that left that city to Auschwitz. The presentation ran for more than 100 meters (328 feet) on a wall, five photographs high. Avotaynu created a web site of photos of the exhibit at

Reminder: Human Interest Articles for Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU is our human interest issue. Many years ago, Sallyann Sack and I wanted to recognize that there is more to genealogy than ancestor hunting. There is the human side of genealogy. The emotional reactions of a genealogist to discoveries in his/her family's history can be both happy and upsetting. There is the pride a researcher feels in successfully breaking down a brick wall. The discovery of long-lost family or linking to the family tree of another genealogist can be exhilarating. Our solution was to reserve a portion of the Winter issue each year to articles about the human side of genealogy. Articles should be submitted to AVOTAYNU editor Sallyann Amdur Sack at The deadline is December 1, 2008.

Give JewishGen a Chanukah Present
There isn’t a week that goes by without announcements on the JewishGen Discussion Groups that more and more data is being added to their databases. There are now more than 400 ShtetLinks sites—sites created by volunteers that provide information about specific ancestral towns. JOWBR, the JewishGen Worldwide Burial Registry, now has more than one million records.

I am reminded that it costs money to support this ever-growing environment. JewishGen is an organization of volunteers that also needs voluntary contributions to sustain itself. If you use JewishGen, but rarely, consider a $18 donation to support this worthwhile organization. If you subscribe to Discussion Groups, consider a $10 “subscription fee” to each one you to which you subscribe. If you go to JewishGen at least once a month, consider a $10 “consulting fee” per month. JewishGen gives you the option to designate that the donation be used for any of the specific Special Interest Groups.

Give JewishGen a Chanukah gift. Contribute now at

Chanukah Gifts for Yourself, Friends and Favorite Library
For yourself. There is no finer gift that you can give yourself to advance your knowledge of Jewish genealogical research than Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy. This 624-page tome is the ultimate guide to Jewish genealogical research. Written by more than 60 authors, all experts in their own field, the list of authors is a veritable "Who's Who in Jewish Genealogy." Its more than 100 chapters cover all important aspects of the rich body of information available to do Jewish genealogical research. Each chapter in "Researching by Country of Ancestry" typically has (1) history of the Jewish presence in the country, (2) what records are available, (3) how to access records, (4) addresses of repositories and other institutions, (5) bibliography, and (6) Internet addresses. This book is of immense value to both the novice or the experienced researcher.

You can see the complete Table of Contents plus a sample chapter at

For friends. Every Family Has a Story would make a great Chanukah gift to a friend or relative who enjoys reading books and really doesn’t get why we all do family history. The book consists of 71 articles that appeared in AVOTAYNU that are about the human side of genealogy; how genealogical research affected people, both the researcher and the people found.

I gave a copy to a cousin and this was her response. “Thank you for the book - I am fascinated by the stories - but also at the enthusiasm and dedication of all you genealogists who spend hours and hours tracking down information - and providing history to which we can all relate.”

If you are a subscriber to our quarterly journal, AVOTAYNU, we are offering Every Family at a discount. The book regularly sells for $37.00. If purchased by December 1, you can buy it for $29.95 plus shipping; a 19% discount. Order it at the special discount page at Also at the site is the complete Table of Contents plus the complete story of “The Diary of Miriam Hanania.”

Again, this is to AVOTAYNU subscribers only, not to all Nu? What’s New? subscribers. If you are not currently an AVOTAYNU subscriber, you can subscribe at The annual cost is $38.00 in the U.S. and Canada and $46 in other countries. Alternately, you can buy “Every Family Has a Story” at the $37.00 price at

For Libraries: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust would make a great Chanukah gift for a personal or institutional library. This remarkable three-volume, 1,824-page work provides information about more than 6,500 communities, primarily in Continental Europe where Jews lived before the Holocaust. Through special arrangements with the publisher, we are offering it for only $99.00 plus shipping. It originally sold for $325. Ordering information plus a complete list of towns can be found at

Mormon/Jewish Controversy: The Problem That Won’t Go Away
Holocaust Survivors End Discussions with the Church

[Note: Underlined words are links to other sites that discuss the subject.]

In a widely publicized news conference, the aging Holocaust survivor movement announced they have given up attempts to convince the Mormon Church to stop posthumously baptizing Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The average age of the survivors who participated in the news announcement was 84. After more than fourteen years of negotiations with leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Holocaust survivors have ended discussions with the Church. My involvement in this controversy extends back to 1992 and have participated in discussions with the Church since 2003.

History. In 1992, the Jewish genealogical community discovered that 128,000 German Jews murdered in the Holocaust were posthumously baptized by the Mormon Church. The source was a memorial book called Gedenkbuch. At that time I was president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. I informed the Church that if these baptisms were known to the general Jewish community there would be a public outcry. After two years of discussions, in the summer of 1994, the Church told me they planned to do nothing about it. Bill Gladstone, then president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Canada, was a writer for the Jewish Telegraph Agency. He wrote an article that was published in Jewish newspapers. The reaction of the Jewish community was instantaneous and the Church started back-pedaling furiously, apologizing for what they did. It led to the Church signing an agreement in May 1995 with a number of Jewish organizations to limit their posthumous baptism practice of Jews—of all Jews, not just Holocaust victims—to only direct ancestors of Mormons. A description of the early history of this controversy can be found at An exact copy of the contract signed by the Church can be found at

This appeared to solve the problem until about 1999 when a woman named Helen Radkey of Salt Lake City started making newspaper headlines claiming the Church was not honoring the agreement. At first I did not believe the reports which focused on famous Jews such as Menachem Begin and Golda Meir, because the evidence was that these persons were baptized prior to the 1995 agreement. But I contacted Radkey who over the years has provided me with documentation which demonstrates there is no question that the Church has been ignoring the agreement. Recently Radkey prepared three reports describing her discoveries which demonstrate that thousands of Holocaust victims have been posthumously baptized since 1995. The first is a one-page report, the second a two-page summary, the third a 61-page report which describes in detail her research.

Holocaust victims. In 1995, as part of the agreement, the Church removed 260,000 Holocaust victims from the International Genealogical Index (IGI), their online list of persons for whom Mormon ordinances have been performed. The removal consisted of two major groups: 128,000 German Jews who were submitted for baptism by five families in the Salt Lake City area and lists of Dutch and French Jews that were submitted through the Church’s Extraction Program. These very Holocaust victims are now being reintroduced into the IGI—that is, they are being rebaptized—because Mormons, not seeing these names in the IGI, think that ordinances have never been performed on these Holocaust victims.

The Church recently admitted that they have removed more than 43,000 Holocaust victims from the IGI. About a year ago Helen Radkey discovered that the Church was purging Holocaust victims but, she claimed, with no apparent logic to the purging. Radkey told me that the number being purged is just a fraction of those she has found in the past five years. This leads one to conclude that more than 100,000 Holocaust victims have been posthumously baptized since 1995.

Famous people. In the past the Church has been embarrassed by news articles that cited famous people who were baptized into the Mormon religion. People such as Pope Paul, Golda Meir, Groucho Marx, Hitler and even Mickey Mouse. Their solution has been to develop a database of famous persons and periodically purge the IGI of these names. Their purge program is not run often enough; that is how the world found out in 2006 that Simon Wiesenthal was cleared for baptism. About two years ago I went through the IGI looking for famous Jews. I discovered that all the Jewish Supreme Court Justices were baptized. Felix Frankfurter was baptized three times. Also present were Justices Arthur Goldberg and Abe Fortas. All have since been purged. There still is a remnant of the Arthur Goldberg baptism in the IGI. Listed is “Mrs. Arthur Joseph Goldberg.” Of course, this practice of “baptize then purge” gives the aura that the Church baptizes famous people and then hides their deed.

Complaints by Other Religious Groups. Jews are not the only religious group that oppose this Mormon practice. The Vatican last May issued a directive to their parishes to no longer allow the Mormon Church to make copies of their records. Years ago, the Russian Orthodox Church also blocked the Mormon acquisition of their records. The Armenian Church has also protested this practice.

Extraction Program. It is a half-truth perpetrated by the Church that they acquire records so that individual Mormons can perform religious ordinances on their ancestors. The full truth is that the vast majority of persons listed in the IGI have absolutely no relationship to Mormons. The Church acquires these records to be used in their Extraction Program, in which thousands of Mormons extract data about individuals from these records and submit the names for religious ordinances. Birth records are used for posthumous baptism (Example: All the Jews who are in the 19th-century birth register of the Hambro synagogue of London have been posthumously baptized). Marriage records are used to seal husbands and wives. For example, all persons married in Manhattan, (New York City) through 1910 have been sealed. Sealing is the ordinance that eternally unites a husband and wife. On the face of it, it is a lovely concept, but mass sealing of married couples, such as all persons married in Manhattan, means the Church has sealed women who axed to death their husbands and husbands who brutalized their wives. The Church also sealed all persons married in Cincinnati for a large number of years. This includes the grandparents of Steven Spielberg. It is estimated that there are 700 million individuals in the IGI. There are between 6–12 million Mormons in the world. Clearly only a small minority of persons listed in the IGI are related to Mormons.

Defense by Church. Some of the justifications used by the Church for the continual posthumous baptism of Holocaust victims—and Jews in general—have been:
    • The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives them the right to practice their religion as they see fit.
    • Although the Church issued a directive to individual Mormons not to baptize Jews unless they are direct ancestors of Mormons, the Church does not enforce the rule because they practice free agency. That is, each Mormon is allowed to decide how to run his/her life with ensuing consequences if they do good as well as consequences if they do bad. Recently a Mormon was excommunicated for publishing a calendar showing Mormon missionaries bare chested. Apparently publishing pictures of half-naked Mormons is grounds for excommunication. Baptizing Holocaust victims is not.
    • It is a “proffered” baptism, that is, the deceased can turn down the baptism. This is another half truth. It is also true that it is part of the Mormon belief system that anyone who turns down the baptism cannot live in the presence of God.
    • Being baptized by the Mormon faith does not make you a Mormon. But the ritual of baptism explicitly states: in the name of Jesus Christ we lay our hands upon your head, for and in behalf of [name of the deceased), who is dead and confirm you as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and say unto you, you receive the Holy Ghost. Amen.

New System to Solve Problem? The Church claims that they have developed a new system for submitting deceased persons for religious ordinances that will “discourage” posthumous baptism of Holocaust victims. The new system will not permit submitting lists of names. People will have to be lineage linked, that is they will have to be part of a family tree. For example, it would have been very difficult to submit the 128,000 German Jews murdered in the Holocaust because they came from a list. Unfortunately this is a Band-Aid solution to the problem. Many Holocaust victims’ lists show two or three generations. An example is the 3 million name Pages of Testimony database online at the Yad Vashem web site.

Combined Index. Meanwhile the Mormon Church is moving to further disguise the posthumous baptism practice. In 1992, when the Jewish genealogical community discovered the baptism of 128,000 German Jews murdered in the Holocaust, the IGI was a public database. You could not only tell when and where an individual was baptized, but also the name of the person submitting the information. Shortly after signing the 1995 agreement, the Church modified access to the IGI to make the ordinance portion of each record more difficult to locate. In about the year 2000, they password protected the ordinance information and have since strictly controlled who can be given a password.

At present all persons for whom ordinances have been performed are listed in the International Genealogical Index (a misnomer since you cannot get into the IGI unless a religious ordinance is performed on you—a more appropriate name would be the International Ordinance Index). Shortly, the Church has plans to integrate the IGI with other, purely genealogical, databases. On two occasions in discussions with the Church, they assured me that non-Mormons would be able to tell in the Combined Index whether a person listed has had ordinances performed, such as posthumous baptism. It will remain to be seen if they keep their word.

Help Grow the Shoah Victims’ Names Database
Yad Vashem wants volunteers who are willing to contact local institutions and individuals to grow the Shoah Victims Database whose principal documents are Pages of Testimony. With the aid of promotional materials Yad Vashem has developed, volunteers will reach out to survivors and their families and assist them in registering the names of Jews who they know were murdered in the Shoah. This will be done through synagogues, Holocaust centers, Jewish Community Centers, Jewish student organizations, senior centers and social service agencies. To volunteer send your name, address, phone number and e-mail address to with the subject heading "Names Volunteer"

To submit a Page of Testimony, there is a link on the left portion of the screen from the Basic Search page at Click the words “Submit Additional Names.”

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