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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 10, Number 21 | October 13, 2009

This edition is going to 8,515 subscribers

Every government puts value on preserving its history. That is why we have national archives. Genealogy preserves history; the history of a family. It cannot be done without access to records, just as historians cannot preserve a nation's history without access to records. It is a greater good than the right to privacy. It is a greater good than the risk of identity theft.
Google Wants to Digitize “Out-of-Print” Books
In an act of chutzpah, Google is in the process of settling a class action suit that will take away the rights of copyright owners to decide how their property can be used. At least that is the effect of the settlement. The intent is that it will apply only to out-of-print books; even those that are still in-copyright. How did this come about?
   • Google got libraries of U.S. universities to allow Google to digitize in-copyright books. Although I am not privy to the agreement, it is likely that Google paid the universities for this privilege and Google agreed that if this act resulted in a law suit against the universities, Google would pay all expenses and damages awarded to the plaintiff.
   • A group of copyright holders sued Google. Because there were a sufficient number of holders suing Google it was made into a class action suit.
   • Google settled the class action suit with this limited number of copyright holders, but because it is a class action suit, it affects all holders of copyrighted books.
   • Some of the terms of the settlement are:
      – Copyright owners who fail to notify Google that they do not accept the terms of the agreement will automatically be considered as accepting the terms of the agreement.
      – Copyright owners will be compensated based on what the plaintiffs and Google have agreed is equitable
      – The members of the class will hold harmless the universities that allowed Google to digitize the books
      – Google will decide whether a book is no longer in print.

What is wrong with the settlement?

It circumvents Congressional law. Congress passed laws giving the right of intellectual property holders to determine how their property can be used. The settlement bypasses Congressional law because Google can determine if the property can be used and the copyright owner must request Google to stop using it.

Google decides whether a book is out of print. But sometimes a book is out of print for good reason.
   • The information it contains is obsolete and the author does not want to perpetuate the misinformation.
   • The author is planning a revised edition.
   • There is insufficient interest in the book to warrant a reprint, but a reprint is planned for some time in the future.

Google is not obligated to contact the copyright owner for permission to make the out-of-print book available. Google is not obligated to contact the copyright owner to negotiate royalties for the rights to print the book. Instead, the settlement puts the burden on the copyright owner to contact Google. The owner can request Google to discontinue making the work available, but, as the expression goes, the barn door will be closed after the horse got out.

There are those who feel it is a win-win-win-win situation. Good for Google, good for the public, good for the publishers and good for the copyright holder (in Avotaynu’s case, the author). But what gives a third party the right to decide what is good for the copyright owner? That is the decision of the copyright owner.

An opposing view can be found at It is written by Sergey Brin, co-founder and technology president of Google. You can reaad the entire class action settlement at

IIJG Announces Latest Grants
The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy has award two additional grants for research associated with genealogy; one for Latvian research and the other for Hungarian Research.

The first proposal is entitled “A Systematic Study of the Riga House Registers as a Source for Jewish Genealogy in Pre-War Latvia.” It will result in a detailed database of the 20–21,000 Jews living in Riga in the inter-war period and will be accompanied by a historical and sociological narrative, contextualizing the findings in the database. The work will be carried out over a two-year period by Professor Rubin Ferber, Chair of the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Latvia in Riga, and by Mrs. Irina Weinberga, a Departmental Head at the Latvian State Historical Archives, also in Riga.

The second project is entitled “Communal Protocols and the Daily Life of Hungarian Jews - Proposal for a New [Genealogical] Research Tool”. Its central aim is the creation of a database of mini-biographies of Jews who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries in three major Hungarian Jewish communities—Pest, Óbuda, and Miskolc—using the previously unexamined information to be found in the minute books of these Jewish communities. (Pest and Óbuda later combined to become Budapest.) It will be conducted by Dr. Howard Lupovitch of the University of Western Ontario, who is one of a handful of scholars currently working on Hungarian Jewry with the requisite linguistic skills.

This the third consecutive year in which the Institute has run a research grants competition and, according to IIJG Director Neville Lamdan, “these two latest awards will not only add new directions to the work being done but will also break new ground geographically speaking.” In previous years, awards have been made to studies centered in medieval Spain, Renaissance Italy, Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine and the 20th century “diaspora” of a Lithuanian shtetl.

The IIJG we site is at

More IIJG News
Like a number of other non-profit organizations, the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy has a special Board of distinguished people who lend their name as a statement that the organization’s goals are worthy. IIJG has an “Advisory Board” that includes such people as: Irwin Cotler, member of the Canadian Parliament and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada; Abraham Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League; Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel; Sir Malcolm L. Rifkind, Member of Parliament and former UK Foreign Secretary; and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, U.S. Senator and former vice-presidential candidate. A complete list can be found in “Nu? What’s New?” Volume 10, Number 2 at

Apparently at least two of the members consider their roles to be more than passive. Upon receiving the IIJG annual report, Sir Martin Gilbert, historian and author of numerous books wrote to IIJG Director Neville Lamdan: “Thank you for letting me see this [announcement]. I am most impressed.” Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz responded with an even briefer note: “Sounds wonderful.”

IIJG is funded by donations from the public. It recently received a matching grant proposal from a person interested in Jewish genealogy. If you contribute to the funding of IIJG, this individual will match your donation. So, even as a token gesture, contribute $10 or $18 to the Institute. Contributions are being collected through PayPal at If you already have a PayPal account, donating can be accomplished in just a few clicks. Otherwise, PayPal does accept credit cards. If you do not like to use the Internet for money transactions, send a check to Friends of International Institute for Jewish Genealogy; 155 N Washington Ave.; Bergenfield, NJ 07621.

Museum of Family History
I have not visited Steve Lasky’s Museum of Family History at for some time. It had always contained a wealth of useful exhibits that are ancillary to Jewish genealogical research. One reason I avoided it is that it was not well organized—even though it had good information—and I found I was using the site map rather than links.

This is a thing of the past. The Museum of Family History site now has a very slick design. In fact, Lasky has taken the title of his site seriously and had created a virtual museum complete with floors, theaters, dining facilities and a bookstore. If a new visitor did not catch on that the Museum exists only on the Internet, I am sure Lasky would get e-mail questioning where the facility is located and what are its hours.

Many complex Internet sites have a site map. Lasky calls it a floor plan. There are plans for the main floor, second floor, upper floor and music pavilion. Visit a floor plan (site map) and you can click on the link to any of the exhibits on the virtual floor. For example, on the extreme left of the Main Floor plan are the country exhibits: Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Scandinavia, Spain and Ukraine. In the center of the main floor is the Family History Theater which links to audio/visual presentations at the site.

Lasky represents Jewish cooking in his virtual Dining Facilities. The Gut Essen Delicatessen serves corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, kasha varnishkes, stuffed derma and stuffed cabbage. Although I did not see a rabbinic approbation, it appears to be kosher. The My Family Restaurant has more substantial fare including matzo ball soup, kreplach, Israeli salad, knishes, lox, smoked white fish, as well as secular fare. The People’s Café is still under construction.

On the more serious side are the wealth of exhibits: visual, audio and video. Here are some of the recent additions to the site:
   • Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays
   • Castle Garden and Ellis Island: Ports of Immigration
   • Philanthropy: Jewish Hospitals and Societies which Cared for the Needy in New York City (1902)
   • Screening Room: Film clip no. 21: “A Great Day on Eldridge Street” Klezmer celebration on the Lower East Side
   • Photographic Studios of Europe

The home page notes a Great Artist Series including exhibits about Al Jolson, Richard Tucker, Max Weber, David Pinski (Yiddish playwright) and Maurice Schwartz of the Yiddish Art Theater. Permanent exhibitions noted on the home page are: Postcards from Home, Eastern European Jewry, From the Pale to the Golden Land: How Our Families Came to America, Living in America: The Jewish Experience, The Yiddish World and The Holocaust.

In the Educational Research section are items that are more pertinent to genealogy: Cemetery Project, Map Room of Eastern Europe, Synagogues of New York City and Genealogy and Family History. Visit the Museum of Family History. Lasky provides a monthly update of new items on the JewishGen Discussion Groups. Offers Webinars has a number of webinars (web-based seminars) that can be viewed at no cost. The list can be found at A sample of some topics that might be of interest include:
   • Genealogy in Gotham: New York City Research
   • The Canadian Historical Censuses, 1851–1916
   • European Research: Tips and Tools for Success,
   • Genetic Genealogy Made Easy
   • Planning a Perfect Family Reunion

Many of the other webinars are oriented toward more effective use of products.

Philadelphia Conference Session Recordings Available
All the sessions recorded at the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (Philadelphia, August 2–7, 2009) are available for purchase online or on CD. Only those sessions where the presenter gave approval for the recording are included. You can order a set for the whole conference, specific days or individual sessions. The cost appears to be $14 per session. To order online, go to To order by phone, call (314) 487-0135.

Reminder: Holocaust Collection Accessible at No Cost in October and the U.S. National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) have announced the availability of more than one million Holocaust-related documents and an index at the site. For the month of October 2009 the records are available at no charge. This was reported in the last issue of Nu? What’s New? which can be found at

NARA records at the site include:
   • Concentration camp registers and documents from Dachau, Mauthausen and Flossenburg.
   • The Ardelia Hall Collection of records relating to the Nazi looting of Jewish possessions, including looted art.
   • Captured German records including deportation and death lists from concentration camps.
   • Nuremberg War Crimes Trial proceedings.
Also included are nearly 600 interactive personal accounts of those who survived or perished in the Holocaust provided by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

A more detailed description can be found at the Nu? What’s New? site.

Michelle Obama’s Ancestry
Genealogy made the front page of the New York Times and the national TV news programs when Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian of, traced the First Lady’s ancestry back to slaves in South Carolina. You can read more about this story in the New York Times at

Contribute to the Success of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy
Help support a dynamic institution that in its brief existence already has been the catalyst for such benefits to Jewish genealogy as the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching System,  Sephardic DNA and Migration project, inventorying the Paul Jacobi Collection of 400 prominent Ashkenazic lineages, the Proposed Standard for Names, Dates and Places in a Genealogical Database, and a system for Integrating Genealogical Datasets.

Visit the IIJG website at and read about these developments, as well as  ongoing and proposed projects.

Make your tax-deductible contribution by credit card or PayPal at Click the Donate link. If you prefer, mail it to the Friends of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy, 155 N. Washington Ave., Bergenfield, NJ 07621. Make the check payable to “Friends of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy.” Donations are tax deductible for U.S. taxpayers.

Nu? What's New is published biweekly by Avotaynu, Inc.
Copyright 2009, Avotaynu, Inc. All rights reserved

To be added or removed from this mailing list, go to the Internet site To change your e-mail address, go to the same site and remove the old address and add the new address.

Back issues of
Nu? What's New? are available at

To subscribe to AVOTAYNU, The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, go to

To order books from our catalog, go to

To contact us by postal mail, write: Avotaynu, Inc.; 155 N. Washington Ave.; Bergenfield, NJ 07621