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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 11, Number 14 | July 25, 2010

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.
2010 Conference Is History
The conference was a success; however, it lacked the polish of recent conferences. The Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles elected not to use the expertise of the sponsor of the event, the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. They decided to do it alone. The results were amateurish.

Running the conference requires continual vigilance because things go wrong. Too many things went wrong at the LA conference. A major problem was that you could not easily read the names on the name tags. The type size was too small. This problem was eventually caught and a small number of name tags had the names in larger type as was the standard at previous conferences.

The principal complaint I heard from veteran conference attendees was that the summary of events was part of a 280-page booklet (the body of the contents set in 8-point type making it difficult to read). At previous conferences, the summary was printed apart from the main program booklet making it easy to carry. A number of people told me that there were many errors in the booklet itself. The biography of Roni Liebowitz identified her as the speaker at a “How to Create a Tallit: A Hands-on and History Workshop.” She was not. In any case, what is a how-to-create-a-tallit workshop doing at a conference on Jewish genealogy?

At the end of the conference, people were delayed from entering the banquet hall until their names were checked off by volunteers guarding the entrance. This security feature was a waste of time. No more than three feet away from the volunteers, a complete list of banquet attendees was publicly displayed so that people could determine at which table they were sitting. Anyone who wanted to crash the banquet could have picked a name off the list and claimed to be the person. At the previous conference, people merely showed their banquet tickets as proof they were entitled to attend. I had a banquet ticket and did not want to wait for my name to be checked off, so I just walked past the volunteers. My table, set for seven people, had nine people assigned to it. JewishGen requested that their two tables be placed adjacent to each other. The request was not honored. When it was time for the “thank yous” at the banquet, they did not acknowledge the efforts of Carole Montello of JGS of Southern Nevada who was manager of the vendor area.

The vendor area was placed in such a remote area that Avotaynu sales were only 40% of those at last year’s Philadelphia conference. At the Philadelphia conference, the vendor area was adjacent to the resource room. This year’s conference planners allowed anyone sell their wares. As you entered the vendor area, the first booth to greet you was a vendor selling dresses and costume jewelry. (My wife suggested that Avotaynu sell sneakers at the next conference.)

All these annoyances were typical examples of the lack of polish in the planning and execution of the conference. There were many, many more. The conference planners sorely needed the expertise of IAJGS. Fortunately, the next few host societies plan to involve IAJGS.

Mark Your Calendar: Future Conferences
For those that like to plan ahead, the sites and dates for the 2011 and 2012 conference have been announced.

2011: Washington, DC. August 14–19. Grand Hyatt Washington. Host is the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington.  See

2012: Paris, France. July 15–18. Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel. Host is Le Cercle de Généalogie Juive.

The 2013 conference is planned for Boston and 2014 for Jerusalem, Israel. There are no particulars at this time.

News About JewishGen
Warren Blatt, managing director of JewishGen, made a number of significant announcements at the annual conference. The most delightful is that for the first time in its history, JewishGen’s income exceeded its operating expenses. This is due to the increased number of donations from people who use JewishGen. The next time you are solicited by JewishGen and have never contributed, consider what value it is to your family history research and make an appropriate donation. If you are already a contributor, when it is time to make your annual donation, consider kicking it up a notch. That extra money means greater growth for JewishGen.

Blatt indicated that JewishGen now has more than 16 million records in its databases and contains more than 50,000 web pages. Spend some of JewishGen’s “profits” by creating a web page for your ancestral town. If you do not know how to create a web page, JewishGen will help you. For further information go to

JewishGen is partnering with to grow the JewishGen Family Tree of the Jewish People. FTJP is a database of more than four million people located on family trees submitted by more than 1,000 family historians.
   1. If you do not already use genealogical software or have an online family tree, go to register and start building your family tree online. If you prefer to work with software operating on your own computer, download MyHeritage's program Family Tree Builder after you register with the above link. This special project will add your tree to FTJP and periodically update the FTJP database as you make changes.
   2. If you already use, contact Daniel Horowitz at to indicate interest in the project, and he will make the necessary changes to allow you to participate.
   3. If you do not already participate in FTJP and use software other than the MyHeritage software, spend some of JewishGen’s “profits” by adding your family tree to FTJP. Just create a GEDCOM file—the standard interface that exists in all genealogy software systems—and upload it at

Hal Bookbinder Receives Lifetime Achievement Award
Hal Bookbinder of California received the IAJGS Lifetime Achievement Award at the recently completed annual conference. Bookbinder has been active in organized Jewish genealogy for more than 20 years. Among his many past leadership roles were:
   • President of IAJGS
   • President of JGSLA
   • Chair of annual conferences on Jewish genealogy
He also is the creator and editor of Jewish Genealogy Yearbook. It was Bookbinder who established the name “International Conference on Jewish Genealogy” for the annual conference. Prior to the creation of the name it was called by a variety of names and numbered in a variety of ways. Bookbinder, as president of IAJGS, concluded the name would be “International Conference on Jewish Genealogy” and would be consecutively numbered starting with the first conference in 1982.

Information about the other IAJGS awards will be published in the Summer issue of AVOTAYNU.

Cover of Getting Started
Some readers have commented about the attractiveness of the cover of our new book Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy. It was designed by French artist Caroline Guillot for Jewish Genealogy Month 2000. It is titled “A Family Tree of the Jewish People.” We also used the illustration for the cover of Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy. You can view the illustration at Information about “Getting Started” can be found at

Finding Israeli Phone Numbers
A posting to JewishGen notes that there is a site that permits searching for Israeli telephone numbers using the Roman alphabet at I tried it. The Stephen P. Morse site at provides the same function with superior results, although it is a bit more cumbersome to use.

Searching for Mokotovs (the spelling of my surname transliterated from Hebrew) there were six results at the site. Using the Morse site—Israeli Phone Directory (English)—there were 24 results. Morse uses the Bezeq telephone directory which can only be searched in Hebrew. At the Morse site, type the surname in the Roman alphabet, and the results are possible Hebrew spellings of the surname. Then copy and paste one of the Hebrew spellings into the search engine; click “Search” and the site searches the Bezeq directory providing the results and adding the full name for each entry transliterated into the Roman alphabet. It helps to have a knowledge of Hebrew and to know the correct spelling of the surname using the Morse site because he provides a number of possible spellings. If you are not familiar with Hebrew, then try all the alternatives provided.

Complaints About Canadian Census Plans Mount
The plan by the Canadian government to limit information captured in the 2011 census and also to prevent public access to most of the data has incurred the wrath of organizations in addition to historians and genealogists. (See the last edition of “Nu? What’s New?”) Jewish and Evangelical Christian organizations in Canada have joined the protest. They claim they rely heavily on the data from the census in order to serve their faith communities. Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said every Jewish federation in the country signed a letter this week addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking that he reverse the census decision. "It allows us to create long-term planning for charitable fundraising, for implementing programs and services that support everything, from cultural, social, health care, education, housing , recreational needs—the whole gamut," Other institutions protesting the plan include the Canadian Medical Association, Statistical Institute of Quebec and the Prince Edward Island's Finance and Municipal Affairs. Additional information can be found at

UK May Scrap Census in Its Entirety
Are you familiar with the amusement park game where an image of a beaver pops up from a hole and you whack it only to have another image pop up from another hole? Well just as the Canadian census beaver appears to be receiving a serious whacking from various groups, the UK is considering scrapping the decennial census altogether. A British cabinet minister stated it was an expensive and inaccurate way of measuring the number of people in Britain. Instead, the government is examining different and cheaper ways to count the population more regularly. Perhaps they are planning to count up all the Brits who are members of Facebook? The complete story can be found at

New Book: One Foot In America
Some years ago, Avotaynu sold a book about the experience of Jews emigrating through the port of Hamburg. Now a book has been published by the City of Antwerp and the Eugeen Van Mieghem Foundation about the Jewish immigrant experience leaving Europe through the port of Antwerp. It is titled One Foot In America: The Jewish Emigrants of the Red Star Line and Eugeen Van Mieghem. Because the book is not a commercial venture, it is offered at a very low cost, only $20.00 plus shipping.

The book is rich with illustrations by Van Mieghem (1875–1930) who was an artist that portrayed the emigrants as they left Antwerp. He lived with his parents in a house across the street from the Red Star Line warehouse. There are also photographs of the emigrants in the book. One is of Golda Meir as a young girl. She and her parents travelled to the U.S. on the Red Star Line from Antwerp. All told, there are more than 200 photographs or illustrations.

There is a history of Antwerp and a separate section devoted to the history of the Jews of Antwerp which started with the arrival in the 16th century of Jews from Spain and Portugal. In a chapter title “Making Money Off Migration” the book describes the Red Star Line which began operation on 1873. There is a chapter titled “Life on Board.” An entire section of the book is devoted to “Jewish Migration from Russia to Antwerp, 1880–1914.”

The cost of the book is only $20.00 plus shipping. You can order the book at Has UK Birth Index 1837–2006 has made available fully indexed birth records from 1837–2006. The company has reindexed over 100 million birth records as a first installment of a completely new version of the England and Wales birth, marriage and death records on its website. Additional information, as well as the search engine, can be found at FindMyPast is a fee-based site but provides the option of paying a small amount of money on a pre-transaction basis.

News from
Canadian City and Area Directories. Ancestry has completed its collection of Canadian City and Area Directories, 1819-1906. It contains more than 150,000 pages of historical records, the largest collection of historic Canadian directories available online. The collection includes the names of more than 7 million Canadians who lived during this 87-year-period of national growth.

Australian Vital Records. has added to its collection indexes to the vital records of Australia. There are nearly 15 million entries. Some of these indexes are available at no charge at various Australian government sites. For a complete listing of what is available at these sites see

The Ancestry collection includes the following:
Births include name, birth year, father’s name, mother’s name, and birth place
New South Wales: 1788–1909; Northern Territory: 1870–1909; Queensland: 1829–1909; South Australia: 1907–1922; Tasmania: 1803–1809; Victoria: 1836–1909

Marriages include maiden name, spouse name, marriage year and marriage place
New South Wales:1788–1945; Northern Territory: 1870–1913; Queensland: 1829–1929; South Australia: 1917–1937; Tasmania: 1803–1919; Victoria: 1836–1920; Western Australia: 1906–1949

Death: name, death year, estimated birth year, father’s name, mother’s name and death place.
New South Wales:1788–1945; New South Wales: 1788–1945; Northern Territory: 1870–1913; Queensland: 1929–1959; South Australia: 1916–1970; Tasmania: 1803–1919; Victoria: 1836–1985; Western Australia: 1906–1980

Wanted: A Complete Set of AVOTAYNU
We have been contacted by Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. They are interested in acquiring a complete set of AVOTAYNU 1985–2009. If you are interested in trimming down your library, e-mail me at info@avotaynu,com.

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