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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 12, Number 2 | January 16, 2011

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.
Library and Archives Canada Is Going Digital
Library and Archives Canada is planning to be a “fully engaged digital organization” by the year 2017, in time to celebrate Confederation’s 150th anniversary. Some of the plans are to:
   • phase out providing paper copies of documents requested by patrons and instead provide only digital copies by April 2011.
   • double the volume of its online content over the next year, mounting millions of genealogy images on its website in partnership with For example, in 2011, patrons will be able to access digitized images of original census documents from 1861 and 1871, which contain the name, age, country or province of birth, nationality, religion, and occupation of Canadians at the time.
   • have online permanently frequently requested documents.

Additional information about plans can be found at

Who Do You Think You Are? Debuts February 4
The American version of the TV program Who Do You Think You Are? debuts on Friday evening February 4 at 8pm (7 Central time). Their website does not indicate who will be the celebrity highlighted on the first show.

Non-Israeli Volunteers in Israel’s Wars
World Machal is an organization that honors the thousands of non-Israelis who volunteered to defend Israel in its various wars, especially the War of Independence. Machal is an acronym for the Hebrew, “Mitnadvei Chutz L’Aretz,” meaning “Volunteers from Overseas.” There is a website that provides biographical information about hundreds of these individuals at Many persons are named in these biographies even though they do not have their own personal biography.

There is a search engine to locate information about individuals. It is a string search, that is, it will locate any word that includes the consecutive letter given. Thus “abin” and “rabi” will locate all occurrences of the surname Rabin.

It is an interesting site to visit, even if you did not know any of these volunteers.

Books of Vital Records Indexes for London Synagogues
Harold Lewin of Jerusalem has produced three books that are indexes to London vital records.
   • Marriages of the Great Synagogue of London 1791–1885, approximately 8,000 marriages. Cost: $79 plus shipping
   • Birth Records of the Great Synagogue 1791 to 1877 and Hambro Synagogue 1770 to 1905, in all, approximately 11,440 births. Most records include birth date, civil and Hebrew names of infant, parents’ names and home address. Cost is $49 plus shipping

Lewin is in the process of completing a third book on the birth records of the New Synagogue (1774 to 1896) and marriages of the New Synagogue (1790–1823 and 1837–1860) and Hambro Synagogue (1797 to 1837 & post 1862). The price has not yet determined, but should be about $79 plus shipping.

For more information, contact Lewin at

YouTube Films of Ancestral Towns
A posting to a JewishGen Discussion Group about the availability on of a film about the Jewish presence in a town reminded me that YouTube is a great resource for this type of material. Simply key in the name of your ancestral town and the word “Jews” or the word “Jews” in native tongue (for example, zydow for Polish towns).

People May Be Looking for You
From time to time, when I get an inquiry from a person, my reply bounces because the person mistyped his e-mail address.

I make a token effort to locate the person by looking in the JewishGen Discussion Group Archives at in the hope that the person posted at least one message to the Discussion Group in the past few years. If that is not successful, I go to the JewishGen Family Finder at Tens of thousands of genealogists have posted their ancestral surnames and towns to this database. One of these two sources invariably provides me with a method of contacting the inquirer by e-mail.

People may be looking for you. Be sure you have made at least one posting a year to the JewishGen Discussion Group. Also contribute to the JewishGen Family Finder. If you are a married woman, include in JGFF your husband’s surname, even if you are not researching his ancestry. In that way you can be found by either name.

Index to the Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre Now Available
Steve Lasky, creator of the Museum of Family History located at, has transliterated from Yiddish to English the names of all the individuals and organizations listed in the six volumes of Zalmen Zylbercweig's Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre. The list includes the individual's surname, given name, alternate names, dates of birth and death, town and country of their birth (all when listed in the Lexicon). More than 2,700 persons are identified. Lasky is also in the process of transliterating the captions to nearly four hundred photographs (mostly of play scenes and actors in their roles)and illustrations that are also included within these six volumes.

Zylbercweig’s Lexicon volumes were published at different times, from 1931 to 1969. With few exceptions, the biographical information of persons appearing in earlier volumes are not updated in subsequent volumes.Instead the extra volumes provide biographical information about additional individuals.

A number of individuals are listed a second time, most often in Volume 5, which is the memorial volume of those killed by the Nazis. Galleys for portions of volume 7, which Zylbercweig never completed before his death, are available in the Archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

For example, the Yiddish actress, Molly Picon, is listed in Volume 3, page 1809. To the general public, she is best known for her role as Yente the Matchmaker in the film version of Fiddler on the Roof. Fyvush Finkel, who gained fame as a television actor but got his start in the Yiddish theatre, is not in the Lexicon.

Lasky has not decided how to provide this information at the museum’s site, so currently people can make inquiries to him to get information about persons of interest. Included will be the volume and page number where the person’s biography appears.

There is a summary of the Lexicon at The entire six-volume set can be found in pdf format at by searching for "zalmen zylbercweig fun Yidish."

Contact Lasky at
If you have never visited Steve Lasky’s Museum of Family History website it is worth your time. It is an audio-visual masterpiece of portions of Jewish history that tend to have relevance to family history research.

Lasky has taken the title of his site seriously and has 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 Main Floor plan there are links to essays on Synagogues of Europe, Aspects of Jewish Communal Life, The Kehillah and Rabbis and the Houses of Prayer and Study. 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 is the wealth of exhibits: visual, audio and video. Examples are:
   • 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 Theatre, with plans for another exhibit about famed Sophie Tucker. 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, The Holocaust and World Holocaust Memorials.

The Multi-media Index currently shows more than 150 audio items (example: Al Jolson radio interview on The Barry Gray Show, 1946. The video index also has about 150 entries, many films of the Jewish presence in various towns, including more than eighty by Bialystok native Tomek Wisniewski.

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.

Visit the museum at
Use the Search  engine to locate information about your ancestral towns and surnames.

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.
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