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

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 13, Number 47 | November 25, 2012

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.

Past issues of Nu? What's New? are archived at Now Includes a Jewish Genealogy Portal
Randy Schoenberg of Los Angeles has created a “Jewish Genealogy Portal: A Guide to Jewish Projects and Resources on Geni” at There are already 75 links to Geni sites that fit within the model. There are links to family history projects such as “Shealtiel Family World Association”; local Jewish history such as “Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi) - Jewish Community”; links to links such as “Dutch Jewish Online Databases”; and general Jewish history such as “Jews of Khazaria.”

Site Has Argentinean Jewish Surnames with “De”
Saul Issroff of London notes that the Argentinean Jewish genealogy website has a new database of Jewish surnames found in Argentina that include the prefix “de.” The site was previously reported in the December 18, 2011 of Nu? What’s New? It includes links to immigration, obituary and cemetery data In Argentina. At that time, it was reported the site used Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex system, but it now explicitly states it does not. The new database can be found at

News of Interest to UK Researchers
The Western Front Association (WFA) was formed with the aim of furthering interest in the Great War of 1914–1918 (World War I). They also aim to perpetuate the memory, courage and comradeship of all those on all sides who served their countries in France and Flanders and their own countries during the Great War. Established in 1980, it has 6,000 members worldwide. Recently it rescued more than six million soldiers’ pension records of WWI. The UK Ministry of Defence was no longer able to retain and manage its archive of Great War soldiers' pension records cards and related archives and planned to destroy them. WFA rescued the records and plans to create an online, searchable archive. They will also scan the records digitally and to make them findable with a searchable database. Information about the project is at has added to its online collection millions of pages of historical newspapers from across England, Wales and Scotland for the period 1710
1950. More than 200 titles are included. The database can be searched at has reduced its prices for viewing a 1911 census image and transcription when you use pay-per-view credits. The price of viewing a 1911 original image has been reduced from 30 (£3.00) to 5 (£0.50) credits. The price of viewing a 1911 transcription has been reduced from 10 (£1.00) to 5 (£0.50) credits.

A Puzzling Inscription
Arthur Kurzweil relates the story that one of the great Polish Jewish historians of the 20th century, Lucjan Dobroszycki, was stumped by the name of a town in Eastern Europe that he never heard of: Unkanowen. After spending hours trying to find the town on the map, he asked Kurzweil for help. Arthur looked at the document that contained the town name and realized it said “Unknown.” In fairness to Dobroszycki, Polish was probably his primary language.

A contemporary example of stumping scholars was discovered by Gershon Lehrer of Antwerp, Belgium. It appears that the Academy of Trinitarianism based in Moscow discovered a tablet with some strange writing on it. Their scholars concluded it was a dialectal Russian-language inscription with a mix of Cyrillic, archaic Greek and Latin characters. Lehrer informed the Academy that if they rotated the tablet 180 degrees, they would find it was a Jewish tombstone written in Hebrew.

You can read the complete story at his blog at

News from the SIGs
SIGs are Special Interest Groups primarily focusing on geographic areas of ancestry. You can subscribe to their Discussion Groups at A login is required. You can link to the SIG home pages from There are also more than 80 Jewish Genealogical Societies throughout the world. A list of societies can be found at

Bessarabia. A greatly expanded edition of "Geographical Dictionary of Jewish Population in Bessarabia and Transnistria" is available at the Bessarabia SIG site at There are nearly 800 cities, towns, villages and hamlets, but it is still a work in progress. The Geographical Dictionary lists some villages that no longer exist, with a note indicating their likely locations or successor towns. Each record shows the current name, district and/or county, and present nation of the locality with its other historical names. Population data from censuses in 1897 and 1930 and other sources identify places where at least 100 Jews lived. The list also includes places where at least one Jewish name was reported in the Bessarabia pages of the 1924 Romanian directory of businesses and associations.

Bialystok. An index to lists of Bialystok (residential) taxpayers for 1914/1915 is available at Fields include taxpayer's name, father's name, street name, building number, and archival signature (book number and entry number within the book). According to Logan Kleinwaks, not all of Bialystok is included. The list is alphabetical by surname, so it is easy to browse, but, if you wish to search (e.g., soundex, street name, building number), it is possible to do so at Kleinwaks’ site Appending {d504} to the search term will restrict the search to just this index. Example: Kagan {d504}.

Kleinwaks also notes that a 35,000-entry name index to Bialystok area notary records from the Grodno Regional Court is available online at This database is also easy to browse by name, but, to search in alternate manners (e.g., soundex, place), Kleinwaks as added it to his site Append {h54} to the search term to restrict the search to just this index (e.g., segal {h54}). Fields in the index include surname, forename, father's name, social status, place, type of place, district, archival signatures. The district field is essentially Bialystok, Bielsk, or Sokolka powiat, with many entries from the city of Bialystok itself.

Vladka Meed (1921–2012)
One of the great icons of the Holocaust survivor movement, Vladka Meed, died on November 21. She participated in the Warsaw ghetto resistance during the war and devoted the last 20 years of her life to a program she developed that taught teachers about the Holocaust. She was one of the first survivors to provide an account of her life during the war period in a book published in 1948 in Yiddish called On Both Sides of the Wall. It was subsequently translated and republished in English.

Vladka’s role in the Warsaw Ghetto resistance was to smuggle arms and explosives into the ghetto prior to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. On occasion she would also smuggle children out of the ghetto and place them with Christian families. She was born Feiga Peltel and assumed the name Stanislawa (Vladka) Wa(n)chalska during the war years. A sympathetic Christian woman allowed her to take the identity of being her daughter.

She was the widow of Benjamin Meed, who also was part of the Warsaw Ghetto resistance movement. They met at that time. When he died in 2006, I wrote a tribute to him in Nu? What’s New? describing him as “one of the most fascinating persons I have ever met; probably Number One.”

I had the privilege of knowing Vladka while volunteering for the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, where I helped establish the National Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors during the days when I owned a computer services company. Both her picture and that of her husband, each taken during the Warsaw ghetto resistance period, appear in A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland published by Avotaynu.

Two incidents described in her book made an impression on me. First, at the height of the Warsaw ghetto rebellion, she was on the Aryan side of the wall in a church. Mass was being recited and smoke from the ghetto was billowing into the church. The priest found the smoke disturbing, so he closed the window. The second incident was a time she was smuggling dynamite into the ghetto. The procedure was to bribe the Ukrainian guard, climb up a ladder and wait at the top for a compatriot on the other side to come with another ladder so she could scamper down into the ghetto. In one incident, carrying dynamite, she climbed up to the top of the wall and while waiting a German soldier approached. She had to make a decision whether to jump down inside the ghetto risking that the unstable dynamite would explode killing her. Fortunately, her compatriot came at the last minute and she made it safely down into the ghetto.

Vladka organized a teacher training program that every summer took teachers from public and Christian parochial schools to Poland and Israel to a program she called “Holocaust and Resistance.” When she no longer could lead the group because of her aging, the program continued and is expected to continue past her death.

Additional information about her life is at

Annual IIJG Appeal
In its annual end-of-year appeal for contributions, the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy noted that 2012 has been a year of accomplishments. This included a precedent-setting joint symposium with the Russian Institute for Genealogical Research in St. Petersburg where more than 20 papers were presented on aspects of the “Genealogy and Family History of Jews in Russia.” This past year, IIJG launched two major projects, both aimed at moving Jewish Genealogy forward and bringing it to wider audiences. The first project is on “Lives and Lineages of Village Jews in the Minsk Guberniya in the 19th century.” The second is “200 Years of Scottish Jewry.”

IIJG’s previous and ongoing projects range widely from medieval Spain, through pre-modern Italy and Hungary, to 19th century Lithuania and Palestine. They can be viewed on IIJG’s website at

Contributions can be made to IIJG in a variety of ways as noted below.

Avotaynu Business
Wanted: Human Interest Stories for Winter Issue. For the past 26 years, AVOTAYNU has devoted a portion of each Winter issue to genealogy human interest stories. Stories are typically about how genealogy affected people’s lives, whether it be the researcher or the people they are researching. Deadline for submission this year is December 2, 2012. It you would like to share such a story with AVOTAYNU subscribers, submit it by e-mail to Wherever possible, illustrations should accompany the article. Avotaynu writing style rules can be found at

Wanted: New Family Histories in Print. The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU also lists Jewish genealogical family histories that have been published in the preceding 12 months. Books published earlier are also eligible for inclusion if they have not been previously reported. The format to follow is: author; title of book; years covered; brief description, including family names researched; libraries in which book has been deposited; price and ordering information. Deadline for inclusion is December 15, 2012. Send submissions to

Discount Offer On Books Still Exists. Avotaynu is discounting until Erev Chanukah (December 8), the items we offer—BOOKS ONLY—according to the following schedule:
   • Purchases more than $50 – 10% discount
   • Purchases more than $200 – 15% discount
   • Purchase more than $300 – $20% discount

When checking out, use the Coupon Code SPECIAL and enjoy the benefits. Order now! View our more than 50 books 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.
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