Gary Mokotoff, Editor
Volume 14, Number 13 | March 31, 2013
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 http://www.avotaynu.com/nu.htm
Nothing particularly newsy this week. Just a lot of feature items.
Ancestry.com CEO Discloses Future Plans
Tim Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ancestry.com, disclosed some of his company’s plans as a keynote speaker at the recently concluded RootsTech conference held annually in Salt Lake City. Among his comments were:
• Ancestry.com is partnering with FamilySearch to bring 140 million pages of U.S. Probate Records covering more than 130 years.
• Over the next 5 years, we will be spending $100 million to digitize, index and put online new content on Ancestry.com, Fold3, Archives and Newspapers.com.
• Ancestry.com’s new iOS 4.1 update will be available soon (now available as of today 3/25).
• More than one-third of new registrants on Ancestry.com are coming from mobile devices.
• Same one-third are younger than Ancestry.com’s typical website user, and this is a great sign of the future health of the family history category.
His entire speech is at http://rootstech.org/?start=0&id=K2&video=2245338986001.
First American Jewish Families Now On Geni.com
Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern's First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 1654-1988 is now on Geni.com at http://www.geni.com/projects/First-American-Jewish-Families/13288. The site is a collaborative effort and people are encouraged to improve the tree by making corrections and adding people.
The book identifies more than 25,000 people, past and present, who are family members of the earliest Jewish immigrants to America from colonial times to the early 1800s. It first appeared in 1960 as Americans of Jewish Descent. The book consists of family trees and an index to the names that appear on the trees. Images of the pages and a searchable index appear at the American Jewish Archives site at http://americanjewisharchives.org/publications/fajf/index.php. Also included is a biography of Rabbi Stern (1915–1994).
A third site, http://www.aojd-online.net, has extracted the information from the book and includes a search engine. Registration is required.
Non-Semitic Origins of the Jews?
An article is circulating on the Internet claiming the origin of today's Jews is not the Near East but Eastern Europe, specifically the Khazarian nation. The source of this finding is a DNA study by geneticist Eran Elhaik of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. Such claims occur from time to time as evidence that modern-day Jews are not descended from Biblical Jews and, therefore, are not entitled to a homeland in today’s Israel.
Elhaik states on his web page: “I hope one day someone will study the huge cost both in taxpayers’ dollars and health that the adoption of Zionist narrative (Rhineland hypothesis) cost the American people.” http://tinyurl.com/Elhaik1.
I recall attending a lecture given by Dr. Michael Hammer at one of the annual Jewish genealogy conferences about the origins of today’s Jews. He showed a graph mapping various cultures which demonstrated that modern day Jews are descended from Semites, and, interestingly, were closest kin to the Palestinians. It also showed that today’s Ethiopian Jews ancestors were African, not Semitic.
I alerted Dr. Alexander Beider to the findings and most of his comments were negative: They included:
• Until Elhaik, no one had the idea to link Khazars (a Turkic people) to Georgians (a southern Caucasian people) and/or Armenians (an Indo-European people).
• His description of the "Rhineland hypothesis" with 50,000 Jews living in medieval Germany is a fruit of the imagination: no serious author (historian, linguist) writes about it.
• His knowledge about Yiddish is taken from such "experts" as Wexler and even Sand. [Dr. Beider, in recent years, has published a number of papers in scholarly journals about the origins of Yiddish in which he refutes the work of Paul Wexler and Shlomo Sand.]
• His knowledge about Jewish history is based on such "historians" as [Arthur] Koestler, Sand, and [Jits] van Straten.
To fan the flames of possible Khazarian origins of modern-day Jews, it was determined some years ago through DNA testing that approximately 38 percent of Ashkenazic Levites are of Eastern European not Semitic origin as is true of most other Jews. There is historical basis that Khazarian royalty converted to Judaism and it is possible they were given Levite status as an expression of their high status. When their kingdom collapsed in the 10th century, it is speculated that the royal members may have fled west and are the ancestors of this group of Ashkenazic Levites.
The Elhaik paper can be read at http://tinyurl.com/ElhaikPaper. Publicity about his discoveries were written in Haaretz and other news sources. The Haaretz version is at http://tinyurl.com/ElhaikHaaretz.
A Passover April Fools Prank
In the past Nu? What’s New? has discussed the “When Did” function at the Stephen P. Morse site to discover when the first day of Chanukah coincided with the American holiday of Thanksgiving, and other “when dids.” See http://www.avotaynu.com/nu/V13N45.htm.
Now Morse (with the help of Stephen Weinstein) has come up with another piece of when-did trivia. Chametz is the leavened food that Jews are forbidden to eat, even own, during Passover. Rabbis sometimes “sell” chametz to a Gentile before Passover and then “buy it back” on the day after Passover. Since the buy-back day could fall on April Fools' Day—April 1—the Gentile can use the occasion to play an April Fools prank on the rabbi when he comes to reclaim his chametz.
By using the When-Did tool, Weinstein discovered that this year, 2013, is the last time April Fools Day and the day after Passover will ever occur. That is only if you live in Israel. In the Diaspora, it doesn't occur this year or in any future year. The reason for the day difference is that Passover is a seven-day holiday in Israel; an eight-day holiday in the Diaspora.
But Morse notes that his “When-Did” tool only goes up to the civil year 9,999. By using a modified version of the tool, Morse was able to augment Weinstein's result and determine that the Gentiles will once again have their day, but they will have to wait until the civil year 79,184. That only applies to Israelis. Diaspora Jews will have to wait until the civil year 82,899.
The When-Did tool is found at http://stevemorse.org/jcal/whendid.html. It has more practical applications such as determining yahrzeit dates (anniversary of death as reckoned by the Hebrew calendar).
People Switching To Gmail
Thirteen years ago, when Nu? What’s New was created, 23% of the subscribers had AOL e-mail addresses. Now, the number is down to 13% with Gmail being the highest at 17%. Many people are also switching from AOL to their cable service provider.
is published weekly
by Avotaynu, Inc.
Copyright 2013, Avotaynu, Inc. All rights reserved
To change an e-mail address, send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org
To subscribe to AVOTAYNU, The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, go to http://www.avotaynu.com/journal.htm
To order books from our catalog, go to http://www.avotaynu.com/catalog.htm
To contact us by postal mail, write: Avotaynu, Inc.; 155 N. Washington Ave.; Bergenfield, NJ 07621
Telephone (U.S.) : 201-387-7200