Nu? What's New?

Nu? What's New is a bi-weekly Internet magazine published by Avotaynu providing information of interest to persons tracing their Jewish family history.

To be added or removed from the Nu? What's New? mailing list,
go on the Internet to

Vol. 4, No. 21 - December 7, 2003

Avotaynu Updates Magnates List

Avotaynu has made a major update to its list of repositories holding magnate collections. The list now encompasses much of Central and Eastern Europe. It is located at

Magnates records are nobility records, mostly from before the 19th century. In that era, much of the land was owned by noblemen who documented information about the population of their lands, including Jews. Since Jewish records of this time period are scant, these documents may be the only source of information about 18th-century Jewish ancestors. They include censuses and lists of Jews who lived on the nobles' lands and in their towns.

When searching for magnate archives that might include information about ancestors, it first is necessary to determine which magnates owned the towns in which ancestors lived at specific times. The web site describes procedures for determining this information.

Eastern European Jewish research in the 18th century has the additional challenge that at the time most Jews did not have hereditary surnames. Strategies have been developed to overcome this hurdle primarily by looking for family groups rather than individuals. For example, one of my projects is to find records of my father's mother's ancestors in Warsaw prior to 1820. This family did not acquire its surname, Wlodawer, until the early 1820s, yet birth records exist for the Jews of Warsaw on microfilm at the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library for as early as 1808. I know the father's name was Jacob and the mother's name was Sura Rywka. When I examine the birth records, I will be looking for a child who is listed with the "surname" Jacobowicz whose mother's name was Sura Rywka. Other pieces of information such as given names common in the family will further help identify which records as part of my ancestry.

A Remarkable Chanukah Gift

One of more important Jewish books published in recent years is the
Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust. It won the Association of Jewish Libraries Judaica Reference Award for 2001. It is in three volumes, and its 1,824 pages provide information about some 6,500 towns in Central and Eastern Europe where Jews lived before the Holocaust.

The cost of this award-winning set of books may have been out of reach for many
Nu? What's New? readers. The list price was $395, and Avotaynu has been selling it for $299 plus shipping. The publisher of the work has now made a drastic price reduction (perhaps the price was out of reach for many others). These book can now be purchased through Avotaynu for only $99...yes, $99 plus shipping. (Shipping is $16 in the U.S.; $21 for Canada; and $25 for other countries.)

You can order the books at At the site, Avotaynu has provided a list of all the towns described in the work. Check to see if the shtetls you are researching are included.

This work is a must for any Jewish home library. Its three volumes are in hard cover with dust jackets. It would make a great Chanukah gift for yourself or a friend who is interested in Jewish history. If your synagogue has a library, it would be a valuable addition there too.

Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust is a condensation of the renowned Pinkas HaKehillot series published by Yad Vashem and also includes information on areas of Europe yet to be covered by the series. It chronicles the history of the Jewish communities and the people, as well as the habits and customs of the communities. There are more than 600 photographs and illustrations.

Order now. I do not know how many copies the publisher has in stock.

A Graphic Example of What the Holocaust Did to Jewry

Many years ago I briefly had access to the computer database that created the
Gedenkbuch, a list of 128,000 German Jews murdered in Holocaust. It was produced by the then West German Archives as a memorial to the German-Jewish victims of National Socialism. I was curious about the distribution by age of the victims, so I accumulated the data and created a bar graph.

The graph is reproduced at I am not a demographer, but I should think that a bell curve of a population by year of birth would be nearly symmetrical (barring external influences) with a slight bulge toward the right to demonstrate that the population is growing (there are more younger people than older people). The bell curve displayed does show that structure with a gaping hole in the middle.

Sadly, this a pictorial representation of those who died, not who survived, so the gaping hole represents the survivors. It shows the likelihood of your surviving the Holocaust dropped sharply if you were under 19 years of age or over 40.

This chart is the only representation I have ever seen that pictorially depicts the devastation of European Jewry by age.

More DNA Research Aids in Defining Jewish History

"Chueta" was the name given to Jews living on the island of Majorca who were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. DNA research has confirmed that the modern-day descendants of these people are, indeed, of Jewish ancestry. According to the research, the Chuetas are found to be more closely related to Moroccan and Libyan Jews than to other Majorcans. The DNA research indicates that the study of the current descendants "has shown that, to a remarkable extent, they have retained their biological identity, with at unique pattern, in terms of gene and haplotype frequencies, separate from the other populations of Majorca." In non-scientific terms, it means they did not intermarry very much with the remainder of the population. A summary of the study can be found at

An article about Chuetas in the 1907 Jewish Encyclopedia at implies that a reason for the low level of intermarriage with the rest of the Majorcan population is that these people were shunned by the rest of the populace. The name "chueta" is a derogatory term derived from the Spanish word for "pork," implying they were Jews who ate pork.

Committee for Jerusalem Conference Announces Hotel Room Rates

Rates for staying at the conference hotel, the Renaissance Jerusalem, are now available at the conference site Click the link for Registration and Accommodation. As expected, they are substantially cheaper than American/Canadian hotels which were sites of recent conferences. Prices range from $40-$48 per person, double occupancy. Non-convention rates are now listed as $90-124 per room.

Plans for 2005 and 2006 Seminars

The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies has announced that the 2005 International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be in Las Vegas and the 2006 conference will be in New York.

Two New Books on Jewish Surnames

Two Jewish genealogical societies in South America have announced publication of books on Jewish surnames.

Sociedade Genealogica Judaica do Brasil (Jewish Genealogical Society of Brazil) has published
Dictionary Sefaradi de Sobrenomes (Dictionary of Sephardic surnames). The book is bilingual (Portuguese-English) with the narrative portions (Introduction, Presentation, History and Onomastics) in both languages. Technically, the dictionary portion is in Portuguese, but since it consists of names, countries of origin, names of people, etc., it is understandable in any language. The etymology in the dictionary portion is bilingual.

The authors gathered data from nearly 400 sources from all over the world--books, articles, lists, tombstones, photographs, internet sites, etc). These sources cover 650 years (from 1350 till 2000). They cover Spain and Portugal, Algeria, Argentina, Azores, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Madeira Island, Morocco, Mexico, Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Poland, Russia, Scandinavia, Sudan, Swiss, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, UK, USA, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, and other countries. The sources refer to Sephardim before the Expulsion/Inquisition, the Sephardic Diaspora after the XV Century, the Conversos, New-Christians and Chuetas.

The society can be reached by e-mail at

* * * * *

Asociación de Genealogía Judía de Argentina (Association of Jewish Genealogy of Argentina) has published Diccionario de Apellidos Judios, su etimologia, variantes y derivados (Dictionary of Jewish surnames, their etymology, variants and derivatives) by Benjamin Edelstein. It includes some 20,000 names. The author died three years ago at age 91 without finishing the work. It was finished by the society. It is the first book on the subject written in Spanish. The price is $35 dollars plus $15 postage (unregistered air mail) and $19 (registered air mail). Information about the society can be found at

Seeks to Have Gorr Collection Available for Jerusalem Conference

JewishGen censors refused to allow the posting of the following message by Chaim Freedman of Petach Tikva, Israel, to the JewishGen Discussion Group because it promotes a cause. This is true. The cause it promotes is records access, one of the most important considerations in genealogical and historical research.

The message notes that the genealogical collection of the late Rabbi Shmuel Gorr is not available to the public. It would be unfortunate if this record group was not available for the Jerusalem conference. I knew Rabbi Gorr. Avotaynu published his monograph
Jewish Personal Names which has been one of our best sellers. (Information is available at He was one of the first contemporary professional Jewish genealogists. He died in 1988 at the age of 56, and much of his work is valuable and unique as Freedman describes in the message he was not permitted to post.

From: Chaim Freedman
The genealogical collection of the late Rabbi Shmuel Gorr z"l was deposited in October 2002 at the Manuscripts Department of the Hebrew University and National Library in Jerusalem. As of my last enquiry it has yet to be attended to by the library. I feel it would be a pity for the collection not to be available at the conference. Perhaps the conference organizers can arrange that with the library. The collection consists of the following material:

1) Research of families which includes material submitted to Rabbi Gorr by the families who engaged his research service and his subsequent findings. This type of material encompasses about 300 nylon files.

2) Family tree scrolls drafted by Gorr.

3) Data about Shadarim (emissaries) sent from Eretz Yisrael to Australia in the 19th century.

4) Articles written by Rabbi Gorr on a variety of genealogical and historical subjects, most unpublished.

5) Lists of donors to Shemesh Tzedakah in Jerusalem extracted according to communities overseas.

6) Surnames. Original unpublished material. Rabbi Gorr's special area of genealogical research was rabbinical genealogy and original research of many such families is included in these files.

Vol. 4, No. 22 - December 21, 2003

Happy Chanukah to all!

Hamburg Database Now Includes Nearly 2 Million Emigrants

The Hamburg Emigrant Lists on the Internet were updated through 1905 this past week. They include nearly 2 million entries from 1890-1905. The site is located at

The index provides basic information about the emigrant: name, country/state of origin, approximate age, and destination. The search engine does not allow soundex searches. Use the wildcard feature which is explained on the search page to find name variants. I found at least six variants of Tartaski by searching for any person whose name started with "Tart" or "Tarat".

For a fee, you can receive an abstract of the entire entry from the ship's manifest. The cost for an abstract is $20 for 1-3 persons, $30 4-10 persons, $40 for 11-20, $50 for 21-30 persons. Because it is an abstract rather than the actual manifest, each member of a family of three on a specific page would have his/her own abstract. Therefore, they would count as three persons if you requested information about all three. Funds are used to support the Internet site.

Avotaynu sells a picture-filled book about the Hamburg emigration experience; it can be a valuable addition to your genealogical book collection. Portions of the book can be found at The book can be ordered at

AVOTAYNU Issue to Press

After some delay, the Fall issue of AVOTAYNU is at the printers. It is a typical issue in that it is very well-rounded, containing information about many aspects of Jewish genealogical research. There are articles about rabbinic genealogy, Austro-Hungary, Galicia, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Poland, Posen and United States immigration.

The lead article is by a lecturer at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Jona Schellekens, who tweaks the noses of genealogists who claim descent from Rashi and those who claim their lines extend back to King David. Schellekens argues that descent from Rashi (1040-1105) is not provable, and the dynasty of King David was eliminated more than 2,500 years ago. We gave noted rabbinic genealogist Neil Rosenstein the opportunity to rebut Schellekens comments. Rosenstein is author of
The Unbroken Chain and will publish next year through Avotaynu a history of the Lurie/Luria family titled The Lurie Legacy. Information about The Lurie Legacy can be found at

The next few issues of AVOTAYNU will focus on the Israel's incredible resources for Jewish genealogy that will benefit those persons who will be attending the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Jerusalem next July. Articles in the Fall issue discuss Yad Vashem and cemeteries in Jerusalem. They are further evidence that if you are a "regular" at conferences, the Jerusalem event is a must.

The ancestors of most Jewish-Americans arrived in the U.S. through Ellis Island. An article in the Fall issue addresses the Pacific coast ports of entry. Other articles are about Jewish surnames in Russia, Poland and Galicia; Austro-Hungarian records; Portuguese Jews in Italy; Jewish genealogical research in Romania; Polish magnate records; and 18th-century records of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at There is a special offer that gives new subscribers the last two issues of 2003 and all four issues of 2004 at a special price.

A New Book Worth Reading

It is not genealogy but there is a book worth reading if you want an understanding of one Israeli view of the Israel-Arab conflict. The author is Yaacov Lozowick, the head archivist of Yad Vashem. The title is
Right to Exist: A Defense of the Moral Position of Israel. Because of the importance of the Yad Vashem archives to Jewish genealogy, I know Lozowick quite well and have been friends with him for nearly 20 years.

Lozowick is an Israeli pacifist. He would trade land for peace in a heartbeat. He is upset when Israel uses force and the consequence is "collateral damage."

(It is worth noting that 55 million people lost their lives during World War II; 10 million as combatants, 45 million as collateral damage. Examples of collateral damage include the London Blitz, the fire bombing of German cities, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and, of course, the Holocaust. An example of the refusal to cause collateral damage was the failure to bomb Auschwitz by the Allies on the grounds it would kill civilian prisoners.)

But Lozowick turned from pacifist to realist when attacks were made against Israelis civilians in the latest round of terror. The Introduction to his book is titled "Why I Voted for Sharon." A major portion of the book discusses the history of the Jewish presence in the Holyland for the past 150 years and his justification for how Jews reacted to Arab acts of violence. He puts special emphasis on the events of the past 30 years with efforts by the United States and other interest groups to create peace in the region.

Lozowick is a historian but the book has few footnotes. He did not mean it as a scholarly work. He is not describing history but talking to the reader--friend to friend, parent to parent.

At the end of the book, he offers his opinion of the solutions to the conflict. I will not tell you the ending. It would be like a reviewer describing the end of a mystery story.

The book can be ordered from and other book sellers.

Website Depicts Latvia Today

A posting to the Latvia SIG Discussion Group notes a web site that has pictures and maps of Latvia today. It is located at Most unusual are scenes from 19 Latvian towns that are displayed with 360-degree panoramic views. Click the "All Cities" link and listed are all 35 towns described at the site. Each town has pictures and/or links to other sites that provide information about the town. It is a very attractive web site.

Other Interesting Web Sites

The following are a few websites that may be of interest to readers.

Ancestry's every-name index to passenger arriving in the Port of New York prior to the creation of Ellis Island is now complete 1850-1870:

Russian to English translator/transilerator: Not knowing Russian, I am incapable of evaluating the quality of the translation, but I did submit some Russian sites to the translator and the results were intelligible.

Yiddish dictionary: Not a complete dictionary but a collection of about 7,000 Yiddish words, so the next time someone calls you a shlimazil, you now will have a place to look it up. New words are being added regularly the authors claim.

For information on United States military cemeteries and memorials, visit, the site of the American Battle Monuments Commission, which administers 24 American burial grounds on foreign soil. Details on WWI, WWII and Korean war casualties are available. The databases are searchable by individual's name, by state and by unit. The website includes information on other wars as well: Civil War, Spanish American War and Vietnam War.

Everyone knows about the search engine Google at A recent posting to the JewishGen Discussion Group notes that Google can do a reverse lookup of U.S. telephone numbers. Key in a phone number and Google provides the owner's name, address and a map with a location for the address. Of course, it does not have access to unlisted numbers. I did uncover a clever ruse used by some people who do not want public access to their telephone number but would like their friends to be able to find it in the phone book. In testing whether Google had unlisted phone numbers, I used one of a friend, and he is in the phone directory...with his name misspelled...I am sure deliberately. Many years ago I heard of the idea of having your name misspelled in the phone directory to avoid people finding your telephone number. You just tell your friends of the misspelling. For example, I might list myself as Makotoff, Gary and give out that information only to those who have a need to know.

Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU to Include Books In Print

In the Winter issue of every year, AVOTAYNU 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.

If you have recently published a family history, submit the following information to the AVOTAYNU editor at author; title of book; years covered; brief description, including family names researched; libraries in which book has been deposited; price and ordering information.

The information should be sent before December 31.

Encyclopedia Orders Sent to Publisher

In the past 10 days, more than 130 people have taken advantage of the substantial price reduction for
Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust. Their orders have been sent to the publisher and should be shipped shortly.

The three-volume, 1,824-page work provides information about approximately 6,500 towns in Central and Eastern Europe where Jews lived before the Holocaust. It won the Association of Jewish Libraries Judaica Reference Award for 2001. I paid more than $200 for it when it first was published two years ago.

These books can now be purchased through Avotaynu for only $99 plus shipping. (Shipping is $16 in the U.S.; $21 for Canada; and $25 for other countries.) You can order the books at At the site, Avotaynu has provided a list of all the towns described in the work. Check to see if the shtetls you are researching are included.

Vol. 5, No. 1 - January 11, 2004

Happy New Year!

Jewish Genealogy Month 2004

For the fifth consecutive year, Avotaynu is sponsoring Jewish Genealogy Month. This year it is March 23-April 21, 2004, which corresponds to the Hebrew month of Nisan 5764--the Passover season. In association with this event, Avotaynu has created a poster, copies of which will be distributed free of charge to each of the approximately 80 Jewish Genealogical Societies throughout the world. Societies are encouraged to post them in synagogues and other Jewish institutions in their area and to include the address and phone number of the local society so that residents can contact them for information. Some societies have indicated they are planning events is conjunction with Jewish Genealogy Month. This year's theme is "This Year in Jerusalem," which commemorates the return to Jerusalem of the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. The conference will be held from July 4-9,2004 at the Jerusalem Renaissance Hotel. It is sponsored by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and hosted by the Israel Genealogical Society.

The 2004 poster, as well as all its predecessors, can be viewed at Information about the conference is at

Book of Sephardic Surnames

A book on Sephardic surnames has been published in Brazil. Titled
Dicionário Sefaradi de Sobrenomes (Dictionary of Sephardic surnames) it includes information about 16,914 different names. The introductory portion of the book is in two languages, Portuguese and English. The dictionary portion requires no knowledge of the Portuguese language because it is a compilation of surnames, toponymics, name type, Inquisition, sources, and important people bearing the surname). The data was gathered from 400 different sources and covers the time period 1350-2000. The authors, members of the Jewish Genealogical Society in Brazil, are Guilherme Faiguenboim, Paulo Valadares and Anna Rosa Campagnano. The book can be purchased for 140 reais (about $50) at or

Central Zionist Archives and Search Bureau for Missing Relatives

In the September 14, 2003, issue of
Nu? What's New? (Vol. 4, No. 16), I reported the Central Zionist Archives has taken over the function of the Search Bureau for Missing Relatives of the Jewish Agency. Apparently they have taken over only part of the function. The new agency, called Search Bureau for Information about Immigrants, will merely determine whether the person ever immigrated to Israel. They have informed me that the are unable to trace the current whereabouts of a person. They suggested (1) use the online Israel phone book at or (2) contact the Israeli Interior Ministry (in Hebrew only) where there is an online form, or (3) contact the Israeli radio program "Search for Missing Family Members" whose e-mail address is

Previously the Search Bureau for Missing Relatives, when it was run by Batya Unterschatz, would make a effort to locate the individuals or their descendants.

"The Problem That Won't Go Away": The Mormon/Jewish Controversy Heats Up

In an attempt to improve the tarnished image of the Mormon Church caused by the posthumous baptism of Jews,
Deseret News, the daily newspaper in Salt Lake City owned by the Church, ran an article in its Opinion editorial section by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach that stated his views on the controversy. Rabbi Boteach, author of Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy, said he didn't give a damn about the Mormon practice and it is a "waste of time for everyone involved." His full statement can be found at,1249,575040245,00.html.

Rabbi Boteach is the author of a number of other books including
Kosher Adultery: Seduce and Sin With Your Spouse, Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments, Why Can't I Fall in Love?, A 12-Step Program and Confessions of a Rabbi and a Psychic (with noted psychic and spoon-bender, Uri Geller). All are available at None are available at the Church-owned Deseret Bookstore in Salt Lake City.

Biographical information about Rabbi Boteach, including a picture of him with his friend, Michael Jackson, can be found at

In response to reading Rabbi Boteach's column, I submitted my own viewpoint on the controversy to the
Deseret News, and they printed it in today's (Sunday, January 11) edition. It can be found at,1249,580037136,00.html.

On the Jewish side of the controversy, Ernest Michel, executive vice president emeritus of the UJA-Federation of New York and chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, was quoted in the New York Times and Jewish Telegraphic Agency stating that the Church has not honored the 1995 agreement in which they agreed to no longer posthumously baptize Jews. Michel was considering all possible options, including legal ones, but would much prefer to come to an agreement with the Church. He broached the issue with Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) who planned to contact Senator Orinn Hatch (R-Utah).

I have been involved in the controversy since 1992 when I was president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. I personally have found no evidence of Jews being added after 1995 to the International Genealogical Index (IGI). Michel has assured me he has evidence of the continual baptism of Jews after the agreement was signed in 1995.

Even if the Church has performed its contractual commitments, the fact remains the problem is not going to go away until as many Jews as possible are removed from the IGI. (The Church is only obligated to remove names if they are made aware of the entries.) Year after year, Jewish genealogists have been discovering to their dismay that their ancestors and/or prominent Jews are in the IGI and have written to the Church to have the names removed. Chaim Freedman of Petach Tikvah, Israel, recently discovered that many famous Australian rabbis and other officials were posthumously baptized. They were all born in London and the source of the records were Jewish births were two synagogue birth registers. I discovered the aunt of the founder of The Gap is in the IGI. Source: probably obituaries in a San Francisco Jewish newspaper. All these discoveries--and they occur continually--serve as an irritant in Mormon/Jewish relations.

Other articles about the controversy can be found in the Deseret News online at,1249,565036855,00.html and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at

Vol. 5, No. 2 - January 25, 2004

Jewish Records in the Family History Library Database to Be Updated

I was in Salt Lake City last weekend to attend the Board of Directors meeting of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. I met with Nancy Goodstein-Hilton, author of the "Jewish Records in the Family History Library" located on JewishGen at She has updated the database and will shortly give the new information to JewishGen for inclusion at their site.

The Jewish Records in the Family History Library database is an inventory of the microfilms, microfiche and books in the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library which are specifically Jewish genealogical resources. They are not always easy to find using the library catalog because of the peculiar way the catalog is constructed. Some of the records are cataloged by geographic location and others by topic. Not all topics are obvious to the researcher who often does not search for key words such as "Jews","Holocaust", "displaced persons", "ghetto", and others.

Searching for Argentinean Relatives

There is an Argentinean immigration database (1882-1929) online at It is provided by CEMLA, Centro de Estudios Migratorios Latinamericanos. Enter a surname or partial surname in the box under the word "Appelido." I found some Mokotoff/Mokotowich relatives by using the partial name "Mokot."

There is a JewishGen Infofile about genealogical research in Argentina that describes the process for contacting CEMLA and getting original records from them. It is located at Nears Completion of Pre-Ellis Island Index
======================================='s every-name index to passengers arriving in the Port of New York prior to the creation of Ellis Island is now complete 1850-1891 except for the years 1871-74. It is likely these years will be available within the next few weeks. The fee-for-service index is at

News About the Jerusalem Conference

The web site for the 24th IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy is worth browsing because it now has descriptions of some genealogical collections in Israel. The conference site is at Click the links "Archives & Resources" and "Conference Projects" for a taste of the vast resources that will be available to people attending the Jerusalem conference, July 4-9.

The Israel Genealogical Society, host society for the conference, has received more than twice the number of proposals for lectures as there are slots. IGS states that the topics of the proposals cover practically all the places in which Jews settled in the world and most aspects of Jewish genealogy research.

Conference registrants will receive a CD containing a number of databases including:
* Memorials of Vanished Communities (the very first cataloging of Israeli memorials of the Jewish Communities destroyed during the Shoah)
* 1875 Montifiore Census of the Jewish Population of Eretz Israel
* Helkat Mehokek (Translation of Hebrew tombstone inscriptions found on Mount of Olives)
* Index to the Jacobi Collection of Family Trees (the late Paul Jacobi documented family trees of hundreds of distinguished Ashkenazic families)
* Sephardic and Mizrachi Genealogical Research in Israel
* Index of Family and Private Archives at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People
* A Guide to the Archives and Archival Material for Genealogical Use in Israel.

Possible additional databases are under consideration.

Google Has a New Operator

The tilde ~ (that squiggly line that is on the upper left of the keyboard to the left of the number 1 key) is Google's newest operator. Now you can search not only for a particular keyword, but also for its synonyms. Indicate a search for both by placing the tilde sign (~) immediately in front of the keyword.

A search for ~genealogy provides results for genealogy, family
history and family tree. A search for ~obits gives results including obits, obituaries, and death notices. Try a keyword with and without the tilde to note the variation in search results.

Use the feature judiciously, possibly only when all other results fail. The purpose of keyword searching is to limit the number of hits. This synonym feature will only expand the number of hits.

RAF Aerial Photos To Be Placed on Internet

Consider this a pre-announcement. There is a web site that includes 5 million aerial photos taken by the RAF during World War II. There are also plans to include some 2.5 million photos taken by the German Luftwaffe during this period. The site is, but demand was so high that it was taken down almost immediately after it was made available. As of today, the site states they are adding more functionality to accommodate the demand.

These photos can give you an unusual view of your ancestral shtetl. The U.S. National Archives has captured Luftwaffe aerial reconnaissance photos, and many years ago I got a copy of the Mokotoff ancestral town of Warka, Poland, from the archives.

New JewishGen Search Engines
Two new search engines have been announced on JewishGen.

The Belarus Special Interest Group now has a search engine that accesses the 246 static web pages at its site. They contain almost 130,000 names. The engine permits searching by surname, given name, town, uyezd, and guberniya. Each element can be searched by Starts With, Exactly, D/M Soundex, Contains, or Ends With. The facility is located at the Belarus SIG site: Click on "Search for your ancestors."

JewishGen, in conjunction with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, has developed an "All UK Database" which is online at . It also is a multiple-database search facility, containing over 50,000 entries referring to people in the United Kingdom--England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These databases have been contributed by the "Jewish Communities and Records - United Kingdom Special Interest Group" (JCR-UK) and individual donors. The "All U.K. Database" incorporates the following data sets:
* United Kingdom Marriages, 1838 to 1972: from all areas of the United Kingdom.
* Wales Census Returns: 1,800 records from the 1851 and 1891 censuses
* London Jews (pre-1850): over 9,000 Jewish traders based in London
* Jewish Traders/Businesses in London - 1769-1839: names of over 5,000 Jewish traders based in London
* JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF): more than 10,000 entries by Jewish genealogists researching families in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
* JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR): 25,000 records from cemeteries within the United Kingdom.

The database is a work in progress and new entries are being added regularly.

The Children of the Vilna Gaon

One of the important books published by Avotaynu was "Eliyahu's Branches: The Descendants of the Vilna Gaon and His Family." It documents more than 20,000 descendants of this great Jewish scholar. Equally important, its author, Chaim Freedman, theorized on the genealogy of the immediate descendants of the Gaon--his children and grandchildren--from the scant documentation available when the book was published.

Freedman recently contacted me to state that one of his theories, that the Goan's son Avraham Vilner was born in 1765, has been confirmed. A 1795 Vilna census/tax list includes Abraham and records his age as 30.

Information about the book can be found at

And Finally...
"The Problem That Won't Go Away"
Who is the Most Famous Rabbi in America?

"He is, arguably, the most famous rabbi in America." lauds the Mormon-Church-owned daily newspaper,
Deseret News. Who is he? Rabbi Marvin Heir of the Simon Wiesenthal Center? Rabbi Norman Lamm, president of Yeshiva University? Rabbi Marc D. Angel of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City? No, it is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of Kosher Sex and Kosher Adultery and proponent of the view that no one gives a damn if the Church posthumously baptizes Jews.

In an interview with a
Deseret News reporter, Rabbi Boteach discussed the foolishness of wanting to be a celebrity, something he claims to shun. He went on to describe his planned negotiations to air his syndicated radio show with a local Utah station, his open letter to Britney Spears, and his disavowal of friendship with Michael Jackson.

The complete text can be read at,1249,585037975,00.html

Vol. 5, No. 3 - February 8, 2004

Yiddish Book Center Yizkor Book Reprints To Be Available Soon

The Yiddish Book Center project to reprint 650 yizkor books is nearing completion. They expect the books to be available for sale in March. Prices have not been fixed but it is estimated it will be $90.00 for Book Center members and $120.00 for non-members. This is a strange structure since tax-deductible membership is only $36 per year. YBC also stated they may sell duplicate originals but the prices have not been determined. The Center's website is at

Juergen Sielemann Honored With Obermayer Award

An article recently appeared in the Washington Post about AVOTAYNU Contributing Editor for Germany, Juergen Sielemann, the archivist at the Hamburg State Archives. He was one of this year's recipients of the Obermayer German Jewish History Award which is given to non-Jewish Germans for outstanding contributions to the reassembling of German Jewish history. The article includes a picture and an interview with AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Sack.

It was Juergen who approach Sallyann and me in 2002 and asked us to find the descendants of the one-millionth emigrant to be added to the Hamburg Emigration database. We located the family and I got to go to Hamburg to the ceremony honoring the event.

The article is at

An article about finding the descendant of the one-millionth emigrant can be found at

The Hamburg Emigration Database can be found at Click the words "Passenger Search."


I have decided to devote much of this issue of
Nu? What's New? to our flagship quarterly journal "AVOTAYNU, The International Review of Jewish Genealogy." We will be celebrating our 20th year of publication in 2004. It amazes me how many Jewish genealogy researchers are unfamiliar with it.

Winter Issue of AVOTAYNU to Printer

The Winter issue of AVOTAYNU is now at the printer. It is a typical issue; typical in the depth and breadth that has given the journal a well-earned reputation for excellence. One reason is the numerous contacts Sallyann Sack, its editor, has made in the 19 years we have published AVOTAYNU. Authors of articles for this issue include:
* Historian of the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service
* Director of the Location and Family History Service of HIAS
* A former Israeli ambassador to the Holy See
* A past president of International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies
* Director of the Kaunas State Archives in Lithuania
* Professor at Hebrew University
* Director of the Hungarian Jewish Archives
* and lots of literate amateur genealogists.

Balance is always an important consideration in seeking out articles in every issue of AVOTAYNU. Geographical areas covered include Germany, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and the United States. This is additional to information supplied from Contributing Editors in Australia, France and The Netherlands. The previous issue included articles about Austro-Hungary, Belarus, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Ukraine and the United States.

There are four book reviews in the Winter issue, including one for the recently published "Dicionário Sefardi de Sobrenomes."

The Winter issue is also our human-interest issue. Many years ago, Sallyann Sack and I wanted to recognize that there is more to genealogy than ancestor hunting. There is the human side of genealogy. The emotional reactions of a genealogist to discoveries in his family's history can be both happy and upsetting. There is the pride a researcher feels in successfully breaking down a brick wall. The discovery of long-lost family or linking to the family tree of another genealogist can be exhilarating. Our solution was to reserve a portion of the Winter issue each year to articles about the human side of genealogy. There are 11 such articles in this over-sized (80-page) issue.

If you do not subscribe to AVOTAYNU, you should. It will not only advance your knowledge of genealogical research, but many of our readers have told us the magazine is just plain enjoyable reading. (One subscriber told us a number of years ago that her husband can tell when the latest issue of AVOTAYNU has arrived, because he finds her sequestered in their living room with a mental "Do Not Disturb" sign.)

Special Offer to New Subscribers

We are giving new subscribers a special offer. If you subscribe to AVOTAYNU for 2004, we will include a fifth issue, this Winter issue that is at the printer, free of charge. You must take advantage of this offer by February 16, so act now! There is a special subscription website at

How AVOTAYNU Gets Edited

Sallyann Sack and I are grateful for the many compliments we receive about the level of quality of the articles that appear in AVOTAYNU. One reason for the quality of the articles is that they are read by five different people, each from a different perspective.

Sallyann Amdur Sack, AVOTAYNU editor, reads each article first, determining if the content would be of interest to our readers. If the article is accepted, she suggests to the author improvements and clarification of points being made.

Irene Saunders Goldstein, a professional editor, then reads the article and edits it to improve the quality of the writing. She will also suggest improvements and clarifications.

I then read the article to confirm it is factually accurate.

My wife, Ruth, then reads it to determine it conforms to AVOTAYNU style rules and general syntax and grammar rules.

Finally, a friend of my wife's, Barbara Lightbody, whom we call AVOTAYNU's token WASP, reads it to determine if it is understandable to non-Jews. Alas, we may have to fire Barbara. She has been reading AVOTAYNU for 17 years and now is so knowledgeable about the meaning of words such as minyan, aliyah, guberniya, shul, etc., that her value has diminished.

How good is your knowledge of Hebrew/Yiddish words that appear in the Winter issue of AVOTAYNU? They include aliyah, Av Beit Din, biet midrash, chevra kadisha, darshan, dayan, gabbai, gaon, halachic, haluka, haskamot, hatan, haver, k'vitelech, kehila, ketav yichus, ketzanim, kollelim, Kotel, manhig, melamed, mohel, neman, ohel, parnas, Prushim, sefer, Sefer Bereshit, shamash, shiva, sofer, talmid, yichus, zaken. Have no fear if you are unfamiliar with most of these words. AVOTAYNU style policy requires that all non-English words have a parenthetical translation immediately following the word.

The Only Article Ever Banned from AVOTAYNU

[The following article was banned by the AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Sack, from the 1989 Winter (human-interest) issue of AVOTAYNU. As I am the editor of "Nu? What's New? it does not require clearance from the AVOTAYNU editor.

by Gary Mokotoff
Have you ever had a psychoanalyst for a friend? It is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and self confidence.
Let me tell you about my five-year [now 20+] friendship with Sallyann Amdur Sack, PhD, psychologist and co-publisher of AVOTAYNU. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland. I work in Teaneck, New Jersey, which is 250 miles away. Yet we talk almost every day.
Computer analysts like myself treat people in a logical way; as programmed automatons. Psychoanalysts treat people as troubled patients whose every word and action is based on a distressing childhood. Consequently, when you have Sallyann as a friend, you have to watch your every word, every unconscious habit. Otherwise, she will be happy to interpret it in a psychoanalytic way.
Take my trait of being assertive. It is no doubt because I am an eldest child expressing my right to leadership among my siblings, she tells me. Had I been the middle child, Sallyann no doubt would have felt my assertiveness was due to my confusion about being in the middle, striking out to find an identity. Of course, if I was the youngest of my siblings, she would have pointed out that my assertiveness was caused by my feelings of inferiority at being last.
I have a philosophy that you never talk about a profession with the professionals. Never show how much you know about the law to a lawyer, or show your expertise in diseases to a doctor. Every once in a while, I make the mistake of discussing the human psyche with Sallyann.
Like the time I told her about an important discovery about my personality. "Sallyann," I said to her one day, "I have made a remarkable discovery. Do you realize that most of the women in my life have names starting with the letter -M-. My secretary is Monica, my marketing director is Monique and one of my programming managers is Maria. I even figured out why. It is because of my great love for my family name--Mokotoff. I always brag about the name. And it has spilled over to the fact that I like to associate with anything that begins with -M-." "That's very interesting, Gary", my psychologist friend replied. "But did you forget that "mother" also begins with the letter -M-!"
This article is written with only one concern; I wonder how Sallyann will interpret my thoughts.

To subscribe to AVOTAYNU, go to

Vol. 5, No. 4 - February 22, 2004

New Printing Technique Makes Publishing Family Histories Cheaper

A major obstacle to publishing family histories, the high cost of printing, may be a thing of the past with the advent of a new printing technology called Print-On-Demand (POD). Prior to this process, to get a quality book printed required thousands of dollars of expenditure and print runs of at least 300. True POD capability allows for printing books, both soft cover and hard cover, in quantities as little as one.

The new printing equipment (an IBM 4100 in the case of the company I deal with) behaves like a giant 600 dpi (dots per inch) laser printer. The text, like office laser printers, comes from a computer, not from printing plates. The technology, called digital printing, makes it possible to do runs as short as one copy of a book, because a given print run actually prints many books at a time. A run might consist of 23 copies of Book A, followed by 63 copies of Book B, followed by 1 copy of Book C, followed by....

As an example, a 248-page book (size 5.5"x8.5") had setup costs of less than $100. The actual printing cost (softcover) with a 4-color cover is less than $7.00 each, whether the quantity is 1 or 100. The only advantage to ordering larger quantities is the savings on shipping costs. A 616-page book (size 6x9) hardcover had less than $200 in setup costs and cost less than $20 per book to print. Allowable book sizes are in inches or millimeters.

This creates a new strategy for printing family histories where it is not uncommon that the exact number of books needed is difficult to predict. Now, a family historian might conclude that the family will want 43 copies, an additional 14 copies will go to archives and libraries and an additional 10 copies will be in reserve, for a total of 67 copies. S/he can request exactly 67 copies. When the reserve 10 copies are exhausted, an additional quantity of books, as little as one, can be ordered. POD orders are fulfilled in less than two weeks, usually less than one week. With a conventional printer, orders typically take 4-6 weeks.

Another advantage is that there is no need for a proof copy of the finished product. Each time I submit a new POD book to the printer, I order one copy of the book instead of a proof. After examining the results, I then place my order for the quantity desired. This avoids another potential disaster in book publishing, that a major error is found but cannot be corrected because of the cost to rerun. Avotaynu published
History of the Jews in Russia and Poland by Simon Dubnow with a major error. The title was wrong on the book's cover! (Interestingly, we received only one complaint.) Had we done a short run, we could have corrected it after the initial books were sold. The book ran out of print after an initial run of 500 copies. Since we do not expect to sell that quantity again in the next five years, we originally planned to declare the book out of print. Instead, we gave the reprinting to our POD printer and now have copies in stock. You can order the book, with the corrected title, at

With the POD process, the completed book can be softcover (perfect bound, in the same manner as our journal AVOTAYNU, or hardcover with the book's cover printed on the case or with a dust jacket. Whether softcover or hardcover, the cover can be full 4-color.

The quality is excellent, that is, if you consider 600 dpi laser printing to be of acceptable quality. The first Avotaynu application appeared as good as using conventional printing methods except for the quality of the pictures. I think the problem may have been at my end because my 600 dpi laser printer produced better quality than the POD book.

Print-On-Demand should not be confused with Short-Run Printing. In using Google to find companies who claim they do POD, I found almost all were incapable of doing runs of less than 100 copies; that is, it was expensive to do such small runs. None claimed they could do only one copy of a book. It is my guess that these short run printers consider every job by itself rather than stacking many jobs in one continuous run.

Disadvantages: First, I have not yet solved the printing quality of pictures, which may be partially due to the POD process. Second, you do not have a large selection of paper. Because your job is actually a small part of a large run, the company doing the printing limits you to specific paper, at most a choice of two. Finally, you do not have complete freedom as to the dimensions of the book, but the permitted sizes conform to most standard sizes.

Then only company I have found that can provide full POD service in the U.S. is Lightning Source. Their web site is If you find other companies that claim they do POD, ask them for the cost to print one book. If they decline to quote, they are not a true POD company. I asked the salesman what would be the reaction of his company to receiving hundreds of new customers, all of whom wanted to publish one and only one book, in total quantities of less than 200, and he said "send them to us." Apparently they have numerous customers fitting this profile, and their sales and technical staff are geared for this type of clientele.

Avotaynu may get into the business of assisting genealogists in getting their family histories published. We are evaluating a program that would include many levels of service including (1) publishing only, (2) book layout, (3) light editing and proof reading, (4) substantive editing, (5) family history writing and (6) family history research. Look for a future issue of "New? What's New?" that will describe the service.

Yad Vashem Yizkor Book List Now Online

One of the fringe benefits of the annual International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy is that the local society improves the quality of local archives and libraries to benefit the people attending the conference. These benefits are usually permanent. A consequence of having the conference in Jerusalem this year is that the Israel Genealogical Society has posted to the Internet an index to the yizkor book holdings at Yad Vashem. It can be found at the society's website: (the URL is case sensitive). Yizkor books are memorial books to the towns where Jews lived before the Holocaust. The Yad Vashem collection, considered the largest in the world, represents 4,540 towns in 1,233 books. Search the list to see if a yizkor book has been published for your ancestral towns. If so, copies may be available in your local area.

More News About the Jerusalem Conference

You can get an overall view of the amenities at the conference hotel, the Renaissance Jerusalem Hotel, at:

I recall when I attended the last Jerusalem conference in 1994, the city is very "walkable." Distances to some Jerusalem landmarks (for miles, multiply by 6 and drop the last digit):

Yad Vashem (Holocaust Memorial) & Museum (3.0 km)
Center of Town - Ben Yehuda Mall (3.0 km)
Old City of Jerusalem -Western Wall (5.0 km)
Knesset (Israeli Parliament) / Supreme Court of Justice (1.0 km)
Biblical Zoo & Gardens (5.0 km)
Canion Shopping Mall (4.0 km)
Israel & Bible Lands Museum (1.0 km)
Jerusalem International Convention Center (1.0 km)
Mount Herzl Museum and Gardens (3.0 km)

The conference will be held from July 4-9. Additional information can be found at You can keep abreast of the latest news about the conference by subscribing to the conference newsletter and discussion group by clicking the link on the home page that says "Jerusalem2004 Discussion Group."

Pictures of Active Synagogues in the Former Soviet Union Now Online

A number of months ago, Avotaynu was asked to help publish a book about Jewish synagogues that are still active in the former Soviet Union. The content was not sufficiently related to genealogy; therefore we turned it down. Much of the efforts of the author, Michael Beizer, is now online at It is titled Our Legacy: The CIS Synagogues, Past and Present. There are numerous photographs of these synagogues. Cities represented n the photographs include Astrakhan, Chelyabinsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Elisavetgrad, Gomel, Irkutsk, Kamenets-Podolsk, Kazan, Kerch, Kharkov, Kherson, Kiev, Kirovograd, Kishinev, Khmelnitsky, Kostroma, Krasnoyarsk, Kuba, Lvov, Lutsk, Minsk, Mogilev, Moscow, Nalchik, Nikolaev, Nizhnii Novgorod, Odessa, Omsk, Oni, Penza, Perm, Rovno, Rybinsk, Samara, St. Petersburg, Smolensk, Tbilisi, Tyumen, Ufa, Vinnitsa, Vitebsk, Voronezh and Yaroslavl.

The site is sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel and also includes an interesting link site about Jews of the Diaspora at It contains links to Internet sites that describe the Jewish presence, past and present, in various countries and cities throughout the world. Completes Pre-Ellis Island Index

Ancestry's every-name index to passengers arriving in the Port of New York prior to the creation of Ellis Island is now complete. It covers the years 1850-1891. The fee-for-service index is at

French Deportations Online

I have not seen any posting to a Jewish genealogical discussion group about this online database, but while researching an unusual surname (Lederfarb), I stumbled on an Internet site in France that lists persons deported from France during the Holocaust. It is located at The database can be searched in three ways noted to the left of the screen: For those born in France, by birthplace in France; for those born elsewhere in the world, by country; and alphabetically. The site is in French only. The list does not appear to include all names in the book Memorial to the Jews Deported from France, by Serge Klarsfeld.

Two New JewishGen Databases

Each week JewishGen adds tens of thousands of entries to their multi-million records collection. Most cover specific interests, but two recent additions may be of general interest to genealogists doing American research: Boston HIAS arrival records and the Blitzstein Bank Passage Order Records for the Port of Philadelphia. Not all immigrants came through the Port of New York: Ellis Island. Millions came through the ports of Philadelphia or Boston.

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) assisted Jewish immigrants at many ports of arrival. The records of Boston HIAS are held by the American Jewish Historical Society. Among these records are 24,000 arrival cards for 1854-1956. The LDS (Mormon) Family History Library microfilmed these cards in 2002. JewishGen's new Boston HIAS database is an index to these nine microfilm reels. The database indexes both immigrant passengers and the persons and places where the immigrants were going. It can be found at

In the port cities on the east coast of the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th century, there were "ethnic" or "immigrant" banks--commercial enterprises where recent immigrants could save money and arrange to purchase steamship tickets to bring their families to the U.S. Such was the Blitzstein Bank of Philadelphia whose records are housed at the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center. In addition to information about the immigrant, these records often contain the name and address of the person who paid for the tickets, port of entry (usually, but not always, the port of Philadelphia), and intended final destination (again, not necessarily Philadelphia). Through the collaboration of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia and JewishGen, the Blitzstein Bank records have been indexed. There are approximately 18,000 cards with information on 30,912 passengers. The Blitzstein Bank Passage Order Books can be searched at

All of JewishGen's databases can be found at It is wise to subscribe to the JewishGen Discussion Group to keep abreast of the latest additions to this collection. Subscribing to one or more of the Special Interest Group Discussion Groups can also assist in your research. There are links to both on the JewishGen home page

Vol. 5, No. 5 - March 14, 2004

The Lurie Legacy to be Available at End of Month

We have received a ship date from our printer of March 25 for
The Lurie Legacy, Avotaynu's next book. Written by Neil Rosenstein, author of The Unbroken Chain, it is a history and genealogy of one of the most distinguished Jewish families: the Lurie/Luria family which traces it ancestry back to King David.

The book is an unusual size 9" x 12". The cover was designed by the noted artist/political cartoonist Ranan Lurie. There are nearly 50 pages of family trees showing not only the major branches of the Lurie family but its links to the Epstein, Eskeles, Heilprin, Isserles, Katzenellenbogen, Margolit, Meisel, Mendelssohn, Pereira, Weidenfeld and Wulff families. The text portion of the book is filled with the history of the Lurie family, critical analysis of previous works about the family and legends by family members penned in the 19th century. More than 60 documents of the Lurie family are illustrated in the book, the earliest dating to the 16th century.

Those persons who have already ordered the book can expect it to be mailed the first or second week in April. For a limited time, readers who subscribe to AVOTAYNU, our journal of Jewish genealogy, can purchase the book at a discount. The regular price is $85. Until March 25, subscribers to AVOTAYNU can purchase the book for $75. If you ordered the book at $85 and are an AVOTAYNU subscriber, you will receive the discount.

Additional information, including the complete Table of Contents and list of illustrations, can be found at

Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy Nearing Completion

All of the chapters of
Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy have been completed; final page proofs were sent to authors about a month ago and almost all have returned the proofs with final corrections. Shortly, we will merge the chapters together to create the book. I hope to announce in the next edition of "Nu? What's New?" that the book has been sent to the printer. The delay of about nine months wa due to the enormity of the project. The book will contain 95 chapters plus a foreword by Arthur Kurzweil and six appendixes. There are more than 250 illustrations. Additional information including the Table of Contents and a sample chapter can be fund at

A Possibly Useful Service of Google

Google, the popular search engine, has added another service that might be a useful genealogical tool. Called "Google Alert," it permits the user to specify up to three sets of keywords and subsequently receive e-mail, as often as daily, whenever a new site or updated site that contains the keywords is discovered.

The limitation of only three queries can be gotten around by using the "OR" function in a single query. For example, rather than use up two queries for the spelling variants of my surname: Mokotow and Mokotoff, I used a single query stating "Mokotoff OR Mokotow".

I have been using the feature for the past three weeks and so far have found nothing new except the serendipitous discovery of the sale of pre-World War II maps of Poland which are described below.

Google Alert is located at

Maps and Material About the Jews of Poland

I stumbled onto an Internet site that has pre-World War II maps of some cities of interwar Poland. It is located at The cities are Gdansk, Krakow, Krolewiec, Lomza, Lwow (L'viv), Mokotow (a district of Warsaw), Nowogrodek, Poznan, Praga (a suburb of Warsaw), Slupsk, Stanislawow (Ivano Frankivsk), Warszawa (Warsaw), Wilno (Vilnius), Wola and Zoliborz. There is also a 1939 map of all of Poland. What is most remarkable is the price; only $6.95 each.

While at the site, use the search engine and the keyword "Jewish". There are other possible items of interest including books and video tapes of Jewish life in Poland.

Romanian-Jewish Name Lists Now Online

The Romanian-Jewish Community website located at has a number of name lists of value to genealogical research. Much of the information at the site is in Romanian, but a resourceful genealogist can extract information of value.

As an example, let us assume we are searching for information about persons named Orenstein. At the home page identified above, click the button "Family Roots" on the right. On the next page, select the initial letter of the surname being searched: "O". This brings up a list of surnames with the initial letter specified. Click the name "Orenstein". This identifies in this particular database all persons named "Orenstein", There are only two: Leia Orenstein and Josef Orenstein. Searching this database first may be of value in searching the other databases at the site because it will show spelling variants of the name; in this case Orenstein and Ornstein.

There are other name lists at the site. Go back to the home page. Click the button to the right "Search in this Site." This brings up three other sources of names. Option 1 is merely identified as "Search in site." Using a surname (Orenstein) as a keyword, two additional sources are disclosed: "Four Centuries of Living Together" and "The Jewish Community from Buzau."

Finally, a few years ago, Iancu Braustein, director of the Library of the Romanian Academy in Iasi, Romania, published two books: one listing Jewish students of the University of Iasi for the period 1860-1950, the second a catalogue of the Jewish craftsmen involved in the economy of Moldova. They represent the two other options of the "Search in the Site" location. Using the surname "Orenstein" discloses numerous hits.

The website has other information about Romanian-Jewish history of value to family historians. Much of it is in Romanian, but a bit of conscientious effort can reap rewards. For example there are names/addresses of all the organized Jewish communities in Romania. I discovered this under the FEDROM button by using the English version of the site. It was item #1, which states the information is available only in Romanian. Click on the word "Romanian" on this page, and the list appears giving the names, addresses, and phone numbers by city. Other tabs might provide information of value in genealogical research.

The website is sponsored by B'nai Brith International and Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania.

The Braustein databases can be accessed directly at and

JRI-Poland Completes Its Shopping Cart System

Jewish Records Indexing-Poland project has now completed its system that permits online ordering of records from the Polish State Archives (PSA). All branches of the Archives are now part of the system.

After searching the online database of more than 2.2 million vital record indices at, those records that can be ordered from the PSA have a button labeled "Order?" to the left of the entry. Records indexed from LDS microfilms and sources other than PSA projects cannot be ordered using the shopping cart system.

Although all the PSA branches where indexing has taken place are now included in the shopping cart system, not all towns have been indexed. In addition, there are records that have been indexed that are not yet online. Many of these indices are not online as fund raising has not been completed. For these indexed records, qualified contributors in receipt of the Excel file for their town can order records using a special form. For more information and a copy of the form, please contact the appropriate Archive Coordinator. Their names and e-mail addresses can be found in the PSA project status report at

Record Access in New Jersey

Risk of identity theft is one of the reasons given by government agencies in the U.S. for enacting laws or policies to restrict public access to records of interest to historians and genealogists. My experience has been that such rules inconvenience the honest and allow the dishonest to get what they want anyway.

This was demonstrated recently in the state of New Jersey where I live. About a year ago, the governor of the state created a regulation that made it very difficult to get old birth, marriage and death records from the state. As one professional genealogist noted, one must know all the information on the certificate before obtaining it, but it is the lack of information (like names of parents) that motivates a genealogist to seek the record.

A few weeks ago, the U.S. government seized the birth records of Hudson County, New Jersey, because there is evidence these records were being used for a false-passport scheme despite the governor's new regulations. So honest people did not have access to these records, but the thieves found a way to extract the information.

A lock on the front door of your house does not keep out burglars. It just forces them to enter your home through a window.

Reminder to AVOTAYNU Subscribers

If your subscription to AVOTAYNU ended with the Winter 2003 issue, you have only until March 31 to resubscribe at the discounted rate. Those persons whose subscription expired received a renewal notice with the issue. If you renew for three years, you will receive a free copy of a map of the Pale of Settlement created by Avotaynu as a benefit to our long-term subscribers. Persons who live outside the U.S., or U.S. subscribers who want to renew to three years, can do so at A U.S. subscriber who wishes to renew for one or two years must send the renewal form and a check to our offices at 155 N. Washington Ave., Bergenfield, NJ 07621. Those postmarked by March 31 are entitled to the discounted rate.

Vol. 5, No. 6 - March 28, 2004

Have You Renewed Your Subscription to AVOTAYNU?

March 31 is the deadline for renewing your subscription to AVOTAYNU at the discount price. If your subscription expired with the last issue of 2003, you received a yellow renewal form with the issue. It includes two special offers:
* If you renew by March 31, there is a discount from the regular subscription price.
* If you renew for three years, you will receive a free map of the Pale of Settlement by March 31 created by Avotaynu from the two maps that appear in Alexander Beider's "A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire" and "A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland."
Subscribers living outside the U.S. or Americans subscribing for three years can renew by credit card at One-year or two-year U.S. renewals should do so by check.
If you do not subscribe to AVOTAYNU, you can do so at

More Than 700 Yizkor Books to Be Placed on the Internet

The New York Public Library (NYPL) plans to put digitized images of its complete collection of yizkor books--more than 700 books--on the Internet. It has already placed 9 of these books representing 12 towns at their site. The portal to this collection is at

Yizkor books are Holocaust memorial books. After World War II, the remnant of European Jewry published these books to memorialize the towns and townspeople destroyed in the Holocaust. More than 1,200 have been published, each for an individual town or region. The largest collection is at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Yizkor books provide a history of the Jewish presence in the town. Also included are articles written by survivors that often provide a great deal of information about specific individuals. Many include a necrology--a list of townspeople murdered in the Holocaust. Most are written in Hebrew and Yiddish.

To date, NYPL has made yizkor books available for the following towns (Polish spelling): Augustow, Bolechow, Borszczow, Brzozow, Busk, Ciechanow, Losice, Nieswiez, and Lipno (including the towns of Kikol, Lubicz and Skepe).

As previously announced in "Nu? What's New?", the National Yiddish Book Center is planning to make reprints available of the NYPL collection. Current plans call for all reprints to be available at the same time, and the public announcement may be within the next 60 days.

Yad Vashem Digitizing Master Index of International Tracing Service

Yad Vashem is in the process of digitizing from microfilm the master index of the International Tracing Service (ITS). This collection, know as the "Arolsen records" after the town in Germany where ITS is located, is one of the most important sources of information about the fate of millions of people caught up in the Holocaust, both survivors and victims.

The ITS index is in alphabetical order, given name within surname. Yad Vashem will create an index to the index, but it will not be an every-name index because the file is huge--about 47 million records. One solution being considered is to have the Yad Vashem index identify every unique surname. Searching will then be accomplished by going to the start of the surname within the ITS index and browsing forward to locate specific individuals.

It is hoped that at least a portion of the system will be available in time for the annual conference to be held July 4-9 in Jerusalem.

From 1943 to the present, ITS, and its predecessor organizations, have been accumulating documents relating to the fate of individuals affected by World War II. If they received a list of 350 people who died in Dachau, they created 350 index cards. If they acquired a list of 915 persons deported from Drancy, France, to Auschwitz, they created 915 index cards. If there was a list of 12,217 persons registering at a displaced persons camp after the war, they created 12,217 index cards. By 1955, they had accumulated more than 47 million index cards each identifying a specific individual at a specific place and time. These cards represent about 14 million people.

More information about the ITS, including a sample index card, can be found at ITS has a website at

Registration for the Annual Conference in Jerusalem Now Possible

You can now register online for the 24th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held in Jerusalem July 4-9, 2004. The conference committee has added a number of pages to their site at These include information about the conference's preliminary program; research opportunities in Israel; hotel accommodation rates; options for travel arrangements; tours, and additional tourist services.

Register early. Avotaynu is participating in promoting early registration by offering, through the conference committee, free to the first 100 full-week registrants copies of "A Guide to Jewish Genealogical Resources in Israel: Revised Edition," a 229-page hardcover book co-authored by Avotaynu co-owner, Sallyann Amdur Sack, and the Israel Genealogical Society. It provides detailed information about more than 25 repositories in Israel that contain information of genealogical value. If you do not plan to attend the conference, you can buy the book for $21.00 (plus shipping/handling) at The complete Table of Contents can be viewed at

There are downloadable registration forms at the site that permit registration by e-mail, postal mail or fax.

Online Video of the Hamburg Emigrant Experience

If you have a high-speed modem, there is a 10-minute video of the Hamburg emigrant experience at It is a 17MB download.

Avotaynu sells a wonderful 80-page book published by the Hamburg City Archives that shows, through photographs, the emigration experience of our ancestors through the Port of Hamburg, Germany. There are more than 50 high-quality pictures plus numerous illustrations and posters. My favorite, which is shown at the Internet site, is the one of the German-Jewish community assisting in processing their Eastern European coreligionists through the Hamburg port facilities. Most of the pictures are on the Internet at, but you cannot fully appreciate the quality and interest of the pictures except through the book. It is a worthwhile addition to your genealogy book collection and can even be used as a coffee-table book for guests to peruse. All descriptions are in German and English. You can find additional information about the book at The price is only $17.

How Napoleon's Coat Became the Curtain for the Ark of the Torah

Neil Rosenstein's new book "The Lurie Legacy" is replete with stories about the many distinguished members of this famous family. One of the more delightful ones is how Emperor Napoleon gave his coat to a Lurie family member during the disastrous 1812 campaign in Russia.

In his flight from the battle of Moscow, Napoleon lost his way and ended up in Mogilev. There he met Yoneh Lurie who was saying his afternoon prayers. Napoleon approached Lurie seeking assistance for his journey back to France. Lurie, fearful for his life, guided the Emperor westward a short distance until he was safe. In appreciation the Emperor removed his coat with its gold and silver adornments and gave it to him as a gift. On his way back to the city, robbers approached Yoneh. When they attempted to rob him of the coat, he offered them the gold embroidery and gold buttons in exchange for being allowed to keep the stripped coat. In this way he was able to save the coat, which was later made into a parochet (curtain that covers the ark holding Torahs in a synagogue). The Music and Ethnology Museum, a part of the Haifa Museum, purchased the coat from a member of the Lurie family and currently owns the parochet.

A picture of the parochet can be seen at "The Lurie Legacy" website

"The Lurie Legacy" is both a history and genealogy of the Lurie family. It is rich in genealogical information with nearly 50 pages of family trees linking the Lurie family to Epstein, Eskeles, Heilprin, Isserles, Katzenellenbogen, Margolit, Meisel, Mendelssohn, Pereira, Weidenfeld and Wulff families.

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