Nu? What's New?
The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy
Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 7, Number 11 | July 16, 2006

ITS Charging for Research
This is the first I have heard of it, but the International Tracing Service in Arolsen, Germany, charges for searches unless the inquirer is "next-of-kin" (parents, children, spouse, brother, sister). The cost is 80 Swiss francs per hour (about $65). A German archivist informed me that the research rate of his archives is only $46 per hour.

This rate was communicated by ITS in a letter sent to Bernard Kouchel who had inquired about two first cousins, both survivors, both held as prisoners of war. On the positive side, the response took only four months; past inquiries made directly to Arolsen have sometimes taken years.

Hopefully, the need for having ITS do research will become moot in the next few years if their records are placed on the Internet and/or copies are located elsewhere. If institutions such as Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington have copies, you can then hire researchers in these countries for less than $65 per hour.

Mormon/Jewish Controversy: The Problem That Won't Go Away
Using Government Records for Religious Purposes
When Sam Spielberg, the grandfather of director/producer Steven Spielberg, was married on Christmas Eve in 1892, he did not realize that by recording his marriage in Cincinnati, Ohio, as required by law, it would cause him to be baptized a Mormon. This was the consequence to Sam, his bride Rebecca Chechnik, and to hundreds of thousands of other Jews who are posthumously baptized each year by the Mormon Church from government birth, marriage and death records.

In 1995, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) signed an agreement with Jewish organizations to limit baptism of Jews to direct ancestors of members of their faith and to exclude from baptism persons "...where identified or known as Jews...." Had Sam and Rebecca's marriage record been extracted after 1995, they should have been excluded, because the certificate shows they were married by a rabbi. To this date, the Church is still extracting marriage records ignoring the title of the officiant or any other component of the record that would identify the persons as Jewish.

Church officials have stated they recognize that Jews have a special sensitivity to Holocaust victims, and they would strive to avoid baptizing Holocaust victims. However, by using European government records from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, just as they used Cincinnati marriage records, failure to bypass records identifying Jews guarantees they will include Holocaust victims. For example, they are in possession of the community register of Mannheim, Germany, which includes Jews and non-Jews.

The Church claims an integral part of its doctrine is the salvation through Jesus Christ of the entire human race both living and dead. They state the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives them the right to baptize Jews.

Clarification of ProQuest Remote Access
The last issue of Nu? What's New? stated that ProQuest will no longer permit remote access of their databases to the members of the institutions who buy their services. In fact, the decision only affects 40 of the more than 4,400 public library subscribers to these databases. All 40 are genealogy-oriented societies and libraries. As noted in the last issue, the great value of these collections caused a surge in membership in the societies, because the cost of membership was nominal compared to the value of remote access to these collections. The ProQuest action undoubtedly was a reaction to this unanticipated overuse of their databases.

Dick Eastman's Genealogy E-Zine
There is an e-zine of American genealogy that many readers of Nu? What's New? will find valuable. It is Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter. The product of a well-known American genealogist, Dick Eastman, it provides daily or weekly new items primarily of interest to American and Canadian genealogists.

Occasionally there is information of direct interest to people researching their Jewish ancestry, but the generic items can be of great value. These focus on use of the Internet for genealogy, genealogy-related software or just ways to better manage your computer environment. For example, Eastman reported in a recent issue about a free Internet service that allows you to upload/download very large files that are rejected when attempting to send them as an e-mail attachment. This can be valuable for sharing pictures or large genealogy files. Another example is a very clever way to eliminate spam that is free of charge.

The standard version of Eastman's online e-zine is free, but only the beginning portion of selected items are presented as a teaser to encourage the reader to subscribe to the Plus edition. The Plus edition costs only $19.95 per year. It is highly likely that sometime during the year, Eastman will provide you with at least $19.95 of savings in money or time by using suggestions made in one of his Plus edition articles. The two items above are examples.

You can subscribe at Key in your e-mail address in the right portion of the screen and click "Subscribe me" for a free subscription, or you can just pay the $19.95 annual subscription at

Book Signings at the New York Conference
Eight Avotaynu authors will be holding book signings at the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy next month. If you are interested in purchasing any of the books and would like an autographed copy, come to the Avotaynu booth at the time specified. If you already own the book and want to make it an autographed copy, bring the book to the conference.

Authors, day and time are:

Sallyann Sack and Gary Mokotoff. Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy and Where Once We Walked, Sunday, 3 p.m.

Jeffrey Malka, Sephardic Genealogy, Monday, 11 a.m.

Martha Lev-Zion, Taking Tamar, Monday 2 p.m.

Jordan Auslander, Genealogical Gazetteer of the Kingdom of Hungary, Tuesday, 11 a.m.

Alice Gould, Old Jewish Cemeteries of Newark [New Jersey], Tuesday, 2 p.m.

Mathilde Tagger, Guidebook for Sephardic and Oriental Genealogical Resources in Israel, Wednesday, 11 a.m.

Neil Rosenstein, Lurie Legacy, Wednesday, 2 p.m.

Avotaynu to Discontinue Offering JPEG Images of Ancestral Towns
On July 31, Avotaynu will discontinue offering scanned images (JPEGs) of towns in Eastern Europe created from postcards, some more than 100 years old. The images can be viewed at

Postcard images of your ancestral town from the turn of the 20th century can be a wonderful addition to the photographic portion of your family history, but they are rare items and, consequently, very expensive. Typical prices are $20-50 each, with some costing hundreds of dollars.

There are some 330 towns represented in the Avotaynu collection of more than 1,300 pictures. Many of the pictures are of synagogues since destroyed in the Holocaust, street scenes and panoramic views. Most are from Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, but also included images from Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, England, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Israel (Palestine), Italy, Libya, The Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Trieste, Tunisia, United States and Yugoslavia

The cost of each JPEG is only $2.50 (minimum purchase $10.00). These images are a perfect way to dress up your family website. [Note: We are offering computer images of the postcards which will be sent by e-mail, not the postcards themselves.]

Summer Issue of AVOTAYNU
The Summer issue of AVOTAYNU will go to the printer this week. The lead story is by Peter Landé. It gives insight into the behind-the-scenes happenings in the effort to get the records of the International Tracing Service available to the public. Landé is a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and has been the primary source for much of the information I have published in the past few editions of "Nu? What's New?" about the subject.

Evidence of the contribution genealogists make to defining Jewish history can been seen in a number of other articles. Paul Armony, president of the Argentinean Jewish Genealogical Society, describes efforts by his group to analyze Argentinean Jewish surnames. He gives insight into naming practices in his country. Dov Weber and Neil Rosenstein, two of the leading experts in rabbinical genealogy, examine the pedigree of Rebbe Reb Heschel of Cracow. In the Spring issue of AVOTAYNU, another expert on rabbinic genealogy, Chaim Freedman, wrote about his discovery that the noted rabbi, the Maharal of Prague, was not descended from King David in the manner that was thought for centuries.

Suzan Wynne revisits some projects done by the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington to index U.S. government records of value to genealogy, a little-used resource. Judy Baston demonstrates the value of the records of the U.S. Morgenthau Commission of 1919 that investigated pogroms in Eastern Europe. Gerhard Buck discusses Jewish naming practices in 19th-century Germany. Anna Wiernicka of Poland writes about her analysis of Polish notarial records and their value to genealogy. AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Amdur Sack, relates what will likely be a major undertaking of the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy, a plan to reconstitute the population of Jewish towns by merging records, including family trees, of families who lived there. Called the "Project to Reconstitute the Destroyed Communities of Europe," one of the motivations is to identify Holocaust victim families where there were no survivors and, therefore, there is a risk their existence will be lost to history.

You can subscribe to AVOTAYNU at

Taking Tamar Now Being Shipped
Avotaynu is now shipping its latest book, Taking Tamar. Copies for those persons who ordered it were sent through the postal system last Friday. This book tells the story of noted genealogist Martha Lev-Zion's experience in adopting and raising a child with Down syndrome. Interwoven with her tales of fighting Israeli governmental authorities, school systems, the birth family, and even the U.S. government, was her commitment to raise her daughter as normally as possible and the daughter's incredible accomplishments.

The book includes a photo album of Tamar (and Martha) covering the 20 years of Tamar's life. Taking Tamar is 208 pages, softcover and sells for $19.95. Ordering information and excerpts from the book can be found at

It Isn't About Genealogy - News from the Front
Reuven (Randy) Daitch, coauthor of the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex System, made "aliyah" (immigrated to Israel) from California a few years ago. Shortly after the eruption of the conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah, Randy decided to visit his cousin who lives close to the Lebanese border "to express my solidarity with the local residents." You can read his first-person report from "The Front" at Then continue with his follow-on report below which he sent to AVOTAYNU editor, Sallyann Amdur Sack.

"I came to my cousins' moshav in northern Israel with faith that they would remain safe, and I would return to Jerusalem unharmed.

"My cousin Susan has lived in the Kiryat Shemona/Beit Hillel region for 25 years. Her husband Simcha has lived there for 50 years (since he was a baby). They have safely endured many Katyusha assaults, including those that precipitated the Lebanon War,and the rocket attacks during the Intifada. To put the matter in perspective, during the past 50 years, the only time any of my cousin's loved ones suffered harm on the moshav was two weeks ago, when her brother-in-law was shaken up by an auto accident. (He has since recovered.)

"Today, Simcha was chatting with a friend on his front lawn, and, in mentioning my weekend visit, said "Those who come when times are difficult are the people you count as friends."

"At the moshav, the Katyusha's bark is far worse than its bite. Nearly all of the Katyushas miss their mark. But the bark can be terrifying to a child or teenager. My cousins' 14 year old daughter, Liat, was shaken every time she heard a "boom." On Thursday and Friday nights, she slept in the bomb shelter. The rest of us slept in our normal rooms.

"For me, this weekend has been a refreshing change of pace and blessed distraction from my workday week. My job inflicts ten times more tension on me than the booming Katyushas of the past 30 hours. Last night, I had my best night of sleep in five months!

"Tomorrow, I return to work in Jerusalem. On Thursday, our trainer, a tart British woman with cold eyes, declared that if we didn't meet the job's requirements, some of us might not finish the day on Sunday. Now there's a threat that truly strikes terror in my heart!

"Anyways, don't worry. I am safe, and I will remain safe (G-d willing, of course!).

"Wishing you a Shavuah Tov! (good week)


Nu? What's New is published biweekly by Avotaynu, Inc.
Copyright 2006, Avotaynu, Inc. All rights reserved

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