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

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
Nothing particularly newsy this week. Just a lot of feature items. CEO Discloses Future Plans
Tim Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer of, 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:
   • 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, Fold3, Archives and
   •’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 are coming from mobile devices.
   • Same one-third are younger than’s typical website user, and this is a great sign of the future health of the family history category.

His entire speech is at

First American Jewish Families Now On
Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern's First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies, 1654-1988 is now on at 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 Also included is a biography of Rabbi Stern (1915–1994).

A third site,, 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.”

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 Publicity about his discoveries were written in Haaretz and other news sources. The Haaretz version is at

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

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 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.

Avotaynu Anthology of Jewish Genealogy
 All back issues of our journal AVOTAYNU from 1985–2011

    • 27 years   • 105 issues   2,900 articles  • 7,000 pages 
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 Download or print articles

 Cost is $35 (one-time charge).

 Additional information at

Number of articles in Anthology by topic:

Algeria 8
Argentina 21
Australia 36
Austria 17
Austro-Hungary 7**
Belarus* 26
Belgium 24
Bermuda 1
Book Reviews 289
Brazil 25
Bulgaria 5
Burma 1
Canada 94
Caribbean 9
Cuba 3

China 10

Computers 21
Conferences 52
Costa Rica 1
Croatia 3
Cyprus 1
Czech Republic 33
Denmark 2
DNA 25
East Europe– Gen’l
Egypt 11
England 125
Estonia* 5
Europe-General 25
Finland 1

France 102
Galicia 20
General 233
Germany 173
Gibraltar 1
Greece 12
Holland 83
Holocaust 177
Hungary 46
India 6
Iraq 3
Iran 5
Ireland 2
Israel 125
Italy 14 
Latvia* 26

LDS 29
Libya 1
Lithuania* 71
Methodology 84
Moldova* 5
Morocco 18
New Zealand 13
North Africa 2
Poland 118
Portugal 21
Rabbinic 57
Romania 33
Russia 46** 
Scotland 27
Sephardic 42
Serbia 2

Slovakia 1
South Africa 22
South America 1
Spain 13
Sudan 1
Sweden 5
Switzerland 27
Syria 3
Tunisia 3
Turkey 22
Ukraine* 57
United States   227
USSR 92**
Venezuela 1
Zimbabwe 1

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