Genealogy Fair Aims to Acquaint Local Jews with Their Roots


— by Anne Grant

Once you start investigating your ancestry, says Broomall resident and family tree enthusiast Shelda Sandler, you “get a taste of genealogy and the bug bites you, so to speak.”

Sandler’s interest in her Jewish heritage emerged early in her life.  She suspects that her passion for genealogy first sprouted from a deep love for her family.

“Family has been so improtant to me from the time I can remember…There was so much love and consideration for each other and closeness, and I really think that was what probably had a major effect on me,” recalled Sandler.

While busily raising her children, Sandler cultivated her interest on the side by collecting bits of information on scraps of paper, piece by piece, whenever a relative happened to share a detail about the family’s past.

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When her children eventually grew up, Sandler and her husband began devoting time to serious research; she said, “We started going to the archives and researching, and searching sites on the computer.”  

Sandler noted in particular the usefulness of the Jewish Records Indexing in Poland, or the JRI.  Visitors to the website can request copies of documents from the archive via mail.

Sandler’s research efforts grew over time as her project expanded.  She referred to her love for genealogy as an “interest that became a hobby…it’s my life now, really.  It just gets more and more involved.”

So far, Sandler has made remarkable progress decoding her family’s European lineage.  She said, “Year-wise I can’t really be specific, I can estimate-figuring maybe about 25 years per generation-I suspect I’m back somewhere around the early 1800s, maybe even into the late 1700s.”

Over the years, Sandler’s interest in genealogy led to her involvement in the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia, or the JGSGP, which provides resources for like-minded individuals investigating their family trees.

Founded in 1979, the JGSGP has since expanded to spawn two sister groups, the Delaware County/Main Line and South Jersey Affiliates.

The JGSGP’s members, including Sandler, are eagerly anticipating the society’s upcoming fair, an effort to attract new potential members and to help others make progress on their challenging ancestry searches.

The Genealogy Fair will take place on Sunday, June 12, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Temple Sholom in Broomall.  Attendants at over a dozen stations will advise participants on topics including computerized family tree programs, books and maps, archives, and both Russian and German genealogy.

Temple Sholom is located on 55 Church Road.  Both parking and admission for the genealogy fair are free of charge.

Sandler also noted the usefulness of the fair’s resources for people outside the Jewish community.  “I personally am hoping that many, many people will come through.  We will have fifteen stations and truly, the stations we have are not really specific only to Jews.”

She also ventured that, by learning to decipher their family lineages, the fair’s participants may also better understand themselves.  

Sandler asserted, “I strongly believe that each one of us is a compilation of those who went before us. We carry some of their traits and genes, and I believe they, the older generations, made me who I am today.”

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