South Jewish Jewish Genealogy Fair

The Genealogy Fair is coming to South Jersey. Sponsored by the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Philadelphia (JGSGP), the Fair will provide information for beginning and experienced researchers. The Fair will be held of Sunday, June 10th from 1:00 to 5:00 PM at Temple Beth Sholom, 1901 Kresson Road in Cherry Hill. The Fair is open to the public; there is no admission charge.

The Genealogy Fair brings together agencies, organizations and resource people to assist with genealogical searches. The Mid- Atlantic Region of the National Archive and Records Administration will explain how to find census, immigration, land and military records through their offices. The Division of Archives and Records Management of the New Jersey State Archives will provide information and direction in obtaining birth, marriage and death records for New Jersey, as well as other types of records retained by the State.

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Organizations include the Family History Center of Cherry Hill which has access to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the largest genealogical collection in the world. The Camden County Historical Society has collected records on the local area. Jewish Gen , the website affiliate of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, provides databases, research tools and resources. It also acts as the coordinator for the local Jewish Genealogy Societies worldwide.

Among the organizations providing information on regional and local family history that will be at the Fair are The Jewish Genealogical Society (NY), the Jewish Federation of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties. Jewish Atlantic City and region will provide information about Jewish life in that area, both past and present.

The DNA-Shoah Project tries to unite families torn apart by the Holocaust through DNA research . They will provide an opportunity for people to start a search for lost Holocaust relatives. Jewish Records Indexing-Poland provides information on obtaining records in Poland. Similar information will be available from experts on Russian History and Research, and German Research. A translator will help those looking for Yiddish translations.

There will be information about Ethnic Banks in Philadelphia, Jewish areas of Philadelphia, South Jersey, and surrounding areas. There will be displays of local maps and east European maps.

Most of all the Genealogy Fair will help you begin and enhance your genealogical search of your roots.

For more information please contact Bernard Cedar at 856 482-1853, or [email protected]

What Did My Foremothers Eat? What My DNA Analysis Revealed!

— by Ronit Treatman

Where did my ancestors live?  What was their culture and cuisine like?  I have some oral family history to work with, but I have always wished that there were some scientific way to know.  In the year 2003, the Human Genome Project announced that it had mapped the approximately 25,000 genes of the human genome.  Gene Base founded “the world’s first online personal genomics DNA database” in 2005.  They offer DNA tests to help you trace your ancestral routes. I could finally find out how much of the oral tradition was correct, and what was unknown or forgotten.  Last summer I decided to take the test.

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My family did this test with Gene Base.  To get the best results, you need a brother and a sister.  The brother’s cheek swab will reveal where all the males in the family came from.  The sister’s will do the same for the females.  My brother and I scrubbed the inside of our cheeks with the special swabs, shipped them off to a laboratory in Canada, and waited for the results.

About two months later, the analysis was complete.  Some of it was true to the family narrative.  On the male side, the arrow went directly from the Near East to Bukhara (in modern day Uzbekistan).  My family remained there, part of an isolated community, for a very long time.  The matrilineal analysis revealed a surprise.  This is the Ashkenazi side of the family.  According to the DNA analysis, these ancestors had lived in Catalonia for hundreds of years.  They left when the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.  Even more amazingly, I was able to extract the name of a city: Girona!  I had never heard of it before.

Girona, or Gerona, is an ancient city that lies northeast of Barcelona.  It is a charming place on the banks of the Onyar River.  In the 12th century, it was home to a large Jewish community.  Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman Girondi.  (better known as Nahmanides or Ramban) headed one of the most important Kabbalistic schools in Europe here.  He was selected to defend the Jewish position in the Barcelona Disputation of 1263.  This was a debate in The Grand Royal Palace between the Ramban and Pau Cristia, a Jew who had converted to Catholicism.  The purpose of this debate was to convince the Jews to covert to Christianity.  Nahmanides won.

The preservation of the Jewish remnants of Girona occurred thanks to Joaquim Nadal i Farreras.  A historian, and the mayor of Girona, he made sure to preserve the remains of Rabbi Nahmanides’ Yeshiva when they were uncovered during a construction project during the 1970s.

What was my family’s life like in Girona?  They lived in the Call, or Jewish Ghetto.  The Jewish community was called The Aljama.  The Call was self-governed by Jews, and taxes were paid directly to the king of Catalonia.  Jews were merchants, bookbinders, and businessmen.  Life revolved around the synagogue, mikveh, and of course meals!

What was there to eat?  My family in Catalonia ate well!  The food is Mediterranean, with lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, and meat.  The cooking shows the influence of Spanish, Arabic, and Jewish cultures.  Catalan food is famous for its base of five sauces: Sofregit, Samfaina, Picada, Alioli, and Romesco.

Sofregit

  • 1tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  1. Place a heavy Dutch oven over a low flame.  Heat the olive oil.  
  2. When the oil is hot, add the onions.  Cook the onions uncovered until they are golden.  
  3. Add the tomatoes, stir, and cover the pot.  
  4. Cook the tomatoes and onions until all the liquid has evaporated.  

Samfaina

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  1. Place the chopped eggplant in a colander, and sprinkle with salt.  
  2. Place a heavy Dutch oven over a low flame.  Heat the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onions.  Cook the onions uncovered until they are golden.  
  3. Add the garlic, and salt to taste.  
  4. Rinse the eggplant with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels.
  5. Add the eggplant, zucchini, and peppers to the pot.  Stir and add black pepper to taste.
  6. Cover the pot and allow to cook over low heat for two hours.  

Picada

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 6 roasted, salted almonds
  • 6 roasted, salted hazelnuts
  • 2 cups of bread, preferably baguette, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Catalan)
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pot.  Add the cubed bread.  Stir the bread in the hot oil until it is toasted.  
  2. Place the toasted bread and all the other ingredients in a food processor.  Grind everything together until it becomes a paste.  

Alioli
Fittingly named “garlic and oil,” alioli is truly an Old World condiment.  You need a mortar and pestle to prepare this.  

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1-cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  1. Pound the 3 peeled garlic cloves with a mortar and pestle.  
  2. Slowly add the olive oil while you pound to incorporate it.
  3. Add the salt and pound everything together.

Romesco

  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 chili pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of mint leaves
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 12 marcona almonds
  • 24 hazelnuts
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of toasted bread cubes, preferably baguette

  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Roast the tomatoes and garlic for 15 minutes.
  3. Place the all the ingredients in a food processor.  Puree them together until you have a smooth paste.

As I sit munching some fresh bread spread with this delicious Romesco sauce, I wonder about my family in Catalonia.  What were their last names?  Since this discovery comes from the female side of the family, I have no surnames to work with.  I peruse the digitized list of the Jewish last names of Gerona saved by the Inquisition.  I pronounce them out loud to myself, wondering if they could have been my ancestors.  One of the names that appears is Borges.  I remember my Spanish literature teacher; Mr. Carlos Berrendero, telling me that Argentinian writer Gorge Luis Borges, author of the short story El Aleph, was obsessed with the idea that perhaps his family were conversos (forced converts to Catholicism).  Borges did not have access to this list in his lifetime.  His hunch may have been correct.  

I grew up with the culture of Sefarad, since I lived for many years in Venezuela.  I loved everything about it: the food, the language, the stories, the music.  It never occurred to me that it was part of my heritage too!  Following the expulsion from Spain in 1492, the rabbis issued a cherem (judgement of excommunication) that Jews were not to enter Spain for the next 500 years.  This period ended in 1992.  Now that the cherem is over, I would love retrace the footsteps of my ancestors with a visit to Girona.  

 

Genealogy at Limmud Philly

Dr. Stephen Cohen is a technical writer, part-time professional calligrapher of Judaica, and long-time genealogical aficionado. He has been researching his family for over forty years, collecting over three thousand relatives along the way. A founding member of the Beth El Synagogue (East Windsor, NJ) Genealogy Club, he was a presenter at Limmud Philly in early March. He gives lectures on genealogy, workshops on Hebrew calligraphy, and speaks exclusively Yiddish with his two children. In addition, he serves as President of the Sharim v’Sharot Jewish choir based in Lawrenceville, NJ, and has published choral arrangements.

For a symposium like Limmud Philly, where one people, Jews, gather for a weekend of learning, a seminar on how we Jews are actually related seems not only fitting, but bashert (a match made in heaven). Therefore, on the Sunday morning of Limmud Philly, I gave a talk on
“Introduction to Jewish Genealogy.” The topic included discussing not only what I call our current “golden age of genealogy” via the internet, but also what materials you can find in your own home to provide you with information about your family. When my Powerpoint-based lecture began, barely a minyan attended, but by the end there were around 25 participants of all ages.

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My session was based partly on a paper I co-wrote with a fifth cousin of mine in Israel for the Israeli genealogical journal Sharsheret HaDorot in 2007, to show how I constructed a coherent family tree starting with two brothers, Daniel and Ele Aron Kantorovitch from Lakhva, in Belarus, in the mid-19th century. I used Czarist passports, century-old birth records, interviews and correspondence with relatives, and the old Jewish standby, for whom are you named. Other items I mentioned as possible sources of genealogical data are b’nai-mitzvah certificates, the drawerful of yarmulkes we all possess, old War Ration booklets, ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts), death records, obituaries and other clippings from newspapers, citizenship papers, and old photographs.

From the internet, possible sources to find your relatives are the Ellis Island ship’s manifests (assuming your relatives immigrated through Ellis Island) along with other ports of entry (Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco, Galveston). Airlines were required to keep manifests up to the 1950s, and you may find your relatives there, on their way to a European or Caribbean vacation. Many Jews entered via Canadian routes, including through Detroit and the Grand Trunk Railway from the Province of Quebec. We all remember last year’s Federal Census, required by law every ten years, and restricted from view for 72 years. Thus the Census records from 1930 and earlier are all open for examination, and you can find many cousins in them.

The Mormons have many records on microfilm (though not every possible record). A crucial piece of evidence in my tree-building was a Lakhva Jewish marriage record from 1894 for a son of Ele Aron Kantorovitch. Many of us have heard the bobe-mayses (fairy tales) that (1) the towns in Eastern Europe were destroyed, and (2) the records were destroyed as well. Neither tale is, for the most part, true; the found marriage record proves this.

As a historical aside, I mentioned the S.S. Morro Castle, the cruise liner that ran between New York City and Havana, Cuba, which my grandparents took on their honeymoon in 1933. I showed the cruise’s souvenir booklet listing my grandparents among the passengers, and images of the staterooms. The Morro Castle caught fire off the New Jersey Shore in 1934 and burned up, with hundreds of casualties, which my grandmother talked about once in a while. Information on the Morro Castle’s disaster and news articles about it can be found on the internet. Such details about your family can fill out your personal history from mere dry names and dates.

More recent research included using JewishGen.org‘s on-line Family Tree of the Jewish People to find a mekhutn (someone related by marriage) in Israel. This is a database composed of uploaded family-trees by Jewish genealogists world-wide. I have had my mitochondrial (maternal) DNA tested recently, and discovered that my maternal ancestry dates to the Middle East roughly 50,000 years ago (according to current anthropological understanding). An e-mail I received last June from an Israeli Kantorovitch cousin posed a new, unanswered genealogical question: one Kantorovitch relative apparently immigrated to London, England, and became a prominent rabbi in the mid-20th century. Who is he and where are his descendants?

In addition, I queried the Philadelphia-based audience members: on my father’s side, there were rich cousins who owned a factory in the mid-20th century that made Catholic-school uniforms. Their surname might have been Sherman, and-as my great uncle (of blessed memory) recalled-in the 1940s they owned a chauffeur-driven Packard. Where could I find information about them? Folks did have suggestions, such as a school-uniform store on Passyunk Avenue, an old Sherman Mills in Manayunk, and even some clothing factories on North Broad Street near a Packard dealership. If you know of this family or their factory, I would be most pleased to hear about it.

My session was definitely a two-way street of learning, as it ought to be at Limmud Philly.