Events 2011

Annual Jewish Genealogy Lecture: No Way In, No Way Out: The Jews of Interwar Poland
Prof. Adam Teller, January 9   

Adam TellerPolish Jews between the two World Wars were caught in political and economic cross-winds as they emerged from the confines of the Russian and Austrian Empires into a new world of competing national identities and powerful ideologies.This program presents the history of the Jews in interwar Poland along two dimensions.  The first is political, showing how the very nature of the new Polish nation-state presented enormous challenges for Jews who were struggling to support themselves and find their place in the new state.  Jews responded with various strategies:  the Zionists wanted acceptance as a national minority, Agudas Yisroel sought recognition as a religious minority, and the Bund demanded rights for the Jews as part of the urban proletariat.  Each developed the institutions of modern political parties in the struggle for the Jewish street.The second dimension is cultural.  The extraordinary trilingual culture of Polish Jewry –Yiddish-Polish-Hebrew — enjoyed an almost unprecedented period of blossoming in these twenty years.  Its remarkable achievements encompassed literature, the press, the theater, painting, and the cinema, while surrounded by mounting hostility.  This is the story of Polish Jewry’s tragic second Golden Age.

Our speaker, Adam Teller, is an Associate Professor of History and Judaic Studies at Brown University.  Born in London, Teller completed his undergraduate study at Oxford University and received a Ph.D. in modern Jewish history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1997.  He was on the faculty of the University of Haifa before moving to Brown University this year.

Hands-On Problem Solving in Jewish Genealogy: Special Help Session for Research and Translation
February 13   

Problem solve with others who can help show you the way. Learn how to get started or get over that “brick wall” in your family research. A limited number of computer stations will be available, so bring your own laptops for online research.

Roundtables will be dedicated to the following topics:

  • Country and Region-specific research (e.g. Polish,  Lithuanian, Galician, Ukrainian, Belarussian, German)
  • Finding your ancestors using immigration, naturalization, and vital records
  • Getting started with Jewish genealogy (e.g. using the JewishGen and Steve Morse websites)
  • Holocaust research (e.g. using the Internet and Transport Books)
  • Translation of foreign-language documents (e.g. Yiddish, Russian, German, Polish, Hebrew)

Genealogical reference materials will be available for perusal. So bring in your research questions and your foreign documents for translation.

Splitting and Reconnecting – Finding our Jewish Relatives in South America
Marc Cutler, March 13   

Marc CutlerThis is more than the “human interest story” of  “Finding Your Relatives in South America.” It  presents also a historical  and cultural overview — the historical circumstances that caused families to  immigrate to North vs South America, the experiences and  circumstances whereby families lost touch or tried to stay in touch, the genealogical research methods used to reestablish contact, are the origins in Europe same or different, numbers of immigrants and descendents, how many of us may have relatives in S.A.Video of Marc Cutler’s Opening RemarksVideo Reactions to his talk:      First video      Second video

A Potpouri of Genealogy Search Tools
Stephen Morse, April 24   

Steve MorseThe One-Step website started out as an aid for finding passengers in the Ellis Island database.  Shortly afterwards it was expanded to help with searching in the 1930 census.  Over the years it has continued to evolve and today includes about 200 web-based tools divided into 16 separate categories ranging from genealogical searches to astronomical calculations to last-minute bidding on e-bay.  Steve Morse will describe the range of tools available and give the highlights of each one.

Steve Morse has revolutionized two fields. As an electrical engineer, he is known as the architect of the Intel 8086, predecessor of the Pentium processor. In recent years, Steve has mostly focused his energies on using his technical and intellectual abilities to help people research their genealogy. He has become famous for his One-Step websites. Steve is a dynamic speaker who is able to make a technical program most entertaining.

Video of Steve Morse’s Opening Remarks

The Genealogical Riches of Massachusetts’ Archives, featuring a panel of local archivists
May 15       icons-audio

Representatives of the Massachusetts Archives, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the American Jewish Historical Society, and the City of Boston Archives describe the records they hold, discuss how they can be useful in your genealogical research, and explain how you can access them.

Haag Autumn Haag until recently was a Reference Archivist at the Massachusetts Archives and is now Librarian/Archivist at Roxbury Community College. She has a BA from McGill University and an MISt from the University of Toronto. Daly Marie Daly is the Library Director of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and founding President of The Irish Ancestral Research Association (TIARA). She has been involved with genealogical research since 1976 and has helped many visitors to NEHGS find their Jewish ancestors.
Judith Garner is the Managing Archivist at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) and Managing Archivist of the Society’s Greater Boston and New England collections housed at NEHGS. She has an AB in History from Wellesley College and an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College. Stephanie Call is Associate Archivist at AJHS and Processing Archivist of the Society’s Greater Boston and New England collections. She has a BA in English from Mount Holyoke College and an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College.
Enright Zachary Enright is an Archivist with the City of Boston Archives. He assists patrons in their historical, genealogical, and legal research. He has an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College.

How to Create a Family History Book
Merle Kastner, June 12      icons-audio

Merle KastnerWhat do you do with all your records, photographs, collection of anecdotes, and your family tree?

Many times people have asked what to do with all their records, documents, photos, little anecdotes, and, above all, the family tree. How do you compile and display it for other family members and for yourself?

In this lecture, Kastner will show how to create inexpensive family books on one’s own computer, in very small quantities, using software that most of us already have.

Video of Merle Kastner’s Opening Remarks

The Jews of Poland and Russia: Myth and Reality
Antony Polonsky,Sept 11       icons-audio

Antony PolonskyOn the eve of the Second World War, Poland contained the largest Jewish community in Europe. Its Jewish population—close to three-and-a-half million—was second in size only to that of the United States. The third largest Jewish community in the world, with nearly three million Jews, was in the Soviet Union.

The majority of American Jews come from these lands, but what they know of their ancestors’ lives— frequently based on myths, misunderstandings, and stereotypes—diminishes the Jewish civilization that emerged there and fails to grasp the extent of what was lost in the passage across the Atlantic. Prof. Polonsky will recreate this lost world in a way that transcends both sentimentalism and the belief that the East European Jewish experience consisted only of persecution and martyrdom.

Antony Polonsky is Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies, an appointment held jointly at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Brandeis University. He is the author of the newly published three-volume opus, The Jews in Poland and Russia: A History, a socio-political, economic, and religious history of the Jewish communities of eastern Europe from 1350 to the present. Also editor of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Prof. Polonsky has written many scholarly books, taught at universities around the world, and received many awards and honors, including the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.

Watch a video of Professor Polonsky’s opening remarks.

“Vienna’s Jewish Community: History, Destruction & Genealogical Reconstruction”
Thomas Fischer Weiss, Oct. 16       icons-audio

Tom WeissThe first part of this talk briefly describes the turbulent history of the Jews of Vienna from their first appearance in the 10th century until the 20th century. The second part of the talk focuses on the reconstruction of Viennese families based on extensive genealogical records available in Vienna: vital, residence, cemetery, Holocaust, military, city directories, newspapers, and obituaries, and how to access these resources.

Tom is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has visited the homelands of his ancestors in Bohemia, Vienna, and Galicia and is compiling a detailed family history. An early version of his family history has been donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


“Chutes & Ladders: Innovative Approaches to Genealogy”
Pamela Weisberger, Nov. 13      icons-audio

Pamela WeisbergerPamela Weisberger will present an interactive lecture, “Chutes and Ladders: Innovative Approaches to Genealogy,” using imaginative strategies, social networking websites and unusual databases. Climb ladders and scale brick walls by cleverly manipulating Google, Facebook, Geni, Fundrace, PrivateEye, ProQuest and Zabasearch. Locate M.I.A. relatives using real estate and bank records. Go directly to jail to uncover a family scandal. Get out your detective’s notepad and practice your powers of deduction to complete your ancestral jigsaw puzzle. Clues abound if you know where to look!Pamela Weisberger is the program chair for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles, Research Coordinator for Gesher Galicia, and is active in the Hungarian and Sub-Carpathian JewishGen SIGs. Documenting her family’s history for over twenty years, she has traveled throughout Eastern Europe visiting ancestral towns and villages and conducting research in Polish, Ukrainian and Hungarian archives. A special area of interest has been late 19th to early 20th century city directories, newspapers and court records. She has also produced the documentaries “I Remember Jewish Drohobycz” and “Genealogy Anyone? Twenty-Five Years in the Life of the JGSLA,” and coordinated the IAJGS Conference’s 2006-2008 film festivals. She holds a B.A. in English from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.S. in Broadcasting from Boston University.

Handouts from Pam’s talk: Chutes and Ladders, Gesher Galicia Cadastral Map.

“Drafted into the Tsar’s Army: Russian Expectations, Jewish Experiences”
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, Dec. 11   

5th Annual Jewish Genealogy Lecture
Sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston and Hebrew College

Petrovsky-ShternMany of us have family stories about ancestors who emigrated to escape conscription into the Russian army.  Why did Tsar Nicholas I target the Jews for military service?  What was the fate of conscripted Jewish men and boys?  Why did the Russians consider this policy to be “good for the Jews”?  Learn about the broader European context and the legal, military, social, religious, and cultural dimensions of this policy.

Our speaker, Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern is the Crown Family Professor of Jewish Studies at Northwestern University in Illinois and an authority on the history of Russian Jews.  His books include Jews in the Russian Army, 1827 – 1917: Drafted Into Modernity.  He holds a Ph.D. from Brandeis University (2001), a Ph.D. from Moscow University (1988), and a Masters from Kiev University.

The lecture is free and open to the public.  Reservations are required as seating is limited.

The program is made possible with the generous support of Harvey Krueger of New York, who is also supporting a comprehensive introductory course on Jewish genealogy at Hebrew College taught by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston.  See

Refreshments will be served following the lecture.