Apr 17, 2014

Discovering Indian Roots At Passover

Sigal Samuel knew that her great-grandmother came from Bombay but she, apparently, didn't know much about her Indian family until she saw her grandmother taking the shell off of a hard boiled egg in preparation for the seder.

The grandmother was especially careful about not dropping any piece of shell and her father told her that this was a kabbalistic symbol of keeping evil out of the world. When Samuel asked how her great-grandmother, an uneducated woman, knew about this symbol  Sigal's father revealed that her great-grandfather had been a well-known kabbalist in Bombay.

To me, this story shows us a couple of things. First, on the Indian sub-continent it was not unusual for a husband to be educated and his wife to remain uneducated. Such was the fate of women. I have a friend from Pakistan whose father was in the police force there. He seems to have been an intelligent man who probably had a high school-level education. His mother, however, who lives with him in Canada cannot even read. Perhaps it was the same in Europe, too.

Secondly, it shows us how our families don't tell us much about their past and it's up to us, once we get interested, to find and articulate all of the details.

Samuel says:

Growing up in the Orthodox world, I was taught to see male text study as the ultimate means through which Jewish tradition is created and preserved. I loved the thought of it being transmitted matrilineally — not through men who had their heads bent over books, but through the hands of women working in the kitchen.

"Realizing that it was my own complacency that had barred me from my family’s most interesting stories, I felt ashamed. Ashamed — and also immensely grateful. Grateful to Jewish tradition for containing built-in mechanisms specially designed to reawaken our curiosity."

Read the full story here:

Apr 13, 2014

Cemetery Photographs

From time to time we receive requests from out-of-town genealogists requesting photographs of gravestones from one of Toronto's Jewish cemeteries.

Over the past few years the late Allen Halberstadt would do his best to respond, and the recipients were always very grateful. There is a strong tradition among Jewish Genealogical Societies to help each other.

We are now looking for some volunteers who would be willing to respond to these requests. If you would be willing to travel to a cemetery, take some photographs (cemetery and location are always identified in the request), and e-mail them to the requester, please e-mail president@jgstoronto.ca

Websites For Research

On Sunday March 9 Rose Lerer Cohen from Israel gave an excellent presentation to our Society.  

Rose  provided the audience with tools for locating relatives and their descendants in Israel and for locating Holocaust victims, survivors and their descendants.  

As a follow up to that meeting Rose sent the following list of resources. The list can be found at: http://kin-search.com/resources.aspx

Apr 7, 2014

PBS: The Story of the Jews

The television documentary series, The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama, historian, began on PBS on March 25th.  The series, which covers 3,000 of Jewish history, continues this week, check the schedule here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/story-jews/schedule/

In the Toronto area, it appears to be on WNED in Buffalo Monday and Tuesday night, starting at 7 pm. (I assume that is April 8, 2014).

More details are available at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/story-jews/your-stories/

Not only can you read about this most comprehensive show, but you can view timelines and maps.

In addition, you can click on Share Your Story to read the stories the short family histories, along with photos and videos, that others have submitted,.  You can also post your own family’s trajectory.

A map is displayed with each story to show the family’s route from the city/town of origin to the place where the submitter resides.

Apr 4, 2014

Life Is With People - A Misleading Book

From: The Harvard Gazette

.. accounts of the seminal Russian Jewish past were “sometimes alarmingly unreliable,” said Zipperstein — including “Life Is with People,” the 1952 evocation of shtetl life by Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog.

It supplied the historical impressions behind the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” and Bernard Malamud’s novel “The Fixer” — yet today is regarded by historians as “methodologically slipshod,” a pastiche of mostly unreliable stories, said Zipperstein.

Notions of unreliability deepen even more. Zborowski was soon after exposed as a Soviet agent, who likely had a hand in the murder of Trotsky.

How To Design A Research Plan

Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto in conjunction with North York Central Library presents

Designing an Efficient and Effective
“Tracing Forward” Description
presented by Paul Jones

Wednesday, April 23rd at 7:30 p.m.
at North York Central Library Auditorium
5120 Yonge Street, Toronto

This session will draw on actual case studies to demonstrate the importance of designing an efficient research plan to yield quick results when “tracing forward”. Learn key guiding principles that will help you succeed in finding those “lost cousins” sooner rather than later.

Speaker Paul Jones is a former Chair of the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society and is well known in Toronto genealogy circles for original and often humorous presentations. A committed genealogy volunteer, he is also an award-winning writer and currently contributes regularly to the “Roots” column in Canada’s History magazine. He relishes the challenge of taking on family history problems that have stumped the experts.

Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto
(647) 247-6414
Since 1985