Nov 10, 2015

Gladys Allison Canadiana Room Closing

JGST Librarian Elaine Cheskes and President Les Kelman recently attended a meeting at the North York Central Library where our Society was informed that the library will undergo a renovation in the spring of 2016.  This is startling and disturbing news for JGST and OGS.

The North York Library at 5040 Yonge Street has housed our collection of 460 titles and periodicals since 1989 along with over 40,000 titles that the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) owns.  This has been a very good relationship over the past 26 years that has benefited our societies and genealogists in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

Unfortunately, with such short notice, we have not been able to make alternative arrangements for our collection.

Our choices are limited. a) to donating the books to the Toronto Reference Library (TRL) thus losing ownership or b) putting the books in storage as was done several years ago by the Jewish Library.

Neither of these choices is pleasant.  The TRL will have the power to pick and choose the titles they wish to shelve and be able to sell the remainder or put them into general circulation.

Toronto has a population of approximately 200,000 Jews.  We are one of the largest Jewish communities on the continent, yet smaller cities such as Montreal and Ottawa have Jewish Libraries that have been vibrant and functioning for decades.

As family researchers we understand how essential it is to preserve a community's cultural history and identity.  We therefore must do all that we can do to preserve our collection and lobby our community leaders to take action and ultimately, lobby our leaders to build a Jewish Museum/Library here in Toronto that we can be proud of.

Thus we are asking our members for their thoughts and ideas as to how we can activate such a grounds swell movement to re-establish our Jewish Library in conjunction with a Toronto Museum of Jewish History.  We urge you to email your ideas to or

See also:

Oct 16, 2015

Rhea Clyman: Witness To The Ukrainian Famine

Rhea Clyman: A Forgotten Canadian Witness to the Great Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33

Presented by Jars Balan

Temple Sinai, 210 Wilson Avenue
Wednesday, November 25th at 8:00 p.m.
Doors open at 7:30 pm

Non-Members: $5.00

Jars Balan is an author, editor, and literary translator who has published numerous scholarly and journalistic works on Ukrainian and Ukrainian-Canadian themes. 

Since 2000 he has served the Coordinator of the Kule Ukrainian Canadian Studies Center, for the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. 

Born and raised in North York, he is a graduate of William Lyon Mackenzie C.I. and the Universities of Toronto and Alberta. His areas of academic specialty are Ukrainian-Canadian history, literature and theatre. 

In this capacity, he has written works on a number of Ukrainian-Jewish topics, including an essay on the anarchist Makhnovist movement — published in the collection A Sharing of Diversities: Proceedings of the Jewish Mennonite Ukrainian Conference, “Building Bridges” (1999) — and most recently an article for the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter (UJE) project about the friendship between the artist William Kurelek and his art dealer, Av Isaacs. 

Balan first learned about Rhea Clyman from research that he commissioned on the coverage given in the Canadian press to the 1932-33 famine created by Joseph Stalin’s policies, focusing in particular on how they affected Soviet Ukraine. 

He is working on a book about Rhea Clyman’s time as the Moscow correspondent for the London Daily Express and the Toronto Telegram, featuring articles that she wrote about a 5,000 mile road trip that took her through Eastern Ukraine and the North Caucasus in the fall of 1932. 

Rhea Clyman had immigrated from Poland to Canada with her family as a two-year old, and grew up in Toronto near the corner of Bay and Dundas Streets. ●  ● 647-247-6414

Oct 6, 2015

Using Yizkor Books to Enhance Your Family History

Presented by Myrna Neuringer Levy

Temple Sinai, 210 Wilson Avenue
Wednesday, October 21st at 8:00 p.m.
Doors open at 7:30 pm

Myrna Neuringer Levy, a member of JGS Toronto, will give an overview of what yizkor books are and where to find them.  

She will demonstrate how using the yizkor book about Borszczow, the Galician shtetl where her father was born, expanded her understanding of the life he and his parents had led there. 

Her illustrations will be taken from photographs her grandfather took on a return visit to Borszcow in l933. 

This material is in Myrna’s new book, Shattered Stones, Scattered Seeds: The Story of a Shtetl and a Family Who Lived There.

Myrna Neuringer Levy was born and educated in New York City. She moved to Toronto after her marriage. A former special education teacher and teacher/librarian, she has three published books for children as well as a family memoir. ●  ● 647-247-6414

Oct 2, 2015

Free in October 2015

To celebrate 25 years of German reunification, (German is offering throughout the month of October free access to their databases—which includes the worldwide databases-- 16 billion historic documents and pictures, including 220 million German documents and images. 

When documents are from another country, for example the United States or Canada, those records are available in their original language of English for example :” New York, Passegiertlisten, 1820-1957 (auf Englisch)”.

If the records are from Germany they are in German as are the instructions on the website.  I found using Google translate  a great help in translating the instructions and the names of some of the records.

To access the site go to: and when you put in a name and place of the person you are researching it will take you to a window with the results.

Once you click on the results a window opens giving you the instructions to register with your name, and email address and if you have an Ancestry password from previous trials use that otherwise you will be sent a password.

You will also be asked to check the box that you understand the terms and conditions. 

Once you are signed in the first page asks you about setting up your family tree.
On the right hand side about half way down the page is the same graphic as above about the 25 year reunification celebration.

Click on “jetzt suchen” (Start now)  which opens another window where you fill in the information on the person you are searching and first name, last name, city/state where they were born and date of birth if you have it and  click on “klostenlos suchen” (search now) and the next window will display what records they have and the option to provide more information to enhance the search.  

For those who do not speak or read German I recognize this may take extra translation steps, but it is worth the effort to try this during the month of October for access to Ancestry’s worldwide database at no charge.

I  have no affiliation with or and am sharing this solely for the reader’s information.

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee


Sep 30, 2015

Jewish Community Centre of Krakow

Searching For Jewish Heritage In Poland


When I was growing up, my mother filled me with visions of her hometown, Otwock in Poland, describing it as a kind of Brigadoon without actually using that American word.

It seemed like an enchanted spot graced by tall pine trees, lush lilac bushes and bracing air. In an era when anti-Semitic discrimination seemed laced into the national fabric, the Jews of Otwock managed to squeeze much sweetness out of their hardscrabble lives through timeless religious habits and the pleasures of a resort that attracted bourgeois vacationers and Hasidim.

My sister and I recently visited the town for the first time. It was lilac season and the pine trees were still tall, the air as bracing. But we found with palpable certainty that the Jews are all gone — there were 10,000 of them — and only a few traces are left of the touchstones of my mother’s girlhood.