SIG and JewishGen Luncheons

Country and area special interest groups (SIGs), and JewishGen, are sponsoring 11 luncheons throughout the week with featured speakers from far and wide. Schedule and details are below.

The menu for sit-down plated meals offers kosher options at $54 per person and non-kosher options at $44 per person. Each has a choice of a chicken or a vegetarian dish. When you sign up in the registration form for a luncheon, you will be asked to choose between kosher and non-kosher (except for the JRI-Poland meal), and between chicken and vegetarian.

All luncheons will begin at noon and end at 1:30 p.m. Entry to speakers’ presentations will not be allowed without a luncheon ticket.

Attendance is limited by the size of the rooms. If a luncheon sells out, you may elect to be on a waiting list, pending possible cancellations during the registration period. No tickets will be sold at the Conference. Attendees may post a notice seeking to sell or to buy a ticket;  terms of the transaction will be between the parties.

Sunday, August 7


Tomasz Jankowski on Jewish Family in Poland in 19th Century – Debunking Myths

About the presentation: What made a Jewish family Jewish? Was it multigenerational and patriarchal? Could studying Torah help in arranging a good marriage? How “typical” was your own family?

This talk will help you to place your own family’s history in a broader context of social and economic changes in Poland over the last two hundred years. Special attention will be paid to distinguishing between the common and pronounced characteristics of the Jewish family in the past.

About the speaker: Tomasz Jankowski, holds Ph.D. in history. He is a Jewish genealogist active in Ukraine and Poland, founder of He is a graduate of the University of Wroclaw, Poland. His academic research is focused on family history and historical-demography of the Jews. In 2010, Jankowski was awarded a scholarship by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He cooperates with the Institute for Jewish Genealogy and with Hebrew University on the analysis of Jewish demographics in light of the 1897 census. Recently Jankowski worked for “Finding Your Roots” TV series and the team who discovered Baal Shem Tov’s Mikveh in Kolomyia.

Monday, August 8

Belarus SIG

Ron Doctor on The Ukraine Kremenets Project

About the presentation: The talk will describe the very large Ukraine project done in Kremenets. This talk with cover how the Ukraine SIG worked together with the Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People to obtain many record sets not filmed by the Mormons, how they created very detailed translation/transliteration guides, and how they created a search engine for their records which allows for both Russian and Hebrew name searches. Finally, the talk will describe how it was organized and how the Belarus SIG can create similar types of projects.

About the speaker: Dr. Ronald D. Doctor has been doing Jewish genealogy since 1992. He currently is president of the Kremenets-District Research Group (KDRG). Ron is on the board of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon, following several years as president and then as membership chairman. He also is on the Teaching Committee of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG).

Gesher Galicia

Sergey Kravtsov on Galician Jewish Families: Histories and Legends

About the presentation: Many prominent Galician Jewish families rooted themselves deeply in Jewish history, in local and regional cultural landscape. This was achieved by calculating and maintaining relations with other respected families, by founding and naming synagogues and charities, by donating, inscribing, and commemorative usage of ritual objects. The nineteenth century witnessed studies of cemetery epigraphs, Jewish biography, and critical historiography. On parallel with positivist narratives, however, Jewish family legends were constructed and circulated, particularly by the ennobled. While the positivist historiography saw these stories either as historically “true” or “false,” new approaches allow to study them as Jewish temporal adaptations of international folkloric and literary motifs. These narratives, serving the families on their paths from the Jewish traditional to modern world, produced meaningful bonds with Polish, Austrian, and broader society. Spectacular examples of such stories are preserved in the memory of the interrelated von Mises, Nierenstein, Wahl, Herzenstein, and Lilien families.

About the speaker: Dr. Sergey R. Kravtsov is a senior research associate at the Center for Jewish Art, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Born in Lviv, Ukraine, he was trained as an architect in his native city. He received his doctoral degree in architectural history from the Institute for the Theory and History of Architecture in Moscow in 1993, and moved to Israel in 1994. He has published about 60 essays on history of urban planning and synagogue architecture; he has authored and co-authored five books (two forthcoming), edited one book, and co-produced 16 multimedia compact discs.

Latvia SIG

Ella Barkan on two lines in a praying book

About the presentation: Two lines in a praying book. Vague memories, an old picture and a praying book, that was all I had and of course many doubts as well. Are those leads enough to divulge new discoveries? Given the fact that there is no name or surname. Besides lack of information, some of my relatives had a common surname, which directed me into uncertain paths. Some of them emigrated from Latvia to the U,S., but most perished in the Holocaust in Latvia and in Lithuania. What tools did I use? What sources contributed to my research? What could I learn about their lives? Will I find names only and no stories? And finally, did I find my relatives?

About the speaker: Ella Barkan, in addition to being a genealogist, is also a teacher, arts therapist, biographer and artist. She was involved in the Liepaja memorial project headed by Prof. Edward Anders and assisted in locating and obtaining information from survivors. She has also assisted with translation of Hebrew portions of the Yad Vashem database, the Liepaja Jewish cemetery book and the work of Christine Usdin. She also contributed to a project of interviewing Holocaust survivors. She has instructed genealogy courses and advised researchers on relating to their Latvian ancestors. She gave talks at IAJGS conferences in Salt Lake City (2014) and in Jerusalem (2015).

Tuesday, August 9

Austria-Czech SIG

Thomas Fürth on Life in Prague Judenstadt 1790-1910 – Genealogy and Local History

About the presentation: In the lecture I will use my own family history research and local history research to tell the story of the last two centuries of the Prague ghetto. I follow my own extended family in five generations 1790 to 1910 relating to the changing situation in the Prague Judenstadt. I will show how you could combine your own findings about your family with knowledge about the houses they lived in, how they moved out of the ghetto and what they earned for living. At the same time I will show how the struggle for emancipation and changes in the legal policy from the imperial authorities affected the Jews living in the Judenstadt. If you expand your perspective in this way you will not only get a better understanding of the history of your family but also get more successful in your genealogical research.

About the speaker: Thomas Fürth has been researching his family for more than 20 years. He is president of the JGS of Sweden and an AVOTAYNU Contributing Editor for Sweden. Fürth lives in Stockholm, Sweden, where he is an associate professor of history at the University of Stockholm and is research director at Kairos Future AB, an international research and consulting firm that helps companies understand and shape their futures. He is a well known lecturer in Sweden.

Ukraine SIG

Eric Goldman on “Hester Street”: Where Eastern Europe Meets America

About the presentation: “Hester Street” was adapted from Abraham Cahan’s 1896 novel, “Yekl: A Tale of a New York Ghetto.” Cahan, founder of the The Jewish Daily Forward, dealt with the challenge for immigrant Jews to assimilate in their new adopted country. With Congress reopening America to immigrants in 1965, Silver saw “Yekl” as a story that would resonate for all Americans. After all, Cahan’s main character, Jake, like other new immigrants, was having an identity crisis stemming from the outright contrast between the freedom that America offered and the religious tradition that he brought with him to this country – a nineteenth century story that still resonated in the 1970s! The film provides us with important questions about our heritage and Jewish identity that challenge us today. Eric Goldman will explore the film and  questions that emerge about the hardships endured and the tensions faced upon arrival in the “Goldene Medine.”

About the speaker: Eric Goldman is founder of Ergo Media, a distributor of Jewish film, and adjunct professor of cinema at Yeshiva University. In 2014, Eric co-hosted the series, “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film” on the Turner Classic Movies television network. Last June, he curated the 37 film program at KulturfestNYC, a celebration of Jewish culture. Eric is the author of “Visions, Images and Dreams: Yiddish Film Past and Present” (Holmes & Meier) and “The American Jewish Story through the Cinema” (University of Texas Press). He is currently writing a book on Israeli society through the lens of cinema.

Wednesday, August 10


Stephen Falk on The Three Cemeteries of the Breslau Jewish Community

About the presentation: This presentation will provide information about the three Breslau Jewish cemeteries: (1) the destroyed Claassenstrasse cemetery (1761-1856), (2) the Lohestrasse cemetery (1856-1941), now part of the Wroclaw Museum system, and (3) the Breslau-Cosel cemetery (1900-present), managed by the Wroclaw Jewish Community. There will be discussion of the cemeteries and related archival materials.

About the speaker: I am a first generation American born to parents who got out of Nazi Germany in 1936. I have been a progressively more and more avid genealogist for about 40 years. As both parents were from Breslau, that has always been the focus of my research, but family lines come from towns in Silesia, Posen, West Prussia and, much earlier, Poland, Moravia and Bohemia. Rabbinic ancestors include Zwi Hirsch Kalischer, Ezekiel Landau, Mordechai Jaffe and the MaHaRaL of Prague. After more than 20 years as an intellectual property attorney in Philadelphia, I moved with my wife to Point Roberts, Washington, in 2013.


Sandra Malek on Hungarian Jews in the Great War, Stories from Both Sides

About the presentation: Sandy Malek, who collaborated with  Lois Rosen on the recent JGSLA publication, “Jews in the Great War: Family Histories Retold,” will speak about the experiences of Hungarian Jews in WWI. In addition to recounting stories of the Hungarian Jewish immigrants who served in the Allied Forces, she will also talk about the Hungarian Jews who were in the Austro-Hungarian military during the Great War. The presentation will incorporate and reference a variety of sources, photos and documents that will interest the genealogical community including the writings of David Ignatz Neumann. Born in Western Hungary in 1894, he emigrated to Palestine in 1927 and wrote about the issues that Jews faced during military service under the Hapsburg Dual Monarchy. Interesting comparisons may be made between the lives and service of these cousins, brothers, or friends who served in opposing forces during the Great War.

About the speaker: Sandy Malek is a retired attorney. She has been  president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles (JGSLA) since 2007. She was was co-chair of the 2010 IAJGS Conference in Los Angeles. After years of transcribing information for a number of sites, including JewishGen’s Hungarian database,,, and Family, Sandy became the coordinator of the Maramaros Vital Records database, a part of the JewishGen H-SIG database. Sandy also served as the 2014 program chair of the IAJGS conference in Salt Lake City, and the 2015 chair of the selection committee for the Stern and Stedman grants.

Thursday, August 11

Bessarabia SIG

Yefim Kogan on Bessarabian Maps from the 18th century, from military topographic maps to town and shtetl maps

About the presentation: The session is to show the variety of different maps available for Bessarabia and Moldova. What can be found in the Old Russian maps? Where can we get a local map for a town, shtetl with house numbers and possible surnames of families living in each house? What maps are available at the Library of Congress for Bessarabia/Moldova? The oldest found map for  Bessarabia (part of Russian Empire) was created in 1821, and it is great to find localities were our ancestors lived. The Russian Military Topographic map of 1846-1863 includes information on places outside a locality, for example, a nearby Jewish Cemetery. German maps of 1930 give numbers of Jews (and other nationalities) living in various places, as well as marking Jewish colonies. We’ll discuss the types of town and shtetl maps available on our website and other places on line, including Russian Internet sites.

About the speaker: Yefim Kogan was born in Kishinev, Moldova. After emigrating from the Soviet Union in 1989 he did extensive genealogical and historical research. In 2012 he received a master’s degree in Jewish Liberal Studies from Hebrew College, Boston, with a focus in Jewish Cultural History. He is active in the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston. Yefim taught classes for the local Jewish and Russian communities of Brookline and Boston. He developed a website for the towns of Kaushany, Dubossary and Kamenka, Moldova. In 2011 Yefim organized the Bessarabia SIG, developed its website, worked on multiple projects and presented at IAJGS  conferences.


Virginija Cijunskiene on Jewish genealogy sources in Lithuania state historical archives

About the presentation: The presentation deals with Jewish genealogy sources preserved in Lithuania State Historical Archives. This archives preserves the eldest documents of Lithuanian National Documentary Fond dated from XV c. until 1918 . There are archives of institutions, organizations, private persons and families of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Russian Empire, and collections of documents. Each category of holding mentioned above contains different information about Jews life. Archives preserves the main Jewish genealogical sources: vital record books of Wilno, Kovno and Suvalki provinces Jewish communities, revision lists of Wilno and Kovno provinces, the 1897 year Population census lists. There are additional sources too such as conscription, tax, merchants, different localities residents’ lists and other.

About the speaker: Virginija Cijunskiene was born in 1954 in Panevezhys, Lithuania. In 1977 she graduated Vilnius University with credentials as  an historian and lecturer on history and social science. In 1977-1979 she worked in the Lithuanian state audio-visual archives as a junior research assistant. In 1979 she became a department head in the  Lithuanian state historical archives, and in 2011 she was named  director of the archives. She has been a lecturer on the Communication faculty at Vilnius University,  teaching courses on preservation of documents and archival science. From2007 to 2015 she was a member of the UNESCO “Memory of the World” program national committee.


Program TBA.