Genealogy Update

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Susanne Levitsky

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Aug 3, 2021, 6:23:19 PMAug 3
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August 3, 2021

 

 

Upcoming Meetings:

 

August -- No meeting, IAJGS Virtual Conference

Sunday, September 19, 2021: "Sharing Our Family Treasures," Members Participate

Sunday, October 17, 2021: "German Jewish Genealogy: Breslau," Stephen Falk

 

 

Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento

July 18, 2021 Meeting

 

President Mort Rumberg called the Zoom meeting to order. He noted that the annual IAJGS conference this year, scheduled for Philadelphia August 2-5, will take place online.  There will be no JGSS meeting in August.

And Sacramento will host the National Genealogical Society conference next May 25-28, 2022 at the newly renovated convention center. The JGSS will have a table; volunteers will be able to attend lectures.

Mort said there continue to be a lot of free Zoom meetings, some with a small charge, including some originating in Israel, some from RootsTech, and more.

The JGSS Board of Directors has updated our by-laws. "Barry Munowitch pulled everything together," Mort said. With no issues raised, Mort asked if members accept the revised version. Hands were raised in support and no objections voiced, so the by-laws have been adopted.

Susanne Levitsky is coordinating our September 19 meeting, "Sharing Our Family Treasures." Members are encouraged to showcase a family heirloom or two during the Zoom meeting, be it a treasured photo, painting, pair of silver candlesticks, or recipe -- something meaningful to your family. Each person will have a few minutes to hold up and describe their item. Susanne will send out an email before the September meeting to find out who hopes to participate.

July Speaker -- Reem Awad-Rashmawi

"Recording Your Family Stories"

photosmemo...@gmail.com

Vice-president Sherri Venezia introduced Reem, of Davis. Reem said oral histories got her into genealogy. "Family stories, whether audio or video, can be genealogical evidence we can use -- although you have to back up everything."

Reem encouraged people not to put off interviews, whether done remotely or in a group, such as at Thanksgiving. "And there is the low-tech way of emailing back and forth."  And she said you can sit in front of your Zoom camera and tell your own story -- "having it recorded is a remarkable gift."

Reem starts with planning -- among the things to consider include who you want to interview, where are you doing it (not too many distractions), how are you doing it (recording, or if don't want to be recorded, maybe they will allow you to take notes), family research (secrets, privacy issues, what happened during that time -- wars, earthquakes, civil rights issues, etc., what do you want out of the interview).

As part of the pre-interview, prepare your questions, test your devices, don't go over two hours, what photos or artifacts would be good to include.  Make sure the chairs are comfortable.

Ask ahead -- anything you don't want me to ask about?

You have to tell people you're recording (Utah is a state with one-party consent; California requires all-party consent.

Family secrets? "Go with what they want to do … but maybe by the third interview…"

Be spontaneous -- you may not get another chance.

Reem says she doesn't write out interview questions but does write bullets. As the interview nears its end, she likes to ask, "what is your legacy -- what is one thing you most want people to remember you by -- what would you like your grandchildren to know?

How do you draw people out? Reem suggests asking open-ended questions, not yes or no. "Tell me more about  ___" or "you mentioned this _______."  She said photos are great to include and you can go through them and ask who people are. And ask about naming practices … is there a family history related to the name?

Reem says touchy issues happen -- you can move on or pause the interview and give them some time, let them decide what they want to talk about.

Things to remember --

1) Always start with the name, date, location.

2) Focus on the interviewee, not you. Let them talk about themselves, don't interrupt, don't help them along.

Ask about acronyms, words you don't understand.

Remote video interviews -- can use aps, Zoom, Skype, Facetime. Zoom doesn't require any equipment and you can have someone do transcription.  Cons: can't hear, mike problems, time limits.

Reem says she logs in via dashboard, if recording, separate audio file. "I don't want a time stamp."

You can also do the interview by using your smart phone -- there is an app called "audacity" on the phone.

As a last resort, use your landline phone on speaker and tape record.

In-person interviews:

Think of bringing extra memory cards, power cords or batteries, tripod. Two mikes.

Location -- avoid interruptions -- could do it in a study room at the library. Most important is the sound quality. Kitchen is not usually the best place. What's the angle of the mike, what about headphones? It's best to do a pre-interview test.

Lighting issues -- be prepared. Natural light wonderful, but not behind you. You want the camera to be at eye-level. You need the camera to be on the side, not between you and the person.

Low-tech version -- you can take notes, send letters, emails. Write down the name, date, place. Take breaks.

Type up your notes within a week, go back right away and ask if any questions. And for video interviews -- listen to what you recorded right away, what else to ask?

Group interviews -- gallery view as on Zoom, can get kids involved.

Post-interview reminders -- storage, back-up, transcription -- yourself or hired-- descript.com, scribbler.com, otter.ai

Editing -- audio/video, or deciding not to edit. Updating technology, digitizing.

Example of permission to share -- through social media or FamilySearch Memories

Some people do livestream interviews on Facebook.

Recording your own history as a gift --

            -- for future generations

            -- on your laptop

            -- FamilySearch.org  Memories (free)

            -- Their Story

-- StoryCorps.org -- you pay and they interview for you (Sherri said her daughter gave this to her as a gift, with her daughter providing a list of prompts/questions.)

Other things to consider for your interview:

            -- food -- written or video cookbook

            -- scrapbooks, looking through family photos

            -- autobiographical journals

            -- memory quilts

"My biggest message to everyone," Reem says, " is to do it now. Record as many people in your family as you can."

Handout attached.


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Recent Zoom -- "Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure"  

The Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, recently offered a program featuring author Menachem Kaiser and his book about his great-grandfather's ownership of an apartment building in Poland prior to World War II. His research also led him to learn about tunnels hiding local treasure.  An interesting Zoom.

You can view the program on YouTube here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_LpJvtfPjE

 

 

 

 

From the New York Times … Spain and Sephardic Jews

 

 (to see photos:)

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/24/world/europe/spain-jews-citizenship-reparations.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage

 

 

Spain Pledged Citizenship to Sephardic Jews. Now They Feel Betrayed.

In 2015, Spain said it would give citizenship to the descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled during the Spanish Inquisition. Then rejections started pouring in this summer.

The former Jewish quarter of Segovia, Spain. The country was once home to one of Europe’s most thriving Jewish communities, which for centuries produced major poets, historians and philosophers.

The former Jewish quarter of Segovia, Spain. The country was once home to one of Europe’s most thriving Jewish communities, which for centuries produced major poets, historians and philosophers.Credit...Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times


By Nicholas Casey

July 24, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

MADRID — María Sánchez, a retired mental health therapist in Albuquerque, spent the past four decades tracing her Jewish ancestry from Spain. She created a vast genealogical chart going back nearly 1,100 years, which included three ancestors who were tried in the Spanish Inquisition. Her findings even led her to join a synagogue in the 1980s and to become a practicing Jew.

So when Spain’s government said in 2015 that it would grant citizenship to people of Sephardic Jewish descent — a program publicized as reparations for the expulsion of Jews that began in 1492 — Ms. Sánchez applied. She hired an immigration lawyer, obtained a certificate from her synagogue and flew to Spain to present her genealogy chart to a notary.

Then, in May, she received a rejection letter.

“It felt like a punch in the gut,” said Ms. Sánchez, 60, who was told she had not proved that she was a Sephardic Jew. “You kicked my ancestors out, now you’re doing this again.”

 

María Sánchez, this week at her home in Albuquerque, with documents she had gathered for her reparations application.

María Sánchez, this week at her home in Albuquerque, with documents she had gathered for her reparations application.Credit...Sharon Chischilly for The New York Times

Spain’s statistics and interviews with frustrated applicants reveal a wave of more than 3,000 rejections in recent months, raising questions about how serious the country is about its promise of reparations to correct one of the darkest chapters of its history, the Inquisition. Before this year, only one person had been turned down, the government said. Some 34,000 have been accepted.

At least another 17,000 people have received no response at all, according to government statistics. Many of them have waited years and spent thousands of dollars on attorney fees and trips to Spain to file paperwork.

It remains unclear why the wave of rejections has come now. Spain’s government said it was simply trying to clear out a backlog of cases. But lawyers representing applicants say they feel officials have had a change of heart on the program, which formally stopped taking applications in 2019.

For applicants, it has left a sense of bewilderment and betrayal.

A street sign in Segovia’s former Jewish quarter. The expulsion of Jews from Spain began in 1492 when the country’s rulers gave the Spanish Jewish community an ultimatum: Convert to Catholicism or leave.

A street sign in Segovia’s former Jewish quarter. The expulsion of Jews from Spain began in 1492 when the country’s rulers gave the Spanish Jewish community an ultimatum: Convert to Catholicism or leave.Credit...Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

Some saw citizenship as a way to make peace with the persecution of their ancestors by forming a link to their ancestral land. Others had more immediate concerns, seeing a Spanish passport as the best hope to escape dire situations in their own countries.

“For Venezuelans, it was a lifeline,” said Marcos Tulio Cabrera, the founder of the Association of Spanish-Venezuelans of Sephardic Origin, whose family of nine has received four rejections this month, with the rest still awaiting a decision. Mr. Cabrera, who lives in Valencia, Venezuela, a city crippled by economic instability and deadly gangs, said he spent nearly $53,000 to file the applications, depleting much of the family’s savings.

The rejections have angered officials in Washington, including Representative Teresa Leger Fernández, Democrat of New Mexico, who said she raised the issue both with the White House and the State Department after receiving complaints from applicants in her district.

“Their refusal is worse than if they didn’t offer citizenship in the first place,” Ms. Fernández said of Spain. “This is an example of how you don’t do reparations.”

In a statement, Spain’s Justice Ministry, which is in charge of the applications, said that it had done its best to follow Spanish law and that it was only natural it would have to turn down many cases.

 

Arnulfo Ramírez, an emeritus linguistics professor at Louisiana State University who has traced his family back to 1580, learned in July that his application had been rejected.

Arnulfo Ramírez, an emeritus linguistics professor at Louisiana State University who has traced his family back to 1580, learned in July that his application had been rejected.Credit...Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

Those who had met the requirements “are welcome again to their country, but similarly, those who don’t meet the requirements will see that their application is rejected just like they would be in any other process.”

The program began in 2015, when Spain’s Parliament unanimously approved a law that would grant citizenship to anyone who could show that they had a single Jewish ancestor who had been expelled during the Inquisition. Applicants need not be Jewish, the government said, and were not required to give up their current citizenship — but they would be asked to demonstrate that they could speak Spanish and pass a citizenship test.

“This law says a lot about what we were in the past, what we are today and what we want to continue to be in the future — an open, diverse and tolerant Spain,” said Rafael Catalá, the Spanish justice minister at the time.

Spain was once home to one of Europe’s most thriving Jewish communities, which for centuries produced major poets, historians and philosophers. Sephardic Jews or Sephardim, who originated from communities on the Iberian Peninsula, are one of the two Jewish ethnic divisions of Europe, along with the Ashkenazim, who thrived in Northern and Eastern Europe until their devastation by the Nazis.

An old Jewish cemetery carved out of the rock in Segovia.Credit...Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

In 1492, Spain’s rulers, urged on by the Roman Catholic Church, gave the Spanish Jewish community an ultimatum: Convert to Catholicism or leave.

Those who left fled to as far as the Middle East, the Caribbean and parts of what would eventually become the United States. The Sephardic Jews, as they became known, held onto their traditions in some lands and hid them in others, passing them down to generations who were raised as Catholics.

It was a history that Arnulfo Ramírez, an emeritus linguistics professor at Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge, had long suspected his family was a part of. Both his paternal grandfather and father were circumcised, though neither could explain why, he said. Some family members had an indifferent attitude toward the Catholic Church.

Mr. Ramírez traced his family names back to a passenger manifest from a ship of descendants of Spanish Jews that left Seville in 1580. He presented his findings to the Or VeShalom synagogue in Atlanta, which gave him a certificate attesting to his Jewish ancestry that he took to a notary appointment in Spain.

 

A list of Jewish Segovians who lived in the city before the expulsion in 1492 is displayed at the Jewish Museum of Segovia.

A list of Jewish Segovians who lived in the city before the expulsion in 1492 is displayed at the Jewish Museum of Segovia.Credit...Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

Mr. Ramírez thought he had a good case for citizenship. The professor was made an officer in the Order of Isabella the Catholic, a Spanish decoration that includes knights and commanders, in the 1990s for his work on Spanish linguistics.

But he was wrong: In early July, he learned that both he and his daughter, who practices Judaism, had been rejected.

César David Ciriano, an immigration lawyer in the Spanish city of Zaragoza, said that until this year, it was almost unheard-of for applications to be denied after they had been submitted to the government.

This was because Spanish notaries — like the one Mr. Ramírez visited — acted as gatekeepers, approving an applicant’s Jewish heritage certificates, genealogy chart and other documents, before an application was formally submitted. Government officials were not allowed to overrule the notary’s decision, Mr. Ciriano said.

However, this year, officials suddenly began second-guessing the notary’s approvals, he said. “This is the first time I’ve seen such illegal behavior from the government,” Mr. Ciriano said.

 

The former Jewish quarter in Segovia. In 2015, Spain’s Parliament unanimously approved a law that would grant citizenship to anyone who could show that they had a single Jewish ancestor who had been expelled during the Inquisition.

The former Jewish quarter in Segovia. In 2015, Spain’s Parliament unanimously approved a law that would grant citizenship to anyone who could show that they had a single Jewish ancestor who had been expelled during the Inquisition.Credit...Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

The Spanish government in its statement said it had followed the law in enforcing the citizenship decisions.

Ms. Sánchez, the New Mexico therapist who was turned down in May, has a lawsuit pending against the Spanish government to appeal her case.

She ticks off names of ancestors like Bartolomé Romero, a Spaniard of Jewish descent who settled in New Mexico in the 1500s and is her great-grandfather from nine generations back. Her genealogical pedigree chart, more than 250 pages long, ends with an ancestor named Ancar III, who died in 902.

But she said the rejection by the government gave her pause.

“I had to sit down for a minute and think: ‘Well, who am I then?’” she said. “Where is my background? But I have a strong Sephardic background. I can say I am a Jew. This is me.”

José Bautista contributed reporting.

 

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Recording Your Family Stories.pdf
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