Well a very interesting day at the conference today. Firstly, I only managed to attend one lecture during the whole of today. This was on DNA and how the process of deciphering how populations can be distinguished from each other and how Jewish DNA fitted in to the global picture. The talk by Doron Behar showed that Jewish DNA tended to be associated with the DNA of people from the Middle East with various admixtures from local populations. So the Eastern European Jews would have some genetic material from local populations but remained very much a separately identifiable grouping. Some populations such as the Yemeni Jews, the Indian Jews from Cochin and Bene Israel had traces of typical Jewish DNA, mainly in the male line, with female mtDNA being mostly from the local population.
Apart from attending the lecture, I spent most of the day at the IAJGS table to deal with any queries about the organisation and also to handle any general queries. I didn’t have to do much, which gave me a chance to catch up on JGSGB business and to talk to people in general. With several people around the table at times we managed to talk about a lot of the things that were on our minds, such as how the conference was going. In general we all feel that the organisers have managed to put on a very good event and that apart from the odd problem it has actually worked well. These events are mammoth things to put on by volunteers. We learned tonight that 850 people had registered, which is a lot of people to organise. It also has to be borne in mind that many of the lectures are delivered with interpreters. The organisers have had to cope with the bilingually-challenged such as myself but pretty much everything has felt like other conferences.
The conference organisers were thanked and applauded at the conference Gala event for their efforts. The Gala is a formal dinner and celebration event, with a keynote speech and awards being made. The key note speech this year was given by Father Patrick Desbois on the work of Yahad–In Unum, which works in parts of the former Soviet Union to uncover the story of the holocaust and to identify places where Jews were murdered. This involves interviewing local people who remember the events and the details of the people who were killed; allowing names and the lives of people who were killed to be remembered. The organisation also helps the relatives of the murdered to find the places where they were killed or lived. It was a very moving presentation.
The awards were very great news for JGSGB – we received the Award for Outstanding Publication by a Member Organization of IAJGS for the JGSGB journal Shemot. This was something that I have known about for about two months but have been sworn to keep secret. It has been very difficult not to say something to the JGSGB Council, members and especially my wife but I managed it. The Award was fittingly accepted by Bernard Valman, the Editor of Shemot, who I was only able to tell about the award five hours before the Gala. I have to say that I am so very proud of the work that Bernard and his principle colleague Mike Gordon have put into producing Shemot, especially over the last couple of years, with the themed editions. The themed content was something very much appreciated by the Awards Committee in reaching their decision. I understand that there were about five different publications up for the award.
So now to bed, happy with a very good day at the conference and with a very great day for JGSGB.