This Year in Jerusalem – The Final Curtain

It has been a couple of days since my last posting. The reason for not posting something was very basic – spending too much time socialising and going to bed late! Thursday was German SIG day pretty much. I spent the morning with my wife Jeanette Rosenberg and up to 80 other people interested in German research. Fritz Neubauer kicked off with Archive Documents Discovered On Additional First Names Imposed On German Jews in 1939″; followed by Jeanette’s talk on Are German-Jewish Community Histories Trustworthy Source Material for Your Family Tree?; then there was a talk on The Story of One Extended German Family During The Shoa by Dr Debbie Lifschitz. After these lectures we broke for the SIG Luncheon and a talk by Dr Yochai Ben-Gedaliah about German-Jewish Vital Records at the CAHJP. The CAHJP is the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, which is actually where I am now, writing this posting. The CAHJP is not exactly hi tech and the staff are quite old-fashioned about dealing with researchers and access to records, so there is a bit of a struggle between the customers and the “Guardians of the Records”. Back to Thursday now. I had to leave the German strand after lunch and take part in a panel presentation and discussion on developments on Jewish genealogy research in French speaking countries and in Western Europe. When I was asked to do this session I thought it was going to have translation from French to English but with so few French people signed up to the conference, French translation wasn’t provided. So what did we do? We got the French people to speak English! I moderated the panel, which also included Daniel Dratwa (Belgium), Anne Lifschitz-Krams (France) and Katharina Glass (Switzerland). Katharina speaks mainly German just to complicate things. Despite the language difficulties, the session went well and I learned a lot about what Cercle de Généalogie Juive in France was doing, including a lot of outreach to schools. I was very impressed by the work of all three societies.

I had a chance to take a break from lectures and get ready for the Banquet at the conference. The banquet was a buffet affair for well over 250 people, so chaotic at times and some lengthy queues to get to the food. The keynote speaker was Dick Eastman of the Eastman’s On-line Genealogy Newsletter fame. Dick talked about his view of the future of genealogy, which was generally very positive. I helped with handing out the Award certificates that IAJGS gives out every year. The winners this year were - Lifetime Achievement Award, Judy Baston; Outstanding Project, JGS of Greater Boston – JewishGen Memorial Plaque Database Contribution; Outstanding Publication, JGS of Long Island’s YouTube Channel; Outstanding Publication, JGS of Maryland’s Newsletter L’Dor V’Dor; IAJGS Member of the Year, Israel Genealogy Research Association; and Volunteer of the Year, Jan Meisels Allen. The Banquet ended at about 11 p.m. by which time the hotel bar had closed! So improvisation was the order of the day, with the leftover wine from several bottles being combined. Bad mistake! The result of several plastic cups of wine, talking about genealogy (including taking DNA swabs from the mouths of very recently deceased relatives) lead to going to bed at well after 3 a.m. Friday morning passed me by and I didn’t get down to the conference until about 1 p.m. Thus missing the Family Fun sessions where people brought in their children for some fun but educational activities. After that the conference came to a close and the final curtain was, metaphorically, drawn over it.

In the end about 1,000 people came to the conference across the week, there were so many people there that we knew from previous conferences or who we knew through our other contacts, it felt very friendly. Also at times it was easy to forget that we were in Jerusalem when we spent whole days in the conference rooms and the hotel. The final verdict on the conference by the participants appears to be that the lectures, tours, resource room, exhibitor hall and other genealogy activities were very good for the most part. There were hiccups with the programme and some of the lectures weren’t as good as we would have hoped but that is normal for any conference. The downside was very definitely the hotel not being up to scratch but at least we won’t be going back to it for a while.

So now for something different, genealogy research……at the CAHJP.

Maybe then a day or two of tourism and a holiday??

Mark Nicholls




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