Past Programs - 2008


The following programs and workshops were held in 2008; they are shown here so that you may view the range of activities of JGSGW.

December Sunday, December 14, 2008  
Program:   Carol G. Freeman, "Solving and Creating Family Mysteries: Integrating U.S. Census records with the New York City Archives."  
Location:   Beth El Hebrew Congregation, Alexandria, VA  
At our monthly meeting on December 14, 2008, our member Carol G. Freeman will speak about "Solving and Creating Family Mysteries: Integrating U.S. Census records with the New York City Archives."

Carol G. Freeman is an expert genealogy researcher who has worked extensively with records in the United States and England as well as numerous on-line resources. Her presentation will discuss her sleuthing into New York City Municipal Archives and her reconciliation of these records with U.S. Census data, as she separated fact from myth in reconstructing her family's history in the United States. 

This episode in Ms. Freeman's genealogy adventures will be of obvious interest to all of us who have found that family lore is not always accurate -- an experience that almost all of us have had at one time or another. As an added bonus, her talk will also inform us about the types of information that can be extracted from the New York City Municipal Archives and what the genealogist must do to retrieve the information.

In her "other" life, Carol Freeman is a retired criminal defense lawyer (another occupation that has its sleuthing moments). A graduate of Wellesley College, she received her law degree with high honors from Columbia University in New York City. After clerking for a United States District Judge and a stint as a prosecutor with the office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, she began her career as defense counsel. She was Deputy Public Defender in Montgomery County, Maryland and later served as a staff attorney to the judges of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Although now nominally retired from the law, she continues to serve her profession in many ways, including as author of a regular column on Supreme Court criminal law decisions for the Section on Criminal Law of the American Bar Association.


Sunday, November 16, 2008
Workshop:     A Beginner's Workshop
Location:     Fanaroff Hall, B'nai Israel Congregation, Rockville, MD
Leaders:     Marlene Bishow and Rich Meyersburg
  Jewish family history does not have to be a mystery. We and our ancestors all leave a paper trail that can unravel the story of our families for many generations, across the ocean and into the smallest of shtetls.  

Join us for our FREE* Beginner's Workshop

  • A great start for the novice...
  • Even if you have been a member of JGSGW for a while, a great way to get back to the basics...

This will be a 2-hour session jam-packed with resources, helpful hints and motivation.

Program:     Genealogy Fest - A comprehensive "brick wall" question and answer discussion in the afternoon.
  In the afternoon of November 16, at our usual time of 1:30, we will have a broad-based "brick wall" session.  Our plan is to have several "area" desks available, each supported by an expert in a particular area of research, to answer your questions.  We will seek to cover as many areas of research as our members want to ask about.

Please feel free to email your questions in advance of the meeting.  Send them to and he will ask one of our experts to be ready to answer on November 16.



Sunday, October 19, 2008
  Genealogy Sites in Jewish Richmond with JGSGW
  Richmond, VA, the sixth oldest Jewish community in America, will be the subject of this day trip by bus. We will visit two Jewish museums of special Jewish interest in Richmond. First is the Beth Ahabah Congregation and museum, which specializes in the 400-year history of the Jewish community in Virginia. Our other principal stop will be at the Virginia Holocaust Museum, where we will have a catered box lunch before a 90-minute guided tour of the museum. If time permits, we will also visit its cemetery, which is of special interest.
September Sunday, September 14, 2008


Lindsey I. Tonsager, "What Every Genealogist Should Know about Copyrights"
  Lindsey l. Tonsager, a lawyer in the media and communications group at the Washington, D.C. office of Covington & Burling, will speak on copyright questions that may arise in the course of genealogical research and the publication of family histories and other works on genealogy. Ms. Tonsager is highly knowledgeable about copyright law. She has, for example, spoken on this area of law to the Smithsonian's General Counsel's annual program on developments in intellectual property law, advised media clients on copyright and trademark matters, provided copyright advice to a religious organization concerning its extensive music portfolio, and assisted a non-profit entity with the development of its intellectual property policy for its on-line service.
June Sunday, June 8, 2008, Membership Appreciation Luncheon


Warren Blatt, "Jewish Given Names"
  Learn why "Mordechai Yehuda" is also "Mortka Leib" is also "Max." Warren will provide an introduction to Jewish given names (first names), focusing on practical issues for genealogical research. Our ancestors each had many different given names and nicknames, in various languages and alphabets - this can make Jewish genealogical research difficult. This presentation will teach the history and patterns of Jewish first names, and how to recognize your ancestors' names in genealogical sources. Topics that will be included are: religious and secular names; origins of given names; variants, nicknames and diminutives; double names (unrelated pairs, kinnui, Hebrew/Yiddish translations); patronymics; name equivalents; Ashkenazic naming traditions (naming of children); statistics on the distribution and popularity of given names in various regions and times; spelling issues; Polish and Russian declensions; interpretation of names in documents; and the Anglicization of immigrant Jewish names: adaptations and transformations.

Warren Blatt is the Managing Director of JewishGen (, the primary Internet site for Jewish genealogy, a division of the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (, in New York City. He is the author of Resources for Jewish Genealogy in the Boston and co-author (with Gary Mokotoff) of Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy. Warren is the Editor of the Kielce-Radom Special Interest Group Journal. He was the Chair of the 15th International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy. In 2004, he was awarded the IAJGS’ Lifetime Achievement Award in Jerusalem. Warren has over 25 years of research experience with Russian and Polish Jewish records, and is the author of the JewishGen FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Jewish Genealogy, located on the JewishGen website, and many other JewishGen InfoFiles.
May Wednesday, May 7, 2008, and Monday, May 12, 2008


Members-only sessions at National Archives and Records Administration
  Katherine Vollen and Rebecca Sharp, "Passport Applications 1795-1925"
  Archives Specialists Rebecca Sharp and Katherine Vollen will discuss how to locate passport applications and how these records can enhance your genealogical research.


Sunday, May 18, 2008
  Gene Sadick, JGSGW Librarian, Vera Finberg and Elaine Apter, "Orientation to the New JGSGW Library: Its Holdings, Facilities and Use"
  The JGSGW Genealogy Library at B'nai Israel will open in May, 2008. Members are encouraged to learn about the organization of the holdings of this wonderful facility from the members of our own Library Committee. Policies, volunteer opportunities, hours of operation and who may use the library will be discussed. In addition to more than 500 books, the library has a large collection of periodicals, audio and video tapes, CDs and DVDs, as well as maps, collections of specialized articles organized in binders and files. There is a nearly complete collection of Mishpacha and copies of JGSGW Membership Directories. For the first time in the Society's history, we have volumes of scrapbooks with photos, meeting announcements and other historical documents.


Sunday, May 18, 2008
  Rabbi Leonard Cahan, "Origins of Jewish Marriage Customs"
  The Jewish legal requirements for marriage represent only a small part of the rituals that take place at a Jewish wedding ceremony. Rabbi Cahan will guide the participants through the customs that characterize weddings today, as well as others that have fallen by the wayside. He will explore rituals that have grown up in the many different societies in which Jews have lived, and the rich symbolism that has made them so appealing and enduring.

Rabbi Leonard Cahan is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, Maryland, where he served, until 2001, as the Senior Rabbi for 27 years. He was born and grew up in Philadelphia and attended the Akiba Hebrew Academy and Gratz College. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he entered the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary, from which he was ordained in 1961. Prior to coming to Har Shalom in 1974, Rabbi Cahan was a Navy Chaplain in Japan for three years and a congregational rabbi in Detroit and Oakland, California. He has served as the Membership Chairman of the Rabbinical Assembly, the President of the Rabbinical Assembly's Washington/Baltimore Region, and the Washington Board of Rabbis. In 1995, he was chosen by CBS This Morning as one of America's outstanding clergy. Rabbi Cahan chaired the Editorial Committee of the new, extensively revised edition of Siddur Sim Shalom, published in 1998 and now used by more than half of the Conservative congregations in America.
April Sunday, April 13, 2008


Ron Arons, "The Kosher Nostra - There's a Criminal in Every Jewish Family"
  In this triple-header talk, Ron provides the "greatest hits" from three of his other presentations. His presentation starts with how he got involved in researching criminals. (It wasn't by choice but, rather, beshert). Next Ron discusses his research into the thousands of Jews who served time in Sing-Sing Prison "up the river" from New York. His talk concludes with a review of the lives of Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky (neither of whom served time in Sing-Sing) who were life-long friends and the men behind the Fabulous Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. Along the way you will learn about the various types of records available for both a) researching criminals and b) piecing a person's life together (whether the individual is a criminal or not).

Ron Arons has presented at six of the past seven IAJGS conferences and to local JGSs across the country. His expertise is in researching the lives of criminals (mostly Jewish ones, but others as well). Ron's won a Hackman Research Grant from the NY State Archives in 2005. In January of this year, Ron appeared on the PBS documentary, The Jewish Americans. His book, The Jews of Sing-Sing, will be published this year. Ron earned a B.S. in Engineering from Princeton and an MBA from the University of Chicago.


This is a members-only workshop
  Ben Fassberg and Rich Meyersburg, "Beginner's Workshop"
  Jewish family history does not have to be a mystery. We all leave a paper trail that can unravel the story of our families for many generations, across the ocean and into the smallest of shtetls.

Join us for our FREE Beginner's Workshop
  • A great start for the novice, or
  • Even if you have been a member of JGSGW for a while. A great way to get back to the basics..........
This will be a 2-hour session jam-packed with resources, helpful hints and motivation.
March Sunday, March 16, 2008


Dr. Stephen Greenberg, ""How the resources of the National Library of Medicine can help you in your Genealogy Research"
  The National Library of Medicine is located on the NIH campus in Bethesda. The speaker will address what resources are available to genealogy researches. Do you have relatives or ancestors who were medical or science professionals? Records at NLM may fill in blanks regarding birth, education and death, as well as their professional career. He will demonstrate the use of the internet at the NLM website, as well as those materials in the library stacks.

After receiving his graduate degree in Early Modern European History, Dr. Greenberg taught history for nine years, with a research emphasis on the history of printing and publishing. Looking for a career change, he attended Columbia University where he received his Masters in Library Service with an emphasis on rare books and special collections and archives management. Upon graduation, he began his position with the National Library of Medicine. He was a recipient of the Murray Gottlieb Prize from the Medical Library Association and the Paul Levack Award from Fordham University.


Marian L. Smith, "Documenting Immigrants to America 1882-1954"
  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have records which document the arrival and later naturalization of millions of American immigrants. Ms. Smith will discuss records such as ship passenger lists, land border arrival records, and visa files, and will focus on immigration and naturalization records of a typical late 19th and early 20th century immigrant.

Marian L. Smith is the Senior Historian at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service). She regularly lectures at national and international genealogy conferences on the history and uses of immigration and naturalization records. Her articles appear in the National Archives journal Prologue, the FGS Forum, and other publications. Marian’s research focus primarily involves official immigration agency records held at both USCIS and the National Archives in downtown Washington, D.C.


Members-only workshop
  Suzanne Levy, Librarian, "An Introduction to the Holdings and Facilities of the new Virginia Room"
  JGSGW has arranged for a workshop for members at the Fairfax City Regional Library on Sunday, March 9 from 1 PM to 3 PM. Librarian Suzanne Levy will be our guide and presenter.

The Virginia Room collection has grown from being just Virginia Genealogy to include basic US resources with heavy emphasis on the states Virginians came directly from or went directly to. This would mean PA, NC, WV, OH, DE, MD, KY and TN. We have many New England resources and materials on Chicago and New York City, as well as materials on many other states. We have the CT town records, for instance, genealogical periodicals from a number of states in the midwest, some French Canadian material, the various ships passenger series: Irish, Italian, Russian Empire and German. And of course the materials on Jewish and east European and Sephardic research. There are 16 workstations in this room and the collection includes 20,000 books plus other items, including a rare book collection.

February Sunday, February 3, 2008


Jonina Duker, Boris Feldbylum, Arline Sachs, Barry Shay, "Breaking Through the Brick Walls"
  As a new or experienced researcher you are conducting genealogical research on your family and have learned a great deal about them. One piece of information has led to the discovery of more facts. Now you have come across a piece of information that will greatly expand your knowledge of your family but no matter what sources you have examined the information you are seeking proves elusive. You have hit the proverbial brick wall! At this point, you don’t know where to go or what to do next. It’s time to turn to other genealogists who, hopefully, can put you on the right path or provide the answers. Please come prepared with your “brick wall” questions to ask our panel of experienced genealogical researchers.
January Sunday, January 6, 2008


Members-only workshop
  David Zinner, "Exploring Jewish Traditions Surrounding Dying and Death"
  David Zinner is the founder and Executive Director of Kavod v'Nichum, (Honor and Comfort), which works to restore to Jewish death and bereavement practice, the traditions and values of kavod hamet (honoring the dead) and nichum avelim (comforting the bereaved). For 700 years, the Chevra Kadisha (Holy Society) was the sole provider of Jewish funerals and burials. The Chevra Kadisha cared for their fellow congregant, from their sickness through death, from preparing their body to burying them in the ground. Modern day Chevra Kadisha groups continue this work and also help families handle logistics while offering comfort and support.

Since its inception in 1998, David has edited and managed the web site “
Jewish Funerals, Burial and Mourning,” which is co-sponsored by Kavod v'Nichum and the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington. This site, visited by over 120,000 people a year, is a comprehensive resource containing over 350 pages of information and links to Jewish and other sources on death, funeral practice, tahara, burial, cemeteries, mourning and healing, suicide, organ donation, consumer rights and the death care industry.

This workshop will address Jewish traditions and practices that relate to death and dying and the Jewish communal institutions that can provide assistance. As Vice-President of the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington, David participates in developing citywide contracts with funeral homes and is a member of the Cemetery Committee. David is also on the Maryland Cemetery Advisory Board and will bring us up to date on the issues being discussed.


Paul Shapiro, USHMM, "Opening the Archives of the International Tracing Service"
  All 11 countries overseeing the International Tracing Service (ITS) archive located in Bad Arolsen, Germany, have ratified the agreement that officially opens the massive Holocaust archive. This archive contains more than 100 million images of material relating to the fates of approximately 17.5 million people—both Jews and non-Jews—who perished in the Holocaust or who otherwise fell victim to the Nazi regime. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American repository for the archive, is in the process of receiving a complete digital copy of the archive and is working to make the documentation accessible in January 2008, so that it can begin responding to survivor requests for information. The archive is being transferred in installments, and the Museum expects to have a complete copy of the material by 2010. Mr. Shapiro will discuss the efforts to open the archive, the acquisition of the material, and the role of the Museum in making the information available to survivors and researchers.

Paul Shapiro is Director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Since 1997 he has led the Museum's effort to provide focused leadership to the field of Holocaust Studies in the US and abroad. Prior to this, Mr. Shapiro was involved for over a decade in the development of the Museum's archival collections, undertaking numerous archival research and acquisition missions to Romania, Moldova and Ukraine in particular. Before joining the Museum, he served in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the United States Information Agency and Department of State, where he was responsible for the Fulbright Fellowship Program and other major international exchange programs. Mr. Shapiro holds a BA degree in Government from Harvard University; a Master of International Affairs degree and a Master of Philosophy degree in History from Columbia University. He has been a Fulbright scholar, and IREX scholar, and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Eurasian Studies at The George Washington University.

© 2014, Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, Inc.