Past Programs - 2009

The following programs and workshops were held in 2009; they are shown here so that you may view the range of activities of JGSGW.

January Sunday, January 25, 2009
Program:   Dr. Edmund C. Tramont, "The Plague and Genetics," and "The Influenza Pandemic of 1917-1918"
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD
Dr.  Edmund C. Tramont will devote much of his talk to recent research which indicates that an unusually large percentage of  Ashkenazi Jewish communities have (and in the past had) genetic protection against the plague.  He will also use part of his time with us to address his previously announced subject of the Influenza Pandemic of 1917 - 1918.  The question and answer period will provide an opportunity to explore both subjects with Dr. Tramont.
In discussing the fact that the plague of the 13th to 17th centuries had less impact on Jewish communities than on others, Dr. Tramont will tell us about new data showing a genetic trait that strongly appears to have protected many European Jews from the plague pandemics of those times.   He will trace how this trait was discovered (from research related to HIV infection), how it works, and how it was recently connected to protection from the plague but found to increase mortality from West Nile virus.  He will also share his thoughts on how this greater resistance to the plague might have influenced Jewish history.
Dr. Tramont, a well known expert on pandemics who was Director of the Division of AIDS at the  National Institutes of Health for many years, is now Associate Director for Special Projects at the  National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH.

February Sunday, February 8, 2009
Program:   Joan Nathan, "The Foods Our Ancestors Ate"
Location:   Adas Israel, Washington, D.C.

We are pleased to announce that Joan Nathan, the widely acclaimed expert on foods and cooking, including Jewish foods, will speak to the JGSGW at our monthly meeting, 1:30 pm on February 8, 2009 at Adas Israel Congregation, 2850 Quebec Street NW, in Washington, D.C.  Her topic will be "The Foods Our Ancestors Ate."

She is the author of ten cookbooks and a regular contributor to The New York Times. Among the many awards she has received for her writing, two of her books, Jewish Cooking in America (in 1994) and The New American Cooking (in 2005) won both the James Beard Award and an IACP/Julia Child Cookbook  Award.    Her other books include Foods of Israel Today, Joan Nathan's Jewish Holiday Cookbook, The Jewish Holiday Baker, The Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen, The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, and The Flavor of Jerusalem. She is currently working on a new cookbook on the foods of the Jews of France.

A native of Providence, RI,  Ms. Nathan’s academic degrees include a master’s degree in French literature from the University of Michigan,  a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University and an honorary degree from the Spertus Institute of Jewish Culture in Chicago.   She has worked for Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem when she lived in Israel for three years.  In 1974, while working for Mayor Abraham Beame of New York City she co-founded the Ninth Avenue Food Festival. 

The mother of three grown children, Ms. Nathan lives in Washington, D.C. and Martha's Vineyard with her husband, attorney Allan Gerson.

Fully detailed information about Ms. Nathan’s accomplishments and her books may be found on her web site at

Attendees are requested to bring a family recipe, preferably one that has come down two or more generations. Recipe should be typed to avoid mistakes in transcription.

March Sunday, March 15, 2009
Workshop:   Jonina Duker, Leader, Beginner's Workshop
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD

Advance Registration is required. No charge for JGSGW members. Non-members wishing to participate in this workshop may join JGSGW up until the day of the workshop and participate if there is space available.

Enrollment is limited to 20.

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 (to members) 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...

Jonina Duker is a well-known Jewish genealogist and educator. This will be a 2-hour session jam-packed with resources, helpful hints and motivation.

Program:   Dr. Louis Blumen, "Jewish Medicine in Medieval Times"
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD
  On March 15, 2009, Dr. Louis Blumen will speak to the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington on Jewish Medicine in Medieval Times.

Dr. Blumen, a retired Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeon, is a graduate of Brown University in Providence, RI. He received his M.D. degree from Tufts University Medical School. He did his residency and further training in Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery in Boston and went on to practice surgery for more than 50 years. In the course of his career Dr. Blumen held professorships at Harvard, Tufts and the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Blumen, a member of the faculty of JSSA's Himmelfarb Mobile University, speaks frequently on this and other topics, including the history of the Sephardic communities of Newport, RI, and New Orleans, LA.

Dr. Blumen is a World War II veteran. He grew up and attended public school and Hebrew school in Newport, RI.

April Sunday, April 12, 2009
Program:   Special Program: Steve Morse
Location:   Tikvat Israel, Rockville, MD
  This double session promises to be twice as interesting. Well-known developer of genealogy database search tools, Steve Morse will provide us with not one but two programs:

1:15 PM: One-Step Webpages: A Hodgepodge of Lesser-Known Gems

This is a sequel to the Potpourri talk (read abstract on Steve's website). There are too many utilities on the One-Step website to be covered in a single talk, so many of them found their way to the cutting room floor when the Potpourri talk was being edited. However several of those are quite useful. This talk describes those gems that you might not otherwise be aware of. They range from problems with genealogical searches to problems with identity theft to problems with DNA.

2:30 PM: From DNA to Genetic Genealogy: Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

The study of genetics that started with Gregor Mendel's pea experiments in 1865 has now entered the genealogy field with Megan Smolenyak's coining of the term "genetealogy" in 2000.  To understand the genealogical aspects requires an understanding of some of the basic concepts.

This talk introduces genes, chromosomes, and DNA, and goes on to show how DNA is inherited. That knowledge of inheritance can be used for finding relatives you didn't know you had, learning about your very distant ancestors and the route they traveled, and determining if you are a Jewish high priest (Kohan),

April Sunday, April 19, 2009
Program:   Constance Potter, "It’s Called Research, not Data Retrieval: Searching for Records Online and Off"
Time:   1:30 PM - Society business, introductions, and guest speaker
Location:   Beth El, Alexandria, VA

Constance Potter, an archivist at the National Archives in Washington, DC, specializes in federal records of genealogical interest. She speaks at national conferences and locally. She is also the contributing editor to the “Genealogy Notes” section of Prologue.

Since Connie started working in reference in 1986, she has noted that technology and access have changed, but the records and researchers have not. With the advent of Ancestry, Footnote, and Heritage Quest, researchers spend more and more time online; people think that if it is not online, it does not exist. This lecture will explain some of NARA’s records that are not online, and how to use online sources to locate those records. 

Connie is not only extremely knowledgeable about the records but she is also a very entertaining speaker. You certainly don’t want to miss this meeting.

May Sunday, May  17, 2009
Workshop:   Discussion with Dr. Mark Ozer about his recently published book, "The Litvak Legacy." This workshop is open to all JGSGW members without charge;
Time:   11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD
Dr. Ozer's book will be available for purchase at the workshop and Dr. Ozer will be available to autograph your copies, whether bought at the workshop or previously.  The workshop and Dr. Ozer's book is of great interest - - not only to the Litvaks among us but to all of us who are interested in learning more about the cultures our forebears created before they emigrated to the United States and how our inherited culture has affected the lives we lead every day.
Dr. Ozer is a descendant of Litvaks and a native of Boston who trained in modern European History as a Harvard undergraduate. He has practiced and taught medicine in Washington, DC, for many years. Since his retirement from a noteworthy career as a professor of Neurology, he has written and lectured extensively on the history of cities throughout the world.  He resolved to write his book on Litvak history when he visited the Ponar forest site of the Nazi murder of tens of thousand of Litvaks.  The resulting book is the product of the extensive research and analysis he has undertaken since that visit to Lithuania.
Dr. Ozer’s thesis is that there is a distinctive Litvak cultural heritage that can be traced through the maintenance of that culture through the several generations and the significant impact it has had on the countries in which the immigrants settled. You will get a better understanding of these roots as he discusses his deeply researched findings published in The Litvak Legacy.

As members of JGSGW know, the Jewish inhabitants of Lita were called ‘Litvaks’ (Litvakes in Yiddish), to distinguish them from non-Jewish Lithuanians as well as from other Jews. In their European home, they formed a distinct culture that differed in its variant of their language of Yiddish as well as the character of their religion. The characteristic Litvak intellectual strand was expressed in the flowering of secular literary and historical studies that partook of the intensity previously devoted to the sacred writings.

The Great Migration from Lita occurred in the period of the latter third of the 19th century and in the 20th century prior to the First World War, but extended through World War II. Even beyond the Holocaust/Shoah, the few survivors continued to bear witness to its memory.

In his book, Dr. Ozer first presents his history of the distinctive characteristics of the culture the Litvaks created in Eastern Europe during the 19th and early 20th century. He then addresses how Litvaks brought their culture with them as they emigrated in large numbers to English speaking countries such as the US, England and South Africa and to Israel.

Our President Jeff Miller and program chair Harris Weinstein will moderate the discussion with Dr. Ozer. Please email your questions and comments in advance of the workshop, and they will undertake to collate the questions and provide them to Dr. Ozer for his consideration prior to the workshop.

Program:   Professor Daniel Schwartz, GWU, "The Ghetto in Jewish History and Memory"
Time:   1:30 PM - Society business, introductions, and guest speaker
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD
  Daniel Schwartz, Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish History in the Judaic Studies Program of George Washington University, will speak to the JGSGW on "The First Secular Jew?  - - Spinoza and the History of an Image." 

Professor Schwartz is an expert on Spinoza - - the famous and heretical 17th Century Jewish philosopher. His talk is taken from his book of the same title, which is under contract with Princeton University Press. His prior works on Spinoza include his Ph. D. thesis at Columbia University, which was entitled "The Spinoza Image in Jewish Culture," a study of the shifting perception of Spinoza in the modern Jewish mind. 

In addition to producing a documentary reader bringing together various responses to Spinoza in modern Jewish thought and literature, Professor Schwartz is presently working on an article on the relationship between Haskalah and Kabbalah and a new study on the ghetto in Jewish history and Jewish memory.

Professor Schwartz's teaching interests include the History of Modern Israel, Jewish Intellectuals and History and Historians. 

He received two master's degrees from Columbia in addition to his doctorate. His summa cum laude undergraduate degree is from Princeton University.

June Sunday, June 7, 2009  
 Annual Luncheon and Volunteer Recognition Meeting
Program:   Dr. Sallyann Sack, Standing on One Foot: "The International Tracing Service of the Red Cross: Strategies for the Genealogist"
Time:   1:30 PM - Society business, introductions, and guest speaker
Location:   Clara Barton, Cabin John, MD
For 60 years the vast store of Holocaust documents housed in the International Tracing Service (ITS) were not available to the public. That changed in November 2007. The first group to take advantage of the new open-door policy was 40 Jewish genealogists who visited the ITS at Bad Arolsen, Germany, in May 2008 and were given full access to vast numbers of records relating to Holocaust victims and survivors. All of these records will ultimately be shared with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and the National Institute of Remembrance (IPN) in Warsaw. The ITS Bad Arolsen contains all of the many records maintained by the Nazis on each person that entered their system, including all the persons who lived in their concentration camps. These records consist of each of the places a person was located, daily entries on their activities, detailed personal information, etc. All of this information will be invaluable to genealogists, among others. Learn more about the kinds of records that exist and how they may be accessed from members of the research group that visited Bad Arolsen.

Sallyann Sack, Ph. D., our guest speaker, is the Founding President of JGSGW. She has made three trips to the ITS and organized the group that visited in May. She is the editor, co-founder and co-owner of Avotaynu (the leading journal for Jewish Genealogy), president of Avotaynu Foundation, a past president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award; chair of the Founding Committee of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy; author or editor of seven major reference books on Jewish genealogy; a recognized pioneer and leader in the world of Jewish genealogy, and a clinical psychologist in private practice.

September Sunday, September 13, 2009
Program:   The Virtual Shtetl Project
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD
1:30 PM - Business Meeting and Announcements
2:00 PM - Program
  • Grzegorz (Greg) Kolacz, Deputy Coordinator, Museum of the History of Polish Jews, The “Virtual Shtetl” Project
  • Robert Socolof, Executive Director, Museum of the History of Polish Jews, North American Council
  • Beata Schulmann, Staff, Museum of the History of Polish Jews, The “Virtual Shtetl” Project

There will be a brief introduction to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews which will open in 2012 on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. This multimedia narrative museum and cultural center will present the history of Polish Jews and the rich civilization they created over the course of almost 1000 years. Initiated by the Jewish Historical Institute Association in Warsaw in 1996, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews will be a unique institution. Not only is it the first and only museum to focus on the history of Polish Jews, but also it is a truly twenty-first century institution in every regard.

Then, the speakers will describe the Virtual Shtetl Portal ( which is devoted to the local history of Jews. On the Portal one can find information pertaining to the past but also to the present; to little towns, but also to large cities. The Portal presents both contemporary and also pre-war Poland (including Eastern Galicia).

For more information on this program and the Virtual Shtetl Project, click here.

October Sunday, October 18, 2009
Workshop:   Philly2009 - Lessons Learned and Discussion Forum
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD
Time:   11:00 AM
  Marlene Bishow will lead a facilitated discussion of all phases of the Philly 2009 conference. Attendees will have ample opportunity to voice their opinions and experiences about their positive and negative aspects of the conference, conference hotel, conference website, et al. We hope that this will be a learning experience for the society, so that we can use these lessons learned in planning our DC2011 Conference.
  For workshop attendees only, a light dairy lunch will be served between the workshop and the program.
Program:   "The Best of Philly 2009"
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD
1:30 PM - Business Meeting and Announcements
2:00 PM - Program
  Six JGSGW members will present brief synopsis of their favorite lecture or workshop at the Philly Conference. More than 40 JGSGW members attended the conference in August, 2009. We will share information about Jewishgen, Ancestry, Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and other meetings and announcements made at the conference. The discussion will surely be lively.

November Sunday, November 15, 2009
Special meeting: Gesher Galicia Regional Meeting; chair Pamela Weisberger, President & Research Coordinator of Gesher Galicia (open to JGSGW members and non-members)
11:00 - 12:15
  Gesher Galicia ("Bridge to Galicia") is the special interest group for researchers who have Jewish roots in this former province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This program will offer a short overview of the history of Galicia and provide an introduction to our SIG's research activities. We'll cover metrical records, newspapers, school and landowner records, and explain where they can be found both online and in US and overseas archives. In the last half hour of the program we will screen the video "The Bad Arolsen Research Experience" which details what on-site research is like at the International Tracing Service in Germany. The film highlights the ITS campus building where some extraordinary Galician community records are housed. Q & A will follow.
  For Gesher Galicia meeting attendees only, a light dairy lunch will be served between the meeting and the program.
Program:   Cadastral Maps & Landowner Records:  Alternate Resources for Genealogical Research
  Note: this meeting is free to non-members.
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD
1:30 PM - Business Meeting and Announcements
2:00 PM - Program
  Speaker: Pamela Weisberger - Program Chair, JGSLA

Cadastral land records and property maps (click on hyperlink to left) are an excellent source of family history information.  Studied together, they can show the exact location where a family lived in a shtetl.  They can tell the story of neighbors or siblings who resided near each other and demonstrate how close a family lived to the synagogue, cemetery, schools, or the market square. Using house numbers gleaned from vital records, a connection can be made between these physical locations and the genealogical data.  Landowner taxation books show the size and value of the properties that Jewish families owned or rented, adding greatly to the history of a family.  These records are invaluable when other metrical records are not available, and in some cases they may be the only documented evidence relating to your ancestors.  In 2007 Gesher Galicia began a project to inventory and obtain copies of this type of record housed in the Lviv (Ukraine) Historical Archive.  This talk will elaborate on this ongoing project, show the new searchable Internet databases with landowner record information, and cover "House Number Projects" to show how maps and landowner records provide a window into the history of the Jews of Galicia.

"Go West, Genealogists!  Preview of the 2010 IAJGS Conference in Los Angeles," by Pamela Weisberger, will take place at the conclusion of the regular meeting.

December Sunday, December 13, 2009
Joint program with the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW)

Professor Anne Rubin, a widely recognized expert on the Civil War, will speak on
Father Abraham and the Children of Israel: Lincoln and American Jews"

(click for her bio)

  Note: this meeting is free to members of JGSGW and JHSGW.
1:30 PM - Business Meeting and Announcements
2:00 PM - Program
  Speaker: Prof. Anne Rubin of the University of Maryland

The Historical Society's important exhibit on the Jews of DC during the Civil War will be on display at Beth El and the meeting will be preceded by guided tours of the exhibit.


This touring exhibit opened at Washington Hebrew earlier this year; on July 20 the exhibit moved to Temple Beth El in Alexandria.


One of the most important events in our nation's history, the Civil War forever altered American life. Washington and Alexandria were sites of intense activity. This new, original exhibition tells stories of Jewish life in Civil-War Washington and across the river in Alexandria.

Mounted as part of national celebrations of Lincoln's bicentennial in 2009, this exhibition includes images from JHSGW collections, supplemented by photographs from the Library of Congress and other local repositories.


Exhibit Tour: From 12:15 PM to 1:30 PM there will be tours of the Jews of DC exhibit. Don't miss this rare opportunity.

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