Past Programs - 2014

The following programs and workshops were held in 2014; they are shown here so that you may view the range of activities of JGSGW.

January Sunday, January 12, 2014 
Special Program: Lecture on INS Board of Special Inquiry Records
Time: 11:00 AM - Noon
Speaker: Rebecca Sharp, Archives Specialist, NARA
Upon arrival in the United States, Immigrant Inspectors detained immigrants who were among the excludable classes, such as likely public charges (LPC), individuals afflicted with contagious diseases, convicts, etc. The detainee then attended a Board of Special Inquiry (BSI) hearing where it was determined whether he or she would be admitted into the U.S. or deported.

The only BSI records that have survived relate to cases that were appealed to Washington, D.C. These records are held by NARA in Washington, D.C. and are part of Entry 9, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Record Group 85). This lecture will examine several Entry 9 files to reveal the information that these often overlooked records provide about immigrants and their family members.

Rebecca Sharp is a Genealogy Archives Specialist at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C. She specializes in Federal records of genealogical interest. She graduated with departmental honors in History from McDaniel College (established as Western Maryland College).
Book Sale! JGSGW Library Overstock Book Sale and Exchange
Time: Noon
  Sometimes we receive donations that are duplicates of books that we already have in our collection. Occasionally, the donation is an update, so we are left with the older, but still excellent resource.

So, the JGSGW Library will have an overstock sale before the January program.
We invite members to bring their overstock genealogy-related books, maps and other items to add to the tables.

There will be freebies and a small donation will be requested for the more desired and valuable items.

Bring a bag and enjoy the browsing and socializing at the JGSGW Library Overstock Book Sale and Exchange.

Refreshments will be served.
The Human Side of a Little-known Music Archive
1:00 PM - Schmooze
1:30 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program
  Speaker: Miriam Isaacs (bio)
In the summer of 1948, the lobby of the Hotel Marseilles, at Broadway and 103rd Street, served as a gathering place for Holocaust survivors only recently off the ship from the Displaced Persons camps of Germany. Most of them were Yiddish speakers, bereft of most of their families and without much in the way of money or English. The lobby was a good place to meet people like themselves and talk. In that lobby, Ben Stonehill (nee Steinberg) set up an informal operation to collect an archive of songs from these survivors.

At the time, wire reels and large microphones were new. Some survivors had never seen a microphone and Stonehill had to explain what it did. He archived over one thousand songs, with voices male and female, young and old. The main spoken language is Yiddish, with most of the songs in Yiddish or Hebrew. Some immigrants from an earlier era were interviewed in English, describing the place of Yiddish song in the lives of Ashkenazi Jews in terms of cultural cohesion and emotional sustenance.

February Sunday, February 9, 2014       *** Two Programs ***
Program #1:  
Holocaust Research for the Genealogist--Past, Present and Future
Program #2:   Resources at the Fairfax City Library
  Note: Free admission for guests at this meeting.
1:00 PM
Speaker #1: Peter Landé
20 years ago, Holocaust researchers had few resources available, and even less on the web. Today, research is much easier. Sources such as JewishGen, Yad Vashem, various online national databases, printed sources containing databases for individual concentration camps and other collections are readily available. However, access to the International Tracing Service collection, the largest source of information, remains difficult unless one physically visits the sites where this material is available. Looking ahead, one can expect easier access and the release of more information on Eastern European material including the tens of thousands of Jews who fled eastward ahead of the Germans.

Peter Landé was born in Berlin of German parents and came to the United States as a child in 1937. His father had been a professor and politician, and a member of the Reichsrat for Prussia. Peter Landé received a BA from Haverford College in 1952 and a MA from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He also studied at Hamburg University on a Fulbright grant. He joined the Foreign Service of the Department of State in 1956, serving in New Zealand, Germany, Japan, India, Canada and Egypt, as well as in senior positions in the Department. He retired in 1988 as Economic Minister in the US Embassy in Cairo.

Since retirement, he has been active in genealogy research, writing and lecturing, with special emphasis on Holocaust records. He has worked as a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. since its opening 20 years ago. In July 2001 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies for work in identifying sources of information on Holocaust victims and survivors.

Speaker #2: Alan Rems

Author and historian Alan Rems will present works from the library’s collection that are especially important for genealogy research and will deepen an understanding of the world our ancestors came from. Items include the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, books about specific Jewish communities, and Holocaust-related works. The presentation will be followed by a tour of the Virginia Room.

March Sunday, March 9, 2014
Polish Jewry Through the Eyes of One Family
1:00 PM - Schmooze
1:30 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program
  Speaker: Gary Schiff (bio)
Dr. Gary Schiff, author of In Search of Polin: Chasing Jewish Ghosts in Today’s Polin, will present a unique verbal and visual perspective on the thousand-year history of Polish Jewry. While outlining the broad sweep of what was for many centuries the largest Jewish community in the world in words and pictures on screen, Dr. Schiff will also zero in on the genealogy of his family in Poland, which he has traced back to the 1700’s. He has found that by any measure--names, family size, occupations, locations, religious and political affiliations, etc.--they represented an accurate barometer of what was going on with the millions of Polish Jews at any given time. Dr. Schiff will also take us to all of Poland’s main cities and some of its shtetls, where in 1939 Poland’s 3½ million Jews, who constituted 10 percent of Poland’s overall population, were often between 1/3 and 2/3 of the residents. The book, published in 2012 by Peter Lang Publishing, a major international academic publisher, is based on Dr. Schiff’s visit to Poland, and on years of historical and genealogical research. Autographed copies will be available for purchase at a preferred price after the talk.

April Sunday, April 6, 2014         *** Program  plus Workshop ***
GenealogyIndexer Search Engine
1:00 PM - Schmooze
1:30 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program
  Speaker: Logan Kleinwaks is a free website offering full-text search of more than 400,000 pages of historical directories (business, address, telephone), yizkor books, Polish and Russian military documents, community and personal histories, Galician secondary school reports, and more. Containing millions of personal names – often with places of residence, street addresses, and occupations, and sometimes with vital dates or patronymics – this huge and growing collection is mostly comprised of data not searchable elsewhere. This talk will focus on recently added sources, new ways to search, and highlights from the past. Recipient of the IAJGS 2012 Award for Outstanding Contribution to Jewish Genealogy via the Internet, Print or Electronic Product.

Logan Joseph Kleinwaks is the creator of free genealogy websites including, a full-text search engine of historical directories and other sources, and, a tool for reuniting families separated by the Shoah through Page of Testimony research. His broader genealogical interests include the photographic documentation of Jewish cemeteries, improving Internet access to genealogical information, and privacy. A hobbyist genealogist living in Reston, he has a research background in physics and started the literacy charity Book Wish Foundation (, which aids refugees from the genocide in Darfur.
Workshop: Beginner's Workshop
Time: 3:00 - 5:00 PM
  If you are new to Jewish genealogy or looking for some fresh ideas and new sources or how to approach a "brick wall," then register for our Beginner's Workshop. The workshop is a members-only benefit. Attendees will receive a copy of the JGSGW publication "Jump-Start Your Jewish Genealogy Research: A Beginner's Guide." The Workshop will include an introduction to Jewish Genealogy, information about special member-only access to our JGSGW Library and resources available at the library, an invitation to use the Jack Klein Memorial Library, local and national resources for research, the internet and online resources, and how you can use DNA testing as part of your research toolkit.

Participation in the workshop limited to 20. This is a members-only event. Send registration request to

May Sunday, May 4, 2014        *** Joint Program with JCCGW ***
Reception and Book Talk / Signing with David Laskin
3:00 PM - Reception  *** JGSGW Members Only ***
4:00 PM - Book Talk and Signing (open to public)  *** see flyer here ***

The JCC of Greater Washington and the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington present a Book Talk and Signing with David Laskin, author of The Family.

Free of charge.

For advanced book sales, email:

To register, email:

May Sunday, May 18, 2014        *** Two Programs ***
Program #1: The Immigrant Saga: A Memoir of the Lower East Side & Early Jewish American Writers
Program #2:  
Documentary film “Stories from the Syracuse Jewish Community”
1:00 PM - Schmooze
1:30 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program
  Speaker #1: Professor Sanford Sternlicht, Ph.D.   *** see poster here ***


The story of the massive Jewish emigration to America from Eastern Europe (1882-1924) is one of America's greatest success stories. And it was the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the traditional reception area of NYC from the great Irish Famine (1845-1849) until today, that was their first American home.

The Lower East Side was (and is) a magical place teeming with people. Even in my childhood there were African Americans, Poles, Ukrainians, and Irish living in the predominantly Jewish area, and of course, just next door was and is China Town and Little Italy.

What did the Jewish Immigrants do for a living? What was religious and cultural life like? What did they eat, read, see for entertainment, and what games did the children play in an area that had a population density as great as Calcutta.

Of particular interest is how and why did many Jewish writers come to write in English rather than in Yiddish, their mother tongue? These writers, such as Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska, Marya Zaturenska, Michael Gold, and Henry Roth broke new ground and made the way for the next generation, the great generation of Jewish American
writers: Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, and others.

Dr. Sternlicht will also be speaking on Monday, May 19, 2014 at noon at the Library of Congress, African & Middle Eastern Reading Room, 101 Independence Ave. SE, Washington, District of Columbia 20540.
The Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington and The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington are sponsoring Dr. Sternlicht’s lecture at the Library of Congress in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month.

Sanford Sternlicht is Emeritus Professor of English at Syracuse University. He has a B.S. from SUNY: Oswego; M.A. (with distinction) from Colgate University, and  Ph.D. from Syracuse University. He has been Leverhulme Visiting Professor of English at the University of York, England and a Fulbright Senior Visiting Professor of English at the University of Pecs, Hungary. He has lectured nationally for the English Speaking Union of North America. Sternlicht has been a New York Council for the Humanities Speaker in the Humanities since 2008. A former United States Naval officer, Sternlicht has published 4 books on Naval History including: Uriah Philips Levy: The Blue Star Commodore.


Speaker #2: Robin Meltzer

What do you do if there are few or no genealogic resources for your hometown? Create new ones. Cousins Linda Epstein, a certified archivist, and Robin Meltzer, an attorney, realized that their
genealogic research required information not held by libraries or archives, but perhaps kept by their grandparents’ friends and neighbors. To uncover these items, they joined together in December 2011 to found the Facebook group “Jewish Community of the 15th Ward, Syracuse, New York.” Now at over 500 members, group participants have contributed thousands of images, including family photos, letters, scrapbooks, headstone photos, vital records and business ephemera from the 1870s onward. This fully searchable database has solved many dozens of family mysteries and brought about several family reunions. Inspired by these discoveries, group member and producer Jay Lurie began filming a documentary on Jewish Syracuse history in May 2011. Robin joined the project as associate producer. The completed film will be broadcast on public television in Central New York and shown at genealogy and Jewish heritage events. Also see program on May 22 at the Library of Congress, below. This May 18 presentation is 80% about crowdsourcing, and 20% movie; the May 22 presentation will be just the reverse - primarily movie.

Robin Meltzer is JGSGW Vice President of Communications. As an attorney and genealogist, Robin has 30 years of research experience. Robin has also written and co-written several articles on Jewish genealogy and local history for the Jewish Observer of Central New York and Mishpacha, the JGSGW newsletter.

May 22: Thursday, May 22, 2014
Program: "Stories from the Syracuse Jewish Community”  (Jay Lurie Productions)
Location: Library of Congress, James Madison Memorial Building, corner of 2nd Street and Independence Avenue SE, third floor, Mary Pickford Theater 
Time: 12:00 PM
  “Stories from the Syracuse Jewish Community” presents the history of Jewish life in central New York, from German Jewish merchants who founded businesses on the Erie Canal, to Russian immigrants who built a vibrant neighborhood in Syracuse’s 15th Ward. Photographs and archival film footage bring to light Jewish Syracusans from shoemakers to the Shubert brothers. Residents recall the their childhood synagogues, YMHA basketball rivalries, the upheavals of World War II and the dislocation of urban renewal. Through the many changes of the last century, families and neighbors maintained strong connections, laying a solid foundation for the community’s future. The presentation is sponsored by the Library of Congress in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month. Associate producer Robin Meltzer, JGSGW VP for Communications, will give a brief introduction to the documentary.

June Sunday, June 8, 2014
Membership Appreciation Luncheon      *** Members Only - no Guests ***
Noon - Meeting and Luncheon
1:00 PM - Program
  Speaker: Seth Kibel in Concert (play short excerpt here)

Enjoy a toe-tapping program of klezmer music interwoven with an engaging narrative on the history of this unique musical form and its impact on Jewish culture. Seth will be accompanied by pianist Sean Lane.

Seth Kibel is one of the Mid-Atlantic's premier woodwind specialists, working with some of the best bands in jazz, swing, and more. Wowing audiences on saxophone, clarinet, and flute, Seth has made a name for himself in the Washington/Baltimore region, and beyond. He is the featured performer with The Alexandria Kleztet, Bay Jazz Project, Music Pilgrim Trio, The Natty Beaux, and more. Winner of 24 Washington Area Music Awards (Wammies), including "Best World Music Instrumentalist" (2003-11) and "Best Jazz Instrumentalist" (2005, 2007-8, 2011-12). For more information, visit

September Sunday, September 14, 2014
DNA and Genealogy
1:00 PM - Schmooze
1:30 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program
  Speaker: Jay Sage
With the incredible drop in the cost of DNA sequencing, DNA testing is now affordable for individuals. Mr. Sage will discuss the role that DNA testing can play in genealogical research. The basics of human genetics will clarify what can and cannot be learned from DNA testing. The talk covers how the testing is done, how much it costs, and how to interpret the reported results.

Jay Sage served as co-president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston (JGSGB) from 2000 to 2003 and is currently co-editor of the Society’s journal, Mass-Pocha. Professionally, Sage worked as a research physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


October Sunday, October 19, 2014 
Genealogy Resources in the Library of Congress
Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum, 701 3rd Street, Washington, D.C.
1:00 PM - Schmooze
1:30 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program
Speakers: Susan Garfinkel (bio), Anne Toohey (bio)
Discover world class genealogy resources in your own backyard! This program features presentations from representatives of the Library of Congress from the Genealogy & Local History section. Each speaker will highlight many resources of interest to genealogists and how the Library’s unique collections can further family history research.
Finding Jewish Ancestors and their Stories
Susan Garfinkel and Anne Toohey, Library of Congress

Many ancestors—immigrants, women, minorities, and others—do not have compiled biographies. While their presence is duly noted in public records such as the census, the richness of their lives can seem lost to history. Yet, when the dry “facts” of records are placed in context with a broad variety of social and cultural artifacts, a fuller story soon emerges. Available sources of evidence run the gamut from newspapers, travelogues, letters, diaries, printed texts and ephemera; to photographs, moving images, sound recordings, and maps; to three-dimensional objects. Anne Toohey of the Local History and Genealogy Section and Susan Garfinkel of the Digital Reference Section will discuss resources and strategies for reconstructing the lift stories of our ancestors using materials available on site at the Library of Congress and digitized on its website, with special attention to the historical context that enriches Jewish genealogical research.

November Sunday, November 16, 2014
Beginner's Workshop
Time:    10:00 AM to noon.

The workshop will start with an intro to Jewish genealogy in general, beginning with basic guidelines and strategies . Then the participants will break into small groups with 4 different "experts" for  15 minute sessions with each. Everyone will have a chance to  ask questions and take notes. The four different sessions will be on DNA, Online Resources, Local and National Resources and info on the holdings of the JGSGW library, which is at B'nai Israel, and how to use them. Attendees will be given a copy of the JGSGW publication “Jump-Start Your Jewish Genealogy Research: A Beginner’s Guide.” 

The workshop is free for members of JGSGW;  anyone who joins the Society in advance may be part of the group. The workshop will be limited to 20 enrollees.  To register, please send an email to

A light lunch will be available between the workshop and the afternoon JGSGW meeting. 


A raffle will be held for participants in the workshop. Two lucky names will be drawn. The prizes are (1) copy of Family Tree Maker 2014 for PC and (1) copy of Family Tree Maker Mac 3.


Two Programs:
  1. The Name Remains the Same: Adventures in Finding Sid Caesar's Grandmother
  2. Researching the Man with Many Names
12:30 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program (note start time)
  Speakers: Robin Meltzer (bio), Marlene Bishow (bio)
Robin: When Sid Caesar, the architect of television’s Golden Age, passed away in February 2014, hundreds of press reports repeated the myth that the family name had been “changed at Ellis Island” on their arrival from Austria. Of course, no one’s name was changed at Ellis Island (or Castle Garden). But careful research proved that the family’s surname remained unchanged from the time they lived in Galicia through their immigration to the United States. This presentation will explain the search techniques used to find the embarkation list and passenger manifest for Sid Caesar’s grandmother and great-uncle, and how attendees can apply these methodologies to their own research.
Marlene: For 42 years, Grandpa Jack was an important part of my life. While I loved and admired the man, it was not until more than a dozen years after his death that I uncovered more of his story. Using skills that I learned as a genealogist, I developed a fuller and richer understanding of this man of many names, whose life had a profound influence on me. In this presentation, I will tell his story with emphasis on the sources and resources that I used.

December 2 Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Jewish Genealogical Research Resources at the Library of Congress
Library of Congress, Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. SE, Room LM B01, Washington, DC
10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
  Leader: Library of Congress personnel
  Our day of learning begins at the Geography & Map Division’s Reading Room with the Sanborn Maps and related collections. Beginning in 1867, the Sanborn Map Company published detailed maps showing individual buildings and lots in approximately 12,000 cities and towns in the United States. Attendees will learn research techniques for using maps to corroborate and enhance family histories.

After a lunch break, we will visit the Hebraic Section of the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division where we will meet staff specialists in Jewish history and culture. We will view rare Jewish historical materials in a variety of Hebraic languages from around the world. Materials with a distinct family focus include haggadahs and children’s books. Next, we will tour the Main Reading Room and the Local History & Genealogy collection. There will be a presentation on usiing the electronic resources, and a chance to peruse historical materials of genealogic interest, including periodicals, yearbooks, and synagogue histories.

The workshop is FREE to JGSGW members but is limited to 25 enrollees.  Nonmembers may join JGSGW in advance of the workshop (if space is available).  To register, please send an e-mail to

December 7 Sunday, December 7, 2014
Sharing your family stories with the next generation – Tips from a Jewish Storyteller
1:00 PM - Schmooze
1:30 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program
  Speaker: Robert Rovinsky (bio)
The work of gathering and assembling family histories is not complete until the material is passed along to the next generation. In this talk, Storyteller Bob Rovinsky will share some of his work in transforming family narrative into compelling stories. When can we elaborate, leave out, or stick to the facts? How can we make the past meaningful to the present generation of listeners? Bob will illustrate his talk with stories from his and others families.

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