Past Programs - 2017

The following programs and workshops were held in 2017; they are shown here so that you may view the range of activities of JGSGW.



Sunday, January 8, 2017
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD - Fanaroff Hall
Workshop: Workshop (members only) (preregistration not required)
Time: 11:00 AM - Noon

As a follow-up to the many thought-provoking questions that surfaced at our December movie and program, we have asked our member and resident expert, Jonina Duker to provide an in-depth dialogue on the subject of the B’nai Anusim. Join us for what promises to be a most enriching workshop.

Throughout Jewish history, communities set up funds to redeem Jews captured by oppressors; money redeemed captives. In our time, learning – specifically genealogical knowledge – has become the means by which many descendants of Jews forcibly converted in Spain and Portugal centuries ago are being redeemed. Many such descendants now call themselves B’nai Anusim, Children of the Forced Ones. These descendants have a phrase, “the blood calls”, to describe how their Jewish souls find their way back to the mainstream of the Jewish people. Topics include the history of the phenomenon; relevant DNA studies; the differing experiences of Portuguese descendants in New England (northeastern United States) and Spanish descendants in the Southwest (United States); and stories of individuals’ journeys back to Jewish identity.

Jonina Duker (Taibel bas Rachel Leah v'Shlomo Yehoshua) presented at many IAJGS and other conferences. She teaches genealogy, basic Judaism, history, literature, liturgy, text in translation, and history. She helped found Kulanu ( which reaches out to lost and dispersed Jewish communities and helped B’nai Anusim research their background. She attended Yad Vashem's Judaic Educators seminar and volunteers for the Names Recovery Project. She wrote JewishGen infofiles, founded its Yiddish Theater and Vaudeville Research group, and co-ordinated the Minsk yizkor book translation project. She contributed to Avotaynu and other publications. Jonina has been an active member of JGSGW since 1988.


"Get them to say YES: Contacting reluctant relatives, making cold calls, and how to use stories, photos, and DNA to enhance your family tree"

Time:   1:00 PM - Maven Table and Schmooze
1:30 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program
Speaker: Mindie Kaplan (Click here for Bio)

The first thing most people think of when interviewing relatives is how many names, dates, or places that person can provide. I turn that idea on its head to get "reluctant" relatives and previously unknown relatives to get excited about being a part of YOUR family tree. This lecture provides a series of concrete techniques for reaching out to relatives, including those who are reluctant to meet with a stranger, and provides examples of research successes to inspire and encourage people to expand their research in new areas. I will be discussing how to locate previously unknown relatives and prepare for meetings that will get people to participate and even want to provide DNA samples. It will also discuss why genealogists should be interested in adding stories, photos, and DNA to their family trees.


Sunday, February 12, 2017
Location:   Beth El Hebrew Congregation, Alexandria
Program:  “Debunking the Three Myths of Jewish Genealogy”
Time:  1:00 PM Schmooze and Mavens Table
1:30 PM Meeting and Program
  Speaker: Irene Hantman (bio)
For generations, three persistent myths have needlessly blocked people from researching their Jewish ancestors:

• No one is left who knows anything about our family.
• All the records were destroyed in the Holocaust.
• Our surname was changed at Ellis Island.

Irene’s light-hearted presentation puts these ideas to rest and illustrates some surprising findings waiting to be discovered. If you are just beginning your research, the talk will reinforce your decision, boost your confidence, and perhaps give you some ideas about the path you are taking. If you have some experience under your belt, you will enjoy this fresh look at how to think about your research. And if you have pondered giving talks to other organizations, consider stealing the template for this presentation.

Workshop:   Beginner's Workshop (members only)
Time: 3:00 - 5:00 PM
  Do you need some help in finding your ancestral home and family? On Feb 12 , there will be a Beginners workshop of 5 experts to help you on your way. The format is arranged for personal contacts in small groups.  

The workshop sessions will cover "Getting Started” - An Overall View, Online Resources, DNA, JGSGW library resources, and Local and National resources.

If not already a member, you may join at any time before Feb 7.

Register as soon as possible. Membership information is available at: 
Registration is limited to 20 and needs to be done in advance. To register via email, click here: Register by Feb 7. There is no charge for this workshop but you must be a member of JGSGW to take advantage of this opportunity.


Sunday, March 5, 2017
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD - Fanaroff Hall
Workshop: Workshop - Remembering and Preserving the Architecture of Lithuanian Synagogues (members only)
Time: 11:00 AM - Noon
Speaker: Aurimas Širvys (click here for bio)

During the Second World War, many of the synagogues of Lithuania and Eastern Europe were destroyed. After the war, the new Soviet regimes typically “re-purposed” surviving synagogue buildings. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been a growing interest in Lithuania in restoring surviving historical buildings, including synagogues, churches, and manor houses. Aurimas Širvys has studied the architecture of such buildings and assisted groups seeking to restore them. He has also researched the architecture of Lithuania’s destroyed synagogues and has created two- and three-dimensional representations of these “lost” synagogues that have been exhibited in Lithuania. In his presentation, Mr. Širvys will discuss what he has discovered in his on-going study the architectural history of synagogues in Lithuania and neighboring countries.
Finding Genealogical Gems in the Historical Record
1:00 PM - Maven Table and Schmooze
1:30 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program
  Speaker: Dr. Caroline Friedman: PhD (click here for bio)

Census data, vital records, and immigration records provide useful information to genealogists. Other types of historical sources can being a historical period to life and make ancestors and their lives (even seemingly uneventful lives) more meaningful to researchers and their families. Newspapers, organizational records, local ephemera, legal and even penal records all reveal details of day-to-day experiences that bring dry facts to life. However, the volume and sometimes inaccessible nature of these sources can be a challenge to researchers. Dr. Friedman will discuss the range of historical sources available, share techniques for finding little known resources, and discuss ways to integrate this information into your research.



Sunday, March 19, 2017
Location:   Bender Jewish Community Center, Rockville, MD

A Place Where Our Family Lived - Genealogy at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw

Time: 2:30 PM
  Speaker: Noam Silberberg of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw, Poland

For over twenty years, the Jewish Genealogy & Family Heritage Center at the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw has been assisting families from all over the world to discover their roots in Poland and offer a new point of view on the family story. During the presentation Mr. Silberberg will give a brief history of the institute and his department’s work, discuss myths and obstacles in genealogical research in Poland and how it may be possible to overcome them.

Open to the public, courtesy of the Heckman Fund. No guest or membership fee required. To donate to the fund, visit our website by clicking here.



Sunday, May 7, 2017        NOTE LOCATION AND TIME CHANGE
Location:   Temple Beth Ami, Rockville
Time: 2:00 PM     High Tea and Treats w/ Maven’s Table
                  MEMBER CONTRIBUTIONS TO HIGH TEA AND TREATS - see Last Name letter below  (Dairy Only)
                            A - H: Cake, cookies, brownies
                            I – R: Finger sandwiches, shmears & crackers
                            S – Z : Chip & dips, nuts, candies

Beverages will be provided by JGSGW
This event will replace the June luncheon we have held previously


“DNA Matching on MyHeritage – Where Genealogy and Genetics Meet”

Time: 2:45 PM
  Speaker: Daniel Horowitz (bio)
  MyHeritage has launched an affordable, easy-to-use DNA home testing kit that can reveal valuable family history information and tell you more about your origins. MyHeritage DNA provides two main features:
• The DNA Matching service enables those who use the MyHeritage DNA test — or who have tested through other services — to enjoy MyHeritage’s exceptional matching capabilities, displaying the possible relationship between you and the other person. You can view your DNA Match tree or profile, and make contact to exchange information and collaborate on your research.
• A detailed ethnicity reports were you can see the percentage of your DNA that comes from different populations around the world displayed in a list or a world map, together with your family events.



Sunday, June 11, 2017
Location:   B'nai Israel, Rockville, MD - Fanaroff Hall


Karen S. Franklin, “Strategies for German Jewish Research”

Time:   11:00 AM

Join us in a workshop in which Karen will share new strategies for German Jewish research – online resources, accessible databases and trees, dna updates, and how to find researchers in Germany in the towns your family came from; also, how to find material on the Leo Baeck Institute’s DigiBaeck online collections, what to do if you don’t know where your family came from, and new plans for the GERSIG web site on JewishGen.   

This is a members-only workshop. No reservation required.



“The Stedman Story: Mystery, Intrigue, Adoption and DNA – Jewish Genealogy Strategies Unravel a Family Mystery”

Time:   1:30 PM

Speaker: Karen S. Franklin (bio)

Five years ago, Karen Franklin was hired to organize the papers of Jon Stedman (1933-2009). Analysis of John’s papers and a description of strategies developed to move forward on the project highlighted the changing nature of family history research. This is a true life story involving mystery, bigamy, adoption and DNA. The secretive life of Jesse Oppenheimer, alias John Stedman (1887-1950) was unraveled using family research techniques that are useful to all genealogists. Though his DNA was tested in 2001, an upgrade in 2013 helped an adopted child find her birth mother, and a child conceived by in-vitro fertilization almost 40 years ago, who is now working to find his birth father. 


© 2016, Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, Inc.