Researching Jewish Genealogy

This summer David B. Levy, Chief Librarian LCW, published a 10 volume set which was featured at the UMCP alumni spotlight. Volume 7 of this set is in the area of Jewish genealogical research. In part, Volume 7 brings to centerstage a recuperation of Jewish Women’s Eastern European history which was the subject of a radio interview hosted by Heidi Rabininowitz at the Tree of Life podcast interview aired on April 27th and titled, “Strategies and Methods for Researching Jewish Genealogy.” David was scheduled to give a lecture on Volume 7 at Stern College on March 24th, which was postponed due to the pandemic, so The Tree of Life offered a special series on authors and researchers whose speaking gigs were disrupted. The interview testifies to a number of remarkable Jewish women who exemplified great sacrifice, courage, resilience, devotion in transmitting Jewish traditions, and beacons of inspiration to all Jews and all peoples for their remarkable accomplishments in the spiritual, ethical, intellectual, and cultural realms.  Volume 7 describes some of the methods and strategies of uncovering the histories of members of David’s family in Eastern Europe, back about 18 generations, and place this account in its historical context. As well as revealing an elite rabbinic ancestry, the study as noted briefly in the interview brings to life matriarchal histories.

Volume 7 represents about 30 years of research by David, and some appeared in previous publications, such as an AJL Proceedings study on research scholar librarians featuring David’s relative Dr. Vilsker, Judaica librarian at the Saltykov library in St. Petersberg. The seven attachments of handouts on this AJL link document the reception history of Vilsker’s discoveries, including bringing to light unknown poems of Rabbi Yehudah HaLevy, in the Israeli scholarly press (Keriyat Sefer) and popular newspapers, discoveries that literally rocked all economic and social facets of Israeli culture and society. It is peppered with primary sources including interviews with family in Israel, unique photos, genealogical trees, letters (iggerot), Hespadim (eulogies), Haskamot (rabbinic endorsement of Hebrew texts published by rabbinic scholars in the family), pinkasim (synagogue records), maps, the historical Jewish press, current Israeli newspapers, technos prayers (original prayers in Yiddish), kvitlekh (prayers inserted in the Western wall), memoirs, diaries, public records, oral histories, original poems by family members, statistical and demographic studies, blog postings, Facebook and Twitter posts. Volume 7 draws on research in languages including Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, German, French, etc.

Touro Libraries research guides include a Jewish Archival Resources site that provides many useful links, helpful for genealogical research. The AJL NYMA powerpoint presented by librarian Amanda Siegel of NYPL is shared on google drive, and is also a great resource.

Genealogical resources from NYPL

NYPL offers an array of rich resources for genealogical research. Anyone who “lives, works, attends school or pays property taxes in New York State” can get a free library card, and during the pandemic can do so completely online (click here for details).

For a light introduction and discussion of genealogy from home, listen to this radio interview.

Articles and Databases in Genealogy (most of these are available from home with a Library card)

Jewish Genealogy: A Quick Online Guide (same for these; most are free websites)

Holocaust Research, Education, and Remembrance Online: Genealogy

Featured image source: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-a959-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

This article was contributed by David B. Levy, Chief Librarian at the Lander College for Women

 

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