Monthly Archives: September 2011

Volunteer Opportunity at the JDC

Back in May, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (known as the JDC, or simply the “Joint”) launched an online archive web site called Our Shared Legacy which contained scanned documents from the JDC archives with over 500,000 names. Those documents included lists and cards that showed how the JDC helped Jewish refugees during and after the Holocaust to immigrate to various countries around the world (in addition to other relief efforts, including before WWII). See my article from the launch in May for more information on the online archive itself.

Since May the JDC has continued to scan and index more files from their physical archives and add them to the archive web site. In order to assist in getting these records up quicker, the JDC is looking for volunteer indexers who can contribute a day or half-day per week in time, in the JDC offices in either New York City or Jerusalem, to help with the indexing effort.

This is a really great opportunity if you’d like to help make these genealogically significant records available online. The JDC has really created a unique resource, going far beyond what most similar organizations have provided online. It is particularly impressive that they have made all of the high-resolution images available to download on their web site. If you live in or near New York City or Jerusalem and you’d like to help make these records available to people online, this is a great way to give back to the genealogical community and the Jewish community as a whole.

The full request for volunteers follows. Contact Naomi Barth at the e-mail address below if you’re interested in volunteering. Let her know you heard about it here.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is seeking Indexing Project Volunteers for an exciting opportunity to help with a forward- thinking archive endeavor to index historic lists. The volunteer will have the opportunity to engage with primary source material regarding The Joint’s work since 1914.

This project is perfect for those with an interest in genealogy, Jewish or general history, transnational migration, the non-profit sector, library science or archival work.

Position Requires:
• Interest in history and the treasures of the JDC archives
• Working as a reliable team player
• General computer skills
• Foreign language skills helpful but not necessary

A full day or half day per-week time commitment is required. Volunteer work must be completed on site at JDC’s NY or Jerusalem offices. All training and supervision will be provided.

Please send inquiries to:
Naomi.Barth@jdcny.org
Indexing Project Coordinator

Please enter “JDC Archives Indexing Project Volunteer” in the subject line.

More on Landsmanshaftn

A few weeks ago I wrote about Landsmanshaftn, the mutual-aid societies that Jewish immigrants around the turn of the century set up with members of their original communities overseas, and their role in securing cemetery sections for their members.

I mentioned in the article that I had asked the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) if they could send me the articles of incorporation for the:

Independent First Odessa Sick & Benevolent Association

Shortly after I wrote that article, I received a response from the AJHS with the articles of incorporation for the:

First Independent Benevolent Society of the City of Odessa

Now those names are very similar, but not exactly the same. Indeed both of those names show up in the list of Articles of Incorporation that were microfilmed by the AJHS. The following is a list of 20 different Landsmanshaftn that were connected to Odessa in the AJHS list:

1 First Odessa Aid Society
2 Erster Odessa Unterstuetzungs Verein
3 Independent First Odessa Sick Benevolent Association
4 Erster Independent Odessar Unterstuzung Verein
5 First Independent Benevolent Society of the City of Odessa
6 The First Independent Congregation of Odessa
7 Congregation Sarei Tfiloh Anshei Odessa
8 Odessa Realty Company
9 Odessaer Mutual Aid Association
10 Odessar Relief Fund Association
11 Odessa Friends Association
12 United Odesser Benevolent Association
13 Young Men of Odessa
14 Odesser Young Friends
15 Progressive Odesser Ladies Sick and Benevolent Association
16 Independent Progressive Ladies of Odessa Sick and Benevolent Association
17 Jacob Moogerfeld Progressive Ladies of Odessa Sick and Benevolent Association
18 Odessa Organization
19 First Odesser Ladies Aid Society
20 Bessarabia and Odessa Relief Association

You’ll note that the 3rd and 5th organizations in the list are the one I requested and the one I was sent. At first I thought it was a simple mistake. Both files were in the same box according to the list online, and I figured it was just that the archivist grabbed the wrong file. The truth was a bit more complex. It was the wrong file, but it was the correct organization. The reason this is possible is that the file I was not sent originally was simply a change-of-name document for the organization. The original articles of incorporation was filed in 1891 under the name:

Independent First Odessa Sick & Benevolent Association

and in 1931 that organization’s name was changed to:

First Independent Benevolent Society of the City of Odessa

Name Change Document from 1931

The cemetery section and its grand entrance was obviously set up before the name change in 1931. In the original document from 1891, it lists the directors of the organization at the time of incorporation:

Directors of the Independent First Odessa Sick & Benevolent Assoc. in 1891

That shows (as best I can interpret):


David Silberman President
Samuel Kreiman Vice President
Solomon Rosenstein First(?) Secretary
Abraham Mandel Recording Secretary
Morris Belphord Treasurer
Abraham Frank Trustee
Harris Goldeman Trustee
Isidor Chertok Trustee
Leon Perless Marshall



Interestingly those names don’t correspond to the names on the arch at the entrance to the cemetery section, so it would seem the leaders of the Landsmanshaft were different by the time the cemetery section was dedicated. In this document the addresses of the directors were not listed, but some of these documents (such as the 1902 incorporation document I received earlier for a different landsmanshaft) contain the address and signature of each director. It’s possible the address requirement came later than 1891 (and before 1902).

One of the more important points to notice is how many Landsmanshaftn are in the AJHS list just for Odessa. There are 20 organizations, and those are just Landsmanshaftn which were incorporated in New York City. Of course Odessa is a large city that had a large Jewish population before WWII, but it gives you an idea of how many possible routes you can pursue to find out about immigrants from your ancestral town (which may provide you information on your ancestor from that town, or at least shed light on their experiences when they arrived in their new country) that are not the normal vital records, newspapers, etc. routes.

Also, if you know where you ancestor was from, but not where they were buried, seeking out a Landsmanshaft organization from their hometown and figuring out where they owned cemetery sections may help you find your ancestor’s grave location.

No More Shtetls

JewishGen has changed the name of two of its major site features, in both cases removing the word Shtetl, although for slightly different reasons.

JewishGen Gazetteer

First, they have changed the name of the JewishGen ShtetlSeeker, their large database of place names (as opposed to the smaller more focused JewishGen Communities Database), to the JewishGen Gazetteer.

JewishGen Gazetteer

This change reflect the fact that the database covers much more than Shtetls, which are generally considered small towns or villages with large Jewish populations. The Gazetteer contains 1.8 million place names (compared to about 6,000 in the Communities database). A gazetteer is a geographical index or dictionary, and more properly reflects the fact that the database covers all the cities, towns, administrative districts, etc. as well as mountains, rivers, and other geographical landmarks, in the areas covered by the database.

The new JewishGen Gazetteer also covers more places, including the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland), Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, Kyrgyzstan and Yemen.

Lastly the Gazetteer also gains some new functionality, including search using the more advanced Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching (in addition to exact, starts with, contains and Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex searches). names shown in non-Latin characters, and names are now listed in the order of relevance.

JewishGen KehilaLinks

Second, JewishGen has changed the name of ShtetLinks to KehilaLinks.

JewishGen KehillaLinks

While the site name has changed, it will take time to propagate the changed name throughout all the pages that make up KehilaLinks (since they are created by many different people). The name change reflects two issues, that the database contains larger cities which are not traditionally considered Shtetls (a similar reason to the change of the ShtetlSeeker site) and that in countries outside of Europe, particularly in Sephardi communities and even towns in North America or Israel, the term Shtetl was not used. Thus, the name was switched from Shtetl to Kehila, the Hebrew word for community (which can apply to Jewish communities all over the world).

If you’re not familiar with one or both of these features of JewishGen, I recommend checking them out thoroughly. They are both immensely useful for genealogy, particularly Jewish genealogy. I wrote about both of these features previously (under their former names) in my article Jewish Genealogy Basics: Ancestral Town (Shtetl) Information. Give it a read to find out more about these JewishGen features and how to use them.