Tag Archives: IAJGS

Some thoughts on day one of #IAJGS2015

Yesterday was day one of the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Jerusalem. The last time the annual conference was in Jerusalem was 11 year ago, and that was the first genealogy conference I attended. Back then I was less involved in genealogy, although I did volunteer to put together the Souvenir Journal given out to attendees (still available online).

It’s interesting to look back at that journal and notice that there are two letters of approbation at the beginning of the journal, written by then Israeli President Moshe Katsav and then Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski. Lupolianski was, if I recall correctly, the keynote speaker that year as well. What’s interesting about those two Israeli leaders is that both currently sit in jail – Katsav on rape and sexual harassment charges, and Lupolianski on corruption charges. I suppose that should be disheartening, although on the plus side I guess we can be confident that no one is above the law here in Israel.

This year the keynote speaker was Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel (and father of the current Chief Rabbi). I think he’s above reproach, perhaps the conference organizers wanted someone they could be sure wouldn’t be in jail by the next conference here (although interestingly enough, the rabbi that served for 10 years in between Rabbi Lau and his son is currently in jail, on corruption charges).

Rabbi Lau’s story is quite amazing (I highly recommend his autobiography Out of the Depths), being one of the youngest survivors of the Buchenwald concentration camp (I believe he was 8) and ending up in Israel where he rose to be Chief Rabbi. He is a charismatic speaker, and I think well received by everyone there.

Earlier in the day I spoke on the topic of Jewish Names, Red Herrings and Name Changes. I was happily surprised to be talking to a packed room.

Speaking at IAJGS 2015
(Thanks to my friend Jay Solomont for taking this photo)
I hope to publish a summary of my lecture sometime in the future. I made one mistake in my lecture, but I’m glad no one picked up on it…

I also attended several lectures which were excellent. One lecture which I almost missed, but was happy to find at the last minute, was a lecture titled Who Were The European Jewish Refugees in Casablanca During World War II and How Did They Get There? given by Michal Ben Ya’akov. The lecture centered around the work done by Helene Cazes Benatar, a lawyer working in Morocco during WWII, who helped Jewish refugees who flowed into the country from Europe.

Among the thousands of refugees in Morocco during the war was my grandmother, and six other female relatives who fled from France on a banana boat, ending up in Mogador, as the current city of Essaouira, Morocco was known at the time, when it was still a French protectorate. The story of my family’s stay in Morocco has always been something I’ve wanted to investigate further, and I hope to be able to find information on my family in the records Ben Ya’akov discussed in her lecture.

Another interesting lecture was on the topic of prenumeranten. The lecture was given by Yehuda Aharon Horovitz, and he discussed the topic in great detail. In the past, I’ve described prenumeranten as the Kickstarter of the 19th century publishing business. While writers today can crowdfund their books in advance online, the model is actually quite old, although it was much more labor intensive. Back then, a writer might travel from town to town and take advance payments on books, to enable him to have funds to do the work and to print and mail the books out. This was a very popular method for writers of Jewish religious books. In some cases, the author himself wouldn’t travel to collect money, but rather he would hire someone as a middle-man to travel from town to town, collect money, and then bring him the list and the money (after taking a cut obviously). This isn’t so different than what happened in the secular world, where salesmen might travel from town to town selling encyclopedias. Dictionaries were sold in advance and volumes mailed out as they were completed. In the case of the Jewish books, however, the list of pre-purchasers would be printed in the first edition of the book, usually sorted by town. These name lists might sometimes be the only lists of names that exist for a given town at a specific time, and thus can be very useful.

A fellow researcher, whose shares cousins with me, exposed me to prenumeranten a couple of years ago. RYT, as I’ll call him, since I’m not sure he’d want his name online, did some amazing work finding relatives of ours in these prenumeranten. I’ve intended to write an article just about his work at some point, and now seeing this lecture has given me the encouragement to get back into that research. I learned about new resources that I wasn’t aware of, and am hopeful that Horovitz’s goal of getting all prenumeranten lists scanned and indexed, and made searchable online, will come to fruition.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the conference.

2015 IAJGS Int’l Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Jerusalem

topbanner2

The next IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be taking place July 6-10, 2015 in Jerusalem, Israel. It is the 35th conference, the first having been held in 1981 in New York City, and it is the 4th conference to be held in Jerusalem.

The conference will be taking place in the Ramada Jerusalem Hotel, not far from the entrance to the city (the same location as the 2004 conference). Before the conference, there will be a program on Shabbat (starting Friday July 3 and Saturday July 4) for those interested, and a travel day on Sunday (July 5) before the conference starts (on Monday).

The conference website is now up, and they are accepting registrations for those outside of Israel (registration for residents of Israel is coming soon). There is an early-bird discount for those who register up until April 14, 2015.

For those interested in speaking, they are now accepting proposals. You can propose a lecture (45 minutes), workshop (105 minutes in the computer lab), or panel discussion (105 minutes with up to 5 people on a single topic). Proposals must be submitted via the web site. Note that in my experience the system for submitting papers does not work in Safari on a Mac – use Chrome or Firefox instead. You can submit your proposal by going to the Speaker Service Center page on the web site, and filling out the form. Lectures can be in English, Hebrew or French.

The information you need to provide when filling out the form includes:

  • Full name, mailing address, email address, and telephone number of presenter(s)(If a panel proposal, details for each panelist are required)
  • Brief biographical sketch – (up to 50 words)
  • Summary of recent presentation experience (up to 150 words)
  • Title of presentation (up to 15 words)
  • Presentation type (lecture, workshop, or panel)
  • Brief description of the presentation (up to 150 words)
  • Audience skill level (beginner, intermediate, advanced or all)
  • Preferred language of delivery (English, Hebrew, French)

For some reason, it seems you must finish your proposal within about 20 minutes of starting it, or it will log you out, and your submission will be lost. As such I suggest figuring out what you’re going to write for each of the above entries in advance, and just paste each entry in when you open up the form.

Each speaker can submit up to five proposals, and a maximum of three proposals will be accepted per speaker. For more details on speaking, see the Call for Papers on the conference web site.

International Jewish Genealogy Conference in Boston

Once a year the the IAJGS partners with a local Jewish genealogy society to have the International Jewish Genealogy Conference. Last year it was in Paris. The year before it was in Washington, DC (where I spoke about Utilizing Belgian Archives for Jewish Research). This year, in partnership with the JGS of Greater Boston, it will be in my hometown, Boston.


The conference is taking place at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, and will be from August 4-9. This is same place that the conference was held the last time the conference was held in Boston back in 1996. The hotel is in an amazing location for those who have never been to Boston. There are tons of things to do and see within walking distance of the hotel, from the historic district in Boston (Freedom Trail), to the first public park in America (Boston Common), to the shopping district (Newbury Street).

There is a special conference rate at the hotel, available for up to two weeks before the conference in case you want to show up early and tour. To get the conference rate, you can book through the conference web site, until July 11.

For those who have never been to the annual conference before, IAJGS has put together a video on what you can expect:



If you’ve never been to one of the annual conferences, I highly recommend it. You’re sure to learn a lot, meet lots of people, and make connections with people and groups that are researching the same places and families you are researching.

Registration is now open, with an early registration discount available through April 30, 2013. One other date worth mentioning is that all additions to the conference Family Finder must be submitted by July 1, 2013. The Family Finder is a directory of family names and ancestral towns that are being researched by attendees at the conference. The top five names and towns can be displayed on your conference badge, and up to eight names will be put into the Family Finder book that is distributed at the conference.