Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bring It Home

Today was Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in Israel. While there are many ways to commemorate the Holocaust, and those family members we lost, I wanted to bring to people’s attention a very interesting attempt at remembering those who were lost.

Menorah rescued from Budapest flea market, now being used in Israel.

We know the Nazis stole an incredible amount of artwork from Jewish families during the Holocaust, from valuable paintings, to even Judaica. While the Nazis were known to steal expensive Judaica such as gold menorahs or silver candlesticks, what happened to the everyday ritual items that most Jewish families used? Certainly the Nazis didn’t bother to collect cheap Judaica and send it by train somewhere – so where did it go?

Kiddush cup rescued from flea market.

Some of the Judaica might have been taken with Jews when being sent by trains to death camps, some may have been sold cheaply in an attempt to raise some money before fleeing, but most of it was likely left behind in their homes. What happened to the Judaica left behind? Either it was looted following the mass deportations, or the people who moved into the homes left behind by the Jews just took it when they moved in. Maybe they sold it, maybe they stuck it in a box and stuck it in the attic, maybe they just threw it in the garbage. No one knows exactly what happened to all of that Judaica, but we do know that there are likely millions of such ritual objects from candlesticks to menorahs to spice boxes to seder plates that once existed and many of them may still exist.

Which brings me to Bill Frankel. On a trip to to Budapest, he stopped by the very large Esceri flea market in that city. While wandering around looking at the various wares for sale, he started noticing things like kiddush cups, menorahs, Torah yads, spice boxes, etc. Hundreds of them. When he would show interest in a Jewish piece, the dealers would inevitably pull ut a box from under their table with more Jewish objects. The supply was endless.

A strange mixture of items for sale in the Esceri flea market.

On the trip Bill Frankel bought several objects, but determined that more of these Jewish ritual objects needed to ‘come home’. Moreover, he didn’t want these objects to end up in museums or on display somewhere in some exhibit – he wanted them to be used again by Jewish families. With this idea he founded Bring It Home, a charity with exactly that goal.

Bring It Home was founded to facilitate finding these items, purchasing or otherwise acquiring Jewish ritual objects in Europe, distributing them to new Jewish homes, and creating an educational experience for those who get involved in the process.

Bring It Home is brand new, and are still putting together their marketing materials, organizing their first buying trip, etc., and need funds to get off the ground. To that end, the charity has started a fundraising campaign through crowdfunding site indiegogo. They’re looking to raise $10,000, and they have two weeks left in the campaign. To see the current status, go to the campaign website, or check the widget below (and then go to the web site).

There are many ways to memorialize those killed in the Holocaust, but I think this is one of the more interesting and personal ways that one can commemorate those killed – by facilitating the return of these lost ritual objects, and putting them back into use by Jewish families worldwide.

Wacky Wednesday: Fire Extinguisher Hand Grenades

Many bloggers use the Geneabloggers Daily Blogging Prompts to help them with ideas for what to post on a given day. There’s Black Sheep Sunday, Maritime Monday, Tombstone Tuesday, etc.

This, however, isn’t an official blogging prompt – I’m making it up right now. I’m calling this Wacky Wednesday because I’m posting something that is wacky, and not actually genealogy related, but something I discovered while researching in the NY City Archives last year. If you find something wacky while researching your family, feel free to post it as Wacky Wednesday as well.


I was researching my gg-grandfather who lived in New York City at the turn of the last century. In the city archives they have city directories which are unfortunately falling apart. I hope other copies of these directories exist somewhere, because the copies in the NY City Archives are not particularly good copies. In any case, while looking up my gg-grandfather, I came across the following advertisement in the 1890 NY City Directory for The Hayward Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher:



In case you think this was some kind of random ad, apparently fire extinguisher hand grenades were fairly common back then and many companies manufactured them. The grenades were actually glass bottles filled with salt water (and later toxic chemicals) that you would throw towards the base of a fire, breaking the glass, and allowing the liquid to hopefully put out the fire. 

A quick look on eBay shows several vintage glass fire extinguisher grenades for sale, for a few hundred dollars each. One collector is selling a Hayward Hand Grenade made from cobalt blue glass:

Cobalt Blue Hayward Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher  (eBay)
The same collector has many other glass grenades in his collection:

More glass fire extinguisher hand grenades (eBay)
A glass collector named Ferdinand Meyer has written up a good summary of the background of these interesting artifacts from a glass collector’s point of view – with a collection of photos of many of the grenades from different companies (including Hayward). One photo he displays is from another site that sells antique bottles, and shows a yellow glass bottle that largely matches the image in the advertisement:

Yellow Hayward Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher (GreatAntiqueBottles.com)
That particular bottle is for sale for $390.

So that’s the wacky thing I found while researching my family in the NY City Archives. What wacky things have you found when you were looking for information on your family?

Linda Chavez Discovers Her Converso Roots

For those interested in genealogy, the past few years has been great for a number of reasons. The large genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org have grown by leaps and bounds. Ancestry.com just recently announced passing 10 Billion records on their site. FamilySearch volunteers index millions of new names every month, in many languages and from many countries across the globe. Many smaller niche sites have also popped up, and the Internet as a whole as connected people across the globe in way never before possible.

The 1940 Census, released less than two months ago is now over 40% indexed and whereas earlier censuses took years to complete and were usually available first on for-pay sites, the 1940 Census will be finished in a few short months and will be available for free from the start. Sites working on the 1940 census, as mentioned in my earlier post on the subject, including the 1940 Census Community Project, FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com.

In the US, there have been three seasons of the genealogy-focused TV show Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC, and PBS also has a series called Finding Your Roots (with Henry Louis Gates Jr.). In the UK Who Do You Think You Are? is already in its eigth series, and the show has other versions around the globe, including in Israel (Mi Ata Hoshev She’ata).


Linda Chavez

Last night an episode of Finding Your Roots aired featuring Linda Chavez. Chavez is probably most famous as almost being the first Hispanic woman to serve as US Labor Secretary under George W. Bush, before she withdrew her nomination. More recently she’s a syndicated columnist and the Chairman of Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank that deals with issues of race and ethnicity in the public arena.

Linda Chavez’s family has lived in the New Mexico area for hundreds of years, and was always Catholic as far as she knew. A simple question she asked about a funny habit her grandmother had where she turned a statue towards the wall led her to discovering her family included conversos, or Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism in 15th and 16th century Spain. Many conversos fled to the new world, ending up in Mexico and the nearby US states, including New Mexico. Albuquerque, the capital of New Mexico, even has a page on the city’s web site explaining conversos and their history in the city.

There is even evidence that Chistopher Columbus himself, who sailed on behalf of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, the same monarchs that forced Jews to convert, and in the same year that the inquisition began, was from a Jewish family that secretly converted. See this CNN article, Was Christopher Columbus secretly a Jew?, written by Charles Garcia.

The topic of conversos living in the American Southwest was also covered in detail in Jeff Wheelright’s recent book The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA. The book discusses, among other topics, how families in isolated communities in Colorado and New Mexico discovered their likely Jewish ancestry through the inheritance of a cancer gene that is most common among Jews.

As I’ve been writing this post, the full show was just posted on PBS’ website, and I’ve embedded it below if you’re interested in watching the show.



In addition, for those interested, Linda Chavez also wrote about her experience in researching her family history as part of the show in a Boston Herald article titled Nourishing our ‘Roots’.