How to Raise Funds for a
JewishGen Yizkor Book Sponsored Fundraising Project

by Jan Meisels Allen, JewishGen Yizkor Book Coordinator
for Sochaczew, Poland and Stawiski, Poland Yizkor Books

One of most difficult aspects of getting a Yizkor Book translated is the affiliated and necessary fundraising. It takes A LOT of persuading to obtain donations and must be repeated periodically in order to continue with the translation process. Unless you are fortunate to find someone who will underwrite the endeavor in its entirety or you are willing to do the underwriting yourself, this will be a multi-year (2-3 years) process of great highs as well as frustrations.

The following are several suggestions to assist you in your fundraising endeavors.

Creating the List of Contacts


Finding a Translator

Initial Letter of Contact

Once you have the initial list of contacts, and have found a translator you are ready to contact your list of interested parties:

Follow-Up Letters

  • It is important to keep the contact list of your shtetl/area updated with status. Every three months or so to send them a letter advising them of progress on the translations, fundraising, or if something newsworthy occurred in the area of interest. For example, in 2001 there were many newspaper articles about the town of Jedwabne, Poland , a shtetl near “my shtetl”, Stawiski. The news flurry was a result of a firestorm of controversy caused by a book which highlighted the massacres of the town's Jews by the Poles, not the Nazis, in 1941. The Polish government recognized the documentation (much of it was from the Jedwabne Yizkor Book, and post WWII trials) and erected a new Jedwabne cemetery memorial and held a ceremony on the 60th anniversary of the massacre. In nearby Stawiski, a similar massacre of hundreds of Stawiski Jews occurred within a week of the Jedwabne massacre in 1941. Although the Polish government has not acknowledged that the Poles rather than the Nazis caused that massacre, it was of sufficient interest to those interested in “my” shtetl of Stawiski to pass along the various news articles by e-mail. Another “newsworthy” event occurred for my “shtetl” of Sochaczew, Poland, when JewishGen announced they had placed on their website the 1907 Duma (voter) registration lists for Sochaczew and other Warsaw- area towns. Such announcements to the interest group keeps the group members informed and offers an additional opportunity for fundraising reminders. Experience has shown the best time to obtain donations is immediately after a new translation is placed on the website and an e-mail was sent notifying the interest group or when a “newsworthy” e-mail has been sent to the group.
  • As the translation coordinator, you get to review the translation (for content, style, typos) before it is forwarded to the Yizkor Book Project Manager for web site programming. This also gives you the opportunity to determine if anyone on the “interest list “ of ancestors is mentioned (see comment above under initial letter). If the names are included in the translation, give them a “heads up” e-mail to tell them that their family is included in the forthcoming translation. When the translation is available on the Yizkor website, send an e-mail to the entire group advising them of which chapters by title and author (or table of contents, necrology, list of photographs) have been translated and are now available.
  • Other suggestions for timing in requesting donations: before the High Holidays as a memorial to the dead; before the end of the calendar year as people start to look for possible tax deductions for their taxes.
  • The following is my initial letter to those interested in Stawiski, Poland.

    Dear Fellow Stawiski Poland Interested Persons:

    My name is Jan Meisels Allen and I am writing to each of you as you have expressed an interest in ancestors from Stawiski, Poland per the JewishGen Family Finder, or other JewishGen operations. As many of you may have already found out there are no known Jewish records for Stawiski which really impedes our genealogy searches. I have written to the Polish Archives and so far they have not been able to come up with any promising insights as to where any records might be found. Therefore, the only possibility of finding something about the city, culture and perhaps our ancestors may be in translating the Stawiski Yizkor Book written by those from Stawiski who survived W.W.II.

    I was given a copy of the Stawiski Memorial Book (Stawiski, Sefer Yizkor) by a cousin in Israel whom I found through JewishGen! Her grandmother was my grandfather's sister and neither of us knew about the other. The book is in Hebrew and Yiddish and runs 384 pages. Unlike other Yizkor books there is no index nor does there appear to be a necrology. It includes some photographs. For your information there is no one left in Israel from the Stavisk Society that originally published the Yizkor Book in 1973. having the translation under JewishGen's auspices, it permits any contributions toward Yizkor Books' translation eligible for tax deductibility to the contributor as well as have the translation put on the internet for all who wish to read about the remembrances of the Stawiski residents. I am the coordinator of the Stawiski Yizkor Book Translation Project under the auspices of JewishGen.

    We have an excellent translator who has done other Yizkor Book translations for JewishGen. By having the translation project through JewishGen, any and all contributions will be used for paying the translator. As the book runs 384 pages and the average translation is $25 per hour, to translate the book in its entirety will require a healthy amount of donations. This will provide many of us to share in the blessing of making certain that our ancestors from Stawiski are not forgotten. No contribution is too small!! (JewishGen does require a minimum of $10 for contributions- see below). Depending on the generosity of the contributors this may be a project over several years. We don't ask the translator to do any work until there is money to pay for the translation. We don't expect the book to be translated at once. In fact we start with the structure: table of contents and list of photographs and introduction from the Stavisk Society.

    Please look at the JewishGen Yizkor Book website for donations:
    http://www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen-erosity/v_projectslist.asp?project_cat=23
    Scroll down to Stawiski, Poland. Jewish Gen has numerous concurrent Yizkor Book translation fundraising programs, so it is important that you fill in the amount for Stawiski! JewishGen accepts contribution by check (on US banks in US currency); and by credit card: Discover, MasterCard, VISA, American Express, JCB, Diners Club International and Diners Club Carte Blanche Cards, and NOW – for US only – ECheck.

    Please note that the minimum contribution is $10.00. In order to double check that your contributions are correctly credited to the Stawiski account, please let me know when and the amount of your contribution.

    While making a contribution for the Stawiski translation please consider also making a contribution to JewishGen itself. Its only a mouse click away! JewishGen is a forum which hosts the Yizkor Book translation project along with numerous SIGs and discussion groups. It takes donations to keep JewishGen going and we all get our “genealogy fixes” gratis of JewishGen. While JewishGen is based on volunteers, keeping the servers up and running and addressing our phenomenal exponential growth costs real dollars, not just volunteer time. While at the site, you might find of interest a fund-raising program of JewishGen, the memorial plaques for the Yizkor books. The plaques remember your loved ones and can be placed on the Yizkor page where your ancestor is mentioned. Details about that program are available on the website.

    If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will keep you informed of our progress. If you know of others interested in Stawiski, please let me know or share this message with them.

    Jan Meisels Allen
    Agoura Hills, CA


    Dear Fellow Sochaczewers:

    I am delighted to inform you that we have several new chapters, translated from the Yiddish, and available on the JewishGen website. The new chapters are:

    page 29 Sochaczew Takes on a Yiddish Character by Julian Niemcewicza
    page 30 The History of the City and Area of Sochaczew and its Jews by Mrs. Janina Swierzynska
    page 85 The Rebbi's Court by M.B. Sztejn

    These chapters give a historical perspective of our ancestors' shtetl - Sochaczew. Did you know that Sochaczew turns out to be older than Warsaw!- with the first written records from the 1200's and the Polish ruler Boleslaw III Krzywausti dying in Sochaczew in 1138. The first Jews came to Sochaczew in the 16th century. All of this background is interesting when one wants to know how our ancestors lived and under what circumstances. I found the discussion about the castle most interesting as I saw ruins this past July when I visited there.

    The chapter about the Rebbi's Court is very interesting to tell how a Chassidic Rebbi came to Sochaczew and how he was accepted and not accepted.

    Our masterful translator, Jerrold Landau has taken us back to live through the eyes of the authors of the history and times. You may find the new translated chapters at:

    http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/Sochaczew/Sochaczew.html and scroll down to the above mentioned chapters.
    With this section of translation our bank is down to just over $200. Not enough to ask Jerrold to do another translation section. For example this translation took 18 hours so it cost $450. I know it was a long time since we had some translations before September when we finished the Hebrew translation sections. We are only translating those Yiddish chapters that were NOT duplicates of the translated Hebrew Sections. Please see if you can make a donation to the translation fund for Sochaczew to keep us going! To make a donation please go to:
    http://www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen-erosity/v_projectslist.asp?project_cat=23. Scroll down to Sochaczew and make your contribution specifying it go to our translation -- JewishGen has many concurrent fundraising projects for a number of Yizkor Books. You can make your contribution over the Internet -its a safe website- and JewishGen, Inc. accepts contributions by:
    Discover, MasterCard, VISA, American Express, JCB, Diners Club International and Diners Club Carte Blanche Cards, and NOW – for US only – ECheck. If you prefer, click on printed version of the form, and you can print it off and submit the form with a check and mail it to JewishGen. For those of you outside the US see the website for donations in other than US Currency. While visiting the website remember that JewishGen hosts the Yizkor site as well as many other sites where we all get our “genealogical fixes”. Please consider donating something to JewishGen as well to help maintain the servers, and other “behind the scenes” necessities to keep JewishGen going. Remember while there is not charge to use JewishGen -- they have costs to run the webiste and they only get their funds from donations. There is a spot on the contribution form where you can designate some contribution to Jewish Gen. For those in the US, contributions to JewishGen are eligible for income tax deductibility.

    Thank you and I hope you enjoy reading the new passages as much as I have.

    Keep in touch!

    Jan Meisels Allen
    Agoura Hills, CA
    JewishGen Sochaczew Yizkor Book Coordinator


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    Updated 4 Apr 2014 by LA