Driving Directions
Past Programs

Current Programs

Non-members/Visitors are welcome to attend programs for a $5.00 fee. If a guest joins the Society the fee will be applied toward the membership dues. Programs generally start at 1:30 PM - see exact time for each meeting, below. Doors open a half-hour earlier. Meetings start with JGSGW business, introductions of new members, and then the guest speaker.

Workshops are open to JGSGW members only. Non-members may join on the day of the workshop unless advance registration is required.

Meeting Calendar for First Half 2015

  Apr. 19: Beth El, Alexandria
May 17: Temple Beth Ami, Rockville
June 7:
Potomac Community Center

 Inclement weather policy: if the synagogue
 (or other venue) is closed, our meeting will not be held.


April Sunday, April 19, 2015
Beginner's Workshop: 10:00 AM - 12 Noon

The workshop will start with an intro to Jewish genealogy in general, beginning with basic guidelines and strategies . Then the participants will break into small groups with 4 different "experts" for  15 minute sessions with each. Everyone will have a chance to  ask questions and take notes. The four different sessions will be on DNA, Online Resources, Local and National Resources and info on the holdings of the JGSGW library, which is at B'nai Israel, and how to use them. Attendees will be given a copy of the JGSGW publication “Jump-Start Your Jewish Genealogy Research: A Beginner’s Guide.” 

The workshop is FREE to JGSGW members but is limited to 20 enrollees.  Nonmembers may join JGSGW in advance of the workshop (if space is available).  To register, please send an e-mail to

Coordinator: Faith Klein.

"Galician Portraits.The Story of Jews, Gentiles and Emperors"
1:00 PM - Schmooze
1:30 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program
  Speaker: Dr. Andrew Zalewski, MD (bio)
In his first book, Galician Trails, Andrew Zalewski traced his mother’s family from the 18th century to the mid-20th. Now, in Galician Portraits, he discovers his father’s side, who also lived in Galicia, but whose experiences were very different simply because they were Jewish.

Galician Portraits is much more than a record of one family. The story is anchored in Austrian Galicia (1772–1918), which once spanned parts of today’s Poland and Ukraine, but it also covers centuries of Jewish history in the region, before and after Galicia existed. Large cities, small towns, and tiny farming villages are the tale’s backdrop. In them, people from a variety of ethnic groups live alongside a large community of Israelites.

In these pages, Galicia’s Jewish community emerges as far more diverse than one could ever imagine. The laws and trends of the day were hotly debated within it. A perpetual tension between old and new sometimes brought dramatic consequences, even breakaway factions. Passionate arguments about language, customs, and loyalties easily erupted. But even in difficult times, there were brave voices that spoke loudly against prejudice.

Tracing Jewish heritage anywhere in Europe is complicated; and certainly, the long shadow of WWII broke any continuity between past and present in the place that was once called Galicia. Yet the author has discovered many voices that had long been forgotten, as well as surprising details about his own family. The talk “The Story of Jews, Gentiles and Emperors” will be illustrated by the archival pictures of Galicia, genealogical findings, and old maps of Galicia.


May Sunday, May 17, 2015
The Margarine Moonshiners from Minsk: Conducting Story-Driven Research
Note          Time:  
1:30 PM - Schmooze                 
1:45 PM - Short Business Meeting, Announcements, and Program
  Speaker: Tammy Hepps (bio)
In spring 2011 a routine search on my great-grandfather revealed the shocking surprise
that he had been incarcerated in Leavenworth. What followed was a rollicking genealogical
journey tracing a group of brothers and brothers-in-law recently emigrated from Minsk,
who set out to sell margarine as butter in defiance of one the stranger pieces of
legislation ever passed. Learn how my desire to tell this story in its entirety led to
uncovering the hijinks of my great-grandfather, who fled with his family repeatedly
before the feds finally nabbed him, my great-grandmother, whose pleas to the warden still
survive, the brother-in-law he fingered who was excommunicated for selling lard as
butter, another brother-in-law who was arrested for threatening to kill a witness, the
soon-to-be-famous inspector who was hot on their tail the entire time, and more. Numerous
historical and genealogical repositories will be discussed as I retrace my multi-year
journey to get to the bottom of his long-concealed chapter in my family history and offer
advice for how you can better pursue the fascinating leads in your own tree when you
think like a storyteller.

June Sunday, June 7, 2015
Membership Appreciation Luncheon      *** Members Only - no Guests ***
Noon - Meeting and Luncheon
1:00 PM - Program
  Speaker: Prof. Glenn Dyner, PhD: "Jews, Liquor, and Life in Eastern Europe" (bio)
  In pre-modern Eastern Europe, the Jewish-run tavern was often the center of leisure, hospitality, business, and even religious festivities. This unusual situation came about because the nobles who owned taverns believed that only Jews were sober enough to run taverns profitably, a belief so ingrained as to endure even the rise of Hasidism's robust drinking culture. As liquor became the region's boom industry, Jewish tavern keepers became integral to both local economies and local social life, presiding over Christian celebrations and dispensing advice, medical remedies and loans. Nevertheless, reformers and government officials, blaming Jewish tavern keepers for epidemic peasant drunkenness, sought to drive Jews out of the liquor trade. Historians have assumed that this spelled the end of the Polish Jewish liquor trade. However, newly discovered archival sources demonstrate that nobles often helped their Jewish tavern keepers evade fees, bans and expulsions by installing Christians as “fronts” for their taverns. The result—a vast underground Jewish liquor trade—reflects an impressive level of local Polish-Jewish co-existence that contrasts with the more familiar story of anti-Semitism and violence.

© 2015, Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, Inc.