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IAJGS Conference in Salt Lake City

(Conveyed by Barry Shay

The Latvia SIG members who attended the conference had a busy day on Thursday, July 19th. It started at 11:15 AM with the SIG's annual meeting. Twenty-six members attended the meeting and the luncheon that followed. Henry Blumberg, the SIG's president, chaired the meeting and his detailed account of the meeting follows.

Two attendees at the meeting and luncheon who deserve special recognition are Rachel Kaplan and Elaine Miller, both members of the Latvia SIG as well as members of the JGS of Salt Lake City. Rachel and Elaine could be seen working diligently throughout the week supporting the wonderful conference put on by the JGSSLC, and they still made an effort to attend some of the SIG's activities. Rachel also presented a paper to the general audience entitled, "Utah's Early Jews," on the last day of the conference.

The guest speaker at the luncheon was Lois Ogilby-Rosen, a Latvia SIG board member and an accomplished genealogist. Lois has done a remarkable job in researching the ROZINKO family in Latvia and has written about her work in the JGSLA and Latvia SIG newsletters. I was privileged to hear Lois present the results of her genealogy research this past April in Washington, DC, so I had an inkling as to what she would present and I knew she would be well received by the members. As it turned out, Lois' presentation was inspirational with many members wiping tears from their eyes as they saw the incredible material Lois had collected and heard about the lives she has changed in the course of her research. Lois has discovered relatives thought to have been lost in the Holocaust and connected them with families they did not know existed. During her presentation Lois expressed her appreciation to the Latvian State Historical Archives and particularly Rita Bogdanova for all the assistance she received in her research. It should be noted that a number of participants also commented on the invaluable assistance they had received from the Latvian State Historical Archives in furthering their research.

Lois Holding the Rozinko Family Tree She Created

Following the luncheon, Henry Blumberg presented, "The Latvian Shtetls of our Ancestors at the Beginning of the 20th Century." Henry, an amateur historian of Latvian shtetl life, provided commentary that enlightened and entertained the audience.

His Power Point presentation featuring his postcard collection has increased significantly since his presentation at the last conference in New York and he was able to present views of many more shtetls and illustrate, to some extent, the conditions under which their inhabitants lived. Anyone interested in organizing a family reunion would have learned a great deal from Don and Sandra Hirschhorn's discussion of how they organized and conducted the Hirschhorn Family Reunion. It was attended by 141 descendants and spouses of Levin Hirschhorn (1798-1861) from Hasenpoth (Aizpute). Using JewishGen, Latvian Historical Archives, Yad Vashem, and oral histories from relatives, the reunion was a remarkable success with 75% of the attendees meeting relatives for the first time and the younger generation overwhelmed with enthusiasm. Wall displays and posters from the reunion were converted and shown as a Power Point presentation. Don also displayed a personal letter written to him by Vaira Vike Freiberga, President of the Republic of Latvia. In the letter, Ms Freiberga wishes his large family success, prosperity and happiness and offers hope that the next Hirschhorn family reunion will be held in Aizpute, Latvia. A remarkable letter from a remarkable woman to a remarkable family.

Award to Don Hirschhorn

The IAJGS conference was the venue for the presentation to Don Hirschhorn, our Vice President and long-time member, of an award from Yad Vashem for his "activism, dedication and outstanding volunteerism as coordinator for the Shoah Victims Names Recovery Project."

Alexander Avraham, Director, Hall of Names, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, presented the Award, declaring: "On behalf of Yad Vashem I would like to take this to extend our heartfelt appreciation to Donald Hirschhorn for his activism, dedication and outstanding volunteerism as coordinator for the Shoah Victims Names Recovery Project. His tireless efforts to attempt to memorialize each individual Jew who perished during the Holocaust have served as a model for us all." Don has been instrumental in recruiting over 25 Jewish Genealogical Societies that have registered with Yad Vashem and has been in contact with close to 100 additional Jewish Genealogical Societies to enlist their support of the project. In addition, he has established partnering relationships with Jewish community and survivor organizations throughout the U.S., including NaAmat, B'nai B'rith, Hadassah ORT, and Brandeis. He has also developed a volunteer corps in South Florida to assist survivors interested in submitting Pages of Testimony. Don has personally coordinated the submission of close to 1,000 Pages of Testimony, but many additional pages have been submitted as a result of his efforts either through the American Society for Yad Vashem, to Israel directly, or via the Internet.

Latvian Jewish Soldiers

While perusing the stacks at the Family History Library, Lois Rosen came across a book, printed in Russia, containing a list of Latvian Jewish soldiers who served and were killed as members of the Red Army in World War II. The list includes more than 2,000 names along with surname, given name, father's name, birth year, where served, date of loss, and place of loss. Of course, the list is in Russian and we now have about 700 entries transliterated to English, thanks to Bruce Dumes, Nina Koosman, and Vladimir Salita - all volunteers. The list is now organized into about 20 PDF files of 100 names each. If you think you can help, please let me know and I will email one or more files to you to transliterate and return to me as an EXCEL file. When finished, we plan to include the database in the JewishGen Latvia database where it can be searched on-line.

Mitau Business Directory

While at the IAGJS Conference in SLC Lois also stumbled upon an old (1903) guidebook to Jelgava, Latvia in the stacks at the Family History Library. The book has one page on the synagogue among its many pages of churches and castles, but the back of the book is full of business ads from both Riga and Mitau (Jelgava), Latvia. Some of the ads were obviously of Jewish-owned businesses. The ads are beautiful, and include those for jewelers, brewers, shoe stores, musical instruments, book stores, pharmaceuticals, confectioners and a translator, to name a few. Below are surnames that Lois extracted from the ads, so if you see a name of interest please contact Lois or me and we will e-mail the ad to you.


IAJGS Conference in Chicago

On the conference's last day, attendees were treated to a sneak preview of the 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, set for August 17-22, 2008, at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Hotel.

The preview indicated the program may include several mini-themes (Midwest/Upper Midwest, Central/South America and Canada), as well as a diverse list of more than 20 topic categories (including Eastern Europe, technology and much more). Some eastern European archivists sponsored by the various SIGs are expected to be present.

The call for papers will be forthcoming, so if you have an interesting program or topic you think would be of interest to a wide audience, please begin preparing now.

Mike Karsen, JGS of Illinois president, offered a quick look at the many resources on Jewish Chicago, including his Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Chicagoland. The two local societies - JGS of Illinois and the Illiana JGS - will be handling the resource room and hospitality. Co-chair Mike Posnick indicated that tours are planned, including cemetery visits, architectural sites, Jewish Chicago and a "gangster" tour. The committee is investigating bringing various resources to the hotel, as small repositories will have difficulty handling large numbers of onsite researchers.

According to the committee, the Chicago 2008 website may come on-line in early November with registration beginning in early January.

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