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Revitalizing JewishGen Ukraine SIG

General Meeting at the IAJGS Conference, 15 August 2011

Dr. Ronald D. Doctor, Coordinator, Ukraine SIG

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Re-structuring Ukraine SIG

The new Research Plan will be a lot of work, but that work has a very high payoff. To get the work done, I believe we need to re-structure the SIG. I’d like you to consider these questions: What kind of people should be on the Ukraine SIG Board? What responsibilities should they have?

Here is my take on these questions.

Each Board member should be responsible for carrying out specific assignments to further the SIG’s Objectives and Mission. Board members should not be figureheads; and they should not simply be advisors with no vote on what the SIG does. I believe that Board members should have voting power to determine what the SIG does and how it operates. As for the question, what responsibilities should Board members have? Board members could coordinate activities within a specific Guberniya, as in the past, or, they could coordinate town-based projects that cut across Guberniyas. I would like to hear your views on this during our open discussion time.

Part of improving communication involves opening discussion about how the SIG should be governed. Currently, the SIG Coordinator is appointed by JewishGen’s Managing Director and the SIG Coordinator appoints a Board … or no Board at all.

What I propose to you now is a different way to provide governance for our SIG. I suggest that many of the problems with SIGs, like leadership changes, can be reduced if the SIG is “democratized”. This means that our “members” would elect the Coordinator and Board periodically. A question that arises immediately is, “who do we count as members?”

Members might be defined liberally … a member is anyone who has:

  • registered for the Discussion List
  • created a Shtetlinks webpage for a town in Ukraine
  • managed a Yizkor Book translation project
  • submitted data to JOWBR for Ukraine-related Jewish cemeteries, or,
  • donated money, services, data, or documents to the SIG

Anyone meeting any of these criteria within, say, the past two years would be eligible to vote. If we decide to democratize the SIG, and this will be your decision, we also will need a set of operating guidelines. We’ll start this discussion today and will continue it during the Open Board Meeting on Tuesday. I hope you will attend, and contribute to the Discussion.


We had extensive discussion about governance and democratization at the General Meeting and at the Open Board Meeting. There was a strong consensus that democratization is a good idea, but it is premature. We should focus first on getting substantive town-based projects up and running. So, that is what we will do. If you wish to express your views on this, please post a message to our Discussion List.

There also was near unanimity that we should replace the Guberniya-based structure of the SIG with a town and district focus. Within the next few weeks we will post on our website a table showing current and potential town-based projects and the availability of data for each town. An announcement will be posted to the Discussion List when the first version of the table is available. We also will begin developing a series of “how-to” documents based on JRI-Poland’s very useful guides.

Shifting to a town/district focus requires Board members who have functional responsibilities. For example, we might have the following Board positions:

  • SIG Coordinator
  • Towns/District Director
  • Projects Director
  • Translations and Data Director
  • Outreach Director
  • Special Projects Director
  • Discussion List Director
  • Webmaster

I will develop and post job descriptions for each position and begin filling the positions within the next few weeks.

Volunteers Needed - A Series of Surveys

What we accomplish depends on you and on others doing Ukraine research. We need volunteers with various skills, and we need town and project leaders to coordinate and manage the projects. Town and District Leaders will coordinate all projects for a specific Town or District. Project Leaders will focus on specific tasks that cover many towns. We need both. Please contact me ( rddpdx@gmail.com ) if you are willing to volunteer. We will provide you with guidance to get you started and will help you all along the way.

Many of our records are in Cyrillic and Hebrew alphabets, and are handwritten. So, we need people with some language skills. You don’t have to be fluent in a language, but it would help if you can recognize names written in these alphabets. To find out who among us has these skills, we will conduct an online survey through our Discussion List and website. At the IAJGS Conference we did a test run of our first survey. It focused on language, computer and webmaster assistance skills. We distributed about 185 survey forms and received 96 responses. I’ll describe the results in a message to our Discussion List within the next week. Bottom line … the survey was successful.

Over the next several months we will send you a series of additional surveys focused on other topics. When you receive a survey form, please fill it out and click to send it in, even if all you can say is that you don’t have the skills or time for our projects.

Donations Needed

If you don’t have either skills or time, you can help by donating money to the JewishGen Ukraine SIG General Fund or to your choice of town-based projects. Your donations will be used to pay for document acquisition and for professional translators.

To donate, point your browser to:

http:// www.jewishgen.org/JewishGen-erosity/

Click on the Ukraine SIG link at the bottom of right side of page. Specify that your donation is for the Ukraine SIG General Fund, a specific town, or a specific project.

JewishGen is a 501(c)(3) organization. Your donations are tax-deductible in the U.S. to the extent permitted by law.

  • Last Modified: 10-22-2017
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