March 28, 2019 - 21 Adar II, 5779
Dear JewishGen Community,
As I begin my third year as Director of JewishGen.org, I want publicly to express my gratitude to each of the many volunteers who do so much for this organization. Your work has a tremendous impact on countless people throughout the world, and it’s a privilege to work with such dedicated people.
In the past two years, JewishGen has forged agreements and partnerships with nearly two dozen organizations, institutions, and individuals, and has added approximately two million records to our collection. Of strategic and long-term importance, we initiated a system-wide review and modernization effort to make it easier for volunteers to be involved with JewishGen, and to secure our future as well. Our ability to unveil new features this past summer, such as the Unified and Saved Searches, was a direct result of this modernization effort.
But this is just the beginning. Among our immediate major short-term priorities is the improvement of the JewishGen website. We need to design a more intuitive user experience that will make it easier for researchers to find information, to utilize the many unique tools JewishGen has to offer, and to access invaluable information that provides context and meaning to the richness of our shared Jewish family history.
As we embark on this next phase of development and improvement to JewishGen, I am also pleased to announce a series of personnel shifts and restructuring that has resulted from our recent strategic reviews. These changes will immediately help us continue to develop JewishGen’s internal structure.
JewishGen Knowledge Base
The current JewishGen InfoFiles section is being revamped and will be renamed as the JewishGen Knowledge Base. This page will incorporate and centralize many of the resources and materials that currently exist in a decentralized format throughout the JewishGen site.
In this regard, I thank Dr. Joshua Grayson, who has volunteered to serve as our HTML Coordinator. He will be overseeing a team to convert legacy pages on our site into our existing HTML/CSS template.
System-Wide Modernization Effort
Nearly four months ago, we engaged a high-level technical consultant to help define our strategies for significant improvements to our technological infrastructure and database operations. At the same time, our consultant picked up some of the responsibilities that were left open following the retirement of Michael Tobias, our long-time VP for programming, in December (see here). Major systems are being reviewed, procedures are being documented, and upon completion, we will be able to implement a number of short and long term improvements, along with the recruitment of additional staff.
JewishGen Research Division
This new integrated division of JewishGen will incorporate our various “JewishGen SIG websites” and will focus on:
- Expanding our collection of records
- Adding informational content to our new JewishGen Knowledge Base (see above)
- Encouraging the creation of more KehilaLinks entries for towns which once had a Jewish community.
A team of expert research coordinators will focus attention on particular regional areas, and will work together to share knowledge and resources aligned with JewishGen’s vision and mission. A new staff position is being created to coordinate these efforts.
Current senior volunteers who coordinate JewishGen SIG’s, will now be entitled “Research Coordinators”. In this regard, I am pleased to welcome a number of new Research Coordinators to the team, each of whom brings long experience with JewishGen, a wealth of knowledge, and has already begun to provide energy and enthusiasm to work on their areas of focus:
- Alex Calzareth - Germany
- Phyllis Berenson - Ukraine
- Paul Cheifitz - Latvia
Janette Silverman will be retiring from leading JewishGen's Ukraine SIG in July. Janette has been a devoted volunteer for many years, receiving the JewishGen Volunteer of the Year award in 2017, and will continue to serve as a moderator for the JewishGen Discussion Groups. We are very grateful to Phyllis Berenson who has taken on additional responsibilities and is serving as co-coordinator for research efforts in Ukraine during the transition period.
Special thanks to Vivian Kahn for all of her work in assisting with organizational strategic planning, and helping ensure a smooth transition.
The entire team of Research Coordinators can be accessed here.
Nancy Siegel, who already oversees our Success Stories, has assumed responsibility for organizing and distributing periodic newsletters.
The positive changes we’re undertaking are possible only because of the incredible devotion of volunteers and users who support our important work. Because of your help, we are making an even greater impact than ever before — and it’s just the beginning. If you have ideas or would like to become more involved in this exciting new chapter of JewishGen, please click here.
I look forward to providing further updates as we implement the above changes.