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Leadership Leadership Responsibilities Leadership Biographies


SIG Coordinator
Phyllis Berenson

SIG Coordinator Emeritus
Ron Doctor

Special Projects Director
Hal Bookbinder

Media and Communications Director
Emily Garber

Data Acquisition Director
Gary Pokrassa

Projects Director
Lara Diamond

Information Systems Director
Ariel Parkansky

Towns Director
Chuck Weinstein

Volunteers Director
Joel Spector

Translations Director
Paul Finelt


Leadership Responsibilities

Data Acquisition Director

1. Maintain spreadsheets for the large document sets including date and archive from which they were acquired, whether there is a fundraising project in place and other pertinent information

Information Systems Director

1. Define Information Systems and Data Structure Strategy
2. Provide IS tools to support the projects and SIG management
2. Ensure that the the website is maintained up-to-date and in accordance with JewishGen guidelines
4. Ensure the technology watch and the evolution of the website and the IS tools to keep them "state-of-the-art"
5. Provide reporting tools to the different Board members (project follow up, statistics...)

Media and Communications Director

1. Monitor/animate Ukraine SIG Facebook page
2. Post announcements to JewishGen Blog
3. Post announcements to JewishGen Discussion List
4. Post announcements to Ukraine SIG Website
5. Manage the production and publishing of the Ukraine SIG Newsletter

Projects Director

1. Manage projects and the volunteers working on them
2. Process completed datasets (mostly spreadsheets) for submission to the JewishGen Ukraine Database (JGUD) and to Ukraine SIG Master Name Index (UkrSIG MNI)
3. Enter project descriptions in the DBM
4. Update progress of projects/tasks in the DBM
5. Provide work news to the Media and Communication Manager for the production of news/newsletter

Special Projects Director

1. Get Board, Town Leaders, Project Leaders, and Key Researchers connected through Skype or a similar system for online voice and/or video conferencing
2. Manage Ukraine SIG surveys and report on results
3. Help Coordinator with LDS & Ukraine Archives negotiations to get permission for indexing and translation projects, cooperating with Mark Halpern’s “united front” effort
4. Adapt JRI-Poland “how-to” documents for Ukraine SIG
5. Provide work news to the Media and Communication Manager for the production of news/newsletter

Towns Director

1. Compile e-mail distribution lists of YB Translation Project Leaders, KehilaLinks owners, people who submit data to JOWBR
2. Identify KehilaLink owners who are willing to provide a description of the data on their webpages
3. Identify YB Translation Leaders who are willing to prepare name/town indexes for their YB translations
4. Relay any queries, problems, or requests for assistance to the SIG Coordinator
5. Help SIG Coordinator create a “Town Leader” system using a modified JRI-Poland model
6. Create a list of towns within each district of each Guberniya
7. Work with Town Leaders to compile info for each town for entry into JewishGen Gazeteer (unless an entry already exists)
8. Compile a contact list of people who are interested in each town using JGFF and Discussion List postings.
9. Enter/update town and related-town information on the DBM
10. Provide work news to the Media and Communication Manager for the production of news/newsletter

Translations Director

1. In cooperation with the data acquisitions director, maintains project translation status and in cooperation with the volunteers director, tracks availability of translators.
2. Maintains a set of "test" documents for potential translators to submit prior to their approval as translators

Volunteers Director

1. Coordinate with the Translations Director and Projects Director
2. Identify, recruit and coordinate volunteers for our projects
3. Check progress and status of volunteers periodically
4. Keep the SIG's Survey results spreadsheet updated
5. Maintain the Ukraine SIG Volunteers Wall of Honor
6. Provide work news to the Media and Communication Manager for the production of news/newsletter

Leadership Biographies

Phyllis Berenson, Discussion List Director

Phyllis Gold Berenson was born in Detroit and graduated from the University of Michigan in Russian language and literature. She obtained her law degree from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, followed by an LL.M (tax) degree. She lives in San Francisco and Sonoma.

Phyllis has served as president of San Francisco Bay Area Women Tax Lawyers, Inner Sunset Park Neighbors, Symphony Parnassus, and recently served on the Alumni Council of Interlochen Center for the Arts. She founded the Mogilev Podolskiy town research group in 2010 and is Ukraine SIG Town Leader.

Her checkered employment history includes social worker, bookstore owner, carpenter's assistant, professional musician, trust, estates and tax lawyer, as well as volunteer symphony orchestra manager.

She is a lawyer, tomato farmer, and harpist by day and a genealogist by night, finding lost alumni as a volunteer for Interlochen and researching especially her maternal grandmother's roots in Mogilev Podolskiy, where she hopes to travel soon.

Hal Bookbinder, Special Projects Director

Hal is past president of the JGS Los Angeles and the IAJGS. He has chaired or served in a Leadership role for eight IAJGS conferences, has published numerous articles on research techniques, Jewish history, border changes and safe computing and has lectured at most recent annual conferences. In 2010, he was honored with the IAJGS Lifetime Achievement Award and was elected to the JewishGen Board of Governors. He currently chairs JewishGen’s Strategic Planning Committee and is the Director of Special Projects for the JewishGen Ukraine SIG. Hal created and continues to edit the Jewish Genealogy Yearbook. The 2011 edition includes almost 200 organizations involved in Jewish genealogy and history.

Hal has identified over 3,500 relatives, taking two lines back into the mid-18th Century. His family roots include Barenberg from Snitivka (Khmel'nyts'ka Oblast, Ukraine), Bookbinder from Dubno (Rivne Oblast, Ukraine), Muhlstein from Soroca (Soroca District, Moldova) and Sacharow from Poltava (Poltava Oblast, Ukraine).

Hal is originally from Newark, NJ, moving to Ulster County, NY when his folks acquired a small hotel there. After obtaining a Masters degree in computing from New York University, he entered the US Air Force where he tracked satellites from within Colorado Springs’ Cheyenne Mountain Complex and earned a second Masters degree in business from the University of Northern Colorado. Upon his departure from active duty, he and his family settled in the Los Angeles area.

Hal currently directs Information Technology Finance and Administration for the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) Health System, teaches courses in business, information technology and mathematics for the Southern California Campus of the University of Phoenix and directs a work readiness program for recovering addicts at Los Angeles’ Midnight Mission. Hal, his wife Marci, their four adult children and four grandchildren all reside in the northwestern Los Angeles area.

Lara Diamond, Projects Director

Lara is a lifelong Baltimore resident. She is co-president of JGS Maryland and is is also Town Leader and KehilaLinks owner for Shpikov, Krasnoye, and Lubny, all in Ukraine.

Lara has coordinated a UkraineSIG-sponsored project to acquire documents from the Shpikov and Krasnoye area and transcribed all of the vital records found thus far from Hebrew. She has also transcribed thousands of vital records for the Jewish Maramaros project and regularly translates Hebrew documents and tombstones on Viewmate.

She began researching her family around 1990, including the Diamant, Bajcz/Beitch, Garber, Lazovnik, Fine and Zutelman families from around Horochov and Lutsk, Volhynia, Ukraine; the Sanshuck, Supkoff, and Brandman families from Shpikov and Krasnoye, Vinnytsia, Ukraine; the Lefand, Tolchinsky, and Halperin families from Nezhin, Chernigov, Ukraine; the Joshowitz, Rutner, Farkas, Fuchs, and Eizkovic families from Kolodne/Darva, Transcarpathian Ukraine (former Maramaros); the Tolchinsky family from Lubny, Poltava, Ukraine; and the Halperin family from Krasnoye, Belarus.

She maintains a blog to document her research and family stories at larasgenealogy.blogspot.com.

Ronald D. Doctor, Ukraine SIG Coordinator Emeritus

Dr. Ronald D. Doctor has been doing Jewish genealogy since 1992. He currently is President of the Kremenets-District Research Group (KDRG). Ron is on the Board of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon, following several years as President and then as Membership Chairman. He also is on the Teaching Committee of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG). He has given numerous genealogy presentations, in Oregon, Washington State, and at IAJGS Conferences.

Before retirement in 1997, Ron was an Associate Professor at the University of Alabama's Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. He has Bachelor's, Master's, and Ph.D. degrees in engineering from UCLA, as well as an MLS from the University of Washington's School of Library and Information Science. In previous careers, he served as the Economics Commissioner on the California State Energy Commission, was a Project Manager at the Rand Corporation, and was Director of Capital Finance for national engineering and accounting firms. Following retirement, he returned to the Pacific Northwest. He now lives in Portland, Oregon.

Ron is researching Doctor (Diokhter), Varer, Averbakh, Korenfeld ... all from Kremenets, Oleksinets, Yampol, and Vishnevets, as well as Kazdoy (Kosodoy), Dubinski, and Dubovski ... all from Kiev, Uman, and Odessa. He has traced his Varer line back to the 1730s and his Averbakh, Korenfeld and Diokhter lines to the mid-1730s.

Paul Finelt, Translations Director

Paul is native of Laurelton, Queens, NY. He holds a BS in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Lehigh Univ.

He has been interested in genealogy and family history for 30 years. He's led classes and computer workshops on genealogy and has assisted friends and family in researching and preserving their family history.

As the Town Leader and KehilaLinks owner for Bershad and Ol'gopol he is leading the Olgopol Translation Project and has initiated the translation of the Bershad Yizkor Book.

Paul is a geek and loves to figure out how to make things.

Emily Garber, Media and Communications Director

Emily grew up in North Bellmore, New York, but has lived in the western United States (first New Mexico and now Arizona) for more than 35 years. She has been researching her family lines since 2007: Garber, Macevicki, Malzmann, Kesselman from Yurovshchina, Ukraine (aka Labun or Lubin); Wilensky and Epstein from Kozyany, Belarus (aka Kasan); Liebross and Wenkert from Ustechko, Torski and Zaleshchiki, Ukraine and Radauti, Romania. Her ancestors immigrated to the United States between 1897 and 1922.

After receiving a Bachelors degree in Anthropology from Vassar College, Emily moved west and earned a Masters from the University of New Mexico in Anthropology (specializing in archaeology). She recently retired from a career of more than 30 years in natural resource management with the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. She worked as an archaeologist; recreation, lands and minerals specialist; planner; and manager and also served on many wildland fire incidents as a Public Information Officer.

Emily is Treasurer of the Phoenix (Arizona) JGS. She has been an active member of the JGS for several years, teaching courses and workshops. She currently serves as one of the Moderators for the JewishGen Discussion Group and as Ukraine SIG's Town Leader and KehilaLinks Owner for Labun.. She has also given back to the genealogy community by indexing New York City records for a variety of Italian Genealogy Group projects and indexing more than 325 pages of the 1940 U.S. Census for FamilySearch.org.

She maintains both a family history blog, The Extra Yad (www.extrayad.blogspot.com) and a JewishGen Kehilalinks webpage for Yurovshchina (formerly Labun), Ukraine. In addition, she has published an article in Avotaynu on her community genealogy work.

Lest one might think (as her husband and children do) that she spends way too much time on her computer, Emily maintains a semblance of sanity by pursuing other interests as a life-long singer and an avid road bicyclist.

Ariel Parkansky, Information Systems Director

Ariel is an Information Technology professional. He has brought his professional and managerial skills to Ukraine SIG.

His first contribution to the SIG, when he joined it in 2011, was the complete restructuring of the website, creating a town based integrated platform that includes a very friendly user interface, a centralized database and a management panel. He has also created new organizational and information tools.

Ariel is also Member of the Board of the Bessarabia SIG and the Town Leader and Kehilalinks owner for Odessa, Chechelnik, Kishinev, Kiliya and Akkerman. For each of those sites, he has compiled databases (under the research section), five ongoing projects that already contain together almost 150,000 individual records and image documents.

As town leader, he managed (some are ongoning) several translation projects (Odessa Tombstones Book, Kilya Cemetery, Odessa Vital Records indexes, Odessa 1897 Census, Benedery Vital Records...)

In 2016 Ariel donated to JewishGen the SIG website platform that he had developed for the Ukraine SIG. The platform is already in use by the Subcarpathia SIG and in construction for the German and Bessarabia ones.
He also created a Kehilalinks template that is being used by several dozens sites

Before becoming involved with JewishGen and the Ukraine and Bessarabia SIGs, Ariel organized a project to collect, translate, and publish Odessa vital records obtained by individual researchers (today integrated into the All Odessa database) and was part of the project for the "Museum of the Jewish Colonies" website in Argentina.

Ariel began researching his family roots in the late 1990s and later added his wife's family to his research. His family comes originally from Bessarabia and Ukraine. They emigrated to Argentina at the turn of the 20th century. He grew up in Buenos Aires and has lived in Paris, France since 2003.

His family "forest" numbers 1,550 individuals of whom about 700 are living today in 18 different countries on 4 continents. His family genealogy website contains more than 700 pictures and documents going back in some cases to the 17th century. You can visit it at www.thefamilytree.info

Gary Pokrassa, Data Acquisition Director

Gary retired from his day job in 2015 after a 46-year career as a CPA/ public company CFO.

An active genealogist since 2002 and has planned genealogy as his main retirement activity (and grandchildren!).

Active in JewishGen.org.
– He is the town leader and manages a "KehilaLink" website for Zolotonosha, UKR
- his family’s ancestral shtetl
– He is leading the Zolotonosha Vital Records Project
– completed the Book of Sorrows Project (Holocaust based) for JewishGen as project leader on behalf of the USHMM.
– He contributed volunteer work for the JOWBR (Jewish On LineWorldwide Burial Registry).

Member, Executive Board and Financial Advisor – Jewish Records Indexing-Poland.org (JRI-Poland)

Member of the Jewish Genealogy Society of LI

Developed his own family tree to over 1900 people (including his wife's family and two married children's sets of machatunim).

He has done research projects for several non-family people.

Led two “Introduction to Jewish Genealogy” sessions for his temple: Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights NY

Joel Spector, Volunteers Director

Joel was born in Chicago, IL, but grew up and was educated in his native Philadelphia, PA where he received BAs from Central High School and Temple University. He majored in mathematics at Carnegie Institute of Technology before majoring in psychology at Temple. Joel has an MA in special education from New York University and several educational certificates. He recently retired after serving on a Child Study Team, monitoring children in special education programs, for more than 30 years.

Joel became interested in genealogy in the 1970s when he was shown a family tree dating back to the 1740s. He has since been primarily researching the names Zeitlin (Zaitlin) and Black (Blakman) from Belarus and Skubin (Skibinski) in Odessa. He has traced the Zeitlins back to about 1550 through rabbinic lines.

Joel is a past president and currently is a trustee of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia, which followed several years as chairperson of its Russian Special Interest Group. As past secretary of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Joel has had an active role in IAJGS Conferences for more than a decade, including co-chairing the Chicago Conference in 2008.

Joel has been conducting research in several historic Russian language encyclopedias for more than a decade, and is currently excerpting town population data from several of them. He has produced a unique English language index to the Russian language Evreiskaya Entsiklopedia. Joel has given presentations and workshops on the Russian language and has provided translations of many documents to individuals and groups.

Chuck Weinstein, Towns/Districts Director

Chuck Weinstein began his own family search in 1992. In 1995, he became a moderator for the JewishGen Discussion Group. After three years, he was asked to become Project Manager for what was then known as ShtetLinks. At that time, ShtetLinks had 65 pages, most of them very simple. By the time he resigned from that position in 2004, ShtetLinks (now KehilaLinks), had grown to over 250 individual towns from 16 countries, many of which had developed into very extensive commemorations of their towns. Shortly thereafter, he became a moderator for Ukraine SIG, a post he continues in.

A board member of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island since 2002, Chuck served as President in 2007, 2008, and 2011. He has also served as President of two of his professional organizations in the insurance industry. Chuck also serves on the Committee on Membership for IAJGS.

His roots in Ukraine run deep. His Weinstein and Schnayer ancestors come from Korostyshiv in what was the Volhynia Guberniya, and he also has maternal Weinstein ancestors in Voznesensk in Kherson Guberniya. Other roots are found in Lithuania and Romania. He is able to trace two lines back well into the 18th century and most of his other lines to early in the 19th century.

Chuck currently lives in Bellport, NY, midway out on Long Island. He has 4 children and 5 grandchildren.

  • Last Modified: 12-15-2019
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