may is national jewish history month
may 4, 2014
According to Library of Congress hosted website, JewishHeritageMonth.gov, May was chosen as the month of Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) to coincide with the successful 350th Anniversary Celebration of Jews in America to recognize their achievements in and contributions to our country. President George W. Bush set JAHM into law in 2006 according to the Jewish American Heritage Month Coalition.
Honoring this month, the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), www.ajhs.org/, founded in 1892, began a column highlighting stories “to foster awareness and appreciation of American Jewish heritage and serve as a national scholarly resource for research through the collection, preservation, and disseminating of materials related to American Jewish history.” Last year the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS) became the home of the AJHS collection pertaining to the history and genealogy in the New England area.
The new column contains a collection of essays by Michael Feldberg, Ph. D., Executive Director of AJHS from 1991-2004 and the current Executive Director of the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom. The first article profiles Hank Greenberg, the first Jewish superstar.
I consulted Genealogy Friend’s own Helen Jenkins for her help, as I was looking for something new and fresh to present. She did not fail me, but told me about the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, once the capital of China, who for thousands of years, though isolated from other Jews, ‘intermarried and adopted Chinese customs.” Though living in China and intermarried with the Chinese and adopted their customs, Helen said their “descendants adamantly declare their nationality to be Jewish, not Chinese.” She knew this because she had read a book, Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, by Beverly Friend. She reiterated that even though this group lost their language, religious customs and practices they still cling to being Kaifeng Jews.
Helen talked about another interesting topic, the Jewish Day. “According to Genesis, Chapter 1, And there was evening, and there was morning, one day. Helen explained that the Jewish day begins with evening, at sunset. Our current year is "2014"; the Jewish year is "5774". There are twelve major holidays during the year, but not all months have a major holiday to celebrate. For more on this subject refer to sources that keep up with this important information such as the website, www.jewfaq.org/holiday.
To help you with your family history research, there are societies and genealogists who specialize in this specialty. One that I have been acquainted with for years is AVOTAYNU, www.avotaynu.com/gmokotoff.html. It is the leading publisher of products of interest to Jewish genealogy researchers searching for how-to books, articles, family trees, etc. Plus, they have the prioritized list of publications on their site at http://avotaynu.com/recommend.htm.
Gary Mokotoff, specializing in Jewish Holocaust research, co-authored the Daitch-Mokotoff soundex system for finding Jewish names in the census and the JewishGen Family Finder, which is a database of ancestral towns and surnames being researched by some 50,000 Jewish genealogists throughout the world and the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index (CJSI), www.acronymfinder.com/Consolidated-Jewish-Surname-Index-%28Avotaynu%3b-Bergenfield%2c-NJ%29-%28CJSI%29.html. His blog, http://avotaynu.com/nu.htm, should be of interest to researchers, or contact him at www.avotaynu.com/gmokotoff.html. It is difficult to research Jewish genealogy without using a source that Gary has not helped developed.
Other sources for help include JewishGen, www.jewishgen.org/, FamilySearch.org’s free site at https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Jewish_Genealogy_Research, Jewish Genealogy Search at http://jewishgenealogyresearch.com/ and don’t forget the listing of sites at About.com Judaism, http://judaism.about.com/od/jewishgenealogy/Jewish_Genealogy.htm.
It is my hope that the above listings will help you begin your search of Jewish family history or continue it. Their achievements and accomplishments have helped to make America strong. I also want to thank Helen Jenkins for her recent help and Gary Mokotoff for his explanations and introduction to this subject in past years.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org.