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9th Congress of the European Association of Jewish Studies – Jewish Genealogy

The Institute sponsored a panel on Jewish Genealogy at the Ninth Congress of the European Association of Jewish Studies (EAJS), held in Ravenna on 25-29 July, 2010.

This event was an ongoing part of the Institute’s efforts to have Jewish Genealogy recognised as a sub-branch of Jewish Studies.

The panellists and their papers were:

  1. Valts Apinis, University of Riga:Jews in Latvia in 1918-1940: a genealogical perspectiveAbstract:
    After an historic overview, the presentation discusses the possibilities and genealogical potential of identifying all the members of Latvian Jewish community, based principally in Riga, during the period 1918-1940.The Jewish population in Latvia peaked in 1897 when, according to the Russian Census, it stood at 142,315 (7.4%). By 1935-37, it had diminished to 93,479 Jews, who maintained more than 100 synagogues and prayer houses, 73 schools and many other organizations. On 17 June 1940, Soviet troops entered Latvia and liquidation of Jewish community began forthwith, with arrests of leaders and mass deportations to Siberia. On 8 July 1941, German troops invaded the entire territory of Latvia. Thereafter approximately 84% of Latvian Jews perished in the Holocaust.In order to determine the names and fates of Latvian Jews in 1941-1945, a database was created listing 93,400 members of the Jewish community on the eve of World War II. It is based primarily on the 1935 Census and finds support and corroboration in a wide range of pre-war archival sources and materials in Latvia and abroad, including residents lists of 1939–1940, passports, business records and directories, as well as birth, marriage and death records from 1935–1941.With a view to greatly enhancing the identification of pre-war Latvian Jews, special use is now being made of the House Register Books for Riga. The Latvian Historical Archive retains these books, which together comprise more than 16,000 records for the years 1918-1944. This highly valuable source contains extensive and unique data about persons living in Riga, independent of their place of birth.The work, currently in progress, aims at producing a comprehensive picture of the numbers, movements and social structure of the Jewish population. The present paper will conclude by examining the considerable genealogical potential of this new resource, once completed.

    Click here for Mr. Apinis’s full paper.

  2. Federica Francesconi, Rutgers University:An Alternative Path toward Emancipation: Jewish Merchants and their Cross-Cultural Networks in 18th Century Italian GhettosAbstract:
    This paper focuses on the commercial and secular cultural choices of Moisè Formiggini (1756-1810) and Ezechia Morpurgo (1752-?) — of Modena and Ancona respectively — affluent Jewish merchants from prominent families, lay leaders, and future protagonists of the Napoleonic period. Their activities were characterized by a commitment to local Jewish affairs and an active role in the struggle for the improvement of Jews’ status, along with vigorous involvement in the wider cultural and commercial affairs of their cities and the establishment of commercial networks throughout the Italian peninsula and the Mediterranean basin. Through commercial relations, they oriented their cultural choices towards Enlightenment and Haskalah.The goal is to provide a new understanding of the way the early-modern Italian ghetto leadership and its achievements should be perceived – and to frame the 18th century as a defining age for Italian Jewry.The paper responds positively to recent historiographical shifts. It offers:(1) A new understanding of commercial networks in the early modern period, framed by the variety of criteria defining membership, varying with the circumstances in which groups of merchants worked, and the degree of inter- and intra-cultural exchanges existing between networks. This approach includes a genealogical narrative that goes beyond the base of family, kin and ethnic relations to analyze more extended personal, cultural and business relations within and without the group.(2) A new approach toward Jewish integration, utilizing regional models in the study of modernization and emancipation, and assessing whether it might be possible to identify transnational trends.

    Recent contributions have attempted analysis of phenomena that are common to many European Jewries, such as cultural and social integration, economic integration political and legal emancipation, voluntary community frameworks, secularization, breakdown of tradition, etc. Bringing Italy into the picture will add a further dimension to the discussion and definition of European Jewish paths toward modernity.

    Click here for Dr. Francesconi’s full paper.

  3. Neville Lamdan, Hebrew University, Jerusalem:Village Jews in the 19th Century Minsk Gubernya through a genealogical lensAbstract:
    Much has been written about shtetl Jews in the 19th Century, while relatively little work has been done into village Jews (yishuvnikes) who, depending on area and era, may have constituted some 30-40% of the Jewish population in the Pale of Settlement. This paper will focus on (yishuvnikes in the Minsk Gubernya from the Third Partition of Poland (1795) to the outbreak of World War I, on the basis of a genealogical study of 5 closely related families who lived in the vicinity of the old shtetl of Lyakhovichi. It will endeavour to show that while the lives of village Jews paralleled those of the shtetl Jews in many respects, they differed in certain significant particulars.The similarities lay in their responses to the Russian authorities, as the latter tried to apply various bureaucratic procedures to them (name-taking, censusing, military service, tax paying) and to enforce progressively oppressive legislation that contributed, in part, to major demographic shifts and migration from the 1880’s to 1914 (and beyond). The differences were to be found more at the level of internal Jewish life – the practice of religion, provision of education, selection, marriage patterns, without the benefit of a critical mass of Jews and the concomitant services of an organised kahal being immediately available. The village Jews were also marked off from shtetl Jews by their direct dependency on the landed gentry, by their occupations and even by their dress and the languages they spoke.While the degree to which the challenges of modernisation and industrialization touched the village Jew may be queried, the process of urbanization affected them directly, almost by definition. Finally, once urbanised, the village Jew was exposed to the same forces of acculturalization and the same intellectual and ideological influences as his urban counterpart – but were their reactions identical?

    Click here for Dr. Lamdan’s full paper.

  4. Maria Jose Surribas-Camps, U. of Barcelona:Connecting with the Lives and Lineages of Medieval Catalan JewsAbstract:
    This paper will review 2,000-3,000 primary documents, mainly notarial records from the 13th-15th centuries, in archives in Cervera and elsewhere, relating to the local Jewish community. As yet, these documents have not been analyzed in depth due to their sheer volume, a lack of indexing, linguistic difficulties and, to a degree, their somewhat narrow focus.These vast contemporary sources permit a study of Jewish individuals, their family life and genealogies and, indeed, an overview of the Cervera community’s entire history, which is both important in itself and representative of several other Catalan Jewish communities in medieval times.The notarial books and registers offer insights at a series of levels:

    • intimate glimpses into family life and lineages, marriages, wedding contracts, medical visits, business transactions, wills and claims.
    • major aspects of community life, such as relationships among Jews, sale and purchase of synagogue seats, ownership of real estate and land, loans, inventories and the like.
    • more general issues, such as epidemics, problems between the Christian and Jewish population and details of Jews departing for other localities.
    • mundane but significant details of everyday life, including the sale of items of clothing and animals, rental of donkeys, games and even verbal exchanges in the venacular used by the Jews.

    During 1492, the sources record the sale of Jewish properties, debt cancellations and conversions. Individual Jews speak through these records about the Expulsion order and its consequences. Following the Expulsion, converted Jews were identified as such in the documents. Over time, however, as individuals moved to other localities, some Jewish names disappear. Where they remained, the later records do not remark on their Jewish origins – which now can be traced.

    Click here for Mrs. Surribas’s full paper.

    Click here for Mrs. Surribas’s power point presentation.