Thursday, May 31, 2012
Thursday, April 28, 2011
I decided to go a little early and pay my respects.
Thanks to GPS, I arrived at the cemetery with no problems. Soon I found the section, block and area.
But as I began counting rows and tombstones, I realized I had problems. According to the cemetery website, my aunt was buried in row O.
Was that a zero or the letter O?
It’s easy to have a row zero in some cemeteries - they may have had to add a row before the original first one to make space - but she wasn't there. Did I count the rows in the wrong direction? She wasn't there. Then I tried to number the rows by letters, so I started A, B, C, D ... That didn't work either.
By now, I was getting worried and decided to review my data. Out came my new iPhone, found a Wi-Fi connection and went online to check my family tree data. Yes, the information was correct. I checked the cemetery website again - the information was the same - but my aunt wasn't there!
Could I do a reverse look up on the cemetery database? It seemed easy. There was the name of the person in front of me, and the database should give me his location. I did that a few times but all the names had numbered rows. If my aunt was in Row Zero, I was in trouble.
Amazingly, the phone also can be used for its original purpose - to make calls! I rang the administration office and spoke to a very kind lady who confirmed that I should be looking for the letter O and not zero. She explained that the area is divided in two - one with lettered rows and the other with numbers. With that information, I moved over to the left section and walked a few rows to the front and found Aunt Rika in the same spot she had been in for nine years.
I finally sent the tombstone image via email to my cousin - on the other side of the world - to show him my findings.
What did we do a few years ago when we didn't have Smart Mobile Devices with Internet, GPS, cameras and phones?
Sunday, April 18, 2010
creator of the
Museum of Family History.
Recently, someone wrote me with a question about baby markers, and how to keep the gravestone from completely sinking into the ground over time.
The question was:
"I recently had a baby marker created but the monument dealer/installer never heard of adding cement around the bottom of the stone and doesn't see how it prevents the stone from sinking. My question to you is: Do you know where I can obtain proof to show to the dealer? "
I thought his response might be of interest to readers, as many of us who have visited our Jewish cemeteries have noticed that these small markers often appear eroded, oriented on a slant, or partially or completely sunken into the ground.
I don't doubt that decades ago baby markers were sometimes made of sandstone and probably not set in cement, etc., but Todd's response at least can be said to reflect the method commonly used today, at least at his cemetery. Here is his answer:
"We call a baby marker a piece of granite that is twelve inches from left to right, usually at least three feet high and about two inches thick. When placed in the ground, we pour concrete in the hole first, then on the sides which leaves about an inch or two around the whole stone. This helps keep the marker from sinking."
For the complete interview with Mt. Judah Cemetery manager Todd Ivler, click here.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Born in the UK and raised in New Zealand, Ralph lives on Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin. He has researched his family history and discovered that the SALINGER family lived in Vilkaviskis (c1805-1941).
To learn about the project, go to Ralph's site, JewishVilkaviskis.org.
Working with Ralph is Wayne N. Frankel, Ph.D., a professor at The Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, Maine), and editor-in-chief of PLoS Genetics, an open access research journal.
Dr. Frankel's ancestors lived in Vilkaviskis for many generations prior to the 1902 emigration of his great-grandfather to New York. His cousins lived in Vilkaviskis until World War II; some survived, others did not."
His assistants on the ground in the area include Antanas Zilinskas, Vilkaviskis Regional Museum director; Algis Vaskevicius has a deep interest in the subject and his superb knowledge of English has been a wonderful source of support; and The Honorable Mr. Algirdas S Bagušinskas, Mayor of Vilkaviskis and his staff. See Ralph's site for contact information for these individuals.
In September, Ralph visited the Kalvarija Jewish Cemetery and with the help of middle-school students, the names of Jews buried there were deciphered.
The stones were cleaned with shaving cream, which is not recommended by cemetery preservationists as it can destroy stones and inscriptions.
In any case, the method was used and the stones deciphered. The International Jewish Graveyard Rabbit hopes that the visitors thoroughly washed off the foam from the stones.
One after another the names of people known from the archives were revealed to Jewish history researcher Alvydas Tottori. In a day and a half, Ralph - with his helpers - transcribed some 80 stones.
At the link above for the Vilkovishk site, see photos of the stones and learn more about Ralph's project. See the names of the researchers and the families they are looking for here.
Vilkovishk is located in southwestern Lithuania on the Seimena River, a tributary of the river Sesupe, about 18 km from the border with Prussia (now Russia) and 3.5 km from the St.Petersburg-Berlin railway line.
In 1660, King Jan Kazimir granted Vilkovishk city rights, making it one of the oldest Lithuanian towns. Jews had begun to settled there in the 14th century, but the old Jewish cemetery had stones dating only from 1575.
Queen Bona (wife of King Zigmunt August II) donated timber to Vilkovishk's citizens for building prayer houses at the beginning of the 16th century. Jews also benefited from this and the synagogue was built in 1545 and was extant until WWII, after several renovations over history. Sephardic Jews also settled here and the synagogue contained several Torah scrolls the refugees brought with them from Spain. They had their own cemetery.
In the early 18th century, Jews from Koeningsburg (Prussia) were buried in Vilkovishk because they were not permitted to construct a cemetery of their own. In the mid-1750s, refugees from a cholera epidemic in Vizhan, about 35km south of Vilkovishk, settled in a nearby forest - not allowed to enter the town - and the Jewish community supplied them with food. Many died and were buried near the forest. Their descendants settled in the town and remained there until the Holocaust.
There is much more detailed history, read it at the link above.
More links of interest
-- See the list of available Vilkovishk databases here.
-- See the photo library here.
-- See the site's index page here for all the pages on the site, including maps, photos of stones, various aspects of the project.
-- And see the related blog here, with even more information.
A truly fascinating site for those with ancestors in the area, or to see how similar projects can be organized.
Contact Ralph here.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Ashkenazim - in Turkey since the 1400s - make up only 5% of the Jewish community, but the two communities are extensively intermarried. The Sephardic community grew after Spanish Jews were welcomed at the time of the 1492 Expulsion.
The office of the Chief Rabbi (Hakham Bashi) placed an advertisement in the daily Jewish paper stating that Sephardim were reserving plots in Ashkenazi cemeteries and vice versa.
The rabbi warned that this is a big problem and those considering such plots should consult him first, while the Ashkenazi organization says, in response, that their door is open to everyone.
The main problem is that Sephardim and Ashkenazim married to each other want to be buried side by side, but the Sephardi cemeteries are running out of room.
There are six Sephardic and one Ashkenazi cemetery, with the Ulus Cemetery most popular.
Read the complete Hurriyet article here.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Prison spokesperson Ireneusz Mucha said an agreement had been signed with the national Polish-Jewish heritage foundation enabling the prisoners to volunteer.
Some 1,000 Polish cemeteries need work; many were destroyed by the Nazis during World War II.
“The voluntary, unpaid work will be run with local authorities or Jewish communities. The advantages will go both ways, because the foundation will also provide courses in history and tolerance for the prisoners,” Mucha said.
More than 12 prisons will participate.
Initial projects will be building a memorial in a Radom cemetery, south of Warsaw, and renovation of a Zwierzyniec graveyard in Poland's southeast.
The story added that Jews arrived in Poland from western Europe to escape 11th century pogroms.
Before the Holocaust, some 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland, about 10% of the population and Europe's largest Jewish community.
Of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis, half were Polish. Most perished in concentration camps.
Today, some 5,000-15,000 people in Poland identify as Jewish.
Read more here.
Monday, July 6, 2009
When Denni and Carl Glick of Jackson walk through Temple Beth Israel Cemetery, it's like taking a step back in time.Jews arrived in Jackson in 1842, but the small community meant a synagogue could not be constructed until the early 1860s. The cemetery was dedicated in 1859. There are more than 270 burials which represent four or five generations of community families.
The two wander through the 1-acre burial plot on N. West Avenue, just south of the railroad tracks, and reminisce on the congregation's history, as told through inscriptions etched on the gravestones of family and friends.
Temple member Nancy Demeter spearheaded the process and researched its history. It was first approved by the State Historic Preservation Board, which forwarded the nomination to the National Park Service. Approval is expected.
Read more here.