Chocolate and the Jews
Restoring Continuity
• Recording the Graves
• Immigration to the United States
• Origins of Jewish First Names
• Jewish Surnames in Northern and Eastern Europe
• Your Ancestors Were What?
• Folklore and Research – Upcoming JGSWVO programs
• Uncovering Your Past

Restoring Continuity – Personal Thoughts on Researching Family History
By Pamela Endzweig

Growing up, I marveled at my friends, whose "nuclear" families included grandparents and other relatives, all living close by, with stories to tell and family heirlooms to pass to successive generations. Today my best friends still live in the town of their birth, only blocks from their parental homes.
Things were different for me, a first-generation American, the product of people who fled with only their lives, if they were lucky. For a long time, it seemed that even my ancestral history would evade me: being Jewish, without the benefit of church records, how could I fill gaps in my parents’ memories, push back in time to illuminate the histories of my grandparents, great-grandparents, and their parents before them?
My first and greatest discovery was that of community—that there are thousands researching their family lines—many with families uprooted like mine, often with even less knowledge to begin with—and finding success! This is truly a group effort, which succeeds by the sharing of information on genealogical resources, and by networking with others rooted in the same shtetls, tracking the same family names. It is a world-wide community, connected now more than ever through the internet, but anchored in local genealogical societies like our Jewish Genealogical Society of the Willamette Valley, Oregon (JGSWVO).
It would take many pages to reflect on what I have learned—this is an amazing journey that never ends. Sure, I know who I am named after; but my mother, born in Canada, and with encyclopedic knowledge of her side of the family, had not known that she, too, is probably named after her grandmother, who died in Europe and was thus never a part of Mom’s life. Where in Europe? Well, I’m still working on that. Or my paternal grandmother's cousin, Nissen Nachtgeist, who I have followed through ships’ manifests, as he arrived in New York after World War II, to return to Europe in 1950, and again in 1952, when he made his way back to New York, with Sheindl. Who was she? That too, remains to be discovered, but I know I will find her, and perhaps her parents, and her grandparents. It is a gift I give to myself, in reconnecting with my history, and a gift to my family, in honoring theirs.
If you, too, are interested in exploring your family’s history, drop by JGSWVO sometime. We meet on the second Wednesday of every month at 7:30 pm; for more information, call Reeva at 345-8129 or Renee at 484-2307 for directions.

This article appeared in the Newsletter of the Jewish Federation of Lane County in January, 2012

Recording the Graves
By Renee Gottesman and Reeva Kimble

Honoring the deceased is an ancient Jewish tradition. Prayers are recited annually and yahrzeit candles are lit to commemorate the anniversaries of the deaths of loved ones. A visit to the cemetery is customary at least once a year. A small stone is placed on the tombstone as a sign that the deceased has been remembered.

Since the Jewish community is a truly world-wandering lot, by virtue of choice or coercion, many family members no longer know the location of family gravesites. However, there is now an online archive of Jewish burials worldwide, where one can search for and find the graves of family members. This service is free of any charges at

The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) is a growing permanent archive for Jewish burial records on the Internet. As of December 2010, JOWBR had 1.5 million burial records from 3,000 cemeteries in 47 countries. Some of the records include Hebrew names of the deceased, parents’ names, place of birth, etc., in addition to the text on the headstone.

More than ten years ago, members of what is now the Jewish Genealogical Society Willamette Valley Oregon (JGSWVO) visited the dedicated Jewish section at Rest Haven Cemetery, recorded the names of people buried there, and submitted the data to JOBAR.

We are currently updating our cemetery data and expanding the records to other Jewish burial sites in the area. Contact us with information on local Jewish burials that are outside of the Rest Haven Jewish section, so we can include your friends and family members. Also, give us details about the parents of the deceased, their original surname, birthplace, etc. for any Jewish graves in Lane County.

This article appeared in the Newsletter of the Jewish Federation of Lane County in Spring, 2011

Immigration to the United States
By Renee Gottesman and Reeva Kimble

Contrary to popular belief, in the 100 years between 1824 and 1924 not every immigrant Jew who arrived in the USA came by ship and landed at Ellis Island. Did you know that many of our ancestors who came here took other routes as well?

Castle Garden was the New York City port that received immigrants from 1824 to 1892. Then the immigration process was moved to Ellis Island and that location was used until 1957. At the same time immigrants were arriving in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston and New Orleans. Smaller ports included sites in Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Michigan, California and the state of Washington.

Canadian land and seaports provided other points of U.S. entry for Jewish immigrants. People getting off the boat in Canada were not subject to as rigorous a health scrutiny as the exam given at U.S. shipping ports. The U.S. has records of people transitioning from Canada 1895-1954. Land ports include Coutts, Windsor, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Cornwall, Emerson, Sweetgrass, Sarnia, Kingston and others. Ferries took people to the U.S. from Nanaimo, Victoria, Yarmouth, and Ocean Falls.

Because passenger lists are arranged by port and then chronologically, it is important to know when and where your relative arrived. The U.S. Federal Census for 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 lists the year of immigration.

There may be years between leaving the old country and arriving in the USA. Some immigrants who left Eastern Europe may have first traveled to Argentina, South Africa, Japan, or some other country where Jews were welcome to settle. The U.S. may have become a final destination after discovering that life in that first setting was not agreeable, or a planned brief visit became extended because going "home" was not safe.

An immigrant's final destination was determined by many factors, including family contacts, job opportunities, affiliation with a specific immigration sponsor organization, and just plain chance.

If you cannot find your relatives in the Ellis Island ship records on-line at, we can show you other places to search. Come to a meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Willamette Valley Oregon (JGSWVO) on the 2nd Wednesday of the month.

This article appeared in the Newsletter of the Jewish Federation of Lane County in Fall, 2009

Origins of Jewish First Names
By Reeva Kimble and Renee Gottesman

His mother called him Herschele, the Rabbi called him Hirsch-Tzvi, his boss called him Harold, and his friends called him Harry. So, what was your grandfather's first name?

We know that Jewish babies are often given names that honor or memorialize family members. By tradition, Ashkenazi Jews name newborns after deceased relatives. Sephardic Jews, on the other hand, name babies after both living and dead grandparents or other relatives.

But there is much more to it. When Jews left the old country, they often left names behind and took new ones. Just as they took a sound from their own name to create a new American name (or Spanish name or French name), they did much the same thing when naming their children after an ancestor. In the US they might use Great Grandma Fejga's first initial and named the baby Frances. Or they used Great Grandma Fejga's Hebrew name Tzipporah and named the infant Tiffany. And then, because both Fejga (Yiddish) and Tzipporah (Hebrew) mean bird, the same child is nicknamed Birdie.

The man with the original name Hersh, might be Hirsch or Gersh on records in the old country. His Yiddish name might be written Hershil, Hershke, Hershko, Hershl, Herske, Hirshe, Hirshik, Hirshke, Hirshko or Hirshl. If he immigrated to Israel, he might have become Naftali, for like Hersh and Tzvi, it means deer.

When you were looking for records of your ancestors, you must take Jewish naming traditions into consideration. When you see several cousins with the same first name, born within a few years of each other, you can guess that they had an ancestor in common who died a few years before.

When you find a German first name in the Ellis Island records of your grandmother from Russia, you can guess that she gave her Yiddish name and the ships' officer at the port of Hamburg spelled it the way he heard it.

If you want to learn more about who you were named for, come to a meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Willamette Valley Oregon (JGSWVO) on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. Call Reeva at 345-8129 or Renee at 484-2307 for directions to the meeting place.

Visit our web site for program information and genealogy links.
JGSWVO web site:

This article appeared in the Newsletter of the Jewish Federation of Lane County 2009

Jewish Surnames in Northern and Eastern Europe
By Reeva Kimble and Renee Gottesman

For most Jews living in the Pale or the Austrian Empire in the 19th century, the use of surnames was a relatively recent practice. If your ancestors lived in this region before 1800, they were probably known by their first name plus the first name of their father.
For example: Yakov ben Shmul (Jacob, the son of Samuel), Sarah bat Yosef (Sarah daughter of Joseph).
Suppose there were two people named Samuel in the shtetl, one might be a tailor and one a baker, so Jacob would then be referred to as Jacob ben Shmul Beker (baker) or Jacob ben Shmul Portnoy (tailor). This naming system functioned perfectly well in small communities, but not outside. Last names changed every generation.

By the end of the 18th century, Government officials determined that they could keep track of people to collect taxes and determine eligibility for the army draft if individuals and families had permanent last names. Jews were eventually required by law to take surnames: Austrian Empire (1787), Russian Pale (1804, but not enforced until 1835/1845), Russian Poland (1821), West Galicia (1805), France (1808), various German states (between 1807 and 1834).

Sources of Surnames and examples:
Patronymics / Matronymics: Based on a parent's given name: (Slavic suffixes -owicz, -ovitch, -off, -kin, Germanic suffix -son.)
JACOBSON – son of Jacob
GOLDIN - son of Golda
Toponyms: Based on a geographic place name: (Slavic suffix -ski, Germanic suffix -er.)
WARSHAWSKI - one from Warsaw,
BERLINER - one from Berlin,
WILNER - one from Vilna.
Occupational: Based on vocation:
REZNIK [Polish/Yiddish], SHOCHET [Hebrew] - butcher.
SHNYDER [German/Yiddish], KRAVITS [Polish/Ukrainian], PORTNOY [Russian] - tailor.
SINGER - cantor
WEBER – weaver
LEDERER - tanner
Personal: description or characteristics:
SCHWARTZ - black,
WEISS - white,
KLEIN - small
GROSS – large
ROTHBART - red-bearded
Artificial: Fanciful or ornamental names: Many names ending in -berg, -stein, -feld...
ROSENBERG - mountain of roses,
FINKELSTEIN - glittering stone.

You can look up the meaning of your family surname in a variety of reference books on names after any regular meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society Willamette Valley Oregon. Visit our web site for information about our upcoming meetings.
JGSWVO web site:

This article appeared in the Newsletter of the Jewish Federation of Lane County 2008

Your Ancestors Were What?

Who were they, those people who lived before us? Where did they live? What language did they speak? Who did they look like? What did they eat? Were they Sephardic? Were they Ashkenazi? Did they belong to some other group of Jews?

This is just one of the many subjects that members of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Willamette Valley Oregon discuss here in Eugene. JGSWVO provided the material in this article to give you some clues about your family history.

Jews belonged to fascinatingly diverse groups with different ethnic, geographical, and cultural origins. Our ancestors likely came from among four major ethnic groups (Ashhkenazi, Sephardic, Oriental, Yemenite), but perhaps they came from one of the smaller groups.

Ashkenazi Jews lived in Germany or France before migrating to Eastern Europe. The name Ashkenaz was applied in the Middle Ages to Jews living along the Rhine River in northern France and western Germany. The center of Ashkenazi Jews later spread to Poland-Lithuania and eventually there were Ashkenazi settlements all over the world. Yiddish was their traditional language.

Sephardic Jews lived in Spain or Portugal. The word “Sephardim” comes from the Hebrew word for Spain, Sepharad. It is believed that Jews have lived in Spain since the era of King Solomon (c.965-930 B.C.E.). Their traditional language was Ladino.

Following the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, the Sephardic Jews were dispersed, some migrating to Europe, where they formed large communities in Venice, Amsterdam, Bordeaux, Hamburg and later London. Others eventually traveled to Eastern Europe where they were assimilated into the Ashkenazi. Large numbers escaped to the Middle East where they joined the Oriental Jewish community

Oriental Jews had lived in the Middle East and North Africa, but later spread to Central Asia and South Asia. In common usage, most Oriental Jews are called Sephardic, for the religious rites of Oriental Jews and Sephardic Jews are essentially the same. Many of them spoke Arabic, Aramaic or Persian.

Yemenite Jews are Oriental Jews whose geographical and social isolation from the rest of the Jewish community allowed them to develop a liturgy and set of practices sufficiently distinct from other Oriental Jewish groups so as to be recognized as a different group.

Smaller groups of Jews include the Ethiopian Jews (also known as the Falasha or Beta Israel), the Bene Israel Jews who lived in Bombay, India, the Cochin Jews another group living in India and the Romaniotes, who are Greek speaking Jews living in the Balkans since around 330 BCE.

Sub-groups of Jews include the Gruzim (Georgian Jews who lived in the Caucasus, especially Tbilisi), the Juhurim (Mountain Jews mainly from Azerbaijan and Daghestan in the eastern Caucasus), the Maghrebim (Jews from the Arab-Berber region of North Africa who established communities before 1450) and the Abayudaya (Ugandan Jews).

Recent discoveries in biology and medicine indicate that there are some group differences in DNA. The research continues. JGSWVO members regularly receive updates of the latest relevant scientific news.
If you would like to learn more about the history of your ancestors and research your family genealogy, visit the links on the web site of JGSWVO at Check out the list of our upcoming programs. Meetings of JGSWVO are in Eugene on the 2nd Wednesday evening of each month and open to all. Call Reeva Kimble, the society’s president, at 345-8129 for more information.

This article appeared in the Newsletter of the Jewish Federation of Lane County 2008

Folklore and Research – Upcoming JGSWVO programs

If you’re curious about folk beliefs and customs Jews in Eastern Europe developed over the centuries, there’s an answer man right here in Eugene. His name is Ron Wixman, a professor of geography at the University of Oregon.

Wixman will share his knowledge of Eastern European Jewish folklore at a meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Willamette Valley Oregon (JGSWVO). The meeting, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14, will be at the Quail Run Clubhouse. Directions to the clubhouse, at 477 Covey Lane, and links to a map can be found at the JGSWVO website, All society meetings are open to the public.

What you’ll hear from Ron Wixman are fascinating tales about the languages and customs of Jews throughout the region of the former Pale of Settlement. The author of two books on ethnography and language patterns in the region, Wixman is well known as a lecturer, and leads tours around the globe. He has also been a consultant on ethnic and religious conflict to various government agencies. He has been teaching geography at the University of Oregon for 30 years.

An examination of an entirely different subject will be presented at the Feb. 11 meeting of the JGSWVO. At that session, Register-Guard columnist Bob Welch will share his experiences in researching the life of Frances Slanger, the focus of his award-winning book, American Nightingale.

Slanger was a Polish-Jewish immigrant who became an army nurse in World War II. She was killed shortly after the D-Day landings at Normandy, and became a hero to GI troops through a poignant letter she wrote to the army newspaper Stars & Stripes. Welch became aware of Slanger through a Eugene source, and spent years researching her touching story.

That research is now detailed in Welch's new book, Pebble in the Water. At the Feb. 11 meeting, also at 7:30 p.m., Welch will delve into the difficult path of tracing the life of a woman some 60 years after her death.

Additional information on these programs and the JGSWVO can be obtained from the society president, Reeva Kimble, at 345-8129.

This article appeared in the Newsletter of the Jewish Federation of Lane County 2008

Uncovering Your Past

Have you ever wondered who your great-grandparents were? Where they lived? What they did for a living? And what other relatives they had? For some, those questions come early, when they still have grandparents to provide a few answers. If you’re like some of us, those questions start coming to you much later. Many of us are just starting to find out about our family’s past. The study of genealogy—the art and science of uncovering family history—is now a growth industry.

One of the factors in that growth is the Internet, which provides literally hundreds of sites that aid in the search process—all accessible from your home. Another factor is the spread of genealogy societies, volunteer organizations whose members assist each other in tracing their families.

There are more than 80 Jewish genealogy societies around the world—and one of them is centered in Eugene. The group that became the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Willamette Valley Oregon (JGSWVO) was formed in 1998. It is affiliated with the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.

JGSWVO meets one evening each month, when members hear presentations, watch films, and trade tips on how to conduct their family history quest. Membership is open to anyone who wishes to join, and yearly dues are only $10.

Each meeting (on the second Wednesday of the month) starts at 7:30 P.M. with self-introductions by all members. After the formal program, some members report on where they are in their family research projects, toss out questions to others and seek advice.

Another feature of the local society is a research collection. The collection ranges from basic genealogy instruction books to volumes tracing the origin of surnames, to newsletters and CDs. Materials are available for loan to members.

You can find out a lot more about the society on the JGSWVO website at See meeting details, links to search sites, and information on members' family names and towns of interest.

If you’re interested in connecting your family’s present to its past, visit a meeting. You can get more information about JGSWVO from its president, Reeva Kimble, at 345-8129.

This article appeared in the Newsletter of the Jewish Federation of Lane County 2008

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