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Amateur genealogists can now contribute to Holocaust records thanks to JRI-Poland working with Yad Vashem

CJN logo

Note: Kind thanks to The Canadian Jewish News for allowing us to reproduce their article here.
Credit: Janice Arnold, Staff Reporter - December 7, 2021

Yad Vashem—the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem—and Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (JRI), a non-profit organization co-founded and headed by Stanley Diamond of Montreal, announced a landmark agreement to partner through technology.

The partnership recognizes the importance of amateur genealogists in advancing Yad Vashem's mission when their contribution is supported by hard data and does not rely solely on memory or second-hand recollection, Diamond said.

Stanley Diamond
Stanley Diamond

"We are proud to be the first organization Yad Vashem has allowed third-party access to its invaluable collection and excited by the many new discoveries that will be made by family researchers who have overlooked Yad Vashem as a source," he said.

Founded in 1995, the independent non-profit JRI, run by volunteers around the world, offers on its website a searchable database of 6.1 million vital records and other official statistics from the current and former territories of Poland. These are indices to birth, marriage and death records, as well as census statistics and other materials, dating to the early 19th century, that are housed in Poland today.

JRI, described as the largest and most accessible resource of its kind, gets a million hits a year, Diamond said.

Yad Vashem has authenticated the names and biographical information, often scant, on just over 4.8 million Holocaust victims, collected mainly through its long-running Pages of Testimony project, and preserved on its database.

Researchers on will now be linked directly and simultaneously to matching Pages of Testimony search results when they look up a surname (and most helpfully a town, too).

The partnership with JRI is made possible through API (Application Programming Interface), software that allows two pieces of software to communicate.

"This new partnership will streamline users' experience and provide the ability to add to the Yad Vashem database new Pages of Testimony, substantiated with biographical documentation," said Diamond, who has been JRI executive director since 1997.

"Family historians researching the current or former territories of Poland can now more easily determine whether their relatives have been memorialized or whether they can elaborate on the known life events for a Shoah victim using the JRI-Poland database."

At the Dec. 6 announcement, the director of Yad Vashem's Hall of Names, Alexander Avram, expressed his hope the partnership will lead to "bearing witness to more than one million individuals who have yet to be memorialized... Partnerships like this with JRI-Poland can and will play an important role in helping us fill those vacant shelves and add a large number of Pages of Testimony in the years to come."

Diamond responded that JRI is "honoured to assist Yad Vashem with its sacred duty by facilitating the preservation of a Shoah victim's memory and improving the retelling of major events in a Shoah victim's life. We do this by presenting the documentation of the vital events and at the same time indicating either the existence of—or the lack of—a tribute for these individuals in the Yad Vashem Hall of Names."

JRI assistant director Robinn Magid of Berkeley, California, added, "Correlating vital records with a mention in the Hall of Names is the first step in presenting a more complete biography of people like my great-grandmother who were lost in the Shoah. Yad Vashem and JRI are collaborating to increase the likelihood that our audiences will find something new, perhaps overlooked, and maybe even life-changing."

That may mean learning of previously unknown relatives or providing closure if their death is confirmed.

JRI has been able to build its huge database thanks to a long-standing agreement with the Polish State Archives, Diamond noted. And that documentation grows with every passing year as Polish privacy laws impose a 100-year wait for the release of birth records.

If JRI researchers spot an error in a Page of Testimony they can file a new page citing the correct primary source information such as exact names, dates and places that the Polish records provide.

Diamond said ensuring the accuracy of Yad Vashem's documentation is essential in countering Holocaust denial or distortion.

Click here to read the original story on the Canadian Jewish News site.

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JRI-Poland data and DNA Reunite Hidden Child and Family

CJN logo

Note: Kind thanks to Canadian Jewish News for allowing us to reproduce their article here.
Credit: Janice Arnold, Staff Reporter - October 10, 2018

בעברית Read the Hebrew version here

Stanley Diamond, one of the pre-eminent Jewish family genealogists in the world, has long urged all Jews, especially those of Ashkenazic descent, to get their DNA tested.

The reason is not only to satisfy their own curiosity about their family roots, but because the information could be crucial to the many people who are trying to recover their Jewish identity, or find relatives who were lost in the Holocaust. These are often Jewish children who were hidden or adopted by non-Jewish families during the Second World War.

Esther and Ze'ev Zilber wedding photo
Esther and Ze'ev Zilber wedding photo

As executive director of Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (JRI), which he founded in 1995, Diamond played a key role in helping Maria Vasitinskaya – a 76-year-old Polish-born woman living in Omsk, Russia – find out who her biological parents were and confirm that she is Jewish. This led to the discovery of numerous relatives in Israel, who she met last spring.

But the story doesn't end there. Diamond was astonished to find out this past month that he is directly related to Vasitinskaya, on his mother's side.

Diamond, whose maternal ancestors were from northeastern Poland, says it's an "amazing coincidence" that "I am a perfect ‘zero distance' (meaning identical) mitochondrial match for Maria and her first cousin, Ora Wittenberg, whose DNA was used as the DNA match that resulted in certification of Maria as being Jewish."

Esther and Ze'ev Zilber with their children Sara and Moshe
Esther and Ze'ev Zilber with their children
Sara and Moshe

To find out the degrees of separation between them and where their ancestors crossed will take a lot more digging.

Diamond said that of the 40,000 matches to his DNA that he has found on the Internet, only about 150 are zero distance. "Can you imagine, working on a case (for years) to help a woman in Omsk, Russia, find her identity and then find this out?"

Accompanying Vasnitskaya to the conclusion of her genealogical journey overjoyed Diamond and he hopes his experience will spur others to get tested and post their results online.

JRI determined that Vasitinskaya's birth name was Rivkah Zilber, that her parents were Esther Freund and Ze'ev Zilber, that she had an older sister and brother, and that she comes from what were large families in Krosno, Poland, where she was born, as well as Jaslo. She now has photos of her parents' wedding and of her older brother and sister with her parents before the war, among others.

Her mother, it is now known, died in the Belzec concentration camp and her father in Bergen-Belsen.

Her Jewishness has now been certified by the chief rabbinate of Russia. She has applied for German restitution, which she could use given her meagre circumstances.

Maria's certificate of Jewishness
Maria's certificate of Jewishness

"I have been involved with many other missing identity cases, but none are like this," said Diamond, "because Maria will come to know a large, closely related and loving family from both her mother's and father's sides, which is beyond her original expectations and that makes Maria's story even sweeter."

About 100 relatives attended a family reunion when she was in Israel

Vasitinskaya was taken in by a gentile couple, the Markoviches, when she was about eight months old, after, it is believed, her parents were confined to the ghetto.

In 1947, her adoptive family, in which there were no other children, moved to Ukraine. Vasitinskaya knew from an early age that she was Jewish, Diamond said. When her adoptive mother died in 1953 and her father's new wife did not want her, Vasitinskaya went to live with a Jewish couple.

In 2010, she went to Israel to visit descendants of that couple and decided to finally find out who her birth family was. This search brought her into contact with JRI-Poland, an independent, non-profit organization that has a database of more than five-million Jewish birth, marriage and death records from that country, going back more than a century.

Freund family reunion in Israel
Freund family reception in Israel, April 2018 (Maria is in center with young girl on her lap)
Zylber family reception in Israel
Maria (center) with her paternal Zylber relatives at the family reunion in Israel, April 2018

Diamond is proud that JRI-Poland and its mostly volunteer genealogists in several countries worked doggedly to help Vasitinskaya, but admits that it likely would have been impossible to have ended in the happy way it did only 10 years ago, before reliable DNA testing became readily available.

"This glorious conclusion was made possible by a combination of records indexed by JRI-Poland in 2003 as the framework and a succession of DNA tests/matches, starting with the first breakthrough last November, with a match who ultimately turned out to be a first cousin in Brooklyn," he said. Still, there were plenty of false starts along the way.

Vasitinskya has a daughter and a grandson who also now know who they are, as well.

"I cannot find words to express how thankful I am to you. I even cannot describe to you in what emotional condition I am now because my longtime dream has come true – I found out my parents' names. And together with this, I found my family and close relatives. I am overwhelmed with joy and happiness. What seemed impossible came true. I am very thankful to you for your sympathy, kindness and help in my search of my relatives," she wrote Diamond.

Diamond notes that it was this story that finally persuaded his 93-year-old cousin, Avi Morrow, to get tested, so that any descendants of his mother's (and Diamond's grandmother's) sisters might find the two Montreal men, if they survived.

"My message is put yourself out there, make it possible for someone, somewhere to find you just as you want to find them," said Diamond. "Dramatic stories of discovery like this, of establishing anew long-severed family connections, illustrate how technology has provides new opportunities for those who want to know for themselves and future generations."

Click here to read the original story on the Canadian Jewish News site.

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Rutka Laskier's Birth Record Finally Located

2014 IAJGS Award

On what would have been the 89th Birthday of Rutka Laskier - June 12, 2018
An Announcement by Jewish Records Poland-Indexing, Inc. and The Bedzin-Sosnowiec-Zawiercie Area Research Society

About Newly Discovered Information on Rutka Laskier's Family History

Rutka Laskier was a 13 year old Jewish girl when she kept a diary chronicling the three months of her life in Bedzin, Poland, while under Nazi German occupation -- from January 19, 1943 to April 24, 1943. Her dairy was published for first time in 2006, drawing comparisons to the diary of Anne Frank instantly. In fact, Anne Frank was born on the very same day and year as Rutka Laskier -- June 29, 1929. Rutka's diary has since been released in numerous translations.

The Diary

The diary begins on January 19, 1943, with the entry "I cannot grasp that it is already 1943, four years since this hell began." One month later, on February 20, 1943, she writes: "I have a feeling that I am writing for the last time. There is an Aktion in town. I'm not allowed to go out and I'm going crazy, imprisoned in my own house| For a few days, something's in the air| The town is breathlessly waiting in anticipation, and this anticipation is the worst of all. I wish it would end already! This torment; this is hell. I try to escape from these thoughts, of the next day, but they keep haunting me like nagging flies"

Rutka's Origins?

Ever since her diary was published, biographers and historians have stated that Rutka Laskier was born in Danzig now Gdansk, a Baltic port city in northern Poland. However, experienced genealogists know that errors often occur in documenting Polish-Jewish family history -- both in the reading of records or false assumptions where records are not available. Since the Gdansk birth records do not reveal an entry for Rutka's birth, some have raised a question as to the validity of the assumption that she was born there.

This led Stanley Diamond, the Executive Director of Jewish Records Indexing-Poland and Jeffrey Cymbler, JRI-Poland's Bedzin Town Leader and Founder of the Bedzin-Sosnowiec-Zawiercie Area Research Society (BSZARS), to ponder the assumptions concerning Rutka Laskier's place of birth and to look for answers.

Holocaust survivors and their families, as well as pre-war Jewish immigrants from Poland and their descendants, may be unaware that a remarkable number of Jewish records of Poland have survived the upheavals of history and the ravages of war. JRI-Poland has created indices/extractions to more than 5 million Jewish birth, marriage and death records from more than 550 towns in current and former territories of Poland. In addition to vital records, the JRI-Poland online database includes other types of records such as Books of Residents, censuses, army draft lists, school records, cemetery burials, Polish passports, ghetto death records, birth, marriage and death announcements in Polish newspapers and post-war court and legal announcements in official newspapers. The data varies widely by town or region. JRI-Poland's records for the Bedzin area are among the richest of its holdings. Jeff Cymbler decided to renew the research of Rutka Laskier's origins. JRI-Poland and BSZARS are now pleased to announce the results of their findings.

Rutka's Actual Birthdate and Birthplace

Recently, one of JRI-Poland's expert researchers in Poland, Jakub Czuprynski, located the Books of Residents for Bedzin in the Katowice Branch of the Polish State Archives. These huge books span the mid-19th century to 1931 and are over 10,000 pages. The Books of Residents are a treasure chest of information for family historians. In these books, Jacob found the page with the Laskier family on page 9768. Here was the surprise. The Book of Residents revealed that Rutka was not born in Gdansk. But according to the 1929 entry in the book, Rutka was born in Krakow!

Determined to locate Rutka's actual birth record, with the permission of Rutka's half-sister, Jakub was asked to search the Krakow city registry for Rutka's actual birth certificate. Jakub found Rutka's birth record in Krakow. The birth record states that Rutka was born on June 12, 1929. From the birth record we learned that Rutka's mother's maiden name was Hampel. It also states that Rutka was given her name by her parents in the Bedzin synagogue, two days later, on June 14, 1929.

Jewish girls are traditionally given their names in the synagogue on the Sabbath when the Torah is read. However, Rutka received her name on a Friday when the Torah is usually not read in the synagogue. However, it was quickly determined that Friday June 14, 1929 was a Jewish holiday. It was Shavuot -- the Pentecost -- when according to Jewish tradition, Moses received the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai. Research into Rutka's family tree did not reveal any ancestors of Rutka who bore the name Rutka. Therefore, Rutka's sister, Zahava, is convinced that Rutka was given the name Rut (Ruth) because she was named on Shavuot -- the holiday when Jews traditionally read the Book of Ruth in addition to the torah in the synagogue.

Rutka's Family's Address and Business

Research into the "1938 Directory of Manufacturers of Poland" and the 1939 Telephone Book for Bedzin located the grocery merchant firm of A. Hampel & N. Goldsobel as having been incorporated in 1916. Jakob Laskier was one of the members of the board of directors. Another was Abram Chil Hampel, Rutka's maternal grandfather. Among the products that the company dealt in were rice, sugar, sardines and other food products. The company also had branches in the neighboring towns of Sosnowiec and Dabrowa Gornicza. The phone number was 71058.

The 1939 census of the Jews in Bedzin -- renamed Bendsburg by the Germans -- was found in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. In it, the entry for Rutka and her family appears on page 283. The census record lists Ruth (born on June 12, 1929), her father, Jakob (born on August 7, 1900), mother Dwojra (Deborah) (born September 13, 1904) and her little brother, Joachim, nicknamed Henius (born August 3, 1937). The family lived in an apartment in the center of Bedzin on 4 Sw. Jana Street which is now called Moniuszki Street.

Rutka's Grandfather's Grave

In early 1940, Rutka's grandfather, David Laskier, died in Bedzin. In his book on the Bedzin cemetery, "The Cemetery of the Jewish Communities of Bedzin and Czeladz Poland," Jeff documented each of the over 3000 tombstones in the cemetery. The database and photos of each of the tombstones are researchable on JRI-Poland"s website. Jeff located the tombstone in the cemetery which was erected after the war to remember Rutka"s grandfather, David Laskier, and the other family members who met their tragic deaths during the Nazi German occupation.

From January 19 to April 24, 1943, Rutka kept a diary in an ordinary school notebook. In it, she discussed atrocities she witnessed committed by the Nazis, and described daily life in Bedzin.

Laskier Family Deportation to Auschwitz

In April 1943, Rutka and her family were sent to the ghetto in the Kamionka district of Bedzin. On August 5, 1943, Rutka and her family were deported with her family to Auschwitz-Birkenau where she met her death in a gas chamber. Her father, Jakob became prisoner 135519. Jakob was later sent to Sachsennhausen Concentration Camp. Rutka's Auschwitz number was probably somewhere between 52572 to 53820.

Although Rutka's uncles, Israel and Fiszel Laskier, and a cousin Michal Laskier, had South American passports ordered for them by Polish diplomats in Bern, Switzerland, in cooperation with Jewish organizations in Bern and Lausanne, they did not survive. Jeff and BSZARS are currently working with the Polish Ambassador in Bern, Switzerland, and the Honorary Polish Consul in Zurich to fully document the story of hundreds of Bedzin area Jews who were assisted by the Polish diplomats during the Holocaust in attempts to obtain false South American passports.

Revelation of the Diary

In 1943, while writing the diary, Rutka shared it with Stanislawa Sapilska, a then 21-year-old Polish woman, who Rutka had befriended. Rutka gradually came to realize she would not survive, and, realizing the importance of her diary as a document of what had happened to the Jewish population of Bedzin, asked Sapilska to help her hide the diary. After the ghetto was evacuated and all its inhabitants sent to the death camp, Sapilska returned to the house and retrieved the diary. She kept it in her home library for 63 years and did not share it with anyone but members of her immediate family. In 2005, Sapilska told Adam Szydlowksi, an historian in Bedzin, about the dairy. Recognizing the importance of the diary to Holocaust memory, Adam arranged to have the diary published.

Rutka's Half-Sister, Zahava, Is Honored

Rutka's father, Jacob, was the only member of the Laskier family to survive. Eventually he emigrated to Palestine, remarried and had another daughter, Zahava, named after Jabob's mother, Golda.

Recently, JRI-Poland and BSZARS hosted an event in NY, at which time, Stanley Diamond and Jeff Cymbler had the honor to present Zahava with this new historical information that they uncovered in connection with Rutka.

Rutka's Final Words

One of Rutka's final entries says "If only I could say, it's over, you die only once... But I can't, because despite all these atrocities, I want to live, and wait for the following day."

Happy Birthday Rutka -- Your words live on and your memory is not forgotten!

See Jeffrey Cymbler's posting on Facebook. Jeffrey is raising money for JRI-Poland.

You can contribute to JRI-Poland here.

Mark Halpern, on behalf of the Board of JRI-Poland and Board members Jeffrey Cymbler and Stanley Diamond

The executive committee and board of Jewish Records Indexing – Poland acknowledges the remarkable efforts of its many hundreds of volunteers and the generosity of researchers around the world. Our success is due to the boundless energy of those volunteers together with the support of contributors with a common interest. This combination of dedication and generosity characterizes the very best in the world of Jewish Genealogy.

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Obituary: Ruth Gamper-Silver : 1957 - 2018

Ruth Gamper-Silver
Ruth Gamper-Silver

I am saddened to report the recent and sudden passing of Ruth Gamper Silver, a longtime volunteer in the Jewish Genealogy world and a good friend to many of us. Ruth volunteered in the Belarus SIG as a data acquisition coordinator and with Paul Zoglin and David Feldman, worked hard to create a cooperative relationship with other SIGs.

Ruth was a dedicated and active volunteer for working with me in the Lublin region for many years. Her cheerful attitude, willingness to help, and ability to tell a story will be sorely missed. Ruth loved her family and her cats very much. May her memory be for a blessing.

Robinn Magid
Board Member and Lublin Archive Coordinator, Jewish Records Indexing - Poland

Click here to read her obituary.

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JRI-Poland, Miriam Weiner and the Routes to Roots Foundation sign a Licensing Agreement

Weiner's Unique and Extensive Archival Collection to be part of the JRI-Poland Website

Miriam Weiner
Miriam Weiner in Warsaw USC office in Poland working
with Jewish vital record books from Galicia, 1994
(Photo Source: Miriam Weiner Archives)

JRI-Poland is very pleased to announce a new collaboration with Miriam Weiner (President of the Routes to Roots Foundation) where selected articles and chapters from her award-winning book, Jewish Roots in Poland, will now be accessible via our website.

In her more than 28 years of working in the Polish archives (and in those of neighboring countries), Weiner has amassed a large collection of archival inventories, name lists, cemetery lists and other unique data and information that has not been seen outside of the archives in Eastern Europe. She has generously provided JRI-Poland with large boxes of this material and we estimate it will take quite some time to process it (some requires translating) for addition to our website.

We are very pleased to receive this unique and historic material and share it with researchers.

Click here to learn more about Miriam and get more details about this collection.

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JRI-Poland Executive Director, Stanley Diamond M.S.M, receives the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, presented the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) to Stanley Diamond on June 23, 2017 during a ceremony at Rideau Hall.
His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, presented the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) to Stanley Diamond on June 23, 2017 during a ceremony at Rideau Hall.

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, presented JRI-Poland Executive Director, Stanley Diamond (Montréal) with the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) for his work in establishing and directing the Jewish Records Indexing – Poland project.

Diamond is also the founding president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal. In 2002, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS).

An article about Diamond's work in genealogy appears in the June 22, 2017 issue of Canadian Jewish News.

"What we have accomplished has only been made possible through teamwork and a level of collaboration and dedication unmatched in the Jewish genealogical world."

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JRI-Poland Board Member Robinn Magid is presented with Outstanding Contribution Medal by City of Lublin Mayor

Outstanding Contribution Medal awarded to JRI-Poland Board Member, Robinn Magid

JRI-Poland board member, Robinn Magid, was recently awarded a medal by Dr. Krzysztof Zuk, Przydent Miasta Lublin (Mayor of the City of Lublin) on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of Lublin's founding in 1317.

The medal reads: "In recognition of her contribution and commitment to the city's development and contribution to its residents, with thanks for the effort to inspire the future and shape the local identity of Lublin".

Robinn has served as the Lublin Archives Project Coordinator for JRI-Poland since 1998 and coordinates the JRI-Poland activities for 90 towns in the Lublin area. Robinn serves as the lead co-chair of the upcoming International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference to be held in Warsaw, Poland August 5-10, 2018. Come join us.

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JRI-Poland helps Guiness World Records confirm 112-year old Yisrael Kristal as oldest man in the world

Izrael-Icek Krysztal
Izrael-Icek Krysztal

Documents identified by Jewish Records Indexing - Poland Executive Director Stanley Diamond and Database Manager Michael Tobias and the Łódź Branch of the Polish State Archives leads Guinness World Records to confirm 112-year old Auschwitz Survivor Yisrael Kristal (Izrael-Icek Krysztal) is the oldest man in the world.

Click here to read the full Haaretz article [English].

Click here to read the full Haaretz article [Hebrew].

Download the Haaretz article [English] (PDF).

Click here for the link to the New York Times article.

Read How Glasgow genealogist Michael Tobias helped to gather the proof.

Read Montreal genealogist Stanley Diamond had key role in case of world's oldest man.

Read the Hamodia article on Yisrael Kristal's life story [English] (PDF).

UPDATE: Yisrael Kristal passed away on 11 August 2017.

Read World's Oldest Man, Auschwitz Survivor Yisrael Kristal, Dies at 113.

Read World's Oldest Man, A Holocaust Survivor In Israel, Dies At 113.

הגבר המבוגר בעולם, ישראל קרישטל מחיפה, מת בגיל 114

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Obituary: Rieke Nash : 1938 - 2015

Rieke Nash
Rieke Nash

It is with a heavy heart and a deep feeling of sadness and loss that I share with you the news of the passing of Rieke Nash of Sydney, Australia after a long illness.

Rieke and husband Peter were regular attendees at the annual conferences and all who had the opportunity to meet her knew that they had encountered a wonderful lady in every sense.

As President of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Australia and a devoted Jewish Records Indexing - Poland volunteer, Rieke was a friend, colleague and mentor to countless researchers at home and abroad. In her devotion to the role of JRI-Poland Wloclawek Archive Coordinator for more than fifteen years, we have been witness to Rieke's unique talents for collaboration and helpfulness.

As a family historian, Rieke was an indefatigable researcher, traveling to archives around the world in her efforts to unravel her family's ancestry.

On behalf of the executive committee and board of JRI-Poland, I extend our deepest sympathies to Rieke's husband Peter and the entire Nash family. May her memory be for a blessing and may they know no further sorrow.

Stanley Diamond
Executive Director, Jewish Records Indexing - Poland

Click here to read the obituary published in the JGS of Australia "Kosher Koala" journal.

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JRI-Poland database is key resource for PBS's "Finding Your Roots" episode featuring attorney Alan Dershowitz, singer Carole King and playwright Tony Kushner

Alan Dershowitz
Alan Dershowitz
Carole King
Carole King
Tony Kushner
Tony Kushner

The November 4, 2014 episode of PBS's documentary series "Finding Your Roots," features three notable Americans, renowned attorney Alan Dershowitz, Grammy Award winning singer / songwriter Carole King and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and screen writer Tony Kushner. All three have deep roots in Poland.

The episode's researchers were able to tap into JRI-Poland's online database for documenting the ancestry of the featured personalities.

The episode was repeated at different times by PBS stations around the U.S.

The Dershowitz/King/Kushner story is part of the current 10-part series of Finding Your Roots with host Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. The series combines history and science in a fascinating exploration of race, family, and identity in today's America. Each hour features celebrity guests, who are bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden link, whether it be as old friends, through long-lost relatives, or even through a common ancestral past.

Finding Your Roots director / producer, Josh Gleason commented:

"JRI-Poland was a tremendous resource as we worked to uncover the Eastern European ancestry of our Jewish guests. The site allowed us to trace Carole King's family tree all the way back to the 18th century. Typically this would require finding independent researchers to comb through local archives. By indexing and digitizing thousands of records JRI-Poland has made it possible for people in all parts of the world to readily uncover their ancestry."

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JRI-Poland wins coveted 2014 IAJGS "Award for Outstanding Contribution to Jewish Genealogy via the Internet"

2014 IAJGS Award
en Francais בעברית po Polsku en Español

On August 1, 2014, at the closing banquet of the annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, Jewish Records Indexing – Poland received the 2014 IAJGS (International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies) "Award for Outstanding Contribution to Jewish Genealogy via the Internet".

The certificate accompanying the award states:

JRI-Poland is recognized for providing since 1995 searchable on-line indices of Jewish records from current and former territories of Poland and for its recent ground-breaking multi-year agreement with the Polish State Archives (PSA) in a massive effort to digitize all vital records in more than 30 regional archives. This initiative will dramatically expand access to records for family historians tracing their Jewish roots to Poland and make them freely available online.

The executive committee and board of Jewish Records Indexing – Poland acknowledges the remarkable efforts of its many hundreds of volunteers and the generosity of researchers around the world. Our success is due to the boundless energy of those volunteers together with the support of contributors with a common interest. This combination of dedication and generosity characterizes the very best in the world of Jewish Genealogy.

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Agreement between the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and JRI-Poland

A new 8-year agreement on promoting research and education between Jewish Records Indexing - Poland, Inc. and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw has been co-signed at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Ottawa on April 10, 2014.

Stanley Diamond

Stanley Diamond signing the agreement witnessed by Ambassador Andrzej Cudak

The new agreement between JRI-Poland and the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews expands the relationship of the two organizations to promote research and to educate those interested in their family history and the rich and historic culture of Polish Jewry, which dates back almost 1000 years.

The April 10 signing by JRI-Poland Executive Director, Stanley Diamond,of Montreal follows the initial signing of the agreement by Acting Director of the Museum in Warsaw, Andrzej Cudak several weeks ago.

Under the new agreement, the Resource Center at the Museum will have special access to the JRI-Poland database and website. Museum staff will educate visitors and respond to their questions regarding the database and provide guidance to Museum visitors on the next steps they can take in their research of family roots in Poland. In 2010, the two organizations signed a cooperation agreement linking their websites. The Museum's "Virtual shtetl" portal commemorates and includes research resources for more than 1800 Polish towns. JRI-Poland has Jewish record indices from the birth, marriage, death and census records for the Jewish families that lived in many of these same towns. By using the two websites together, researchers are able to not only obtain names, dates and sources of family records from JRI-Poland, but are also be able to learn about town histories from the Museum's web pages.

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews documents Jewish experience in Poland - from the early settlements ten centuries ago, to the modern revival of the Jewish community. With the opening of the core exhibit in the fall of 2014, the museum will compare in content and importance to both Yad Vashem and to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

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Polish State Archives & JRI-Poland Sign Historic Agreement Expanding Access to Records

On Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, the Polish State Archives (PSA) and Jewish Records Indexing-Poland (JRI-Poland) entered into a new multi-year agreement that will expand access to Jewish records for thousands of family historians.


Polish Consul General Andrzej
Szydło and Stanley Diamond


Director Władysław Stępniak &
Intl Dept Head Ania Krochmal

Video of the Official Signing

The agreement will enable JRI-Poland to rapidly expand its current online database of indices to five million records. With the support of researchers from the hundreds of towns with records in the JRI-Poland database, indices to more than one million additional records are expected to become available within a year.

The agreement reflects a resumption of cooperation between the PSA and JRI-Poland, whose landmark agreement from 1997-2006 resulted in the indexing of more than four million records whose listings are searchable in the JRI-Poland database.

JRI-Poland and the PSA will institute a new Order Processing System to vastly simplify the process of obtaining copies of archival records. JRI-Poland will have the administrative responsibility for processing orders for records from branches of the Polish State Archives. Researchers will be able to place orders by clicking on record index entries of interest in the JRI-Poland search results and paying by credit card via the JRI-Poland website.

In a statement reflecting the strong significance of these records and their importance to family historians around the world, the PSA announced that they are beginning a massive effort to digitize all vital records in their more than 30 Regional Archives. These will be available — free — on their National Digital Archives and Regional Archive websites.

JRI-Poland will serve the research community and PSA by linking its search results to the PSA's digital images of the Jewish records. As a result of the massive indexing undertaken by JRI-Poland since 1995, the indices to Jewish records will form the bulk of all digital image linking on the PSA website.

The Order Processing System will eventually be phased out as digitized records become available online.

PSA General Director, Professor Władysław Stępniak observed: "The signing of this agreement will open a new phase in the cooperation between JRI-Poland and State Archives in Poland. I am convinced that the results of our mutual efforts will be helpful for many people interested in centuries-old Polish-Jewish relations, shared history and family history research."

To reach this milestone took the combined and diligent efforts of the JRI-Poland executive committee, Judy Baston, Stanley Diamond, Mark Halpern and Michael Tobias, and former committee member Hadassah Lipsius, and the invaluable input of our board members. We also would like to thank those JRI-Poland Archive Coordinators and Town Leaders who continued to carry out their responsibilities and serve researchers around the world during the years leading up to this new agreement.

Additional information will be posted as we move forward.

Stanley Diamond, Executive Director
For the Board of Jewish Records Indexing - Poland

See the full text of the Jewish Records Indexing - Poland agreement News Release.

Read the announcement on the Polish State Archives website.

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JRI-Poland plays important role in Canadian Episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

"Who Do You Think You Are?" is a genealogy series in which well known Canadians set out to discover their family roots. Each half hour episode combines the intimacy of observational documentary and the revelation of a well told detective story.

The Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) is re-running its 13 part episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? - first aired in 2007.

Steven Page, former lead-singer, guitarist and principal songwriter for the internationally acclaimed pop band, the Barenaked Ladies (BNL), grew up in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto, feeling that being the only Jew in the neighborhood made him an outsider. His search into his ancestry reveals family tragedy, oppression and a connection to a musical dynasty.

The key to the success of each episode is extensive genealogical research. Steven Page's voyage of discovery took him to Jewish Records Indexing Poland. JRI-Poland Executive Director Stanley Diamond was a consultant for this episode. With leads from the JRI - Poland database of records from the Polish State Archives, Page became the first in his family to take an individual journey deep into his family's past in Nowa Slupia, Lagow and Rakow (towns in the Opatow district of Poland).

Click here for a description of the episode.

The Steven Page episode, by Toronto director/writer David Langer, aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network on October 1, 2012.

The episode can also be viewed online here.

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Surname Distribution Mapper

Jewish Records Indexing - Poland has introduced the "Surname Distribution Mapper" - a tool designed to help researchers graphically understand where their family names first appeared in the 19th century records and visualize how the family spread throughout Poland by decades from the early 1800s into the first part of the 20th century.

Using modern mapping technology provided by Google Maps, the Surname Distribution Mapper allows users to graphically display their search results using a tree icon to indicate the number of entries found for a surname in a town's vital and other records. By running the cursor over each tree icon, a user can view a popup window displaying the number of vital record entries found in various towns in the JRI-Poland database. Clicking on the balloon brings the user to the familiar JRI-Poland search results for detailed viewing of a town's entries.

Additionally, and especially exciting for researchers, the Surname Distribution Mapper can display results for specific decades or in a "progressive mode," where tree icons appear successively by decade to give the researcher an idea of the movement of their family around Poland and the Western Ukraine.

The Surname Distribution Mapper enables a researcher to experience visually much of what we can only do conceptually. Our goal is to quickly determine where a person should spend their research energy to obtain results beyond what the family's oral history might recollect.

The Surname Distribution Mapper search form includes a FAQ to answer your questions and suggest the most effective ways of using this valuable new research tool.

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JRI-Poland adopts Log-In system for database searches

The Executive Committee of Jewish Records Indexing - Poland has decided to institute a log-in system to access our database. This decision was taken for a number of reasons, including future system enhancements and the concerns of our data donors.

As most of you know, JRI-Poland is an independent organization and our database is hosted by JewishGen as a convenience to researchers. To simplify the login process, JRI-Poland is using the secure JewishGen log-in system.

Please use your JewishGen researcher number and password to log-in to the JRI-Poland database.

If you are a subscriber to the JRI-Poland discussion group, you already have a JewishGen researcher number and password.

If you are not already logged in to JewishGen when you start your search of the JRI-Poland database, you can do so here. Otherwise you will be prompted to do so after the first stage results are displayed.

If you do not have a JewishGen researcher number and password, you can register here.

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JRI-Poland invaluable to US Television Series "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow's ancestral search was featured in an episode of NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" Her roots go back to a long line of rabbis named Paltrowicz from northeastern Poland.

The show's researchers were able to tap into JRI-Poland's online database as the starting point in documenting Paltrow's ancestry. They stated, "JRI Poland is a wonderful resource for anyone researching Jewish Polish ancestry and was invaluable during the research for the Gwyneth Paltrow episode." Click here to read the full story.

To watch this episode online, click here

WDYTYA - Gwyneth Paltrow

Listen to JRI-Poland Executive Director Stanley Diamond discuss this episode on the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

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