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JRI-Poland Member Newsletter: For the Record

In this issue

  • Welcome to For the Record

  • Spotlight On: Giving a Face to the Fallen

  • NextGen – JRI-Poland’s Website and Data Management Development Project

Welcome to For the Record

Welcome to the inaugural edition of For the Record, our new monthly newsletter, bringing you the latest news about JRI-Poland and informing you about the Jewish biographical records of the current and former territories of Poland.

Each month, we will highlight developments that reveal how JRI-Poland volunteers and leadership work to help you learn more about your family and the towns or villages they came from using the surviving archival records.

We will also present success stories and some, perhaps, more unusual research opportunities to illustrate the depth of our data and the knowledge of our many volunteers. Our hope is that these stories will provide you with new ideas for advancing your own genealogical research.

And, we look forward to your comments and suggestions about this newsletter. Please note that we are now using the JRI-Poland mailing list; however, we plan to eventually transition this newsletter into one of the benefits of becoming a JRI-Poland member. We expect to implement membership dues in the Spring 2021. Similarly to our sister organizations, your membership will help us cover the administrative costs of growing JRI-Poland organization. However, as in the past, access to our online data will remain free. Membership will entitle our users to a variety of added benefits to further assist them in their research.

Thanks for your continued support of JRI-Poland and welcome to our first edition of “For the Record”.

Stanley Diamond, Executive Director

JRI-Poland has been making a difference in people’s lives since its inception 26 years ago. We take for granted that our data is used for genealogical, academic, and historical research. But what inspires our leadership is hearing stories that move us to tears… helping a former hidden child learn his or her identity or revealing names to a researcher whose ancestry was a blank page because their parents could not bear to talk about the Holocaust and those who perished. This month we focus on an organization in Israel who we have helped several times recently:

Giving Face to the Fallen is an Israeli volunteer organization whose mission is to remember “the faceless” 811 soldiers who gave their lives for Israeli independence between 1940 and 1950. Most have no known surviving photos and the details of their early lives are mysteries. Sadly, only (the commemoration of) the date they died for their adopted country is all that is known. Many of these men and women were Shoah (Holocaust) survivors and at the time of their deaths were the only living remnants of their immediate families. Giving Face to the Fallen also attempts to locate distant living relatives of the Fallen Soldiers and welcomes volunteer help to solve their cases. By assisting groups like Giving Face to the Fallen, JRI-Poland has been instrumental in helping keep alive the memory of these special people.

Just this month we provided the Lodz Kehilla birth record of Chaim Sznejderman (z’’l) that made it possible to identify extended family for this young martyr and to add his father’s name to his matzevah (tombstone) – connecting this lone soldier back to his family chain. That record also revealed to nephews in Chicago, that their father’s brother, Chaim, did not perish in the death camps as they had thought - but died a hero fighting in the War of Independence and has a grave that they can visit in Israel. That emotional gift for the entire family was made possible because JRI-Poland located the key birth record providing Chaim’s parents’ names to Giving Face to the Fallen. As Stephen Glazer of Giving Face to the Fallen wrote us: “What can I say? You have performed a great mitzvah and I am literally overwhelmed with emotion!”

We like to say, “every record counts” but sometimes what we do literally revives the memory of the dead who might otherwise be unknown to the living. Cases like this give purpose to our obsession of gathering the records!

NextGen – JRI-Poland’s Website and Data Management Development Project

JRI-Poland is not only changing the look of our website but is re-thinking everything that we have developed over our first 25 years. We examined our past procedures, performance issues and methods - always cognizant of what has been working for us and what has made JRI-Poland unique among country-based projects. In the discovery stage of this process, we uncovered many requirements that we were not aware we had. And now that the NextGen website is undergoing preliminary testing by researchers of varied experience, we continue, everyday, to inch closer to bringing you a new JRI-Poland user experience – whether you are a brand, new user of our website or a seasoned or professional researcher on our database.

We appreciate your patience while we develop the new tools which will eventually serve you even better. Since we are redesigning our entire system using open source technology, we are rebuilding from the ground up, using “building blocks” as an approach. Therefore, some experienced users may find that some of their favorite “features” or shortcuts are missing from the initial system that we release to the public in our first peek. It is important to remember that this will be, truly, a “first peek” at an incomplete, but growing system.

As a volunteer organization, we are constantly short on the “people power” needed to answer your questions about the more than 1300 projects that we manage for over 600 towns in the current or former territories of Poland. Our new “Town Explorer” system will bring you a more accurate list of our ongoing town projects, along with up-to-date contact information for our volunteers assisting with those projects and details of the projects themselves. Our aim is to become less dependent on the knowledge in people’s heads and personal computers. Our growing “Knowledge Base” promises to provide an appealing way to get more general or historic information about Polish archival materials and Jewish records in particular. This is a multi-year project with great promise and requiring ongoing work. Your energy and your donations are always appreciated and very much needed. Visit jri-poland.org and click on the yellow “Donate” button to contribute. And, keep your eyes on this newsletter for more on our NextGen project!

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