JRI-Poland Member Newsletter: For the Record

In this issue

  • For the Record

  • The JRI-Poland Mission

  • NextGen – Personal Profiles to Serve You Better!

  • Spotlight On: Hold the Press!

  • Exploring: Lodz

For the Record

The list of topics we had in mind for this edition of the JRI-Poland “For the Record” newsletter was almost endless and difficult to choose between. In the coming month, we plan to introduce “JRI-Poland Membership”, so we decided to focus on our mission now. Part of that mission is to provide a totally free and accessible online database to researchers whether “members” or not, so rest assured that this will not be changing as we implement Membership.

Our continuing commitment is to serve as a finding aid and reliable guide to the Jewish records of Poland. When data has been collected and paid for, we will continue to make it accessible to anyone, free of charge. Therefore, we will need your help to continue our noble mission. Thanks for considering becoming a member to formally join the JRI-Poland family! Details to follow later this month.

Stanley Diamond, Executive Director

The JRI-Poland Mission

We are an independent country-based special interest group within the Jewish Genealogy world. Our efforts start with and are mostly focused on creating aids to enable researchers to find their families’ Jewish records from towns primarily in the current but including the former territories of Poland. We do that by building a comprehensive database which now represents more than 6.2 million Jewish records from over 600 towns, but we are so much more!

The volunteer leadership and the researchers we serve form the largest international Jewish genealogical community of people with roots in Poland and they share cultural and historical information and develop social networks around their areas of common interest.

When we meet at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conferences, we find and network with others who share the desire to learn more about their ancestral hometowns, including JRI-Poland volunteers and Poland-based professionals – and we learn from each other and grow stronger.

On January 7, 2021, the JRI-Poland board of directors voted to adopt an updated mission statement and objectives. The new mission statement recognizes that researchers want to identify as “belonging” to JRI-Poland and adopts “members” as a (new) core concept for our organization. This does NOT mean that we are becoming restrictive and withholding data to non-members! On the contrary – the very essence of JRI-Poland is to provide a freely available database to the researcher. However, membership has its benefits - and whether you consider yourself a passionate researcher or someone with only a passing interest – we are developing membership benefits specifically for you!

The complete text of our new mission statement can be found here.

NextGen – Personal Profiles to Serve You Better!

In the coming weeks/months, JRI-Poland will introduce a personal registration system that will be needed to search the NextGen version of our free database. Educational pieces of our database will be searchable without logging in, such as our “Knowledge Base” and “Town Explorer”. Surname appearance in a town will also be searchable without login in and visible from Google searches. When you do register, you will be able to provide some information about your research interests. This will enable us to help you. You will do this by indicating your “favorite” towns from the Town Explorer menu option.

The registration system will allow us to conveniently alert registered researchers to news specifically tailored to their research needs and at the same time reach out to JRI-Poland users who may have an interest in volunteering for a specific project, whether it is records-related or volunteer-related.

Our goal is to create a closer communication link between you (the researcher) and JRI-Poland volunteers, so we can keep you updated in a more consistent and reliable way. Your invitation will arrive in just a few short weeks! Stand by!

Hold the Press!

It is not often we have an opportunity to use that old newsroom expression in a genealogical context but that was the aim of an email to Professor Ira Robinson (Concordia University, Montreal) in early January. What led to doing so was truly bashert... Stanley

Over the years, I have made it a practice to personally thank researchers who make particularly generous donations in support of the JRI-Poland mission. In January, one such researcher proudly mentioned that he is a grandson of the illustrious Rabbi Yehuda Yudel Rosenberg, a descendant of both R. Judah Hasid (d. 1227) and R. Meir of Apta (d. 1831). I was particularly familiar with the Rabbi for two reasons: I chaired Professor Robinson’s lecture to the JGS of Montreal about the Rabbi’s significant judicial role in the “Kosher wars” of the 1920s and my wife Ruth had charted the tenure and “shul-hopping” of Montreal Rabbis in first half of the 20th century. This was all the inspiration needed to try to surprise our valued supporter.

Obviously, it was necessary to first dig into Rabbi Rosenberg’s ancestry so as not to duplicate anything that might already be well known. As I viewed a few of the sources, Page 1 of an online biography - purported to be an accurate portrayal of the Rabbi – jumped out at me. The author had used a transliterated town name (not the Polish spelling genealogists consider mandatory in accurately documenting family history) and incorrectly located his place of birth, Skaraschev (sic), as being close to Radomsko (actually, 158 km ENE of Radomsko). Then I noticed a pre-publication announcement of Professor Ira Robinson’s latest book, “A Kabbalist in Montreal, the Life and Times of Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg.” It was all the inspiration needed to turn to JRI-Poland sources for possible answers.

I quickly found a Radom birth record that was an obvious match and included facts that contradicted numerous references to Rabbi Rosenberg in books and articles over the years. The records showed that:

He was born at 11:00 pm on December 24, 1860, not November 8, 1859.

Particularly relevant in considering the accuracy of the record is that it was written into the birth register on the day of his bris,

He was born in Gebarzów, not Skaryszew (7 km east). Since babies were typically born at home, we can presume the family was living in the Gebarzów commune where his father Yisroel Yitzhak tended cattle although the family was prominent in the larger Jewish community in nearby Skaryszew.

I was also able to provide Professor Robinson with records of the death of Yudel's father Izrajel Icek and mother Marja Gitla, the births of ten sisters and brothers and the marriages of three siblings. Coincidentally, JRI-Poland assistant director Robinn Magid is a distant cousin of Yudel, a result of their common ancestry in Yudel’s mother’s CYGIELMAN family.

In his note of appreciation, Professor Robinson wrote: “Because of this new information, I was able to revise my forthcoming book and introduce exact information concerning Rabbi Rosenberg’s birth and family background.”

JRI-Poland is obviously proud that our database not only makes a difference by changing lives but also corrects history. What started with a supporter’s passing comment about a distinguished grandfather has enabled JRI-Poland to set the record straight. That is the very point of a slide I used in two recent presentations reproduced here:

Exploring: Lodz

Pre-WWII “Łódź” (pronounced "whootch”) was the center of the textile industry in Poland with a very large and active Jewish community. During the war, an estimated 160,000 Jews lived in the ghetto. There are currently more than 2000 Jewish researchers with roots in this important city.

Currently, births from 1826 through 1915 and marriages and deaths up to 1935 can be searched online in the JRI-Poland database. In addition, we have now indexed the 1916-1919 births and 1936 to 1939 marriages and deaths with one exception. In 1919, there was a supplemental set of 1000 Polish language birth records that are available but not yet indexed… If you would like to volunteer for the data entry, please write to:

Because “Łódź was the “big city” and industrial center that attracted Jewish families from all over Poland, it is of great interest to a broad segment of the JRI-Poland research community. And due to the potential for finding previously unknown family members, scanning the 1920 births and 1940 marriages and deaths (an estimated 25,000 record entries) is high on our “to do list”. Understandably, the pandemic is playing a role in scheduling the work, but stay tuned!

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