March 10, 2008

Chicago 2008: Latin America, Chicago Jewish Archives

Two new items - a Latin America expert lunch and extended hours for the Chicago Jewish Archives - have been added to the 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy website. The final program should be posted in a few weeks and the conference discussion group is already active (see link on the website).

Latin America Jewish Resources Q&A

In addition to already scheduled Breakfasts with the Experts, previously posted here, an expert luncheon - "Jewish Resources: Argentina & Venezuela Q&A" - will feature Rabbi Victor A. Mirelman, originally from Argentina, and Daniel Horowitz, formerly of Venezuela and now Israel. Attendees can sign up at the Registration page at the conference site.

Dr. Mirelman, born in Argentina, is an authority on Latin American Jewry, and has personal and academic interests in Sephardic Jewry. His most recent book is Jewish Buenos Aires, 1890-1930 (Wayne State University Press). In 1991, he was appointed Professor of Jewish History at Spertus College (Chicago) and, in 2005, was elected president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis.

Since 1990, he has been rabbi of West Surburban Temple Har Zion (River Forest, Illinois), previously served Congregation B'nai Israel (Milburn, NJ), was visiting professor of history at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and lectured on contemporary Jewish history (1970-74) at Hebrew University (Jerusalem).

He was ordained a rabbi at JTS and received a doctorate from Columbia University and also holds an MS in mathematics from the University of Buenos Aires.

Horowitz often speaks on Jews in Latin America - he will also be presenting two technology workshops at the conference - and taught family history research to students and parents at the Bialik school in Caracas.

As a personal note, among my prized possessions are the two first-edition leather-bound volumes of the Spanish translation, adaption and notes by Marcos Edery - supervised by Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer - of the Conservative movement's English-language siddur (daily prayerbook) and machsor (High Holyday prayerbook). Published in 1965 by the Consejo Mundial de Sinagogas in Buenos Aires, the two volumes - one blue, one green - were sent to me that year by Rabbi Meyer. My set is well traveled, having "lived" in Iran, Florida, California, Nevada and now in Israel.

Rabbi Meyer's papers are archived at Duke University, and this article discusses his remarkable life and achievements in Argentina from 1959 and following his return to the US in 1984. Readers interested in Sephardim of Latin America, may enjoy this interesting article by Margaret Bejarano. For an analysis by Yaacov Rubel of marriage and intermarriage in the Argentine community, click here.


A fascinating resource for Chicago Jewish research is the Chicago Jewish Archives (part of the Asher Library at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Study). Extended hours will be provided during the conference - appointments are required.

What can you find at the Archives, which holds the memories of Jewish Chicago?

It collects historical material in all formats, including letters, diaries, photographs, memorabilia, audio and video tapes and has some 2,500 linear feet of material, while continuing to acquire relevant material.

Jewish organization records:
American Jewish Congress (Chicago Office); Anti-Defamation League (Midwest Office); Covenant Club of Illinois, 1917-1985; Jewsh Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, 1865-[ongoing]; Johanna Lodge (United Order of True Sisters); Zionist Organization of Chicago.

Synagogue records:
Cong. B’nai Emunah; Cong. B’nai Jacob; B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom (Homewood); Cong. B’nai Zion; Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation; KAM Isaiah Israel; Kehilath Jeshurun; Lawn Manor Beth Jacob; Mikdosh El Hagro Hebrew Center; Cong. Rodfei Zedek; South Shore Temple.

Family papers:
Robert S. Adler Family Papers; Alfred Alschuler Papers (architect), Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Collection; Gov. Samuel Shapiro Collection, Jerzy Kosinski Papers (author), and others.

Oral history:
Chicago Jewish Historical Society’s Oral History Project (more than 200 interviews); Stanley Rosen’s Chicago Radical Jewish Elders Video History Project (100 interviews); American Jewish Committee oral history project, and others.

The Sentinel Photo Archive, the Weinstein Photo Archive, and the General Photograph Collection. In addition, many collections include photographs as well as documents.

If your family has roots in the Chicago area and you hold records, remember that the archives also seeks to obtain unpublished records such as documents (correspondence, minutes, reports, diaries, family histories, etc.), photographs, audiotapes, videotapes, film, scrapbooks and other selected artifacts as space permits, as well as printed ephemera such as bulletins, pamphlets and internal publications.

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