Shabbat in Tel Aviv

Whether you are religious or not, Shabbat in Israel is a special experience. Tel Aviv, where we are right now, is very different from Shabbat in Jerusalem where we will be next week. On Shabbat, although in Tel Aviv, many restaurants are open, very few shops, with the exception of supermarkets are open. The beach is packed and beach volleyball courts are jammed. We took a long walk to see where the Tel Aviv fairgrounds were in relationship to the hotel, since the JFNA GA will be held there, and Sunday we will go over to set up our booth.  I wanted to walk. If you know me, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, until the conference changed the exhibit hall opening time to 7:15 AM from 9, I had expected to walk there every day. If you track your steps, you can relate to the 22,494 steps I took on our “little” walk.

We had options for walking to the fair grounds, and I wanted to take a route alongside  HaYarkon, along the Israel National Trail. The park, since it was Shabbat, was packed with families picnicking on the grassy areas. Children were playing soccer, the rock wall had lots of climbers. A perfect Shabbat.


Israel is a small country, and the many wars affected every family here, whether directly or because the injured or killed were friends or children of friends. In the park are memorial stones with the names of the fallen. The stones are grouped by wars. The largest group of course is the group of stones with the names of those killed from 1947-1949.


We made a new acquaintance during our stroll – the hoopoe bird. It’s the national bird of Israel and I don’t remember ever seeing one before. It seems to be all dressed up in stripes. Kinda cute, right?


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Tel Aviv – the Beach and Friends

My first trip to Israel was in 1966. That trip remains fixed in my memory, with parts of it as vivid as if it was yesterday, not 52 years ago. There is so much here that seems to have not changed, which is of course shocking after all, so much time has passed. But like any other wonderful city, the old is balanced by the new, the new doesn’t completely replace what was.  Many of the places I visited on the first trip, I have gone back to time after time, but there are still places I haven’t revisited since then. This morning took me back in time as I had the opportunity to walk on streets I haven’t seen in decades.

Our good friends, Rony and Edna took us on a trip (for me) back in time. Tel Aviv over the last 50 years has become a booming metropolis, and when looking at the huge hotes on the street and the glass and metal office buildings, it’s easy to forget the streets with spices, fabrics, fresh pastries and more that were a central focus of the vibrancy of the city long ago.


I’m well aware that the fabrics gently stirred by an almost non-existent breeze were not part of my long ago memories, although they did speak to the history and future, and make some political statements as well. This was part of an art installation which could be seen on the old streets. It brought us into the Levinsky market area in south Tel Aviv, and our walk through the streets of this area, followed by a quick ride to the Shapira area was terrific.




My only regret was that before we left the hotel, we’d eaten a large breakfast and couldn’t sample any of these delicious pastries or some of the other gems we looked at. Of course these weren’t the only shops. We commented not only on the decorations remaining from Sukkot which was over several weeks ago, but dreidels on the shelves for Hanukka which isn’t for another 6 weeks.


The morning was a great lead in to the rest of the day (BTW, the total excursion of the day resulted in a total step count that was over 23,000 steps!!!  From the market, we went back to the beach and wandered down to the seaport in Jaffa.  I know that the large number of tourists has to be a delight for the economy, but is sure did make walking the narrow streets a little hazardous. Unlike in years past, walkers on the tayellet now share the area with runners, bicycles, scooters, skate boards and more!Of course this is typical of many cities today. The beach was crowded with beach volleyball and other games.



The weather is exquisite – mid 80’s, a little overcast, and although humid, perfect for being at the beach.

The crowning touch of the day was meeting one of my sisters’ friends from high school and her now grown-up son. He’s 21 now and the last time I saw him and his mom, he was 2 years old, and we met at the zoo in Jerusalem on a Shabbat. This time we went to a wonderful vegetarian restaurant and sampled some wonderful food with incredible ingredients.


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Oct 18, 2018 – Arrival in Israel

It’s a really long way to travel – from Salt Lake City to Israel.  Yes, I know that there are places further away, but the issue isn’t really the distance, it’s how long it takes to travel that distance.  There was the Salt Lake City flight to New York, which seems to have involved not only the 4 hour flight but also an hour on the plane on the ground, then a 5 hour layover in NY followed by the 10 hour flight.  Finally, we arrived in Tel Aviv, late afternoon, and by the time our cab had battled traffic from the airport to our hotel, it must have been about 7 PM Thursday.  We had left Salt Lake City (9 hours earlier than Israel, 2 hours earlier than NY) at 11:23 AM on Wednesday.

Checking into our hotel right on the beach made the hours spent en route seem like absolutely nothing!

Tel Aviv Beach 2.jpg

A long walk on the tayellet (promenade) called to me, and I listened. After a couple of weeks of near freezing temperatures in Salt Lake City, the warm air was certainly a welcome change.


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So, Not Only in Eastern Europe

One of the many things verified in the archives my team and I visited in August was that in the millions of files each archive maintains, there are misfiled records. Inside the clearly marked folders with inventory, item and record we found many records not in the inventory place, and the record for which we were searching was misfiled, with no way to find it. In fact, those records will only be found (and perhaps be able to be correctly filed) when someone else stumbles upon them, expecting to find something else, or as the records are digitized.

Today, I read the following, thanks to a post by Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

The Missouri Secretary of State, in collaboration with the Missouri Historical Society, announced the discovery of 13 pages from the 1880 US Census Population Schedule long thought lost.  The staff of the Missouri State Archives identified the pages thought lost since the 1880 census was released to the public in 1952. It includes information on over 633 individuals living in Union Township of Perry County.

In 2015 the Missouri State Archives along with the Missouri Historical Society began a project to digitize and make publicly accessible all of Missouri’s non-population schedules. The staff found the population schedule mixed in with the state’s 1880 agricultural schedule. It is thought that the US Census Bureau misfiled these population pages before binding them in the 1880s long before they were transferred to the Missouri Historical Society.

To view the newly identified records see:  The p[ages will eventually be available on the Missouri Historical Society website.  For more information contact the Missouri State Archives at: or (573) 751-3280.

To read the press release see:  

Thank you Jan!

Posted in Eastern European Travel, Genealogy

A Rental Car Company Not to Use

If you are going to Europe and someone recommends renting a car or van from a place called EuroStyle don’t take their advice. I don’t know if they have locations other than in Warsaw near the airport. We rented a van from them in August at the recommendation of Hertz at the Warsaw airport because we were traveling to countries like Ukraine and Hertz and similar companies (we were told by Hertz) did not authorize their cars be taken across certain borders.
It was a last minute change for us (our travel agency had confirmed the Hertz rental) and we had few choices. We rented the van for 21 days, told them we would not take insurance (my credit card offers rental insurance but only if you don’t take the insurance offered by a car rental company. There was no language difficulty in discussing the arrangements, a member of my team who is a native Pole was with me.
We refused insurance on their forms. They said they didn’t have time to do anything but fix the brakes because it was last minute. The van was great – spacious and handled well, as passengers we were all comfortable.
We returned the van on time, they checked it over, said it looked good and ostensibly processed the refund of the deposit (not an authorization but an actual charge on my credit card f $2,700!!!!) and said that if it was a Polish bank by the time we left their premises, the credit would appear but since it was a US bank it would take a couple of days. Five days later, we contacted them. They responded by saying that there were thousands of dollars of damage and that we were lucky that we took their insurance which was $2,700 because otherwise it would have cost us a lot more.
SO glad that the charges were on my Chase credit card, The bank was terrific and although it took 3 weeks for the charge to be removed, it was. Yay Chase. Boo EuroStyle.
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Travels, continued

I’m so fortunate, as a genealogist to not only always have varied research to do, but also to be able to travel to meet with clients and do research.  I must admit, though, that recent travel and upcoming travel are much more varied than usual.

It seems like just yesterday that we finished our epic 27 day drive through Eastern Europe. Yet, in between that and today, I have been in Salt Lake City, Utah at my office, Phoenix, Arizona, at home; then Kansas City for the APG conference followed by a speaking gig there, and then on to Seattle for meetings.

KC with Brad Korris.JPG

I’m really fortunate that many of my clients have also become friends during the course of our research.  Genealogical research isn’t ike writing a history paper which has no emotional attachment.  Although we function as reporters of the facts, the research also takes us on an incredible and often very emotional journey through history. Above, Brad Korris, a client and a friend came to hear me speak in Kansas City. The evening before, I was really privileged to join him at the annual Community LINC Rent Party, benefiting homeless families, where Brad served as co-chair.

This week I will be traveling again – this time to Israel, where for the second year is an exhibitor at the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) annual General Assembly. Last year it was in Los Angeles, this year in Tel Aviv. Avrami Groll of JewishGen will once again be joining us at our booth. We love our collaborative relationship with JewishGen!

In Israel, in addition to representing ancestryProGenealogists at the GA, Lindsay Levine and I will be meeting with the Directors of various archival repositories and doing client research. Of course we will also take some time to enjoy the beach, and after the GA, wander through some of my favorite places in Jerusalem.

As I did during our Eastern European journey, I’ll be blogging daily.

Posted in Genealogy, Jewish Genealogy

In Memoriam…

Now that the Jewish holidays are almost over (one more set is coming up this Monday and Tuesday, I wanted to post about events in October 1941 coinciding (very deliberately) with the end of Sukkot on Hoshana Rabba in Stanislawow, Poland (now Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine).

On that tragic day, the lives of tens of thousands of people were taken in cold blood under the most appalling circumstances. Each year since we learned of this almost 30 years ago, we have honored the memory of those people whose names we know and the countless others who we cannot know by speaking about the events.

In 1920, my grandmother, Blima Raitza Grass age 22 and two of her sisters, Clara, two years older and Fanny, 2 years younger came to the US. Two weeks after they landed, their father, Zelig Grass, died. Their mother, Chana Jetta Kreisler was left widowed with 6 children still at home, ranging from 20 year old Mundek to 3 year old Salka.  Clara returned to Europe a couple of years later to help their mother and marry her childhood sweetheart, Zygmunt Weber. They had two children, Zenona and Juljusz born in 1926 and 1930 respectively.

Mundek married Anna Erber in January 1928, they had a son born a year later who they named Zelig after Mundek’s father. Samuel, two years younger than Mundek, married Diana Hofnung Landsman in 1927, they had a son, Eugene, born in 1928. Pepa, a year younger than Samuel married Isak Wolf Fink and had a daughter Silvia born in 1937. Rachel, born in 1909 never married, nor did Oscar born in 1911 or Salka born in 1917.

pepa grass and fink.jpg


Chana Jetta was one of 10 children born to Tova Gizella Zweifler and Shimon Kreisler. Six of her siblings left Europe and came to the US. It is possible that two of her siblings died in infancy or left Europe – we have never found a trace of them.  Chana born in 1875 and her sister Devora born in 1881 remained in Europe. Devora married Josef Israel Schaffer and they had 7 children. Two of her children left Europe – one settled in the US and the other in Israel. We do not know if Libe survived infancy, her brother Chaim Ber did not.  Avraham was born in 1904 and married Lea Schanker – they had a daughter Tzila; Chava was born in 1906 married Yisrael Becker – they had no children; Genia Tova was born in 1910 and did not marry.

With the exception of Samuel, his wife Diana and their son Eugene, all of those whose names were mentioned above and who were still living in 1941 were murdered. They died on Hoshana Rabba either in the synagogue which was locked so no one could escape as it was torched, in the morning while all were at a prayer service, or later that day when the remaining Jews were gathered in the center of town and shot or brought to the forest and shot.

Samuel, Diana and Eugene survived because by then they were in Kazakhstan – Samuel was a pharmacist and the three wound up there (longer story but not for today) where they remained throughout the rest of the war.

My heart cries for these lives and so many millions of others who were murdered by those misusing power, only because they were Jews. The world was deprived not only of them but of all the talent that would never be known from their unborn descendants. A world was murdered.


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