Tag: Poland

Profile: folk artist Mayer Kirshenblatt (1916–2009)

For most of his adult life North York resident Mayer Kirshenblatt’s hobby was sailing and taking camping trips into the bush. But at his family’s repeated urging, the retired paint-and-wallpaper merchant took up the painter’s easel about 1990 to record on canvas the many colorful scenes he remembered from his boyhood in Poland. Kirshenblatt was…

Finding your Jewish roots in Galicia

In the 19th century, as author-historian Ronald Sanders once observed, Jews in Tsarist Russia tended to perceive their cousins in Galicia as almost a breed apart, “with their strange Yiddish accent and irksome quality of seeming coarseness combined with Germanic airs of cultural superiority….” I can’t (or won’t) comment on the relative truth of this…

In Poland, a modern blood libel

Tarnobrzeg, Poland, formerly known as Dzikow, cannot be accused of being a pretty town. With a population of 40,000, it is perched on the eastern bank of the Vistula, in a region known for the production of sulphur. One pictures a dreary, blighted place, surrounded by dark denuded hills. In 1757, a 15-year-old Christian boy…

Translation guide spurred my Glicenstein breakthrough

Two centuries ago, as part of a wave of reforms that swept Europe after the American and French revolutions, the locks were removed on the ghettos in which the Jews had been confined since medieval times, and the inhabitants were permitted to move freely in and out at all hours as they pleased. Whereas previously…

Postcards from the past

A picture, according to proverb, is worth a thousand words, but sometimes the power of a photograph to illuminate a setting seems to go well beyond the descriptive abilities of language. Genealogists are often keen, therefore, to find good generic photographs, illustrations and other visual materials to enhance their family tree research. As defined by…

“Why I left the Old Country”

In 1942 the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which had only recently relocated from Vilna to New York City, sponsored a contest for the best autobiography by a Jewish immigrant on the theme, “Why I Left the Old Country and What I Have Accomplished in America.” More than 200 autobiographical essays were submitted, written mostly…

Dubnow’s classic History of the Jews in Poland and Russia

Born in Belarussia, and later a resident of St. Petersburg, Odessa, Kovno and Riga, Simon Dubnow (1860-1941) published his first essay about the Jews of Russia in 1880, and understood at a relatively early age that the subject would always be of particular significance for him. He wrote in his diary in 1892, “My life’s…

Weiner’s Jewish Roots in Poland a ground-breaking inventory

Miriam Weiner’s Jewish Roots in Poland: Pages from the Past andArchival Inventories is a pioneering work that presents a concise, authoritative inventory of extant Jewish records in the Polish State Archives and its regional (oddzial) branches, and in more than 2,500 Urzad Stanu Cywilnego (USC) or local town hall record offices throughout Poland. It also…

Hundert’s study of 18th-century Opatow, Poland

Professor Gershon Hundert, the distinguished historian and chair of the Department of Jewish Studies at McGill University, beguiled an audience of Jewish genealogists last summer in New York with midrash-like tales of early Jewish history in Poland. For centuries, the Jews felt very comfortable in Poland, Hundert said, referring to stories that even the name…

Appignanesi’s Losing the Dead

Lisa Appignanesi, a child of Holocaust survivors who grew up in Montreal, recounts her parents’ wartime experiences in Losing the Dead (McArthur & Co., 2000), a family memoir that takes the form of a personal quest of research and discovery. Appignanesi (nee Borensztejn), born in postwar Poland and now living in London, has already proved her…