Tuesday, November 21, 2017

New center helping trace roots of Jews in New England

RECOMMENDED READING


BOSTON (AP) — The vibrant and influential history of New England's Jewish population chronicled in a vast repository of documents stored at the New England Historic Genealogical Society is being celebrated Wednesday.

The Jewish Heritage Center at the Boston-based genealogical society is not just a resource for people tracing family roots, but a trove of information for scholars researching the Jewish influence on New England's economy and the history of anti-Semitism. It also preserves the records of Jewish philanthropies and synagogues.

"The information archived here provides some context and shows what part Jewish immigrants played in growing the community," said Stephanie Call, the center's manager.

The Jewish Heritage Center oversees the archives of the American Jewish Historical Society-New England, which has collaborated with the New England Historic Genealogical Society for several years. Wednesday's reception is the formal celebration of the partnership.

The archives have had several homes in the Boston area over the years, but moving them to the genealogical society permanently was a natural fit, because it is already considered the premier national resource for genealogists and family historians.

About 1.2 million documents have been digitized as part of an ongoing project to get the records online and available to the public, said Ryan Woods, the genealogical society's senior vice president.

The archives play a critical role in preserving the unique history of Jews in New England, said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University and a member of the Jewish Heritage Center's advisory council.

Boston was actually behind many other cities when it came to Jewish immigration, and the first synagogue in the area wasn't founded until the 1840s. But the region's Jewish population had increased to about 100,000 by about 1900, Sarna said.

The documents provide a better understanding of how Jewish immigrants fit into the history of the region as a whole, Sarna said.

"Telling the history of Jews in Boston is telling the story of the shoe trade, the garment trade, banking and was very important to the development of the U.S. generally," he said.

The archive is home to copies of the Boston Jewish Times newspaper, the records of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Combined Jewish Philanthropies, as well as the personal papers of some of the region's most prominent Jewish citizens including Abraham Ratshesky and the Rabb family.

The Rabbs founded the Stop & Shop supermarket chain and were also philanthropists who have buildings named in their honor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Brandeis.

Ratshesky was a state senator and banker who led Massachusetts' relief effort to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1917 after a munitions ship exploded in the harbor, destroying a huge portion of the city and killing an estimated 2,000 people. Ratshesky's legacy lives to this day in Nova Scotia's annual gift of a Christmas tree to Boston.

Comments
The Latest: Lebanon PM arrives at military parade

The Latest: Lebanon PM arrives at military parade

Prime Minister Saad Hariri has arrived at Lebanon's Independence Day military parade, his first official appearance after his shock resignation nearly three weeks ago from Saudi Arabia
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Lakers rally from 19-point deficit to beat Bulls 103-94

Lakers rally from 19-point deficit to beat Bulls 103-94

Kyle Kuzma scored 22 points and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a 19-point deficit in the second half for a 103-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls
Updated: 11 minutes ago

AP Top News at 2:09 a.m. EST

AP Top News at 2:09 a.m. EST
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Cold War drama caught on video as N. Korean soldier escapes

Cold War drama caught on video as N. Korean soldier escapes

On a cold, grey afternoon, a lone North Korean soldier races toward freedom, the shock of his comrades palpable as they realize he is defecting to the South and start sprinting after him
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Cold War drama caught on video as N. Korean soldier escapes

Cold War drama caught on video as N. Korean soldier escapes

On a cold, grey afternoon, a lone North Korean soldier races toward freedom, the shock of his comrades palpable as they realize he is defecting to the South and start sprinting after him
Updated: 12 minutes ago

Australian state reaches brink of legalizing mercy killings

An Australian state parliament is nearing passage of a voluntary euthanasia bill 20 years after the country repealed the world's first mercy-killing law for the terminally ill
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Pledge deaths at US colleges fuel reviews of Greek life

Pledge deaths at US colleges fuel reviews of Greek life

The deaths of at least four fraternity pledges this year have helped fuel a re-examination of Greek life at U.S. colleges
Updated: 27 minutes ago
VA study shows parasite from Vietnam may be killing vets

VA study shows parasite from Vietnam may be killing vets

A half century after serving in Vietnam, hundreds of veterans have a reason to believe they may be dying from a silent bullet _ test results show some men may have been infected by a slow-killing parasite while fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia
Updated: 1 hour ago
VA study shows parasite from Vietnam may be killing vets

VA study shows parasite from Vietnam may be killing vets

A half century after serving in Vietnam, hundreds of veterans have a reason to believe they may be dying from a silent bullet _ test results show some men may have been infected by a slow-killing parasite while fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia
Updated: 1 hour ago
Source: Gymnastics doctor set to plead guilty to sex charges

Source: Gymnastics doctor set to plead guilty to sex charges

A person with knowledge of the deal says a former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor will pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges and face at least 25 years in prison
Updated: 1 hour ago