All posts by Nolan Altman

Cleveland Conference First Time Attendee Experiences from Society Leaders

Greetings from Long Island!

I have been researching my family tree for over 20 years, been on the Board of JGSLI for 7 years, the last 2 serving as President, and yet the 2019 IAJGS conference in Cleveland was my very first genealogy conference. I had no idea what to expect, but I dove right in, choosing from over 180 presentation options, and signing up for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reception, the Gala Banquet and 4 different SIG luncheons.

The conference days were a whirlwind of lectures and lunches. JGSLI was well represented with over 20 members in attendance, including 11 speakers.

Each day had special highlights. Day 1 had a reception for all the JGS presidents which gave us a chance to meet and share our accomplishments and concerns.

The Day 2 evening event was the Annual Meeting which was highlighted by JGSLI’s Chuck Weinstein receiving the first Susan E. King Volunteer of the year award. I had a small part in the special tribute video and was proud to share in the success of one of my members.

Day 3’s highlight was having dinner with cousins I've been researching with for years, and finally had a chance to meet in person. I am so thankful to the conference for bringing us together.

On Day 4, I put on my JGS Presidential hat for the annual IAJGS meeting, learning about the inner workings of the IAJGS. I had a lively discussion with other JGS Presidents about what goes into organizing a conference. I also attended a session on how to publicize your Genealogy Society which is a big concern of mine.

Day 5 ended with the IAJGS Gala Banquet where I enjoyed the company of 20 JGSLI members. I was very sad when the last day finally arrived.

I also took advantage of the translation services and the computer room. I used the conference app to find a Jewishgenner on the JGFF and was able to send him a message, and arrange a time to meet him.

But the absolute best part of the conference was meeting so many other genealogists that are all as passionate and excited about genealogy as I am. From beginners to other JGS Presidents to professionals in the industry, everyone was so warm and friendly, that I never wanted to leave. Someone compared the conference to summer camp, where you go back year after year, seeing old friends and making new ones and creating memories that will last forever. I think that is a perfect description.

Calling home to my husband, he remarked at how happy I sounded. I had an amazing time and made some great friends and memories along the way.  I will absolutely be in San Diego next year!

Bonnie Birns
Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island

Greetings from Boston!

Although we have participated in many conferences over the years, including the 2013 conference co-hosted by the JGSGB in Boston, as we entered our 3rdyear as Co-Presidents of the JGSGB, Cleveland was the first time that we attended an international conference in this role. It was a week of connections, learning and exploration.

One of the highlights for us was to host a dinner for our members attending the conference. Included in our party of 45 were JGSGB friends as well as JGS members form other New England societies such as those in Connecticut and Western Mass, and former members now living away from our area in Florida, Texas and other far reaching areas of the country. This was a wonderful moment to connect and reconnect, share stories and participate in the joyous, time honored Jewish tradition of sharing a meal together. This camaraderie was felt throughout the conference. Who can forget the moment during the terrific keynote speaker’s presentation, when hundreds of our voices joined in unison to sing songs of Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and Lesley Gore. Ah, a celebration of our American Heritage, a moment to laugh and bond.

The opportunities to learn something new greeted us each day. We heard fantastic presentations from old friends like Tammy Hepps, Mark Halpern and Phyllis Kramer. Dr. Deborah H. Munk Long, who in both a personal and didactic presentation traced the steps she followed to discover the fate of the families of her parents, both Holocaust survivors. The dynamic and accessible memoir writing talk given by Elaine Goren Farran and a talk by Robinn Magid on Family Club and Family Circle records as a source of genealogical information were new speakers for us, ones we will share with our Program Committee. The IAJGS conference provides a wonderful opportunity for us to hear speakers that we can bring to Boston for all our members to learn from. As presidents we were delighted that four of our members, Aaron Ginsburg, Linda Levine (our first JGSGB president,) Yefim Kogan and Jay Sage (the Cleveland conference co chair) were conference presenters.

The international conference provided an opportunity to learn from other JGS leaders through the JGS President’s reception and at the session offered by Sandy Golden entitled PR for Your Local JGS. Sandy moderated an exchange of ideas on how societies can use local media outlets to promote their resources and programs. Most important for us was the suggestion to move beyond Facebook and to also use Twitter and Instagram to attract younger future Jewish genealogists.

Getting to know Cleveland, its Jewish heritage, and its growing vitality was eye opening. In part our reason for attending the Cleveland conference was the bucket list opportunity to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Cleveland proved to have many other interesting attractions. Besides “The Rock”, Cleveland is a welcoming city with the excellent Cleveland Art Museum, and the interactive Great Lakes Science Center located across from the conference hotel on the shores of Lake Erie. Conference attendees with ties to Cleveland or wanting to learn about Cleveland’s Jewish heritage, could visit cemeteries and the Malz Museum of Jewish Heritage. For those looking to take a break from the conference, there were charming restaurants to explore in Cleveland’s Little Italy and the Westside Market, Cleveland’s oldest indoor food market. The baseball buff’s at the conference, were glad the IAJGS held the conference the same week as a Cleveland Indians home stand, and the ball park was a short walk from the conference hotel! Connections, learning and explorations-Kudos to the conference organizers, Ken Bravo and our own board member, Jay Sage, and the many volunteers who produced a successful conference that offered something for everyone who attended.

Carolyn Kohlman and Jessie Klein
Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston

Member Benefit Update – Cleveland Conference Announcements

IAJGS Helps to Find New Members for Your Society

The IAJGS Board continues to explore strategies that can help its member organizations add to their own individual membership lists. At the recent annual conference in Cleveland, the Board was able to provide two services that it hopes will find new members. The IAJGS annual conference registration form specifically asks attendees if they are affiliated with a local JGS, and if so, which one. Since many of our recent conferences have been very successful attracting first time conference goers, there have been a significant number of new unaffiliated attendees. Since the 2016 IAJGS Conference in Seattle, the IAJGS has been analyzing the list of registered unaffiliated conference attendees by hometown. In an effort to grow local membership, we then distribute names and contact information to the closest local JGS before the conference. (For people in between two societies, both groups were notified.) Our hope is that presidents can reach out to these prospective members to tell them about the benefits of joining their groups. Feedback from presidents has been positive and we plan to continue the program.

In addition, the conference included Sandy Golden’s presentation, “Does Everyone Know You’re There? How to Use PR to Raise Your Local JGS Profile”. Sandy is the IAJGS PR chair and has a national reputation for a lifetime career in public relations and marketing, including 25 years leading the PR and marketing at Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Community College and 17 years as president of her own national consulting company. For those that missed the session or for presidents/membership officers that did not attend the conference, Sandy has graciously allowed us to make the audio of her presentation and PowerPoint deck available to you.

The IAJGS Board regularly considers methods to help its member organizations expand their membership. We hope these two services will result in membership gains for your organization.

Draft minutes of the IAJGS Annual Membership Meeting are now available.

New Member: Western North Carolina Jewish Genealogical Society

On behalf of the IAJGS Board and our current membership, it is with great pleasure that we welcome the Western North Carolina Jewish Genealogical Society as a new member of our growing family of IAJGS organizations.  For more information about the Asheville based group, please contact their president, Barbara Weitz ( or Vice-President Barbara Newman (

The group’s next meeting will be held Sunday, September 23rd at 4:00 PM at the Asheville JCC (236 Charlotte St, Asheville, NC). Speaker Sharon Fahrer will present “Meeting Your Ancestors”.  Sharon is the owner of History@Handit and specializes in applied history, collecting people’s stories and putting research into usable forms such as interpretive panels, exhibits and books.  Sharon has done extensive work creating an archive on Jewish Life in Western North Carolina at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Most recently she chaired the 37th annual meeting of the Southern Jewish Historical Society in Asheville.

If you are interested in more information on the group or this program, please contact either Barbara at the email address above or see their Facebook page at:

New Member: Sociedade de Genealogia Judaica do Rio de Janeiro (SGJRJ)

IAJGS welcomes its newest member, Sociedade de Genealogia Judaica do Rio de Janeiro (SGJRJ).

On behalf of the IAJGS Board and our current membership, it is with great pleasure that we welcome Sociedade de Genealogia Judaica do Rio de Janeiro (SGJRJ) as a new member of our growing family of IAJGS organizations.  For more information about the Brazilian group, please contact their president, Charles Goldenzon at

The group is still in the process of arranging their meeting schedule but will probably hold their next meeting at the end of September.  In addition, SGJRJ will also be considering projects to index records of all kinds from local Rio de Janeiro sources.  If you are interested in joining the group and/or helping with their local projects, please contact Charles at the email address above.

New Member: Northeast Indiana Jewish Genealogy Society

On behalf of the IAJGS Board and our current membership, it is with great pleasure that we welcome the Northeast Indiana Jewish Genealogy Society as a new member of our growing family of IAJGS organizations. For more information about the Fort Wayne, Indiana group, please see their website ( their Facebook page ( or contact Betsy Gephart at

The group’s next meeting will be Sunday, November 4th at 2:00 PM in the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library (900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne). November’s meeting will feature Avrami Groll, JewishGen’s Director. Avrami will give an overview of the JewishGen site including new and underused features and updated databases. Additional meetings have been scheduled, program details to be announced.