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 JewishGen.org 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
President
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.

Connections
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.

Learning
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.

Explorations
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
Co-Presidents
Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston