06 August 2018

IAJGS 2018 Warsaw Conference - Day 1

I usually stay close to the venue when attending IAJGS Conferences (this is my seventh) but having never been to Warsaw, I decided tomiss some of the morning sessions and  take one of the Taube Tours, "Jewish Warsaw from A-Z," on Sunday morning.

They piled us into a large van (or a short bus) and we started our journey at the south end of the WWII ghetto. I liked the technology they provided: small receivers with an earphone attachment so that no matter how softly the guide spoke, we heard him.

We began at one of the ghetto wall remnants where there is a map of the ghetto. The guide's presentation was chronological. It started with the establishment of the ghetto where much of Warsaw's Jews already lived. In this small area up to 300,000 people were interned. When the German's had removed all but 60,000, the stage was set by those who remained for the uprising. After all, what did they have to lose? We saw several monuments to those who suffered and died and those who rebelled. A sobering morning.

In the afternoon (from 3-5 PM), I served Romania Special Interest Group (SIG)  at their table in the Share Fair. Usually I work for Ukraine SIG, but this year I moved to Romania. The Share Fair room, as usual, was crowded and somewhat loud, but I managed to help (I hope) several people with their research. I also managed to eat some chocolates provided to all by the conference.

Nearly all repaired to the Ballroom for the conference opening. Ken Bravo, IAJGS president, welcomed us and then gave way to Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland. Mark Halpern of Jewish Records Indexing - Poland, one of the conference sponsors, and Dr. Wojciech Wozniak, General Director of the Polish State Archives extolled their long-term agreement that has, as of now, resulted in about 5.5 million indexed Jewish Records on JRI-P. The agreement started with Stan Diamond in 1997. We have all benefitted from Stan's and PSA's foresight and inspiration.

Mark's and Dr. Wozniak's words were followed by Dr. Antony Polansky, an historian and scholar inresidence for the conference. Among his other laurels, he is professor emeritus at Brandeis University. He discussed the thought that history and genealogy are a continuum with history elucidating the context of the events and experiences in our ancestor's lives. Then Professor Dariusz Stola, who was the Director of the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews when it opened in 2014, spoke of the museum's success: 1.4 million people have seen the core exhibit thus far. The museum has been recognized with several awards for its design and exhibits.

Last we heard from Holocaust survivor and Chairman of the Board of the Polin Museum, Marian Turski. His passion for his subject was clear and movng. It is truly wonderful that he has been able to guide such a lasting remembrance and legacy. The thought occurred to me that seeing the large ballroom filled with hundreds of genealogists whose passion is remembering and reconstructing lost family must have been a moving thing for Mr. Turski, as well.

I did not stay for the final event of the evening: a performance of Chelm stories. Dinner called and we made our way to a Polish restaurant called Folk Gospoda. The restaurant is but a few blocks from the hotel and others from the conference seemed to have the same idea. A Rohatyn group treked in. A group from Ancestry ProGenealogists made an appearance, as well. Genealogists fairly filled the outside patio. The pirogi and beer were quite good and filling.

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