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December 14, 2018  RSS feed

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Jewish genealogy lecture series coming to Tampa Bay

Walter Schlomann Walter Schlomann An upcoming Jewish Genealogy Series, featuring three speakers, promises to provide useful guidance and a wealth of information for anyone interested in expanding their family tree and preserving their family heritage.

This series, geared toward the novice and experienced genealogist alike.

Among the speakers will Avraham Groll, director of JewishGen, a premier resource for Jewish Genealogy, who will be flying in from New York on Sunday, Jan. 20 for two presentations – one in Clearwater and the other in Temple Terrace.

Other presenters will be Walter (Zev) Schlomann and William Israel, both well known in the local Jewish community and within genealogical circles.

Art of preserving family history

Schlomann, who is program director at both the Norman Jewish Library and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Tampa Bay, is organizing the series, and will kick off the program on Sunday, Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. with a presentation, “The Extraordinary Lives of Ordinary Individuals: The Art of Interviewing

Avraham Groll Avraham Groll Elder Members & Preserving Family History.”

The program will be in conjunction with a monthly Rosh Chodesh event – a Festive Meal on the New Moon – at the Norman Jewish Library, 13207 N. 52nd St., Temple Terrace. For this and two other events in the series at the library, there is a $10 charge (students free) to help defray the costs of a meal that is included.

“One of the first and most important steps in genealogical research is interviewing elder family members,” says Schlomann. “Interviews provide an abundance of information that leads to further research and documentation. They are also an opportunity to capture the stories and anecdotes that are part of one’s family history.” His presentation, culled from samples of videos he has produced, showcases the power of stories – funny, emotional, riveting stories that can be gleaned with the right questions and approach.

William Israel William Israel Schlomann is an award winning video producer at Heritage Media Group. His varied work includes documentaries, music videos, and projects with rock stars, actors, Holocaust survivors, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs. He is a frequent speaker, including presentations at the Center for Jewish History in New York City, the Women of Reform Judaism Southeast Biennial, and numerous appearances at genealogical organizations and corporate events. He is the creator of Life- Stories Sharing, a dynamic program of engagement and interaction brought to senior care residences.

How JewishGen website works

The second program in the series will be Groll’s Jan. 20 presentations, “Common Challenges in Jewish Genealogy and How JewishGen Can Help.” He will offer a unique opportunity to learn what an asset JewishGen can be in your genealogical research.

JewishGen is a non-profit organization affiliated with New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. JewishGen was founded in 1987 as an online bulletin board with only 150 users who were interested in Jewish genealogy. It has grown to more than 1,000 active volunteers throughout the world contributing to its growing collection of more than 25 million records. JewishGen’s resources are provided at no charge (

Groll is not only the director of JewishGen who oversees that organization’s day-to-day operations, but he is a frequent speaker at local genealogical societies and at regional and international Jewish genealogical gatherings. He speaks on a variety of Jewish genealogical and historical topics and made several presentations at the 2018 International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference in Warsaw. He served JewishGen in a variety of business roles since 2008, before becoming its director in 2017.

At his first stop in Clearwater at a meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Tampa Bay, Groll will focus on advanced features and navigation techniques. The meeting will take place at Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services, 14041 Icot Blvd., Clearwater, at 2 p.m. In addition to an overview of the JewishGen site, features such as getting started, tools, data bases, special interest groups, and kehila links will be discussed. He will demonstrate a variety of the tools and resources available at the Jewish- Gen website. A pre-session social with refreshments begins at 1:30 p.m. There is no charge for this meeting and guests are welcome. For information about the society, or directions to the meeting, call Bruce Hadburg at (727) 796-7981.

Groll’s second presentation of the day, under the same topic, will be at a special Tu B’Shevat Seder at the Norman Jewish Library in Temple Terrace at 7 p.m.

An intro to Jewish genealogy

The third in the series of presentations will take place on Monday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Norman Jewish Library. William E. (Bill) Israel will present “Finding Your Jewish Roots: An Introduction to Jewish Genealogy.” His presentation will be a basic overview of Jewish genealogy, explain- ing how Jewish genealogy presents unique challenges in family history research and reviewing Jewish immigration to America from colonial times to the present. Some widely believed myths about Jewish genealogy are dispelled and several readily available and easy to use tools, techniques and resources for genealogical research will be identified and demonstrated. The objective of this presentation is to provide enough information for someone with no prior experience to start researching his or her own Jewish family roots and will serve as a refresher for more experienced researchers.

Israel has 38 years of experience in researching his Jewish roots. He has traced 10 generations of his family lines over a period of 238 years, and he has documented over 4,000 of his relatives. As his family’s historian, Israel has managed or assisted in managing 19 Israel family reunions since they began in 1980, plus 12 family reunions for his wife’s family. He published a 300-page book of his Israel family history in 2001.

Israel is also a founding member of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Tampa Bay in 1999 and is a past president and current board member of that organization. He has participated in numerous International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) annual conferences as a delegate and as a speaker, and he served on the board of directors of the IAJGS from 2007-2010. He is a member of Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg, where he recently taught a genealogy course

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For more information on the events at the Norman Jewish Library and to RSVP (required), contact Schlomann at (917) 439- 5888 or email

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