Israeli institute will try to lift Jewish genealogy to new heights

toronto | A group of Jewish genealogists wants to give the study of the Jewish past a brighter future.

Genealogists recently announced the formation of the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy, to be housed in the Jewish National and University Library of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Although still in the early stages of development, board members anticipate that within five years the institute will become a major force in the world of Jewish genealogy — a leading international research center that will cooperate with existing facilities like JewishGen in Texas, the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel and the New York-based Center for Jewish History.

“We want to lift Jewish genealogy to new heights,” said its founding director, Yosef Lamdan. “To put it into the general framework of Jewish studies at a university level.”

Although there are now some 45 universities with departments of Jewish studies across North America, few if any have ever offered a course on Jewish genealogy, Lamdan noted.

He added that the institute might eventually produce graduates holding bachelor’s or master’s degrees in Jewish genealogy.

One of the institute’s first goals is to conduct a comprehensive global survey of all available Jewish genealogical resources.

It also intends to host an early scholarly conference, establish standards of genealogical evidence, locate new genealogical resources and make them available to researchers.

The institute might help people who are conducting DNA research to find families with certain genetic profiles, Lamdan said.

Or it might index important collections like the Jewish National and University Library’s Paul Jacobi papers, an underutilized compilation of some 400 German rabbinic family trees.

It would also bring certain important Jewish collections to Israel, if the opportunity arose.

“Our purpose is to try and take an overview and tell genealogists where all the collections are. If we can also unearth collections that so far have not been found, so much the better. We’d be very happy if the institute could bring them in. Being situated in a library, we’d have a place to store them.”