Tuesday, April 24, 2007

21st Century Genealogy

I recently received an email from a woman researching her roots in a most interesting manner. In addition to the usual--pouring through the JRI database trying to make connections--she is using DNA marker testing to try and establish linkages between all the families with a common surname.

In her case, the name is Gottesman, her GGM. She emailed me because my GGGM was Beila Gottesman from Medyka/Przemysl, as listed in the JewishGen Family Finder. If you have any living Gottesmans in your tree, be sure to visit her site!

There are two main ways to test your DNA. The y-DNA test traces common lineage along an unbroken paternal line. For me, it baselines my Semmel roots--my father's, father's, father's, etc... It can tell if I am related to other Semmels (or Semels, Zemels, etc...) It also reveals much about ultimate origins -- Cohanim? Levite?

There is also a maternal line test using M-DNA. Because of name changes, it seems less useful for recent generations, but does yield fascinating deep roots information as scientists have narrowed down most of humanity as having sprung from one of 7 "Daughters of Eve" Unlike Y tests, this one works for males and females. (though all your M-DNA comes from mom!)

The test itself costs around $1-200, depending on how many markers you want to establish. In general, more markers means more accurate results. No blood - it's all done from a swab of your cheek.

I just ordered a Y test kit. I'll post the results when I receive them!


Monday, April 16, 2007

Przemysl Slicha - Update

Update to this update: I have forgotten to mention the name of the person who translated this work into English: Jerrold Landau. Thank you for your wonderful work, Mr. Landau!


Frequent contributor and friend of the blog Lukasz Biedka comments from Poland on our recent Przemysl Slicha post:
[Here are] pictures of Boruch Myers (Chief rabbi of Bratislava) and Michael Schudrich (Chief rabbi of Poland) reciting Przemysl Slicha at Jewish cemetery in Przemysl. For the first time since the war and the probably last time ever. Autumn 2006.

Photos by Jacek Szwic
Complete English translation of the Slicha here.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Jewish Armed Resistence has become a Modern Army

Not specifically Przemysl, but worth the detour. A very big hat-tip goes out to EF at the American Thinker for this:
This Sunday is Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) for victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) in commemoration of the deliberate slaughter of six million Jews. Over 90% of European Jewry died in five years. From the ashes: the Israel Air Force Eagles fly over the Auschwitz death hell 3 1/2 years ago. To those who threaten a second Holocaust: Never again!


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Przemysl Slicha

JewishGen has again added to their English translation of the Sefer Przemysl - the Przemysl Memorial (Yizkor) book. For those of you who have not seen it, this is THE source for first-person history of Jewish Przemysl from the middle ages through the shoah.

What caught my eye was the Przemysl Slicha. According to the book: The Slichot Scroll that is recited in the city of Przemysl on the eve of Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the fast day in memory of the libels against and the martyrdom (Sanctification of the Divine Name) of the aforementioned Rabbi Moshe. Was March 19, this year.

The first stanza:
{Alef} Oh G-d and G-d of our fathers
You are the G-d of gods and the L-rd of lords
Unique, you are first among the early ones and last among the latter ones
Where is your zealousness and might about which our forefathers have told
The great, mighty and awesome G-d who does not play favorites?
Read the whole Slicha here.

It is a beautiful and instructive scroll. But what really amazed me about the recitation can be found in the translator's footnotes:
# This Slicha is a fourfold acrostic (i.e. each stanza has four lines that start with the same letter of the alef-beit. I notated each stanza with the appropriate letter. After tav, there are other stanzas starting with various letters, forming an acrostic with the name of the author

# These 8 letters seem to be a cryptic, poetic reference to a year. In this genre, years are often coded with a hidden message. The 8 letters can be read as Mehuma Tzara – which stands for “confusion and distress” and may be a reference to “The year of confusion and distress”. The numerology of these 8 letters adds up to 390. This could be the year 5390, which would be 1630 (the millennium is often assumed).

# After the alphabetic acrostic concludes, the next verses begin with the following letters: shin beit tav yud samech beit reish yod tzadi chet kuf zayin tzadi lamed chet zayin kuf vav alef mem tzadi alef vav. This type of acrostic is usually the signature of the author. This is similar to the Akdamut poem, which is a twofold acrostic, and then ends with the letters of the author. If I put these letters together, I get the statement (extraneous letters which I could not fit in are in parentheses): Shabtai (samech) the son of Reb Yitzchak zatzal chazak vematz (alef vav). This would mean: Shabtai the son of Reb Yitzchak of holy blessed memory, may he be strong and mighty.
Kind of makes the New York Times Acrostic Puzzle look like a snap!

[JewishGen's Translation Fund Donation Form provides a secure way to make donations, either on-line or by mail, to help continue this project. Donations to JewishGen are tax-deductible.]

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Monday, April 02, 2007

The boys are back in town!

This just came in from Chaim... more photos at the bottom...what a wonderful way to kick-off Pesach!

Hello David,

We are back in Israel after our week in Poland. It was an excellent trip, and our visit to Przemysl was definitely a highlight.

On Thursday afternoon, after visiting the site of the Belzec death camp, our group got on the bus and headed to Przemysl. None of us (including our guide) had been there before so we did not know what to expect.

On the way, we called Lukasz Biedka with whom I had made contact through this blog. Lukasz said he would be happy to meet our group and gave the bus driver instructions on where to pick him up.

Lukasz was an excellent guide. He first brought us to the Jewish cemetery and pointed out the spot of the Scheinbach shul along the way.

We then got back on the bus and drove across the river to the old Zasanie Synagogue (now, abandoned). It was late afternoon by that point and our group had not yet davened mincha. Our guide noted that "shuls are meant for prayer" so we stood outside the fence of the shul and I led the group in the afternoon service. The attendants at the gas station next door were certainly intriguied with what they saw...

At that point, we had already been in in Przemysl for an hour and our schedule called for us to leave and head to Krakow, but Lukasz insisited that he show us the old ghetto. So, we jumped back on the bus and drove over the river once more. Lukasz told us the story of the ghetto and showed us around. He then brought us the the memorial of the mass shootings which stands behind the prison. We said kaddish and lit candles.

Although I was the only one from the group who had a family connetion to Przemysl, everyone got a lot out of our visit. Prezmysl is a beautiful town and it was easy for us to imagine what it must have been like with its once thriving Jewish community.

As promised, I attached some photos of our visit to this e-mail.

Thanks again for starting this blog. It proved to be an invaluable resource for our visit.

Chag Kasher v'sameach,

I did a little more research on Horodek (the birth place of my grandfather). Turns out that it is, in fact, about 80km south or Przemysl. It was within the region of Lisko (now Lesko).

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