Jewish Galicia (1772-1918): Vibrant Past Rediscovered

Jewish Galicia (1772-1918):
Vibrant Past Rediscovered

Speaker: Dr. Andrew Zalewski

Temple Sinai, 210 Wilson Avenue, Toronto
Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 at 8 p.m.
Doors open at 7:45 p.m. (see details below for bonus workshop at7:15 p.m.)

This talk brings to life the Jewish community of Galicia. Personal genealogical discoveries are intertwined with a broader historical context. Coming from the outside of Jewish community, the imperial edicts are both stifling and inspiring—the laws about Jewish marriages, surnames, schools, military service, and land ownership bring dizzying pace of changes but also controversies. Coming from the inside of the community, there is a wave of the Jewish Enlightenment—biting satires by local Jewish cultural rebels are met with condemnations and counterattack.

The community comes across as vibrant and diverse: professionals, pious traditionalists and reformers, dwellers of shtetls and cities are heard in this narrative. Passionate arguments about language, customs, and loyalties easily erupt. But even in difficult times, there were brave voices that spoke loudly against prejudice.

Based on expanded research to the speaker’s recently published book, Galician Portraits: In Search of Jewish Roots, the talk is illustrated by many pictures, historical documents, and old maps of Galicia.

A Bonus Workshop By Dr. Zalewski
Navigating the Gesher Galicia Website

7:15 p.m. sharp, prior to the 8 p.m. presentation on June 14

Dr. Andrew Zalewski is a former Professor of Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, where he practiced cardiology and conducted research for about twenty years. His Jewish and Christian ancestors trace their multigenerational roots to the former province of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empire. Zalewski has been passionate about bringing to light the story of Galicia. He has published two historical books, Galician Trails: The Forgotten story of One Family and Galician Portraits: In Search of Jewish Roots.   He serves on the Board of Directors of Gesher Galicia, a non-profit organization dedicated to research of Jewish genealogy in the former Galicia.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Galitzianer, Gesher Galicia’s quarterly research journal.

Brick Walls and Breakthroughs

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24TH, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Here’s another edition of JGS Toronto’s popular presentation by members, Brick Walls and Breakthroughs.

Cyril Gryfe’s presentation, Cousin Boruch from New York, explains how his paternal grandfather left a priceless photographic record of the Graif family from Botosani, Romania.  A particular group photo taken in 1946 remained a persistent puzzle.  Discover how Boruch, the mystery man, provided the clues to find a way over a major brick wall.

Cyril’s interest in the history of medicine, and of his own family, spans over thirty years.  During that timeframe, and with the help of a Michigan cousin, his genealogical pursuit has revealed a maternal line of twelve generations and paternal line of ten.

Mark Pearlstein’s upcoming book, Balanced, the Al Pearlstein Story, is a memoir that recounts the life lessons learned from his father, a legendary Toronto based stockbroker and pension consultant, who has an extensive interest in world history.

Following a trip to Berlin for Al’s 85th birthday, Mark decided to write a book which in part would cover fifteen years around the turn of the century to fill in what life was like in his grandfather’s town of Vistytis, Lithuania.

Tonight’s presentation will take you on a trip from Riga to Newfoundland, then Boston and California, on to Indiana to discover Arne, the Pearlstein Expert, and back to Toronto to finalize the rigorous process for the book’s publication.

Mark Pearlstein has a B.Comm. and a MBA in Finance and Marketing.  He has been an accomplished Portfolio Manager and Wealth Advisor at RBC Dominion Securities for the past twenty-six years.

Beginner’s Workshop – Sunday April 30 10am to 1pm

Beginners’ Workshop and Brunch
Sunday, April 30th
10:00 am to 1:30 pm
Real Canadian Superstore
PC Cooking School (2nd floor)
Dufferin and Steeles Ave., North York

Register online at

This workshop will be of interest to those members who are just getting started in their genealogical research as well as those that have hit brick walls and wish to ask the “experts”.

Neil Richler will be leading the session with the help and support of former JGS Toronto Presidents, Harvey Glasner and Les Kelman and Editor of Shem Tov, Judy Kasman.

Topics covered will range from:

  1. How and where do I begin my research?
  2. Using the resources that are free and available on the internet
  3. The power of Google search tools
  4. What is an archive and how do I optimize and take advantage of the resources available.
  5. Brick Walls – ask the experts
  • Attendance is limited to the first 25 bookings
  • Non-members may book after April 10th if space is available
  • Non-member fee is $15.00 (fee would be applied to membership dues if an application is completed on the day of the workshop)

* To make your booking, register online at

For more information, call the JGS Toronto phone number (647-247-6414) or email Harvey Glasner:

Using Passenger Lists and Related Records – Sun Apr 23, 10:30am at Temple Sinai

Using Passenger Lists and Related Records 

Speaker: James F.S. Thomson

Temple Sinai, 210 Wilson Avenue, Toronto

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.

Doors open at 10 a.m.

In Part 1 of the presentation, Using Passenger Lists, James F.S. Thomson will describe the range of information contained, and practical tips and techniques for selecting databases and locating an individual. Consideration of reasons why a traveller may not be found immediately, and strategies for tackling this problem will be discussed.

Part 2 of the presentation, Using Related Records, will address other records that may illuminate aspects of arrival in Canada and perhaps place of origin, including naturalization and border crossing records, and other resources.


James F. S. Thomson has designed and taught over a dozen advanced and expert-level family history courses co-sponsored by the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Toronto Branch and the Toronto Public Library. For these courses and in his articles and presentations at conferences and workshops, as well as in his capacity as a University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies instructor, James draws on over 30 years of experience of family and local history research. This will be his third presentation to JGS Toronto.

Research in the Pale of Settlement and Ukraine: Proposal for a “Second Tier” Project – Wed, Mar 29 at 7:30pm

We are very pleased to announce “An evening with the Editor of Avotaynu”

 Research in the Pale of Settlement and Ukraine:
Proposal for a “Second Tier” Project

Speaker: Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus

Temple Sinai, 210 Wilson Avenue, Toronto
Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 at 8 p.m.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m.


Sallyann will also offer her views on where the world of Jewish genealogy is heading.


Late in 1994, Stanley Diamond was scrolling microfilm reels in the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library [FHL] in Salt Lake City when he had an epiphany. He realized that many other Jewish genealogists likely were reading the same films—over and over again. There had to be a better way.

Sallyann proposes that the Jewish genealogy community undertake a massive project following the lead of JRI-Poland, but targeting different archival records. Until a better name is found, she calls this the “Second Tier Project” because these are the second tier of genealogically useful records that lie beyond the “low lying fruit” of census and vital statistics records.

She will explain that collectively we must create databases in archives all over the former Russian Pale of Settlement that mirror what Sarah Nadia Lipes has done in the Kiev Archives.

What is done depends totally on the wishes of our genealogical community. Remember the words of Theodore Herzl. Speaking of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine he said: “If you will it, it is no dream.”


Sallyann Amdur Sack-Pikus is a past president of IAJGS and a recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award. She is co-owner, founder (with Gary Mokotoff) and editor of the AVOTAYNU, the International Review of Jewish Genealogy, now in its 33nd year of publication. Sallyann is a member of the board and founding chairman of the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy in Jerusalem, which she co-founded with Ambassador Neville Lamdan.  In 1980, she founded the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington and served as its first president. Salyann has co-chaired seven IAJGS conferences and has authored or co-authored an equal number of books on Jewish genealogy, including the award-winning Where Once We Walked and the Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland, where she is a clinical psychologist in private practice.

How to Utilize Eastern European Yizkor Books for Genealogical Research – Sun Feb 19 at 10:30am

How to Utilize Eastern European Yizkor Books
for Genealogical Research
Speaker: Jerrold Landau
Temple Sinai, 210 Wilson Avenue
 Sunday, February 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am
Doors open at 10 am

In this presentation, Jerrold Landau will explore the role of Yizkor Books as a means of investigating one’s Eastern European roots.  An overview of the content that typically appears in Yizkor Books will be provided, as well as a guide to how to find these books in their original form and in translation.  The tools provided by JewishGen to search these books will be demonstrated.  Jerrold will explain why Yizkor Books, while often useful, are not always the silver bullet for which many hope. He will outline several of his own successes in finding mention of his own family in Yizkor Books.

This talk will provide a better understanding of this important, but at times underappreciated, genre of Jewish historical literature.

Jerrold has been a translator of Yizkor Books, encyclopedia articles and other material of Jewish historical and genealogical interest from Hebrew and Yiddish into English over the past two decades.  His translations are published on the JewishGen website as well as on his own personal website at, and several of the translated Yizkor Books now appear in print as well.  In addition, Jerrold is an avid amateur genealogist, and has amassed a considerable archive of documents from his own family.

The Historic Iraqi Jewish Community and Its Exodus

Speaker: Lisette Shashoua Ades
Temple Sinai, 210 Wilson Avenue
 Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016 from 8 pm
Doors open at 7:30 pm

Lisette Shashoua Ades was born in Iraq to an affluent Jewish family and studied Arabic, English, French and Hebrew in a private Jewish school. She escaped the persecution and ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands in Iraq in 1970 and came to Canada, leaving her parents behind.

Lisette could not see her parents for thirty years because she was not permitted to return to Baghdad and they were not allowed to leave. They were miraculously reunited in Canada in 1990, having left behind all they had owned.

What happened to the Jews who were uprooted from Jerusalem to Babylon after the destruction of our Holy Temple…? What happened to them? Where are they now?

Lisette’s talk will be about the 2,500 years of Jewish existence in Babylon where the famous Talmud Bably was written and many Jewish prophets were buried.  She will describe how the Jews of Iraq made huge financial, educational and medical contributions to their country and how a thriving community of more than 180,000 in 1947 was pushed out.  Today only five elderly Jews remain.

Rediscovering My Lost Self Through DNA Matched Relatives

Ian McCallum presents a compelling narrative on how he became a genealogist 8 years ago driven by an unrelenting curiosity about his paternal grandfather, an undocumented orphan, who had a perfectly serviceable “borrowed” last name.

How then could he confirm his grandfather’s birth identity and parents?

Ripping away his sense of self he undertook a journey to find out who he is.  Making use of ever increasingly available genetic information, he taught himself how to triangulate ancestors using a formula that included documents, combined with DNA, as well as the services of numerous companies and Not-For-Profit organizations.

JGS members and guests will learn exactly how Ian McCallum was able to break down his seemingly insurmountable brickwall on Sunday Oct. 30th at Temple Sinai Congregation at 10:30 a.m. for our monthly meeting that will include a light brunch.  Doors open at 10:00 a.m.  Temple Sinai is located at 210 Wilson Ave., Toronto.