(23S1) Tracing your Jewish Roots (16 & 30 April, 7 May 2023)

April 16th, 2023 - May 7th, 2023, 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm

The recordings of the first two sessions will be available through June 30th.

Session #1 Recording: https://us06web.zoom.us/rec/share/sgTAsORr_WXSQkoc0-V4Ht50jJ9b7oX_kF9dMq3CxXJFYxEPbLWqrZdmHNfPgkgA.Mdfoa5qj2xJ7ofS5?startTime=1681664156000

Session #2 Recording:  https://us06web.zoom.us/rec/share/6aAF18RIauhs7iAtTxr5VgFB1Dq4k6eEGqWrBQmLRYbzQEP2VmiL9M1kHiNEEtoZ.gHojt0hJu9Ka9jLC?startTime=1682870736000

Session #3 Recording: https://youtu.be/9gHIMHUr-O4

Handout materials are available at: (You may need to paste the linjk into your browser.)  https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1aIepGdU9_YF38lbw0PvdHII5PkJzhpiG?usp=sharing

This 3-session Zoom class explains the elements of Jewish genealogy, including DNA testing.  Although the class will be useful to a general audience, it may be particularly useful to Ashkenazi individuals who want to discover information about their family history.  The class is a joint project with the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington (JGSGW). 

The first session was a general introduction to Jewish genealogy by officers of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington (JGSGW).  They told how to begin a family history; explain various genealogy myths; list available research resources, especially for Jewish genealogy; and introduce how to use DNA testing.

The second session went deeper into DNA testing and explained how some standard DNA test results may need special interpretation when applied to the Ashkenazi population due to its historic close marital traditions. 

In the third session two cousins without extensive genealogy training explained how they learned interesting and often very unexpected results about their family history.  In addition to standard resources, they gathered valuable information from membership in JGSGW, a partial translation of a book published by a grandfather, an online family tree found by a relative, and even the Jewish name of one of them.  They learned they were related to a prominent American mathematician, a popular musician, a martyr of the Israeli War of Independence and even an Israeli ultra orthodox religious leader who had debated David Ben Gurion abouts a policy that has been an outstanding issue in Israeli society for decades.  They found that “facts” from parents as well as from official documents were not always accurate.  Their research cleared up some mysteries about their family history but introduced other mysteries.  

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Sheila Wexler and genealogy were introduced to each other in 1977 when the TV series “Roots” aired.  She immediately interviewed her mother who remembered incredible details about her family from Belarus and Latvia.  Together, they typed up everything.  Her father, reluctant to participate, died six months later but her mother was able to piece together sufficient information about the paternal family from the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Ukraine) to help her start on the Jewish genealogy trail.  Sheila was one of the first members of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington (JGSGW), serving in various position including the past six years as President.  She has developed multiple genealogy presentations and is an experienced presenter and teacher having served as faculty at numerous universities.



Mary-Jane Roth is the JGSGW Vice President for Programs.  She has been researching her (Hungarian/Ukrainian Jewish) and her husband’s (Caribbean, German, Irish, Italian) family history for more than twenty years.  A retired civil servant, Mary-Jane currently serves as Vice-President for Programs at the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington (JGSGW).  She authors a Family History blog, Memory Keepers Notebook, to share the results of her research.  She has co-developed and co-taught a course for JGSGW entitled Introduction to Jewish Genealogy that has been presented at venues around the area and has presented talks about her blog and research for other genealogical societies and at the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies annual conference.



Harry Moatz is the Executive Vice President of JGSGW.  He has been researching his family for about 10 years, mostly in Eastern Europe and some in South and North America.  He has successfully pierced some brick walls, and remains frustrated with others.




Jennifer Mendelsohn specializes in helping Eastern European Jewish families shattered by the Holocaust reclaim their history.  She has worked on scores of cases, solving complex family mysteries using a blend of traditional and genetic genealogy.  In 2022, she co-founded the DNA Reunion Project at the Center for Jewish History, which seeks to promote DNA testing as a tool for helping Holocaust survivors find family.



Jerry Garfinkel is Treasurer and Technical Director of the Jewish Study Center.  He was a teaching and research mathematician at various universities and colleges and has had a long career as a mathematician for the US Army and for the Department of Defense.




Jerry’s cousin Marcia Spector was a Health and Human Services Executive in New York for over 40 years.  After retiring in 2019, she and her husband Allan relocated to Leisure World in Silver Spring, MD to be closer to their daughter and three grandchildren who live in Rockville.   In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and family, studying genealogy and foreign languages, international travel, and ethnic cooking.