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29 August 2016

The Jews of Albania

Albania is a country that has a Jewish history that may date back as many as 2000 years. There are historians that believe the first Jews in the country arrived as slaves on ships from the Roman empire. The first synagogue was built in the 5th century in the Southern port city of  Sarande.
 The history of this time is not well known, and its almost 1500 years later before we know much about this community.  
By the early 1500's, communities of Sephardic Jews had began to be established. Most of the major cities of Albania had these established communities, including Berat, Elbasan, Vlore and Durres. These Jewish families were the descendants of those Jews who were expelled from Spain and Portugal. In 1520, the city of Vlore had Albania's only Synagogue and over 600 Jewish living in the city. That synagogue was destroyed during World War I. 
Over time the Jewish population of Albania slowly declined, until 1930, at which time the national census only recorded 204 Jews. In 1937, the Jewish community was officially recognized by the government. With the rise of the Nazi's many German and Austrian Jews took refuge in Albania. Even in 1938, the Albanian embassy was perhaps the last European country to issue Visa's to the Jewish people, which caused it to become a safe haven to the Jewish people. The Jews in Albania were protected by the Muslim's who lived there. This protected even continued after the Nazi's occupied the country. Because of becoming known as a safe haven for Jews, the Jewish population had risen to over 2,000 people by the end of World War II.
When Albania became a communist county, all religion was banned from the country, which meant the Jewish community was now isolated from Jews in other countries. This was true of all religions and not just the Jews. With the fall of communism in 1991 the Jews were dealing with tough times. This was not because of anything against them, but more to do with the general economic state of the entire country. This condition led to the majority of the Jewish population emigrating to Israel, leaving only a few dozen Jews within the borders of Albania.
Today, the Jewish population is probably no more than 50, however a new synagogue was opened in Tirana in 2010.

22 August 2016

California, Napa and Butte Counties, Obituaries, 1866-1992

FamilySearch has added some obituaries for 2 counties located in Northern California. The bits are part of the collection of California, Napa and Butte Counties, Obituaries, 1866-1992. The collection as of now has just a little under 50,000 images, however the information provided is very good.
I did a search for someone I knew who should be in this collection. Sadie Cohen was the wife of Nathan Manuel Appel. Not only did I find her listed in the obituary of her husband but the information provided in the basic search  gave me many family connections.


The original clipping of the obituary is also available but I have not added it here. If your family resides in this area this could be a very valuable collection. As with all FamilySearch collections it can be searched free of charge from home.

16 August 2016

Another great conference, looking forward to next year.


Once again the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy was a great success. With about 1000 people attending from all over the world, it was a wonderful opportunity to see old friends and to make new ones. The experience provided by researchers from all different
Seattle Pier
backgrounds provided  a wide variety of lectures and presentations. In addition, the local society, The Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State did a wonderful job of showcasing their beautiful state.
Temple De Hirsch Sinai
As we leave Seattle with thanks to all those who shared their talents and skills with us, we also look forward to next years conference.
From the 23-28 of July in 2017, we will gather together again in Orlando, Florida for the 37th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. Under the direction of the IAJGS and the local society, The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Orlando, once again we will all be rewarded for our attendance. I look forward to seeing you all there.