New project aims for NY's Jewish population to trace their families' histories

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society holds an extensive collection of Jewish history records inside the New York Public Library.

News 12 Staff

Sep 25, 2023, 2:25 AM

Updated 247 days ago

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A new project will soon make it easier for New Yorkers of Jewish descent to find information about their family's history.
New York City has since become home to the largest Jewish population outside of Israel. The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society holds a part of that historical legacy in its extensive collection of records which sit inside the New York Public Library.
"The Jewish history of New York City begins with Stuyvesant in the 17th century," says Michael Waas, the Society's scholar in residence.
"It's millions of pages, it's thousands of manuscript collections and books, and then it's thousands of online materials as well," says the Society's president, Joshua Taylor.
The Society, however, has a problem.
"We don't know what we have. We know we have a lot of records, a lot of documents. What we don't know is how many of those records can be used for those tracing Jewish families," Taylor explains.
That's when Waas entered the project.
"Nobody has ever surveyed their entire collection for specifically any materials related to Jewish families in New York state," he says.
Over the next three months, Waas will pour over thousands of records and put together a comprehensive guide that will make it easier for Jewish New Yorkers find out more about their family history.
"Our hope, and my hope, is that this project opens more records and more pathways for New Yorkers of Jewish descent to discover that past. That's what we're all about," Taylor says.
The Society also hopes it will help scholars and academics further their research on New York's Jewish population.
"This is not only about the Jewish community, even though the subject is, but it's also an opportunity to start opening doors for what's possible to do with other communities here," Waas says.
Waas' findings will be made available to the public at the end of the project, although the exact format is still to be determined.


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