History of the Jewish Genealogical Society of St. Louis
Sylvia and Art Jaffe founded the Jewish Genealogical Society of St. Louis in March 1995. The Jaffes had taken a genealogy course and recognized that an ethnic group, a Jewish genealogical society, was needed in St. Louis. (There had been a small Jewish genealogical society started by Murray Darrish in the 1980s, but that had long ended.)
The Jaffes asked Ann Fleming, their genealogy teacher and president of St. Louis Genealogical Society, to teach a short course in “How To Trace The Family Tree” to their fledgling group. Trudy Levy, who had been tracing her family for ten years, was invited to relate the Jewish perspective to the class. Twenty-five people signed up for the free course, and from this nucleus, the JGS of St. Louis began.
Gary Mokotoff, publisher of Avotaynu, an international journal for Jewish genealogists, suggested that the group be known as the Jewish Genealogical Society of St. Louis. United Hebrew Congregation, which had given the Jaffes permission to use the congregation’s facilities, asked that the group add the phrase, “affiliated with United Hebrew Congregation,” to its title.
Sylvia Jaffe served as president of the society for its first three years. Alan Barasch was next, succeeded by Art Jaffe. Jerry Goldberg served through 2005, when, due to lack of volunteer leadership, the society disbanded.
During its ten years, the JGS held monthly meetings, regular classes, and many special events that attracted some of the most well-known names in Jewish genealogy such as Steve Morse, Warren Blatt, and Miriam Weiner. Field trips to local repositories offered participants hands-on research experiences. A weekly discussion group provided members an opportunity to ask questions and learn from others.
JGS began indexing local Jewish records shortly after its founding. With the cooperation of local Jewish cemetery owners/managers, funeral home owners, and synagogues, volunteers, under the leadership of Phyllis Faintich, Fay Badasch, and Eunice Solomon, worked on indexing available cemetery, funeral home, and marriage records. Much of that effort is now available on this website.
Generations, the society’s monthly publication, first appeared in August 1995. Sylvia Jaffe continued as editor for the first five years. She was succeeded by Jerry Goldberg and then Gene Schneider. Ilene Murray was the editor from 2000–2005. A complete set of Generations is available at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters in the History and Genealogy department and at the Missouri Historical Society Research Library. Copies are available here in PDF format.
When Joyce Loving was manager of Special Collections at the St. Louis County Library, she worked with the society to build up the Jewish resource section for those researching Jewish ancestry. With Joyce’s assistance and because of her interest in the group, the library purchased a large collection of Yizkor (Holocaust memorial) books. In 2005, when the JGS disbanded, they donated their library of books and videos to Special Collections (now the History and Genealogy department).
Alan Barasch built a JGS website. Joel Shedlofsky and Gene Schneider succeeded him as webmasters. The St. Louis Genealogical Society imported all of the contents to its website in 2005.
Last modified: 09-Nov-2016 16:37