IGRA Annual Meeting

The IGRA Annual Meeting, open to members, was held on June 15, 2021. We welcome Menachem Carmiel as our new Treasurer. Eyal Hollander and Ingrid Rockberger will serve on the Board. The Va’adat Bikoret is comprised of Shalom Bronstein, Susan Edel and Menachem Halperin. We thank Eyal Hollander for all of the years he served as Treasurer and Esther Rechtschafner for her many contributions on the Board and Va’adat Bikoret.

There was a lengthy discussion on proposed changes to the Takanon (By Laws) and following the approval of the Rasham HaAmutot the new Takanon will be available on the website.

Here is the report of the President:

What a year! As the world struggled with the pandemic and tried to somehow continue within the new enforced restrictions, IGRA tried to find ways to continue to engage and enrich the connection with our members. Those who watched the update on our databases has an idea of how much work was accomplished. Rosie, Daniel, Carol and all the volunteers have done an amazing job.

Philip Trauring and Brooke Schreier Ganz spent hours transferring all of the website to a new server. The advantage to you, the user, is that the website is quicker. Other advantages are improvements in the way the information is arranged, the ability to update sections more easily and a lower cost to run our website per month. Daniel Horowitz and Banai Feldstein have worked throughout the year to make additional improvements to the functionality of our databases. Thank you all.

Not all was smooth –

Following our last AGM an error was made. It had been pointed out that the minutes of the 2019 meeting were not signed by the Secretary of the AGM. Unfortunately, before we could take care of getting the signature of Leesa Goren her health took a turn for the worse and Leesa later passed away.

In November 2015, immediately following the death of the former President of Israel Yitzchak Navon, I put a special post on our website and used as the “featured image” that appeared on our home page for a short while an image from the internet. I did not notice that the image had a copywrite. The company found this usage of their image in July and demanded a fee be paid to them in lieu of suing us. A compromise was reached regarding the fee and there is a non-disclosure agreement regarding additional details. A lesson was learned and everyone using images is aware now of the proper way to identify images used.

IGRA was represented at the IAJGS 2020 Conference that was held virtually due to the pandemic. Several of us gave lectures in the pre-recorded section and some also in the live lectures. During the year IGRA nominated Dorit Perry – Giving a Face to the Fallen for the IAJGS SALUTE! Awards. This group was rightfully acknowledged for the important work they are doing, the award has been delivered. IGRA continues to be one of the small percentage of societies nominating people and groups for the various awards. We have had much success and have again submitted nominations this year.

We switched from the GoToWebinar platform for our webinars to Zoom. We have enjoyed large audiences for our programs and members can go back and review all of the lectures that have been given.

The Board set goals at the beginning of the year to look into several key topics: the Website, Outreach, Active Members/Volunteers, PR and Research Assistance. With regard to the Website – some changes have already been implemented and we are in the process of choosing the best option to move forward and finally have a mostly bilingual website with a fresh look.

We continue to look for appropriate opportunities to connect with our members. The pandemic provided time and place for so many Zoom sessions that people reached a level of saturation. Our webinars continue on a monthly basis and are very well attended. The Show & Tell sessions have slowed down and are wonderful with the right topic. Here is an opportunity for your input. If you have topics you would like to have presented, please put them in the CHAT now or send us an email. We considered a “Coffee With IGRA” or something similar for a more informal time to ask questions and talk about your research. We know that many groups are making programs available and that you have many options open to you. Our goal is to have programs to enrich each of you and give you ideas about new possibilities for your research.

The goal of keeping our members active and engaged is critical and challenging at once. Especially with all meetings virtual it is difficult to make personal contacts. IGRA needs additional volunteers! If you can help planning webinars/lectures/seminar days, video tasks, graphics or writing original articles on a topic of genealogical interest, we need you!! If you have skills regarding WordPress, websites, Facebook/Twitter and technology, we need you! If you can work with Excel – we need help with the preparation of databases, transliterations, proofing our databases. If you are interested in becoming part of the IGRA leadership team – we invite you to speak up, NOW. For any of these we can use people who speak/write English, Hebrew, French and German. If you have other languages you are proficient in, please let us know in case a project comes up.

While we would like to begin in person meetings again, this may not be soon. We are hoping that the Pandemic is retreating but for the next few months we will remain cautious. We will continue to re-evaluate the possibility of meetings in different locations. The Annual Heshvan Event will, again, be a virtual event (this year sometime between October 7 and November 4 – information to follow).

PR – you may have noticed that the IGRA News has a different look. Liora Blum has been preparing the newsletter from material that Elena Bazes puts together and this is certainly a winning team. Our look on Facebook has changed as well. Moving away from a total volunteer position we felt that we needed to look to people with more expertise to handle some of our projects.

Research Assistance is such an important part of what we do! Rosemary Eshel continues to respond to and help the myriads of people writing us with requests for assistance. One of the goals in the coming year is to revamp the Frequently Asked Questions section on the website so that more of the common questions can be addressed there. One of the items you will be asked to vote on today is regarding our Research Assistance. The Board is proposing that our Research Assistance be considered a member benefit. Those writing to us would then be asked to join IGRA, if they are not already members, in order for us to relate to their question. Rosemary handles over 200 requests a year for assistance! We cannot thank her enough.

Imagine if you will…. Exactly ten years ago a small, dedicated, group of people dreamed that there was room for another genealogy society in Israel. This society was to reach out to a world wide audience and showcase records found in Archives in Israel as an aide to people researching their families on line. Another goal was to assist our members with their family research – wherever their roots are from.

From year to year we have grown – we have many articles on genealogy topics, a library of recorded lectures/webinars/Show & Tell sessions, Research Guides from all around the world (if you have an additional country for us we will be happy to add that as well).

Our membership has grown steadily – from 90 that first year to over 1,100 already in 2021! We now have members from 30 countries!! (The largest representation from Israel, US, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium – and then also Brazil, Columbia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Qatar, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay.) Over 30% of our current membership have been members for more than one year. Over 350 members joined us between 2012 and 2018 and continue to support our efforts. For several years now we are the largest Jewish Genealogy Society within the IAJGS.

Our databases, as we heard, have also continued to grow at an amazing pace. In the coming months we will reach the 2,000,000 record mark!! Our collection still only represents the tip of the iceberg of possible data. We chose to sample record sets from a wide range of Archives and not to do one Archive from A-Z. We are hoping you will see the kinds of material available from the various Archives and reach out to them to see if they may have additional information about your relatives in their holdings. We try to bring you the scans of the material included in the databases but not all the Archives are willing. We have attempted to gather material from the Ottoman Period, the British Mandate Period and from 1948 and the formation of the State of Israel. Please remember that Israel is still a relatively young country and due to the Privacy Laws vital documents from early Statehood are still not available to the public. The IGRA search engine continues to be the most important option to search for your family members records in Israel. Our bilingual search engine quickly sorts through records from all of the Archives we have in our current collection. There are helpful filters to help you focus in on the most likely records for you. We urge you to search both in English and Hebrew – with the use of our virtual keyboard.

A pilot project ran this year at a High School in Jerusalem. All of the students need to do a community volunteer project for several hours a week. As the students could not go out into the community – one of the projects they could choose from this year was to assist us with our database project. We look at this project as a success and intend on continuing in the coming year.

IGRA now hosts many databases from SephardicGen. Dr. Jeff Malka has allowed IGRA to host databases, many of them built by Mathilde Tagger z”l, and thereby we added depth to the records of the Sephardic communities.

In addition, we came to realize that there are countries around the Mediterranean Basin and no central location for their records. We have begun to add records in this category as well. This is an ongoing project.

In the past year the whole world was strained and our resilience tested. We mourn for all those who struggled through COVID and lost the fight. We thank all of you who found some solace in our programming and the regular releases of additional databases. We hope that you will continue to support our work and will join our ranks giving from your strengths.

My thanks to each of you who has given of yourself and devoted time to IGRA.

Garri Regev

President, IGRA

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