IGRA 2022 Annual Meeting and President Report

IGRA held its Annual Meeting on June 19, 2022. Reports were made from the Database, Finance, and Audit Committees.

Rosemary Eshel and Daniel Horowitz were elected to the Executive Committee. Barbara Ellman and Rose Feldman were elected to a term on the Board. Shalom Bronstein, Susan Edel and Rose Lerer Cohen comprise the new Audit Committee. Garri Regev was elected to another term as President and Elena Bazes to an additional term as Secretary. We wish everyone good luck in their positions.

Here is the report of the President:

President Report IGRA 2021-2

It has been a year since we last met in this forum. This year we were again plagued by continuous waves of Covid disrupting every aspect of our lives. We have been saddened by the loss of so many relatives and friends. Our lives will never be the same without them. We have had to adapt the way we do even the simplest things in our lives – how we purchase groceries, our use of public transportation, how we celebrate holidays and family events and so much more.

IGRA made the most of virtual gatherings, using Zoom for Board meetings, webinars, seminar days, various meetings and as an additional option for the lectures in Givatayim. Our attendance level for all events is very high with participation from around the world. We have made our Zoom sessions available free of charge to all. We appreciate the advantages of meeting face to face and yet are grateful for this advance in technology that has allowed us to get together despite not being able to meet in person. As this platform allows us to reach a global audience, we will continue to have this option available.

Our Board is composed of a wonderful group of dedicated volunteers. They continue to work to keep all the activities of IGRA running and make decisions as needed for the smooth functioning of this group. One of the issues this year was noting that a change was necessary in the way we handle our bookkeeping, and the Board approved taking on the services of Matmon to issue receipts and take over responsibility for the end of the year reports including those to the Rasham HaAmutot. Therefore, our job description for Treasurer has changed. We are now outsourcing in four areas: Graphic Design, Translations, Legal and Bookkeeping.

You have noticed the change in format of our Newsletter – IGRANews. Elena Bazes does a wonderful job coordinating the newsletter, writing the English content and then working with the translator and our graphics person to produce our bi-monthly and now bi-lingual newsletter. Reading through each newsletter you get a feel for just how much we are doing. There is an additional weekly summary in Hebrew sent out by Hinda Solomon to those identified Hebrew speakers, if you are not on the list and would like to be, please let us know.

Many Board meetings devoted time discussing our in-person meetings in Givatayim. Our hats go off to Billie Stein and Hinda Solomon who put together a lecture schedule in Hebrew and coordinate these meetings. Due to Covid we had to restrict the number of participants coming to the location as well as appropriate health measures in compliance with the current government rulings. As the participation has been much smaller than in previous seasons (people being hesitant to meet in person, transportation issues, illness…) we continue to grapple with our endorsement of these meetings. We have done our best to make these lectures available to a wider audience via Zoom.

We managed to put together and hold two seminar days and thank Susan Edel, Rose Lerer Cohen and Esther Rechtshafner. The subjects have been fascinating and had lectures in Hebrew in the morning followed by English lectures in the afternoon. The Heshvan Event also honored our many volunteers. Please join us next week for our next seminar day – registration is through our website or Facebook. The topic this time relates to a variety of geographic groups who have made Aliyah and contributed to the quilt of Israel.

After many years of discussion and several aborted attempts, we finally came up with a winning solution in order to present our website both in English and Hebrew. The intention was to have a mirror site. In reality, we do have a good portion of the site available now in both languages. The webinars, articles and resource guides, however, are available only in their original language. The menu bar has been expanded and you’ll find the language option at the end allowing you to move between English and Hebrew. The About IGRA menu tab now also includes the minutes of our Annual Meetings. Many thanks to Daniel Horowitz, Banai Feldstein and Philip Trauring for all of their efforts in updating and maintaining our website.

Requesting research assistance is now a member benefit as a result of our last Annual Meeting resolutions and Rosemary Eshel continues to be the “face of IGRA” responding to the many queries we receive. We can’t thank her enough.

It is with incredible gratitude and thanks to Rose Feldman and Daniel Horowitz for their continued involvement with our ever-increasing databases. They are amazing in their ability to identify, locate, scan, arrange volunteers, transcribe, transliterate, compile all the results into databases, upload and add them to our collection, check and recheck to make sure all is running smooth – and more. Rosie choreographs the various Hebrew volunteers and is always looking for new recruits. Ingrid Rockberger is now the English Database Coordinator. As a majority of our databases are in Hebrew, we need volunteers in English, Hebrew – and now some additional languages as well. There are a variety of options to help with our databases. Please consider joining our ranks by giving us a few hours each week. We have added close to half a million records in the last year!!! Remarkable.

Our Articles Committee has grown. Carol Hoffman and Ellen Stepak continue to have a role and we welcome Cheryl Lester and Jackye Sullins. We began a series of short articles tracing the journeys our ancestors made and are waiting to receive your contributions. Please consider sharing this portion of your family history with us. Many thanks to our committee members and to those who have written and shared articles with us. We look forward to hearing from you.

IGRA membership reached an all time high in 2021. We closed out our membership at 1,312 making us, again, the largest Jewish Genealogy Society – certainly among those member organizations in the IAJGS (International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies). As we meet, we have an unprecedented number of returning members and are close to 950 members spanning across 26 countries!

We recently identified 340 members who have consistently been with us. Obviously, your first and major focus is on your family history. We do, however, look to you now to take on a more active role in the organization. In addition to all of the volunteer opportunities with our databases, we are looking for people who can help technologically with webinars, identify speakers for our webinar series, help with the Seminar Day programs, serve as Treasurer (monthly reports, the go-between with the bookkeeper, monitoring the bank account and the PayPal account…), serve on the Board, work on the newsletter, serve as Secretary, serve as President, work on the website in English, work on the website in Hebrew, check the links on the website to make certain they are still valid….. and more.

Our leadership search is critical. Two years from now the current people holding office will, by our by-laws, be prevented from continuing further. We need to identify and train the next generation of IGRA leadership. Please consider throwing in your hat – your skills are needed. We need you!

Lest you be mislead – not all is a bed of roses. Unfortunately, our Treasurer who was elected at the last AGM did not work out, and Eyal Hollander graciously agreed to step back in. We must identify, immediately, an individual who can step into the newly modified role of Treasurer. Besides your willingness to serve on the Executive and Board and to oversee the finances as well as liaison with the bookkeeper – the individual needs to be able to be a signatory at the bank (US citizenship prevents serving in this position). Please help us out!!

We continue our attempt to cut through the red tape in order to receive the appropriate tax status we need as a non-profit. A concerted effort was made over a two-year period (thank you, Menachem) but, unfortunately, we are still not there. We have filled out many forms but keep hitting a wall.

IGRA is in the process of renegotiating our agreements of understanding with many of the Archives we have collaborated with over the years. We have a lawyer helping us now with some of the contracts that require legal assistance. When we started out in 2012 very few Archives even dreamed about digitizing their holdings. Many jumped at the opportunity to allow us to digitize portions of their material. Some allowed us to only have a name index of the material, others allowed us a transcription of the essential data and yet others also allowed us to show you the scans of the records. In the ensuing years many Archives have gone through digitization processes (but have not necessarily provided a name index) but through it all, IGRA remains the main resource and steppingstone to locating information from a broad span of resources. We are the main place to come to for a bi-lingual search engine allowing you to identify family members in both English and Hebrew. Once having located a record, we always suggest you follow up on that find from the information on the result page identifying the Archive – to see if they might have additional relevant documents.

Together with the Archives doing digitization there is also a renewed concern of privacy. As this discussion continues IGRA will work to make our records compatible with the law.

Many of our IGRA members speak at Conferences, teach at Genealogy courses, lecture at a variety of venues and we thank all of them for their participation and for representing IGRA.

Happy 10th birthday to IGRA!! May we have many additional years of continued success in the world of Jewish genealogy. We hope that our efforts will enrich your research and help you learn more about family members and complete your family story.

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