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Finding New Friends (and Relatives!) at the Genealogy Conference

By Al Maimon

Last week we staffed a Seattle Sephardic Network table at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Society's 2016 International Conference, held in Seattle. By all accounts it was very successful in getting the message out about our old community and new organization, while making some very interesting connections.

It really helped that we had such a variety of volunteers - including Sephardic book authors (Evelyn Blatt and Cynthia Flash Hemphill), Doreen Alhadeff - the first North American Jewish Spanish citizen, and Victor Alkana, the man with the massive Levantine Ladino-speaking genealogical database, and others prepared to have a conversation about a wide variety of subjects of Sephardic interest.

Our table in the exhibition hall became a hang out for a number of attendees. Long-time conference attendees were delighted to see the focus on Sephardic matters being represented. The two sign up raffle winners (two dozen biscochos each) were delighted (one said he didn’t think there would be any left to take on the plane home).

A surprising number of folks from Eastern Europe came to the table and told of their family’s Sephardic connection (sometimes an oral tradition; sometimes well documented). Also, one especially fun aspect of the table was the “discovery” of family and friends by local attendees who have been working on their family trees, and who came to our table. It was a sight to see!

Another accomplishment at the conference was the recruitment of participants in a Technion genetic study of third generation Sephardic males. A highlight of this effort was the visit to the golf course to catch a group before their 8:30 am tee time to get the DNA of Mezistrano, Altaras, DeLeon, Halfon, Sadis, Mayo and Amira! (Ike Azose, David Behar and others spread the word on very short notice and have gotten good response - and will continue recruiting participants).

Going forward, we got ideas to somehow create a “space” for us to share a communal historical, genealogical and geographical information/display center to give ourselves (and others) a perspective on how broad and interconnected we are. I’m encouraged by seeing how much is already being done by individuals.

For all the volunteers, it was a rewarding experience and a “fun time” as well.

As we move on to the High Holidays, and New Year's resolutions, may we look forward to many alegrias together.


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