Lest We Forget...

From a message sent by Susan King, JewishGen President to the JewishGen Email Exchange Forum, 30 Sep 1997.

On the eve of this High Holiday season, perhaps it might be interesting for us all to take a few deep breaths, and to ponder...

 Who are we?

 Why are we here?

 How did we get here?

 What do we want to accomplish?

We had a vision... we found a vehicle... and we were able to facilitate the merger of both into what we know today as JewishGen, or what we have heard referred to endearingly as ..."JewishGenLand" and "Planet JewishGen".

Perhaps the endearing terms really do reflect what we have become... for we serve tens of thousands of people from over 50 countries... we serve those who practice reform, conservative and orthodox Judaism across all continents... and we serve those of other faiths, who are connected to us through history and family.

We have become family, JewishGen'rs one and all! We have shared stories, history, research and we have made friendships that just a few years ago, we wouldn't have thought possible. We have laughed together... and we have cried together... we have shared successes and and of course we have shared our failures as well.

JewishGen has become a place for us all to reach back in time, lest we forget, to reconstruct, rebuild, and reconnect... for what seems so easy for us to do today, was next to impossible just one and two generations ago...

This Erev Rosh Hoshannah, let's turn our attention for a moment, away from our genealogical pursuits, to honor and remember a few individuals who in life overcame overwhelming obstacles to achieve greatness in their own way... and in death have continued to provide us both with the inspiration and the resources for which we will benefit and provide Jewish "continuity" for future generations to come.

 Lest we forget...

Edgar and Elisabeth Zantker, he a young Jewish immigrant from Constaninople, who arrived on American soil with $12 in his pocket. Fluent in eight languages, cosmopolitan and urbane, he rapidly climbed the executive ladder of the international film industry, becoming the youngest district manager of Fox films in charge of 17 countries. She came from a well-established St. Louis family. Her grandfather had been a Mississippi river boat captain and she was the grandnieceof a Catholic bishop.
Edgar and Elizabeth were both self-taught with regard to farming and horses and purchased their farm on the Clays Mill Road on what was then the outskirts of Lexington. The rest is history. Edgar became one of the most successful horsemen in the business. He and his wife, left a legacy, the Zantker Charitable Foundation, believing that education was the only asset to insure Jewish "continuity". It is with great pleasure, we can announce, JewishGen has, once again, been awarded a generous contribution by the Zantker Charitable Foundation to meet our ever increasing hardware and software needs to continue serving the thousands who are using JewishGen each and every day.

(NOTE: You should already be seeing a significant change in our website both in speed and accessibility... and other changes are in progress as we speak... )

 Lest we forget...

Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat stationed in Kaunas, Lithuaniain March, 1939. In the history of the Holocaust, one of the most fascinating -- and largely unknown -- stories of the Righteous Gentiles is that of Chiune Sugihara. In July, 1940, as the Germans advanced on Lithuania, all diplomats were instructed to leave their embassies in Kaunas. Only a Dutch consul and Chiune Sugihara remained behind. The Jews of Kaunas and the surrounding areas were desperate for passports to leave the country, but obtaining visas proved almost impossible. At the end of July, 1940, against the rules from his commanders in Tokyo, Sugihara and his wife spent four long weeks writing visas by hand.

Through a generous gift of the Visas for Life Foundation and Chairman, Hiroki Sugihara, JewishGen is pleased to announce a new searchable database, to include the names and visa dates of 2,139 Lithuanian, Polish, German, Dutch, and Russian Jews. Chiune Sugihara and his wife followed their conscience and as a result they too, contributed to Jewish "continuity".

(NOTE: The only request made by Hiroki Sugihara, in my conversation with him this day, is if you find or know of a relative who was issued one of these visas, to please contact the Visas for Life Foundation. They want to know about you. Further information is on the website.)

 Lest we forget...

Herbert Unger and Pauline "Polly" Horwitz One could only wonder what these two "JewishGen'rs" would be up to if they could use JewishGen as it is today. Both ardent enthusiasts, they shared so much on JewishGen during the early years, and in both cases, we learned of their passing through JewishGen, both within daysof their last posts. Herb was the "booksayer", he seemed to have everything either in his files or notes... and he amassed quite a collection of books which he shared regularly with JewishGen'rs. Herb's posts always started out with Tayerer and your first name.. and he always signed his posts Chaim ben Shmul ve-Chaya. Polly was the "inquisitor", she was always asking for research tips...giving guidance to all who read the answers she received... Has anyone ever done...this, or has anyone ever done that...she was a constant breath of fresh air ... and she seemed to achieve so much in her research on a regular basis.

(NOTE: And for Jewish "continuity", their posts will always be available to future researchers as they are a part of the JewishGen Discussion Group archives...)


To these and those we haven't mentioned... I would like to share with you a poem read at my mother's memorial service, just 5 years ago. For it was Elise Greenebaum King, who's life cut short, gave me the inspiration and vision which has allowed the many volunteers to move JewishGen into what we know it today!

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey;
From childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then, perhaps to wisdom;
From weakness to strength
Or strength to weakness----

And often, back again;
From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again;
From offense to forgiveness
From loneliness to love
From joy to gratitude,
From pain to compassion,
And grief to understanding---
From fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat ----

Until, looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage,
A sacred pilgrimage.

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage ---

To life everlasting.

To all of you, a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year...

L'Shana Tova


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