xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' expr:dir='data:blog.languageDirection' xmlns='http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml' xmlns:b='http://www.google.com/2005/gml/b' xmlns:data='http://www.google.com/2005/gml/data' xmlns:expr='http://www.google.com/2005/gml/expr' JewishGen Test 2: February 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Posted by Ann Rabinowitz

Meor Hagolah Synagogue, Mainz, Germany, 2010
(Courtesy of Frederik Von Erichsen/epa)

During Kristallnacht in November, 1938, the destruction of the Jewish community of Mainz, Germany, and its institutions began. At that time, the city had over 200 synagogues and the greatest of them was the Mainz Neue Synagogue which was destroyed.

After World War II, there was a resurgence of the Jewish community in Germany which has resulted in approximately 900-1,000 Jews in Mainz and the surrounding area, many coming from the former Soviet Union. This resurgence has helped in the rebuilding of the institutions of Jewish life which includes the Neue Synagogue.

Now called the Meor Hagolah Synagogue, it is named in memory of Mainz’s most famous son, Rabbeinu Gershom ben Judah, who was known as Me’or HaGolah, “the Light of the Exile”. It was Gershom ben Judah (born circa 960 and died circa 1028 or 1040) who founded a great yeshivah in Mainz. It became the leading torah academy of its time in Europe. His disciples were many and they spread their learning to other scholars who became well-known torah luminaries such as Rashi. The impact of Gershom ben Judah was so great in both his teaching and his rabbinic pronouncements that one might consider him the father of Ashkenazi Judaism.

The new Meor Hagolah Synagogue was dedicated on November 3, 2010, and in attendance were many individuals including survivors and their families and former residents of Mainz. For those interested in learning more about actual families who came from Mainz, there are 154 entries in the JewishGen Family Finder of those researching their roots in Mainz. These include the families of long-time JewishGen researchers Arlene Sachs (Kahn family) and Dick Plotz (Schwab family).

The Meor Hagolah Synagogue was designed by Jewish architect Manuel Herz, who took a modern tack rather than a rebuilding of the structure in the old formal design. The design features the utilization of new materials and colors and contains 2,500 square meters of space which encompass a community center, lecture halls, offices and public spaces. One can see the difference when one compares the present building as shown above with the old one seen in the post card below.

Mainz Neue Synagogue, 1916

The only part of the synagogue to survive the destruction which occurred in 1938 is the portico in front which can be seen below.

Remains of the Mainz Neue Synagogue
(Courtesy of Quinn Jacobson, 2008)

The beauty of the new building can also be seen in the religious symbolism reflected in the unusual feature of Hebrew lettering which is found on the interior walls. This represents quotations from a number of 10th Century Mainz rabbis of the past. In addition, this symbolism is found in the exterior and elevations of the new synagogue which are based on the shape of the Hebrew letters for the Kedusha, , the third blessing of the Amidah prayer as seen below:

The Kedusha Design of the Meor Hagolah Synagogue
(Courtesy of The Forward)

Apart from the beautiful new synagogue, the town of Mainz itself is a veritable historical museum for Ashkenazi Jewry with the first Jews coming there with the Romans and a well-documented history during the Crusades. Further, the first written sentence in Yiddish has been found there in a listing of Jews who were killed in the First Crusade of 1095 AD; it is also known for the Rosh Hashanah piyut “Unesaneh Tokef” which has been attributed primarily to Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, and for so many other things such as the development of moveable type by Johannes Gutenberg, a native of Mainz, which enabled the widespread publication of books and documents.

For those wishing to learn more about Mainz (known as “Magenza” in Hebrew/”Mayence” in French), you can visit this site, which provides a number of very helpful links to resources for information about the town and its Jewish population.

Additionally, for further information on the synagogue and the Mainz Jewish community’s history, please watch the following YouTube segment:

Yad Vashem

Posted by Jan Meisels Allen

Yad Vashem and Google have announced a partnership where Yad Vashem's photo collection --130,000 photos--will be made accessible and viewable in full resolution on-line. This is the first step of brining Yad Vashem's archive online.

To read the Yad Vashem press release click here:

Starting today, a user can directly access over 130,000 full-resolution photographs from via
the Google search page. Two years ago, Yad Vashem launched a YouTube channel to showcase a series of videos of Holocaust survivor testimonials. The YouTube channel is available at

Thank you to Dick Eastman and the Eastman Online Genealogy Newsletter for
first alerting me to this announcement

Maine Records

Posted by Jan Meisels Allen

A group of Maine genealogists have been working with Maine legislators to have legislation amend the law enacted in 2010 PL 601 which changed Maine from an "open access" state for accessing vital records to one that permitted anyone to have access after 100 years, and permitted genealogical researchers to have access to non-certified copies if they obtained a researcher card annually --current charge $50. The law became effective July 1, 2010 and the rule making process is still in the legal review phase without yet having the public review and comment.

The new bill, LD 258 also known as HP0211, was introduced and assigned to the Maine House Health and Human Services Committee. No hearings have yet been scheduled. The new bill as currently drafted requires:
  • records custodians to permit inspection of records, issuing of certified or informational copies of vital records;
  • deletes the provision prohibiting the public from obtaining details within vital records;
  • adds to the existing list of those who may obtain records at anytime, collateral descendants, grandparents, genealogists;
  • deletes the 100 year rule for anyone to obtain records and instead states anyone may inspect, transcribe or abstract birth certificates, fetal death certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates andregistrations of domestic partnerships created after 1893; and
  • deletes the requirement that genealogical researchers must annually obtain a research card (currently $50 per year).
As with any legislation amendments will be made. To read the current draft, please click here. Language that is being added is underlined; language that is being deleted is crossed out.

As more information becomes available, it will be made available on this forum.