Welcome to the AJGS Newsfeed!

The AJGS Newsfeed will promote the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society and highlight interesting stories, links and discoveries from the world of Jewish Genealogy.

This newsfeed will NOT replace our Kosher Koala Newsletter. We hope the newsfeed and the newsletter will work together to help us help you with your genealogical detective work by sharing the most interesting and useful stories from around the world in a timely manner.

To read the latest issue of Kosher Koala: CLICK HERE
To read back issues of Kosher Koala: CLICK HERE

If you have any news, a great success story or an exciting new link you would like to share please email us at ed@ajgs.org.au

Please enjoy your new AJGS Blog.

Eastern Suburbs Workshop – August 18, 2019

Sephardi Genealogy

  • Have you ever wondered whether your family were Crypto Jews?
  • Are you trying to trace Spanish or Portuguese heritage?
  • Have you taken a DNA test and been surprised that your results show Sephardi ancestors when you thought they were all Ashkenazi?

Dani Haski introduces two video lectures by leading Sephardic genealogists.
The presentations were recorded at an International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conference.

Genie Milgrom– The Inquisition: The Jews Who Stayed

We know a lot about the Jews that left Spain in 1492 for the Ottoman Empire but what happened to the Jews that stayed behind? This presentation focuses on the historical development of the Crypto Jews in Spain and Portugal and their colonies.

Genie is author of How I found My 15 Grandmothers.She was born in Cuba into a Catholic Family of Spanish Ancestry. In an unparalleled work of genealogy, she was able to fully document her unbroken Jewish lineage as far back as 1405 to Pre Inquisition Spain and Portugal. As Past President of the JGS of Greater Miami and the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies she has travelled extensively doing Crypto Jewish Research.

Schelly Talalay Dardashti– The Inquisition: The Jews Who Left

During the Inquisition, many Jews left following the events of 1391 and 1492. This lecture focuses on where they went, the organizations they created in new places, how they maintained connections with their brethren around the world, and the significance of those newly formed Sephardic communities.

Schelly is the US Genealogy Advisor for MyHeritage.com and Founder of Tracing the Tribe – Jewish Genealogy on Facebook. She has traced her family across Eastern Europe, Spain and Iran for 30+ years. She is co-administrator of several DNA projects including the IberianAshkenaz DNA Project and the Jewish Persian DNA Project.

When:  Sunday 18 August
Time:    2pm - 4.45pm - The video presentation will commence at 2.15 and will be followed by a Q&A/discussion.
Where: Theatrette, Waverley Library,
32-48 Denison St, Bondi Junction

All welcome but please RSVP to: society@ajgs.org.auby 15 August .


In this issue: New member Felipe Rocha de Souza describes the complicated process of applying for Spanish citizenship through the Sephardic ancestry route, The State Library of NSW discovers what lies beneath Central Station with the exhibition Dead Central and SBS tries to solve family history mysteries in Ever family has a Secret.

CLICK on the cover to read Kosher Koala or click HERE download a zip file.

Click HERE to access back issues of Kosher Koala to 2009.
Back issues prior to 2009 are available to members on CD.

Eastern Suburbs Workshop May 19, 2019

TOPIC: Making sense of DNA data:
How can my DNA test tell me I have Ashkenazi, Sephardi or Mizrahi heritage?

Genealogical DNA testing has exploded in popularity over the last few years but you might be asking yourself how useful is it really and what does it all mean?

  • What’s the difference between autosomal and mitochondrial testing?
  • Should I upload my results to other services like GedMatch?
  • How do I do this and what are the privacy implications?
  • How do I work out how I’m related to the people who come up as my matches?
  • Why are the percentages so small and what on earth is a centimorgan?

Dani Haski will work through the various aspects of genealogical DNA – what it is, the different testing regimes available, how to interpret your results and how to use some of the new tools available from the big players to climb new branches of your family tree. She will also discuss some of the big research projects on specific aspects of Jewish DNA.

Eastern Suburbs Workshop

DATE: Sunday May 19, 2019
TIME: 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM
LOCATION: Waverley Library,
48 Denison Street

Eastern Suburbs Workshop – Feb 17, 2019

Cemeteries and Symbols – Understanding Jewish cemeteries and burial records

  • Ever wondered about the symbolism or Hebrew writing on your ancestor’s headstone?
  • In small cemeteries, why do some graves appear to be located apart from the rest?
  • Do you know where to look for your great-grandparents’ burials?

This talk by Robyn Dryen will help you navigate the customs and practice of Jewish burials, and identify likely sources of burial records for your ancestors.

When: Sunday, 17 February 2019
Time: 2pm – 4.45pm
Where: Theatrette, Waverley Library,
32-48 Denison Street, Bondi Junction

The talk will begin at 2.30 and will last approximately 1 hour.
It will be followed by time for questions , queries and research help between 3.30pm and 4.30pm

This is a free event. All are welcome but please RSVP to society@ajgs.org.au by 14 February


Kosher Koala – Winter 2018


In this issue: Daniela Torsh introduces us to Doris, an unlikely shepherdess, and recounts a unique love story that spanned continents and cultures, between her father’s cousin, who fled from Vienna to rural England, and an Austrian banker shipped to Australia on the Dunera. We meet Bram Presser, winner of three awards at this years NSW Premier’s Literary Awards for his novel The Book of Dirt, a semi-fictional exploration of his grandparent’s story. And we get a quick look at the IAJGS conference, which has just wrapped up in Warsaw.


Click on the cover to access the pdf

The Autumn 2018 issue of Kosher Koala was published April 15, 2018.

In this issue: 

We pay tribute to Sophie Caplan, OAM, founding member and past president of AJGS. Sophie, a child survivor of the Holocaust, was a champion of genealogical research, establishing the Hans Kimmel Essay competition to encourage an interest in family history in high school kids. Sophie edited Kosher Koala, for over a decade, was the Australian Contributing Editor to The International Review of Jewish Genealogy: Avotaynu for many years and was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in the Australia Day honours in 2000 for her services to history and genealogy.

The AJGS AGM was held in March 2018. AJGS President Robyn Dryen reported to the meeting on the state of our society for the previous year. The meeting agreed to adopt a new model constitution for incorporated associations, in line with revised legislation for organisations such as ours. AJGS has is developing an excellent relationship with Waverley Library, increasing our eastern suburbs workshops to 4 per year. These workshops have been well attended. In all AJGS is in good shape.

AJGS member Sarah Meinrath has contributed a fascinating travelogue of her trip to Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Sarah’s mother and grandparents were expelled from Pultusk, Poland in 1939 and traveled by foot to Bialystok. In 1940 the community were once again forced to leave, eventually ending up in Kotlas, in Arkhangelsk Oblast, the site of a Siberian gulag. There, Sarah’s mother and other teenage girls were forced to clear pine trees with hand-held saws, to make way for roads. In 1941-1942 the Russians relocated over a million Jewish refugees to “Stans” in Central Asia – in Sarah’s family’s case to Bukhara, Uzbekistan, the city where Sarah’s parent’s met.

Sarah and her husband, Nigel, traveled to Bukhara in 2017 to retrace her family’s steps. Sarah shares her journey with us in vivd detail, describing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this unique city and community. During the war Bukhara Jews had a tight knit, long established community with unique customs and traditions. Today it is a shadow of its former self, numbering barely 150. Sarah and Nigel experienced wonderful hospitality over Shabbat and even had some success in the local archives, despite the frustrating Soviet style bureaucracy. Illustrated with photographs of their travels, Sarah’s article gives an insight into genealogical travel to the far flung  corners of our ancestors experience.

In March 2018 Robyn Dryen accompanied a group of about 50 people associated with the ARK Centre in Melbourne, led by Rabbi Shneur Reti-Waks, to Broken Hill in Central NSW. Broken Hill is an old mining town, and was once home to thriving Jewish and Muslim communities. Today little is left of this pluralist past however the restored synagogue, dedicated in 1911, and several ornate graves in the cemetery hint at the pluralist past of this old Australian town. Robyn gave a talk to the group about her relatives, who had lived in Broken Hill at the beginning of the 20th century. She took the opportunity to revisit her ancestors lives and ask come curly questions about how they managed to maintain their faith in such a remote location.

In News, we examine the current stouch in Poland over anti-defamation laws, look at the rise in genealogical activism around the world and celebrate the success of the Bauska community in Latvia for winning a prize in the Annual Latvian Award in Construction for their magnificent memorial Synagogue Garden. 

Sledgehammer looks at how Facebook helped break down another brick wall. A new occasional column, DIY, shares a trick for deciphering hard-to-read hand written documents of very thin paper. And Links and websites highlights the latest document updates from the major sites, online exhibitions and upcoming Culture Days. 


Tributes to Sophie Caplan, AJGS Past President and Life Member

Sophie Caplan receives a certificate of appreciation from Rieke Nash for her long association with AJGS.

AJGS founding member, past president and life member Sophie Caplan passed away peacefully on Saturday January 20, 2018. Sophie was a towering figure in Australian Jewish genealogy and many of our members have fond memories of her efforts in building our society into the vibrant organisation it is today.

We would love for you to share your memories of Sophie in the comment  section below. We will pass these on to Sophie’s family.


Click on the cover to download the PDF.

New look, new editor, same bear!! Kosher Koala has had a facelift but we hope you’ll find the same fascinating features, interesting interviews and non-stop news, views, tips and tricks to guide you along your genealogical journey.

In this issue… We say farewell to outgoing editor Robyn Dryen (don’t worry, she’s still President!!), welcome new editor Dani Haski, Sunny Gold reviews Peter Nash’s memoir Escape from Berlin: A refugee flees anti-Semitism and the Holocaust of WWII to Shanghai and then Australia and we explore a fascinating collection of stories about cemeteries. We have updates on the 2018 AIJGS conference in Poland, a new column, Sledgehammer, for people to share brick wall breakthroughs and information on special events and workshops for 2018.

We love our members contributing stories to Kosher Koala. If you have any stories you’d like to share email them to me at ed@ajgs.org.au

Enjoy the issue!

Guest Speaker: Dr Andrew Zalewski

The Great War (1914-18): Jewish Lives in Galicia




Sunday January 21, 2018


Join us as Dr Andrew Zalewski intertwines his own genealogical discoveries with the broader historical context of Jewish Galicia. He will focus on World War I and the eastern front in Galicia, which was home to the largest Jewish community in Austro-Hungary. Uncovering his ancestors’ individual stories, Andrew follows waves of Russian offensives and Central Powers counteroffensives which swept through Galicia. He describes dramatic events in small and large cities (Lwów, Przemyśl, Kraków), which impacted many Jewish lives. His talk covers the Great War (World War I) through to its climactic end in 1918. In Galicia, in contrast to the Western front, the conflict did not end with the disintegration of Austro-Hungary.

This talk is based on the archival records and historic newspaper research conducted for Andrew’s book Galician Portraits: In Search of Jewish Roots, and is illustrated with pictures, historical and unique archival documents, and old maps of Galicia.

Download the event flyer

Download the event flyer

Date: Sunday January 21, 2018
Time: 2.00PM - 4:30PM
Cost: Members: Free | Non-Members: $10.00
(NB: This is a cash only event. There will be no facility for credit or debit cards available)
Light refreshments will be served.
RSVP society@ajgs.org.au by January 18, 2018

Dr Andrew Zalewski is a physician and former Professor of Medicine at Jefferson University, Philadelphia. Among his non-medical pursuits, Andrew has developed an extensive interest in the history of Austrian Galicia (1772– 1918) and its Jewish community. Several generations of his Jewish and Christian ancestors traced their roots to this former province of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empire. His books: Galician Trails: The Forgotten Story of One Family and Galician Portraits: In Search of Jewish Roots are available through online booksellers. Andrew serves on the Board of Directors of Gesher Galicia, Inc. He is also Executive Editor of the Galitzianer, the organization's quarterly research journal.

Staszow, Poland – Can you help this researcher?

Do you have family roots in Staszow, Poland?

Drew University (Madison, New Jersey) Doctoral student Passi Rosen-Bayewitz is working on a dissertation on the subject of Jewish Staszow as a Site of Memory. She is seeking individuals with family roots in Staszow, Poland, to complete a short survey to assist her research. One of the questions her dissertation addresses— the question: How and why does Jewish Staszow matter to its Diaspora around the world?

She says that discovering an intersection between family history (she has identified civil records reflecting her father’s family’s presence in Staszow from the end of the 18th century), academic study, and professional experiences led to her dissertation topic. Staszow, a small town located in south east of Poland, was home to Jews for more than 400 years. While her dissertation is a case study of just one shtetl in Poland, Jewish Staszow is representative of hundreds of shtetls established during the late Middle Ages, in the territories of the old Polish Commonwealth, where nobles invited Jews to move into their estates to encourage economic development.

She seeks to answer an overarching question:  How and why did (and does) the memory of the Jewish community in Staszow continue to matter to 1) its diaspora  — Staszowers who began to immigrate in the early twentieth century; Staszow Holocaust survivors; and descendants of both groups —  and 2)  some Poles in Staszow and other parts of Poland?

To capture data, Ms Rosen-Bayewitz has created a short, anonymous survey in both English and Hebrew.

English – http://bit.ly/Staszow,
Hebrew – http://bit.ly/HebrewStaszowSurvey

She would be very grateful if members with family roots in the Staszow area participated in her research.

Before Ms Rosen-Bayewitz began her dissertation journey, she had minimal knowledge of genealogy.  Attending the IAJGS conferences in Jerusalem and Seattle she was introduced to powerful research tools and dynamic “citizen scientists”. She say “their passion and tenacity leads to success in finding missing puzzle pieces. The personal benefits of preparing my dissertation have been immeasurable.”

Staszow Cemetery (Wikimedia Commons)