What’s in a Name?: A Young Person’s Jew­ish Geneal­o­gy Workbook

Stephen M. Cohen and Caryn Alter
  • Review
By – May 28, 2018

This Jew­ish geneal­o­gy work­book is a trea­sure trove of resources for young peo­ple, that can moti­vate them to learn about their fam­i­lies by explor­ing secret codes, his­to­ry, genet­ics and sci­ence.” It shows the young, new detec­tive of fam­i­ly his­to­ry how to find infor­ma­tion so that they can locate and safe­ly keep what may have been lost to their fam­i­lies; these facts can be passed onto future generations.

The book con­tains a sec­tion that is tru­ly unique — how to deci­pher what is on a Jew­ish grave­stone and how to behave while in the ceme­tery. The read­er also learns how to trace ances­tors who came from dif­fer­ent coun­tries. The read­er gets a his­to­ry les­son on the devel­op­ment of Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties from around the world.

A com­mon myth is debunked: there were no names changed by offi­cials at Ellis Island. The book dis­cuss­es sev­er­al oth­er ways that these sce­nar­ios may have occurred. Mul­ti­ple top­ics are cov­ered, includ­ing cen­sus records; death and birth cer­tifi­cates; mil­i­tary records; and the issues of con­ver­sion, adop­tion, and fam­i­lies that had crim­i­nal members.

The authors have made a com­plex top­ic eas­i­ly acces­si­ble through their clear and infor­mal style. They are sen­si­tive to the use of pri­vate infor­ma­tion and to the costs in both time and mon­ey that may be involved. They rec­og­nize the need to con­sult par­ents before pro­ceed­ing in cer­tain areas. The authors also encour­age con­tact­ing a Jew­ish genealog­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion and list sev­er­al as resources. There is also a glos­sary of terms in Eng­lish, Yid­dish, and Hebrew, and a list of help­ful websites.

At the end of the book, the val­ue of geneal­o­gy is beau­ti­ful­ly sum­ma­rized with the fol­low­ing quo­ta­tion: Know where you come from and where you are going. When we learn about our her­itage and our past, it allows us to see the present in a dif­fer­ent light, and to…recognize our his­tor­i­cal tapes­try is still being woven.”

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 11 to 16.

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

Discussion Questions