During the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy IAJGS one meets people of diverse attitude to genealogy. For some, genealogy is a tool to discover the history of their ancestors. Many of them get absorbed and do not stop researching the histories of other families from a particular region, at the same time helping other people. Some spend a lot of free time indexing and cataloguing still not-easily available archival documents. Others construct complicated and more advanced databases. But no matter why they decided to go to the conference, they tell one another about their work and what information they are currently looking for. An attentive listener will daily learn about dozens of family stories and various commercial and non-profit genealogical organizations and projects.
The subject of the 34th Conference IAJGS in Salt Lake City, Utah was the First World War and its impact on life of Jewish families from different parts of Europe. The program of the conference is available on the website.
For me, the most unique experience was participation in a performance (monodrama) „Time Capsule in a Milk Can“ ordered by United States Holocaust Memorial, written by Roberta Gasbarre, art director at Smithsonian Associates, Discovery Theater. Sitting in a dark room, we notice a man sitting at a desk and writing something. The man stands up and begins a monologue, meanwhile walking among the audience. After a few minutes one can feel as if it was Emanuel Ringelblum himself strolling around the room, telling about himself, about Oneg Shabbat, about life in the Warsaw Ghetto, about how important it should be to each of us to describe our lives, document what we experience and observe every day. From time to time I remember that I am in a theater and that this actor is telling about people from the Warsaw Ghetto, but then again I can clearly hear Polish accent of Ringelblum convincing us that the mission of Oneg Shabbat is beyond time and borders of the Warsaw Ghetto. Marc Spiegel did a great job playing Emanuel Ringelblum.
The play has ended. A few hundred people stand up and applause. The majority of them have not heard about Ringelblum and the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto. Many of them stay after the performance for about two hours sharing their observations and asking a lot of questions. They are intrigued by the fact that at the conference was someone who works at the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw; that before the war, that same building held the Main Judaic Library and the Institute for Judaic Studies; that during the war, in that same building took place meetings of Oneg Shabbat It was a great occasion to inform the participants of the conference that currently in that same building there is the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, whose departments have a lot to offer to all visitors to Warsaw.