Jewish Genealogical Society Meetings

Jan Meisels Allen

Rose Elbaum asked if there was a policy regarding holding Jewish Genealogical Society meetings on Jewish Holidays.  First, Jewish Genealogical Societies belong to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS), not JewishGen so the question about society policy does not belong on this forum.  I can tell you that IAJGS does not have any such policy, having been involved with IAJGS since 2004 I think I can say that as IAJGS does not dictate to its members.


Let me try to explain that JGSs in the United States are 501 (c) (3) organizations, by and large, for our non-profit status.  We are educational and cultural, not religious organizations, even if our focus is on Jewish genealogy. I don’t know of any JGS that meets on the major Jewish holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the first two days of Passover, etc.  Lesser celebrated  holidays are another issue. If the JGS meets in a synagogue, as does the one where I am president, and the one where Rose meets, (two different societies 3,000 miles apart) if the synagogue is open and permits the meeting that is all that is necessary. My society meets in a Reform Synagogue, Rose’s society alternates between Reform and Conservative synagogues and a JCC, if their location agrees to the JGS meeting, then it is perfectly permissible to meet.


Specifically, Rose mentioned her society meeting on Shemini Atseret, and in speaking to the president of JGSGW, yes they met that day, last Sunday, but before the holiday began and the meeting ended way before sundown. Nothing wrong with that.


I also do not know of any JGS that holds meetings on Shabbat.  Now, that said, that does not mean we may not be involved in a community function that might meet on Shabbat, but we may lend our society names but not do anything on Shabbat for that function.  It also does not mean that individual members of the society, including the board members, may be involved with something on Shabbat. Again, we are not religious organizations, but educational and cultural ones,  we would certainly not have any prohibition for members to be involved in something.  I have accepted speaking engagements on Shabbat for community not Jewish organizations, and my society members volunteer if we have a table on a Saturday at the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree each year which meets Friday-Sunday.


It is the same thing if a society has Kosher or non-Kosher cookies at a function. The locale where the JGS meets will determine if they require Kosher or not.  While the Temple where JGSCV meets does not require the cookies to be Kosher, we bring Kosher cookies—our choice.


How each person responds to their own religious activities is personal, and is not, in my opinion, something that the various JGSs should get involved with.


There is no policy nor would there be.  That is up to each individual JGS as to how they function, just as Alan Greenberg form Montreal replied.


Jan Meisels Allen

President, Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County