Background and Rationale
There was a time when Jewish genealogy was largely confined to rabbinic families who were proud of, and concerned for, their pedigrees. A generation ago, most Jews did not believe that they could trace their roots and were seldom interested in doing so. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, new-found access to archives and primary sources in Eastern Europe and the “information revolution” through the Net, things have changed – radically.
In the past three decades, Jewish Genealogy has captured the imagination of tens of thousands of Jews worldwide. Activity in the field has matured and institutionalized. Expertise has developed; resources have been uncovered; an accessible, popular literature has emerged; scholarly works and reference books have been published. Local and national societies have been formed; international conferences are held. Quality publications are produced, of which AVOTAYNU ranks as the leading example. In brief, Jewish Genealogy has entered the mainstream of Jewish life and activity.
There is evidence that, for some, exposure to Jewish Genealogy can be a life-changing experience. Certainly, research into one’s personal and family history has the power to enhance self-identity and Jewish awareness. At the group level, it can be held that a people without firm roots in the past risks a questionable future. Jewish Genealogy provides a tangible bridge – from the past to the future.
Despite all these developments, a scholarly research centre, wholly and exclusively dedicated to Jewish Genealogy and family history was lacking – until the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy and Paul Jacobi Center opened its doors in January 2006. The rapid success of the Institute has proved that it not only filled a gap in the Jewish genealogical world but also answered a real need. The breadth of the Institute’s researches and the richness of the university curricula it has developed have given tangible meaning to the concept of academic genealogy. The Institute’s reception in the academic world and its presence therein have advanced the status of Jewish genealogy altogether.
The Institute’s physical location is in Jerusalem, the one place on earth that commands the attention of the whole of the Jewish People, but its outreach is global. It aims to provide the energy, direction and leadership in an effort to transform Jewish Genealogy into an academic discipline and a legitimate branch of Jewish Studies, mainly through research and teaching at the university level. It also seeks to be relevant and helpful to family historians with a view to enriching their work. To that end, it fosters and maintains close working relationships with existing Jewish genealogical organizations and frameworks, with the aim of complementing their endeavours to the mutual benefit of all concerned.
Click here for an article heralding the formation of the Institute, from AVOTAYNU, XIX, 4,
Click here for an article on the opening of the Institute by Neville Lamdan, from AVOTAYNU, XXI, 4, pp. 3-4.
Click here for partial list of publications and articles on the Institute’s opening and early development.