Monday, June 13, 2011

Aleppo Britot Database Released on JewishGen.org

"Know from where you came and to where you are going." (Ethics of the Fathers 3:1)


New York – June 13, 2011 - JewishGen is proud to announce that a database of more than 7500 Aleppo Britot from 1868-1945 is now available on the JewishGen.org website as a result of the work of Sarina Roffé, a member of the JewishGen Board of Governors.

Roffé will be presenting her work at annual conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies in August in Washington, DC. Her session is entitled “Brit Milah Records from Aleppo, Syria (1868-1945).”

Born into Brooklyn’s Syrian community, Sarina realized the importance of chronicling her family’s history after the death of her grandparents. With 52 first cousins, it became easy to lose track of who was related to whom. Documenting the family history gave the family a written record that could be passed down through the generations. As the designated family historian, she soon became frustrated that records were not available from Syria, part of the former Ottoman Empire, where her family originated.

 “As a descendant of Syrian grandparents who has researched family genealogy for three decades, I know the importance of finding vital records,” said Sarina Roffé.  “The only records of Jewish male births were brit milah (circumcision) records kept by the individual mohelim (circumcisors).  There was no record of female births, marriages or deaths.”

“When the Dayan brit milah list was made available to me by Mitchell Dayan, one of R. Dayan's descendants, I understood its significance in helping Syrian Jewish families obtain information for genealogical purposes.  I also understood the importance of making the records available to the general public. For the past seven years, I have worked to make the list accessible and as accurate as I could for English speaking Americans, as this represents the largest population of Syrian Jews in the world.”

Roffé completed the work under the auspices of the Sephardic Heritage Project, a nonprofit she created for the purpose of obtaining and translating genealogical records of the Syrian Jewish community. Currently, Roffé is completing a marriage and burial database from Aleppo, along with a new project to record cemetery photos, a project of the Sephardic Heritage Project and JewishGen.

“I want to thank everyone involved in making this list available to the Sephardic community.  It has taken seven years but it was well worth the wait.  I believe this list represents a good faith effort at making the information available to the general public. I received many donations, including a large gift from Joseph Sitt of Thor Equities, Eddie Sitt, and other smaller donations from community members.  Without their gifts, the translations would not have been possible,” she said.

“You have to understand the difficulty of this project. The original list was list was written in a Rashi script unique to Aleppo and there are only a handful of people who could read it. So the process was extremely tedious and we had to make many decisions about  the transliterations, said Roffé.

“We thank Rabbi Menachem Yedid and the World Center for Aleppan Jewry in Tel Aviv for their work in translating the original list into Modern Hebrew.  The list was then translated into English under the supervision of Galit Mizrahi BarOr in Jerusalem.  We also converted all of the Hebrew dates of the original brit milah into Gregorian dates.”

Once the data was entered into computer files, we began the editing process, which took two years. The list was primarily edited by Mathilde Tagger of the Israeli Genealogical Society in Jerusalem.  Consultations were made with several individuals who were born in Aleppo and currently live in Brooklyn’s Syrian community, as they grew up with the Rashi script.  Roffé also consulted with Rabbi Moshe Shamah of Sephardic Institute, Rabbi Sam Kassin of the Shehebar Sephardic Center in Jerusalem, Dr. Avraham Marcus at the University of Texas Austin, and Dr. Yaron Harel at Bar Ilan University.

As President of Sephardic Genealogical Journeys (sephardicgenjourneys.com), Roffé helps Sephardic families obtain and put together the information they find about their family so they have a memory and documented history they can share with future generations.

Sarina Roffé has an extensive history and passion for Sephardic genealogy. She has completed genealogies for the following families in the Syrian Jewish community: Missry, Salem, Roffé, Labaton, Hedaya, Seruya, Beda, Kassin, Roffe and Wahnish. In 2002, Sarina completed Branching Out, the genealogy of Chief Rabbi Jacob Kassin z’l, which traced his lineage as a descendant in an unbroken chain of rabbis to 1492. The Kassin family chose not to publish the book.


A Distinguished Toastmaster, Roffé has presented at numerous conferences including the World Congress of Jewish History and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. With hundreds of articles to her credit, Roffé is a frequent contributor to genealogical publications, encyclopedias, journals and magazines. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland and an MA in Jewish Studies from Touro College.


About JewishGen
Since 2003, when JewishGen, a world renowned Jewish genealogy website (www.JewishGen.org), became an affiliate of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City, the Museum and JewishGen have worked together to promote Jewish heritage and history.  An Internet pioneer, JewishGen was founded in 1987 and has grown from a dial-up bulletin board with only 150 users to a major grass roots effort bringing together hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide in a virtual community centered on discovering Jewish ancestral roots and history.

JewishGen is a non-profit organization devoted to making valuable genealogy resources available at no cost. Researchers use JewishGen to share genealogical information, techniques, and case studies. With a growing database of more than 16 million records, the website is a volunteer-driven forum for the exchange of information about Jewish life and family history, and has enabled thousands of families to connect and re-connect in a way never before possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Please post responsibly.