Cleveland rocks: The home of the 2016 Cavaliers championship. Host to the Major League Baseball All-Star game this month. Home of the legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

And now, more than 800 Jewish genealogists from the United States and around the world will gather in Cleveland for the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies 39th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy from July 28 to Aug. 2.

I am proud that the IAJGS and the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland are hosting the conference in Cleveland this year, where we can show off the city’s vibrant Jewish community and the area’s many attractions.

It’s also a booming time for genealogy. Interest is growing nationally and internationally with awareness and research made easier with so much more information out there. People hear about genealogy through television shows, social media and from contacts found through DNA. The giant search sites such as Ancestry, Family Search, MyHeritage and others, are adding literally millions of records regularly. Sites like JewishGen.org have a vast array of resources available on virtually every aspect of Jewish genealogy. The availability of this new information means many of us, including me who started in the mid-1970s, continue to find new information.

Finding your family heritage is like working a crossword puzzle. Each new fact and clue can help find the next one and enable you to fill in more blanks. A conference like this is filled with excitement and energy as individuals meet others, learn more and often find those clues to fill in the blanks. I’ve literally been in a room where someone asks a question and someone else puts two and two together and suddenly realize they’re cousins.

The conference draws attendees with all levels of experience and knowledge and our programming is designed to meet that variety of needs. The aspect of sharing permeates the experience.

As an umbrella organization, IAJGS also continues to grow, with more than 85 local societies in the U.S. and around the world. Our Cleveland society is strong, with interesting monthly meetings, workshops and individual mentoring for new members. Having been president of the Cleveland group was the start of my greater involvement in IAJGS. The Cleveland group can be reached at jgscleveland.org.

But IAJGS is more than just our local societies and annual conferences. The IAJGS is constantly seeking to open new local societies and to help the existing societies grow and prosper.

I’m truly honored and privileged to be president of such a meaningful organization. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with dedicated individuals in this all-volunteer organization. I wish all the current and future genealogists the joys of searching, finding and sharing their heritage.

Plans are already underway for next year’s conference from Aug. 4-14 in San Diego. Hope to see you there as well.


Ken Bravo is president of the IAJGS and a past president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland. He is also co-chair of the Cleveland conference.

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