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Sarina Roffe Elected to International Jewish Genealogy Board


Sarina Roffe, a resident of Belle Harbor , was elected to the Board of Directors for the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, (IAJGS) at its recent conference in Warsaw, Poland.

Sarina Roffe has over 30 years of experience as a genealogist. Co-chair of the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative and a former member of the JewishGen Board of Governors, Sarina is editor of Dorot for JGSNY and founder of the Sephardic Heritage Project. She was instrumental in identifying, translating, and databasing thousands of brit milah and marriage records from Aleppo and has obtained databases from Sephardic communities in Mexico City, Argentina, Venezuela, and Cuba.

She is also the author of Branching Out From Sepharad, a history of Sephardic Jews from Spain to Aleppo to the Americas, as well as the cookbook Backyard Kitchen: Mediterranean Salads, and the app Sarina’s Sephardic Cuisine. Owner of her own management consulting firm, Sarina is a non-profit management specialist. She holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Maryland, an MA in Jewish Studies from Touro College, and an MBA in non-profit management from State University of New York.

The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) is an umbrella organization of more than 83 Jewish genealogical organizations worldwide offering the world of Jewish ancestry where you live. The IAJGS coordinates and organizes activities such as the annual IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy and provides a unified voice as the spokesperson on behalf of its members. The IAJGS’s vision is of a worldwide network of Jewish genealogical research organizations and partners working together as one coherent, effective and respected community – enabling people to succeed in researching Jewish ancestry and heritage. Find the IAJGS at: and like us on Facebook at

The 2019 IAJGS Conference has been scheduled in Cleveland, Ohio, July 28 – Aug. 2 “We are excited to be able to bring the 2019 conference to Cleveland next year, with the city’s many attractions and vibrant Jewish community,” said Ken Bravo, IAJGS president. Details of the conference will be announced as planning takes place and will be posted on the upcoming conference website:, as well as the IAJGS website


Judge Judy and Others Inducted Into the Brooklyn Jewish Hall of Fame

Necks craned and cameras clicked as the man next to the stage at the Brooklyn Historical Society Tuesday night took out a glass seltzer bottle. He held it high for all to see, a relic of the not-so-distant past. And then he sprayed its contents into a glass containing milk and chocolate sauce.

“How many people here have tried an egg cream before?” Alex Gomburg, a self-proclaimed “seltzer boy,” asked. Nearly 100 people thrust their hands into the air, looking in disbelief at the few people who kept their hands lowered. Egg creams are a “big piece of history in Brooklyn and Jewish culture,” Gomburg said. But they don’t actually contain eggs. The white foamy head at the top forms from mixing the milk and seltzer, he explained.

Alex Gomburg (far left), passed an egg cream to his mentor, Eli Miller.
Alex Gomburg (far left), passed an egg cream to his mentor, Eli Miller. (The Ink/Bo Hamby)

The point of the evening was not making egg creams. It was celebrating the 10 new inductees into the Brooklyn Jewish Hall of Fame. In its third year, the hall of fame recognizes Jewish Brooklynites who have made a lasting impact through education, politics, the arts and, now, seltzer. Eli Miller, who many call “the last seltzer man,” was inducted this year. So was Judith Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy on her long-running television program, Ira Glasser, a former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Rabbi Simon Jacobson, author of the best-selling book “Toward a Meaningful Life.”

“If you grew up in the ‘50s, or ‘60s, or ‘70s, you know what an egg cream is,” said Sarina Roffé, the president of the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, the group that organizes and sponsors the hall of fame ceremony. “It’s purely a Brooklyn Jewish cultural experience, and it’s a dying art.”

Egg creams and the Brooklyn Dodgers were two topics that came up throughout the night as inductees shared stories of growing up or moving to the area.

The egg cream stand at the Hall of Fame induction. (The Ink/Bo Hamby)

Glasser said he wouldn’t have become a civil rights lawyer if it wasn’t for Brooklyn or its baseball team.

“The two sources of my social justice work were my mother and Jackie Robinson,” Glasser said, remembering the childhood days when he watched Robinson at Ebbets Field. “The importance that civil rights had in our lives was really a function of what happened in Brooklyn around Robinson.”

Several of the inductees mentioned the Brooklyn Dodgers in their speeches, including Judith Clurman, an Emmy-nominated conductor whose music filled the room before and after the ceremony. Rabbi Simon Jacobson also spoke of the Dodgers, referencing 1956, the year he was born in Brooklyn, “as the year the Dodgers left New York.”

But Merle Feld, an author and playwright who was inducted, had more painful memories of Brooklyn. She had not visited her family’s apartment “since we moved away 50 years ago,” when she left Brooklyn.

“It was this tiny, tiny, really decrepit walkup that I grew up in,” said Feld, who spent time in the West Bank as a feminism activist. “And I thought, how did I have dreams growing up here? Never in a million years could I have thought I would be where I am tonight.”

Judge Judy
Inductees watched the pre-recorded video of Judith Sheindlin, aka Judge Judy. (The Ink/Bo Hamby)

Sheindlin, aka Judge Judy, was unable to attend the ceremony because of a tight filming schedule in Los Angeles. For most inductees, attendance at the event is mandatory, but exceptions are made for “A-list celebrities,” said Roffé, the organizer. In a pre-recorded video played during the event, Sheindlin said she’s reminded of good times when thinking back to her childhood in Brooklyn.

“I always smile when somebody says to me, ‘You’re a Brooklyn girl,’” she said. “I know that they’re usually saying it warmly and lovingly.”

Rabbi Simon Jacobson signed an autograph after the ceremony.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson signed an autograph after the ceremony. (The Ink/Bo Hamby)

Seltzer maven Miller was the last to be inducted. He told a long and winding tale about how he broke into the seltzer business. Gomburg, the 34-year-old who bought Miller’s route when he retired a few months ago at the age of 84, laughed along as his mentor shared stories of shlepping seltzer up stairs. The crowd erupted in applause as Miller finished his tale, capping off the ceremony.

As some people headed for their coats and others for the refreshment table, Feld, the author, was in the back of the room catching up with old friends from primary school. It was the first time she had been back to Brooklyn in years.

“I literally rediscovered all of what was wonderful about being in Brooklyn,” she said.

Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative Inducts 12 Brooklyn Celebs Into 2015 Hall of Fame

Honories of the Jewish Hall of Fame

(By: Faith Elliott) At a glittering event held at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Pierrepont Street Tuesday evening, the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization whose stated mission is to “record Brooklyn’s Jewish past, present and future” gathered some of the borough’s most accomplished sons and daughters to induct them into the first class of the Brooklyn Jewish Hall of Fame.

The program featured a literal “who’s who” of celebrities with Brooklyn roots who have risen to the heights of success in their fields.  Whatever the area of endeavor – entertainment, law, education, religion, government or business, all share a common bond – being fortunate enough to be from Brooklyn

The evening opened with co-host Jake Ehrenreich, an actor/producer known for his one man show “A Jew Grows in Brooklyn” talking about the special memories of growing up Jewish in Brooklyn and the unique sense of community and family that stays with him to this day.


Similar sentiments were echoed by Borough President Eric Adams, City Council Member David Greenfield and Public Advocate Letitia James, who talked about different ethnic and religious communities living in harmony as they were growing up in Brooklyn.  Mr. Adams encouraged people in these more difficult times to “pour good things into each other and into the world.”

The first Hall of Fame inductee was legendary singer Julie Budd.  Ms. Budd, who started singing professionally while still a child, has gone on to have a career in television, movies, concerts, recording and cabaret.  She opened for Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas when barely 15 years of age, and still treasures the experience. Her latest album is entitled, “Julie Budd Remembering…Mr. Sinatra.”

Julie Budd was followed by legal scholar and author Alan Dershowitz, businessman Charles Diker, and Fyvush Finkel, the beloved actor who started as a child in Yiddish theatre and rose to the heights of success in Hollywood and on Broadway.

Sen. Charles Schumer, unable to attend because the Senate is in session, sent a video message full of fond memories of Brooklyn, where he and his wife Iris Weinshall, CUNY Vice Chancellor and fellow inductee still live. Also honored were labor activist Henry Foner, former U.S. Rep. and former Brooklyn DA Elizabeth Holtzman, former three term Borough President and Mr. Brooklyn Marty Markowitz, FDNYchaplain and co-host of WABC’s “Religion on the Line” Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Joseph Shamie of Delta Enterprises, and Rabbi Mordecai Tokarsky of the Russian American Jewish Experience.

If there was a common theme among the inductees, it was the sense of family and community they found in Brooklyn, with families of different ethnicities and backgrounds living in harmony.

Asked to name one thing that they had gotten as a result of living in Brooklyn, the honorees answered “strength,”

“Chutzpah,” “big heart,” “never give up,” “pride,” and “standing up to fight” for those who need help.

This was the premiere event in what is planned as an ongoing project. Click here to view photos of the event.

Brooklyn Jewish history goes online

By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN — As of today, hundreds of years of Brooklyn Jewish history are at your fingertips. And it’s not just Barbra Streisand and Woody Allen.

The website is the culmination of three years of hard work by the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, went live last night during a special ceremony at Borough Hall.

Institutions such as the Center for Jewish History in lower Manhattan house some material on the borough’s Jewish history, but until now there had been no place that’s accepted the specific task of cataloging and documenting Brooklyn Jewish history, says Deborah Schwartz, president of the Brooklyn Historical Society.

And there’s plenty of history.

Jewish roots in Brooklyn can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, when Jews fought with the Continental Army during the Battle of Brooklyn.

“I think some of the stories of the neighborhoods of Brooklyn that became particularly important to the Jewish community have everything to do with the larger history of New York City,” says Schwartz. “People moving from the Lower East Side to Williamsburg after the building of the Williamsburg Bridge — these are very significant moments.”

Passover inside synagogue at Stone Avenue and Dumont Avenue. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Historical Society
Passover inside synagogue at Stone Avenue and Dumont Avenue.
Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Historical Society

Brownsville was also a teeming Jewish neighborhood during the middle of the last century.

“People come and go, immigrants come and go,” Schwartz said. “We’re very eager to outline these histories, of which some are known better than others.”

The initiative is co-chaired by Schwartz with philanthropist Howard Teich. Schwartz says the organization is independent from, but allied with, the Brooklyn Historical Society. The organization is housed at the Brooklyn Historical Society’s building, which is located at Pierrepont and Clinton streets in Brooklyn Heights.

Jewish families from the borough, or with roots in the borough, will now have a place to give their oral histories facilitated by professionals, donate digital photos and more. The website also includes material about famous Brooklynites, sports figures, old neighborhoods and links to other resources.

The initiative has a diverse advisory council whose members stretch from representatives of Reform congregations to those of the ultra-Orthodox United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. It includes Jewish communal professionals, history professors from local colleges, Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger, a representative of the New York Landmarks Conservancy and many more.

Oscar Israelowitz of Israelowitz Publishing, known for its photo history books about individual Brooklyn neighborhoods, is a member of the council. In addition to his neighborhood books, he has published “A Guide to Jewish New York City,” “The NYC Jewish Heritage Trail” and other Jewish-oriented volumes.

Israelowitz says, “Brooklyn is one of the largest Jewish areas in New York City, probably the entire USA. A lot of very notable historical figures came from here — Danny Kaye, Alan Dershowitz, Woody Allen.”

Ann-Isabel Friedman, director of the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Program, said that Sacred Sites has begun a Jewish Heritage Fund Grants program to help congregations whose historic buildings are being renovated. This program and the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative complement each other, she added.

Nancy Rosenberg, a member of the advisory council who started the history and archive program at Temple Beth Elohim in Park Slope, said, “I think the history of Jews in Brooklyn is usually treated as a coffee-table subject. This is an opportunity to move from this to something that interests people who have scholarly bona fides.”

The program, she added, “provides a place for different synagogues to talk to each other, focus on their own history and realize their shared experiences.

“I’m from the South, and my great-great grandfather fought in the Civil War. His diary was given to the Atlanta Historical Society, but no one knows it’s there, no one knows where to look for it.” A specifically Jewish historical society could have presented the diary more properly, she said.

Rabbi Daniel Bronstein, Beth Elohim’s resident congregational scholar, said in a statement, “Brooklyn is home to one of the largest, most diverse and culturally rich Jewish populations in Jewish history. Finally the Jews of Brooklyn and scholars from the world over will have a central address for preserving and sharing the extraordinary history of the Jews of Brooklyn.”