All posts by Banai Lynn Feldstein

To Wiki or Not To Wiki, That is the Question

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, then you know I just got a new computer. It’s a Windows 7 computer. So along with the new OS, I decided to upgrade all my software. I downloaded the newest or newest stable releases of Apache, PHP, and MySQL, since I do my own web development and my genealogy database is self-programmed using those. I also opted for the latest release of TikiWiki. I had an old release before only because it would run on the old PHP/MySQL versions I had.

Unfortunately, the wiki program seems to have degraded over time. There were fewer themes and the old ones were utterly incompatible, so I had to go with an entirely new look. After not spending enough time on that, I started looking around at my pages. The wiki menus had changed and I didn’t like them. My Hebrew text didn’t survive for some reason. Maybe it was the way the wiki set up the database, but my regular genealogy database Hebrew survived the transfer to the new computer. One of the newest wiki pages I created was a name index with a list of surnames at the top linked to the anchors within the page. Well, the new TikiWiki version entirely erased all those anchors within the page and even when I tried to put them back, it wiped them out again. It has new plugins specifically for anchors and linking within pages, but they don’t seem to work or I couldn’t figure out how they work. The documentation site is usually non-functional, but I was on it briefly and saw nothing to suggest how to use them differently than I was already trying to do.

So that leaves me with the big dilemma. I originally wanted to use MediaWiki because I like the look and feel of Wikipedia. But I was also considering putting this online someday as a private web site and my current web host practically begged me not to use that particular wiki. They had TikiWiki installed and I was able to find an older version that I could install to my local computer. There seems to be a way to convert from one to the other, but it’s in Python, which I don’t have or really want, and it was done using an even older version than I was using, so it might not work at all.

I spent a lot of time on the wiki and was finding the initial results to be very interesting. I hate to abandon the project, or even start over from the beginning again in a new wiki program, but I’m considering it. I’m also considering going back to my original database and working more with that. My GEDCOM export was still riddled with errors and I wanted to fix those. And I wonder if I could write my own wiki-like program based on the database I already have. I was setting up some things quite differently in the wiki, so I would have to make a lot of adjustments for it.

So in the middle of writing this post, I installed PHPMyAdmin, which went pleasantly well. Taking a look at the database tables for the wiki, I noticed that most of the tables TikiWiki created are empty. One table has the text of each wiki page while another keeps track of every link between pages. If I don’t try to do the latter, I bet I could use the database I already have and generate output that looks like the wiki.

Once I get the rest of my computer applications set up and running, creating a wiki-like output from my current database may be my next project.

Cemetery Sunday – Royal Palm, St. Petersburg, Florida

This week’s cemetery is also in Florida. I only visited once in 1999. Royal Palm Cemetery, as I recall, was a very large cemetery for multiple faiths. My maternal grandfather, Abraham “Abie” Rosenthal is my only relative buried there.

Abraham Rosenthal, Gravestone

Besides seeing my shoes reflected on the stone, you can see a row of stones across the top. Jewish tradition in America is to leave stones instead of flowers, to differentiate ourselves from other religions. In Israel, leaving flowers is normal.

Food Friday – Sweet Camp Ramah Challah

I’ve been holding onto this recipe since 1983 when we made it at Camp Ramah in Massachusetts. About a month ago, my cousin Fay was asking for a challah recipe on Facebook. I sent this to her and realized I ought to make it myself. So I finally bought the ingredients I needed and soon started baking.

My whole house smelled like challah after the ingredients were mixed, the baking just spread the smell further.

I forgot to adjust for high altitude until I was setting the oven, so the only change I made was to raise the baking temperature 25 degrees. Altering the ingredients, shortening the rising time, and rising then punching down one extra time were other suggestions.

I haven’t had challah in a long time, but I think I’ve had enough in my lifetime to remember. The texture of the bread inside is perfect, but the outside is a little bit off from the challahs I used to know. I don’t know how to describe the difference, but it’s really good. “Store bought” challahs sometimes had an even harder shell that I didn’t like, whereas this recipe produced just enough hardness to hold it all together. The cinnamon in the mixture brushed on at the end left a bit of a speckled look to it also, but that’s not a problem.

The only alteration that I made was using sucralose instead of sugar. (Usually sold as Splenda, but I bought the store brand.) Hey, cut back on the calories wherever you can, right? (Does anyone have a recommendation for a lower calorie flour?)

I had some trouble with the braiding in that after the dough had risen, it didn’t want to roll well or “merge” at the ends. Was I supposed to knead it again after letting it rise to make it doughy again for rolling? You can see in the picture taken right before they went into the oven that the ends already weren’t holding together.

Challah, Before Baking

The end on the left completely broke apart while baking. Also, they were a bit close and had baked together slightly in the middle.

The finished product looked like this for about a minute:

Challah, After Baking

Then I ate some. And it tasted wonderful.

Sweet Camp Ramah Challah

1/2 cup oil
2 tsp salt
3 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
4 eggs
2 packages dry yeast
7 cups flour

Coating
1 egg
1 Tbsp sugar
cinnamon

1. Combine first six ingredients in order.
2. Add yeast in quickly and let it dissolve.
3. Add flour one cup at a time, mixing them very well.
4. When the dough is ready (not sticky), knead it well.
5. Let the dough rise for about two hours, punch it down, and let it rise for an hour.
6. Roll the dough and braid it.
7. Beat one egg, a Tbsp sugar, and some cinnamon; coat top of challah with egg mixture.
8. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

Cemetery Sunday – Mount Sinai, Miami, Florida

I’ve been watching as many people on Twitter are following the daily blogging themes and making those posts to their own blogs. Not one to do what everyone else is doing (well, except actually start a blog), I’m going to try a theme, but I’m straying from the pack. I first considered Tombstone Tuesday, but I would feel like it goes by too slow, although doing one stone at a time would certainly fill a lot of blog entries.

So I’ve decided to take a crack at Cemetery Sunday. Looking at gravestones depresses my relatives, but I like them and so do other genealogists, so I’m going to share them on this blog.

Today’s cemetery is Mount Sinai located in Miami, Florida. I have four relatives buried there: my paternal grandparents Sidney and Mary Feldstein, and her brother Alex Miller and his wife Blanche. Mary remarried a few times after Sidney’s death, so her stone bears her final surname, Goldfarb.

I’ve included two images of Sidney’s stone just for fun. The first was taken in 1999 before I was using a digital camera. The second was in 2005.

blog - a - Sidney Feldstein

Sidney Feldstein, Gravestone

Sidney has two gravestones. The one below was erected by Mary. But my parents wanted to do better by him and put up the taller one just behind it. Notice the year of birth on the two stones? He was actually born in 1904.

Sidney Feldstein, Gravestone

Mary Goldfarb, Gravestone

Sadly, this family didn’t plan ahead very well. When Alex died, they purchased two plots together so Mary could be buried next to him. Sidney and Mary are both several rows in from the road, on opposite sides of the road.

Alex Miller, Gravestone

My parents question whether Alex served during World War II, which Mary put on his stone. I haven’t researched it yet.

Blanche Miller, Gravestone

Blanche is even farther away from Alex and Mary than Sidney is. They all used to be inline with a tree, as my mother told me to use the tree to find them, but it wasn’t there when I went to visit them. The last time I was in that cemetery before going for genealogy research was in 1990 at Mary’s funeral. I don’t recall going for the unveiling.

My last visit to the cemetery, I went looking for a couple of Gottesmans whom my mother believes are probably our cousins. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find them in the cemetery, even with directions from the office. Someday I’ll have to follow that lead again.

UJGS January Meeting

Last night’s meeting of the UJGS was the first meeting when I was the President. I had the agenda planned out and I brought a lot of business to the table so we had to rush through a lot of it. I really wanted to bring some more structure and discipline to the group, but alas, that didn’t quite happen.

While I was wasting time fighting with the projector to get it to work, my co-President discussed his workshop idea with the other members. We are finally beginning our mentoring program, though we’re calling it the UJGS Work Meeting. Put simply, we will meet at a designated time at the Family History Library to do our research and be available to help each other where we can. The first meeting will be from 5-9pm on Wednesday, February 10th on the B1 floor.

We amended the bylaws and I passed around a few samples of flyers and business cards I had created. All the generic business cards were claimed by members before the meeting was over, so I’m glad that idea was adopted so quickly. I’ll need to have a lot more printed.

Since the 2007 IAJGS conference, we’ve had a small collection of genealogy reference books but hadn’t put them to use. Rochelle Kaplan graciously donated some books this meeting and we decided to split our library. “Let’s be shell-fish,” Rochelle said. After the meeting, she checked with the synagogue board meeting, which was coincidentally happening in the room next door, and they were discussing their library. So we will have a shelf or two in their library, and the reference books will be with the librarian (me) and we will offer a look-up service for members with those.

When it came time for my presentation, I had less than an hour. Having rehearsed the whole thing early in the morning, I was probably more prepared than for any previous lecture or computer lab I’ve given, which was good, since I had to rush a bit through the presentation titled Social Networking: Facebook and Twitter and Their Genealogy Uses. The comments afterwards were positive, so that’s always a good thing. I stuck to explaining the basics of both services and then went back and reviewed some specific genealogy uses. I was aiming for beginners, those who had never signed up before or who signed up and didn’t use it because they didn’t know what to do with it.

And now for my critique of myself. The fact that the projector blurred everything (and we didn’t really try to fix it) didn’t help, as I repeatedly mentioned it, except that it prevented me from clicking many things which would have taken time that we didn’t have. But actually showing what I was talking about would have been better. I didn’t take the time to stop and ask for questions at several places where I had planned. I’m still not sure if the four parts were in the right order. I gave a quick introduction to Facebook, then Twitter, then covered genealogy uses in Facebook, and then Twitter. Would presenting one service at a time have been better? Should I switch to the basics of Facebook, it’s genealogy uses, then do Twitter, and it’s genealogy uses?

I’m looking forward to our Work Meeting in February. I think I will use that opportunity to reserve that time to do my own genealogy research. I always do client work first so I rarely get to my own family research. I hope the meeting works out well and we repeat it every other month as we seem to be planning.

Hello World.

Welcome to my blog. I am Banai. That’s pronounced like B’nai Brith, or B’nai Israel, or B’nai Torah, or if you haven’t heard of any of those or don’t know of any synagogues with those names, it rhymes with Renee.

I have been a genealogist since birth, but I got serious in 1998, moved to Salt Lake City in 2003, and soon became a professional.

I had been debating starting a blog for years. What would I write? Would anyone read it? Would I make the time to keep it up? What would I call it?

Well, the last question was answered first. I came up with the title somewhere in the middle of watching British TV shows last year. Even more recently (like, while editing this post) I added on the third word of my title, from the Ginger Jew to the Ginger Jewish Genealogist. I thought that might be going a bit too far, but I’ve decided to go with it for now. Any comments about that?

I finally decided to just go ahead and try it. So on New Years Eve, between the ball drop and midnight (’cause the ball drops in NYC two hours before midnight in SLC), I installed the blog, adjusted the design, and figured out how to use it. I have blogged every day this year so far. No, you can’t read what I wrote because I marked all the entries private. I was kind of testing the waters.

But now I’ve decided to go public with my blog. So here it is!

Just like my Twitter account, this will likely end up to be about more than just genealogy, but since that’s my profession and my hobby, I expect it to show up a lot. Other topics that will appear often will include UJGS, the Utah Jewish Genealogical Society (I am the president, newsletter editor, and webmaster); IAJGS and each annual conference; David Tennant, Doctor Who, and anyone else associated with the show; Hugh Laurie, House, and any other corresponding shows or people; any other TV show or celebrity that suits my fancy over time (those are just the current ones); and any home improvement projects that may be happening.

Let the fun begin.