Category Archives: IAJGS

Ron Arons – The Jews of Sing Sing

I met Ron Arons in New York at the 2006 IAJGS conference. I’ve been to a few of his presentations and they are always thoroughly entertaining as well as educational. When he spoke about his upcoming book (this book) I was especially impressed and intrigued.

At the 2005 conference, I was in the room next door to where he was giving a lecture about Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky, two of the characters who appear in this book, and that crowd was quite disruptive with bursts of laughter.

Jews of Sing SingI purchased “The Jews of Sing Sing: Gotham Gangsters and Gonuvim” from Ron at the 2008 IAJGS conference in Chicago. He signed it, “Stay away from this place!”, more evidence of his sense of humor.

The book started as a memoir to his great-grandfather, Isaac Spier, but when no one wanted to publish another personal memoir, his research took him much further into the histories of many Jewish criminals who spent time in Sing Sing Prison in New York.

Ron goes into great detail about their histories, sometimes a bit too much. I’m the kind of person who reads every word and every number in a book, so it got a bit tedious to read all the dates, addresses, census information, and other details. There are parts of the book where Ron fills in details about who was in each household in each census, their address, ages, professions, and such. While important to the research and to genealogy in general, it made it a little harder for me to read.

I’m also a bit of a casual reader, enjoying stories where I don’t have to concentrate much, and some chapters he introduced a plethora of characters. The stories were good, but I couldn’t keep all the characters straight.

My favorite chapters were the ones about Ron’s own family. Providing those same kinds of details, he also seemed to delve more into the narrative of the people, as well as giving more details about his quest for the information, mentioning each time he found a new clue or hit a brick wall. It seemed more casual and more personal, which better suited my reading style preference. Plus, I enjoy the hunt in genealogy, so reading about Ron’s research process was enthralling.

I found the last two chapters to be most enjoyable — the only time I read more than one chapter at a time. He wrote three chapters about Isaac Spier, including the penultimate one. The final chapter was about Ron’s visit to Sing Sing.

Lots of families have tales about the black sheep relative, the criminal, the person in the mafia — including mine — but Ron researched and learned the truth about his ancestors as well as many others. Once I got through the paragraphs of census facts, I enjoyed reading the stories. I look forward to checking out his second book, “Wanted: U.S. Criminal Records”, so I can research my own family mafia story.

Ron’s books can be purchased on his web site at http://ronarons.com/.

Disclaimer: Apparently there was some stuff going on before I started blogging whereas people were paid to write good reviews about products and such and didn’t tell their readers that is was moreĀ  of a paid advertisement than a personal opinion. Well, I wasn’t paid for this. If I was, I probably would have skipped over the less-than-favorable comments, don’t you think?

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.