Although founded in October 1997, the first meetings of the Society in Calgary were held in March 1998 and continuously on the third Monday of each month in private homes. The Society was affiliated with the Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta (JHSSA) and was a member of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) from its initial formation.
Under the quite remarkable energies of its first president, Florence Elman (z”l), the Jewish Genealogical Society of Southern Alberta took off with a burst of energy and created its first newsletter July 2000—Shorashim Roots. This was a testimony to the early activity of its members under the capable directions of president Florence Elman. In 2000, a total of 18 active members participated in monthly meetings. By 2003, membership expanded to 28 members.
Florence Elman had traced her ancestral surnames back to Cherkassy and Kiev Ukraine and Lithuania. Her husband Harold’s routes were from Turkey and Romania. For remaining members ancestral locations were predominantly Russia, Ukraine and Romania with only 6 members registering Poland as their ancestral home for at least one of their family surnames.
Scanning the files from JHSSA, the Society was disbanded in 2008. It seemed to have collapsed upon the untimely passing Florence in 2008. The move of Mel and Deanna Fishman to Toronto likely also hampered continuation.They were instrumental in moving genealogy to the forefront in Calgary, were prominent in creating the Calgary Jewish Cemetery Database, and were heavily involved in the 1600 member strong Switzer Family of Calgary reunions authoring the Switzer Family Tree and Guide. Mel and Deanna are now actively supporting the Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto and cemetery restoration in Okopowa, Poland.
The demise of the JGSSA was of course a setback for serious genealogical research of the Calgary Jewish community as many of those who did have the benefit of this group were able to dig deep into their family research.
Stay tuned for an update on the status of renewed interest in 2016!
~Ken Drabinsky, Chair Genealogy January 6, 2015-2020