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Four New AJHS Collections, Thousands of Stories

Posted by Paul Rawlins on January 7, 2011 in Content

Wars play out on both the epic and the personal stage and leave behind both large and small stories. The four new collections from the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) that recently went live on Ancestry.com include two sets of war records: WWI Serviceman Questionnaires, Jews and Non-Jews, 1918–1921, and Undated, and WWII Jewish Serviceman Cards, 1942–1947. We also added Jews in Colonial America, Brazil, and Surinam (Oppenheim Collection), 1650–1850, and we’ve indexed the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records, 1860–1934, to make them more accessible. I’ve spent a few hours in all four collections, and each is full of interesting facts and folks, but the stories of two soldiers in particular caught my attention.

The first was Daniel Stern. To document the service of Jewish soldiers during World War I, the American Jewish Committee’s Office of Jewish War Records sent out 16,000 questionnaires soliciting information on soldiers they believed to be Jewish. Daniel Stern sent his back.

Daniel was working as a salesman when he was drafted and entered the service in February 1918.

May saw him promoted to bugler and landing in Bordeaux.

In September, though, the war turned ugly for Daniel, who wrote: Gassed in the Argonne, Sept 2, 1918. Totally blinded for six weeks—lost speech for same length of time.

What I liked best about Daniel’s story was the ending. He spent six months in the hospital recovering and was discharged from the army a short time later. But he didn’t go straight home. The bugler stayed in France, employed by the American Red Cross as the leader of a jazz band.

Rabbi Alexander Goode’s story takes a different turn.

During WWII, the Bureau of War Records (BWR) of the National Jewish Welfare Board compiled service files on about 85,000 of the 550,000 Jewish-American service personnel. They extracted an annotated index to the files onto index cards.

The files include 3 cards for Lt. Alexander Goode, each with a different notation in the upper-right corner: “Missing” then “Death i.a.” and finally “D.S.C.” and “P.H.” for Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart.

On 3 February 1943, Goode was one of 900 men aboard the troop ship USAT Dorchester when it was torpedoed. As chaos broke outn, Goode was one of four chaplains who moved about the deck, praying with the wounded, calming the fearful, and handing out life jackets from the ship’s lockers. When those ran out, each of the chaplains gave his life jacket to another man. They were last seen praying together with arms linked on the deck of the Dorchester as it went down.

And those are only two of the stories—big and small—you’ll find among the new records from the AJHS.

(WWI Serviceman Questionnaires, Jews and Non-Jews, 1918–1921, and Undated; WWII Jewish Serviceman Cards, 1942–1947; Jews in Colonial America, Brazil, and Surinam (Oppenheim Collection), 1650–1850; New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum Records, 1860–1934)

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2 Vera McHaleJanuary 8, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Thank you for including the National Jewish Welfare Board War records.
I was born during WWII and just Christmas 2009 did I tell my children they were Jews by genetics and it does matter in one’s health. Today from your records I was able to send them my mom’s brother’s Jewish war record so they have evidence of who they are. His name is on a list of war veterans in our hometown. It has helped my grown children understand their own lives and especially me. And why I taught them the way I did about so many things.

Our hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, Hamilton County (Jews on the East, Catholics on the West side)
still has a lot of false pride, prejudice and ignorance in race and religion. My childhood dream was to prevent another world war in whatever way I could. It has been a very private long and sometimes outraged road and still much to do before I go.
You make it possible to stay ahead of division to our family by providing provable facts. Thank You. You probably have no idea how much it means to me. Thank you.

3 bromaelorJanuary 10, 2011 at 4:51 am

MapleStory #3. Before you try to hide spam links in this blog you should try to improve your very poor grasp of the English language??

4 bromaelorJanuary 10, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Ancestry. If you are going to delete the spam entry (as you have done), you need to delete my comment about it also because it is now meaningless (and this one, or this could go on forever!)

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