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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 11, 2017 IAJGS Major genealogy companies--including JewishGen--exhibited at the IAJGS conference held here in Orlando the last week of July. Avraham Groll, director of JewishGen, is shown at left (in white shirt), explaining the website to participants. By Jane Edelstein A beginner in the Jewish genealogy search, Jane Edel- stein recently attended the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference held in Orlando. This is the first article in a series about her experience finding her roots. You didn't know your great- grandparents, and even think- ing about Europe at the turn- of-the-century doesn't really sound appealing to you. So why should you spend at least a little bit of time, and seek out your Jewish ancestry? "Jewish genealogy is not a hobby--it's a mission," noted Avraham Groll, director of JewishGen--a free website that helps people find their Jewish ancestors. JewishGen (at jewishgen.com) lists more than 21 million records, a Family Finder tool, hundreds of yizkor books and lots of other research." Best of all, it's easy to use for both young and old--regardless of ones computer expertise. "The site is designed to help Jews connect--on whatever level theywant," Groll contin- ued. "Regarding ancestors in Europe, it tells not only who they were, but also how they lived. It's about identity and continuity--not just about history." Learning about ones an- cestors doesn't necessar- ily require a lot of time. "Someone who has just a small amount of time can just register on the site, go to the Family Finder, and easily search for family an- cestors by either surname or town," Groll explains. A user doesn't even need to know the correct spelling of a name: JewishGen uses various forms of technology that allows searches based on sounds and/or phonetics. In addition to Family Finder, some of JewishGen's other most popular databases include the Gazetteer, a data- base of the names of all towns in 54 countries in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; and a worldwide Burial Registry, with more then three million burial records from 6,800 cemeteries. Groll spoke to a group of some 50 people at the recent annual conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societ- ies. Overall, the conference drew hundreds of people--in- cluding many professional ge- nealogists-to the conference at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort. Indeed, JewishGen was one of some 10 sponsors of the conference. Also present were the leading names in ge- nealogical research: Ancestry, Family Search, Find my Past and My Heritage (headquar- tered in Israel). More information on Jew- ishGen may be found at jewishgen.com. More infor- mation on the local chapter of IAJGS may be found at jgsgo.org. a new David Bohrer/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images Anita Diamant with a copy of"The Red Tent" in 2000. By Erika Dreifus (JTA)--Twenty years ago this summer, Anita Dia- mant--a freelance writer and author of several non- fiction books about Jewish practice, including "The New Jewish Wedding"--was awaiting the publication of her first novel. It was a work of historical fiction, set in biblical times, that focused on the story of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob and Leah. The bookwas called "The Red Tent," and it has since achieved iconic status. The novel has sold millions of copies around the world and was adapted into a 2014 Lifetime miniseries star- ring Minnie Driver. But "The Red Tent" did not become a best-seller when it first hit shelves in 1997. In fact, Diamant never expected such extraordinary success. "It was not a given that the book was going to get published" at all, Diamant told JTA in a recent interview, describing the difficulties she encountered in trying to find a literary agent to represent the project. The novel, Diamant re- called, seemed to strike people as "a weird idea." Dinah receives only brief attention in the Bible, and her story is a violent one. In Diamant's book, the Dinah narrative expands, reveal- ing a fuller, fictionalized understanding of her life--as well as a powerful portrait of ancient feminine community and experience. Alongside her work on other writing projects, Diamant spent about three years draft- ing "The Red Tent." Eventually it sold to St. Martin's Press, and Diamant received a mod- est advance. The novel sold reasonably well for a debut and subse- quently was issued in paper- back. Still, the publisher was planning to destroy (or "pulp") some remaining hardcover copies. At that point, Diamant had an idea: Why not ship the books directly to select groups of readers? The pub- lisher agreed, and several copieswent to members of the Join the Stone Family At Westchester of Winter Park, a premier Assisted Living Community providing customized care and services in a palatial environment in Winter Park, Florida. Licensed nursing staff is in the building 24 hours each day. Multiple room options at affordable room rates and care level fees. Many services are included in the room rate. The Community entrance fee is $500. Join us for Shabbat every Friday and stay for a tour of our community. WESTCHESTER Please contact our Community Liaison for further information. 407.679-5555 Women's Rabbinic Network, a group of women in the Reform rabbinate. Another batch went to members of the Reconstructionist Rabbinic Assembly. In both cases, the books were accompanied by letters of endorsement from the organizations' presidents, both personal friends of Diamant. From there, word about "The Red Tent" spread. Ul- timately, Diamant credits independent book stores and book clubs for making the novel a best-seller. In June 2001, nearly four years after publication, "The Red Tent" won the Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Adult Fic- tion, now known as the Indies Choice Book Award. Diamant has since pub- lished four novels and con- tinued to write nonfiction. ("The New Jewish Wedding" was updated, redesigned and revised as "The Jewish Wed- ding Now" and re-released earlier this year.) "I'm eternally grateful to readers for whom the book has meant so much," Diamant said of "The Red Tent." "And it means such different things to different people." "I'm still kind of amazed at its success. I'm touched by the way people find inspiration in it for all kinds of things." Some fans, Diamant notes, credit the book for steering them to work as midwives. Others say "The Red Tent" inspired them to become artisanal bread bakers or to study the Bible--or to write biblical fiction of their own. "It's awhole category now," she noted. Thanks to the success of "The Red Tent," lovers of historical fiction can enjoy an ever-growing number of books that reimagine the lives of biblical characters. In many cases, these novels, like Diamant's, give voices to lesser-known (and often female) individuals. Here is a sampling of some of the best that have been published in recent years. "Sinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of No- ah's Wife" (Howard Books, 2013) by Rebecca Kanner Although the Bible doesn't name her, Noah's wife was on the ark, too. Kanner's debut novel gives her a voice--but still no name--as she tells us, in the first person, about her early years, her marriage and family, and everything that happened on that giant ship. "After Abel and Other Sto- ries" (Prospect Park Books, 2015) by Michal Lemberger; foreword by Jonathan Kirsch Each of the nine stories in this book presents a tale of a biblical woman. Some you've likely heard of, like Miriam, who sets the basket hold- ing her baby brother afloat in Nile, follows its course and approaches the woman who retrieves it: Pharaoh's daughter. Others focus on characters who are less well known, such as Zeresh, Ha- man's not-so-nice spouse, who suffers consequences, just as her husband does when his evil plot goes awry. "The Secret Chord" (Vi- king, 2015) by Geraldine Brooks King David, the focus of this novel, isn't exactly a minor biblical figure. But his circle was large, and Brooks attends closely to many of the characters--men and women, like the prophet Natan and Nizevet, David's mother-- who were closest to him in this chronicle of key episodes in David's life. "The Secret Book of Kings" (St. Martin's Press, 2016) by Yochi Brandes; translation by Yardenne Greenspan The inspiration for this bookwas the biblical princess Michal, who is most popu- larly identified as King Saul's daughter or as King David's wife. "But even at the begin- ning my research," Brandes wrote in the preface, "I real- ized that a historical novel about the destruction of the House of Saul at the hands of David could not make do with a single protagonist." Thus, this novel--which was a best- seller in Israel, where it was published in 2008 under the title "Kings III"--is a compel- ling, multigenerational saga. "David and the Philistine Woman" (Top Hat Books, 2017) by Paul Boorstin This novel reimagines tales of King David and his con- temporaries, including the fearsome Goliath. Boorstin conjures up a new female character: Goliath's wife, Nara, who in this telling exerts considerable influence on the outcome of one of the most famous biblical battles. I Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care in- vites Orlando and Kissimmee-area residents to volunteer to help patients throughout Orange and Osceola counties. Cornerstone Hospice volunteers may help by visiting with a patient at an assisted living facility or a home while a caregiver runs er- rands. The volunteers may also walk a patient's dog, honor a fellow veteran or be a greeter at the inpatient hospice unit. All Cornerstone Hospice volunteers must go through training and will be subject to a background check. A training session will be on Saturday, Aug. 12, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., at 52 W. Underwood Street (Inside Orlando Regional Medical Center, 2nd Floor, South Tower). Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Interested volunteers must register in advance by contactingvolunteer specialist Kayla Lopes at 407-514-8205 or by emailing klopes@ cshospice.org. Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care is accredited with the National Institute for Jewish Hospice.