The registry of Holocaust survivors and their families, which has been housed only at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., has found a second home at New York’s Jewish Heritage Museum, where it is now available to the general public and a permanent part of the Museum’s resource center, according to museum spokeswoman Abby Spilka.
The voluntary listing of survivors and their families was created in 1981 by the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. But when the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum was created in 1993, it became the new home for the database, which had approximately 45,000 survivors registered then, and now has more than ‘00,000 names.
The list, now known as the Benjamin and Vladka Meed Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, opened to the public in New York on Yom HaShoah this year. It is the first time the registry has been available to the public outside of the Holocaust Museum.
In the past, text listings of the database have been made available to libraries and other Holocaust research centers, but the searchable database itself had remained in Washington. The museum had been looking for ways to make the database more available without inviting the possible abuses that could have resulted from putting it on the Internet.
"This is a trial project," said Bill Connelly, a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum technical information specialist for the Registry of Holocaust Survivors. "With New York, it’s easy for us to get there. There’s a large [population of] Holocaust survivors and families in New York. It seemed like a logical place to set this up."
There are approximately 55,000 survivors in the New York area, including Westchester and Nassau counties, according to a ’00’ UJA-Federation of New York study.
The museum set up the registry database in New York so that it is just like the one in Washington. For now, Washington will send CDs to New York with data to update the registry. In the near future, the database will be reformatted with newer software and then updates in Washington will automatically be made in New York as well. The database is now updated monthly.
"When we have our refurbished version of the registry, it’ll be a lot easier to maintain the timeliness of the information," Connelly said.
Although Spilka was unable to gauge just how much the database has been used since its introduction last month, she and others are optimistic about its popularity as a resource.
"It’s another example to demonstrate to the larger community that there are survivors and the Holocaust did occur," said Paul B. Winkler, executive director of the State of New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education. "Our teachers will have easy access to get the names of survivors to bring into their classrooms."
There are approximately 3,600 survivors in New Jersey, according to Winkler. The Washington database helped create that estimate, and the new proximity of the database will help maintain its accuracy, Winkler said.
The registry is a way for survivors to declare their presence to the world, said Jeanette Friedman, editor and Webmaster for the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and a contributor to this paper.
"One of the reasons the database is collected is because our parents and grandparents were witnesses to a heinous crime. And this crime is being denied by people who have an agenda," Friedman said. That agenda, she continued, is the de-legitimization of Israel.
The registry is available by appointment in the Jewish Heritage Museum’s resource center in lower Manhattan. For more information, visit www.mjhnyc.org.