A Little Genealogy Goes a Long Way!

One afternoon in early 2013, I received a phone message from Rabbi Zell of Tiferet Israel. He said to call him back on his personal cell phone, so I did. He had received an odd e-mail from a man identifying himself as Douglas Parker from New York who believed he was a cousin of a congregant named Bill Pakowsky.

The rabbi, not knowing my maiden name, asked around to see if anyone knew of a Bill Pakowsky, to which Tina (Tobolowsky) Israel replied that the Pakowsky family had been very active at Tiferet Israel. Tina had provided the rabbi with my married name and phone number.

The rabbi wanted to know if it was OK to forward this e-mail to me and I said that was fine. I read it over very carefully. There were several details in it about my grandfather, Morris Pakowsky, and his family; things I didn’t know about, but Douglas Parker did. For example, my grandfather and father kept the original spelling of their last names, but the rest of the siblings (there were 7) didn’t. They ended up with “Parker,” “Parks” and a few other last names. This was all news to me, and I grew more and more interested in what this cousin had to say and what he knew.

Douglas included his phone number in case I wanted to call and chat. I reached him and we began our official connection with each other. He had done some research into his grandfather’s background and family tree, and that’s how he discovered that he had family in Dallas. He looked through newsletters of synagogues here and came across my father’s name – and, as they say, “The rest is history!!”

It’s been a wonderful discovery. I’ve visited my new cousin and his brother in New York, and his sister in California. We’ve kept in touch pretty regularly and I hope some day they’ll come here for a visit and a “Big D” welcome.

The moral? I encourage everyone to look into your family trees; you never know what goodies you’ll discover!!

From the DJHS President – Join us on May 3 to honor the Genecov family for their service

All of us want our children to be happy, healthy, and successful in whatever they chose to do with their lives. If we are lucky, our children will not only bring us “nachas”, but will make a difference in the lives of others.
If your name is Sally and Ed Genecov, you are very lucky.

Sally is the mother of Dr. Jeff Genecov, Julie Genecov Shrell, and Dr. David Genecov.  

On May 3rd at 5:30 PM at the Communities Foundation of Texas, the Dallas Jewish Historical Society is honoring these 3 siblings with its Ann Loeb Sikora Humanitarian Award. This highly selective award is given bi-annually to Dallas-area Jewish individuals who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to public service and who stand as role models for future generations.

Dr. Jeff Genecov, a Master Orthodontist, and Dr. David Genecov, a world-renowned Cranio-Facial Surgeon, volunteer with Smile Train, an international children’s charity that provides 100%-free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children in over 85 developing countries,

Julie Genecov Shrell, an ovarian cancer survivor, co-founded the Be the Difference Foundation, which has raised over $2 million for ovarian cancer research.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available. We are also selling individual event tickets for $100. This event will likely sell out well before the event date.

Please contact the DJHS office at info@dhjs.org to receive a Sponsorship package and an invitation to the event.

Help us honor these great siblings. Sally, Ed, and the DJHS would appreciate it.Capture

From the DJHS President: Do you watch the “In Memoriams” every year on TV?

At the end of each year, I always take great interest in watching one thing on TV – the memorial tributes by the networks and awards shows honoring the many great people who passed away that year. Yes, it sounds a bit gruesome, but to me, it provides me with a moment to reflect on 1) the great contributions made by these people to society and 2) the effect many of them had on my life. Whether I enjoyed watching them in a favorite TV show or a funny movie or cheered them on as they won the Masters or made history blasting into space, almost all invoked some special time in my life that I will always remember.

I also take time at the end of the year to remember those who may not have been as rich or as famous as those people mentioned above. These may be personal friends, work colleagues, shul friends, and on occasion family members. These people knew me, my family and I knew them and their family. If they were Jewish, I went to their funeral or attended a shiva minyan. Since I grew up in Dallas, I probably knew them for decades, attended high school or was in BBYO with their kids, or they were friends with my parents. Many of them were leaders in local businesses or the Jewish community. Some were just transplants from the eastern US or even from another country.

If the people who died the past year were famous, they were professionally memorized through their profession (movies, TV, sports) or professional biographers. If I wanted to share a memory, I would only need to rent one of their movies or pull up a speech on YouTube. If they were not as famous, it is a bit tougher, unless I asked a friend or family member for a video tape of a wedding or bar mitzvah.

Fortunately, if you are part of the Jewish community in Dallas, there is a way to share the memory of a loved one forever – get an oral history from the Dallas Jewish Historical Society. It takes no more than a couple of hours and is done at the JCC by an experienced interviewer. Hundreds of famous and not-so-famous Dallas Jews have already been videotaped. Most of the interviewees are still with us. Unfortunately, many are not. But thanks to the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, their memories will be with us forever. We will always have the opportunity 24/7 to view a person we remember being with or give a student of history an opportunity to see someone they only heard about from their parent or whose name they read on a memorial plaque.

If you know someone, famous or not, whose spirit you would like to keep alive forever, encourage them to contact the Dallas Jewish Historical Society at 214 -239-7120 and ask to get on the schedule for an Oral History interview. Don’t wait until it is too late. Make it a New Year’s Resolution.

If you’ve never been to the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, visit us next time you are at the JCC. We are in the hallway to the left of the Zale Auditorium. You’ll meet great people and learn a lot of Dallas history.

On behalf of the DJHS, we hope you and your families have a happy and healthy 2017.

Stuart Rosenfield
Dallas Jewish Historical Society

Treasures from the DJHS Archives – Skibell/Goldstein Collection


Russian Chumash from the Skibell-Goldstein Collection

Among the many collections to explore, the archives of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society (DJHS), located in the Aaron Family JCC, houses a collection from the Skibell-Goldstein family, chronicling the history of this large Jewish family from the late 1800s to early 1970s.  The collection includes a large number of photographs (some from the 1870s) and documents (letters, government certificates, two wedding ketubahs – one from 1911 and another from 1941), as well as a number of artifacts, including a Russian Chumash, dating back to the 1800s.

The Goldstein family traces its roots in Dallas back to the late 1800s when the patriarch of the family, Jacob Goldstein, immigrated to the United States from Russia through the port of Castle Garden, NY in 1882.  In 1910, one of Jacob’s five children, Isaac Goldstein, married into another prominent immigrant family, the Skibelski family, who changed their name to Skibell upon entry into the United States.  Isaac and his wife, Ida, had five children – Jacob, Hilda, Sylvan, Mitchell, and Rhea Leah.  All three of the sons served in the military during World War II.

A notable artifact in this collection – a World War II medical kit – belonged to Isaac Goldstein’s sister, Beckye Goldstein Levin.  After the United States entered the war in 1941, the Red Cross quickly mobilized a volunteer and staff force to provide comfort and aid to members of the armed forces and their families, as well as to serve in hospitals suffering from severe shortages of medical staff.  Millions of volunteers across the country, including Beckye, stepped up to the call of duty.  On September 1, 1942, Beckye became a member of the Citizens Defense Corps and was certified as an instructor for several courses, including Fire Defense and Gas Defense.  The medical kit contains its original contents.

Goldstein Medical Kit EDITEDThe Skibell-Goldstein Family Collection documents and unfolds the story of how two immigrant families came together and successfully integrated into and contributed to American society.  The collection was generously given to the DJHS by Elaine Druss Lerman, daughter of Hilda Goldstein Druss, and granddaughter of Isaac and Ida Skibell Goldstein. To learn more about the collection, please visit DJHS at the Aaron Family JCC.

The Dallas Jewish Historical Society works to collect and preserve the papers, photographs, artifacts, and recorded personal stories that illustrate the rich history of the Dallas Jewish community.  Please visit us anytime at www.djhs.org to view our extensive online collection of oral histories from hundreds of people who have shaped the Jewish community of Dallas.


Submitted by Liz Liener, DJHS Board Member


EVERY HOME HAS A STORY . . . Sunday, November 6, 2016, 3:15 p.m. at the Aaron Family JCC

Do you have old family photographs in boxes in a spare room or garage? Do you have Bubbe and Zayde’s old love letters in a box in the attic?  Do you have your parents’ wedding pictures and Ketubah?  Are you unsure if your family heirlooms and documents might have any value?  Do you know you have something great and want to preserve it, but just don’t know where to start?

As part of Learning Fest 2016, The Dallas Jewish Historical Society will host an introductory preservation workshop to help provide information about basic preservation, practical advice for handling, storing, and caring for personal collections, and to raise awareness of the value that personal family collections can hold for historical or cultural heritage institutions. Join us and learn what you can do to start organizing and preserving your family’s incredible story.



Alexis Joanna Ferguson, MLS, DJHS Archivist

Alexis provides leadership of our Archive Management program. Alexis received a BA in Anthropology from TCU and an MS in Library Science with a specialization in special collections, preservation, and conservation from the University of North Texas. She has worked for the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and volunteered at both the Dallas Holocaust Museum and George W. Bush Presidential Library. Additionally, Alexis has extensive experience in cataloging, metadata creation, and volunteer management.  She has just returned from the Digital Directions conference, enhancing her knowledge of the fundamentals of creating and managing digital collections.  This experience will help DJHS achieve our goal of becoming a fully online digital repository.