Jewish Roots in Ukraine: Context and Connection

04/03/2022 12:00 PM - 05/11/2022 04:30 PM ET


  • $36.00  -  Mensch
  • $54.00  -  Super Mensch
  • $72.00  -  Extra Super Mensch


Online (link will be sent to all donors)


Does the invasion of Ukraine have you thinking about your Jewish roots there? Are you wondering how to learn the specifics of your family’s Jewish Ukrainian story? Are you hoping to better understand your own identity as a way of connecting more meaningfully to the current situation?


In this one-day, four-part workshop, we aim to show you how to reconstruct your family’s history in Ukraine and interpret it within the larger context of Ukraine’s history. Although the workshop is designed for newer researchers, there will be content for people with all levels of genealogy experience, taught by leading Jewish genealogists.


100% of all proceeds will benefit the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Razom for Ukraine, two leading non-profits providing extensive, on-the-ground support to Ukrainians affected by the current humanitarian crisis. Donations are tax-deductible where allowed by law.


All three ticket prices provide the same level of access to the workshop, but your additional generosity will enable more humanitarian support to reach the people of Ukraine.


Logistical support for this event is provided by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B). This event will be recorded, and the videos will be made accessible to everyone who donates.


Workshop Sessions


Your Family’s Context: The History and Legacy of Jews in Ukraine

Tammy Hepps will kick off the afternoon with the history of the region that has since 1991 comprised the country of Ukraine. She will explain the centuries of competition between powerful empires to dominate this region and the effects of this competition on the ethnic minorities caught in the middle. Within this context she will situate the experiences of your ancestors—both the revolutions in Jewish thought and practice they innovated, as well as the discrimination and violence that led to their mass emigration.


How to Trace Your Family Back to Ukraine

The key to successful Jewish genealogical research is to first identify the specific towns in which your ancestors lived before they emigrated. Jennifer Mendelsohn will explain how to use English-language, American records, available both online and off, to use what you already know about your family to find their towns of origin in Ukraine. She will also go over how to navigate name changes across languages and share some investigative strategies that can help newcomers achieve research success.


How to Access and Use Jewish Ukrainian Records

Learning the names of the towns your family left is only the beginning. Lara Diamond will review the vast array of records available both online and off to trace your Jewish ancestors’ movements and activities within Ukraine. She will give advice for overcoming access and language barriers to gain the full value of those records.


How to Connect Meaningfully to Your Heritage Today

Tammy and Brooke Schreier Ganz will review key archival and heritage projects that have made it possible for us to rediscover and reconnect to our roots. Tammy will then conclude with reflections on what it means to grapple with our ancestors’ experiences in this region and how to channel those complicated feelings towards empathy for the aspirations of present-day Ukraine and all its inhabitants.




Lara Diamond began researching her own family around 1989. She has traced all branches of her family multiple generations back in Eastern Europe using Russian Empire-era and Austria-Hungarian Empire records. Most of her personal research is in modern-day Ukraine, with a smattering of Belarus and Poland. She is president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland and is JewishGen's Subcarpathia Research Director. She has lectured around the country and internationally on Jewish and Eastern European genealogy research as well as genetic genealogy. She also runs multiple district- and town-focused projects to collect documentation to assist all those researching ancestors from common towns. Lara blogs about her Eastern European and Jewish research at

Brooke Schreier Ganz has ancestral roots in Poland, Moldova, and most of all Ukraine, and has been an avid genealogist for over twenty years. She created and built the All Galicia Database for Gesher Galicia, and the All Israel Database for the Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA), which have each enabled millions of genealogical records to go online for free public use. She is the founder and president of Reclaim The Records (RTR), a 501(c)3 non-profit activist organization that uses Freedom of Information laws to sue government archives, agencies, and libraries in the US for the return of genealogical and historical material to the public domain. Over the past four years, Brooke has also co-led the fundraising effort amongst the Ukrainian diaspora to raise money (through GoFundMe) for the purchase and international shipment of document scanners, hard drives, and other computer equipment for Ukrainian genealogists such as Alex Krakovsky (her very distant cousin) and for multiple branches of the Ukrainian archives system, to help them digitize Ukraine’s cultural heritage.

Tammy Hepps presents usable history to families and communities. Combining techniques from genealogy and history, she takes a creative and rigorous approach to rediscovering the most compelling American Jewish narratives. She has presented her research around the world, including at Ellis Island, the Library of Congress, and numerous conferences in Israel. Her best-known research is into the Jewish community in the former steel-making center of Homestead, PA. She also created, a family story-sharing website for which she won the RootsTech Developer Challenge. Tammy is the treasurer of Reclaim the Records and of the Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association of Greater Pittsburgh, as well as a Wexner Heritage Fellow. She traveled to Ukraine on multiple occasions to retrace her maternal roots.

Jennifer Mendelsohn began her career as a journalist. Her work has appeared in numerous local and national publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and Time. A native Long Islander now based in Baltimore, Mendelsohn is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, serves on the board of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland and is the administrator of Facebook's Jewish Genetic Genealogy group. Her genealogical sleuthing was featured in the 2019 bestseller Inheritance by Dani Shapiro. A frequent lecturer, Mendelsohn is the creator of #resistancegenealogy, a project that uses genealogical and historical records to fight disinformation and honor America’s immigrant past. Her work has received international media attention. She has roots in several towns now located in Ukraine and traveled there in 2001.