Today I attended my first SF Bay Area JGS meeting and had a wonderful time putting faces with names of people I have met online, plus meeting new people I will want to follow up with in the future. The guest speaker for today was Schelly Talalay Dardashti, the blogger who runs the Tracing the Tribe blog.
The meeting was held at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in the lower Fillmore area of San Francisco. The society alternates its meetings among sites in San Francisco, Berkeley in the East Bay and Los Altos on the peninsula.
There were about 25 people attending, and I got a chance to chat with several of them over instant coffee and cookies before the meeting got underway. Jeremy Frankel, the president of the group whom I had met a month ago at the Oakland Mormon research center, greeted me warmly and began to introduce me around.
I was especially pleased to see Dave Howard, with whom I have corresponded a good deal about his Rezekne research. We found that we had as much or more to share in person than by email.
I was wearing a nametag, and as I waited for a chance to introduce myself to Schelly, she read my tag and said, "So here's the famous Dan Ruby." I guess that is a case of one's reputation leading the way, which surprises me since I feel like such a neophyte in this world.
Also in attendance were luminaries in the Jewish Gen world such as Steve Morse, Judy Baston and others. After the meeting, I chatted some with Judy at the Jewish Community Library, just down the hall. She is an leader of both the Litvak and Poland JRI interest groups, and I hope to get to know her more in the future.
Some new people I met who are active locally were Dale Friedman from Berkeley and Kathryn Doyle, who works at the California Genealogical Society and Library in Oakland and lives in my town of Piedmont. In fact, she thought I might have been the husband of the more famous Ruby resident of Piedmont, Eileen Ruby. (Eileen is the mother of Mike Ruby, who works for me part time at Festival Preview, but is otherwise unrelated.) I explained to Kathryn that the other Ruby family are Rubinsteins and we were Rabinowitzes.
Anyway, I'll look forward to seeing several of these people in Chicago next month, and at future meetings of the Bay Area group.
I enjoyed Schelly's presentation, even though a lot of it was pretty elementary. I was surprised that when she asked who in the room was writing a blog, mine was one of just a couple that went up. This in a room of people who have made considerable contributions to online Jewish genealogy, and also are tech-savvy Bay Area residents.
For example, Steve Morse's One Step page is commonly acknowledged as among the most useful online research tools anywhere. But blogging is evidently viewed as more of a young person's medium, and most of these folks make web sites or publish to email lists or moderate bulletin boards — online formats that may be friendlier to the generally older crowd that is interested in genealogy.
Nevertheless, I got some good ideas and leads from Schelly's talk. Her suggestions about the leading genealogical blogs will point me in some useful directions. I was interested to hear the story of how her blog got started as a project of the Jewish Telegraph Agency, and thus its relationship to the wider world of Jewish media.
Schelly came to blogging from a career in publishing, so I wasn't surprised to hear of her sometimes bumpy adjustment to the style and voice of blogging versus newspaper journalism. I have made that same transition. She sees her role as mainly a "just the facts, Ma'am" informational blogger, rather than what she calls a "muser," someone who riffs in a more personal style.
She described her caution about covering possibly controversial subjects and her discomfort in voicing her personal views. While I'm sure such discretion is a useful survival skill in the world of Jewish journalism, I quietly urged Schelly after the meeting to embrace the blogging ethic and let loose with her opinions.
Of course, I have the luxury of writing a blog hardly anybody reads, whereas Tracing the Tribe is the most widely read blog about Jewish genealogy, so that's easy for me to say. In my other life, though, I run a group blog and news aggregation service about music festivals, so I have some expertise about online media. When I next see Schelly, perhaps in Chicago, I'll look forward to exchanging ideas some more.