Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pamela Weisberger - חבל דאבדין ולא משתכחין

The Aramaic phrase in the title is from the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, page 111a. Rashi explains that it means that it is a tragic loss when a great person dies and there is no one to replace him.

All the talk in the world of Jewish genealogy today is of the passing Friday of Pamela Weisberger. We say that the cemeteries are full of people whom we once thought couldn't be replaced. Pamela is probably as close to such a person as anyone most of us will ever know.

Barely thirty days ago in Los Angeles
There is no need for me to weigh in on the acute loss to her husband Ken and to her three children. Nor is there any need for me to speak to Pamela's many job descriptions and accomplishments in the world of genealogy.

I also need not speak about what the so-premature death of a friend and colleague does to all of us in our sixties who think we have all the time in the world. Especially so close on the heels of the high holidays.

But I shall say a few things about my own relationship with Pamela.

Mea Shearim
Our first contact was maybe fifteen years ago. She sent me a photograph of a building in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem which she said that some relative of hers had donated to a synagogue or a yeshiva seventy or eighty years earlier. There were two signs attesting to this in the photograph. She wanted me to find the building and make some general inquiries about the family.

I found the building easily enough, in a prominent place on Mea Shearim Street itself. One of the signs was still there. (It isn't any more and no one seems to know where it is.) The building was being used as a yeshiva and there was also a store of some sort using part of the ground floor. I made some inquiries and passed them on.

Eventually, Pamela made contact with these Krishevsky and Eisner relatives and on two or three occasions I went with her to visit them. I was there to translate. Some of them understood the connection, others didn't really. They were all very pleasant visits. Pamela - classy that she always was - would change into a long skirt, shawl and hat, so as not to make anyone uncomfortable.

We were going to go to see them just before the Conference here in Jerusalem in July. We had it pretty much set up, but we had some miscommunication (strictly my fault!) and it didn't happen. We figured it would keep until next time.

I don't know if there is anyone in Pamela's family who will tell the Mea Shearim relatives. I called one of them. She will tell the others. She asked for Pamela's Jewish name and her father's. They will light a candle for her soul. I said I'd try to find out. They don't really know her, but she cared about them and they reciprocated.

Gesher Galicia
I was not a joiner back then, but Pamela decided I should be a member of Gesher Galicia. I  am not sure who else was involved in the decision but one day Pamela informed me that I (a non-member) had been co-opted to the Gesher Galicia Steering Committee. And what size T-shirt did I want.

When Gesher Galicia was incorporated in 2009, I served as Secretary and as such was a member of the Board, with Pamela as President.

Gesher Galicia had become Pamela's show and most of us were happy to be role players. It worked well, but now it will all be very different. Not just a change in titles.

We had some common research interests - mostly in Skalat and nearby Grzmaylow, but also apparently in our Hungarian families. Every couple of months, Pamela would feed me some Pikholz reference that she'd run across while doing something else. We were friends that way.

On her first visit to Israel, I took her to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron and we visited the Hevron cemetery together.

In the "Acknowledgements" section of my recently published book "ENDOGAMY: One Family, One People" under the heading "Encouragement," the second item is
I spoke of my plans for a DNA testing project to Pamela Weisberger while she was visiting Israel in 2012. She encouraged me to submit a presentation for [the IAJGS Conference planned for the following summer in] Boston. I did and it was well-received, though even when I presented my talk, I had very few results to report. From there it has been a runaway train.
Pamela and her daughter Lily appear in Chapters Eleven and Eighteen, where I looked at some people who have many DNA matches with Pikholz descendants. We surely have multiple common ancestors - probably within the last three hundred years.

Pamela welcomed my suggestion to speak to JGSLA in August despite the fact that they had  already done an August program, and was instrumental in setting up a Phoenix talk the next day. She posted about it on Facebook here. The photo at the top of this page is from that post. She was always classy.


  1. Thank you for writing this. Your remembrances gives us insight about her for those of us who had not met her.

  2. This may be a duplicate. Israel, your Pittsburgh friend was waiting until after Shabbos to find your beautiful eulogy to Pamela. I, too, have a candle burning in her memory.

    1. Thank you, Marilyn. I saw the announcemnet right after Shabbes here and posted my blog after havdallah on the west coast, as is my wont.

  3. Thank you for painting another piece of the beautiful mosaic that was Pamela.
    I will share this if they haven't already seen it. May her memory always be for a blessing.

  4. A huge lose to the genealogical community all over the world. R.I.P dear Pamela