Most of our events take place at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan unless otherwise noted.

Founded in 1985 by Betty Provizer Starkman, the Jewish Genealogical Society of Michigan is a leader in education, research, information exchange forums and resources for Jewish genealogy. Most of our events are hosted at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

We are the proud winner of such prestigious awards as:

  • Outstanding Programming that Advances Jewish Genealogy
  • Best Publication for our quarterly newsletter, Generations
  • Genealogical Research Award for utilizing the most modern techniques for research
  • Genealogical Library Award for maintaining an independent research library

Membership is available to anyone interested in genealogy. Dues are based on a fiscal year of August 1 to JuIy 31.

We invite you to take a look around, learn about our society and explore all that we have to offer.

Upcoming Events

“Passing” or “Covering”? Debates over Name Changing in the Years After World War II

Sunday, January 11, 2015 at 11:00 am
Holocaust Memorial Center
Free for members; $5 for guests

Thousands of name change petitions were submitted to the New York City Civil Court during the 1940s and 1950s. A disproportionate number of them were submitted by Jews. Debates over Jewish identity at this time tended to equate name changing with passing and escaping the Jewish community. Rabbi Milton Steinberg, for example, in 1945, called for stronger Jewish identity among Jewish youth, warning that some “Jews change their names, dissociate themselves from their fellows, calculatingly conceal their origin and try to ‘pass.’” Quietly challenging portraits of name changers as “passers,” however, were Jewish voices like sociologist Erving Goffman, who described name changing as a more complex act of “covering”: hiding the most obtrusive parts of a stigma so that they did not impede daily life. My paper will use name change petitions, published writings, and unpublished letters from name changers during the postwar era to suggest that “covering” indeed more accurately reflected the complicated practice of name changing for the majority of American Jews.

Kirsten Fermaglich, Ph.D.

Kirsten Fermaglich is Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Michigan State University. Her book on American social scientists and Holocaust metaphors, American Dreams and Nazi Nightmares: Early Holocaust Consciousness and Liberal America, 1957-1965, was published in 2006. She is also co-editor of the Norton Critical Edition of Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (2013). She is currently researching the history of name changing in New York City in the twentieth century for a book tentatively entitled A Rosenberg by Any Other Name.