Robert J. Friedman

Expert Author

Robert J. Friedman is a frequent guest speaker and workshop leader at synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, Jewish genealogical societies, public libraries, and other community organizations. He was Director of the Genealogy Institute at the Center for Jewish History from 2003-2007 and currently performs genealogical research for individual clients. Mr. Friedman is a graduate of Columbia College and has a Master's degree in Library and Information Science with a certificate in Archives and Records Management.

Mr. Friedman's extensive investigations have focused on NYC, Hungary, Romania, and the former Suwalki Province in Russian Poland. He has conducted on-site research at archives, libraries, and cemeteries in the U.S., Hungary, and Romania. Active in the Hungarian and Romanian Special Interest Groups, Mr. Friedman has also participated in the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Cemetery Project and the JewishGen Yizkor Book Project, served on the Executive Council of the Jewish Genealogical Society of New York, and volunteered at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Favorite Genealogy Quote

"Genealogy is more than names and dates on a chart. It is more than sentimental stories about the good old (or bad old) days. Nor is it an effort to gain status by discovering illustrious ancestors....Each person who is doing Jewish genealogical research, whether or not he or she acknowledges it, is responding to an inner yearning for a connection to our heritage." Arthur Kurzweil, From Generation to Generation, Revised edition, 1994

What are your specific genealogical interests

In Europe, the Jews of Hungary, Romania, and Spain; in Latin America, Argentina and Mexico; in the U.S., Boston, NYC, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

What got you into genealogy?

I was very close with my father's parents, both Hungarian immigrants. When I was young my grandfather spun exotic tales of life in the countryside, as well as grim details from his WWI experiences getting shot and frostbitten on the Russian front. I always wanted to learn more about their lives in Europe, but didn't get started until I was inspired by a cousin on my mother's side who began researching our Litvak ancestors. Although my grandparents were both dead by then, I was able to glean many details from my grandfather's youngest sister before her faculties deteriorated.

Most surprising genealogical find:

That my father had second cousins who survived the Nazi invasion of Hungary in 1944. One of them escaped and joined the underground resistance in Romania, and the other managed to survive Auschwitz, Dora-Mittlebau, and several other concentration camps. They returned home after the war and raised families in Oradea, Romania. Ironically, by the time I located them in 2002, they said they had moved to Germany in the 1980s to escape Romania's Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. They always knew they had Friedman relatives in America, but didn't know where to look.

If you could find the family history of any historical great, who would it be and why?

I don't know if this qualifies, but I once started helping food critic Mimi Sheraton (author of "The Bialy Eaters") with her family history research. After that we parted ways and I'd be curious to see where it led.

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