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Syracuse Jewish Genealogy group to settle in at the JCC

Image of a family tree of the Jewish people.

For most people, genealogy is simply a collection of family trees and facts. For Mike Fixler, 66, these facts are a passion—or rather, the starting point of his passion for Jewish genealogy.

“Genealogy and a DNA test helped re-unite a daughter with her father, who she had never met,” says Fixler. “She contacted me as a result of this interest. We compared our family trees and initially, we didn’t see any connections. But she was adopted. And when we started researching that aspect of her life, we realized that she was the daughter of my father’s first cousin. She is 65. He is 88. They had never thought they would meet each other but incredibly, they did. And they were completely overwhelmed when they finally met each other. It was very emotional. It was also very positive.”

Fixler, who has been researching his own family’s story for the last 20 years, says that the idea of starting a genealogy group in Syracuse came when he and a group of fellow genealogy enthusiasts were approached by Nolan Altman, a board member with the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies. Altman gave a lecture at Temple Concord last October which was attended by over 40 people. That’s how Fixler knew that there were locals who would be interested in a formal Jewish genealogy group.

Thus, the Syracuse Jewish Genealogy group was born. The group’s planners also include Ken Brynien, Yonat Klein, and Barbara Walzer. While Brynien and Walzer are American, Klein is of Israeli descent. Fixler believes that her presence in the group brings another perspective to their discussions because many Jewish families in the area have family ties in Israel.

“The history of the Jewish people is very complicated,” said Fixler. “In some ways it is easy to trace because we’ve always been a close-knit group but it is also tough because the diaspora was so scattered all over the world.”

The resources that Syracuse Jewish Genealogy will be working with include family photographs, birth and death records, local libraries, DNA testing companies like, military archives, the Yad Vashem museum, and even documents like high school yearbooks plus much more.

The Syracuse Jewish Genealogy group held its initial meeting in January at the Community Library of DeWitt and Jamesville. The group’s first official meeting at its new “home” will be held on Sunday, March 25, at 2:00 pm at the JCC. The meeting will include a presentation by Ken Brynien who has researched his own family tree and traced nearly 1,000 family members dating back to the year 1797. In addition to Brynien’s talk, the group will discuss the use of local and online genealogy resources as well as possible presentation topics for upcoming meetings.

The Syracuse Jewish Genealogy group is free and open to anyone interested in local Jewish genealogy. For more details, email Mike Fixler at