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  • Special credits Moshe Mossel and Ben Noach

    Royal decoration for Moshe Mossel and Ben Noach

    On 11 April 2019 Moshe Mossel and Ben Noach received the Royal Decoration "Ridder in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau" (Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau) for their decades-long research in Dutch-Jewish genealogy and the publication of the data by means of the website of the NGO "Akevoth", which they founded and manage.
    The ceremony took place in Herzliya in the residency of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, who bestowed the decoration in name of King Willem Alexander.

    Speech by Chaim Caran

    Mr. Ambassador of the Kingdom of The Netherlands Mr. Beschoor Plug; Board members of the Irgun Oleh Holland; Board members, present and former co-workers of the Center for Research on Dutch Jewry; Board members and co-workers of the Amuta Akevoth Foundation; Relatives and friends, Moshe Mossel and Ben Noach.

    It is with great pleasure that we received the news that His Majesty King Willem Alexander and the Dutch committee considering the application did honor the importance of the Dutch Jewish Genealogic Data Base as maintained by the Akevoth Foundation, in decorating two of its main contributors: Ben and Moshe.

    In the year 1990 Gideon Yaari Cohen, Moshe Mossel and myself founded, with help of Chaya Brasz, the Israeli Circle of Dutch Genealogy as a branch of the Center for Research on Dutch Jewry in Jerusalem. We focused on genealogic research of Dutch Jewish families. Never could we have dreamed then that we should end up with this gigantic digital database of about 350.000 pages, visited more than 800.000 time’s yearly.   This Data base was the brainchild of Ben Noach and the late Nico Creveld (I don’t know if The Netherlands do know posthumous decorations; if so he also should have deserved one). Quite a few people contributed to the data base, I like to mention especially Dini Hansma in Salt Lake City and the late Dave Verdooner, the late Reinier Bobbe, his wife Dirkje and Hans Rodrigues Pereira in Holland. Moshe Mossel’s contribution concerning the Amsterdam Ashkenazi community from the 17th century on, together with his endless translations of tombstones in many Dutch communities outside Amsterdam and his function as president of the foundation stands out for the innumerable hours and days of voluntary work. For Ben Noach, his coordination of all activities, including correspondence to and from the website, administration of the foundation, initiating fitting projects for the database, like the updating of the database for the Dutch War Grave Foundation with the victims of the Second World War, can be considered his lifework (levenswerk). It was Ben’s philosophy to work only with volunteers and to run a digital office only, to minimize the costs. Luckily the foundation got some support from the Maror restitution contributions, for administration, equipment and maintenance of the website. I am sure that their time spent for Akevoth was felt in Moshe and Ben’s family life.

    It became clear that in the Hebrew University, which housed the Center for Research on Dutch Jewry, genealogy was considered a pseudo-, not well respected, science. With even the financial future of the Center in doubt, fear for the survival of the database activated Ben to establish an independent Foundation, Akevoth, separate from the Center for Research on Dutch Jewry, only for protecting the database. Because active board members Ben and Moshe are getting older, the Foundation started to look for future solutions for running the database. When it became clear that no younger volunteers could be found in Israel for Akevoth, Ben started to approach other existing organizations, both in Israel and Holland, like the Ned. Genealogische Ver., Ned. Kring voor Joodse Genealogie,  Beth HaTefutsot. But none of them were offering convincing solutions.

    We don’t have good experiences with databases falling in wrong hands. It can be easily argued that without the Bevolkingsregister (Population Register) in Holland that registered people as Jews, less Jews would have been murdered in WW II. So we prefer that the database will stay in Jewish hands only. This year definite decisions will be made about the future of the database and its maintenance. With the always existing treat of war and rockets in Israel it seems necessary to maintain at least a few copies of the database in different Jewish institutions and locations. We missed a chance these days to send a copy of the database with the Genesis-Bereshit Moonlander for preservation on the long run!

    However I do believe that in a high tech country as Israel it should be possible to find young talent to run and maintain the database. Volunteers like Ben or Moshe will most probably not be found, but financial resources for supporting such people should be found.

    I wish the Foundation all the necessary wisdom to take the right decisions. I thank his Majesty the King of The Netherlands for decorating Moshe and Ben, as well as the ambassador for hosting us today.

    Ben and Moshe and your families: my sincere congratulations and Mazal Tov for receiving these decorations; many thanks for your support for Ben and Moshe throughout the years that made their work possible.


    Speech by Chaya Brasz with a message from Prof. Yona Schellekens

    It is my specific task to say some words in the name of Prof. Yona Schellekens, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. To his regret he could not be here, for which he apologizes, but he sends his warmest regards and a huge mazaltov to Moshe Mossel and Ben Noach: “Well deserved!”

    Nevertheless, I would like to speak some personal words first about prof. Schellekens’ special connection with the event of today and also my own relationship to all this. I started working at the Center for Research on Dutch Jewry (CRDJ) in 1987. There was one Dutch genealogist by then, Gideon Ya’ari-Kahn, who was a board member of the Dutch institute. During the early 1990’s more people came to its library and archive for research. There was a growing interest, both in the Netherlands and in Israel, in the subject of Dutch Jewish genealogy and there was a lot of material in the Center. One of the most frequent visitors was Moshe Mossel, silently working on his huge project. In those days I really had no idea what he was doing exactly!
    In 1996 a new genealogist came to the Center. It was Ben Noach, a driven person with a fantastic vision: he wanted to enter all his genealogical material and the material of others on the internet in one large website for the genealogical history of Dutch Jewry. This was new. In those days we did not even have a website at the Center, but we soon found the computer center of the Hebrew University where a Russian immigrant helped us start a website on one of the computers of the Hebrew University. Thanks to Ben, we, with our small Dutch Center, became the first institute in the
    Jewish Studies department with a website – even Jewish Studies itself had no website yet! Ben got his own pages in that website and started loading material on those pages from his home in Ramat Gan.
    Ben and I experienced that certain professors were not so happy with the project since this was not strictly academic work. They also could not see the point in considering the activity as an auxiliary discipline. This is where dr. Yona Schellekens comes in with a decisive role. We found him – or he found us – as a young Dutch academic with a doctorate and a job in the Department for Statistics and Demography. He had a deep interest in genealogy, was making use of the work of Moshe Mossel and showed readiness to protect the genealogical activity as part of the CRDJ. With some effort I succeeded to convince the Academic Head of the CRDJ to provide Yona Schellekens of a seat for demographic and genealogical subjects in its Academic Board. It was much later on, after I left, that all this fell apart and the genealogists founded their own foundation Akevoth.
    Nowadays Yona Schellekens is a professor for many years already and these are his words about the genealogical activities:

    “Moshe Mossel’s reconstruction of family relationships in the entire Ashkenazi population of eighteenth-century Amsterdam is a unique project in scope and in quality. Among demographers, such a project is known as a “family reconstitution study”. Even though it is not the first family reconstitution study of an urban population, Mossel’s Ashkenazi Amsterdam in the Eighteenth Century is the first
    one of a Jewish population to be available on-line, as far as I know. Of course, we need to thank Ben Noach for providing on-line access to Ashkenazi Amsterdam.
    The family reconstitution of an eighteenth-century Jewish population requires knowledge of Hebrew and Yiddish, in addition to the local language. Anyone familiar with rabbinical records from this period, knows how difficult they are to decipher. Identifying the secular Dutch names of people whose holy Hebrew and secular Yiddish names appear in the Jewish records is an additional challenge. When I was working on my demographic study of Jews in Amsterdam, the database was not yet available, although I did consult Moshe’s article on rabbinical records in Misjpoge, the journal of the Dutch Circle for Jewish Genealogy.
    Since then, I have consulted the database regularly in my search for ancestors, eventually to find out that we are both descendants of Mossel Hertog.
    Secondary genealogical sources are often full of mistakes. However, I haven't been able to spot a single mistake yet in Mossel’s Ashkenazi Amsterdam!”