Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois

“Apple Does Not Fall: Shtetl Cousins Meet Iron-Curtain Cousins” by Bena Shklyanoy

  • 22 Oct 2017
  • 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
  • Temple Beth-El, 3610 Dundee Rd, Northbrook

Bena Shklyanoy to share her family history with the Jewish Genealogical Society:

“Apple Does Not Fall: Shtetl Cousins Meet Iron-Curtain Cousins” will be the topic of a presentation by family historian Bena Shklyanoy, an immigrant from the Soviet Union, at the Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois. Her presentation will begin at 2 p.m. at Temple Beth-El, 3610 Dundee Road, Northbrook, Ill.

The JGSI meeting facilities at Temple Beth-El will open at 12:30 p.m. to accommodate those who want to use or borrow genealogy library materials, get help with genealogy websites or ask genealogical questions before the main program begins at 2 p.m. For more information phone 312-666-0100.

Bena Shklyanoy’s website and blog at is the result of 11 years of research and recollections. It contains her family trees, photos from travels to ancestral shtetls and the story of an average Soviet Jewish family, including during the mid-1970s Jewish emigration from the USSR, an era little known in the U.S, Bena says.

“Even those in the Save Soviet Jews movement who made the emigration possible do not realize what it cost mentally to cut the cord, what the effort entailed in practical terms, and the culture shock and culture clash we experienced,” she said. “I belong to the last generation to have lived that period of history as adults, and it is my generation's responsibility to help keep that history alive.”

Bena Shklyanoy was born in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, when it was part of the Soviet Union. She received a graduate degree in Russian language from Kiev University and worked as a technical translator and editor.

 In 1976, she immigrated to the United States with her husband and two young daughters. She changed her career to IT and earned an MBA. In 2004, her family story project began. It is now documented on her website, which focuses on insights into Soviet culture, culture clash, and the long-lasting impact of government and history on personal decisions.

Bena presented her work at the 2016 IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Seattle and has spoken to various other organizations. She wrote an article in the December 2016 JUF News.

At each regular JGSI monthly meeting, its “help desk” will operate from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. Member volunteers will access online databases and answer genealogical questions one-on-one for members and visitors as time allows.

The JGSI library has more than 800 volumes of interest to Jewish family historians. Many are available for borrowing by JGSI members for a limited time. All are available for perusing from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. at each regular monthly meeting.

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