Howard Margol (1924–2017), R.I.P.

The following is republished here with the permission of Gary Mokotoff, Editor of Nu? What’s New? – The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy From Avotaynu:

howard_margolMr. Litvak has died. Howard Margol, who likely did more to advance Lithuanian-Jewish genealogical research than any other person, died this past Thursday, February 9. He was 92.

Margol began tracing his family history in 1990. He joined the newly formed Jewish Genealogical Society of Georgia and eventually served a two-year term as president of the society. Under his leadership, the membership grew from 65 members to 130 members. After his term as president, he continued to serve on its board of directors.

Margol’s major impact was opening the Lithuanian archives to Jewish genealogical research. His first trip to Lithuania was in 1993. On subsequent trips, he developed a rapport with the archivists of institutions that had records of value to Jewish genealogical research. He negotiated arrangements with these archives to index the records which helped create the All-Lithuanian Database of the Litvak Special Interest Group (SIG) that now has more than one million records. He was a past president of Litvak SIG, and he remained active as the Chair of the Records Acquisitions and Translations Committee of LitvakSIG until 2015. Starting in 1994, Margol and Peggy Mosinger Freedman organized annual trips to Lithuania for family history research that included visits to archives, Jewish sites and individual visits to towns of ancestry. This lasted until 2015, when declining health made it impossible for him to continue. Margol contributed several articles to AVOTAYNU about Litvak research. Typical was “Lithuanian Research Now and in the Future” in the Winter 2011 issue of the journal.

His leadership in Jewish genealogy included areas beyond his Litvak interests. In 1996 he was elected to the board of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS), serving nine years, two of which were as president of IAJGS. In 2008 he was awarded the IAJGS Lifetime Achievement Award. He was on the JewishGen Board of Governors for several years.

His impact on Lithuanian Jewry extended beyond his interest in genealogy. He and his wife, Esther, founded the American Fund for Lithuanian-Latvian Jews. The Fund has supplied hundreds of thousands of dollars of support to the senior meals program of the Jewish Community of Lithuania in Vilnius, Lithuania, and to the Jewish Hospital in Riga. The fund has been a major financial supporter to the Jewish senior cafe in Vilnius, the Jewish senior meals program in Siauliai, the Jewish community in Panevezys, and the Jewish Museum in Vilnius.

Margol was a private in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was present when Dachau was liberated. Margol related an emotional experience that occurred on a convoy of several thousand Jewish camp survivors being taken to luxury resorts high in the Austrian Alps. Even though they were only 20 minutes away from their destination, it was sundown on Friday and the survivors all got out and sat down on the side of the road. They refused to travel because it was the Sabbath. The survivors were placed in temporary quarters and then proceeded after sundown on Saturday night.

I had the privilege of knowing him through his years of leadership in Jewish genealogy. I will always remember his Southern (Georgia) drawl and the tenacity with which he worked to get his projects done.

People who wish to send condolences to the family can do so at http://jewishfuneralcare.com/guestbook3.php?funeralID=2996.

May his memory be a blessing.

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