JGSWS meets on the second Monday of each month, from September through June. Doors open at 6:30 PM unless noted otherwise. Our meeting location, since September 2013, is the LDS Factoria Building, 4200 124th Ave SE, Bellevue, WA 98006 (in Factoria, just off I-90 and I-405). Occasional meetings will be held at the JCC on Mercer Island. Admission is free.

NEXT MEETING: Monday, November 14, 2016
at the LDS Factoria Building

  • Presentation starts at 7:15 PM
  • Doors open at 6:30 PM
  • Free admission and refreshments
  • Free Wi-Fi

Come early to use the Family History Library computers and databases, as well as our extensive JGSWS library!

"Deciphering Jewish Tombstones," presented by Madeleine Isenberg


Do you wonder what is inscribed in Hebrew lettering on Jewish tombstones? What are the elements to look for and how to recognize what you are looking for? Even if your Hebrew is limited, you can still learn how to find the important elements. In this presentation, Ms. Isenberg will help you understand what is generally to be found, depending on whether the family’s tradition was Ashkenazi or Sephardi. She will show you how to recognize if a set of letters is a name, a word, or an acronym (“Rashe Tevot”). She’ll review how dates can be calculated and how you might recognize given names as well as family names, if they are present. She will show you some examples of tombstone imagery often found and explain what to expect if the inscriptions cannot be read clearly. If time permits, she’ll look at photos or digital images of tombstones that you may bring to the presentation (on a flash drive/memory stick, please).



Madeleine Isenberg is a retired software engineer/technical writer and 24-year member of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Los Angeles (JGSLA). She has researched her families in Slovakia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Poland, Belarus and the United Kingdom. As a self-styled “stelaeglyphologist,” she has deciphered thousands of tombstones from more than 25 cemeteries, and she is always on the alert for interesting variations in tombstones from around the world. She co-authored the book, Jews in the Spis Region, Vol. I, Kezmarok and Its Surroundings. Her volunteer efforts for JewishGen include creating KehilaLinks websites, translating Yizkor Book sections from the Hebrew, and contributing burial info for JOWBR. She enjoys writing about genealogy research (see, and has conducted presentations on tombstone research around the world and beginning genealogy in locales closer to home.

For more information, please e-mail

Download handouts from past meetings.

November 6 (Sunday): Essential Jewish Genealogy, presented by Nancy Adelson: Two sessions: 10 AM to noon at Temple B'Nai Torah, and 2 to 4 PM at Mercer Island Public Library
December 12: TBD

See the Events page.