Sephardic genealogical research begins with the search for your ancestor's
country of origin. It could be almost any country where Sephardim lived
- Bulgaria, Curacao, Gibraltar,
Morocco, Greece, Romania, Tunisia, Turkey, Yugoslavia, any Middle Eastern country, even Germany, Holland, Italy or Malta. Small numbers of Sephardim even lived in Poland and Russia and had names like Levine, Rangel and Calahora. During the 19th century, Sephardim and Ashkenazim in the Ottoman Empire intermarried, especially in the large cities in Turkey and Romania.
Mizrahi is a common Sephardic name found from Morocco to Greece, to Turkey, to Syria, Iran and every place on the road to and from the old Silk Caravan Route. The same is true of old Judeo-Arabic names like Douek, Tawil, Gindi, Gemal, Mansour and Blanco. Many Sephardic Jews changed their 15th-century Spanish names to their equivalent in Judeo-Arabic, Italian, even Maltese; others kept the Spanish version.
The problem with finding the origins of Sephardic names is that many Sephardim took their names from varying sources at different times. For some, a name was shortened. Some Spanish crypto-Jews took common Spanish and Portuguese Christian names from gravestones.
Those with the famous Sephardic name Abravanel (or its many variants,
such as Barbanel, Abrabanel, Abarbanel, etc.) can join genealogy societies
organized specifically for them and their relatives. Allen Abravanel writes
a quarterly newsletter for descendants of Don Isaac Abravanel, leader of
the Spanish-Jewish community in 1492. Relatives throughout the world are
newsletter; 500 were mailed in 1991. The genealogy on the name is so historic that there is a Ladino saying, "It's enough that my name is Abravanel". Even after the ravages of World War II, it is estimated that there may be at least 3,000 living descendants of Don Isaac located all over the world. For further information, write to Allen Abravanel, an attorney with Perkins-Cole, 111 SW 5th Street, Portland, Oregon.
Following are some addresses valuable for Sephardic genealogical research, as well as for information on Sephardic history, culture and anthropology. To locate European Sephardic genealogists, write to 'Los Muestros'.
The American Sephardi Federation (ASF), 133 East 58th Street, New York,
NY, is an excellent source for finding Sephardic associations organized
by nationality such as the Turkish-Jewish
Society, the Bulgarian-Jewish Association, the Syrian-Jewish Association, or any other oriental or Sephardic Jewish group. The ASF has lists of organizations both in the United States and abroad. The Bulgarian-Jewish Association publishes an annual book on Sephardic Jews in Bulgaria. There are several organizations for Turkish Jews in the United States (one is acalled Friends of Turkish Jewry) and abroad. ASF may be reached for addresses and contacts; a donation would be appropriate.
For videos, music tapes, books and Sephardic magazines published in Spain, write : Sres. Sefarad Editores, Apartado 16110, 28080 Madrid, Spain. Order 'La Biblioteca de Sefarad '92'.
Another excellent source is the ?Hispanic Research Class that meets in the Pioneer Room, 253 South Escondido Blvd., Escondido, CA?. The Pioneer Room, established as a depository for books and documents related to Hispanic California history and genealogy, is becoming a major center for research into the Hispanic crypto-Jewish and Jewish experience. Contact also The Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research, Orange County, CA, headed by Carlos Yturralde.
One of the foremost American experts on Ottoman and Turkish Jews in the United States is Aron Rodrigue, a professor of Turkish-Jewish ancestry currently teaching at StanfordUniversity. His book, 'Ottoman and Turkish Jewry', published in1992 by ?Indiana University Turkish Studies Series (143 GoodbodyHall, Indiana University, Bloogminton, IN 47405),? is outstandingin scholarship.
Further information on Syrian Jews may be obtained from the?Syrian synagogue,
Shaare Zion, 2030 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY?. Contact the Sephardic
Studies Institute at Yeshiva University in
the Bronx, New York, for more references. Write to David F. Altabe, President, The? American Society of Sephardic Studies, 2815 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11235?. Ocean Parkway and its
environs between Avenues S and T is the center of Sephardic Jewry, especially Syrian, with its several Syrian synagogues, yeshiva high schools and social centers. Syrian-Jewish institutions can be found in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, as well. See the book, Aleppo in Flatbush, by Syrian-Jewish author, Joseph Sutton, and other books on Syrian Jewry for a picture of this neighborhood of Jews, primarily from Aleppo and Damascus. Deal, New Jersey, is another community with a large Syrian-Jewish population of several generations.
Los Angeles has more Sephardic synagogues per square mile, especially in Hollywood, than almost any other city, except perhaps New York. The book, "Jewish Los Angeles", published by the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048, lists Sephardic synagogues by nationality. Write to the synagogue of interest for names of genealogists or contacts from that ethnic group.
Sephardic congregations in Los Angeles include Moroccan, Syrian, Yemenite and colonial Spanish-descent members. One is Adat Yeshuraun Valley Sephardic Congregation, 6348 Whitsett Avenue, North Hollywood, CA 91606. Congregation Em Habanim, 12052 Califa Street, North Hollywood, CA 91607, is mainly Moroccan. Kahal Joseph Congregation, 10505 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025, has as members Jews from the Far East - Burma, India, China, Indonesia - and the Middle East, Iraq and Syria, following the Baghdadi tradition. The latter is a good source for the colorful history of Baghdadi Jewry which spreads from the Middle East to India, and to the Far East, including Indonesia. Another Baghdadi rite synagogue of Iraqi Jews is the Midrash Od Yosel Hai Synagogue at 420 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036. The mailing address is 427 North Stanley Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
The oldest? Spanish Sephardic synagogue in Los Angeles? is the ?Sephardic Hebrew Center, 4911 West 59th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90034.? It was founded in 1917 by Jews from the island of Rhodes.
Syrian Jews in Los Angeles congregate at ?Sephardic Magen David Congregation, 7454 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. ? Most of their members moved from New York's Jewish-Syrian community (including Ocean Parkway, Bensonhurst and Deal, New Jersey). The synagogue retains the Arabic language and colorful traditions that makes Syrian Jewry unique.
?Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel is located at 10500 Wilshire Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90024?. Its members are primarily from Turkey and Greece.
Ladino as well as Hebrew and English are used
here. Other members are from the Balkans, Cuba and North Africa. The Yemenite congregation in Los Angeles is Tifaret Teiman Congregation of Yemenite Jews, 1940 Linda Flora Drive, Los,Angeles, CA 90024.
The ?Sephardic Educational Center of Los Angeles, located at 6505 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 403, Los Angeles, CA 90048,? has contacts with Sephardic synagogues around the world, with institutes in Israel and research centers worldwide that specialize in particular Sephardic-Jewish and Oriental-Jewish ethnic groups from Spanish to Judeo-Arabic to Central Asian and more.
One may also inquire of Professor Emeritus Haim Zafrani, of the University of Paris, Department of Hebrew, Paris, France. Or write to Librairie Masonneujve et Larose, 15, rue Victor-Cousin, 75005 Paris, France. The specialty here is Jews under Islamic rule.
These records have been computerized to make them more easily available to researchers, including genealogists. The records were enhanced in the process of being digitalized; the computer eliminated water stains and deterioration. This removed the problem of ink bleeding from one side of a page to the back of the page. Now one can see one page at a time, as clearly as a computer copy.
In the U.S., these records can be obtained through the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. Via satellite, the library's computer terminal links with Seville's main database. One can, for example, simply go to the Huntington Library, type in the name of an ancestor and ask the computer to search for records available. If the name is there, the computer will list all records (and dates) in which it appears. For example : Sebastian Cardoso, Mexico City, 1596-1649.
After that, the computer will search the years indicated and come up
with the secret Jew named Sebastian Cardoso who was named in the Mexican
Inquisition archives of the 17th century and who
eventually fled to Salonika or Venice to join other Jewish relatives. Then you could search Greek records to determine which of his brothers became a rabbi in Greece or Italy and who from his family remained in Mexico, loyal to Spain and pretended to practice Christianity. The printer can also print out a copy of the original documents.
Anne deSola Cardoza, a descendant of marranos,rejoined an Orthodox Sephardic congregation after documenting 500 years of her family history. She is a writer who lives in San Diego, CA.
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