Tuesday, March 20, 2007

SERIES Sephard in Ashkenaz and Ashkenaz in Sephard. Sephardic Jews of Ashkenazic descent Part 1

אילן יוחסין משפחת הצרפתי-צרפתי

In a variation of the theme you are all familiar with by now, namely that of Ashkenazic Jews (Particularly in Eastern Europe) of Sephardic descent, I now want to take a moment and discuss an opposite phenomenon. I briefly mentioned in a previous post the sage Rabbenu Asher (known as the Rosh) who was born in Western Germany and moved to Toledo, Spain where he died in 1328. His two sons were known scholars in their own right but little is known about their descendants after that.

More than two centuries before the Rosh, one of the most famous Ashkenazic sages Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (known as Rashi) established his Talmudic academy at Troyes, Champagne in northern France. One of Rashi's daughters Yocheved married the Tosafist sage Meir ben Shmuel, their children were Shmuel (the Rashbam) (1085-1174), Yaakov (Rabbeinu Tam) (c. 1100- c. 1171), and Yitzchak (the Rivam).

In 1306 the French King Phillip the Fair signed an edict of expulsion against all the Jews living in France. We subsequently find the desecendants of the aforementioned Rabbi Yaakov a.k.a. Rabeinu Tam in the Castille region of Spain where they took on the surname Ha-Sarfaty (Hebrew for "the French one"). After the expulsion from Spain in 1492 we come across the figure of Rabbi Vidal Ha-sarfaty I who ministered to the expelled Jews and served as the Rabbi of Fez, Morrocco, a haven for many of the expellees.

There were several subsequent generations of Rabbis of the Sarfaty family (the prefix 'ha' was dropped during the French occupation) with the first name 'Vidal'.

The last of this Rabbinic line was Rabbi Vidal Sarfaty V (1862-1921) {pictured} who was the first to be called with the title "Chief rabbi of Fez". As Rabbi and Jewish communal leader, he used his influence to ease the conditions of Morrocan Jewry who were subjected to unfair treatment by the authorities.

From a letter dated January 30, 1911 by Avram Elmaleh, Head of the Fez boys' school, to the President of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, Paris, we learn of the degrading conditions imposed upon the rabbinical leaders of the Moroccan Jewish community, in connection with “community business” (i.e., such as payment of the jizya), even into the second decade of the 20th century:

I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter No. 1283 of 30 January, enclosing a letter from Rabbi Vidal Sarfaty. The rabbi asks you to intervene with Si Mohamed el Mokri, the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, at present in Paris, for the abolition of the degrading custom imposed on Jews, not to enter Dar el Maghzen (the royal palace in Fez) except barefoot. Unfortunately, the facts given in Rabbi Vidal's letter are correct. Jews must take off their shoes at the gate of Dar-Maghzen. Quite apart from the humiliation involved in this measure, it is an intolerable suffering for our co-religionists to be obliged to stand many hours barefoot on the earth of the Palace courtyard, which is either cold and damp or white-hot from the summer sun. Rabbi Vidal. a regular visitor to the Dar-Maghzen in connection with community business or on behalf of individuals, has often returned ill from a rather too long sojourn in front of the offices. It is my opinion that it would be impossible to obtain an order from the Sultan to allow Jews to enter the Palace with their shoes on. It is a concession which his pride would not permit, and one quite contrary to the Muslim conception of the relative positions of the Jews and themselves.

Rabbi Vidal is also remembered for his custom of riding a white horse into town every Friday afternoon to bid the townsmen shabbat shalom (apparently this custom was instituted only after the French occupation; during the Muslim period, Jews were forbidden to ride horses).

To see the entire genealogical chart of the Sarfaty family click on the photo top left. More information on the family can be found here

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At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 7:25:00 PM, Blogger David Guttmann said...

>Little is known about his descendants after that.

I am not sure what you mean by this. Was not R.Yakov ba'al Haturim his son, as was R.yehudah?

BTW Rosh died in the Black plague.

At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 7:56:00 PM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

Of course. What I meant is little is known about his descendants in Spain other than his 2 well-known sons.

At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 10:48:00 PM, Blogger David Guttmann said...

On a similar note but in the Ashkenazy direction, Sinai in its latest edition has an article by Alfasi, with Rashi's descendants genealogy. It seems that many ended in poland/Lithuania with Brisk being a central town.

At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 10:51:00 PM, Blogger David Guttmann said...

And BTW the basis for the genealogy is R. Shlomo Luria, maharshal. It is not a real supported genealogy but more based on mesora. Interesting anyway. it would be interseting to study such hagiography and the reasons / impetus for such. I suspect it has something to do with supporting against some kind of ychus problem along the way.

At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 12:45:00 AM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

1. It appears that many if not most Ashkenazic families (inluding mine) trace themselves back to Rashi in one form or another.

2. "I suspect it has something to do with supporting against some kind of ychus problem along the way"

Why do you think that?

At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 5:33:00 AM, Blogger David Guttmann said...

>Why do you think that?

I don't have any proof just a conjecture. When there is a need to reitersate Ychus without a real bais it would seem an outside impetus is behind it. Alfasi when he copies the genealogy pre maharshal says that he has no basis other rthan maharshal's own listing. He does not support it with any proof.

At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 11:56:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"their four sons were Shmuel (the Rashbam) (1085-1174), Yaakov (Rabbeinu Tam) (c. 1100- c. 1171), and Yitzchak (the Rivam)"

u'bepratan ee ata motzeh elah shalosh?

At Wednesday, March 21, 2007 3:48:00 PM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

I have since corrected that.

shgiyot mi yavin..

At Thursday, March 22, 2007 11:32:00 AM, Blogger Menachem Butler said...

Sources for most of these discussions can be found in the archive for JewishGen.org

At Thursday, March 22, 2007 3:30:00 PM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

Thanks Menachem,

I don't find that particular website easily navigable and user friendly.

At Monday, April 02, 2007 2:50:00 AM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

I've looked at Jewishgen and found some interesting resources but litte actual material on the family in question.

I did find something at the Jewish Encyclopedia site.


At Thursday, May 03, 2007 8:23:00 PM, Blogger stavvmc said...

I believe that Vidal is Catalan name, so it's possible that the family wound its way through that region too. The family name Tedeschi while not quite as illustrious as the Sarfatis has a similar story. The name was given to German Jews arriving in northern Italy, including the Venice of Leone da Modena. I would recommend reading Riccardo Calimani's excellent book on the history of ghetto of Venice -- I would be doing the book a disservice with a my poor paraphrasing of how the different communities interacted.

At Tuesday, May 08, 2007 3:39:00 AM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

Thanks for the comment and the book recomendation Stavv.

Interesting info about Tedeschi. I once knew an Italian Roman-Catholic girl by that name. Is it stricly a Jewish name? (I always knew there was something Jewish about her :)

I know that 'Tedesco' was a derogatory term used by Sephardim for German Jews (and Ashkenazim in general).

At Monday, May 14, 2007 4:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my family name is Sarfaty, I am assuming after the expulsion from France we went to Spain then Portugal before going to Amsterdam where we can record our family tree from 1572 with Joshua Sarfaty aka Thomas Nunes a Portuguese alias
Any info much appreciated pdvdh@hotmail.co.uk

At Monday, June 02, 2008 4:38:00 AM, Blogger Yehudha said...

I know bene anusim from Spain with the surname Tur, I always thought they might be descendants of the ba'al hatturim.

At Thursday, June 12, 2008 12:52:00 AM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

hmmm.. that got me thinking, perhaps the surname Touro has something to do with it too.

At Sunday, September 30, 2012 7:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is seth.i am the missing link....
I am the grandson of elisabeth sarphatie...direct decendant.....to the whole of the decendency.including rashis father,thomas nunes pina,i am looking at the archives of my family tree at this very moment....


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