Monday, December 24, 2007

Who is the Sephardi and who is the Ashkenazi?

Inspired by the very enthusiastic response to this post, I decided to try this again.
This is not just a simple trivia question but rather an interesting story (I should say two very interesting stories) lies therein.

I originally thought that Rabbi Kaplan- scion of an old Sephardic family (see excerpt later) completely assmilated into the Ashkenazic (chiefly Lithuanian Yeshiva) mileu in which he was raised most of his life. Rabbi Yaakov Shaul Elyashar -on the other hand (bottom photo) was of Ashkenazic parentage; his mother remarried a Sephardic Rabbi -after his father died- who had a major influence on the young Yaakov Shaul (then all of 7). He was raised among the Sephardim eventually being appointed Chief Rabbi of the Sephardic community (Rishon Leziyyon). However, it appears that the Elyashars are of Sephardic ancestry, the only apparent Ashkenazic connection is the latter's grandmother (father's mother) who was the daughter of Rabbi Vilna (see more on this in the comments section of this post). So in conclusion, both Rabbis Elyashar and Kaplan are of mixed Sephardi-Ashkenazi parentage (Ashkefardi?).

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan mentions his Sephardic ancestry in the introduction to his Passover Haggadah:

He writes:

A number of people have inquired about the parenthesized "Carmona" after my name. This was the original family name of my paternal grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Kaplan (Carmona). The name denotes the place from which out family originated, a city in southern Spain, not far from Seville. Upon arriving in the United States around the turn of the century my grandfather changed his name to the more Ashkenazic sounding Kaplan for business reasons. (Incidentally, "kaplan" means tiger in Turkish.) Although I was educated in Ashkenazic yeshivoth such as Torah Vodaath and Mir, I have maintained a strong link with my Sephardic background. The MaAm Lo'ez project merely brings it full cycle.

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At Tuesday, December 25, 2007 8:24:00 PM, Anonymous Am HaAretz said...

Top looks like maybe a Syrian Jew who adopted Litvish costume due to where he attended Yeshiva.

Bottom looks like a possible contemporary of a well known Frenchman known as RaShI.

At Tuesday, December 25, 2007 8:36:00 PM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

"Top looks like maybe a Syrian Jew who adopted Litvish costume due to where he attended Yeshiva."

you are close, real close but no cigar.

As for the second,your'e way off.

Thanks for playing, try again.

BTW, both are famous (at least one of them very famous) Rabbis.

At Wednesday, December 26, 2007 5:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first one is of course R' Aryeh Kaplan who was part sephardi. I have no idea who the second one is.

At Thursday, December 27, 2007 2:40:00 AM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

Anon is correct. Rabbi Kaplan was indeed of Sephardic descent stemming from a Salonican Sephardic family.

At Wednesday, January 02, 2008 8:03:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found a great genealogical website which is baout to connect the whole Jewish world by encouraging them to build their family tree!
I have just build my tree!
Check it out >
Lets get all connected!

At Wednesday, January 02, 2008 8:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, it s!!!!!!!!

At Saturday, January 05, 2008 10:36:00 AM, Anonymous said...

Hi, My name is Kajetan Herdynski, I live in the city of Zamość in Poland. I'm writing an article for a local cultural magazine about Icchok Lejb Perec, naturally i'm especially interested in the period in which he lived here. Unfortunatelly there's not too much about him in our city archive, we even have problems with finding his addresses (we know that he changed them few times). I tried to find something in the internet and that is how I found you. I also know that Perec's autobiography (memories) have been published in new york (still I can't reach them) in english, they are still unavailable in polish. So I was wondering if you can help me in perhaps finding them or maybe in any other way. Please let me know. Thanks

At Monday, January 07, 2008 1:26:00 PM, Anonymous Yosef Chaim said...

Let me guess: Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld?

At Wednesday, January 09, 2008 7:37:00 AM, Anonymous Yosef Chaim said...

I take that back: its not RYC Sonnenfeld

At Wednesday, January 16, 2008 6:55:00 PM, Anonymous Joe said...

Is the bottom one the Shagas Aryeh by any chance?

If you tell me the country and century (and if he's reasonably famous) I might be able to crack it.

At Friday, January 18, 2008 6:42:00 AM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

Eretz Israel,19th and 20th centuries.

Not the Shaagat Aryeh

At Sunday, January 27, 2008 1:42:00 PM, Anonymous Joe said...

The Sdei Chemed? Rav Shmuel Salant?

At Monday, January 28, 2008 12:13:00 PM, Blogger Ha-historion said...


hint: the the first word of the name of his magnum opus is also the acronym of his name.

At Monday, January 28, 2008 4:41:00 PM, Anonymous Ezriel said...

Rav Avraham Chaim Naeh? Rav Yechiel Tukatinsky? Rav Diskin? Rav Bengis? the Ridvaz?

Was he ashkenazi and what area of Torah was his magnum opus in eg. shas/halacha/kaballa etc

At Friday, February 01, 2008 1:15:00 AM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

never mind what i said about his magnum opus. most of his seforim are on drush though.

he was born ashkenazic and adopted by a prominent sephardic rabbi. he subsequently rose through the ranks of the sephardic rabbinate , achieving the highest position in eretz yisrael of that time.

At Sunday, February 10, 2008 12:16:00 AM, Anonymous Yosef Chaim K. said...

That Rav Yaakov Shaul Elyashar (1817-1906) the former Rishon L'Tzion. Whats my prize?

At Sunday, February 10, 2008 2:36:00 AM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

Your prize is the satisfaction of having found the right answer.

But I may have been wrong-- however on the Ashkenziness of Rabbi Elyashar. I have found conflicting information on the person. One search turned up this:

רבי יעקב שאול ב"ר אליעזר ירוחם
אלישר. נקרא בפי כל 'יש"א ברכה' (ר"ת משמו). כיהן כרב ראשי וכראשל"צ בירושלם משנת תרנ"ג עד שנתבש"ם בתרס"ו. נכד המקובל ר' ירוחם מווילנא ונין לר' יעקב אשכנזי מווילנא. נולד בצפת ביום כ"ג סיון תקע"ז.
בהיותו בן שבע נתיתם מאביו ואח"ז אמו נישאה לרבי מרדכי נבון (בעל "נחפה בכסף") ויהי לו לאב ולרב. ומאז נתגדל בין חכמי הספרדים ויהי כאחד מבני עדתם, עד כי נמנה לרבם הראשי.

Short synopsis:

Rabbi Yaakov Elyashar - who was later to become the Rishon Leziyyon was descended of Rabbi Yerucham of Vilna , who in turn was descended of R' Yaakov Ashkenazi of Vilna. He (Yisa Bracha) was orphaned at the age of Seven when his father died. His mother then remarried to the Chacham Mordechai Navon who became his stepfather and mentor. From that point on he was raised among the sephardim and 'he became like one of them' untill he was appointed their Chief Rabbi (Rishon Leziyyon).

In the Wikipedia entry for the Elyashar family- however:

ר' חיים יוסף אליישר - נשא לאשה את ביתו של ר' יעקב וילנא. ייתכן ומכאן הטעות בקשר למוצא המשפחה

Translation: Reb Chaim Yosef Elyashar (the paternal Grandfather of the Yisa Bracha) married the daughter of Rav Yaakov Vilna. It is possible that from this originates the erroneous belief as the (Ashkenazic) origin of this family

So in summation, it appears that the Yisa Bracha was indeed descended from Rav Yaakov Vilna but only through the maternal line and the origins of the Elyashar (or Elisar) family lie in Sepharad.


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