First Conclusions

This is not been an attempt at a complete or even a proper Family History. It is only a first shot at something in that general direction, - a quick survey of the Family as is and was. It is also rather hesitant at times and definitely not definitive. Anyhow, the author is no historian and speaks without academic authority.

Indeed, the intention and the hope is that family members will themselves check things out and in particular contribute what is known to them so that ultimately it does become a broad, coordinated family effort.

I must confess however, that after a few years, [it is now 2020], the number of family members who have contributed in this way can be counted on the fingers of only two hands, - but it is a start and one remains optimistic. This is after all a generational operation - all that is written here is for our grandchildren not for ourselves, for those who may one day look at the material free from all the weird family quirks with which our own parents and we ourselves have been blessed.

Happily, we are now receiving enquiries, information and even published Articles concerning the Benardouts from completely outside sources and perhaps this will persuade more of us that the Family Story is worth writing, worth reading about, worth contributing time and effort towards it.

And from time to time there is a true awakening, - a connection is made which might have prompted a new chapter, as happened a couple of years ago after which I unsuccessfully researched, quite extensively, a possible one-time presence on the island of Zakynthos/Zante and relationship to the Venardos Family, itself still there but also scattered throught the New World. After a very great deal of reading I have not come across evidence to support such a family connection so have in the meantime moved on, but this kind of challenge is always there for those who may have the logistic capabilities for research in situ. What one cannot ignore is that they felt a pull towards us. The Pomar or Fumar Family connection still cries out for attention......

A line currently occupying me is the connection the Family definitely had with that of Don Joseph Nasie, the Duke of Naxos, (Cyprus etc.), in the 16th century. You can find the direct connection in the "Tiberias " chapter below, but my research is in order to find if it was broader, - and earlier, than that. This has taken me to the Venitian Empire, Cyprus, the Aegean, possibly to Portugal at the time of the Expulsion from there and to the always mysterious Dalmation coast, pirates et alia. There are plenty of strong hints, - such as to Don Joseph Nasie's "Agents ", secret and otherwise, - amongst whom Joseph HaCohen Benardout of Tiberias fame can definitely be counted.

Here I must say that the concept of Family as people usually apply it is actually a bit of a non-sense when you come to think of it. The Family is not in fact a neat, compact, tightly controlled genealogical entity because with each generation its distinctive or distinguishing genes vary as those of other families join in to the mish-mash which makes up our being. As a result, over time, families spread out and tend to become amorphous.

But human nature is irresistible and obeys the call to trace the Family back along one single and usually very narrow route, - the paternal one. To me that is definitely a non-sense too since we consequently tend to ignore the maternal route.......Why ? What wrong have the Mothers ever done beyond bringing us into this World of Tears ?

I left that question open when starting this website, but over the years have come across so many examples of "lost " relatives, that now feel duty-bound to expand where possible based upon the maternal line. I've started that little project with Israel itself where recently, - having originally believed that it housed only half-a-dozen Benardouts from two families, - have calculated that there are at least 150 of us, from all generations.

This survey was prompted as a knee-jerk reaction to comments made on the Benardout Appreciation Society Facebook page. Other families are perhaps ahead of us with a family history proper, - such as the Modiano family, - and the Castro family is now reorganising its Spanish roots quite thoroughly. All that one can do is to try and learn something from them, - not everything, just some things.

For example, the author cannot bring himself to recommend that we adopt the presentation of the Saloniki Sephardi community as made up of the "gente alta - gente bacha - gente buena - los culiberos - [do they mean us ?] ", - but prefers to stick to his own style for the time being.

We are just Benardouts and however arrogant that may also seem, we surely do not understand that kind of divisiveness. At least, one hopes not. It surely has no place in this, nearly the 60th century of our People.

And there's another point: this is the product of one man's selection and style of presentation. Any third cousin would offer a somewhat different picture even though based upon exactly the same available information. From that premise and relying upon our soundly anticipated family obstinacy, it is fervently hoped that relatives around the world will react most unfavourably.

The best possible reaction would be to scream: "That's not right, my mother always told me that ..... " - and every now and then this does happen.

Much hesitancy comes again from the fact that it is all based upon the not very scientific method of deciding who you are by relying on your father's surname alone. This is an even more than usually chauvinistic approach, (though not for Benardouts perhaps), since if you are a Hebrew your belonging or not belonging to the Tribe is traced only through the maternal line.

But not all of us are Hebrews and indeed, as the years pass I discover that less and less of us actually practice or even still belong to any Jewish community at all. For this reason too there is room here for a much broader family approach. As already hinted, one of the biggest problems, as yet unsolved, concerns the fate of the family decended from married daughters, because suddenly they disappear from our radar......their new family names unknown or untraceable with any certainty at all. Where there is certainty I state it, but this is not at all easy.

But if you are related, that is the fact, - that and no other. Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Atheist or Moslem, - (to name but a few), - it is given no importance here. Is it of interest ? - Most certainly. But of importance ? - No. Children born to a Jewish father but a non-Jewish mother, or to a mother converted in a way not acknowledged by the Rabbinical authorities are still Family - full-stop. And so be it. DNA tests could bring them back into range, but no-one has yet offered to do DNA research for us !!

In the Salonika chapter below I bring the authenticated and well documented case of Benardouts arriving in the Ottoman Empire as established Catholics who's "Jewishness " was challenged when later returning to the Fold and especially their position in the Community as Cohenim. The Rabbinical answer then given was clear, - as far as the Community is concerned, a Jew remains a Jew whatever he does, whatever sin he may commit.

You will find throughout these pages several minor actors in our history who were known under two, three or more "official " names, - in one case 6, since in the Middle Ages this interchange was not uncommon. Most of us have two today, - the one your parents gave you and the other - your given Hebrew name. Your collator uses both of his and so what ? But the point is that in researching one must be aware of such possibilities and prepared to follow them all up with care and a sense of responsibility.

A real History also needs professionally adequate academic facilities alongside abilities but neither are available to the undersigned. Only a first generation PC operated by a primitive and Web-Sites without end in English, Hebrew, Spanish, Greek, French - but unfortunately, not all of them in a language understood. For that reason, a quantity of material in Spanish is simply included by way of attachment although other members of the Family will certainly be able to glean much from it.

English-English is used throughout, - with respect to its vast regional differences. Contact has been made with several Family members in order to assist with Continental European aspects although with only a minor reaction in the main, - disappointingly.

A personal trip to Spain and several to Salonica have been usefully carried out and the chapter on Tarazona includes what I have managed to see for myself, to see up-close where the Family once most certainly did tread and perhaps even bled. Two cousins carried out a visit to Tudela in 2016 but alas I have heard no more from them.

The Association in Israel of Concentration Camp Survivors of Greek Origin has been visited here in Tel-Aviv, since many of the members there are Survivors but this has not become a source of information and detail, not on the Holocaust nor on the standing of the Family in Salonica at that time mainly, I think, because 40 years before the Tragedy the bulk of our Family had already left that unfortunate City for the U.K. There is at least one family in Athens today however who are the sons of Survivors.

All the authorities and references relied upon have not been brought, despite my 50 years in legal practice, - 10 of them sitting in Court writing Judgments. This is in order to allow for the reader to concentrate on the broader picture. These authorities will wait for us and can be blended in as necessary, - after all, this is not an academic exercise, but only the beginnings of a human one.

The chapters dealing by country of dispersal, - (so to speak), - are in some places rather thin on the ground and one says again that only Family members themselves can pad them out with fact. The same goes for the "Now Let us Praise Famous Men " chapter of course. This latter one should really include everybody's profession, hobbies and personal detail. Why most of my relatives do not cheerfully give those details on Facebook is not understood, - surely that is the whole point of Facebook ? That one's friends should be able to learn about you ? Or is this just the generation-gap speaking ?

Some aspects have been deliberately kept down, restricted in scope, and where that has been done the reason has been clearly explained. Obviously, other views are just as valid as my own but it is up to you to express them so that they can be recorded too.

A couple of facets of our History have, on the other hand, been looked at more closely, the first being that of the conversos, - those who in the 14th and 15th centuries were forced to adopt Catholicism and maintained it until they could return to Judaism in Salonica or elsewhere. The subject has been brought openly here and shown as it was through a couple of particular cases, one of which runs like a thread throughout the Family Tale of the late Middle Ages.

The other is that of the Benardout Dynasty of Doctors in Middle-Ages Navarre and Spain, some 10 pages of detail which have now been cobbled together into a separate chapter together with sources for those interested to look further into it.

Although I thought I had firm leads into the Pomar Family, thanks also to Marlene Shternbach's research efforts, these have not yet produced any central idea which could form the basis for a chapter on that connection and much more has to be done, - whether in Majorca (most likely), Spanish-Empire Mexico or Middle-Ages England, - where we have (believe it or not) the hint of a connection to families bearing that name.

I regret that I am unable to bring any Family Tree, but room has been left for one as also for a chapter which offers a new approach, - a broader, more detailed Tree, even an historical one from the 12th century..... But this is an enormous undertaking and well beyond me today. Anyone out there able to asist - please do so.

But updating the existing Tree, (not under my control at all), is of course critical and it is essential that this be done in real time before we start losing trace of the youngest generation, the most important generation of all, - our total future, - the sum of all our Centuries.

Aharon Ben Yossef,
Beer Sheva, - April, 2012
(Last updated - September, 2022).
Feel free - I will always relate to what you say