Spain before the Expulsions
Inevitably this is the longest chapter and the most romantic. Web-site references have been found containing our Family name from well before the water-shed of 1492, and many of these have been brought as is. Due to a shameful lack of understanding of the Spanish language and history, this section has for all that barely been started but in the separate Tarazona section you will find Spanish language web-site material hopefully of great interest.

Firstly, - as to the very difficult earlier "Troubles " of
1391, - more Jews were probably slaughtered than expelled on that occasion but as yet this period has not been looked at in depth for possible Family detail nor, indeed, have any direct Family references yet been come across in regard to that particular moment of hard times. However, I dare to surmise that the documents found at Tarazona were themselves prompted by those same "Troubles " - a point worthy of investigation in itself.

It would seem clear that the Kings of Aragon generally protected the Jews in their territory in those earlier days. Although in taught history the 1391 offensive has received very much less attention than the 1492 one, it may well be that the conversos aspect was conversely stronger on that earlier occasion. That is to say, not a few members of the Family may have "chosen Life " and adopted Catholicism around 1391 for the greater safety of all concerned whilst only a few did in 1492, the bulk reaching logical conclusions and thus preferring expulsion. We have a few specific examples from 1391 with one famously recorded account where a Benardout refused to take that route.

I suspect that the possibility of extensive conversions has always been mentally written-out of the Family history by those who watched over it, but one cannot continue pretending that it might never have happened, that a great part of our Family might have become Catholic. Our own Families, (parents born at the beginning of the 20th century), even hid the Holocaust from us and I suspect that
their parents never let them even think about the possibility of conversos ever having been in the Family.

Perish the Thought !!

When trying to go so far back in time, one must not forget the Jewish presence on the Islands of Minorca and Majorca either. Their presence there is an established fact from the 5th century, although fading away and not resurfacing and appearing again on the pages of history until the 13th, expanding most successfully after King Pedro's conquest of the Islands in 1343. His personal physician, Eliazer ibn Ardut from Huesca, was prominent amongst his entourage.

At the time of the 1492 Expulsion the family name had already taken a few differing forms. The basic one in Spain was in the Hebrew, transliterated to
Ben Ardut, whilst others preferred the more Spanish form of Avenardut. And then there were not a few who retained ibn Ardut in the Moorish-Arabic form.

HaCohen
was often used in addition, - presumably observing the strict rules allowing for the use of that name, - since according to the evidence, the Family is of the Priestly sect.

The appearance of an "ibn Adret " in Aragon as long ago as1302 (see below) does tingle the mind and prompts enquiry for the name appears very often thereafter, - sometimes referring to the same person who was using ibn Ardut too. So one should determine whether the Latin-script forms of Ardut and this other name Adret are in fact one and the same. This is quite well-based for in my opening Chapter I refer to this issue which has evidence and more than a certain logic behind it. And from what we have found, the answer seems to be - Yes, they certainly seem to be the same.

Playing Devil's advocate for a moment, - Adret is also a simple word in Spanish meaning "a south-facing slope ", a natural enough description for
anyone born in the long shadow of the Pyrenees, - i.e. in Aragon. For that reason it should not be automatically associated with the Romans, Jews in general nor with our Family in particular.

On the third hand, (you just can't keep a lawyer down !), it may be only a mistaken way of transliterating the Hebrew "Aderet ", a name also allotted to us in the history books, (See above - Chapter 3). Anyone knowing Hebrew well would not write it incorrectly in that way, but these names are not recorded
by Jews alone nor for Jews alone.


One series of sources raised refers to several holders of the surname Adret as having been
strong conversos, taking the Christian surnames of Lunez (de Luna ?? - Careful now !!), and Bertram, so that Adret might seem to have been a family entirely "different " from ours, - even if still Jewish, - because the only converso name I have ever managed to firmly associate with us is that of Pomar or Fumar. Or it means that we lost a good part of the Family to Christianity never to return. I found no references to research in that direction but a start on researching the point could be made from around the 1391 "Troubles ".


It's also worth considering here that the Family may have simply tried to hide-out under local cover by taking a simple Spanish word as their civilian Spanish name, but one which was very close to their own. This is not unusual even today, -
after all, even if I ask this again : How many Cohen's are there now called Cowan and Levi's now called Lewis ?


So we're still at it, back and forth, - forth and back, - reaching no final and unarguable conclusions
.


And so as to really confuse everybody, one must now refer again to the case of
Joseph Ben Ardut, the one who rebuilt Tiberias in the 1560's, - referred to by both ancient and modern historians and translators as Ardut and Adret as well as Aderet and by a couple more names as well, (see Tiberias chapter), and without any doubt all of them referring to the same man. And he was once a converso too. But why is all this so important ?

'T i s.


From Yitzhak Baer's mammoth "A History of the Jews in Christian Spain ", [Vol. II - Chapter 1: "Era of Decline in Aragon "], and from numerous other sites, - one can learn of Rabbi
Shlomo (Solomon) ibn Adret who was by all accounts one of the greatest minds of his day. If it means anything at all, it may be noted that Solomon is a regular given name in our Family. He was, if I read aright, from Huesca where the Family certainly did reside and produce other recorded personalities, - such as King Pedro's physician mentioned above.


Many publications confirm Rabbi Solomon ben Abraham Adret, (it's the same Shlomo), as being the Rashb "a, a leader of his People who adjudicated on very many serious disputes, one involving Yehuda Ha-Levi no less, but from a slightly earlier time in Toledo, 1280-1281. The Rashb "a died in 1310.

It is told of him that he was approached in 1302 to judge a dispute between two Jewish Communities, but would not take it upon himself to determine the case unless he first received a direct order from King James of Aragon to do so since he would become involved in a civil and not a religious matter. The royal order was never, apparently, received.


And then we find ourselves with a third reference, - from another source, - in writings concerning the "Rashb "a " - [Q A (Responsa) - Part 1] - dealing with the total ban he issued against learning philosophy before the age of 25.
By having his name included as a strongly committed supporter of that ban, one Rabbi Shmuel HaCohen Benardut, participated in the preparation of and expressed clear agreement with a second Ban as issued in 1305 at Barcelona, but the earlier Shlomo (Solomon) certainly wrote the original Ban if not the second one too. Of course, this does not prove a thing, - any Rabbi supporting the Ban would have been mentioned by History but was it perhaps the Rashba's son ? A brother ? Careful now.


Although most entries elsewhere on the Internet seem to use the name Adret and not Aderet nor Ardut for the Rashb "a, the question is legitimate as to whether they all indeed refer to a member of the Family.


Devil's advocate again
: For if indeed he was, - why did the Family keep the name Ben Ardut and not adopt and maintain the pure Hebrew Aderet or the by then famous and no less glorious form of Adret for the future, from then until the present day ? For it is not like us to miss out on such a splendid social opportunity.


Or is this again all simply a case of bad transliteration ? One needs to do the research in Hebrew in order to be sure, but that is not the mandate under which we are working here, (currently, - although your collator has allowed himself to become persuaded that bad transliteration may well be
at the root of all this).


These matters deserve very much more than my own lack of knowledge can offer for it is not easy for the layman to distinguish scholar from scholar, Rabbi from Rabbi, and published sources seem to glide over any apparent conflict. They rightly take it for granted that if you're reading about it - then you should be able to understand it.


Yet surely there is a correct, single answer out there as to who exactly
was the Rashb "a ? Whether he was of our Family ? Wow !! That would be something !!


And perhaps this is the moment when one should listen to one's own advice and take a breather, - reduce the excitement level, step back a pace etc. etc., for maybe we're just creating a scenario without adequate evidence. Care is still the order of the day !!


In 1306 the leader of Barcelona's Jewry, a Rabbi
ibn Adret, (by date, that might just have been the Rashb "a himself since he certainly had the political clout), applied to King James II for permission to take in 60 Jewish families fleeing from France, and this permission was granted. Whether Family or not, - Good Work !!


On to a more general aspect : Sometimes, when surfing the Web, one cannot escape the feeling that some up-to-date
non-Jewish web-sites tend to display a policy of mentioning Jewish history or interest straight away for ten lines or so, "because that is our New Spain ", but after that, - zilch. But the Provincial Authorities of Zaragoza take a much more positive view and the information they offer on their site is truly fascinating !


The following is a short selection of historical items taken from
Spanish sources which it is hoped will generate interest. Clearly there is much more available and this is just a taster, just for starters. So first of all - Towns with a Jewish Community :

No search has been made beyond Aragon, - Aragon itself would be a life-time's work, - nor has anything like the whole of Aragon itself even been looked at, which would also require an enormous amount. The then capital of Aragon, Huesca, has been mentioned here and there with the family presence firmly established even if not investigated in full. Indeed, it is our opinion, in view of the Medical dynasty which operated there, that it should be looked at more closely than other towns for detail.

As we have seen therefore, there is firm confirmation that the Family was indeed from Aragon, (to which could be added the incidental fact that it belonged to the Aragon Synagogue built during the earliest days of the Saloniki residency, in memory of the past).


Tarazona - Aragon
: I mention this Town first of all since the evidence from there would seem to be clear-cut and definitive. About 70 Hebrew documents were found some ten years ago lying unnoticed in the Town's Cathedral, - notarial documents, - presumably taken from the Community's own records. Some-one had bothered to use them in such a way as to accidentally hide them from immediate notice, - they were found inside or were used as bindings for Christian religious works.
See the first document brought with that chapter -
An Introduction - Tarazona - How the Story Began. and the complete additional chapter on Tarazona itself.

These notarial certificates may well have served as the basis for official tax records, simply used later as cheap book-binding material. It is a question as to whether they were deliberately hidden from the local authorities by very friendly clerics looking to protect threatened Jews and their property and in a place where the Tax-collectors would never dream of looking to find them ?


For detail found as concerns the Family, see under "Five Lists of Names from Tarazona " attached to that chapter. The documents, (shown in translation), are from the late 14th and early 15th centuries. The spelling is usually Benardut. One has the definite feeling that this is the best historical source yet come across and a separate chapter is therefore devoted to the town. One has to start the serious work somewhere.


Caspe - Southern Aragon
: There is reference in many web-sites, including an "Aragon Guide " Website to "The Jewish Route in Southern Aragon ", to the small town of Caspe in particular and to Don Josef Benardut as being "one of numerous Rabbis and Talmudists " who studied there or in the immediate neighbourhood. To be precise, he seems to have come from Alcaniz (or in the Hebrew: Alcavis, although that latter spelling needs verifying).

Calatayud -
Thanks to the constant up-dating we receive from our good friend Javier Bona in Tarazona, we now (July 2017) know of a converso from Calatayud, - definitely a city where Benardouts lived and flourished at one time. As a result I am opening research into our presence in that City and if justified will open a separate chapter for them.


Hijar (and/or Ejea ? or both ?) - Southern Aragon : This small Town is nearby "with its Jewish Quarter " which quite cries out to be looked into. It is now a protected site with a Synagogue from 1410.


Zaragossa was quite definitely host to the family - see David Rau in the pages of Spanish history and don Juda Abenardut, a physician who died there in 1471. There are also references in the literature to a family of Benardouts trading in cloth from Zaragossa, - Alazar son of Muca and brother to Jacob, (between 1389 and 1406) who created something of a scandal due to faulty goods having been received from Bristol........


Other towns and villages in Aragon where a Family presence may well be discoverable are
: Uncastillo, Borja, Daroca, and in the Cinco Villas the Jewish quarters at Biel, El Frago, Sos del Rey Catolico and Luna (or Luesa). This detail has been taken from a Provincial authority web-site so can, I think, be relied upon in so far as it goes. A settlement called La Almuniade Dona Godina hosted Benardouts as citizen-residents.

It is well worth noting that Donna Grazia herself adopted the converso name of
de Luna although in itself that's a pretty ordinary word and I think she is generally described as having been Portuguese anyway. Her family may have been originally Spanish. Being a converso, she left the Iberian Peninsular some time after the Expulsion of 1492.

However, from one web-site brought here which gives lists of Family names from those Towns it would seem that Benardout is
not amongst them although similar names are - such as Aben-daut and Aben-dagut can be found. These families have yet to be looked into for any such connection since some sources do equate with them with our Family name.

Turuel was "blessed " at one stage with a Mayor with the name of Benardout........


Villalon - (Castille ?)
: Placing this Town has been a little difficult - simply because of one's lack of knowledge of Spain, although it may be in the neighbouring province of Valladolid, Castille. But this is not clear at all, as the name is not altogether uncommon.

But the reference to it is from a Hebrew document first published 1476 and now held by the Vatican Library. By the way, that doesn't mean that there are no other Latin documents in that Library which might cast light, - after all, confrontations with the Pope for example, were surely recorded in Latin too. Another mammoth task.

This particular Hebrew edition, (dated 1484 from Villalon), is written in "Sephardic semi-cursive script ". Since the English version was prepared and is maintained by the Staff of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts at the Jewish and National and University Library, Jerusalem, I suggest that one can rely upon the transliteration and translation.


The family reference is very sparse and relates to a Commentary on the Pentateuch by Levi Ben Gershom, first edition. The Family contribution is in this sentence :
"At the beginning of Leviticus verses in honour of the Author by Solomon ibn Ardut. ". If this Gershom is the famous one from Southern France, scientist and philosopher as well being learned in the Torah, - (1288-1344), - then it is indeed a powerful indication of the Family standing in those days. Please note that the name given in Hebrew is in the Moorish form of ibn Ardut.


It is another query altogether as to whether this is a reference to the Rashb "a under his original name. Alas, I fear not, since in Hebrew this name is written : Shlomo "the Small " Ben Ardut or perhaps better translated : Ben Ardut Minor or Ben Ardut the Lesser Known. But who was he then that he should have found a place in Jewish lore and history ? And who was the more famous Ben Ardut "the Great " ?


We have already seen a Shmuel (Samuel) HaCohen Benardut chip in with his 1305 support for the Rashb "a's Ban on youngsters studying philosophy as entrenched by him some years earlier, so maybe the Family had disputants in every camp.


Going back a little, - the Don Josef Benardut referred to as coming from Caspe seems to appear in other places as an acknowledged student of the Zohar, and per an account from 1413-1414 he accompanied 15 fellow-thinkers to do battle with Yehoshua HaLurqi, (a convert who had renamed himself Jeronimo de Santa Fe), in their well documented theological confrontation before the Antipope Benedict XIII as to whether, - with proof taken from the Talmud itself, - the Messiah had not already appeared, thus making Judaism irrelevant. This confrontation was an event of enormous historical repercussions.


On their side, one might reasonably suspect that the Rabbis were keen no less to show what loyal citizens they were.and thus to save the Community from unwarranted impositions. Anyhow, the Jews lost the argument and were ordered to convert to Christianity and the practice of Judaism was virtually prohibited. It was all a continuation from the 1391 Troubles.


This particular document seems to have been a report "to the People back home " consequent upon that confrontation and it is clearly stated there :
"and you should truly know that we have crossed over from danger, a matter of immeasurable moment, for we have been before many Cardinals and Ministers, and many would seek to impose upon us ". [my translation].


The point here is that Don Josef Benardut
was there, - and is well placed in the list of participants. The Tortosa Disputation as it is known, was quite disastrous to the whole of the Jewish Community and the question must consequently be asked yet again : How many of the Family themselves may have become conversos in those difficult days even if they found their way out of Spain generations later and returned cheerfully to the Faith ?


On this same question we do have the case of Joseph Ben Ardut the Tiberian, since both he and his Master, Don Joseph Nasi, were definitely conversos who returned to Judaism only when they had reached Constantinople and the protection of the Sultan and after a very long journey from the Iberian peninsular and through Southern Europe.


Ben Ardut himself is most likely to have been originally from Spain and for so long as he was a Christian our ancestor went under the surname of
Pomar (also written Fumar). It is not known whether he was first generation converso or whether his parents had been. The dates would indicate the latter.


Much has been written about the standing and honour of the conversos, and here your collator has succumbed, - just this once, - to an act of personal choice by bringing the following two points actually raised in their favour in those very troubled days :

Leviticus 26 v.44 : "
Yet even then, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject nor spurn them so as to destroy them, annulling my Covenant with them : for I the Lord am their God. "

Sanhedrin 44 a : "
An Israelite although he has sinned, is still an Israelite ".


I have found on the Zaragoza Provincial Authority's web-site a list of famous local conversos and Lo and Behold !! Three "
Pomar's " : Anton who lived in Zaragoza itself and who, from other documentation brought here was indeed a Notary in the area in 1491; Pedro P who in 1484 seems to have been Mayor of Teruel no less and Juan [Joseph ?] de Pomar from Tarazona, - a definite possibility.


In "
Key Legal Responsa (Rabbinical Legal Opinions) on Iberian Anusim " i.e. those forcibly converted, - compiled by David Ramirez and to be found on the SCJS web-site under "Treatment of Iberian Anusim ", - you will come across such an Opinion by one Rabbi Moshe Terani (died 1585 - detail in the footnote there). He was answering the query as to whether the descendants of Anusim who were Cohen are to be considered Cohen once back in the fold ? Or whether they should lose their priestly status for ever as penalty for the error of their ancestors' ways ?


Brave Rabbi Terani decided that such descendants are to be considered
Cohen - and this is the quote (page 27 paragraph 5) :
" Rabbi Isaak Pomar's (Fumar) father was a Cohen
from the family of Ardut. Rabbi Isaac ben Eleasar also
mentioned that Rabbi Joseph Pomar who lived in Constantinople
was regarded as a Cohen and a member of the family Ardut ".


The rebuilder of Tiberias again ? One is perhaps entitled to say - most probably. For as we see from the chapter on Tiberias other authorities rely on Rabbi Terani to determine that our Joseph is in fact our Joseph.


And please note that in
this presentation of the Responsa, which was handed down in Constantinople, our Joseph is referred to as Ardut in the Hebrew, not Aderet, nor Adret, nor Ardayet nor Arditi. This would strengthen the view that all the other versions of his name were the result of bad transliteration at worst or political necessity at best.


As clarified in the opening chapters it is neither the purpose nor the intention here to enter into religious matters, - the detail is simply placed before you.


Imagination can do the rest.



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