The Family in North America

As with everything in this world, attempting to cover North America as on any subject is a vast task and in keeping with that this chapter has to be, from your collator's point of view, somewhat different from the others in that he has simply not begun to tackle it. And rather like the UK community, surely the Family in North America is quite capable of writing-up its own history which could be incorporated here en bloc on behalf of its authors/collators ? All it needs is a bit of their famous get-up-and-go.......

The first series of questions to demand enquiry would, I think, be : What Branches of the Family or groupings arrived there from the UK, from France or directly from Greece or Turkey ? And the follow-up questions are - When ? When ? and When ?

Members of the family seem to be spread out quite widely today. There are members in Atlanta, Seattle, Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto for starters. So far as has been discovered there are none in South America, which is odd considering the Spanish culture within us and the strong Arditi family there, - (unless you see the two Families as one, that is). I remember an uncle or two having moved to South America at one time when they were having a little difficulty with the UK Taxman or something, but they returned to the UK, quite unable to settle in the hot perhaps it is not so odd.

The Family Tree
does help a little as to the USA for one can personally put the finger on this uncle and that aunt who left the UK and went West in the 1950's and 1960's to settle in Seattle or somewhere.....(contact was never really maintained).....and we have already come across at least one Family which left Greece straight for New York just after the Second World War and another Benardout who, after the Camps, married in Israel and moved to the USA shortly afterwards.

Anyone in Europe familiar with the immigrant history of the USA would immediately ask when the
first Benardouts or the first Saloniki arrived, - for if Jews were generally streaming westwards from throughout Europe at least from the 1870's onwards, - why should our Family not have arrived in America too at that time ? Surely not everyone stopped at London ? But so far it seems that our Family did not cross the Pond. For all my searching and reading, I have found no evidence of it at all. History records that some 60,000 Jews from the Eastern Mediterranean reached the shores of America between 1880-1924, so at least one Benardout should have been amongst them, - but apparently not so far as known.
There was quite definitely a Seattle Sephardi congregation from over one hundred years ago made up of immigrants from Rhodes and from Turkey, and a similar one in Atlanta and there was clearly quite a substantial Sephardi community in New York which spread out far and wide, and which indeed did have a Saloniki section, their synagogue being Etz HaHayim at 77 East 116th Street, founded in 1912. This is something that our relatives in NY City could themselves investigate, I feel.

A broad historical Article has been brought with this chapter published by the American Jewish Year Book, 1973. Obviously there are a thousand other Articles and books of reference that could be brought, but this one seems to be well-based on evidence and sound authorities and gives a broad and most interesting picture of Sephardi American Jewry from its inception.

Only from 1908 onwards did the so-called "Levantine " Sephardi arrive in the USA from Greek and Turkish cities, - also from Salonica. Note that that is some 7 years after our Family had already arrived in London on their westward journey, and one has to ask if those arriving in the USA did not number amongst them Benardouts who had already become short-term Londoners ?

There is a passing reference to Salonica on page 89 of the Article, but it is a very brief reference and relates to a small Greek-speaking group from about 1916, but these immigrants are described as being from the "
Port of Salonika " as their Port of Departure, not necessarily as their place of residence. This group also merits further investigation, starting with USA immigration records although Greek-speaking emigrants were not likely to have been Benardouts. An Article by Devin E. Naar in American Jewish History, Volume 93, No. 4 - December 2007, - on Jewish Emigration from Salonika to the USA, goes into this detail quite thoroughly.

It is certainly a matter of doubt as to whether Greek was spoken by the Family which surely would have been primarily and so described as Ladino-speaking, or possibly French. Athens-based members of the Family might well have been Greek-speaking as might those from the smaller towns and villages but it was not a common language amongst us in Salonika itself.

On page 95 there is a note of the social clubs formed in New York for the various groupings of Sephardi Jewry per towns or place of origin and interestingly enough Salonika is
not amongst them. Every-where else but Salonika not , - even though this quite contradicts the existence of the synagogue in NY above-mentioned..

Then you may remember that apart from the emigrations from the Community to the UK in 1901 and the 1920's, the other known ones were to the Holy Land ( "the Maccabi Aliyah ") and to France, both in the 1930's, - the latter 15,000 strong. All these together seem to contain within them the exodus from Salonika, leaving behind the circa 60,000 there who were subjected to the Nazi occupation.

There is - or once used to be, - a romantic rumour no doubt optimistically spread by a relative of ours, that one of Columbus's Notaries sent by Ferdinand to watch over the Crown's interests was a member of the Family. Any-one prepared to take on that research in the Library of Congress ? It is not a totally impossible idea, since any such person would most likely have been a converso and highly respected. If you look, try the surname
Pomar or Fumar, (see the Converso chapter for the explanation of this), de Luna or Bertran. The idea is very romantic at first glance, although it's hard to keep a shine on it.

I would take the liberty of mentioning here that Donna Grazia, mentioned elsewhere as the richest woman in the world in her day (the middle of the 16th century - see Tiberias chapter), was primarily a great trader, ship-owner and initiator of business. On this basis she virtually established and maintained the city-state of Rogasa (Dubrovnik in Croatia) in its day, at a time when our Tiberian, Joseph Ben Ardut, might well have been with his Patrons there and learnt the ways and the risks of international commerce.

She herself did invest a great deal of insight and initiative in the exploitation of North American trade ventures and if Joseph Ben Ardut was
then already serving as her son-in-law and business partner's secretary and factotum, (Don Joseph Nasi), just prior to their arrival and settlement at Constantinople, - who knows what other Family members might not have joined them in such ventures and reached the shores of the New World ? I'm calming down, but the thought niggles. It would make a great Film......perhaps Marc would like to think about it ?

I now come back to the
Benardette Family in the USA of course, (mentioned in the Turkey chapter), fathered by Ladino-speaking Mair Jose who was born in Canakkale, Turkey, in 1910. Quite on his own he emigrated straight to Cincinnati. He became a famous Philosopher in his own right and his children became famous academics too. He is described as the first Sephardic Scholar in the USA and the first Turkish Jew licensed to teach Public School in the USA. His story might well be a good place to start any research since It now seems more certain that he was Family. He certainly appears to have been just as erudite as any famous Benardout Rabbi from Spain, - but that is not a very scientific conclusion either.

As pointed out, no research is known to have been yet done on the Family presence in North America, but if there is any - please let us all have it. The Web-sites have brought up little pre-1950 except for the New York/Malone family (arriving direct from Greece) and the possibility of the Benardette family.

Those of you now well into the fourth generation there might well wish to start on your own History before it is forgotten entirely ! How say You ?

Feel free - I will always relate to what you say