The Family in Salonika and Greece
One must surely be allowed to assume that the Saloniki connection and background, starting from towards the end of the 1490's and lasting till the 20th century, does not need to be introduced nor established. And the objective here, (unlike that of others), is not of course to show how prominent the Family may or may not have been in Salonika but just to provide a glimpse into that part of our History that has done so much to shape us.


At the end of this chapter is a link to an Article from the Jewish Museum of Salonika which gives a broad history of the Jewish presence in the City and detail of the community's spread, residential areas and synagogues, - very useful for a first introduction to what once was......


The social scope of the material employed so far is very limited and taken from published sources which almost inevitably record rabbinical prowess and hardly any other. I did not find record of Family activity in spheres outside the rabbinical and teaching professions. There is no reference to other Greek Cities here since I have so far found very little evidence of Family members living outside of Salonika, - (except for a few married daughters to or from Smyrna and a few in Athens by all accounts), - and most of the latter - alas - were come across as Holocaust victims.


However, one cannot ignore the possibilities now opened up for research thanks to the concentration of material on Salonika and Volos by the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People [CAHJP} in Jerusalem in particular and their comprehensive web-site listing hundreds of documents from just before the Second World War as they were taken by the Nazis and later returned. It would be a life-time's work for an amateur to study this material but it is important to point you all towards its availability.


As to background, it should first be stressed that Salonika was
never part of Greece until 1913, so that most of our family history there "belongs " - if to anyone at all apart from ourselves, - to the Ottoman Empire, although traditionally and culturally some of us call ourselves Greek in origin, and for whatever unimportant reasons. But the truth is that we are a family of stubborn Turqinos.


What must also be remembered is that the
bulk of the Family seems to have left Salonika a few years before and again just after the First World War, - the exodus of 1901 no doubt prompted by the fire of 1890 which destroyed much of the Jewish housing in the City and by the far worse fire of 1917 which devastated most of it and the Jewish Quarter almost completely.


However, this is perhaps the right place to add in a reservation, - since a few "post-1917 " Benardouts have come to light but rather incidentally I'm afraid, and without much history. The first half of the 20th century is thus rather empty of detail.


One also has to ask oneself whether the switch from Moslem rule to Greek Orthodox Christian one in 1913 was not in itself a powerful influence in persuading the second wave to leave ?


So in a way, any
general Family history in Salonika probably stopped at the First World War and for better or for worse, this fact sets us somewhat apart from the bulk of the Community which met its end so terribly in the Holocaust.


As to post-Second World War Greece, a short list is brought of possible Family members resident there today. Enquiries have been sent to them with some reaction and subsequent contact and is something which will be returned to later.


Dr. Leon Benardot is mentioned elsewhere - born as he was in Salonika and a survivor of the Holocaust and we have recently been able to establish and to add in here some history and detail of the where-abouts of living relatives, - below.


The Curator of the Jewish Museum mentioned to me an Albert or Avram Benardout, son of Joseph, who in partnership with Avram Yakoel ran a trading business from 1919 till WWII - at various Saloniki addresses, - dealing as an iron merchant and in exporting leather and paper. I cannot yet say, but there has recently been received an approach by a grand-daughter of one of the survivors of the Italian Train to Athens, (she lives in the USA), whose surname may be that of the partner.......I hope to be able to clarify over the next month or two.


There are not a few books on the Community in Salonika which contain historical references to the Family, in Hebrew, English and Ladino, and maybe in other languages too, and a few of the English language ones are included in Chapter 12. Those that are able are earnestly asked to up-date this aspect from their own knowledge.


Many references to the Family name can be found in extremely erudite Articles too. The few mentioned here are brought only so as to offer a taste to those not too familiar with this part of the Family history. As already mentioned, any web-site research of the family name, - in its various forms, - will bring up endless references and sources.


At this stage there are brought a few "one-off " items, -
Yea! Even from those very days :

The original Synagogues in Salonika - now destroyed, - were seven in number, one from each region in Spain from which the exiles had come. The Family seems to have used the Aragon Synagogue, indicating from where they had been expelled. Just as an example of established Rabbis who served in the Aragon Synagogue of Salonika this short-list of three is brought -
Rabbi Asher HACOHEN BEN ARDUT - died 1644
Rabbi Azriel HACOHEN BEN ARDUT - died 1655
Rabbi Nissim HACOHEN BEN ARDUT - died 1656.
Anyone surfing the Web can find more examples of "Family " Rabbis in the City over the years.


Talmud Torah in Salonika. There is a short Article by David Benvenisti included in his writings on Salonika during the 20 years between the two World Wars, (1918 - 1939). As mentioned, a good part of the Family had left well before the First WW and more left shortly after it, - but obviously not all.
Benvenisti tells of how he continued with Talmud Torah alongside his regular profession. Amongst the three Rabbis he mentions is [my translation] : "Yossef HaCohen Ben Ardut one of the senior Rabbis in the city, short in stature with a short white beard covering his cheeks, bright eyes and on his head the wrap-around turban, [perhaps the "bonetta "]. Studies were in his private house. "


A rather plainer reference elsewhere mentions a Rabbi Hananel Benardout HaCohen who was the
last teacher at Talmud Torah in Salonika - (the date given is 1908 but it is not clear to what that date actually refers since surely Talmud Torah continued long after that date), whereas an equally plain reference mentions Abraham Benardout HaCohen as having been the collaborator of Moshe Ottolenghi when the latter was elected head of Talmud Torah during the 1880's. Ottolenghi was at the forefront of the cultural revolution within the Community towards the end of the 19th century, encouraging the absorption of European culture alongside the traditional. Our "collaborating " relative also waded-in, thus contributing to the turmoil splitting the community.


We have recently been able to trace, - after searching for far too long, - an item concerning the Girls' Primary School established privately and run by the Family in Salonika since the end of the 19th century. This school was set up in direct competition with a similar one established in 1874 by Kol Israel Haverim which originally taught - in Italian - sewing, needlework and general housekeeping skills, leading to work in the tobacco factories and to some degree of independence. Further schools for girls were later established with English and Scottish support.


The Benardout school was run by Yitzhak HaCohen Benardout and I believe he had one brother assisting him in the management. In a 1909 full survey of Salonika's educational system, encompassing 31 establishments, with 4,370 boys and 2,877 girls, the Benardout school appears well towards to the top of the list, - by size, - with 240 girls and 60 boys.


I find it quite enlightening to discover that in Salonika too we displayed that
strong tendency towards teaching, - at this level or that, - quite in line with the Eli HaCohen legend brought below.......


In much earlier days the Rabbis were indeed rather well-known for their superior erudition. For example, - a volume from 1740 published at Salonika in Hebrew, (available on the Internet), concerns the proper "Conduct of Life " and includes the contributions of Yossef HaCohen Ben Ardut, "who brought the book for publication and supplemented it with his Commentary. "

In fact, according to the book's description, he made no less than three separate contributions to the content, including the Introduction, so he must have been well regarded by the Community then. There are more examples like this one, - although they are not brought here.


Earlier, at the opening of the 18th century, (the date of 1704 is mentioned as the date of publication of a book by Rabbi Elijah Galipapa at Rhodes), the Chief Rabbi of that city under whom Rabbi Galipapa himself served was one Rabbi Elijah HaCohen ibn Ardut. (Interesting to note that he had retained the Moorish form of our name).


Published afresh in 2006 is a collection of quotations concerning the Kabbalah and amongst them a take from Rabbi Ephraim Ben Avraham Ardut of Salonika whose following contribution was included in the anthology of Ephraim Margoliot, "Matei Ephraim " published in 1796
[my translation] :

"Proper Study of the Holy Zohar purifies the body and the Spirit and its virtue is in bringing on our Salvation swiftly even at this present time ".



Our ancestor finds himself in the most honoured and esteemed company there. He seems to have been a Rabbi in Salonika and finally Chief Rabbi of Izmir (Smyrna) where he died on 18th October, 1767, although looking for him under the heading of "Izmir " he could
not be traced. It is mentioned again that during some periods two Chief Rabbis were appointed in Izmir in order to pacify warring sections of the Community there, and this may explain the absence of any modern references to those "parachuted-in " from Salonika but eventually written out of Izmir's history.


Research into the Family in Salonika will throw up many reference to Rabbis who were established and acknowledged thinkers, - such as Asher HaCohen Ben Ardut, (died 1644), who himself trained and sent into the world great men proud to have been his pupils and always ready to acknowledge him as their mentor, and amongst them - Angel Baruch.


This same or another Asher, (since this other record shows him as having died in 1645, not 1644),is remembered for having signed on 27th November, 1617, an agreement "celebrating " - (do they not mean lamenting or perhaps commemorating ?), - "the murder of many merchants ". An example, perhaps, of unhappy translating into the English.


One would like to assume that the reference is to a Day of Mourning and Remembrance to honour their memory and not to a "celebration " because the murder of non-Jewish merchants had left the field open to the Jewish traders. Nor would I want to believe that Rabbi Asher was just happy to see
any merchants destroyed so that all would return to the ways of the Spirit alone.

This is a classic example of how much caution has to be taken in adopting what is written in translation without back-up evidence.


Salonika seems to have flourished intellectually for us particularly in the 19th century, and the Family name appears often in works published there such as "Sheari Tzedek " [1792] from the pen of Haim Joseph Benardout (who died in 1827) ; La historia de Iyob [1889] a translation of the Book of Job by Abraham HaCohen Ardut and also by him, - La Historia Santa[1885]. There is much more.


The most common Family occupation at the time of the exodus from the beginning of the 20th century, was by all accounts in the tobacco trade, both as labourers and manufacturers, although one cannot overlook the possibility that members of the Family worked in the majority occupations such as stevedores and fishermen, - the Jewish Community's two strongest occupations.


Itzhak Ben Zvi brought Saloniki fishermen to pre-State Israel to work the fishing in Jaffa and Acre Ports. Jews may have also been well entrenched as Salonika's firemen, a particularly necessary and valued occupation in its day, but there were no doubt peddlers and street-porters too, Street-People altogether, but that is currently just supposition. Traders there surely were here and there, not only Rabbis and Learned Men. But I have never, ever, found a reference to a very rich Benardout !!


Dealing in carpets seems to have been generally adopted in London for the first time towards 1910 although the Family Tree indicates that first generation Joseph Aharon Cohen Benardout "worked as a carpet maker in 1909 ", but as mentioned above, whether he plied that trade already in Salonika or only after his arrival in the UK is not clear.


Amongst family victims of the Holocaust reference has been found to a grocer, a Tax collector and one who worked for Mobiloil. And surely by then such a self-reliant Family worked in
all kinds of necessary trades and commerce ?


One must mention here a Note found regarding middle-ages tombstones at Salonika, (supplied by Marlene Sternbach) published under the title Great Men of Salonika over the Generations.


Amongst them is that of a certain Cohen Ben Ardut alongside that of Rav Asher HaCohen Ben Ardut. An authority called the Neibauer List (No.6), refers to the "well-known Joseph Ben Maestro Bonfus HaCohen Ben Ardut and goes on to relate to the legend that the Family "are the descendants of Eli HaCohen who would die before reaching old age and that they thus occupied themselves - and still today - with instruction : they are Talmud teachers, School-teachers and educators of infants, so that the Torah should protect them ".


I have yet to validate this item however, - not having succeeded in tracing the Neibauer List.........but the Legend seems to be sound for we certainly seem to have concentrated upon education in the broadest sense, - even though one has no idea how strongly that Legend reverberated throughout the generations.


Some of our own generation are indeed involved in education, - but not necessarily from any acknowledged fear of a short life. Whether statistically we are no less or no more active in teaching than any other Family one cannot say, but in the more distant past is was clearly something of a forte.
The ability to concentrate around one particular profession was also obvious in Spain where the Middle-Ages Benardout Dynasty of Doctors is still the subject of research and interest, (See the separate Chapter on this), and in London's carpet trade too. And today ? Well, - if you were to update the Now Let Us Praise Famous Men chapter, we might be able to reach some conclusions.
My own view is that we can learn no more from the tendency to concentrate around a single profession, - carpets, tobacco, teaching, medicine, - except this, that throughout the generations and despite the evidence as to our passion for discord, the Family has a gene which glues us together willy-nilly.


POSSIBLE CURRENT RESIDENTS IN GREECE

Perhaps one of the last, - if not the last, - Benardout families in Greece is now based in Athens, - not Salonika at all. The grandfather, Isaac, was born in Salonika but took his family to Athens just before the Second World War. The grandmother, together with her two children Solomon (Shlomo) and David, (David moved to Israel - see that chapter), were caught up and interned in Bergen-Belsen but mercifully survived to return to the capital city. Thanks to Isaac's foresight, they had obtained Italian or Spanish papers and were treated as Italian/Spanish citizens and not as Greeks. In Athens they founded, in 1948, and together with the third generation, Ermandos and Isaac (Zak), still run a successful family business.


A second branch, cousins all, is represented by Daniel D. Benardout - also from Athens. He is the General Manager of Sidma Steel Products S.A. an international public corporation dealing in metal products, based in Greece but active throughout the Balkans. Daniel himself is a graduate of the Haifa Technion by all accounts and a Member of the Technion Board. His late wife Caden passed away in 2014, and their daughter Doreen, lived in London. Daniel's own grandfather, similarly named, served some time after the War as President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. Daniel appears currently (2016) to be the Chairman of the Central Greek Jewish Community organisation.



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