The History of the Toledano Families
by Ya’acov Tal Toledano
Published in Sharsheret Hadorot, of The Israel Genealogical Society.
For those who bear it, the family name Toledano signifies the city of their founding ancestor’s birth. There is a widespread family legend about the origin of the name. It relates to when they left the city of Toledo at the time of the expulsion from Spain. They adopted the name ‘Toleda-No’, to indicate the oath that they took for themselves and for all their descendants, never to return to live in that city. However, we know that this is only a myth, as Jews bearing the name Toledano were found in Spain more than 250 years before the expulsion. The truth is that in Spanish the name means ‘a person from Toledo’.
The largest and most reliable collection of documentation that we have on the family is the documentation of the genealogical tree of Rabbi Daniel ben Joseph Toledano based on the “ketoubot” of the family members. In addition there are manuscripts, books, “takanot”, and “she’elot uteshuvot” (responsa), written by family members from the middle of the 17th century to the present day. There is also reliable documentation to be found in Spanish archives from the middle of the 13th century until the expulsion, which refers to people bearing the family name and who lived in the Iberian Peninsula.
The Family in Saloniki
There is no reliable proof that the family arrived in Saloniki after the expulsion in 1492. It is entirely possible that they arrived before that date, perhaps because of the persecution of the Jews in Spain, and in particular, that in Catalonia in 1391, in what is known in our sources as “The Lesser Expulsion”.
Dr. Isaac Samuel Emanuel, in his book, Gedoley Saloniki Ledorotam (The Prominent of Salonika throughout the Generations), records on page 5 “Some ten thousand exiles from 1492 arrived in Saloniki. These exiles found some of their fellow countrymen who preceded them. They founded small independent communities. They built synagogues that they called by the name of their city of origin, and where they preserved the customs of their ancestors. Each community had its own official and institutions: the teacher of Torah, Haham, Parnas, Gabbai, and the Yeshiva, Beit Din, Hevra Kadisha etc. For matters of important public interest all the officials of the various communities would gather and enact rulings valid for ten years for the benefit of all the Jews of the city, just as they had done in Castile.” [This pattern was a continuation of the rulings of Valladolid in 1432, and persisted in Saloniki until 1680. Y. T.]
The following events took place in Saloniki from the arrival of the exiles to the time of Daniel ben Joseph Toledano, from whom many branches are descended.
In the fall of 1509, there was an earthquake in the city, and around 1510 Don Isaac Abarbanel settled there and taught Torah in the Yeshiva of R. Joseph Fassi. By 1515, Don Yehuda Gedaliah established a printing house, with printing equipment that he brought from the printing house of Eliezer Toledano in Lisbon. Shlomo Molcho arrived for a visit about 1526, and Rabbi Yosef Karo visited in 1533. In 1559 Dona Gracia Mendes established the synagogue “Liviat Hen” for conversos refugees from Portugal (they continued to escape from both Spain and Portugal).
Every few years plagues ravaged the city – 1534, 1545, 1546, 1548, 1550, 1553, 1564, 1568, 1569, and in the years 1581, 1591, 1592. One hundred Jews died and five thousand houses were destroyed by fire on July 13, 1545, and there was another fire in 1587. On Shabbat 27.12.1572 there was another major earthquake and in the years 1577 and 1588 a plague claimed many victims.” (Isaac S. Emmanuel, The Prominent of Salonika throughout the Generations, pages 6, 7 and 8). The Jewish population of the city decreased in number, and many Jews fled from Saloniki.
We know that Rabbi Daniel ben Joseph Toledano was born in Saloniki in 5330 (1570) to a family of exiles. We have no details on his father Joseph or on his brother Barukh. We do not know from which city in Castile or Catalonia his family came to Saloniki. We know that the two sons of Rabbi Daniel, Hayyim and Joseph, were both born in Saloniki. We also know that the members of the Toledano family that lived in Saloniki belonged to three communities: Catalan, Mugrabis and Oreach (guests - to whom belonged all those who were not listed in the Community Register “Pinkas”).
Around 1570 the Catalonia community split into two: the New Community and the Old Community. In 1594, because of the plagues and the other misfortunes mentioned above, Rabbi Daniel ben Joseph Toledano decided to leave Saloniki. The young, 24-year-old rabbi, with his two sons Hayyim and Joseph, immigrated to Fez, Morocco. And established there a Yeshiva.
It is known that other Toledano families did not leave Saloniki. We find the family of Aaron ben Abraham Toledano who was born in Saloniki before 1890. He was a teacher in the large Talmud Torah in Saloniki, and in 1935 he and his wife made Aliyah and settled in Tel Aviv. His two sons, Hayyim and Yitzhak and his daughter Bella made Aliyah even before their parents. Hayyim was active in the community and a newspaperman; Yitzhak, a graduate of the architecture department of the Technion in Haifa, initiated and designed the synagogue of former Saloniki residents on Rechov Ibn Saruk in Tel Aviv. There were also family members who moved to other cities and countries. We find in the list of those who perished in the Holocaust in 1943 in Monastir (Bitola), Macedonia the names of Menahem ben Joseph Toledano, his wife Miriam, and their four children, Joseph, Jacob, Isaac and a daughter Sonjo (Simha), Jacob ben Joseph and his wife Rachel and their four children, Sol, Joseph, Hayyim and Hannah, and Sara the widow of B. Toledano (his full name is not known), and their five children, Rahamim, Reina, Vida, Sol and Solomon. All perished in the Treblinka gas chambers.
The Saloniki Cemetery
There are details about several members of the Toledano family, in the book by Dr. Isaac Samuel Emmanuel, Matzevot Saloniki [Tombstones of Saloniki], who are buried in the Saloniki cemetery. Perhaps there is a connection between them and the family of Rabbi Daniel. The book contains inscriptions found in the cemetery before the Nazis destroyed it. The University of Saloniki now occupies the site. The inscriptions are from the following graves:
1. Tombstone # 45, Isaac ben Samuel Toledano died in 1526.
2. Tombstone # 210, Moses ben Samuel Toledano died in 1542. It seems that he was the brother of Isaac (tombstone # 45), and the father of the well to do Samuel (tombstone # 420). This Toledano family was a member of the Mugrabis and new Catalan communities. See the description of the synagogues of the Spanish and Portuguese exiles in Saloniki.
3. Tombstone # 420, Samuel Toledano died in 1605. In the Pinkas (record book) of the Talmud Torah it is recorded that in the year 5354 (1594) Samuel Toledano, a resident of Comergina, (today Komotini) Greece, donated 10,000 Azis on the condition that from the interest the salary of one teacher would be paid. The Dayan Abraham Toledano (mentioned in 1591 Responsa Maharshak, Part 3, Page 106, side 2) and the parnas of the Talmud Torah 1597-1598 Isaac Toledano (Sefunot, ibid. page 43) lived at about the same time; see tombstone # 45.
4. Tombstone # 793, Isaac Toledano died in 1665. There are two Hahamim [Sefardic for Rabbis) who lived at almost the same time; this one and R. Isaac who is buried at tombstone #958. In the book Zikhron Saloniki [Memories of Saloniki] edited by David A. Recanati, he is mentioned as “Toledano Isaac, the ‘absolute Haham,’ mentioned in the book Degel Torah Harim, 1665.”
5. Tombstone # 958, Isaac Toledano died in 1684. “The family of R. Isaac Toledano had come from the city of Toledo and belonged to the New Catalan Community. It seems that his grandfather was the Haham with the same name who died in 1665, (tombstone # 793), and was one of the heads of the Yeshivot who included R. Joseph David as one of its students. By 1664 he was one of the most important Hahamim in the city. On the 7th of Tishrei 5424 (1664), he signed as a witness, along with R. Hayyim Shabtai (tombstone # 1019) on the will of Jacob Alshikh. R. Abraham Gatenio writes of him, “I saw in a manuscript of the Haham, a Sinai and uprooter of mountains [Talmudic terms for a great scholar], a great rabbi in Israel, our teacher the Rabbi I. Toledano, may he rest in peace. At his death, R. JOSEPH DAVID of the New Catalan community, eulogized him, and referred to him as the ‘absolute Haham’. His wife died in Jerusalem in 1716, and their son the Haham Solomon died in Saloniki in the plague, on 27 Nisan 5457 (1697).” (Isaac S. Emmanuel)
The Synagogues of the Spanish and Portuguese Exiles in Saloniki
Upon the arrival of the exiles from Spain and Portugal in Saloniki, they built synagogues in addition to those already in existence. Those who fled the persecutions of 1391 already constructed the first synagogues by the end of the 14th century. The Spanish exiles regularly prayed in the synagogue of the Mugrabis community, which existed before their arrival in the city. From among the dozens of synagogues that existed in Saloniki that were destroyed, we will mention only three where members of the Toledano family customarily prayed. They are described by A. A. (A. A. is probably Abraham. Almaliach) in the quarterly Mizrah u’Ma’arav [East and West], volume I, Jerusalem, 1920. The article itself was written before World War I.
1. The Mugrabis Synagogue – it was probably founded by Jews who came from the Arabic speaking countries – Syria, Eretz Yisrael and North Africa well before the arrival of the Spanish exiles in Saloniki. These Jews merged with their brethren from Spain.
2. The Old Catalan Community Synagogue and the New Catalan Community Synagogue – “the residents of Catalonia were always noted for their greater intelligence and scientific knowledge which made them stand apart from their brethren who lived in the rest of Spain. The distinguished Barcelona community prided itself at all times on the fact that this community produced scholars’ known throughout the Diaspora. The terrible persecutions that struck the Catalonian Jews in 1391 forced them to seek shelter and refuge. These refugees were trailblazers for the rest of their Spanish brethren who continuously arrived in Turkey, until all of them were expelled from their homeland in the year of the general expulsion 1492”.
3. Jews exiled from Castile who made up the majority of exiles built the Castilian Synagogue in 1492. This group had the greatest influence over the rest of their fellow exiles. Eighty years after the expulsion, the rest of the communities had completely assimilated by adopting the customs of the Spanish Jews: “Nearly the entire world changed to the Spanish (Sephardic) practice since they are the majority in this kingdom (Turkey) and their prayer style is pure and sweet.”
The Family in Morocco until the Beginning of the 19th Century
Many branches of the family developed in Morocco. Its members were especially concentrated in Meknes, and a large offshoot developed in Tangier. However, by the middle of the 19th century they spread to other cities both in Morocco and abroad. With the establishment of the State of Israel, many made Aliyah.
Among the prominent members of the Moroccan branch was Rabbi Jacob Toledano (Mahari”t, 1697-1771). R. Jacob, rabbi and Dayan, led the Meknes community for many years. He left behind many written articles. Haviv Toledano, “The Hasid,” (c.1610-1660) was rabbi and Dayan, and head of the community in Meknes. He had entry to the royal court and he signed an edict in 1640 whose impact was strengthened in that it was issued as a royal edict. Daniel Toledano was born around 1606 and died in 1680. He was a rabbi and Dayan and along with his son was an advisor to the King Mulai Ismael. He was a friend and father-in-law of R. Jacob Sasportas and aided him a great deal in his many battles against the false Messiah, Shabbtai Zvi. Haviv Toledano (1657-1715) was a rabbi and Dayan in Meknes and wrote the first genealogy tree and family history.
Marriages into Prominent Families
The women in the family married rabbis from prominent families. The daughter of Dayan Daniel Toledano (d. 1680) married R. Jacob Sasportas, who fought the Shabbtai Zvi movement. The daughter of R. Hayyim Toledano married R. Abraham Berdugo and she was the mother of Moshe Berdugo known as Hamashbir. Toledano women also married into the family of the liturgical poet David Hassine as well as to members of the Maimaran family who produced rabbis and community leaders.
The Tangier Branch of the Family
R. Aaron ben Moses Toledano (1705-1785) along with his family moved towards the end of his life from Meknes to Tangier. This branch produced many intellectuals, newspaper people, advisors and international merchants who spread over Europe and America.
The Eretz-Israel Branch of the Family
Many members of the family moved from Meknes to Tiberias. Among them were the brothers Solomon and Judah, sons of R. Jacob Toledano. Solomon was 23 when he arrived in Tiberias in 1858, while his brother arrived four years later at the age of 14. Solomon was appointed to the rabbinical court of Tiberias where he fought for the rights of those who arrived from his city of Meknes and saw to it that they were not discriminated against when the funds to support Jews in Eretz Israel collected in the Diaspora were allocated. In 1876 he left Tiberias, along with R. Judah Berdugo, to become an emissary to the cities of Morocco. R. Solomon Toledano died along the way of an illness and was buried in the city of Taza, in the northeast of the country. His younger brother Judah was appointed rabbi and emissary in Tiberias, and later he led its Sephardic community there.
Within a period of three days, each of the brothers suffered the death of a grandson in the War of Independence. R. Solomon’s grandson fell defending Jerusalem on June 6, 1948 and R. Judah’s grandson fell in the battle for Ashdod on June 3, 1948.
The descendants of Rabbis Solomon and Judah contributed a great deal to the building of Eretz Israel. They include:
Emissaries – R. Solomon ben Jacob and his brother R. Judah were emissaries of Tiberias. Rabbis – R. Solomon, R. Judah and his two sons, Jacob Moses (Rima”t) and Barukh. They organized the community at the time of the expulsion during World War I, and Jacob Moses and his brother Barukh concerned themselves with their repatriation. Government - R. Jacob Moses served as the Minister of Religious Affairs in the Ben-Gurion government and Samuel ben Barukh was the advisor to the Prime Minister on Arab Affairs (1965-1976) and a member of the Knesset, representing the Shinui Party, (1977-1981). Construction - Involved in construction in the city of Tiberias were R. Solomon ben Jacob, the brother of R. Judah and Rabbi Jacob Moses ben Judah and their brother R. Barukh. In the defense of the State – Samuel ben Barukh was in the leadership of the Mossad, and two of the family members fell in the War of Independence – Hayyim ben Jacob Hai who fell defending Jerusalem. And Judah, the son in old age of R. Barukh, fell in the battle for Ashdod. In Aliyah – Samuel ben Barukh was among the leaders of the secret Aliyah from Morocco.
Yacov Tal Toledano was born in Jerusalem (1932). He is researching the TOLEDANO families worldwide.
This Article was published in Sharsheret Hadorot, of The Israel Genealogical Society. Vol. 15 No. 1, in Hebrew and translated to English.
Daniel Toledano genealogical Tree
The genealogical Tree of Daniel Toledano is updated regularly, the most recently in April 2000. It contains over one thousand names and is entered as Tree Number 647 in the Diaspora Museum [Beit Hatefutzot] computerized database.
The Family Book – “Descendants of Daniel Toledano” - (in Hebrew).
The first edition of the family book “Ilan Hayohasin shel Daniel Toledano”, was published in February 1999 and contains 310 pages, 53 graphs, and eight photographs, five in color. The book details the lives of 722 people, representing seventeen generations of the family. Dealing with 430 years of Rabbi Daniel Toledano (1570-1640) descendants history.
The book has been donated (or sold) to a number of institutions and it is available for reading at the following locations:
The Jewish National & University Library, Giv’at Ram, Jerusalem.
The Bloomfield Library for the Humanities and the Social Sciences, Mt. Scopus Campus, Hebrew University Jerusalem
The British Library, London
Machon Ben Zvi, Jerusalem
Israel Genealogical Society, Jerusalem Branch
Israel Genealogical Society, Tel Aviv Branch
Israel Genealogical Society, Be’er Sheva Branch
The International Center for the Heritage of the Jews of North Africa, Jerusalem
Sha’ar Zion Library, Beit Ariela, Tel Aviv
The Diaspora Museum/Beit Hatefutzot, Tel Aviv
Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan
It is also possible to purchase the Book by writing to:
Yacov Tal Toledano, P. O. Box 817, Ramat Gan, 52108. Israel
The price in Israel, including shipping and handling, is INS 75.00.