Who Are the Brothers Abraham and Jonah Toledano from Sfax?
This is the amazing story of two brothers, Abraham and Jonah Toledano whose tracks I have been trying to find for more than ten years. All I knew about them was that they lived in the port city of Sfax, Tunisia, around 1837. They were men of means and apparently, they helped Rabbi Habib Toledano of Meknes, Morocco finance and publish his book Peh Yesharim. These two brothers stood before me suspended alone in my tree and to this day, I have been unable to connect them to any of the forty-six Toledano family trees that I have been able to build.
I first learned about these two brothers from Peh Yesharim, Rabbi Habib Toledano’s book that was printed in Livorno in 1837. There, in the first introduction, he writes the following:
“ . . . we dwelled in holiness [in the city of Tunis in Tunisia] for quite a while until 5597/1837, [the Hebrew original has the date spelled out in words – ‘I have proclaimed Your wondrous deeds,’ Psalms 71:17. The numerical equivalent of the bold face words spell out the year.] when I decided to publish this book. I said that I would go to the city of Sfax, may God find it well. Two brothers lived there, the most honored Abraham and the most honored Jonah, may God protect and guard them and their families. I left my family in their care [until his return from Livorno, where he went to publish the book] and I departed by sea.”
In the second introduction to the same book he writes: “The author states, ‘I saw that the Rabbi, the author of a family genealogy wrote in his will that it is fitting for everyone to write a family tree for his descendants, thus I saw that my holy ancestors were all notable people who were most careful to do this. I decided that now is the time to fulfill the wish of each of these two fine brothers the honored Abraham Toledano and his honored brother Jonah may God protect and bless them, that the time had come to compile a family tree for them. They also were a help to me in publishing this book and for this act of kindness, their names should be remembered . . .”
Now, a few days later the puzzle is solved from an unexpected direction. A Ted Callaghan from Florida, USA, wrote the following: “I acquired a copy of your book The Family Tree of Daniel Toledano a few months ago. However, since I do not read Hebrew nor could I find anyone who could help me in this area, I turn to you and ask for your help in finding the connection to Giuseppe Toledano who was the head of our family.”
Ted Callaghan was referring to a lengthy document that contains notations concerning members of the family and a detailed tree that his grandfather Amadeo Shimon Toledano prepared in 1940. That hand-written document is in Italian, the preferred language of Amedeo Shimon Toledano. The document has updates and annotations in the handwriting of Lina Ines Toledano, the oldest daughter of Amadeo. According to the document, Guiseppe was born in Tangier around 1765. In 1797, he moved to Livorno where he lived until his death in 1845. Guiseppe had at least two sons Abramo and Colombo Angelo, both of whom were born in Livorno. Abramo was born before 1798 and Colombo Angelo was born around 1799. Thus according to the document. It also states that Colombo Angelo was forced to flee from Italy in 1821 because of political persecution. Colombo Angelo was a member of the “Carbonero,” a secret Italian society, established in the beginning of the 19th century to overthrow Italian royal rule and establish a republic. Colombo Angelo fled to the city of Sfax in Tunisia. His brother Abramo joined him and they still lived there in 1837. Their children were born in this city.
In the tree of Daniel Toledano, a branch migrated from Meknes to Tangier. Rabbi Aaron Toledano migrated at the end of his days with his family to Tangier. Aaron had two sons, Abraham and Moshe. The offspring of Rabbi Moshe are known and documented and their line continues to this day. The other son, Rabbi Abraham had only one son, Joseph, who was born in Tangier in 1765. The tracks of this Joseph, who is mentioned in the books Ner Hama’arav and Malkhei Rabanan, disappeared and to this day, we have no evidence of any descendants.
All the details up to now were known. Now, I had to search the lines of Guiseppe, Abramo and Colombo Angelo. First, I searched for the Hebrew names of each of these men. I checked the date and place of birth and head of the family. This was not difficult. It was clear to me that Guiseppe was Joseph the son of Abraham and the grandson of Aaron. Also, the place of his birth, Tangier, and the date, 1765, matched. Now it was possible to add the descendants of Joseph to the tree of Daniel. Joseph’s two sons, Abramo and Colombo Angelo are Abraham and Jonah (Colombo in Italian is Jonah/Dove in Hebrew). How many pairs of brothers with the name of Abraham and Jonah Toledano, with the older one’s name as Abraham, could live in the city of Sfax in 1837? Therefore, I had no doubt that I found the lost sons for whom I had been searching for over ten years. I not only found the ‘lost ones,’ I also found the descendants of Joseph the son of Abraham the son of Aaron whose tracks had disappeared.
The reason for Joseph, who was the son of a rabbi, to move from Tangier to Livorno and the course he took are not known. However, we know that there was sea traffic between the ports of Tangier, Gibraltar, Tunis, Sfax, Livorno and Alexandria. Many Moroccan Jews sailed on these routes, especially those who were interested in having their, or the manuscripts of their families printed by the famous publishing house of Livorno.
Joseph’s descendants, or Guiseppe’s, as they appear on the documents, migrated from Sfax in Tunisia to Tripoli in Libya, to Cairo, Alexandria, Malta, Manchester, England, Sao Paolo, and Rio de Janeiro Brazil, the United States and Australia. They returned to Livorno, only to leave again. Apparently, wanderlust was in their blood.
For all this information, I am indebted to Ted Callaghan, the son of Stella Toledano who was born in Manchester. His diligence in his search for his family roots, contributed seven generations to the line of Daniel and he found through my family tree a further seven generations of the ancestors of Joseph, the father of the family.
Toledano, Habib. Peh Yesharim. Livorno, 1837.
Toledano, Jacob Moses. Ner Hama’arav. Jerusalem, 1911.
Benaim, Joseph. Malkhei Rabanan. Jerusalem, 1931.