The Family in Salonika

by Yacov Tal Toledano & Ted Callaghan

Conditions were good in Salonika in the early 16th century. The Ottoman Empire provided a safe haven for Jews for many years. Jews were respected and afforded protection as dhimmis (people of the contract). The Jewish presence also served the Ottoman Empire's purposes. The Jewish population increased to about 60% of Salonika. Ethnic Greeks were kept in the minority.

Dr. Isaac Samuel Emanuel records, “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...” Gedoley Saloniki Ledorotam page 5. From 1492 to 1600 around 21 synagogues were constructed in Salonika.

However all was not ideal. While the Jewish communities thrived in freedom, adversity struck from another direction. Earthquakes, fires and plagues took their toll on Jewish communities. There were severe earthquakes in 1509 and 1572. Every few years plagues ravaged the city…1534, 1545, 1546, 1548, 1550, 1553, 1564, 1568, 1569, 1581, 1591, 1592. One hundred Jews died and five thousand houses were destroyed by fire on July 13, 1545. In 1587 there was another major fire.

We have no specific information of when the Toledano family arrived in Salonika. Toledanos could have arrived before 1492, perhaps as a result of earlier persecution of the Jews in Spain. “The Lesser Expulsion” that occured in Catalonia in 1391 is an example. It is at this time that we gain documented knowledge of our ancestors. We know that Rabbi Daniel ben Joseph Toledano was born in Salonika in 5330 (1570) to a family of "Megorashim" (Those expelled from Spain). We learn Daniel’s father’s name, Joseph and of a brother, Barukh. We have no further details about either. We also know that the members of the Toledano family that lived in Salonika belonged to three communities: Katalan, Mugrabis and Oreach . Finally we know that Rabbi Daniel had two sons, Hayyim and Joseph, who were both born in Salonika. In 1594 Rabbi Daniel ben Joseph Toledano at the age of 24 years decided to leave Salonika. He emigrated to Fez, Morocco with his two sons, Hayyim and Joseph, and established a Yeshiva.

Other Toledano family members remained in Salonika. We have a record of Aaron ben Abraham Toledano who was born in Salonika before 1890. He was a teacher in the large Talmud Torah in Salonika. In 1935 Aaron and his wife made Aliya and settled in Tel Aviv. His two sons, Hayyim and Yitzhak and his daughter Bella made Aliya before their parents.

The Salonika Cemetery

Some Toledanos did not leave Salonika. Several Toledanos were buried in the Saloniki cemetery. There is no documented connection between them and the family of Rabbi Daniel. Sorrowfully the cemetery was destroyed by the occupying Nazi forces. Today the University of Saloniki occupies the site. Dr. Isaac Samuel Emmanuel in Matzevot Saloniki [Tombstones of Saloniki] lists inscriptions found on gravestones:

1. Tombstone # 45, Isaac ben Samuel Toledano died in 1526.

2. Tombstone # 210, Moses ben Samuel Toledano died in 1542. Probably 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.

3. Tombstone # 420, Samuel Toledano died in 1605. The Pinkas (record book) of the Talmud Torah records 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 (8/10/1663), 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 up rooter 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, Rabbi 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 (18/04/1697)." (Isaac S. Emmanuel)

Back to: The Descendantes of Daniel Toledano