The family history and genealogy of the Jews of Rhodes and their diaspora will be presented by Leon Taranto of Washington DC, at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State (JGSWS), co-sponsored by Congregation Ezra Bessaroth and Sephardic Bikur Holim.
The event begins at 7pm, Monday, May 11, at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, 5217 S. Brandon St., Seattle. The city is home to a large Sephardic community with many families from Rhodes.
From the Ottoman Turkish conquest of Rhodes in 1522 until the Holocaust, a vibrant Judeo-Spanish community flourished on this Mediterranean isle. From antiquity, a Romaniote Jewish community lived there.
By the 1700s, Rhodes became an important rabbinical center, and home to a dynasty of Grand Rabbis. In the early 1900s, Rhodeslis émigrés founded colonies in Africa and the Americas.
Taranto will focus on the history of Jewish Rhodes, and genealogical sources such as cemetery gravestones, burial records, Holocaust deportation lists, Italian census records, synagogue plaques, ship manifests, Hebrew books and manuscripts, and marriage, tax, and Alliance Israélite Universelle records.
In his research on the Judeo-Spanish communities of the Ottoman Empire, particularly Smyrna (Izmir) and Rhodes, Taranto has identified more than 5,000 relatives in two dozen countries linked to another 26,000 Sephardim.
He has assisted cousins in developing a 16-generation tree of nearly 3,000 people for the Israel dynasty of Chief Rabbis that served the eastern Mediterranean from 1714-1932.
His articles on Ottoman Sephardic genealogy have appeared in Avotaynu, ETSI–Revue de Genéalogie et d’Histoire Sépharades (France), La Lettre Sepharade (US), and Sharsheret Hadorot (Israel). He has presented programs at four IAJGS conferences and has appeared twice on the Washington DC-area cable program “Tracing Your Family Roots.”
For more information and directions, see the JGSWS site.