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The Portuguese Jewish Community in Tunis
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Livornese Jews and Tunis

When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, and few years later from Portugal, they sought refuge where they could. Large numbers went to Morocco, Holland and the welcoming Ottoman empire. Others ventured further afield, to the Caribbean and the New World and others as far as eastern Europe.

Therefore, when in 1592, Ferdinand I (di Medici), Grand Duke of Tuscany, invited them to settle and freely practice their religion in Pisa and Livorno, many expelled Sephardim eagerly took him up on it. Thus was established the community of Sephardic Livornese Jews. Tuscany under the Medici merchant princes competed with Venice on one side and Genoa on the other, both of which had busy well developed ports, something Tuscany lacked. Ferdinand di Medici's motivation in inviting the Jews to settle in Livorno was his desire that they develop the small port of Livorno to compete with Venice and Genoa.

Trading from these Tuscan ports, they spread out through the Mediterranean and in the XVIII century some settled in Tunis, first as agents for the repurchase of Christian slaves from north African pirates and later as trading agents for their relatives in Livorno. Known as (grana, distortion of Ligorno) they found little in common with the local Jews (touansa) and kept separate from them maintaining separate synagogues, cemeteries, kosher rules and rather unfriendly relations. Even politically they disagreed, the Livornese favoring a protectorate under Italy and the locals favoring France.

Because the Portuguese community kept detailed records, one can easily construct several complex genealogies. In their excellent source books Registres matrimoniaux de la communaute Juive Portugaise de Tunis XVIII-XIX, (see Ben-Zvi Institute) - from which the above text is largely excerpted - the authors, Robert Attal and Joseph Avivi reprint 3 of 10 marriage registers, translating the text of the 1000+ ketubot found in them. The list of surnames mentioned in those ketubbot can be found by clicking on the icon for "Search for Names" from my main Sephardic web page.

Using their 1st volume (just 2 marriage registers), I was able to find kettubot from the 18th and 19th centuries of a distant branch of my family (MALKA) and develop a detailed genealogy tree of that branch including divorces, remarriages and amount of money of the ketubah, which when compared with others could give clues about their relative financial state. I give here a small part of that tree which otherwise could include marriages of the spouses, etc. as an example of what can be achieved from these registers.

One learns that Abraham Malka's son, Moses, married, "according to the traditions of Toledo", Luna the daughter of Solomon Israel on the 12 October 1791. They had 2 sons and a daughter. In 1803, their daughter Esther Malka married Isaac, son of Sam Pansir, while their sons David and Solomon Malka married Rebecca Medina and Anne Moreno in 1818 and 1853 respectively.

Rebecca and David Malka also had 2 sons and a daughter. Esther Malka married Ruben Louizada while Isaac Malka married Esther Abdias and Elie Malka married Judica Elhaik.

Another later Abraham Malka had a daughter Luna who married Solomon Bais (1855), only to divorce him and marry Benjamin Enriques in 1860. A year later her younger brother Moses Malka married her husband's sister Sara Enriques. Luna's sister married Moses Tapia while her other brother Jacob Malka married Reine Abocara, and so on and on ....

Many similar genealogies and family alliances can be easily developed for many other Sephardic families from these meticulous and fabulously detailed Tunis kettubot.
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