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Labaton Rabbinic Dynasty

by Sarina Roffé

Surnames in the Labaton rabbinic dynasty

The Labaton family apparently lived in Spain before the Spanish Inquisition and the Expulsion of Jews in 1492 by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

Surnames are a fairly modern invention, unknown in the Middle Ages when people were known by who their parents were and the town or village they lived in. It is believed that the story of the Labatons starts in Spain in Torrelobatón, a castle near Valladolid,(F1) north of Madrid. Jews who left this Castilian village may have carried forth the name as their surname.(F2) Alfonso Enriquez, a future Admiral of Castile, originally built the castle in 1420. In 1519, the castle was attacked by rebel troops who used it as an army headquarters. The castle was rebuilt in 1538 and still stands today.

The castle was built in the "School of Valladolid," a special style of castle building, which was used in Spain’s Duero Valley in the 15th Century. King Enrique IV created the model and built the royal castles of Medina del Campo, Portillo and Segovia in the style. The great noble families of the area built their own castles using the same model; among them is Torrelobatón. Most of the castles of the School of Valladolid were built by a new class of noblemen, many of them of Jewish origin, in an attempt to ingratiate themselves among the old nobility.

The first reference to Labatón as a surname comes in 1525 in Aleppo in a rabbinical responsa that included the name Rabbi Avraham Labaton of Aram Soba.(F3) The name is spelled differently depending on the country of origin; for example, spellings of the surname are written as Lubatin and Lobaton. Although the exact linkage cannot be found, it is believed that the Labatón family, a long line of rabbinic scholars from which Mazel Hedaya is descended, began as early as 1525 with Rabbi Avraham Labaton.

It is more than 200 years later that our story begins with Rabbi Helfon Labaton and his wife Luna, who were born, lived and married in Aleppo in the middle of the 18th Century. Luna had 14 children who died at a young age. It is said that one day Rabbi Helfon was conducting business in Aram Soba with a matron who tried to seduce him. Seeing that he was in bad company, Rabbi Helfon jumped out the window and miraculously survived without a scratch. That night he dreamt that he would have a son who would enlighten the world to Torah and live to an old age. Sure enough, nine months later, Luna gave birth to their son, Haim Mordecai Labaton.(F4)

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton

Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton (1780-1869 Aleppo), the son of Luna and Helfon Labaton, became Chief Rabbi of Aleppo and head of the Beit Din. During his lifetime he was revered and respected by both Jews and Muslims of the region.

Haim Mordecai was placed in school at a young age. Rabbi Helfon, his father, asked the teacher to teach his son the Hebrew alphabet. The teacher did not feel a child of that age could learn the alphabet and simply allowed him to play with the other children. So Rabbi Helfon took a few hours each night to work with his son and teach him the alphabet. Later, in front of the teacher, Rabbi Helfon asked Haim Mordecai to show what he learned at home. Haim Mordecai read each letter without a mistake. The teacher then took special care to teach him more and soon he was reading from the Siddur (Hebrew prayer book).(F5)

Throughout his schooling, Haim Mordecai was engrossed in learning and could often be found in the Beit Hamidrash (library) studying.(F6) As he grew older, people recognized the greatness of Haim Mordecai, who quickly became a respected rabbi. He wrote two learned treatises, Nochach Hashulchan and Ben Yayir. He gave one third of his income to charity and maintained Talmud scholars, even though he was not a rich man.

It is said that Rabbi Haim Mordecai had the power to punish those who refused to follow his rulings, along with individuals who did not follow Torah properly.(F7) There are numerous stories about people who conspired to harm him, his miraculous survival, and the people’s reverence for him.

One such story involves an Ottoman official who came to the Rabbi one day to pick up the taxes from the community, which was Rabbi Haim Mordecai’s responsibility to collect. It happened that Rabbi Haim Mordecai was ill and he yelled at the official that it was inconsiderate to come for taxes when he was ill. The official went to his boss who said, "I’m willing to do anything except go against Rabbi Labaton, since I fear him." He commanded the Ottoman official to erase from the record debts of the Jewish community for that year.(F8)

Another story had to do with a Christian boy named Musan, who disappeared from Aleppo on the day before Passover. There was a rumor that the Jews had kidnapped the boy and used his blood to make matzo. The Pasha called Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton and told him if the boy was not found the Jews would be expelled from the city. The Rabbi called on the Jews to assemble and pray to avoid the evil decree. He went to the place where Musan had been kidnapped and overheard two boys whispering that Musan had been taken to the church. Rabbi Mordecai then went to the Pasha’s home and asked the governor to go with him to the church without notifying church officials first. The governor agreed. When they arrived and were greeted, the governor saw the boy walking in the church courtyard and ordered the priests jailed.(F9)

Rabbi Haim Mordecai married Morhava and had three sons, Helphon, Eliezer and Joseph Labaton, all of whom became rabbis. In addition, Rabbi Haim Mordecai raised his niece who was orphaned, as one of his own until she married. His son Rabbi Helphon, died before his father. He had three sons and a daughter who became orphaned and Rabbi Haim Mordecai raised them.

At age 70, Rabbi Haim Mordecai was disturbed that he did not have a daughter, because he felt that he had not fulfilled the mitzvot of procreation, which requires at least one son and one daughter.(F10) After much discussion, he decided to marry a younger woman, who could bear him daughters. The woman worried about whether he could raise daughters because of his age, but he promised he would be there to marry them off. Sure enough, his wife bore him a daughter, Luna, who was wed to Rabbi Ezra Suede.(F11) Rabbi Haim Mordecai died on the 20th of Sivan 5629, just after the end of the Sabbath.

Descendants of Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton > Rabbi Helphon Labaton

Rabbi Helphon Labaton, one of the sons of Rabbi Haim Mordecai, was a kabbalist who died in 1824 at a young age, predeceasing his father. Some of his writings are included in Nohah HaShulhan.(F12)

Rabbi Helphon had three sons, Rabbis Mordecai (d. 1903), Abraham and Isaac Labaton, as well as a daughter Sarah. Additional information about Rabbi Abraham, the second son, could not be located.

Rabbi Mordecai Labaton

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton > Rabbi Helphon Labaton > Rabbi Mordecai Labaton

Rabbi Mordecai, the first child of Rabbi Helphon, married Vida Missry. They had at least three sons, Rabbi Helfon, Aboud Labaton (1860 – 1944) along with several daughters. Rabbi Shelomo (1882-1952) was the youngest of the family and his descendants live in Mexico. Other children from this marriage are Avraham (brit milah: March 21,1885), and Yitzhak (brit milah: August 26, 1876).

Descendants of Rabbi Mordecai Labaton

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton > Rabbi Helphon Labaton > Rabbi Mordecai Labaton > Aboud Labaton

Aboud Helfon Labaton married Grace and they had nine children, five sons and four daughters – Ezra, Max, Esther, Abraham, Mordecai (brit milah: February 26, 1891),(F13) Elizabeth, Sarah, Joe and Rose. Aboud emigrated from Aleppo to New York on March 19, 1913. His son Abraham, born about 1900, died of influenza in 1920, Elizabeth died as an infant and Mordecai died in 1912, before the family left for America.

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton > Rabbi Helphon Labaton > Rabbi Mordecai Labaton > Rabbi Shlomo Labaton

Rabbi Shlomo Labaton Masri (1882-1952), the youngest child of Rabbi Mordecai Labaton and Vida Missry was born in Aleppo. He married Latife Sasson Betech (January 1885 – March 1950) in 1904.

In 1909, Rabbi Shlomo came to Mexico and was the first founder of the Aleppan Jewish community there. As the first rabbi there, he held the Beit Hakneset in the living room of his home. Working with his cousin Mordecai Lobaton, in 1922 they built the Beit Haknesset Rodfe Sedek in Mexico City.

Descendants of Aboud Labaton

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton > Rabbi Helphon Labaton > Rabbi Mordecai Labaton > Aboud Labaton > Ezra Labaton

Aboud Labaton’s son Ezra Labaton married Sarah Husney and they had five sons and five daughters – Alfred, Grace, Esther, Sidney, Pauline, Florie, Gloria, Roy, Stanley, and Abraham.(F14)

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton > Rabbi Helphon Labaton > Rabbi Mordecai Labaton > Aboud Labaton > Ezra Labaton > Alfred Labaton

Among the Ezra and Sarah’s children was Alfred. Alfred married Doris Haber and they had three children, Sari, Robin and Rabbi Ezra Labaton of Deal, New Jersey.

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton > Rabbi Helphon Labaton > Rabbi Mordecai Labaton > Aboud Labaton > Ezra Labaton > Alfred Labaton > Rabbi Ezra Labaton

Rabbi Ezra Labaton, who has served as the spiritual leader of Magen David of West Deal for the past 18 years, has a lifelong commitment to helping others. As a small child, he appeared in television commercials. Rabbi Ezra attended Magen David Yeshiva, Flatbush High School and Yeshiva University where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in history and philosophy. He earned an MA in philosophy from Yeshiva University, where he also received his rabbinical ordination and was a student of Rabbi Joseph Soloveichick.

In 1975, while still a graduate student, Rabbi Ezra and his wife Emily Friedman went to South Africa where they conducted seminars for Jewish children. In 1976, Rabbi Ezra and his wife worked to gather critical information on behalf of Soviet Jews in Russia. Rabbi Ezra taught at the Maimonides School in Boston for seven years. Both he and Emily taught at Maimonides College of Yeshiva University. Rabbi Ezra has lectured throughout the country. Today, he continues to lead Magen David Congregation in Deal, New Jersey and teach at Hillel Yeshiva. Rabbi Ezra is now a Ph.D. candidate at Brandeis University in Boston.

Rabbi Isaac Labaton

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton > Rabbi Helphon Labaton > Rabbi Isaac Labaton

Rabbi Helphon’s son, Rabbi Isaac Labaton (d. 1912), was one of the most respected Dayans in Aleppo. He knew the Book of Laws by heart and was an expert in writing agreements and contracts between businessmen according to Jewish law.

Rabbi Isaac Labaton wrote Oseh Hayyil,(F15) and his responsa are published in works by other authors. Rabbi Isaac Labaton married Rachel Haddad had two daughters, Sarah and Veda, and two sons, Mordecai and Rafael. In 1897, Rabbi Isaac moved to Jerusalem with his son-in-law, Rabbi Shalom Hedaya, where he became a member of the Beit Din.

Descendants of Rabbi Isaac Labaton

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton > Rabbi Helphon Labaton > Rabbi Isaac Labaton > Sarah Labaton Hedaya

Sarah Labaton married kabbalist Rabbi Shalom Hedaya (Aleppo 1862-1945), son of Rabbi Moshe Hedaya. Rabbi Isaac moved to Jerusalem with his son-in-law, Rabbi Shalom Hedaya, in 1897. Rabbi Shalom became a member of the Beit Din and dean of Yeshiva Bet El, a 200-year-old yeshiva known for kabbalistic learning. He was the author of Shalom LaAm, Dober Shalom, HaHayyim VeHaShalom, She LeBet Abot, and Shalom veTzedek.(F16) He is buried on the Mount of Olives.(F17)

Sarah and Rabbi Shalom had six children, four boys - Ezra (b: 1892), Moshe, Rabbi Isaac (1888-1962) and Rabbi Ovadya (1890-1969) - and two girls - Rena (1895-1923) and Mazal. Mazal (1902-1980) married Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin (1900-1994) and they had nine children. Their eldest son, Rabbi Shaul Kassin, is now Chief Rabbi of the Brooklyn Sephardic community.

Rabbi Eliezer Labaton

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai > Rabbi Eliezer Labaton

Rabbi Eliezer Labaton is known to have had two sons, Solomon and Meir.

Rabbi Joseph Labaton

Rabbi Helfon Labaton > Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton > Rabbi Joseph Labaton

Rabbi Joseph Labaton (d. 1899) married Yontrod Yedid and they had a daughter, Rachel. Rachel married YomTov Yedid Halevy and had two sons, Eliezer and Isaac. According to a book of biographies of Aleppan rabbis, Rabbi Joseph was very knowledgeable in Torah and wrote a book. In his latter years, Rabbi Joseph moved to Jerusalem with his father-in-law Rabbi YomTov Yedid Halevy. Rabbi Joseph Labaton worked at Yeshiva Bet El.(F18)


1. Internet, Castles of Castille, January 26, 2001.(return)
Research by Galit Mizrahi, Israel.(return)
Rabbi Ezra Basri, Biography of Rabbi Haim Mordecai Labaton, Haktav Institute, p. 1.(return)
Ibid, p.2.(return)
Rabbi David Laniado, Holy People of Syria, 1980.(return)
Basri, p. 10.(return)
Basri, p. 12.(return)
Laniado, 1980 and Deshen and Zenner, Jews Among Muslims, (New York, 1996) p. 162.(return)
Basri, p. 23.(return)
Ibid, p. 24. Also Aleppo Book of Circumcisions and Weddings (National Library of Israel).(return)
Aleppo Book of Circumcisions.(return)
Telephone interview with Roy Labaton, July 8, 2001.(return)
Email from Dr. Isaac Labaton, Jerusalem, July 9, 2001.(return)
Laniado, p. 65.(return)

Sarina Roffé is a career journalist and holds a masters in Jewish Studies. She has researched numerous genealogies including the Kassin and Labaton rabbinic dynasties and is considered an expert in Aleppan Jewry. She is a member of Brooklyn's Syrian Jewish community and the Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc. of New York. She may be contacted by email at