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Aleppo Brit Milah Database 1868-1945

By Sarina Roffé

· Introduction
· Naming
· Acknowledgements
· Searching the Database

Introduction

This is a database of Brit Milah (circumcisions) recorded in the city of Aleppo, Syria, from 1868 to 1945.

The Aleppo Brit Milah list covers the years 1868-1945, although the entries in the final years are scant.  There are 7,549 britot and 7,554 individuals registered in this list.

As a descendant of Syrian grandparents, who has researched family genealogy for three decades, I know the importance of finding records.  More importantly, the importance of making the records available to the general public.  In the Ottoman Empire, no vital records were recorded.  The only records of Jewish male births were brit milah (circumcision) records kept by the individual mohelim (circumcisors).  There was no record of female births.  When the Dayan brit milah list was made available to me by R. Dayan's descendants, I understood its significance in helping Syrian Jewish families obtain information for genealogical purposes.

For the past seven years, I have worked to make the list accessible and as accurate as I could for English speaking Americans, as this represents the largest population of Syrian Jews in the world.

For more information about the Jewish community of Aleppo, see "The Jews of Aleppo" page.

Naming

In Aleppo the children were usually given one name.  In this list, in most of the cases where you see two names, the second name is the name of the father.  In some cases, the list had three names, such as "Eliyahu Yosef Eliyahu".  This usually means that the child is Eliyahu, son of Yosef, son of Eliyahu.  In recording and categorizing the individuals, we assumed that the first middle name is the father’s given name and the second middle name is grandfather’s name.  Since this rule does have occasional exceptions, the transcript was copied exactly as is.

The transliterators preferred not to make assumptions that could be erroneous.  In cases where no given name was records, the field was left blank.  In cases where the entry indicated that the father’s name was different from the middle name, a note was made of the middle name.

Since this rule does have occasional exceptions, we preferred to copy the original transcript exactly as is and not make our own assumptions.

In the original list, the first name and the family name are written together continuously.  They have been listed in the English translation under two separate columns.

Examples of assumptions:

  1. Given name is listed as "Yosef Ezra Yitzhak".  This would be listed as given name "Yosef"; father’s given name "Ezra", and grandfather’s given name "Yitzhak".
  2. Given name is listed as "Menahem Eliyahu son of Yosef".  This example would be listed as given name "Menahem", father’s name "Yosef"; notes: middle name "Eliyahu".

Given Names: In all cases, we use the Hebrew name and not the English name of the individual.  For example: "Avraham", not "Abraham".

Female births: There are some female births in this list.  I assume the females were baby namings done by the mohel.

Twins: Twins were noted in the records within a single entry.  However, I have given the second twin a second entry.  This means there is no record number and the reference for the record number should be with the first twin.

Unknown names: There are several instances of unknown names and despite the best efforts of all concerned, we could not come to a conclusion on the correct spelling of the names and left them as is.

Surnames: It is common for there to be multiple spellings of the same surname, even among members of the same family.  In editing the list and translating it from Hebrew to English, we chose to use a common spelling for surnames.  For example the name Dweck can also be spelled, Dwek or Doueck.

Hebrew List Source: The list spans the life spans of Rabbi Yeshayah Dayan (1833-1903, son of Rabbi Mordecai Dayan (d. 1847)); and his son Rabbi Yitzhak Dayan (1878-1964), both of whom were mohelim.  The original is now in private hands.  Click here for an illustration of some pages of the original register [PDF].

A Hebrew-only copy of this list is in the process of being published in Israel, through a generous donation by Zuri Anzaruth of Hong Kong.

Acknowledgments

I want to thank everyone involved in making this list available to the Sephardic community.  It has taken seven years but it was well worth the wait.  I believe this list represents a good faith effort at making the information available to the general public.

I received many donations, including a large gift from Joseph Sitt of Thor Equities, Eddie Sitt, and other smaller donation from community members.  Without their gifts, the translations would not have been possible.

Translations: The original list was list was written in a Rashi script unique to Aleppo.  We thank Rabbi Menachem Yedid and the World Center for Aleppan Jewry in Tel Aviv for their work in translating the original list into Modern Hebrew.  The list was then translated into English under the supervision of Galit Mizrahi BarOr in Jerusalem.  We converted all of the Hebrew dates of the original brit milah into Gregorian dates.

Editing: The list was primarily edited by Mathilde Tagger in Jerusalem.  Consultations were made with several individuals who were born in Aleppo and currently live in Brooklyn’s Syrian community, as they grew up with the Rashi script.  I also consulted with Rabbi Moshe Shamah of Sephardic Institute, Rabbi Sam Kassin of the Shehebar Sephardic Center in Jerusalem, Dr. Avraham Marcus at the University of Texas Austin, and Dr. Yaron Harel at Bar Ilan University.

Sarina Roffé
June 2011


Searching the Database

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