In Search of the Family Name Tarica:
A Genealogical Adventure
Ralph Tarica [1]

For many years, undoubtedly like many other Sephardim, I often wondered where my patronymic name came from, what it meant, and who might have borne it in the past, beyond the basic knowledge I had of a family tree going back to a grandfather and great-grandfather who bore that name.  What intrigued me was the historical origin, in the more distant past.  Reflecting the peregrinations of the Jews throughout their history in the Mediterranean basin, from the Near East to the old Ottoman Empire, the name might just as easily have a Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Greek or other origin.  I determined to find out what I could.

With precious few guideposts to follow when I began my search, and with no particular experience in pursuing genealogies, what I found was primarily the result of following a few leads and making serendipitous discoveries on dusty library shelves, where references from one good find led to others. Since then, several invaluable guidebooks to Sephardic genealogy have appeared, [2]providing extensive lists of names and references and techniques of research that will make other such searches easier -- that is, at least to get things started.  Lists of names, after all, no matter how helpful they may be in determining that a family lived somewhere in the Ottoman empire over the last 400 years or so, will not necessarily lead to finding actual flesh-and-blood persons who lived in the past.  They will almost certainly not lead to finding references to where they came from before their arrival in the Ottoman empire.  This is where personal research becomes necessary.

What follows, then, is the record of a personal itinerary – in a sense, beyond genealogy -- in search of a family name through references in print, by someone whose only special skill perhaps is a reading knowledge of the Romance languages and a little Hebrew, and with the luck to have easy access to good libraries, including the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. [3]   Since a genealogical project is always a work in progress, I would be more than grateful to receive contributions from readers for additional clues, corrections or new information to what is found below.  Further, along the way, it is my hope that some of the references here will prove helpful to others with clearly Sephardic names who would like to explore their own more distant heritage.

Getting started

A few years ago I came across the name Tarica in a pamphlet, [4] published in Greece, devoted to exploring the origins of Sephardic family names in the old Ottoman Empire.  The author lists the name along with a few others as being particular to the region of the Dodecanese Islands.  This fact is worthy of special note.  Whether or not the new Jewish population of Rhodes and Kos, after the Turks took over these islands from the Knights of St. John in 1522, came from Salonika or Istanbul does not seem to be particularly relevant here; these cities may simply have served as way-stations.  The name is also found in the history of the Jews of Rhodes by Rabbi Marc D. Angel, [5] as well as in the magisterial opus by Avram Galante, [6] but in later historical contexts, from the 18th century on, to be considered below.

The anecdotal possibility offered by Rabbi Angel that the name might have come from Candia in Crete comes to a dead-end here since I have found no evidence in print for this.  A search in various encyclopedias reveals that the name is not a place name in Spain, and a search in contemporary telephone books in Spain offers no personal listings under that name.  References to Tarica as a place name in Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia and Honduras can be excluded from the search because they are more than likely coincidental Indian names that predate the Spanish arrival in the New World.  Similarly, references to a town called Tarica in Mozambique and Tarika in Madagascar are likely another phonological coincidence unrelated to this search.

Origin of the name

The name Tarica is not a common one and is absent from most lists of Sephardic names.  As to its origin, a much respected German scholar at the end of the 19th century, M. Steinschneider, [7] produced a study on the Arabic origin of the names of the Jews of Spain and lists Tarika (in Hebrew, Tet-Aleph-Resh-Yod-Kof-He, but one version also without the Aleph).  While he does not give the meaning of the Arabic in this case, he does support the notion that the name is of Spanish-Arabic origin, and he provides an important research clue that could be pursued later (more on this below).

Many Jews in Christian Spain retained the names adopted during the Muslim period from the 7th century on.  Jews might at some point have taken on place names to indicate where their families had come from, but it is possible that they bore an earlier Hebrew, Aramaic or Arabic name before that, in some cases the father’s surname prefixed by BenBar, or the Arabic Ibn-, further Hispanicized as Aven-, and so on .  Steinschneider’s interest is primarily linguistic – what the Arabic name actually means in translation – rather than historical, but he offers valuable references for a number of names that can be researched further.

The linguistic meaning of the name Tarica as applied to a person or persons, in Spain or elsewhere, still remains a mystery.  At least two explanations in print can be dismissed as being implausible.  One gives “’chief of a tribe; way-of-life; line;’ traditional Jewish name from Egypt.” [8]   Another suggests it is related to the name Esther, in its diminutive form Estherika. [9]   It is more likely related to the common Arabic name Tarik, as for example the Arab general, Tarik ibn Ziyad, whose Muslim army of Berbers crossed into Spain in the 8th century and for whom Gibraltar is named -- Jebel Tarik, the mountain of Tarik.  This does not, of course, mean that the name derives from him, only that it is a common name that Jews living in Muslim Spain may have picked up, especially inasmuch as it is related to a popular hero.  The word tarik in Arabic designates the morning star, and in its feminine form tariqaindicates a “path” [cf. Hebrew derekh], as in a good path, a spiritual path towards God. 

Further, in the 9th and 10th centuries the word denotes an aspect in the mystical doctrine of Sufism which promoted ecstatic practices in worship.  The Arabic word Tariqa came to mean not only the spiritual path itself but also the brotherhood of those who shared in Sufi beliefs.  Through a curious circuitous route, a Jewish version of Sufism can also be found in the Middle Ages.  The great philosopher Maimonides, forced to flee Spain in the 12th century, finally settled in Cairo.  Upon his death, his son Abraham (1186-1237) replaced him as the leader of the Jewish community there, and became attracted to the Sufist movement, associating it with an older hasidic trend in Judaism – at the same time pietistic, ascetic, ecstatic and mystical.  Being a “charismatic leader, endowed with legal power, he succeeded in attracting disciples and leading them on what was called derek ha-hasidut/tariqa as-sufia, i.e., the ‘mystical path.” [10]   His book, the Kifaya, spelled out in minute detail the tariqa, the mystical path of enlightenment leading to divine union with God.  Abraham’s work was continued by his sons David  and Obadyah in the 13th century, but the movement itself petered out soon after, while continuing to flourish as a Muslim movement in Spain. [11] Whether or not this word or movement might relate to the family name, however, must remain purely speculative until an actual historical association can be discovered.

The Tarica’s of Spain

The most important discovery in this search, by far, was a book by Pilar León Tello. [12]   This is one of several hundred books listed by the Library of Congress catalog (under the LOC number beginning DS135.S7) relating to the Jews of Spain.  They are for the most part written in Spanish and Catalan, consisting of studies of the juderías – the Jewish quarters -- of various medieval Spanish towns and cities, the relationship between Jews and Christians as revealed through notarial records and commercial contracts, and the “confessions” of crypto-Jews at the end of the 15th century.  The source materials – for the most part handwritten notations by town clerks, bookkeepers and clerics -- have miraculously survived the centuries ensconced in town and church archives, libraries in monasteries, ducal palaces and similarly secure places.  These manuscripts are a treasure trove of information for anyone interested in tracing Sephardic genealogies back to Spain.  The fact that most of the publication dates for these studies occur in the 1980’s and 1990‘s suggests that Spaniards are increasingly interested in the Jewish factor in their national history, and that there will be more such studies to come. 

Some of these books unfortunately have no index of names while others have indexes of first names only, a format not very accommodating for genealogists; short of leafing through the entire book, such books may not prove to be particularly useful. [13]   Another problem that can arise relates to the manuscript format of the medieval source materials.  Different scribes spelled names as they heard them, with no spelling norms.  They used inconsistent or no punctuation, abbreviations that can be difficult to interpret, or a penmanship that is particularly hard to decipher. The authors of the books generally point out these hazards; a question mark is frequently added to indicate uncertainty as to how to read a word or name.  

León Tello’s book is in two volumes. [14]   The first consists of a historical study of notarial records found in medieval Toledo and surrounding towns and villages; the second gives the actual transcription of manuscript entries upon which the first volume is based, listed by year, file number and folio number.  The index of names is clear and variations in name spellings are usually subsumed under the variant that appears dominant.  The spelling Torico and Tarique, for example, are subsumed by the author under Tarica.  Variants of first names are left as given by a particular scribe.  Abraham, for example, sometimes also appears as Abrahem and Abraru; Haim as Haym and Hayn; Isaac as Isaac, Ysaque, Ça and Çag; Judah as Yehudá, Yudá, Hudá and Udá; Samuel as Semuel, Simuel and Symuel; etc.

Following are the notations given for the name Tarica, in chronological order. My translations are approximate (and undoubtedly leave much to be desired as regards an understanding of the system of commissions taken on tax-farming and rent-collecting).

1483        File #1334 dated 1483: Folio 3 from Valdeloça: Remató en 19,150 mrs. Hayn Tarica e don Simuel Abenxuxen su yerno, son arrendadores de mancomún. [Haim Tarica and Mr. Samuel Benshushan his son-in-law turned in 19,150 Maravedís; they are tax-farmers in common] (Vol II, p. 480).

1486        File #1433 dated July 14, 1486: Juan González de Ocaña, juez apostólico, a las justicias, vecinos, panaderos, fruteros, taberneros y molineros de Alcalá y otras ciudades de Castilla y León: Haym Torica y Abrahem Torica, judíos de Alcalá, arrendadores de las rentas de los vestuarios llamados parte de canónigos del arciprestazgo de Buitrago en 1486, están puestos en sentencia de excomunión porque fueron condenados a pagar al cabildo 23,000 mrs. que debían de las dichas rentas, y como a pesar de ser requeridos no quieren salir de la dicha sentencia, se les declara rebeldes y contumaces; exhorta a todos a que no les vendan pan, vino carne, pescado, sal, agua, leña, ni les muelan pan en sus molinos. [Juan González de Ocaña, apostolic judge, [announces] to the courts, neighbors, bakers, fruit sellers, tavern keepers and millers of Alcalá and other cities of Castile and León: Haim Tarica and Abraham Tarica, Jews of Alcalá, tax collectors for the taxes on the Cloakrooms called property of the canons [?] of the archbishopric of Buitrago in 1486, are hereby sentenced to excommunication because they were sentenced to pay to the town council 23,000 maravedís that they owed for the said taxes, and as, despite being so required, they do not wish to be relieved of the said sentence, they are hereby declared rebellious and contumacious; all persons are called upon to refuse to sell them bread, wine, meat, fish, salt, water, firewood, nor should bread be ground in their mills] (Vol II, p. 513).

1491-1495  File #1563, dated 1491-95, Folio 17 from Uceda: Remató la renta del excusado del arciprestazgo de Uceda, en Ysaque Falcón, judío de Alcalá.  Abraham Tarique, judío de Alcalá dio medio diezmo.  Rabí Simuel, judío de Uceda, medio diezmo.  [He turned in the tax on the restroom of the archbishopric of Uceda to Isaac Falcón, a Jew from Alcalá.  Abraham Tarica, a Jew from Alcalá, gave half a tenth [that is, 5%].  Rabbi Samuel, a Jew from Uceda, half a tenth].

Folio 21 from Los siete lugares del Real de Manzanares: Ysaque Falcón, judío de Alcalá, medio diezmo.  En 15 de agosto remató en Symuel Tarique por 29,488 mrs. un diezmo.  Simuel Tarique se obliga con don Haym Tarica, su padre Abraru Tarica y don Simuel Abenxuxen, todos de mancomún. [Isaac Falcón, a Jew from Alcalá, half a tenth.  On August 15 he gave Samuel Tarica a tenth on 29,488 Maravedís.  Samuel Tarica takes on an obligation with Haim Tarica, his father Abraham Tarica and Mr. Samuel Benshushan, all members in common] (Vol II, p. 557).

Whether or not the Tarica name existed in Spain much earlier is still an open question.  Of the three dozen or so other works consulted, a similar name turns up only a few times.  A notarial document from the Valencia area (1425-1427) was drawn up by Miquel Tarago and further notarized as follows (in Valencian Catalan): “Foren interrogats qui’ls havia ordenades les dites coses e dixeren qu’el discret n’Anthoni Terica, notari.” [15]   Others are mentioned by Haim Beinart.  In Zaragoza, on June 12, 1492, only a few weeks after the Edict of Expulsion was promulgated, the Spanish crown assured itself of the payment of a tax due from the Jewish community by placing a lien upon the property of three community leaders, one of whom is Solomon Tarigo. [16] In another document dated August 7, 1492, certain of those in Zaragoza who then chose to go into exile, rather than remain in Spain as Christians, granted power of attorney for their property to a merchant in order to negotiate passage on a ship leaving Ampolla, the closest port to the nearby city of Tortosa, bound for Naples. Among them were Salomo Trigo and Abraham Tarrich [17] (Beinart 243).  Tarrich is almost certainly a spelling for Tarica; whether or not the name Solomon Tarigo, alias Salamo Trigo, is still another alias for Tarica seems less certain.

This, then, completes the listing of Tarica names that have thus far been inventoried before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain.  Given the frequent inconsistencies in the spelling of names by medieval scribes, a reasonable assumption is that Terica, Torica, Tarique, and Tarrich are all variants that can be subsumed under the name Tarica, whereas Tarago/Tarigo/Trigo is less certain.  Casting the widest net possible for these historically documented persons, then, we have the following: In 1483, Abraham Tarica had a son, Haim, who in turn had a son-in-law, Samuel Benshushan.  They were from the town of Alcalá, in the outskirts of Toledo, and were partners as tax-farmers in Toledo and the surrounding towns and villages.  Collection of taxes and rents was a job often assigned to Jews by the Church and the Crown; in this case, references are made to the Church.  They may well have had additional occupations; one rent collector above is referred to as a rabbi, possibly the same person as Samuel Tarica (this would not be surprising inasmuch as several of the Tarica’s cited afterwards in print were rabbis).  In 1486 the family was accused of not turning in a portion of their collections to the town council, and were then excommunicated by a judge of the Church – that is, they were to be boycotted by the community from receiving essential goods and services.  It would be difficult to avoid thinking here, in passing, that for a Jew to be “excommunicated” by a church official in a community in which there were plenty of other Jews to share co-religious solidarity would seem like an exercise in futility.  At about the same time, there were notaries in Valencia named Terica and Tarrago, and a prominent family in Zaragoza named Tarigo/Trigo together with an Abraham Tarrich; one intriguing possibility is that Abraham Tarrich of Zaragoza was related to Abraham Tarique in Toledo.  The Edict of Expulsion was promulgated in the spring of 1492, and on August 7 of that year we find a signed contract for some of these persons to leave Spain from L’Ampolla, now a modern seaport on the Mediterranean coast between Valencia and Tarragona, bound for Naples, known at the time as a relatively safe haven for Jews. [18]

The diaspora from Spain

Were any of these men the paternal ancestors of the Tarica’s who would eventually settle in the Rhodes area?  Since the next recorded date for a Tarica occurs in 1652, there is no way to answer this.  The persistence of first names from grandfather to grandson over the generations would certainly give support to the notion, in any event, since the modern Tarica family branches are replete with men named Abraham (Albert, Alan, Alain, etc.), Haim, Samuel and Solomon. Did they reach Naples?  Only a study of the archives of the Naples area for traces of Sephardic immigration at the end of the 15th century could reveal this.  However, the Ellis Island Matching Passenger Records show that a whole family of Tarica’s bearing names that appear to belong to Catholics immigrated to the United States from Bagnoli del Trigno, a small city east of Rome (province of Molise), early in the 20th century, and there is a Tarica listed in the phone book for that city even today.  Could these be descendants of a Tarica from Spain who integrated into a Catholic society?  I cannot, however, offer an answer as to the origin of these and other listings of the name in modern Italy.

Meanwhile, in 1651-52, Rabbi Abraham Tarica is recorded by Steinschneider [see above] as having died in Egypt. This is based on a work by Rabbi David Conforte, a traveler and bibliographer who had visited Izmir in 1648 (AG Vol. III, p. 175).  The passage, translated here from the Hebrew, reads: "Also at that time there was in Egypt the Rev. Rabbi Avraham Tarica, a renowned and righteous rabbi who was a zealous teacher of the Torah to the people of Israel and he taught many pupils, all of whom were great sages; and these two rabbis, Rabbi Mosheh HaCohen and Rabbi Avraham Tarica both died here in Egypt in the year 5412 [1651-52] since the creation, and the two were very old men.  And I the writer, I found myself there at the moment of their death.  And there was also at that time… [the names of Rabbis Meir Halfata, Yitshak Kastro, Yaakov Kastro, Avraham Kastro, Yosef Berav, Avraham Alashkar, etc. follow]. [19]

Tarica’s in the Rhodes area, cited in print, in chronological order:  By the Rhodes area I mean the Dodecanese islands of Rhodes and Kos off the southwestern coast of Turkey, as well as the nearby Turkish coastal towns, mainly Bodrum.  There was a great deal of movement among the Jews of this area, but Rhodes was always considered the commercial, cultural and religious center and children were sent to Rhodes for advanced schooling. 

There had been Jews living in Rhodes since ancient times but it is possible they had been exiled to other places by the Knights of St. John shortly before the Ottoman takeover in 1522.  The Ottoman Turks had extended a safe haven to the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, and Jews could now count on living in security virtually anywhere within the borders of their empire, which was enormous.  And so we have a hiatus of about 30 years between the time the Jews had to leave Spain and the time they settled in Rhodes.  We may never know exactly which routes they followed to get there: from Italy or perhaps by way of Salonika or Crete, to which I would also add Egypt.  Rabbis were often called in from other areas to lead a local congregation, and that may well account for the introduction of new family names locally.  As Moissis points out (see above, in Section 7 of his pamphlet), many of the names in the Rhodes/Kos/Bodrum area are particular to that area.  Following his spelling, they are “Alhadef, Ounio, Capelouto, Notrica, Galante [an alias for Angel], Codron [Cordón?], Tarica, Soriano, Amato, Azarandel [Avzaradel?], Piha, Pisante et Sarhon.”  Some of these names are found in medieval Spain while others sound distinctly Italian.  Abraham Galante notes that the oldest Jewish tombstone found in the area appears to be that of a Jew with a Spanish-type surname, Aaron Treves, [20] in Bodrum, 1573 (AG I 82).

1722        (5482) An eskama (rabbinical ruling) was signed by the grand rabbi and, among others, Juda Tarica, all leaders andparnassim of the 2 synagogues in Rhodes.

1739, Winter:  Rabbi Angel writes: “Some non-Jewish ruffians broke into a Jewish school in Rhodes and killed a number of the young men who were studying there.  Among the victims was the son of Yedidiah Shemuel Tarica, a leading scholar in Rhodes who ultimately became the community's Chief Rabbi.  The incident terrified the Jewish population.  A year after the event, Rabbi Tarica delivered a speech in which he attempted to explain why the tragedy had occurred” (Angel 37).

1747        Eliezer Tarica had a golden inscription placed over the synagogue ark in Kos.  The inscription bears his name (AG VII 223).

1752        An eskama (5512) was signed in Rhodes by Juda Tarica and others (AG VII 124).

1760        Israel Tarica, living in Kos, was a “powerful notable with great influence with the governor of the island” (AG VII 319, my translation).

1783        Moise Israel came from Safed to Rhodes to be chief rabbi – the beginning of the Israel family rabbinical dynasty there.  One of his students, Yedidia Samuel Tarica (born Rhodes, died Jaffa) became the principal dayan; the second dayan named was Moise Israel (born Rhodes 1748, died Rhodes 1782), grandson of the above.  This rivalry divided the community into 2 camps, the elder members supporting Tarica (AG VII 88 and 173).  Galante writes that Yedidia was blessed with an extraordinary intelligence and had a very strong constitution and that he wrote almost all his books by moonlight [!].  His published works, all in Hebrew, are:Kadosh YaditSefer Halko shel Yedid, Salonika 1805, Sefer Ben Yedit, Salonika 1806 (later referred to as Ben Yedid (AG VII 224), Sefer Amar Yedid..., Salonika 1806, and a collection of sermons in manuscript, Leon Mashabat (AG VII 88 & 173). [21]   He carried on a correspondence with Abraham Benezra in Izmir (AG III 11).

 About Yedidiah, Rabbi Angel writes: “Following the untimely death of Mosheh Israel II, Rabbi Yedidiah Shemuel Tarica became the community's religious leader[…]  His wealthy father had supported him for many years so that he could devote full time to his studies. Yedidiah Tarica served as head of the Beth Din in Rhodes for many years without pay, because his father had provided him with adequate funds.  An excellent scholar, Rabbi Tarica authored a number of rabbinic books.  He was succeeded by Rabbi Hayyim Tarsa (d. 1799)” (Angel 73-74). [22]

1794        “... under the rabbinate of Moise Tarica in Rhodes...” (AG VII 123).  He died in Palestine (Angel 104). Angel writes of the early 19th century that the chief rabbis who served in Rhodes were Mosheh Tarica and Abraham Halevi (Angel 75). [23]

1799        (21 Av 5559) The tombstone of Sol, wife of Youssef Tarica, translated from Hebrew: “Blessed be the judge of truth. Let us cry with a bitter soul over a woman of my youth. Tears like rivers, and her dance became mourning, I shall mourn bitterly, with a cry of bitterness, for she was plucked away before her time, with trembling and fear and shivering. Woe, the missed beautiful woman, a woman of sparkle, left her sons in the hand of strangers, and she is bitter. The honorable and humble woman, Sol, wife of the wise and learned, Yousef Tarica, may he live. She was taken to the house of her world, on the 21st day of the month of Av, in the year, 5559 (1799). May her soul be bound in the bond of life.” [24]

Late 18th century: Rabbi Moses Tarika of Chios became acquainted with leading members of the Karaites.  Rabbi Moses’s kinsman in Rhodes was Hayyim Tarika. [25]

1830        From a ketubah: Joseph, son of Mosheh Tarica, marries Rebecca, daughter of Mosheh Soriano. [26]

1840        The local Greeks in Rhodes leveled the traditional blood libel accusation against the Jews (that is, a Greek man claimed that the Jews had kidnapped and killed a Greek child to use his blood for ritual purposes). The local Greek authorities made a plea to the “uneducated and superstitious populace” not to believe this claim.  Among the Jewish notables beaten and imprisoned by the Greeks were Moshe and Judah Tarica (AG VII 75 & 149).  The Ottoman authorities had to be called in to stop the anti-Jewish campaign.  The missing child soon turned up unharmed on a neighboring island. [27]   The Jews of Rhodes were always wary of the Greek population, but on the whole were friendly with the Turks and welcomed the Ottoman administration.

1861        Hizkia Shemuel Tarica’s book of biblical commentaries, Shutah Deyenukah is published in Izmir, as well as a pamphlet of Judeo-Spanish poems, Sefer Shira Hadashah, to be sung on various occasions.  Rabbi Angel comments that one of them, sung on the shemira (the night before a son's circumcision), indicates “a mystical symbolism — that the blood of the circumcision should be counted as a sacrifice (korban) to God”  [Angel 117; and see pp. 118 and 136; see also AG III 281]. [28]

Late 19th century:  The Jewish community of Kos was administered by Masliah Tarica (AG VII 223). [29]    Galante states that Kos “was the island of Jewish bankers” (AG IV 141). [30]  

1910 ca:  Businesses in Rhodes owned and run by Jews included “Tarica Menashe” (AG VII 119).

Aidin, Bergama, Fethiyé, Moughla, Milas & Izmir

During the 19th century, some Jews left Rhodes to settle as merchants in Moughla and Milas in inland southwestern Turkey (AG IV 119, 121).  Among them were grandsons of Hizkia Shemuel Tarica (the sons of Haim Yosef Tarica, Shemuel and Yaacov). They, along with other young men from Milas, went on to become prominent in the Jewish community of Izmir. [31]   Regarding the Tarica’s in the Izmir/Milas area, Galante mentions ownership of a hardware store, a banking firm in Izmir (AG III 103), a printing press (AG IV 129), and an emery mine (AG IV 128), and sponsorship of the local Alliance school (AG IV 126).  Particularly prominent was Albert Tarica who attended the University of Aix-en-Provence in France to study law, returned to become one of the notable Jewish lawyers in Izmir.  He authored an introductory business book in Judeo-Spanish (printed in Rashi characters), El Komersyo (AG III 133, 292), [32] before later moving to France.  Galante also mentions Tarica families who at one time or another lived in the Turkish towns of Aidin, Bergama and Fethiyé.

The second diaspora of the Tarica’s

Over the course of the 20th century, various branches of the Tarica family shared in the same experiences as other Sephardic Jews of the old Ottoman Empire.  There was a massive emigration to the United States in the early years of the century.  Later in the century many more emigrated to France, Argentina and the Belgian Congo. Those who remained in the Dodecanese Islands came to be governed by the Italians in 1912 and prospered until the promulgation of race laws by Italy in 1938.  Then, in 1944, practically all the remaining Jews – around 1700 of them, including a number of Tarica’s -- were deported to Auschwitz where they were murdered by the Nazis, effectively ending the Jewish presence in the area.  These experiences are reflected in the case of my own family.  My father, born in Kos and son of a rabbi, came to the United States before World War I.  A younger brother came over after that war.  Another brother settled in the Belgian Congo in the 1920’s and subsequently moved to Belgium.  A fourth brother remained in the Rhodes area and died there in the 1930’s, but his two daughters were deported to Auschwitz where they died in 1944-45.

Today, people bearing the name Tarica can be found in France, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Belgium (including those from the former Belgian Congo), southern Africa, Israel and perhaps other places as well.  Who they are and how they got there calls for a different story, going well beyond the scope of this article.  What I have wanted to do here is to shed some light on the origins and early citations of the name and, more importantly, to go beyond a simple listing of the name in order to associate it with real persons, living in Spain over 500 years ago and later in Egypt and the Rhodes area – persons who were in all likelihood the flesh-and-blood paternal ancestors of people bearing that name today.

[1] Ralph Tarica is a professor emeritus of French at the University of Maryland College Park, author of several works of criticism on 20th century French literature, and former chair of the Department of French and Italian there.  Since retirement he has worked with the collection of books printed in Judeo-Spanish held at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.  A founding member and prime organizer of the Vijitas de Alhad of the Greater Washington, DC area, his translation/adaption of Marie-Christine Varol’s book on Judeo-Spanish language and culture appeared in 2008. He has contributed book reviews and articles for La Lettre Sépharade and is on the editorial board of Sephardic Horizons.  One of his main interests currently is to work at rescuing Judeo-Spanish literature from oblivion by making it available to a contemporary audience.

[2] Notably Jeffrey S.  Malka, Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and their World, Bergenfield, NJ: Avoteynu, 2002; Guilherme Faiguenboim et al, Dicionário sefaradi de sobrenomes/Dictionary of Sephardic Surnames), Rio de Janeiro: Fraiha, 2003; Baruh B. Pinto, What’s behind a Name, Istanbul: Gözlem, 2002, and The Sephardic Onomasticon: An Etymological Research on Sephardic Family Names of the Jews living in Turkey, Istanbul: Gözlem, 2004.

[3] Special thanks go to Dr. Peggy Pearlstein, Head of the Judaica collection, for her invaluable help in guiding me to the right resources.

[4] Asher Moïssis, Les noms des Juifs de Grèce, originally published in Greek, Athens, 1973; French translation published privately by Elie Carasso, Jean Carasso, and Lucette Vidal, Gordes (France): 1990.

[5] Marc D. Angel, The Jews of Rhodes: The History of a Sephardic Community, New York: Sepher-Hermon, 1978.

[6] Avram [or Abraham] Galante, Histoire des Juifs de Turquie, 9 vols., rpt., Istanbul: Isis, 1985, abbreviated below as AG.

[7] Moritz Steinschneider, “An introduction to the Arabic literature of Jews: Ch. 14, ‘Family names’” in Jewish Quarterly Review, 1899, vol. 11, p. 119. Steinschneider cites several sources, only one of which, Conforte, proves of value here.

[8] H. W. Guggenheimer and E. H. Guggenheimer, Jewish Family Names and their Origins, Hoboken: Ktav, 1992, p. 767.  The Arabic meaning here does not concord with the lexicographical evidence and the notion of a “traditional” Egyptian family remains to be demonstrated.

[9] Faiguenboim et al, op. cit., p. 402.  Phonologically this seems rather far-fetched.

[10] Mireille Loubet, “Jewish pietism of the Sufi type: A particular trend of mysticism in Medieval Egypt,” Bulletin du Centre de recherche français de Jérusalem, placed online on March 13, 2008.

[11] See Loubet’s article for further readings on this subject.  For a recent account of Sufism in medieval Spain see the article “Los sufíes y el pensamiento hispánico” on the website of Nueva Acrópolis, Seville, dated February 20, 2010.

[12] Pilar León Tello, Judíos de Toledo: Inventorio cronológico de documentos, 2 vols., Madrid 1979.  I am indebted to Ben Nahman’s website, “Were your ancestors from Toledo?” for first bringing this to my attention: [].

[13] One book worth the effort is by Enrique Cantera Montenegro, Las juderías de la diódececis de Calahorra en la baja edad media, Logroño: Inst. de Estudios Riojanos, 1986, which is replete with historical persons whose names may be of genealogical interest such as Abenamias, Aben Nuñes, Arrueste, Arruete, Benarroyo, Barselay, Benosiello, Bienveniste, Caballero, Crespo, Farach/Farache, Franco, Gaón, León, Sasón, Varón, etc.

[14] Two other books with good indices, for example, are Juan Carrasco, Sinagoga y mercado: Estudios y textos sobre los judíos del reino de Navarra, Pamplona: 1973, which refers, among other persons, to Salamón Arrueti, zapatero (1280-1328), Eben Farach, Algranati, Mossé eben Crespín of Tudela, Simuel el Romano, Bendanon, Alfaça, Amatu, etc.; and José Antonio García Luján, Judíos de Castilla (Siglos XIV-XV): Documentos del archivo de los duques de Frías, Córdoba: 1994, which lists, among others, Abenxuxen, Abolafia, Algazi, Amiel, Benavides, Çaçon, Calderón, Cohen, Franco, Gabay, Hachuel, Molho, etc.  Neither lists Tarica.

[15] J. Doñate Sebastia and J.R. Magdalena Nom de Deu, Three Jewish Communities in Medieval Valencia, Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1990, 239-241.

[16] Haim Beinart, The Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Oxford: Littman Library, 2002, p. 103.

[17] Beinart, p. 243.  The text of the original decree in Spanish can be found in Cubells i Llorens, The Jews of Tortosa 1373-1492: Regesta of Documents from the Archivos históricos de protocolos de Tarragona, Jerusalem: Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, 1991, p. 375.

[18] Did all the Tarica’s leave Spain?  The Mormon genealogical archives lists a Dominga Tarica, mother of Santiago Berguecio y Tarica who was born either in 1740 in Cerdena, Italy, or in 1741 in Cerdeña, Spain.  Further, the old Niles Weekly Register, in an article of August 2, 1815 on foreign news from Spain as reported from London, regarding the prosecution of pro-constitution patriots in La Coruña against the government, writes: “Tarica is a merchant, and had written in favor of the constitution – he is sentenced to the galleys.”  I can find no further information for either of these citations.  

[19] My thanks to Rabbi Marc D. Angel for his help in translating this passage.

[20] Clearly one must be very careful here: Romano was already a Jewish name in Spain, as was Amato (Amatu), and Treves is probably the Spanish form for the French city of Troyes, home of the great medieval rabbi Rashi.  Family names would certainly support the notion that the Jews in the Middle Ages moved around quite a bit!    

[21] Some of these works can be found at the Yivo Library in New York City.

[22] Rabbi Angel’s source here is Solomon Rosanes, Korot Hayehudim be-Turkiyah veartsot Hakedem, Vol. 5, p. 66 (written in Hebrew; there is no published translation).

[23] My great-grandfather Mosheh, called Musani, was a rabbi.  Is this the same person?  But there appear to be several Mosheh Tarica’s in the middle of the 19th century in the Rhodes area.

[24] Photographed by Aron Hasson and translated into English by Yitzhak Dekel (a member of the Joseph & Sarina Tarica family).  The Aron Hasson website on the Jews of Rhodes, including the photographic listing of the 30 oldest tombstones from which this is taken, is an invaluable source for the preservation of the Jewish presence in the Dodecanese Islands: http:// www.

[25] Philip P. Argenti, The Religious Minorities of Chios: Jews and Roman Catholics, Cambridge UP, 1970, 193-194.  Chios is not in the Dodecanese Islands, and is closer to Izmir than to Rhodes.  Could this Mosheh Tarika simply have been visiting Chios as a “circuit” rabbi?  

[26] From a ketubah held at the Jewish Museum in New York.

[27] A similar pogrom, much more serious, occurred in Damascus about the same time, and another instance of blood-libel occurred in Kos in 1850 (recounted on the site of the Jewish Encyclopedia: “Kos”). 

[28] I hope to present a transliterated version of a portion of this work in a future edition of this journal.

[29] Since it is not likely that there would have been 2 persons with this name within the small Jewish community of Kos at the end of the 19th century, I assume this was the same person as the brother of my grandfather Yehoshua Tarica.

[30] Galante’s reference pertains to the Jews of antiquity, not the modern period.

[31] Ultimately, the Tarica’s of the Izmir area probably all originated in the Rhodes/Kos area; I have found no evidence  that there were Tarica’s there before the middle of the 19th century.

[32] A copy exists at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

Copyright by Sephardic Horizons, all rights reserved. ISSN Number 2158-1800