The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

The Alazraquis: The Routes of a Sephardic Family at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century

This paper traces the attempt to reconstruct a Sephardi family from Izmir who ends up scattered across Rhodes, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Israel, and the US. While I focus on the Argentine branch through its patriarch, I also look at one generation before him—an aunt—who immigrated to neighboring Rhodes in order to marry, establishing a line that will not carry the name Alazraqui, but will remain Jewish, and will eventually land in Rio de Janeiro.

I present the patriarch of the Argentine Alazraqui family, investigating his education and previous move to France, and subsequent immigration to Argentina in 1899, where he established family and thrived as an agronomy engineer who developed the viticulture industry in the country.

From an Izmirli family who had produced a number of rabbis, many of José Alazraqui’s descendants would be oblivious to his, and their, Jewish origins. To understand J. Alazraqui’s choices, we need to look at the social environment and the historical conditions in which those decisions took place, in late-Ottoman Izmir and in burgeoning, liberal quasi-democratic Mendoza.

We look at photos, personal letters, letters of the Jewish Colonization Association and the Alliance Israélite Universelle, official documents from Izmir, Jewish Responsa literature, and Argentine and Israeli cemetery records, in order to produce a clear picture of this family, and grasp how a combination of elements turned a cosmopolitan westernized Ottoman Jew into a modern Crypto-Jew of sorts. I trace the process of uncovering this repressed genealogy, and understanding the importance of forgetting.

This one family and its circumstances and choices in the modern world offer a complex picture of the Sephardic Diaspora in the late 19th and early 20th century.