Thursday, 7 June 2012

Background to my Projects

I am starting this blog to document my journey to digitalize the Jewish community records of Tangiers, Morocco. My maternal grandfather, Aaron Benzaquen, was born in Tangiers in 1915 to Mose and Tamar Benzaquen. My maternal grandmother, Vida Haligua Benzaquen, was born in Ksar Al-Kabir (we think), Morocco in 1925(?). My grandparents emigrated to Canada in 1959 with my aunt and uncle. My mother was born in Toronto. My grandmother passed away on May 26, 2010, two days after my wedding. My grandfather passed away shortly thereafter, on July 1, 2010.

Grandpa and Me at my wedding

I have always been curious about my maternal family history. While my grandparents were alive, they never wanted my family or me to travel to Tangiers. They remembered Tangiers as a beautiful, international city with gorgeous beaches, cafes, and friends. When they went back for a visit in 198?, Tangiers was different. Going back was painful for them and they said to visit Tangiers now was too different than the city they remembered.

Last summer, in July 2011, my husband Eli and I travelled to Spain for a vacation. I really wanted to go to Morocco, but Eli didn't want to go to Morocco without his dad (more on that later). We travelled from Barcelona all the way down the coast to Algeciras, Spain. We decided to take a short trip to just the north of Morocco and see what we could discover about my grandparents and their hometown, Tangiers.

We were especially curious to see if there were any Jewish records or archives that registered my grandparents marriage. After they passed away and their apartment was packed up, my mother received a copy of my grandparents' Ketubah (Jewish marriage certificate) that she had never seen before.

It listed their names as Aaron and Kvida, not Vida, as we had always known her as. No one was familiar with this name Kvida, and we wondered if that was what her name had always been, if it was a handwritten typo on the certificate, or a nickname of sorts. I thought looking at any archives might shed some light on this question.

We spent four days in Tangiers and took one day trip to Larache/Asilah. We contacted the Rabbi of Tangiers, Rabbi Torgeman, who met us at the main synagogue, on Rue de la Libertie. I asked the Rabbi if he had heard of the name Kvida on the Ketubah. He said he didn't know and perhaps it was a nickname. I asked if he had Jewish marriage records that I could look at. He said that the books were stored off-site, but then went into his office and pulled out a large Harry Potter-like book that had the label "Nisuin 1" (Marriages 1) on it.

Marriage Record Book

Eli and the Rabbi flipped through the book and found the marriage entry for my grandparents. It reads "Aaron Benzaquen ben Moshe" and the date is 1946. My grandmothers' name (not pictured) is recorded as Kvida. So the mystery remains...

Since discovering that entry and the existence of the synagogue registry books, I have wanted to go back to Morocco and digitalize whatever records they have so that people worldwide can access a database and see the entries for their family members. The books are an important resource and an amazing look back at Jewish life in city that had a vibrant Jewish community at one point. This blog will document my journey to make that a reality.


Anonymous said...

Mir, what an awesome project! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi, your blog makes interesting reading. Did you record your findings anywhere that I would be able to search? I'm researching my paternal side whom came from Tangiers.regards. Estee

Anonymous said...

Hi Estee,

I am currently in the process of turning the data into excel spreadsheets but they are not available online yet. If you are looking for something specific, e mail me and I can try and look it up.


Marcus Nahon said...

I 'm headed toTangiers via cruise ship this April.I will only be there about 8 hours. Can you recommend a guide that will take us to the Jewish sites.
Marcus Nahon

Sweetpea4kids said...

Hi Miriram
I hope you are well. Sorry I've not responded, I've only just found your reply! Please could you send me your email address, as I would be interested if you could look something up for me please.
Many thanks.

bloglurker said...

Did you put your records online? My mother was from Tangiers and pretty much her whole line was from there. With family from Larache and Tetuan.