of the Monastirlis
Sephardic Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943. A web companion
to a new history.
Levy Arueste, a tailor by trade, is the first recorded
Jewish emigrant from Monastir. Arueste left Monastir in
1900, and after traveling through Europe and then Argentina
he found work as a tailor in Temuco, Chile.
prospered in Temuco, sent money to his parents in Monastir,
and invited his brother to come to "the new Eden."
This letter generated excitement in the community. By
1907, the families of Daniel Levy, Matias Albala, Moises
Chame and Alfonso Israel arrived in Temuco. By 1929 there
were about 40 Monastirli families in the city.
to the United States
the same time that some Monastir Jews were leaving for
Temuco, a far greater number were setting sail for New
1907 there were enough Monastirlis in the city to found
a mutual aid society, Ahavath Shalom de Monastir, or Peace
and Brotherhood of Monastir. In February 1911, the group
had 120 members representing about 600 Monastirlis, and
it met at 197 Chrystie Street in Manhattan.
April 14, 1911, New York´s Judeo-Spanish newspaper,
La America, reported that the Monastirlis held a great
ceremony to celebrate the dedication of a new sefer Torah
(Torah scroll) for their synagogue. A band played music,
a children´s choir was directed by Jack Farhi, people
danced in the streets, and American, Ottoman, and Jewish
flags were flown.
from Monastir to New York appears to have been brisk compared
to other Sephardic communities. In the fall of 1912, when
12 Sephardic societies held High Holiday services in New
York, the Monastir Jews were one of only three groups
that had a permanent synagogue, which was located at 98
Forsyth Street in lower Manhattan. In 1915, 200 members
attended a meeting of the Monastir society, representing
a community of about 1,000.
Monastirlis also founded communities in Rochester, New
York, and Indianapolis, Indiana. Their arrival in Rochester
and Indianapolis was facilitated by the Industrial Removal
Office (IRO), which was an arm of the Jewish Agricultural
and Industrial Aid Society. The IRO directed many Jewish
immigrants toward opportunities outside New York.
Jews arrived in Rochester in the spring of 1906, when
David Albahari, Jacob Pesso, Samuel Levi, Moshe Rousso,
and Rafael Testa settled in the town. These men soon sent
for their families and in 1909 they founded Congregation
Or Israel Monastir. By 1920, there were 500 Sephardim
and Rachel Toledano were the first Monastirlis to settle
in Indianapolis in 1906, and by 1913 the Monastirlis were
numerous enough to found Congregation Sepharad of Monastir.
The city´s great attraction was employment at the
Kahn Tailoring Company, which hired many Sephardic Jews.
arrival of some Sephardim from Salonika and elsewhere
led to the founding in 1919 of a new Sephardic congregation,
Etz Chaim. By 1933, about 75 Sephardic families, mostly
from Monastir, lived in Indianapolis.