BENVENISTE  (in Catalan, Benvenist): The name of an old, rich, and scholarly family of Narbonne, the numerous branches of which were found all over Spain and the Provence, as well as at various places in the Orient.  It is still borne by certain families in Bulgaria, Servia, and Vienna.  Until World War II it was also known in Salonika, Izmir and Rhodes.   It was also used as a first name.

For the origin of the name BENVENISTE click here


Seset BenvenesTE  The oldest son of  Alfachim Avubrahim/Isaac Avenbenvinist (aka Profet, the nephew of Sealtiel) who had four children.
     Young Seset probably started his career as phycician and political advisor of the elderly count Ramon Berenguer IV, because he carries the title Alfachim Seset in the early documents. The count died in 1162, and he did not forget his protegee in his will. In march 1176, Seset was granted a piece of land at Llobregat, Perpignan, by king Alfonso II (45), as well as several gifts by the deceased count Ramon Berenguer IV
     Seset was probably the author of several poems and letters (published by D. Kaufmann in REJ 39, p. 62f). He owned land at Prades, Tarragona and at Zaragoza, where his brother Benvenist also lived.

     His brother Benvenist was appointed as the king of Marokko by Pedro II in 1200 CE

From Frits (Yitschak) Baers publication "Die Juden in Christlichen Spanien".


UPDATE! Recently Moshe Shaltiel informed me that he had traced his family to Barcelona in the XII century.  He found that Seset Benveniste was the son of one of his ancestors. He asked me for a DNA sample to see if we were related.   The results showed that we shared the same DNA on the y chromosome. That means that we had a common male ancestor.  It looks like Seset is an ancestor of mine.



Isaac Benveniste (Zag): Son of Joseph,; father of Sheshet Benveniste (No. 19).  He was physician in ordinary to the king of Aragon in the early part of the thirteenth century, and lived at Barcelona; such was the esteem in which he was held that be was distinguished by the title of "Nasi" (prince).  In 1215 he summoned a meeting of delegates from all the Jewish communities of southern France, from Narbonne to Marseilles, to convene at St.Gilles.  The convention, of which the influential Levi b. Moses of Narbonne was chairman, met for the purpose of electing delegates to Rome in order to frustrate the plans of Pope Innocent III., and to hinder any measures that the Lateran Council might devise against the Jews.  The efforts of the deputies, however, were fruitless; for the Lateran Council decided that the Jews were to wear a special badge.  It is due in large measure to the efforts of Benveniste that the provisions of this law were not strictly enforced in Aragon.  On the recommendation of Jaime I. and with the consent of the bishops of the land, Pope Honorius sent a diploma to Benveniste, exempting him, in recognition of his services, his abstention from usury, and his title of "catholicorum studiosus," from every indignity.  It was further stipulated that the Jews of Aragon were not to be forced to wear badges.



Joseph ben BENVENISTE: Grandson of Zerahiah Gerundi, and grandfather of Aaron ben Josep ha- Levi; lived about 1190 at Montpellier


 BENVENISTE DE PORTA or DE LA PORTA : Bailie (bailiff) of Barcelona, Spain, and brother of Nahmanides.  Benveniste was an important capitalist of Barcelona and advanced money to King Jaime I of Aragon, initially on the security of the municipal lines owed to the king.  On Dec. 17, 1257, he advanced 3,863 sueldos on the dues of his bailiwick; and the following month he received the right to sell the dues of Barcelona and Gerona for two years.  The total indebtedness of the king was no less than 199,483 sueldos, which Benveniste was allowed to recover by taking the dues of Lerida and other places of his bailiwick   Part of the payment was made by the Jews of Barcelona themselves, who were ordered to hand over 12,000 sueldos to Benveniste.
   Meanwhile the king continued his applications to Benveniste for funds, drawing a check on him for 5,000 sueldos June 12, 1260; while two years later the king acknowledged his indebtedness to Benveniste of 15,221 sueldos for payment made on account of the Infanta Donna Juana, May 21, 1262.  In return for the advance, the dues of Villafranca as well as 20 squares of land there and the dues of the Balearic islands and of Perpignan were granted to Benveniste. The latter continued to act as banker for the king since a record is found of acknowledgment of a debt of 15,000 sueldos, paid by Benveniste to the bishop of Barcelona when proceeding on an embassy to France Jan. 1, 1254  and as late as Feb. 1, 1268, the dues of the Jews of Gerona were assigned to Benveniste.
   Altogether Benveniste stood high in favor with King Jaime I, no doubt for value received-and when on May 29, 1264, his brother Nahmanides was pardoned, two-thirds of the fine lie had incurred for the alleged crime of vituperating Jesus in the celebrated Disputation of 1263 was remitted, the king expressly stating that the pardon was given "arnore Benveniste de Porta, fratris tui"


ha-Levi Benveniste : Castilian minister of finance, and councilor of Alfonso XI. ; born at Ecija at the end of the thirteenth century; died at Toledo in 1337.  The Infante Don Philip being captivated by Benveniste's great abilities, pleasing manners, and talent for music, recommended him to his nephew Alfonso XI.  The latter, not less charmed than his uncle, appointed Benveniste not only minister of finance (almoxarif), but also confidential councilor (privado).  Benveniste's position was a very influential one.  He rode out in a state carriage, knights escorted him on his journeys, and grandees dined at his table.  This greatness could not fail to excite envy; and Benveniste had to struggle against the plots of his enemies, under whose attacks he finally fell.
      As a token of his confidence, Alfonso sent him to Valladolid to bring his sister, Doña Leonora, to Toledo (1328).  When the Infante was about to set out, a mob, instigated by Benveniste's enemies, attempted to kill him and his attendants.  His life was saved by the princess.  She asked the leaders to let him accompany her to the Alcazar of the city, where she promised to give him up.  But, when there, she ordered the gates to be shut and refused to deliver him to the rioters.  Alfonso on learning what had happened marched against Valladolid, besieged it, burned many houses, and would have destroyed it entirely, had not more moderate persons dissuaded him.
     The plot having failed, Benveniste's enemies had recourse to slander. Many complaints against his administration were made to the Cortes of Valladolid; and the king, fatigued at last by these constant complaints, dismissed Benveniste from the council and the position of almoxarif.
     Benveniste's downfall was, to some extent, due to himself.  Samuel ibn Wakar, Alfonso's physician, stood high in the royal favor.  Alfonso en trusted him with the farming of the revenues derived from the importation of goods from the kingdom of Granada.  Benveniste, jealous of his coreligionist's influence, offered a higher stint for the right of farming the import taxes.  Samuel, in order to avenge himself, privately persuaded the king, to stop the exportations by the Moors, regardless of existing treaties.  This was followed by a war with the Moors.  Alfonso's treasury being exhausted, Gonzalo Martinez, who had served tinder Benveniste and had become influential through his recommendation, proposed to buy from the king ten of the principal Jews, for whom he would pay 800 1bs. of silver, The king, compelled by his need of money consented; and Martinez hastened to seize his former benefactor and to throw him into prison, where be died.


Tolosana, the widow of Benveniste de la Cavalleria. The following is from The Woman Who Defied Kings, an excellent new biography of Doña Gracia Nasi by Andrée Brooks (2002 Paragon House, St. Paul, Minnesota) (See Francisco and Diogo Benveniste below)

 A role model for Doña Gracia’s personal commitment to the Jewish community could have come from a Spanish ancestor named Tolosana possibly a great grandmother, although it is doubtful whether an irrefutable family connection could ever be proven. Still, there are haunting similarities between the two.

During the early 1400’s, Tolosana, a devout Jew from the town of Saragossa in Aragon, watched in horror as five of her seven children converted to Christianity in the tidal wave of con­versions following the 1391 massacres. She even tried to stop one daughter from converting by temporarily keeping her under house arrest. It was no doubt this trauma that motivated her to provide in her will for long term financial support of a local synagogue, Talmud Torah and other Jewish institutions that helped to keep what was left of Judaism alive in Aragon.

Further, the bequest came with exactly the sort of limitations that Doña Gracia would have established. Tolosana, widow of Don Benvenist de la Cavalleria, the richest Jew in Aragon, stipulated in her will, read in 1443, that if the synagogue were ever turned into a church, then a common occurrence, the money should be transferred to another Jewish community. Among her children’s first names: Beatrice, Brianda and Reyna, the same names that crop up in Doña Gracia’s family. Even though they were common first names at the time, it’s almost too much to believe that all three would appear yet again within a single family in less than a century without some filial tradition being responsible for the parallels

Tolosana’s converso descendants would play a prominent role in helping the Jews during the Expulsion period. The accomplishments of a woman like Tolosana could have thus become the inspirational sub-text of family legends.


Abraham Benveniste: Statesman and chief rabbi (or "court rabbi ") of Castile during the reign of Juan II., 1406-54.  He was entrusted with the public finances, and, as he himself has stated, he controlled, in conjunction with the constable Alvaro de Luna, the entire administration of Castile.  He was rich and learned and an influential representative of the Jews at court, being called thither by various events, of which the most important was the following: On the occasion of a malicious charge of ritual murder preferred against the Jews in a city near Ecija, Abraham Benveniste, together with Joseph ha-Nasi, the chief farmer of the taxes, and Abraham ibn Shushan, went to the palace in order to expose the accusation as false and to prevent further danger to the Jews.  In compliance with the desire of the Jewish scholars, and the petitions of all the Jewish communities of Castile, the king appointed Benveniste in 1432 chief judge of the Jews and court rabbi (Rab de la Corte).
    In order to consider the laws issued against the Jews, to further the neglected study of the Talmud, and to put a check upon the prevalent immorality and the practice of informing, Benveniste, immediately after his appointment, called a synod at Valladolid.  It was composed of rabbis, scholars, and other prominent men, and met in the chief synagogue, situated in the Jews' quarter.  Under the presidency of Benveniste the synod drew up a statute called the " Tekanah," which was to serve as a basis for the administration of the communities.  It dealt with the divine service, with the glorification of the study of the Law, with state taxation, and with the welfare and progress of the communities.  It is divided into five sections; namely: (1) concerning the study of the Law; (2) the choice of judges and other functionaries; (3) the practice of informing; (4) taxes and duties; and (5) apparel.  The statute was to remain in force ten years.
 Abraham is renowned for having reinstated the study of the Law and for having, by his liberality kept many Jews from conversion.


BENVENISTE B. LABI: (Also known as De la Caballeria): Son of "Prince" Solomon ibn Labi de la Caballeria; lived at Saragossa, later at Alcarliz, where lie died Nov. 30, 1411.  He was wealthy, learned, and greatly respected, and often took the part of his coreligionists.  He corresponded with the most eminent men of his time; among others with Meïr Alguadez, who, at Benveniste's request, translated Aristotle's "Ethics" into Hebrew; with Hasdai Crescas; with Isaac b. Sheshet; with Joseph Orabuena, chief rabbi of Navarre; and with the physician Astruch Remoch Dios, or, as he called himself when he became a Christian, Francisco Dios Carne.
    Benveniste was a patron of science and of scholars.  For him Zerahyah ha-Levi  (Don Ferrer Saladin) translated Gazzali's "Tahafat al-Filasafah" into Hebrew; and at his request Joshua b. Joseph ibn Vivas Lorki wrote the work (probable now lost) on the values and function of foodstuffs, which was afterward translated into Hebrew by his son Joseph Vidal.  Benveniste died at Alcaníz and was buried with great honors.  Memorial services were held at Saragossa, Calatayud, Daroca, Soria, and other places.

Joseph Benveniste : Son of the court rabbi Abraham Benveniste; lived in Castile in 1450; and is said to have been wealthy, philanthropic, and a patron of Jewish science 

ABRAHAM BENVENISTE: A scholar known also as "Abraham Benveniste the Elder," to distinguish him from his grandson of the same name.  He was born in 1433, in Soria, province of Caceres, Spain, and at his circumcision Joseph Albo made a speech.  Together with his elder brother Vidal, he furthered the study of the Law and encouraged Jewish scholars by his support.


Judah Benveniste: Son of Abraham Benveniste, and grandson of the court rabbi of the same name.  He immigrated to Salonica with Samuel Franco and the other Spanish exiles, and with them founded the Sephardic community in that city.  He succeeded in preserving a share of his great patrimony sufficient for the purchase of a large collection of books.  Several experienced scribes were always employed in copying the Mishnah, the Talmud, and other works at his home, which was the center of the scholarly Spanish exiles.


Benveniste De Calahora:   According to Kaiserling in his book on Jewish participation in Spanish and Portuguese explorations, Benveniste, who was a resident of Burgos at the time,  fled Spain in the expulsion of 1492. The money owed to him was confiscated by the crown and used to partly finance the second voyage of Columbus.


Benveniste Farncisco and Diogo.  Two brothers who in the early 1500s converted to Catholicism and took the surname, Mendes.  Owned a vast trading company.
      Francisco married Doña Biatrice (Gracia) Nasi.  At his death she took control of his part of the company and used it to help Jews escape from Spain and Portugal with their property.  She eventually moved to the Netherlands.  When problems developed for her there, she went to Ferrara, Italy and, eventually to Constantinople where she returned to Judaism.  There she continued to use her resources to help Jews escape. (See Doña Gracia and the House of Nasi by Cecil Roth and The Woman Who Defied Kings by Andreé Brooks)


David Benveniste, Rabbi of Salonica in 1550; mentioned as a rabbinical scholar by his con- temporaries


 Hayyim ben  Israel Benveniste, Rabbinical authority; born 1603 at Constantinople; died (Sept., 1673. He was a pupil of J.Samego, but more particularly of Joseph Trani, who was much attached to him, and who eventually brought about his marriage to the daughter of a wealthy man.  Hayyim became rabbi at Constantinople, and later at Smyrna (1655), where he took a prominent part in the Shabbethai Zevi movement.  Although his attitude toward the new Messianic pretensions was at first somewhat skeptical,  he soon became an adherent of Shabbetbai Zevi-a step which later he deeply regretted and sought to efface from his memory by penance, It is uncertain to what extent he was concerned in the dismissal from office of his rabbinical colleague Aaron de la Papa, and whether he hindered the reinstatement of the latter.
     Benveniste was a man of astonishing learning.  At the age of twenty-one he had already begun his commentary to the Sernag  (Sef er ha-Mizwot) of Moses de Coney.  This was followed by the notable work Keneset ha-Gedolah, a commentary in eight parts on the four codes of the Law, of which the following were published during the lifetime of the author: Orah Hayyim (Leghorn, 1657) and Sheyare (=Addenda), ib. 1671; 2d ed., Constantinople, 1729; both included in 2d ed., Leghorn, 1791-92; Hoshen Mishpat, Smyrna, 1660; 2d ed. in two parts, ib. 1784).  The remaining portions of the work were published, 1711,1716, 1717, 1731, in Constantinople, where the Dine de-Hayye (Laws of the Living), or commentary on the work of Moses de Coucy, also appeared in two parts, 1742.  The responsa of Benveniste were published at Constantinople in 1743, and another collection of them, dealing Ivith the Yoreh De'ah and the Eben ha-'Ezer, appeared in four parts under the title Ba'e Hayye (Necessaries of the Living) at Salonica, 1788-'91.  In addition to these there exist Pesab Me'ubbin, prayers and rites for the first two evenings of Passover. an extract from the Keneset ha-Gedolah, Venice, 1692; and Hamra we -Hayye (Wine and Life), on the Babylonian treatise Sanhedrin, Leghorn, 1802.


Joshua ben Israel Benveniste: Rabbi in Constantinople toward the end of the seventeenth century; brother of Hayyim Benveniste, and, like the latter, a disciple of Joseph Trani.  He was a physician and rabbi at Constantinople in 1660, and was the author of the following works: Ozne Yehoshua (The Ears of Joshua), sermons for the Sabbath and special occasions (Constantinople, 1677); Sedeh Yelioshua (Field of Joshua), a cominentary on several tracts of the Talmud Yerushalmi (ib. 1662, 1749); Abodah Tammah (Perfect Service), a commentary on the Abodah for the Day of Atonement (ib. 1719-20); Seder ha-Get, on the formula for divorce, written at Brusa and published at Constantinople, 1719.  Benveniste's collection of responsa, Sha'ar Yehoshua (Gate of Joshua), was destroyed by fire; but several of his responsa are included in the collections of Moses Benveniste and Joseph Trani.
      Benveniste prepared (1) Mishmeret ha-Mizwot (Observance of the Commandments), a metrical version of the Azharot, with commentary; and (2) Lebush Malkut (Royal Garment), a hymn in the stvle of Gabirol's "Royal Crown," of which medical science constitutes the foundation.  Azulai claims to have seen both of these writings in manuscript at the house of a rabbi in Constantinople.
BENVENISTE BEN JACOB: One of the officers of the society Bkkur Holim of the Spanish synagogue in Venice toward the end of the seventeenth century.  He was of Spanish descent, and is mentioned together with Raphael ben Solomon Silva and Isaac ben Baruch Carvalho in the "Pulelierrima Inquisitio Animue ", prayers for the sick and dying used by the members of the above-mentioned society (Venice, Bragadin, 1685).


Immanuel Benveniste: Noted printer and publisher in Amsterdam. from 1640 to 1660.  He published several rituals and larger works, among which may be mentioned "Aruk," " Shulhan 'Aruk," "Sh'ne Luhot ha-Berit," and a valuable complete and still popular edition of the Talmud.  The last named, owing to a lack of purchasers, was offered for sale, soon after publication, at six imperials or less.  From his workshop issued several wellknown printers, notably the firm of Judah Gurnpel and Samuel Levi, as well as Uri Phoebus Levi.  In a measure the fame of Amsterdam Hebrew printing can be traced back to Benveniste's influence.  Several works issued by him are known by the borders of his title-pages forming a doorway, or by his device of star, lion, and castle.


Joseph Benveniste: Of Segovia; lived in Smyrna toward the end of the sixteenth century; son of Moses Benveniste, and disciple of Elias Galigo and of Samuel Useda.  Of his writings nothing remains but a fragment on the Talmudic treatise Gittin, published by his grandson Solomon Algazi in the work entitled Dobeb Sifte Yeshenim  (causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak, Smyrna, 1671.


Israel ben Eliezer Benveniste: Relative of HAYYIM and Of JOSHUA BEN ISRAEL BEN VENISTE; a resident of Constantinople; died 1677.  He wrote Beit Yisrael  (House of Israel), a collection of sermons and funeral orations, published by his son (Constantinople, 1678; Azulai, Shem haGedolim.


Isaac Benveniste: Nephew of AARON and of Phinehas b.  Joseph ha-Levi of Montpellier.  He was perhaps the author of a ritual work entitled Likkute ha-Dinim  (Collection of Laws), containing 118 short decisions.  It is still extant in manuscript. MSS. p. 155, No. 786.