Bezalel - Levy Family of Monastir
This family could be used as a textbook template for the final wave of Jewish immigration from Monastir.
The story contains all the elements:
beginning in the turmoil accompanying the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and Balkan Wars, a family member is sent off to "l'America" to blaze a trail;
in the New World, a "new" name, strong ties with countrymen, community leadership, entrepreneurship;
sending for other family members until finally, the parents and youngest siblings escape.
This family was one of those able to accomplish the liberation by persevering for decades, with only a slight interruption during the First World War.
This Bezalel family became known as the Semaya family in the US.
Later, the family adopted the name as their family name for secular purposes, as well.
Note: "Semaya" as a given name, among Sefaradim, is apparently recorded in pre-Expulsion Spain.
Related Sefaradí families include: Arouty, Pardo.
This section compiled October 2003ce from material contributed by Ike Semaya,
updated June 2005ce with additional material.
- *Shamaia Bezalel -m. *Gracia Levy
This family immigrated to the US in sevaral "waves", as was common among Monastirlis.
There would be a "trailblazer"—usually the eldest son, then as money for passage was earned, additional sons and finally the parents with younger children.
Occasional variations in this pattern occurred if a married daughter went in company of her husband, or if a betrothed daughter went with an "escort" (such as an older female relative), to get married in the new country.
In the case of this family, Aharon/Harry went first, in 1911, then Sol in 1919, Teddy in 1920, then the parents with Samuel and three of his sisters in 1932.
Another sister [??] married [??] Cohen in Monastir and they immigrated to the Holy Land.
- *Aharon (ben) Shamaia Bezalel -m. [??]
He was known as "Harry Semaya" in the US.
He arrived in the US in 1911.
The rest of the family came afterwards, and adopted the Semaya name as well.
- *Sol (ben) Shamaia Bezalel -m. [??]
He immigrated to the US in 1919.
Sol and his brother Sam did business together as Duchess Togs, at 645 Broadway, in New York City.
- *Todoros (ben) Shamaia Bezalel -m. Esther Arouty
In the US, Todoros was known as Theodore "Teddy" Semaya.
According to family lore, Esther and Theodore met on the ship "coming over," in 1920 or 1921.
They married seven years later.
Esther was a member of the Arouty-Pardo family.
Teddy and Esther's brother Max were partners in business—S&A Sportswear, which did business at 547 Broadway, in New York City.
- Ike Semaya -m. Iris Cohen
Iris's family hails from New Brunswick, NJ.
- *Samuel (ben) Shamaia Bezalel -m. [??]
Sam was known as "Sam Semaya" in the US.
Sam and his brother Sol did business together as Duchess Togs, at 645 Broadway, in New York City.
- *Janna (bat) Shamaia Bezalel -m. [??]
- *Betty (bat) Shamaia Bezalel -m. [??]
- *Jean (bat) Shamaia Bezalel -m. [??]
- *[??] (bat) Shamaia Bezalel -m. *[??] Cohen
This couple married in Monastir.
They emigrated to the Holy Land, not the US.
This section compiled October 2003ce from material provided by Ike Semaya.
If you are related either by descent or marriage to this family, or if you have relevant information which would supplement or correct what's here, and would like to contribute, send e-mail to: