The Yona Family of Monastir and Salonica
The family of my mother originally comes from Spain and like many other Jewish families fled that country in 1492.
As the story goes, they arrived in Thessaloniki (Greece) and from there moved to the village of Monastir, presently in the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia.
Information about the Yona family is scarce. In the index of names involving families who were deported from towns, villages, and cities of Macedonia during the second World War the name Yona does not appear anymore.
Related Sefaradí families include: Castelete, Matarasso, Sulam.
Material in this section contributed by Louis Oppenheimer, Ph.D.
- *Avraham Yona -m. [??]
We know the name of this patriarch only because of his son's patronymic printed on his "Broshura".
We know of three sons of this couple: Leon, [unknown], Ya'acov.
According to family lore, the three Yona brothers (Ya'acov, Leon, and [unknown]) departed after the big fire in Monastir in 1860.
It may be that with the departure of the three Yona brothers, the name Yona disappeared from the list of inhabitants of Monastir.
- *Leon Yona
- *[??] Yona
After arriving in Thessaloniki left for Western Europe.
- *Ya'acov Abraham Yona -m. Dudun (Daisy) Matarasso
This couple met and married in Thessaloniki (Salonica).
For a summary of his life by his daughter Rachael, see the
transcription of her letter, below.
Ya'acov moved ca. 1863 with his two brothers to Thessaloniki, Greece.
In Thessaloniki, Ya'acov Abraham Yona developed into a major Ladino poet of popular coplas who wrote Judeo-Spanish Ballad Chapbooks (or "brochures") and often performed at weddings and other celebrations.
According to Albert Matarasso, quoted in Armistead & Silverman, Yoná would walk through the streets of the Jewish quarter of Salonika selling his brochures and pamphlets, and reading them became a favorite pastime in those days.
To appreciate his work, see the
example of one of his brochures, below.
Children of Ya'acov and Dudun: Daniel, Mazeltov, Miriam, Rachael, Samuel, Abraham.
- Daniel Yona -m. [??]
- Bertha Yona
- Clair Yona -m. Astrouk Benjamin
- Jack Daniel Yona
- Regina Yona
- Mazeltov Yona
Emigrated to New York.
- Miriam (Mary) Yona
- Rachael Yona, -m. N. Castelete
- Samuel Yona -m. Miriam [??]
- Jack Samuel Yona -m. (1) [??]
- [Jack] -m. (2) Tikwa (?)
- Julia Yona
- Abraham Yona -m. Esther Sulam
- Flora Yona
- Jack Yona
- Gaston Yona
- Sidney Yona
- Violet Yona -m. Alfred Oppenheimer
Alfred Oppenheimer was a son of Louis Oppenheimer .
- Louis Jack ("Tobo") Oppenheimer
- Esther Henriette ("Stelly") Oppenheimer
- Henrietta Yona
- Rachel Yona
- Regina Yona
In a letter quoted by Armistead and Silverman (pp. 5-6), Ya'acov Yona's daughter Rachael Castalete-Yona recounts...
My father Yacob Yona was born in Monastir [Yugoslavia], in 1847.
When he was about 16 to 18 years of age, he went to Salonika with his two brothers.
Yacob and his brother Leon settled in Salonika; the third brother was soon to leave for Western Europe.
Yacob found work as a sweeper in a stamparía [printing establishment], located near the Great Talmud Torah of Salonika, which belonged to Han [Mr.] Saadi Leví.
After Yacob had worked there for some time, Saadi Leví—not knowing how educated his employee was—asked him if he could read and write, and handed him a newspaper.
To Mr. Leví's amazement, my father was able to read and copy from the newspaper with great ease.
Mr. Leví, who was an outstanding author of songs and gimarás ['pamphlets'], then put my father to work as a copyist in a room of his own.
Yacob's new job was to copy all of Mr. Leví's work for publication.
Some years passed and Han Saadi Leví asked Yacob if he would like to marry his niece, Dudún Matarasso, knowing full well that they loved each other.
After they were married, my father looked for additional sources of income, and at the Talmud Torah he obtained a paying position as hazán ['cantor'], also blowing the shofar ['ram's horn'] on the High Holidays.
Some time later he decided to leave Han Saadi Leví's printing shop to work on his own, simply because he was not earning enough to support a family.
My father's work became more popular than Saadi's, whereupon the latter produced no further ballads or gimarás, but chose to concentrate on his newspaper, La Época...
An example cover page is shown here, with transliteration of the Rashi script into Latin-alphabet Ladino, and translation into English.
IMPORTANT ROMANSAS (BALLADS)
Gentlemen, this booklet contains the
1--Several very important romansas.
2--The blessings for the CIRCUMCISION CEREMONY in French
and in (Judeo-)spanish for every day use
as a convenience.
3--A song of fortune/destiny as it exists
Produced and printed by the author
Ya'akov [ben] Avraham Yona.
SALONIKA 5673 (1912/13)
Sinyores, esta broshura kontiene los artikolos sigüentes:
1--Unas romansas bien importantes.
2--Los berachot di BRIT MILAH en fransés
i en espanyol para toda la vida del ombre
ke no penen los sinyores.
3--Una kantiga di el felek di lo ke egziste
Traida ala imprimeria izo el autor
Ya'akov Avraham Yona.
(See: Armistead, S. G. and Silverman, J. H. (1971). Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, Vol. 1: The Judeo-Spanisch Ballad Chapbooks of Yacob Abraham Yoná. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press).
This section last updated
Tuesday, December 2000ce
from material provided by Louis Oppenheimer, Ph.D., supplemented by additional research sources.
Format update 5766, (Nov, 2005ce).
If you are related either by descent or marriage to any of the clans mentioned in this section, or if you have relevant information which would supplement or correct what's here, and would like to contribute, send e-mail to: