Fioretta Chalfan is the only member of the Chalfan family whose grave has been found in the old Jewish cemetery on the Lido in Venice. She died around 1560, according to the style of her grave, which has no date. She was the mother of Rabbi Dr. Abba Mari Chalfan who moved from Venice to Prague.
Fioretta was the wife of Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu ben Abba Mari Chalfan of Venice. Rabbi Chalfan is famous for a number of different things. First, he was apparently in contact with the false messiah Solomon Molcho, a Portugese Jew who escaped to Italy and after a number of escapades, was burned at the stake by the Inquisition. Second, at the behest of the Christian Cabalist Francesco Georgio, Chalfan provided Richard Croke a religious opinion in favor of King Henry VIII in his attempt to convince Pope Clement VII that his so-called “levirate marriage” to Catherine of Aragon should be annulled because she had previously been in a marriage (lasting only five months) to Henry’s brother Arthur and had not borne a son. Third, in a collection of responsa compiled by Joseph Graziano of Modena, Chalfan gives his opinion on the question whether a Jew may instruct Christians in Hebrew. Citing numerous passages from the Talmud, which he elucidates with logical acumen, Chalfan shows that elementary instruction may certainly be given, if only for the purpose of enabling non-Jews to comply with the seven laws given to Noah. Eliyahu Chalfan’s father Abba Maria Chalfan went to Naples in 1492 to study astronomy. He authored explanatory notes on the Alphonsine Tables, which provided data for computing the position of the sun, moon, and planets relative to the fixed stars. Eliyahu’s mother was the daughter of the foremost talmudist of his generation in Italy Josef ben Salomon Colon (the MaHaRIK), an exile from Chambery France who lived in Mestre, near Venice, and was later rabbi in Bologna and Mantua, and died in Padua around 1480.
It seems very likely that the Chalfan and Kalonymos families moved to Venice from southern Italy no later than 1517, due to persecution by the Inquisition which was active in the Kingdom of Naples, a territory of the Spanish crown. Thus they were certainly among the first families locked at night in the Venice ghetto, which was established on March 29, 1516.
Dr. Alexandr Putik of the Jewish Museum of Prague believes that a daughter of Abba Maria Chalfan was the wife of the famous historian and astronomer David Gans (1541-1613), who in 1600 took part in astronomical observations with Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler at the Prague observatory. Gans named one of his sons Abba Mari, which is a given name that is unknown in Bohemia except for the family of Abba Mari Chalfan.
Dr. Elia Chalfan was born in Prague around 1561 to Rabbi Dr. Abba Mari Chalfan and Rachel Kuh. On July 5, 1598 he was granted permission to move to Vienna by Emperor Rudolf II. Only 31 Jewish families lived in Vienna at that time. When in 1599, the Jews of Vienna were unable to pay a tax of 20,000 florins, they were ordered to leave Vienna on February 5, 1600 within fourteen days. All but eleven families and Dr. Elia obeyed the order, but were soon allowed to return. According to a list of Jewish families from 1600, Elia lived with his wife Rebekka bat Heschel and five children in the house of Hannsen Mader in the Wimmer Viertel, the only Jew in that part of town. The address is now Schultergasse 10.
Elia died February 2, 1624 in Vienna and was buried in the old Roßauer cemetery in the Seegasse. During the Nazi era his gravestone was brought to the Zentralfriedhof Tor. IV and buried. A large fragment was recently discovered there, and it should be restored and moved back the Seegasse cemetery. The grave inscription was published by Bernhard Wachstein in 1912.
According to Gerson Wolf, Studien zur Jubelfeier der Wiener Universität in Jahre 1865, p. 27 (1865), many books and manuscripts belonging to Dr. Elia Chalfan are in the Austrian National Library. These likely include manuscripts written by his ancestors from Italy Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Menachem Chalfan and the Astronomer Kalonymos ben David Kalonymos.
Joshua Heschel Chalfan was the son ofDr. Elia Chalfan of Vienna. He is recorded in the 1632 Vienna Grundbuch (Property Register). He died after 1648 but no grave has been found. On his son Chaim’s grave in 1648 Joshua Heschel Chalfan is still alive and is referred to as “Aleph” meaning he was a leader of the community. He was the father of Loeb, Rechel, Salamo and Chaim.
His brother Isak Eisik Chalfan died in 1617 and had a grave in the old Vienna Seegasse cemetery which is included in Bernhard Wachstein’s book. It identifies three generations of ancestors. The graves in the Seegasse were buried during the Nazi era to preserve them, and Isak’s grave has not yet been located.
Chaim Chalfan was born in Vienna to Joshua Heschel Chalfan. in 1619 Chaim is mentioned in a letter sent from Prague to Vienna by Salomon Horowitz. He was married to Kressel who died in 1633 in Prague, the daughter of haRosh Bezalel ben Chaim, a great-nephew of the Maharal of Prague. Chaim died in Vienna on May 12, 1648. He was buried in the old Jewish cemetery on the Seegasse. The graves in that cemetery were buried to save them from the Nazis and to date Chaim’s grave has not been found. The text of the grave was published by Bernard Wachstein in his 1912 book Die Inschriften des Alten Judenfriedhofes in Wien (1. Teil, 1540 (?) – 1670).
Jentl Chalfan was the daughter of Chaim Chalfan and Kressel and was probably born in Vienna. She was married to Joseph Ausch, haLevi, the Rosh Medina (literally, “head of the land”), a signatory of the statutes governing Bohemian Jewry (outside Prague) from 1659. In 1665 Jewish dealers in woolen goods were barred from entering the town of Litomerice, but Joseph Ausch petitioned to be allowed to enter the city so that he could pay off his debts. Joseph Ausch died in Auscha (Úštek) Bohemia (near Terezin and Litomerice) on August 24, 1674. His grave still exists in the cemetery in Ustek.
Frumetl Ausch was the daughter of Jentl Chalfan and Joseph Ausch, haLevi, the Rosh Medina (literally, “head of the land”), a signatory of the statutes governing Bohemian Jewry (outside Prague) from 1659.
Frumetl and her husband Manis Nachod donated two torah curtains, one of them (red) dedicated to their grandson Moyses Nachod. Manis attended the Leipzig Fair from 1689 to 1703. It is likely that he obtained the textiles for the curtains at the fair.
In 1700 Frumetl was elected as a female official (gabayot) of the Pinkas synagogue.
Benet Nachod was the only child of Frumetl Ausch and her second husband Manis Nachod. He was probably born around 1665 and was married by 1694 when his son Moyses was likely born (three years before the 1697 dedication of two torah curtains in his honor).
Bendet attended the Leipzig Fair (with his father) in 1695, 1698 and 1699.
In Purim 1709, Benet Nachod was caught with Meir Perels in a snowstorm in Nußdorf outside Vienna (now the Viennese district of Döbling), as recorded in Perles’ Megilat Sefer.
Benet was married twice, first to Tscherne Cholisch, who died in 1718, and then briefly to Pessel Horice, who died in 1721. At the time of the 1729 census he is unmarried and has one unmarried son named Manis (Menasse). His occupation was jeweler. His son Moyses was living next door with his family. Benet had one daughter named Shirei who was married already to Hertzl Neustadtl in 1729.
There is a 1724 mortgage record in Liber Judeorum Albus which might help us figure out which house he lived in. A 1727 list of houses lists the house of Benet Nachod or Jacob Thein and an attached synagogue or school. Dr. Alexandr Putik believes it was on the northern side of the Pinkas street near the cemetery. The house was burned down during the 1754 fire and the Chewra Kadisha building is now located in that area.
Benet died April 5, 1742 and is buried in the Prague old Jewish cemetery.
Moyses Nachod was born in Prague to Benet Nachod and Tscherne bat Avigdor Cholisch sometime before 1697, when his grandparents donated two torah curtains in his honor. He may have been three years old at the time, so probably born in 1694.
At the time of the Prague Jewish census of 1729, Moyses was married to Hindele Altschul and had children Simche, Figdor (=Dan Avigdor) and Roßel. He later had children Mannes and Serl. In 1729 Moyses dealt in saddle pads.
Moyses and his family left Prague during the expulsion period 1745-1748, enacted by the Empress Maria Theresa, and then returned. In the 1748 census he has three unmarried children, Simche, Ewigder and Sarl. His occupation was tabacconist.
Moyses Nachod claimed 800 gulden (or florins) in losses from the fire that ravaged the Prague ghetto in 1754
Moyses died in 1759 and is buried in the old Jewish cemetery in Prague.
Daniel Avigdor Nachod was born in October 19, 1727 in Prague to Moyses Nachod and Hindle Altschul. His circumcision (under the name Avigdor ben Moshe) by David Jenikau is recorded on October 26, 1727 with the god-father Bennet Emmerich. He is listed with his family in the 1729 census. Avigdor was unmarried in 1745, when all Jews were expelled from Prague by Empress Maria Theresa. His family returned in 1748.
In 1756, Avigdor was involved in a lawsuit before the Jewish court (Beit Din) against Beer Schefteles, who had been married to Avigdor’s sister Rosel from 1740-1745. Avigdor had worked for Beer for five years when Beer obtained a string of pearls at a bargain price and asked Avigdor to take them to the Leipzig fair to sell them. Avigdor claimed that he was owed a salary and Beer promised he could keep what he obtained for the pearls. Beer testified that he did not owe anything to Avigdor and the suit was dismissed.
In 1760, Daniel Avigdor obtained permission to marry Pessel Bunzel. At that time he is described as a shopkeeper. It appears that Avigdor became known as Daniel, probably after Josef II’s Edict of Tolerance of 1781 which required Jews to adopt German given names. He died August 13, 1792 in Prague, house 223. His grave was in the old Wolschan cemetery, which was destroyed in 1985 when the Czech Communists built a radio tower. His wife Pessel died already in 1779 and is buried in the old Jewish cemetery.