Rhodes DNA Project

Jews of Rhodes DNA Project

Dr. Robert Rubin Mayo has launched an intriguing project which gives us a background of the original ancestry of the Jews of Rhodes (Spanish, Romaniote, Turkish and Italian).  Dr. Rubin is the grandson of Joseph M. Mayo, who was originally from Rhodes.

June 17, 2010:  New DNA Research Findings:

There are two individuals in the Jews of Rhodes Project, one with the surname SHAHON and the other with the surname SCIARCON.  They did not match along the paternal lines of their families.  Therefore, what I had thought to be a spelling variation of the surname may actually be two entirely different families.  I do not want to draw a conclusion just based on two individuals.  We need more people with the surnames SCIARCON, SHAHON, SHARHON, CHAHON, and CHARHON, to see if this is, indeed, the case.
It was also discovered that there were at least two different ISRAEL families that had lived in Rhodes.  One family was from the ISRAEL Rabbinical Dynasty.  Thus, it is now possible for men with the surname ISRAEL to determine if they had ancestors from this Rabbinical Dynasty along the paternal lines of their families. 

To contact Dr. Rubin’s project directly, the email address is: bob_rubin@hotmail.com

Project Background:
At the start of the 1500’s, as a flood of Sephardi exiles from Spain and Italy desperately sought refuge throughout the Mediterranean world, the Jews of Rhodes also struggled to survive. They were ordered to convert to Christianity, or they would be expelled to Nice, France. As a consequence, very few Jews remained.

In 1522, the Ottoman Turks conquered Rhodes, heralding the start of four centuries of religious freedom for the Jews there. The Ottoman Sultan sought to develop the island with the assistance of the Jews. That same year, about 40 Jewish families from Salonika arrived in Rhodes, and he granted them special privileges. During this same period, other Jewish exiles sought refuge, and some likely joined Sephardic and Italian Jews in settling on Rhodes. Some historical books, by reputable people, note that about 50 Jewish families settled in Rhodes in 1522.

The Romaniote Jews, of Greek origin, had lived in Rhodes for centuries before the arrival of the many Sephardic Jews in the 16th century. The Romaniote Jews became a small minority and soon lost their identity.

Project Goals: To try to identify the original 50 families that settled in Rhodes in 1522. This will be done by studying the paternal lines (Y DNA testing) and the maternal lines (mitochondrial DNA testing) of Jews whose families had lived on the Island of Rhodes.

How Do We Determine the Original Families? First, we need to enroll lots of people and test many DNA markers in order to be able to interpret the results with a good degree of probability. Therefore, please tell your Rhodesli friends/relatives about the study.

What You Would Need To Do: The organization called Family Tree DNA has given the project discounted rates for all of the tests. You start by visiting their project on the website at www.familytreedna.com . You will then need to type in the search term, “Rhodes”. Please note that this will reveal a list of projects. You will choose “Jews of Rhodes” project. Then fill in information at the bottom. It is necessary that you provide the family last names of your ancestors for the study, and then select “join”.

If you are a man whose parents both had ancestors from Rhodes: Please order the YDNA67 + mt DNA Plus tests. If you are a man whose father had ancestors from Rhodes: Please order the Y DNA 67 test. If you are a man or a woman whose mother had ancestors from Rhodes: Please order the mt DNA Plus test.

The test does not involve giving a blood sample. An “at home” test kit is mailed to you. It only involves swiping the inside of your mouth with a cotton swab and returning the sample by mail.

To contact Dr. Rubin’s project directly, the email address is: bob_rubin@hotmail.com


Interim Report: Jews of Rhodes DNA Project

November 7, 2008 DNA update: The purpose of the Jews of Rhodes Project is to try to identify the original 50 families who were Iberian, Italian, and Romaniote Jews that existed in Rhodes in 1522. This will be done by studying the paternal lines (using Y DNA testing) and the maternal lines (using mitochondrial DNA testing) of Jews whose families had lived on the Island of Rhodes.

The Jews of Rhodes Project has had an incredible start. Over the past year, 46 people have enrolled. Thirty-one people have completed Y-DNA tests to ascertain more about their paternal lineages (father´s father´s father… etc.). Twenty-one people have performed the mitochondrial DNA tests to discern more about their maternal lineages (mother´s mother´s mother… etc.).

Of those people evaluated to date were several participants having the same surname: 2 Alhadeffs, 2 Benvenistes, 2 Hanans, 2 Hazans, 2 Israels, 4 De Mayo/Mayos, 3 Menashes, 2 Pizantes, and 3 Russos. Each group of people listed above, who have the same surname, were found to descend from a common male ancestor, that is, they were from the same family, generations ago.

There are 5 groups of people who have mitochondrial DNA matches. Each group descends from a distinct female ancestor along the maternal lines. One group was composed of 4 individuals. The oldest female ancestors along the maternal lines in that group were Reina Israel, Behora Miriam Nahmias (daughter of Behora Tamar), and Mazaltov Piha. Each of these women, who lived 150 to 250 years ago, are connected to a common female ancestor going back in time along the maternal branches of their families. The outcome of this group suggests that their common maternal ancestor likely lived in Rhodes before the year 1700.

Of the men tested, ancestors along the paternal lines of their families tended to have originated a few thousand years ago from Northern Africa and the Ottoman Empire. Along the maternal lines of the individuals (men and women), their ancestors originated from Europe, Western Asia, Northeastern Africa, and the Mediterranean area.

Surnames of Participants in the Y DNA Study: Alhadeff, Altabet, Benon/Benoun, Benveniste, Berro, Codron, Coen/Cohen, De Mayo, Franco, Hanan, Hasson, Hazan/Jazan, Israel, Levi/Levy, Mayo, Menashe, Notrica, Palombo, Pisante/Pizanti, Rousso/Russo, Surmani, Taranto, Treves.

Additional Surnames of Participants in the Mitochondrial DNA Study: Almeleh, Amato, Capelluto, Galante, Hagiez, Halfon, Mizrahi, Nahmias, Navarro, Piha, Rozanes, Tarica, Touriel/Turiel.

By means of this investigation, many people have discovered new cousins and have been able to trace their ancestors back many more generations. If you are not already a participant, you can become involved in this project by e-mailing me at:  bob_rubin@hotmail.com

Rhodes Benveniste Family are Likely Cohanim?

December 12, 2009 DNA update: In 1997, a study was published in the Journal Nature, which demonstrated that a startling percentage of Jewish males who shared an oral tradition of being Cohanim, also shared the same Y chromosome signature. The males that matched this “Cohen Modal Haplotype” are found within Haplogroup J on the Tree of Homo Sapiens. Haplogroup J is commonly referred to as ‘Semitic’ or ‘Mediterranean’ because of its elevated percentage in those areas. However Haplogroup J is found at its highest frequency (and greatest diversity) in Iraq, or possibly in the Zagros mountain range found in Western Iran.

There are a few BENVENISTEs who enrolled in the Jews of Rhodes Project. Their Y DNA suggest that they share this “Cohen Modal Haplotype”. Therefore, they may likely be descendants of the brother of Moses, Aaron, or most probably, at least descendants of one of Aaron´s cousins.

In today´s age of genetic testing, it would be interesting what the orthodox Rabbis would say about these BENVENISTEs following the traditions of the COHANIM, for example on Yom Kippur.

For more information of the Rhodes DNA Project, please visit:  http://www.familytreedna.com/public/RHODES%20ISLAND%20SEPHARDIC%20PROJECT/default.aspx?/publicwebsite.aspx

Leave a Comment

40 Responses to “Rhodes DNA Project”

  1. January 14th, 2018

    Leslie Israel Lill:

    My grandfather, Eliezer Behor Israel (born 1900), was from Rhodes. According to my information, his parents were Bohor Avraham Israel (1873) and Seniora Israel (Piha). Bohor’s parents were Yaacov Pasha Israel, who my father was named after, and Mazaltov Israel (Notrica). Seniora Israel’s parents were Yosef and Reina Piha. My father has told us that we had many relatives in Rhodes at one time, but I would like to know more about my heritage. If you have any information regarding my ancestry, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

  2. October 28th, 2017


    Hi Victoria. I am sending two documents to your email address from 1926 and from 1941. The 1926 document refers to your grandfather as Mussani Franco (instead of David Franco).

  3. October 22nd, 2017

    Victoria Mayo Sadowsky:

    Hello, my maiden name was Victoria Mayo. Both my parents emigrated from Rhodes to New York. My father Nissim and my mother Emely. My maternal grandmother was Victoria Franco and grandfather David Franco. I became curious because I was reading about the Sephardic Jews in Charleston and the first Sephardic temple in America. I was wondering about when my ancestors left Spain and when they got to Rhodes. I don’t know if you can help me because my parents never spoke to me about these things. I was in Rhodes and all the names I knew were carved in front of the synagogue. Thank you. Dr. Victoria Sadowsky

  4. September 13th, 2017

    Joseph Benoun:

    To Daniel Surmani and Rachel Fiss:

    My Name is Joseph Benoun, my parents are Jeff and Jackie Benoun. My dad’s parents are Sam and Regina Benoun (Franco). Sam’s parents were Joseph and Bolissa Benoun. I’ve been trying to hunt down and find information about Joseph’s parents. I believe them to be Jacob Benun and Vida Benun (Israel) but the trail grows cold beyond that point. Do either of you have any info or hints? Any help is greatly appreciated!

  5. January 5th, 2017

    Brucha Weisberger:

    When I directed my mother to your site, she got excited when she saw the comment from Evangelina Ortiz, referencing her ancestor Benveniste Judah Dela Cavalleria. My mother herself was not born Jewish, but was deeply attracted to Judaism from her first encounter at about age 12, and had an Orthodox conversion at age 19. Now, more than 40 years later, she has discovered through researching her ancestors on My Heritage, that she has many ancestors (going back to France), who have Jewish names, and seem to be descendants of Anusim, the Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity. One of the names of her ancestors is Astruc, which she has found out was a common Jewish name then. And she found a Rabbi named Astruc-Caballero. She doesn’t know if she’s related to him, but she couldn’t help but speculate that she may have been related originally to my father’s (Benveniste) family. She asked me to post these questions on the site: Does anyone know if
    1) Caballeria and Caballero are the same?
    2) If anyone knows if the Astruc-Caballero family has any relationship to the Benveniste-Caballeria family?
    An additional interesting piece of information is that My Heritage sent me a match for my ancestor, Yitzchak Benveniste Halevy, with an uncle of his, Yitzchak de Caballería. However I don’t know if that means that all Benvenistes are Caballerías too, or if it was just 2 families who married each other. I’d be excited to get more info. Thank you!

  6. October 3rd, 2016

    Evangelina G. Ortiz:

    I have an ancestor named Benveniste Judah Dela Cavalleria. Are the surnames Benveniste and Cavalleria one in the same? I have read many online articles that say they are but I am still unsure. If so I have done DNA testing and can provide you with the information.

  7. September 18th, 2016

    shoshana Elkana Mutal:

    my name is shoshana Elkana, my father was Joshua Salvo Elkana of the Elkana family in Rhodes. He had 11 brothers and sisters most of which perished in the w.w. II. My father also immigrated to israel and has 2 children, myself and my brother yoram. I would love to hear more about his family. Especially since i never knew any of my grandparents. I am seeking to build a family tree and find out about his family.

  8. July 16th, 2016

    Emily S. Israel:

    Hello. My name is Emily Israel. I am descended from Abraham and David Israel (de Pisa) who arrived in New York, USA on The Charles and were accompanied by Asser Levy. They are recorded as some of the first Jews of New York City. Research currently leads to my 15th great-grandfather, known only to me as Israel de Pisa, in Castille, Marcha-Spain, in 1575. If this is of interest to this project, I will happily volunteer for testing.

  9. July 1st, 2016

    Sharon Guskin:

    My mothers maiden name was Bernice Capeluto. Her mothers maiden name was Regina Isreal. I have visited Rhodes an I’m fascinated by my heritage.

  10. May 27th, 2016

    Sharon Benveniste Gonzalez:

    My father’s mother (Esther Malca Benveniste) and father Abraham Bahor Benveniste, were some sort of cousins, both from Rhodes, and married in Los Angeles. My father was Harold (Hasdai) Benveniste. If I can help in any way, I would be happy to take the test.

  11. May 15th, 2016

    Jennifer Mayo:

    This is all very interesting. I’m originally from Puerto Rico and I’ve been trying to figure out where my last name comes from. I have not been able to find any MAYO’s in Puerto Rico before the 1800’s so I’ve been wondering where the name could have come from. Do you know of any MAYO’s going to Puerto Rico or the Caribbean? Thanks!

  12. October 30th, 2015

    Ron Israel:

    Fascinating! I am an Israel (of the rabbinic family). My paternal grandfather was Morris N. Israel, grandmother was Estrella (Alhadeff) Israel. My maternal grandfather was Victor Mayo, grandmother Victoria Ben (Benaltabet), whose parents were Isaac and Clara Ben from Istanbul. I am 3/4 Rhodesli and 1/4 Stambouli. We Sephardim have a rich and beautiful heritage. So happy to see the preservation and research on this website. Muchos y buenos.

  13. March 3rd, 2015

    Jorge Daniel Hazan:

    Yo soy Jorge Daniel Hazan 1964 argentino 50 años arquitecto, hijo de Herzl Hazan Uruguayo, nacido en Montevideo y fallecido en Buenos Aires(1926-1974) y Rosa Bajar argentina (1926) 88 años (hija de Flor Abrameto y Jose Bajar ambos de Izmir Turquia)

    Herzl Hazan, hijo de Hazday Hazan turco, nacido en Rodas y fallecido en Montevideo Uruguay (1889-1939) y de Cadem Hasson Turca (nacida en Rodas y fallecida en Buenos Aires Argentina (1890-1973)

    Caden Hasson hija de Abraham Hasson Turco nacido en Rodas (aprox 1865) y Maria Menache Turca nacida en Rodas (1868) y
    Hazday Hazan hijo de Natan Hazan Turco nacido en Rodas (aprox 1866) y Matilde Cohen Turca nacida en Rodas (1869).

    Me interesaria saber mas de mi arbol genealogico, me asombro saber que mi abuela tiene el mismo apellido que el fundador del Museo Hasson y lo mas importante que ambos apellidos figuran en el ADN que lei Hasson y Hazan y que de 1865 al 2015, 150 años llegue a mis bisabuelos y seguir si me brindan informacion, y contarles que si dios quiere seguira en mis hijos todos judios Natan Ioel Hazan 2000 14 años, Florencia Mijal Hazan 22 años y Jazmin Iara Hazan 19 años.

    Espero respuesta, muchas y buenas. Gracias.

    Jorge Hazan

  14. January 30th, 2015

    gabriela Ojeda rodas:

    Hola, espero puedan ayudarme a encontrar mis raíces, no se si tengo descendencia en rodas pero lo llevo como apellido y algo debe significar.

  15. December 13th, 2014

    mark angel:

    my dad was born in rhodes 1907. grandparents on both sides were from there.
    Mother’s parent last name (levy + benveniste)
    Dad’s parent last name (angel + alkana)

  16. November 24th, 2014

    Diana Franco:

    I am in contact with the Franco’s , Israel’s, Turiel, Benveniste, Benon, Hasson and Hazan and Cohen. I will email this site to them.

  17. August 6th, 2014

    Catherine Hasson Gerry:

    My father was born in Rhodes, named Maurice Hasson…His Mother was Matilda Hasson…there were 2 sons and 3 daughters in the family, Matilda, Alegra and Bellina. Please give me any information you have on the. The other Son was Isaac Hasson….Thanks, Catherine Hasson Gerry….I would participate in the DNA test. My Husband’s father originated in Poland, La Vov…original last name of Gurah which changed to Gerry at Ellis island when he came to the U.S.

  18. July 6th, 2014

    Ben Sciarcon:

    Several months ago we received confirmation of a perfect match of SCIARCON and CHARHON: 37/37
    Regards to all participants.

  19. July 3rd, 2013

    Sabrina Russo:

    My grandparents, Luna and Aron Russo are from Rhodes, according to my father Luna’s maiden name was Russo too and I believe she was originally from Spain. I have emailed and would like to participate in the project.

  20. June 4th, 2013

    Leon Taranto:

    to Ana Esner Musafir: I think you are part of the same Alhadeff family to which I belong. I have data for Lea Alhadeff, b. 1859 Rhodes, d. perhaps about 1930 in, I think, Rio de Janeiro, married to Behor Jeuda Musafir (Mossafir). I show them with 10 children, born between 1879 and 1903. The children are: Giacobbe (same as Yaacov or Jacob), Mosé, Mordocheo, Bulissa, Rosa, Rahamin (Ricardo), Victor (Vittorio\Haim), Abramo, David and Yair. Which of the these is your grandfather? Lea Alhadeff’s father was Hermano Moreno Alhadeff. Moreno’s brother Hadji Bohor Salomon Alhadeff was my ancestor.

  21. June 3rd, 2013

    ana esner musafir:

    My great grandfather, Alexandre Musafir married to Lea Alhadeff, were from Smirna(Turkey), and went to live in Rhodes where they had 10 children and about 1910 emigrate to Brazil. I was reading about Rhodes and found our family name. I am writing to you, out of curiosity just to know if you have ever met any MUSAFIR.
    best regards

  22. June 1st, 2013


    Hi Linda. To participate in the DNA project, please contact Dr. Bob Rubin Mayo (his family is also from Rhodes) and he can be reached at: bob_rubin@hotmail.com

  23. June 1st, 2013

    Linda Peha:

    I would like tomparticipate in the DNA project. My father’s parents were Nessim Peha and Diana Piha from Rhodes.

  24. April 29th, 2013


    Hi Joni. To participate in the DNA project, please contact Dr. Bob Rubin Mayo (his family is also from Rhodes) and he can be reached at: bob_rubin@hotmail.com

  25. April 28th, 2013

    Joni Sherman:

    I am interested in participating in the DNA project. My mother was Rose Touriel, her parents were Moshe & Hanula Hasson Touriel my grandparents were both born in Rhodes. I wonder who in my family has participated.

  26. February 22nd, 2013

    Miriam Herzenstein Burnett:

    I have a family tree dating back from 1670 with rabbi Moshe Ben Abraham Israel in Rhodes. There are many Grand Rabbi’s from that period and later with the last name of Israel, and the tree is in French. My father is still alive and was born in Alexandria Egypt. We live in California. He might be willing to take a DNA test if this is what you’re looking for.


  27. November 17th, 2012

    Jackson Franco Handmacher:

    Wow. This is incredible! I am a descendent of Franco/Benveniste/Piha from Rodos. My great great grandfather was Hezkiah David Franco and his wife was Reina Piha Franco. The other side was great grandfather Moreno Benveniste and Matilda/Mazaltov Benveniste Benveniste. Intermarriage was common!
    Thank you for working on this project. It is so important to those of us who descend from this very special group of Jews.

  28. August 28th, 2012

    Marcia Goldfarb:

    My father was Israel A. Shahon, born in Rhodes in 1903 or 5; He lived in Los Angeles, as did his 2 older sisters, Catherine(Kadina); Sarota; a brother, Marco. All have passed away. His parents; other siblings perished in the camps. I would also be interested in participating in the DNA project. I visited Rhodes several years ago, before there was a museum next to the synagogue; I also went to the cemetary. There were not so many tourists, then. Even so, I have always said that I would return; spend more time; I hope to do so.

  29. May 7th, 2012

    howard franco:

    I did the DNA and just had a cousin do it. We always assumed we’re cousins on his mothers side, my father & his mother were brother/sister. His mother, a Franco, married a Franco and were always told that there was no relation. Well DNA showed different..there was a relation..so if any other Francos would participate it would be interesting to see if one family or more than one?..

  30. August 25th, 2011

    daniel surmani:

    to Rachel Fiss: i do not know if you will remember, my name is daniel surmani my parents were sara surmani & nace surmani, my grandparents were esther benoun & joseph benoun. i live in Porterville, CA. hope to here from you

  31. June 6th, 2011

    Gady Notrica:

    I also found the website accidentally! I want to go for a DNA test for Notrica. My Grand-grand father is from Rhodes and i want to conform that my blood is linked to Rhodes.

  32. January 7th, 2011

    esther epstein:

    I found this site accidentally and I love it. I found the location of my Capeluto, Musafir & Mazal ancestors’ homes on the map you have on “La Juderia” page. My grandmother was Rosa (Behora) Capeluto Musafir, my fathers mother was Esther Franco Mazal. My mother Rebecca Musafir Mazal was born on Rhodes, my father was also born on Rhodes. My nieces and daughter are so interested in our background I would like to know of some other relatives that might be also interested in finding cousins. I know that some of the Mazals went to Uruguay. My mothers father died on a ship–he was a traveling salesman between Rhodes and Palestine I think from the stories I heard. I have relatives in California named Fiss, my aunt Serena Mazal maried a man names Fiss. I am interested in doing the DNA.

  33. December 3rd, 2010

    Joel Sherman:

    My father’s name was Benjamin J. Sherman (Shemarya). He was born in Rhodes August 1900. Died in 1959 in Portland, Oregon. His sister Sarota Fiss (Fintz) was taken in the Holocaust along with her son…believe his name was Aaron. He had a brother (Jacob) and two sisters in Seattle (Esther and Leah). There was another sister living in New York. Do not remember her name. Any info would be great. Thank you, Joel Sherman (Shemarya)

  34. July 14th, 2010

    Barbara Nahmias:

    I would like to know how to participate in the DNA project. My father was Isaac Nahmias. His parents were Samuel and Buena Nahmias.

  35. July 13th, 2010


    Hi Barbara. Participating is easy (I did it a few months ago). Contact: bob_rubin@hotmail.com

  36. June 14th, 2010

    Rachel Joseph (Fiss/Benoun/Alkana/Hanan):

    My sisters and I are all interested in finding our roots and hope we are able to participate in this DNA project. My name is Rachel Joseph (Fiss), my mother was Rebecca Fiss (Benoun), my father was David Fiss, his mother was Allegra Hanan, father, Avner Fiss, my maternal grandmother was Vida Benoun (Alkana) and my maternal grandfather was Morris Benoun. All were from Rhodes. We were all very involved in the Sephardic Hebrew Center for many years. In fact, my grandmother, Vida Benoun, served as Sisterhood President for many years. I knew Joe Mayo who was President of the temple when I went to Hebrew School. This all sounds very exciting and am very interested.

  37. May 12th, 2010

    beniamino sciarcon:

    I am currently waiting for my DNA results and hoping to compare them to other Rhodeslis with names: Charhon, Scharhon, Shahon, Charcon, etc. Hope others with similar names do participate!!

  38. May 9th, 2010

    Diana Maria Villarreal:

    Eye-opening information. Would like to visit your area.

  39. April 14th, 2010

    Adriana Pingas:

    I would like to participate in the Rhodes DNA project, so I will visit the website. My father’s parents were from Rhodes, Sara Berro and David Pingas. This is such a fascinating website. I am thrilled. My grandparents emigrated to Buenos Aires around 1913-1914. They had 4 children (Simon, Raquel, Jorge and Lazaro. Lazaro is the only one alive, he is 96 years’ old and he is my father). I am interested in finding out more about my family and would welcome any information available. I will try to find out more surnames of related family (many of them emigrated to Buenos Aires) to post them here to try to find out more.

  40. March 9th, 2010

    Cheryl Alhadeff-Barker:

    Regarding the DNA project: My fathers parents were from Rhodes. His father, an Alhadeff and his mother, a Benveniste. Is it possible for me to also participate? Thanks.