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