Five-Hundred Years in the Life of the Amon Family

From the surrender of Spain to the court of Suleiman the Magnificent and beyond, they were there

For centuries, members of the Amon family served as advisers and physicians to sultans, esteemed rabbis and businessmen across three continents

The name first appears in the first book of the Torah.

The Almighty – in bestowing a new name upon Abram – announces to him that “Your name will be ‘Abraham,’ for I have made you the father of many [Av Hamon] nations.”

Abraham contemplating the multitude of stars, by E.M. Lillien. From the Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; available via the National Library of Israel Digital Collection

The name ‘Hamon’ thus translates as ‘multitude’ or ‘many’.

Talmudic scholars, moreover, indicated that there exists a deeper meaning to this name. Indeed, the commentators state that the very name “Abraham” is but an abbreviation of “Av Hamon,” (‘Father of Many’), while each letter signifies a special attribute or character trait of Abraham, the progenitor of not only the Jewish people, but of monotheism itself.

As a last name, it will variably be spelled “Hamon” or “Amon”.


Abraham to Isaac

The first individual who bears this name in the historical record (and thus my family’s first appearance) seems to be Isaac Amon of Granada in the late 15th century.

Private physician to Muhammad XII (or Boabdil) the last Nasrid sultan of Granada, Isaac witnessed the surrender of the last Muslim ruled city to Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs, in January 1492.

A patio in the Alhambra illustrated in the 19th century book Reino de Granada. From the National Library of Israel collection
Alhambra design details illustrated in the 19th century book Reino de Granada. From the National Library of Israel collection

Besides some speculation, history tragically reveals no more of this forebear of the Amon family.

It does, however, record the existence of another Amon named Joseph, a younger relative who was also in Granada at that time.

One historian believed that Joseph was born in Italy, scion of the famous family of Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura, though the consensus is that the Amon family is of Iberian origin.

Three months after the capture of Granada, and with it the end of the Reconquista (the Christian reconquest of Muslim Spain), Ferdinand and Isabella promulgated the infamous Edict of Expulsion from the Alhambra, ordering all professing Jews to convert or leave on pain of death by July 31, 1492. Following Tisha B’Av of that year, the last Jews left Spain, on the same day Christopher Columbus departed on his voyage of exploration.

Depiction of Jews fleeing Spain, from a 19th century book on the Inquisition. From the National Library of Israel collections

At the sultan’s court

Joseph and his infant son Moses fled to the safety of the Ottoman Empire, along with multitudes of their co-religionists. As countless Jews arrived in Constantinople, Sultan Bayezid II (r. 1481-1512) is famously said to have declared that by expelling their country’s Jews, Ferdinand and Isabella had impoverished their own country and enriched his own.

Bayezid II

Notwithstanding this venerable story, Amon family lore holds that Sultan Bayezid ordered Joseph to declare the Shahada and convert to Islam.

He was given three days to decide.

Joseph refused and defiantly proclaimed that he, his family, and his brethren had fled their ancestral homeland in search of religious liberty. He offered up his life but declared that he would not betray his faith.

Impressed by his staunch conviction, Bayezid invited Joseph to become his physician and advisor. Consequently, Joseph loyally served Bayezid and his son Selim I (r. 1512-1520), often accompanying them on military expeditions to Egypt and Syria, as the Ottoman Empire continued to increase its vast territorial holdings.

Joseph’s son Moses, who had left Spain as an infant, rose even higher than his father in the esteem and service of the Sultan and his Jewish brethren. He served as physician, advisor, and diplomat to Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566), the longest reigning Ottoman sultan, throughout much of his 46 years in power.

Excerpt on ophthalmology from a 16th medical text apparently written by Joseph or Moses Amon. From the Aharon Meir Mazia Collection, available via the National Library of Israel Digital Collection


Recently published edition of a treatise on dentistry by Moshe Hamon

Moses funded a yeshiva, paid Jewish scholars to translate great works, and valiantly defended his brethren from infamous blood libel allegations. Most significantly, he persuaded Suleiman to intervene on Dona Gracia Nasi’s behalf with Venetian authorities, thus allowing her to immigrate to Constantinople.

Etching of Doctor Moses Amon by 16th century French diplomat Nicolas de Nicolay

Although other Amons may be mentioned in various encyclopedias and resources, none of them merited to receive the historic stature or station of these three forefathers, all of them medieval physicians.


The Amons of late-Ottoman Istanbul

Closer to our own time, my great-great grandfather Ishak Amon Effendi is the earliest known member of my directly traceable family branch.

Born and raised in Istanbul, he was a teacher of mathematics, a rabbi, and a member of the Communal Council. His grandson (my grandfather) told me that as a sign of his prestige, Rabbi Ishak was even offered the position of Chief Rabbi of the Ottoman Empire following the Turkish War for Independence.

Unwilling to become involved in political machinations, he declined the offer to succeed Rabbi Haim Nahum Effendi, who had left to become Chief Rabbi of Egypt. Nonetheless, the Ottoman government bestowed “Effendi” (a title of nobility equivalent to being knighted in England and rarely given to Jews) upon him as a sign of the esteem in which he was held.

In this article published in the Eliezer Ben-Yehuda publication Hashkafa on 9 November 1906, Ishak Amon (in Hebrew “יצחק המון”) is mentioned as one of the notable residents of Istanbul (in Hebrew “קושטא”) who voted for the new Chief Rabbi of the Ottoman Empire. From the National Library of Israel Digital Collection

In August 2019, with the assistance of the Turkish Chief Rabbinate, the Neve Shalom Synagogue, a good friend named Ismail Baran Can Yildirim, and several cemetery employees (who barely spoke English), Rabbi Ishak’s grave was finally found in the Sephardic cemetery of Istanbul, located in the Arnavutköy neighborhood.

Isaac Amon at the grave of Rabbi Ishak Amon Effendi in Istanbul

Though the letters are fading, words in Turkish and Hebrew note that he was honored by the nation for his contributions and mourned by his people.

Rabbi Ishak’s son Davit was my great-grandfather. Born in 1881, the same year as Ataturk, he owned and operated his own import-export business in Istanbul. Married by Rabbi Raphael David Saban, the future Chief Rabbi of Turkey, Davit had two brothers and a sister. He died in 1977, the year after my father started medical school, and a dozen years before I was born in the United States.


The Midwest via modern Turkey

His son – my grandfather – Rene Isaac Amon, was a formative influence in my own life. Born in December 1923, a month and a half after Ataturk proclaimed the Turkish Republic, he grew up in a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional, multi-national neighborhood of Istanbul. He was a polyglot, who spoke French with his parents, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) with his grandparents, Greek with his friends, Turkish in the streets, and Hebrew in school. He later learned German and Russian for study purposes and perfected his English as an attaché between the Turkish Army and the British military during the Korean War.

As a teenager, he met Ataturk a few months before the latter’s death. He married my grandmother, Denise Nehmad from Beirut, in Istanbul’s Neve Shalom Synagogue in December 1952. Then-Chief Rabbi Raphael David Saban presided over the ceremony.

Wedding photo of Denis and Rene Isaac Amon

Shortly thereafter, my grandparents made the decision to move to America, with a young child – my father Erol – in tow. Arriving in Chicago during fall 1957 (when my dad was three years old), my grandparents had to reorient themselves to a new culture.

My grandfather’s Masters in Engineering from Istanbul Technical University was insufficient for career advancement.  As such, despite 15 years of practice, he attended Northwestern University to obtain his PhD (and thus earn “his union card” as he put it). In his early 40s, he was thus writing his dissertation, teaching full time at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and raising my father.

Living in St. Louis, I visited my grandparents every summer growing up. During the High Holidays, they would take the train or get a ride from Chicago to St. Louis and stay with us for a few months.

Denis and Rene Isaac Amon

My grandfather’s interests were numerous and his curiosity insatiable. He continued to read works in multiple languages, discuss religion, history, literature, engage with mathematical problems, and watch movies with us at night.


Into the 21st century

My grandmother (of Nahmad and Safra family origin), passed on in September 2013, while my grandfather passed on in October 2018, two months’ shy of his 95th birthday.

Mentally lucid and cognizant until the end, (speaking in French and Ladino with friends in person and on the phone even just a few days before his passing), he impressed upon our family the importance of remembering our history and passing it on to future descendants, to those who will unfortunately not know him except through our indelible recollections and memories.

In this final enterprise, he followed the notable example of our lawgiver and prophet Moses, who near the end of his own life exhorted the Nation of Israel to “remember the days of old, consider the years of ages past. Ask your father and he will inform you; your elders and they will tell you.”

Lesser Ury’s “Moses am Sinai”, early 20th century (Publisher: J. Wieland & Co). From the Joseph and Margit Hoffman Judaica Postcard Collection, the Folklore Research Center at the Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; available via the NLI Digital Collection

My genetic story (from 23&Me) reveals that I have relatives on five continents. Indeed, the Amon Diaspora spans the globe; members live in the United States (such as Cleveland, Seattle, New York, Boston, and St. Louis), Costa Rica, Turkey, Israel, France, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Even more significantly, my Amon ancestors hail from Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Turkey, Lebanon, Spain and Portugal. Though great expanses of space and time separate us, they live on in us.

Our DNA is the “living embodiment” of our chronicle in the scroll of family, Jewish, and human history.

It is said that we are only remembered for three generations. Accordingly, it is incumbent upon us to bear witness to the lives of our ancestors throughout the centuries, so they may live on for posterity. As the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and member of the House of Lords memorably wrote, “I hear their call to write the next chapter… [and] continue their journey because… I may not let it and them fail. I cannot be the missing letter in the scroll.”

Ultimately, from 15th century Isaac Amon to 21st century Isaac Amon, the story and legacy continues.


This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to share stories and connect with people, institutions and communities in Europe and beyond.

The Making of the Story “Shloyml Boyml and His Lucky Dreydl”

A klezmer-infused children's book inspired by journeys to the Eastern Bloc and the Black Sea

From the cover of “Shloyml Boyml and His Lucky Dreydl”, artwork by Emil Singer-Fuer

In 1981, I was slated to start law school, but those plans were upended after I attended a klezmer concert.

I was inspired to form a band instead, but I knew it had to be unique. I realized there had to be a lot more forgotten and unpublished klezmer melodies among the Holocaust survivors and Romani musicians who had played for Jews before the Holocaust.

So I bought a one-way ticket to what was then the Eastern Bloc. My first stop in Romania was Bucharest. After speaking to several Jewish informants, I quickly learned that if there were any Jewish and/or Romani musicians still playing klezmer music to be found, it would be in the northeastern province of Moldavia.

Moldavia, 1969 (Photo: Zusya Efron). From the Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; available via the National Library of Israel Digital Collection

It was in Iasi (the capital of the province) that I met Itzik “Cara” Svart, Romania’s leading scholar on anything to do with Romanian Jewish folklore (including klezmer music). We would meet either in his home or at the kosher kitchen (cantina, as they called it in Romanian).

I was the student asking question upon question and Itzik was the patient teacher. He told me how in his town of Podu Iloaiei, there had been no Jewish klezmer musicians, so they would hire klezmers from Iasi for all the Jewish weddings.

On Purim, however, local Roma were hired to accompany the Purimshpilers (Purim actors) from house to house.

Yale Strom with Itzik “Cara” Svart and his wife Cili, 1996 (Photo: Elizabeth Schwartz)

He also said that some of the Jewish musicians had even traveled as far as Constantinople before World War I, where they played for anyone who would pay to listen to them. He delivered all of this information in perfect English in between bites of his hot kosher lunch.

One day, Itzik introduced me to a Romani gentleman named Paul Babici, who, along with his father, played klezmer music on the alto saxophone with Jews before and after the Holocaust.

Paul Babici and Yale Strom playing together in the cantina in Iasi, 1985 (Photo: Brian Blue)

Babici told me in Yiddish about a Jewish man, Yehuda Schulman, in Piatra Neamt, who remembered many “Buhusher nigunim”, tunes according to the traditions of the Buhusher Hasidic court.

Schulman’s family had been Buhusher Hasidim, followers of the righteous sage Yitshak ben Shalom Yosef Friedman (1834-1896) and his successors.

I finished my research in Iasi, took a bus to Piatra Neamt and went straight to the synagogue, where someone told me that Yehuda attended Friday night services. As it was Thursday, I only had to wait one day.

Yehuda was extremely friendly and was more than happy to sing many Buhusher nigunim, which he had learned from his father and grandmother. We met several times, and on one occasion, he sang a nigun that was sung especially during the festival of Hanukkah.

Click for rare footage of a Hanukkah candle lighting celebration with the last Buhusher Rebbe, ca. 1990. The nigun taught by Yehuda Schulman can be heard at 0:41. From the National Library of Israel collection

He told me how in the mid-19th century, klezmers would travel to Constanta (a city on the coast of the Black Sea in what is now Romania) to play music, exchange tunes with other musicians – some of whom came from as far away as the Ottoman Empire – and buy goods that were not available at home, such as olive oil from the Land of Israel.

Some of their nigunim certainly had origins in these travels.

The Great Synagogue of Constanta (Photo: Moshe Kunes). From the Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; available via the National Library of Israel Digital Collection

These journeys to Constanta, characterized by the exchange of melodies and exotic wares including precious olive oil from the Land of Israel, stayed in my mind for years and would inspire my second children’s book.

My first children’s book, “The Wedding that Saved A Town”, was also based upon a kernel of Jewish history.

In certain parts of Eastern Europe (particularly Poland) there was a little-known practice of klezmer musicians being asked to play in a Jewish cemetery for two orphans who were getting married. This was done during cholera epidemics when all else failed to alleviate the plague and desperate rabbis resorted to this superstition. They called this in Yiddish a “shvartse khasene” – a black wedding.

Illustration by Jenya Prosmitsky from “The Wedding That Saved A Town”

“Shloyml Boyml and His Lucky Dreydl,” my latest story based on those long-ago journeys to Constanta has recently come out, published by a wonderful small publisher I found, Olniansky Tekst Farlag in Lund, Sweden. They were established in 2010 to publish new Yiddish material for all ages.

This past spring, they got a lot of press as they published the first volume of Harry Potter in Yiddish by the renowned Yiddishist Arun Schaechter Viswanath to resounding success. The first edition sold out.

The illustrations for “Shloyml Boyml and His Lucky Dreydl” were done by a wonderful Hungarian Jewish artist in Budapest, Emil Singer-Fuer. The book is in Yiddish (right to left) and in English (left to right).

My research over the years in Eastern Europe has resulted in books, documentary films, plays, recordings, photo exhibitions and oral histories, and I look forward to mining further in creating new art that celebrates Yiddish culture.


This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to share stories and connect with people, institutions and communities in Europe and beyond.

Putting the J in Majorca

After hundreds of years underground, Jewish life on the Spanish island is reawakening

The once vibrant Jewish community of Majorca is now experiencing an historic renaissance (Photo: Dani Rotstein)

In November of 2014, I moved to Majorca, an island off of Spain, thinking I would never meet another Jewish person there.

Majorca is located in the Mediterranean Sea, off the eastern coast of Spain. This map shows the island as depicted by pioneering 16th century mapmaker Giovanni Francesco Camocio. From the Eran Laor Cartographic Collection, the National Library of Israel

I was quickly proven wrong when I found out about a volunteer-led synagogue with a small group of followers on the island. As I sat at one of the services, I learned that not everyone there was Jewish.

In fact, there’s a group of people on the island known as “Chuetas” who identify as Catholic yet quietly preserve the light of a Jewish community nearly forgotten. The Chuetas are descendants of Majorca’s once thriving medieval Jewish community, and some feel connected to their Jewish ancestry to this day. This finding blew me away as I thought about how powerful Jewish history is: these people are resurrecting a nearly dissolved Jewish legacy from over 600 years ago!

A 15th century manuscript chronicling the 1286 Disputation of Majorca, a religious dispute between a Christian merchant and a number of Jews. From the National Library of Israel collections

I was soon invited to attend once-a-month Shabbat dinners with a small group of Chuetas who had converted and/or returned to Judaism. I looked forward every month to spending time with them, learning from them, hearing their incredible family stories that were being left untold to the general public.

I brought my non-Jewish girlfriend at the time (now wife and mother of our son) who also began to express an interest in learning about Judaism, as I was expressing an interest in re-learning my own Judaism. You see, history and culture and what binds us together as a people with a collective shared past – that is what excites me, and who better to learn from then a group of people that were reconnecting to their ancestors’ faith from centuries ago!

Jews lived in Majorca for nearly a millennium before the persecutions of 1391 and the 1435 mass forced conversion, which took place in the Santa Eulalia Church, shown here (Photo: Sophia Kulich)

This spiritual and cultural discovery reminded me that for millennia, the Jewish people have overcome darkness. We have prevailed against those who sought to destroy us in each generation by carrying our beliefs, traditions, culture, and most importantly, our strong sense of peoplehood forward. In Pirkei Avot 1:14, Rabbi Hillel tells us: “If I am not for myself, who is for me?” implying that each one of us can carry the torch and lead our communities out of darkness.

And this flame can continue to glow when we are connected and dare to share the beauty of our people with the world around us.

Early on in life, I was raised with a strong sense of Jewish identity, though was never very observant. Growing up in New Jersey, USA, my parents sent me to a Jewish sleep-away summer camp where I befriended other Jews from around the country and learned the song “Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish.”

Dani Rotstein (Photo: Mark Edwards)

When I was 18 years old, I had a unique opportunity to live and learn in Israel, embarking on the Young Judea Year Course program.

There, I strengthened my relationship with Israel and the Jewish people. From learning Hebrew and being able to communicate with my Israeli grandparents, to training with the Israeli Air Force for a week, to living on a religious kibbutz, it was the best year of my life.

As I witnessed Jews from around the world come together in Israel, it opened my eyes to the value of our Jewish family—for myself, my friends, and the global community.

After returning to the United States and graduating college, I worked in film production in Miami and New York but was starting to feel the need for a change. I was missing that same sense of fulfillment I experienced in Israel. It wasn’t until I moved to Majorca five years ago that I found my purpose in the Jewish community.


The historic Jewish Quarter in Palma, Majorca (Photo: Dani Rotstein)

So I became more involved, determined to instill the passion for Jewish life around the island. I started by hosting challah baking workshops and Purim parties, and from there, the excitement spread to others.

Our numbers kept increasing, and we became a tighter knit community. In fact, we are now up to 60-70 attendees at our Shabbat dinners.

My wife and I founded Limud Mallorca – a Jewish cultural association intent on bringing Jewish culture and life to disconnected Jews living on the island, families of mixed-marriages, and those non-Jews interested in learning about and connecting with Jewish values and history.

We organized multiple trilingual learning conferences – in English, Spanish, and Mallorquin (a dialect of Catalan that is spoken on the island). We are a volunteer-run organization that is now working with the City Hall and organizing cultural activities and social events – documentary screenings, book presentations, choir concerts, lectures, seminars, holiday celebrations and community Shabbat dinners at different vegetarian restaurants around the island. Last year the Department of Education asked us to visit different public schools and conduct workshops centered on Holocaust education.

The first public Rosh Hashana celebration in Majorca, organized by Limud Mallorca in conjunction with the City Hall, 2019 (Photo: Felipe Wolokita)

Our first educational Jewish learning conference was in May 2018 and we expected around 20 or 30 people, but we ended up with over 85 attendees from around the world! The following year we had over 150 attendees.

Soon after our first event, the president of the local synagogue decided to resign and nobody wanted to fill his shoes. I decided to step up to the task and was elected to sit on the synagogue Board of Directors.

Along with me were three Jews by choice, two of whom were Chuetas. This was the first time in over 600 years that Mallorquin natives with Jewish ancestry were once again a part of the leadership of the local Jewish community, as the synagogue had been started in the 1970s by British Ashkenazim who had retired and moved to the island. Ever since, the community had been lead by Jewish expats or Spanish nationals from outside the Balearic Islands.

A Hanukkah celebration at the synagogue in Majorca (Photo: Mark Edwards)

In August 2018, not only was the new board elected but two Chuetas traveled to Israel to be married under a chuppa (traditional Jewish wedding canopy) – apparently the first wedding between two Chuetas in Israeli history.

The other event worthy of noting was the inauguration of a memorial to the Crypto-Jews that were burned at the stake in 1691 in Plaza Gomila. A memorial had been under petition for at least 40 years prior and finally manifested itself in the very same month as the wedding in Israel and the new board assuming its role.

Memorial in Plaza Gomila to the Crypto-Jews burned at the stake in 1691 (Photo: Carla Rotstein)

We are living through watershed moments within Mallorquin Jewish history.

After volunteering with the synagogue and Limud Mallorca, I finally decided to make the final leap of faith – to leave my work as a TV commercial producer and open up an educational tourism company called Jewish Majorca, with the goal of offering an interactive learning experience that engages both visitors and residents alike and sparks further curiosity.

A Jewish Majorca tour group admiring a statue of Jafuda ben Cresques, the famous 14th century Jewish Mallorquin cartographer (Photo: Gabrielle Weiniger)

We opened up in May 2019 and had a wonderful first summer, followed by bookings for a 400-person Kosher-for-Passover holiday in 2020, along with multiple bar mitzvah cruise trips and Jewish destination weddings planned.

All of this was stopped in its tracks due to the arrival of “Señor COVID,” yet instead of shutting down operations and giving up our dream, we decided to adapt and innovate.

We now offer virtual Zoom tours to different communities around the world, as well as a stand-alone Video Virtual Tour. The fact that international tourism has been temporarily shut down has actually encouraged us to do what we have always been wanting to do – go online and share the Jewish, Converso, and Chueta history of Majorca with the global audience.

Jewish Majorca also connected with Jewish tour guides and community members around the world in an effort to tell other Diaspora community stories, as well, with the “Chanuka 2020 Around the World in 8 Days” virtual program.

Announcement about a virtual trilingual Limud Mallorca event

Throughout my life I have been blessed to witness the beauty of Jewish life and the immense power of a connected community, whether in New York City or in Israel.

And now, on the tiny island of Majorca, I hope to continue sharing that light with others, showing that anyone can come together and live in harmony. My experience in Majorca shows how the spirit of the Jewish people lives on in each one of us. Together, we can help reignite the flames of Majorca’s Jewish community and unite the global Jewish community.


For more information on Jewish Majorca visit: or email: [email protected].

This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to share stories and connect with people, institutions and communities in Europe and beyond.

Hannah Senesh: The Girl Who Never Stopped Writing

A glimpse of Hannah Senesh’s childhood writings


Hannah Senesh and her brother Giora as children, from the Senesh Family Archive, with thanks to Ori and Mirit Eisen

Hannah Senesh was born into a home where writing was an integral part of family life. Her father, Béla, was a well-known journalist, playwright and children’s author in Hungary. His books sold well and his plays were very popular in Budapest—but his short career ended abruptly with his sudden death from a heart attack at the age of thirty-three. Hannah (nicknamed Anikó) was then only six years old.

Hannah Senesh with her brother Giora, from the Senesh Family Archive, with thanks to Ori and Mirit Eisen

It soon became apparent that little Anikó had also been bitten by the writing bug. In November 2020, the Senesh (often spelled Szenes) family decided to deposit the entire Hannah Senesh Collection with the National Library. It includes dozens of items gathered throughout Senesh’s all too brief life. A number of these rare items document the very beginning of this creative girl’s journey.

Hannah Senesh with her brother Giora, from the Senesh Family Archive, with thanks to Ori and Mirit Eisen

Senesh was “writing” even before she actually knew how. She dictated to her brother Giora (Györi) a greeting for her grandmother and mother. When she started composing poems in her head—at the age of six!—Grandma Fini made sure to write them all down by hand in a notebook she kept just for that purpose.

A note Hannah dictated before she knew how to write. It reads, “Dear Mother and Grandma Fini, Because today is my birthday I received writing paper, chocolate, flowers, and a beautiful drawing from Györi. . . . In the afternoon, we went out in the carriage. I kiss your hands, Aniko.” From the Senesh Family Archive, with thanks to Ori and Mirit Eisen


A drawing and greeting for Grandma Fini, from the Senesh Family Archive, with thanks to Ori and Mirit Eisen


The notebook of poems by Hannah Senesh, collected by her grandmother, from the Senesh Family Archive, with thanks to Ori and Mirit Eisen

Shortly after, Hannah, still a child of 7 or 8 years old, tried her hand at a career similar to her father’s. She felt that the Senesh family needed its own newspaper, and she would be the editor-in-chief! Thus came into being the family newspaper she called Kis Szenesek Lapja (“The Little Seneshes’ Newspaper”).

Illustrated cover of “The Little Seneshes’ Newspaper”, from the Senesh Family Archive, with thanks to Ori and Mirit Eisen

For several months in 1929, Anikó edited her own little newspaper. At the top of each issue was the date, just like in any proper paper. Hannah typed everything on the home typewriter. She wrote the articles, chose the poems and stories and drew the illustrations for the enjoyment of the whole family. She even attempted to write an entire play. This newspaper will also soon be available for viewing at the National Library of Israel.

Hannah Senesh and her brother Giora, from the Senesh Family Archive, with thanks to Ori and Mirit Eisen

The complete Hanna Senesh Collection reveals the creative roots of the person who would come to be remembered in Israeli and Jewish collective memory mainly as a brave paratrooper. She began creating even before she could write. Her early work is in Hungarian, but soon after arriving in Mandatory Palestine, she very quickly gained command of the Hebrew language and continued writing in Hebrew as well. Hannah Senesh remained a writer throughout her life, from her early childhood to her very last days in a Hungarian prison.


The materials above are part of the Senesh Family Archive, with thanks to Ori and Mirit Eisen