The Surnames of the Israel-Cherezli Family


Rabbi Isaac Israel was born in Sherez around 1775 and arrived in Jerusalem in 1807 with two young children: Eliahou (born 1800) and Hayim-Moshe (born 1803). In Jerusalem, Issac was nicknamed Israel Sherezli (i.e. Israel from Sherez), probably in order to distinguish him from other families with the surname Israel (including members of the Israel family of Rhodes living in Jerusalem).


Kohen's Ladino-English/English-Ladino Concise Encycolpedic Dictionary (Hypocrene Books, NY, 2000) defines "Sherezli" (at p. 339) as "inhabitant or native of Serrez; what is related to Serrez".


Nehama's Dictionaire du Judeo-Espagnol (CSIC, Madrid, 1977) similarly defines "sherezli" as "habitant de Serres; qui a rapport a cette ville".


The name was later transliterated (under French influence) as Cherezli. The question of when Cherezli became the surname (as opposed to nickname) of the Israeli branch of the family and when the Egyptian branch reverted to the surname Israel is a difficult one.


It is really only with the fifth and subsequent generations of the descendants of Rabbi Isaac Israel-Cherezli that Cherezli became the surname (as opposed to nickname) of the Israeli branch of the family. The tombstones of R. Hayim-Moshe and his son R. Isaac (as listed in Helkat Mehokek) contain only the surname Israel without any mention of Cherezli. In Tiv Gittin (Jerusalem, 1875), published by Rabbi Yomtov of Cairo and his cousin R. Mordekhai of Jerusalem, both their surnames appear only as Israel without any mention of Cherezli. Even one generation later, Rabbi Mordekhai's nephew Shelomo (Shayish) was still known as Israel-Cherezli. Therefore, it appear that at least until the generation of Rabbi Isaac's great-grandchildren, Israel was the surname and Cherezli was the nickname and that even one generation later, some members (e.g. Shayish) were still known as Israel-Cherezli. Thereafter, most members of the Israeli branch dropped the surname Israel and retained the nickname Cherezli as their surname.


On the Egyptian side, Rabbi Eliahou signed his name with the initials "ISH" (alef-yud-shin) for Eliahou Israel-Cherezli, although he was generally known simply by the surname Israel. Similarly, there are occasional references to Rabbi Yomtov Israel-Cherezli but he too was generally known simply by the surname Israel. However, there does not appear to be any other use of the nickname Cherezli among the Egyptian members of the family, including by Rabbi Yomtov's brothers in Egypt Rabbi Isaac, Hayim-Vita and David, all of whom only used the surname Israel.


Accordingly, it appears that the Israeli branch of the family was called Israel-Cherezli certainly until the third generation and occasionally even in the fourth generation after Rabbi Isaac Israel-Cherezli. However, on the Egyptian side, this seems to have lasted only 1-2 generations after Rabbi Isaac Israel-Cherezli (eg Rabbis Eliahou and Yomtov).


The surname Cherezli is spelled in Hebrew in two forms: (shin-yud-resh-yud-zayin-lamed-yud) or (without the first yud) . In the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the name was transliterated into the Latin alphabet as Cherezli, probably as a result of the French influence of the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Israel. As late as Shelomo (son of Rabbi Rafael) (d. 1938) and his cousin Moshe (son of Rabbi Mordekhai) (d. 1954), the name was spelled Cherezli. Thereafter, variations in the transliteration of the name from the Hebrew to Latin alphabets arose, including the forms Shirizli, Shirizly, Cherizli and Sherizly which currently exist


Some members of the Israeli branch of the family have changed their surname from Cherezli to a more modern, Israeli, form, including: Argaman, Sherez, Shemer, Israeli, and Sarel. Of the Egyptian branch, Marcel Israel (a great-grandson of R. Yomtov Israel-Cherezli) changed his surname from Israel to Ceresi (an Italianised version of Cherezli), upon his migration from Egypt to Israel after 1948.