Guide to the Isaac Bitton (1926- ) Papers,
undated, 1986-1997

ASF AR 13

Processed by Michael D. Montalbano

American Sephardi Federation

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-8350

Fax: (212) 294-8348

Email: info@AmericanSephardiFederation.org or rbelinfante@asf.cjh.org

URL: http://www.sephardi.house/

© February 2010. American Sephardi Federation. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Michael D. Montalbano on February 4, 2010. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Bitton, Isaac (1926- )
Title: Guide to the Isaac Bitton (1926- ) Papers
Dates:undated, 1986-1997
Abstract: Isaac Bitton (1926- ) was born in Lisbon, Portugal. He immigrated to Palestine in the early 1940s where he would go on to serve in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army and later the Israeli Defense Force. He and his family moved to the US in 1959, eventually settling in Woodstock, Illinois. He was a successful executive and philanthropist. This collection contains correspondence and addresses related to the efforts of Isaac Bitton in the restoration of the Jewish cemetery in Faro, Portugal and the recognition of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes in the aid given to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. The collection also contains some material related to his work with the US government, in particular the Small Business Administration.
Languages: The collection is in English and Portuguese.
Quantity: 0.5 linear feet (1 manuscript box).
Identification: ASF AR 13
Repository: American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History
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Biographical Note

Isaac Bitton was born on March 31, 1926 to Isaac and Simy (Shocrun) in Lisbon, Portugal. In 1943 or 1944, he and his brother, Joseph, immigrated to Palestine where he joined the ranks of the Palestine Police Railroad Division followed by the Jewish Brigade of the British Army where he served in Belgium. At the end of the war, Bitton returned to Palestine where he worked as an undercover agent for the Haganah before joining the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from 1947 to 1951 as a Sergeant Major. He rejoined the army in 1956 during the Suez Crisis. In 1959, he immigrated to the United States, with his wife, Miriam, and three children, Tamar, Daniel, and Michael, eventually settling down in Woodstock, Illinois. Here he became a successful executive and business community leader. He died on July 14, 2006.

As a young man, Isaac worked in the Lisbon “soup kitchen” to feed the Jewish refugees prior to WWII. While there, he met the disgraced Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes. Mendes had been dismissed from his post in Bordeaux, France for disobeying orders by granting visas to thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi oppression. Bitton was active in getting "Righteous Among the Nations" recognition for Mendes.

Bitton, upon returning to Portugal in the 1980s visited the city of Faro to find the Jewish cemetery there in a state of disrepair. He established the Faro Cemetery Restoration Fund with the goal of restoring the cemetery and making it a cultural resource for Portuguese Jews.

List of Works:

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Scope and Content Note

The Isaac Bitton Papers document the life and philanthropic efforts of Isaac Bitton, especially his efforts to restore the Jewish cemetery grounds at Faro, Portugal and securing posthumous recognition of Portuguese Ambassador Aristides de Sousa Mendes’ efforts in helping Jewish refugees escape Nazi aggression. The collection also contains various clippings and lectures discussing the Jews of the Azores, Portugal, and Spain. The collection contains copies of letters acknowledging Bitton’s efforts in these areas, including a letter from the Portuguese President Mario Soares.

Additionally, the collection contains material related to Bitton’s work with the Republican Party (US), of note is the petition by several US Senators for President George H.W. Bush to appoint him to a commission or board.

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Arrangement

This collection was compiled by Randall C. Belinfante and Ms. Fran Brown in 2002. The collection was organized topically. The reprocessing of the collection did not require rearrangement of the collection. There are eight folders in the collection based on topical content.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to researchers.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

American Sephardi Federation, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

email: RBelinfante@ASF.CJH.org

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Related Material

The U.S. Holocaust Museum has the Isaac Bitton Papers (RG-19.011)

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Isaac Bitton Papers; (location); folder number; American Sephardi Federation.

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Processing Information

This collection was originally compiled in 2002 by Randall C. Bellinfante and Fran Brown. The finding aid was created and encoded by Michael D. Montalbano in February 2010.

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Access Points

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Container List

 

Isaac Bitton Papers, undated, 1986-1997

This series is in English and Portuguese.
0.25 linear feet. (8 folders). Folder 1 to Folder 8.
Arrangement:

This collection was compiled by Randall C. Belinfante and Ms. Fran Brown in 2002. The collection was organized topically. The reprocessing of the collection did not require rearrangement of the collection. There are eight folders in the collection based on topical content.

Scope and Content:

The Isaac Bitton Papers document the life and philanthropic efforts of Isaac Bitton, especially his efforts to restore the Jewish cemetery grounds at Faro, Portugal and securing posthumous recognition of Portuguese Ambassador Aristides de Sousa Mendes’ efforts in helping Jewish refugees escape Nazi aggression. The collection also contains various clippings and lectures discussing the Jews of the Azores, Portugal, and Spain. The collection contains copies of letters acknowledging Bitton’s efforts in these areas, including the Portuguese President Mario Soares.

Additionally the collection contains material related to Bitton’s work with the Republican Party (US), of note is the petition by several US Senators for President George H.W. Bush to appoint him to a commission or board.

BoxFolderTitleDate
11Jews of Spain and Portugal1986-1988
  
  • Photocopy of a fragment of an article titled "The History of the Jews in Spain," with no additional information regarding author or source.
  • Copy of a letter, dated 3/24/1996, from Bitton to then Mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington requesting that the Portuguese flag be flown over city hall on June 10 in honor of Day of Portugal of Camões festivities.
  • Article written by Bitton for the Azores Synagogue Restoration Project titled "The Jews in the Azores and Portuguese Communities," dated June 26, 1988.
  • Photocopy of newspaper clipping. Article title "Synagogue viewed as inspiration", from the 11/27/1988 edition of the Sunday Herald News (Falls River, Mass.) which describes the fundraising efforts of the Azores Synagogue Restoration Fund.
  • Copy of letter from Solomon Gaon, Sephardic Studies Program, Yeshiva Univ., to Isaac Bitton, President of the Portuguese Cultural Center of Illinois dated 12/22/1988, asking for support from the Portuguese Cultural Center towards the publication of his book on the Congregation Marranos in Belmonte, Portugal.
  • Resolution introduced by Isaac Bitton at the ASF National Convention in Miami FL, 11/16/1987 that the Federation sponsor a fact-finding study of the Sephardic Jewish Community of Lisbon Portugal.
 
12Faro Cemetary - History1988-1997
  
  • Brochures for the Cemeterio Israelita de Faro e Museu: Faro Jewish Cemitery [sic] and Museum, 1838-1995; 5598-592.
  • Pamphlet by Isaac Bitton and Ralph Pinto presenting a video titled A Brief History of the Former Jewish Community of Faro in the Algarve Portugal during the XIX Century given at the first anniversary ceremonies of the Faro Jewish Cemetery Historical Restoration on May 16, 1993.
  • Photocopy of a fundraising advertisement in the MCJC Newsletter for the Faro Jewish Cemetery, briefly describing its history and the restoration project.
  • Essay describing the restoration project titled Portuguese Jewish History: The Faro Jewish Cemetery Restoration, by Bitton.
  • Statement of Purpose for the Faro Cemetery Restoration Fund, dated 9/1/1988.
  • Booklet titled Hebrew Genealogy: Portugal XIX and XX Centuries; an Epigraphic Study and Listing of Graves Existing in the Jewish Cemetery of Faro (CIF). Dated January 1993 (with a foreword by Isaac Bitton)
  • Blueprint for the renovation of the Jewish Cemetery at Faro drawn by the city and planned as a monument to Samuel Gacon.
 
13Faro Cemetary - News Releasesundated, 1988-1993
  
  • Photocopy of an untitled article in guia, dated 11/30/1988 on a gala held in Seekonk, Massachusetts 11/26/1988 to raise money for the restoration of the Jewish synagogue and cemeteries of Ponta Delgada e Angra
  • Photocopy of an article in the Portuguese Times, dated 12/1/1988 on the same event as above
  • Photocopy of an article in the Algarve [Portugal] News, 1/15-1/29/1993 on the history and restoration of the Faro Jewish Cemetery.
  • Publicity release 3/3/1993 from the Faro Cemetery Restoration Fund announcing the rededication ceremony.
  • Photocopy of an article in the Anglo-Portuguese News dated 5/20/1993, "The restoration of their cemetery brings new life to Algarve’s Jews."
  • Advertisement proof, titled "The Faro Jewish Cemetery Has Been Restored!"
 
14Faro Cemetary - Bitton Endorsements1988-1993
  
  • Photocopy of a letter from Rudy Boschwitz, US Senator (MN), to Cavaco de Silva, Portuguese Prime Minister dated 5/10/1988 soliciting assistance for Bitton’s activities concerning the Faro Cemetery and the Ponta Delgada Synagogue in the Azores.
  • Photocopy of a letter from Isaac Bitton to Mark Joffe, editor Jewish Telegraphic Agency, dated 3/2/1993, requesting dissemination of information on the restoration of the Faro Cemetery and the rededication ceremony scheduled for 5/16/193 at the site.
  • Photocopy of a letter from Isaac Bitton to Leon Levy, dated 6/23/1988 requesting funds for the renovation of the Jewish Cemetery of Faro.
  • Photocopy of a letter, dated 12/3/1987, from Joshua Gabriel Benoliel Ruah, President of Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa confirming the authority of Isaac Bitton to act as the American representative of the Comunidade in collecting funds for repairs and maintenance of Jewish Cemetery of Faro.
  • Photocopy of a letter, dated 2/1/1988 from Joshua Gabriel Benoliel Ruah, President of Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa confirming the authority of Isaac Bitton to act as the American representative of the Comunidade in collecting funds for repairs and maintenance of Jewish Cemetery of Faro.
  • Photocopy of a declaration, dated 10/19/1993, by Max Benjamin Korn, President of Comunidade Israelita de Lisboa confirming the authority of Isaac Bitton to act as the American representative of the Comunidade in collecting funds for repairs and maintenance of Jewish Cemetery of Faro.
 
15Faro Cemetery - Bitton Acknowledgements1988-1993
  
  • Photocopy of letter from Aaron Mittleman, President of the Azores Synagogue Restoration Fund and Isaac Bitton, dated 4/8/1988, discussing the restoration of Jewish sites in Portugal and the Azores.
  • Photocopy of letter from Annette Lantos from the office of Tom Lantos, Member of Congress (CA) to Isaac Bitton, dated 10/3/1988, commending the group’s endeavors in the Congressional Record.
  • Photocopy of letter from Isaac Bitton to Emily Rubin of the World Jewish Congress, dated 7/23/1990, regarding his activities on behalf of the restoration of Jewish sites.
  • Photocopy of letter from Stephen Solarz, Member of Congress (NY) to Isaac Bitton, dated 8/3/1992, regarding the Jewish Cemetery in Faro.
  • Photocopy of letter from Charles Schumer, Member of Congress (NY) to Isaac Bitton, dated 9/21/1992, enclosing a letter from Portuguese president Mario Soares regarding the restoration of the cemetery at Faro.
  • Photocopy of letter from Paul Simon, US Senator (IL) to Bitton 12/7/1992 regarding the Faro Cemetery project.
  • Photocopy of letter from Rabbi Morton M. Rosenthal, Executive Director of the Jarkow Institute for Latin America of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith to Isaac Bitton, dated 2/6/1993, on communicating with the Portuguese government concerning recent incidents at Faro.
  • Photocopy of letter from Rabbi Morton M. Rosenthal, Executive Director of the Jarkow Institute for Latin America of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith to Isaac Bitton, dated 3/2/1993, on the Faro Cemetery restoration.
  • Photocopy of letter from Alfonse D’Amato, US Senator (NY) to Isaac Bitton, dated 3/23/1993, expressing his regrets to an invitation to attend the Faro Cemetery Rededication ceremony.
  • Photocopy of letter from Isaac Bitton to Portuguese President Mario Soares, dated 3/5/1993, thanking him for his efforts on behalf of the restoration of the Faro Cemetery and inviting him to participate in the on-site rededication ceremony.
  • Photocopy of letter from Michael Terry, Director of the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies to Isaac Bitton, dated 12/1/1994, thanking him for his gift to the Asher library of copies of presentations on the history of the Jews of Portugal.
  • Photocopy of letter from Francisco Knopfli, Portuguese ambassador to the U.S., to Isaac Bitton, dated 5/14/1993, regarding the history and goals of the Faro Cemetery restoration project and the announcement that Pres. Soares and Bishop of Algarve and other luminaries will attend and participate in the rededication ceremonies.
  • Photocopy of newspaper clipping published by Faro Cemetery Restoration Fund (reprinting an article found in the Anglo-Portuguese News( 5/20/1993 entitled “President Soares plants a tree at restored Jewish Cemetery”
 
16Aristides de Sousa Mendes1992-1997
  
  • Program announcement for “An Event to Recognize and Honor the Memory of the Courageous Aristides de Sousa Mendes” - Chumash Auditorium California Polytechnic on 11/9/1997.
  • Address by Isaac Bitton, titled “A Recognition to Honor Dr. Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches, Portuguese Consul in Bordeuex France 1938-1943” to the Committee to Honor Those Who Made A Difference, University of California San Luis Obispo, on 11/9/1997.
  • Photocopy of newspaper clipping from the Northwest Herald (Illinois), dated 6/10/1987, on Bitton’s trip to Washington to participate in ceremonies awarding Aristides de Sousa Mendes a posthumous Order of Freedom medal from Portuguese President Mario Soares and congressional commendation from the US Government.
  • Photocopy of letter from Stephen Solarz Member of Congress (NY), dated 5/27/1992, to Isaac Bitton regarding the TV documentary on Aristides de Sousa Mendes.
  • Photocopy of newspaper clipping of letter to the Editor, New York Times, dated 9/26/1994, from Alfred Lipson titled “How two men saved thousands of Jews”
 
17Sephardim in the Holocaust1989-1997
  
  • Photocopy of letter from Isaac Bitton to King Hassan II of Morocco, dated 3/20/1989, requesting his support for the issuance of a Royal Decree in recognition of Morocco’s aid to the Jewish people during the Inquisition and requesting a personal interview with the King.
  • Photocopy of letter from Linda Gordon Kuzmack, Director Oral History United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, dated 7/18/1990, to Isaac Bitton thanking him for the documents and photographs on Portuguese Jewry sent to the museum.
  • Photocopy of letter from Isaac Bitton, dated 2/6/1997 to Dan Sharon, Spertus College / Asher Library, confirming his donation to the Asher Library of his video “To remember and to live.”
 
18Bitton and Family1988-1997
  
  • Booklet by Shahmoon, Ezra titled Our life and length of our days: The biblical way to health and longevity. New York, 1970.
  • Certificate from the Friends of the Portuguese-Jewish Synagogue Foundation expressing their appreciation to Isaac Bitton, for having adopted roof tile(s) in honor of his parents, David and Simy Bitton, to be used for the restoration of the Portuguese-Jewish Synagogue in Amsterdam.
  • Bitton, Isaac “Some of my daily prayers.”
  • Photocopy of an invitation to Isaac Bitton from President of the Republic of Portugal to a reception on 12/5/1996 in Belem Palace on the occasion of the acts that marked the 5th centenary of the publication of the decree of expulsion of the Jews from Portugal.
  • Photocopy of an article in “The Woodstock Independent” (Illinois), dated 9/1/1993, announcing the naming of Ike Bitton as Chair of the Small Business Association Illinois District Advisory Council.
  • Photocopy of an article in the “Luso-Americano,” dated 10/16/1985, on Bitton’s trip to Washington DC as president of the Friends of Portugal to participate in the reunion of the Inner Circle of the Republican Party.
  • Newsletter from the Friends of Portugal, Centro Cultural Portuguese of Illinois, dated 10/97, ed. 1.
  • Fragment – 1 page requesting support of the Faro and Algarve projects.
  • Fragment – pp.2 and 3 of letter from Daniel J. Elazar, Phil (date and addressee, unknown). Describing publications and projects that his organization is working on and requesting donation to continue their work.
  • Petition to President George Bush from various U.S. Senators, dated 10/3/1989, recommending that Isaac Bitton be appointed to an appropriate Board or Commission in recognition of his help to the Senate.
 
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