Skip to main content

Guide to the Isaac Bitton (1926- ) Papers

Identifier: ASF AR 13

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.


  • undated, 1986-1997

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and Portuguese.

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


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:

  1. To remember and to live: the historical autobiography of an immigrant family to the United States of America. Woodstock, IL: I. Bitton, 1993.
  2. Without the past [video recording]. Teaneck, NJ: Ergo Media, 1997.
  3. Letters to the editor and other thoughts… Woodstock Illinois: Woodstock Printing and Publishing, 1999.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 manuscript box)


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.


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.

  1. Folder 1: Jews of Spain and Portugal
  2. Folder 2: Faro Cemetary - History
  3. Folder 3: Faro Cemetary - News Releases
  4. Folder 4: Faro Cemetary - Bitton Endorsements
  5. Folder 5: Faro Cemetery - Bitton Acknowledgements
  6. Folder 6: Aristides de Sousa Mendes
  7. Folder 7: Sephardim in the Holocaust
  8. Folder 8: Bitton and Family

Related Material

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

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.

Guide to the Isaac Bitton (1926- ) Papers, undated, 1986-1997 ASF AR 13
Processed by Michael D. Montalbano
© February 2010.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation
Edition statement
This version was derived from Bitton.xml

Repository Details

Part of the American Sephardi Federation Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States