Bitton or Biton (spelled ביטון in Hebrew) is a fairly common family name among Jews of North African descent (known as Mughrabi). What does it mean? According to some, this name (sometimes pronounced Viton) is an adaptation of vita, the Judeo-Spanish word for life.

In light of its Spanish origins, we can assume that bearers of this name are descendants of the Jews who fled Spain as a result of the 1492 expulsion of all Jews who refused to convert to Catholicism.

Thus this name, like the many other Spanish names common among Jews from Arabic lands, tells the brave story of Jews who clung to the life-giving traditions of Torah, even though it meant giving up the material comforts and financial stability that life in Spain offered.

With the mass migration of Mughrabi Jews from their longtime home countries in North Africa following the establishment of the State of Israel, many Bittons settled elsewhere.

Today, there are many Bittons living in Israel, France, Canada, the US and around the world, including well known rabbis, elected officials, sports players, doctors, and business leaders.

And when we hear the name and recall its close association with life and how its bearers clung to a life of Torah, we are reminded of the verse, “[Torah] is a tree of life for those who cling to it, and those who support it are glad.”1