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Ibn Yaḥya, Gedaliah ben Jacob Tam

(316 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Gedaliah ben Jacob Tam ibn Yaḥya (d. 1575), born into a distinguished Sephardi family of rabbis, intellectuals, and literati that originated in Spain, was one of the leading rabbis of Salonica during the second half of the sixteenth century. His father, Rabbi Jacob Tam ben David ibn Yaḥya (ca. 1475–1542) was a notable rabbi and intellectual, and the author of a book of responsa entitled Sheʾelot u-Teshuvot Ohale Tam (Responsa Tents of Uprightness). Both Gedaliah and his brother Joseph (d. 1534) studied medicine, Joseph apparently becoming one of the personal physicians of…

Bassan Yeḥiel

(238 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Jehiel ben Ḥayyim Bassan was born into a Romaniot family in Rhodes in 1550, and moved to Istanbul in the 1580s after his wife died. He became one of the prominent rabbis of the city, and possibly also the head ( av bet din) of its rabbinical court during the first quarter of the seventeenth century. Together with Elijah Mizraḥi, Bassan disagreed with Samuel de Medina in a controversy over the right of a majority to impose its will upon the minority with regard to a communal ordinance (Heb. haskama) that had negative financial consequences for the minority. Bassan held that it was im…

Ashkenazi, Judah Ben Joseph

(338 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Judah ben Joseph Ashkenazi, born ca. 1730, was one of the most notable scholars of Izmir (Smyrna) during the eighteenth century. His father, Joseph, immigrated from Vienna to Izmir around 1700. Judah was the son-in-law of Rabbi Barzilay Ya‘beṣ, a scholar and communal leader. From various sources, it appears that Judah was known for his sharpness of mind, his profilic literary output, and his accomplishments as a teacher. He grew up among the students of the Maḥziqe Torah seminary and eventually became an outstanding scholar and teacher. Rabbi Ḥayyim ben Jacob Pallache (known by the…

Handali, Esther

(321 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Esther Kira Ḥandali (Esther Kyra), the wife of Elijah Ḥandali, was one of the best-known Jewish women to bear the title kira (Turk. dame, lady). These women exercised political influence through her contacts with women in the harems of four Ottoman sultans: Süleyman I the Magnificent (r. 1520– 1566), Selim II (r. 1566– 1574), Murat III (r. 1574–1595), and Mehmet III (r. 1595–1603). Esther was regularly admitted to the harem to sell jewelry, perfumes, and other items, and she also ran errands or performed services for the women outside the palace. Thanks…

Sassoon Family

(1,509 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Sassoons (Sasons, Sassons) are a prominent Jewish family of Baghdadiorigin whose commercial and financial networks dominated trade in India and the Far East at the height of the British colonial period. Members of the family engaged in philanthropic and scholarly enterprises throughout the Jewish world. The Sassoons were typical of the Jewish notable families that prospered in business and finance in the late Ottoman period cities likeIstanbul (the Zonana, Aciman/Adjiman, Camondo/Kamondo, and Gabbai families), Izmir (Smyrna), Damascus, and Acre (Akko, the Farḥi family), a…

Caro, Joseph Ben Ephraim

(1,127 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Joseph ben Ephraim Caro (1488–1575), known also by his Hebrew acronym as the Riq, was one of the most important halakhic adjudicators of all time. Honored with the title maran (Heb. our master) or maran ha-meḥabber (Heb. our master the author) for his monumental compilation, the Bet Yosef, he was born in 1488, apparently in the city of Toledo in the Kingdom of Castile. In 1492, when the Jews of Spain were expelled, his family went to Portugal, but after only a few years they were forced to flee eastward and headed to the Ottoman Empire. Caro…

Castro, Jacob

(287 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Jacob ben Abraham Castro was one of the most important  rabbis of Egypt during the sixteenth century and the first decade of the seventeenth. Born in 1525, either in Egypt or Jerusalem, into a family of Iberian origin, Castro (known by the acronym Mahariqas) was a pupil of both Levi ben Ḥabib (Ralbaḥ, ca. 1483–1545) and David ibn Abi Zimra, (Radbaz, 1479–1573). Castro stood at the head of the community of Mizraḥi Jews ( Musta‘ribūn) in Egypt throughout the second half of the sixteenth century until his death in either 1612 or 1610. A leading halakhic authority in his …

Israel family

(580 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Israel family, noted for producing many prominent rabbis, flourished in Alexandria, Rhodes, and Palestine in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The earliest distinguished member of the family, Moses Israel, was born in Jerusalem around 1670 and died in Alexandria in 1740. Perhaps descended from earlier rabbis whose names are unknown, he was a pupil of Abraham ben David Yiṣhaqi (1661–1729) and married Hannah, the daughter of Moses ben Solomon ibn Ḥabib (ca. 1654–1696), one of the foremost rabbis of Jerusalem during that period. From 1710 to 1713, Moses…

Names and Naming Practices - Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic

(4,393 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Jewish denominations within the Ottoman Empire—Romaniots, Mustaʿribūn, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, and Karaites—all had their own distinctive naming practices, but the differences between them were more pronounced in the earlier period, from the fifteenth to the sixteenth century, than later. Starting in the seventeenth century, Italian (and later some French) Jews, collectively known as francos , began to settle in the empire. Their naming practices were not much different from those of Jews already living in the empire, but their family names, as …

Ashkenazi, Bezalel

(356 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Bezalel ben Abraham Ashkenazi was born in Jerusalem around 1520 and died there, most likely in 1594. He was a leading rabbinical figure in Egypt and the Holy Land during the second half of the sixteenth century. As a youth, he was a student at the yeshiva of Israel ben Meir di Curiel (d. 1577) in Safed. Later he went to Cairo and studied with the great halakhic scholar David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra (Radbaz; d. 1573). After his teacher moved to Jerusalem in 1553, Ashkenazi was the foremost rabbi in Egypt. He established his own yeshiva in Cairo, where the great kabbalist Isaac Luri…

Pallache, Ḥayyim

(432 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Ḥayyim ben Jacob Pallache (Palache, Palaggi), known by the Hebrew acronyms Ḥabif and Maharḥaf, was a chief rabbi of the Ottoman city of Izmir (Smyrna). Born in Izmir in 1788, he was educated by his father, who was a well-known rabbi and kabbalist, as well as by his grandfather Joseph Raphael ben Ḥayyim Ḥazzan (Ḥazzan, 1741–1820), who was also a chief rabbi of Izmir. Ḥayyim Pallache was already a rabbi in 1813, when he was but twenty-five years old; by the time he reached forty in 1828, he had been appointed head of the Bet Yaʿaqov rabbinical seminary. Ten years later, he became the head …

Taytaṣak, Joseph

(545 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Joseph ben Solomon Taytaṣak was a scholar and rabbi, active from the late fifteenth to the mid-sixteenth century, who excelled both in traditional Jewish subjects and in secular subjects. As a young man in Castile, where he was born in 1465, Taytaṣak caught the attention of Rabbi  Levi ibn Ḥabib (Ralbaḥ, ca. 1480–1545). He moved from Spain to Portugal but fled to Italy after the expulsion edict in 1497. Taytaṣak lived in Salonica during the first decade of the sixteenth century, and later spent time in Yanina (Ioannina) and Serres. He was considered one of Saloni…

Silva, Hezekiah da

(382 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Hezekiah ben David da Silva was a noted rabbi and scholar in the second half of the seventeenth century. Born in Livorno (Leghorn) in 1656, da Silva migrated to Palestine at the age of twenty (1676). According to Ḥayyim Joseph David Azulay (Ḥida, 1724–1806), da Silva was the pupil of Judah Sharaf and Moses ben Jonathan Galante the Younger (1620–1689). He studied at the Bet Yaʿaqov Yeshiva in Jerusalem and was one of its most important scholars. In 1688, he went to Western Europe as a rabbinical emissary ( shadar or meshullaḥ). It was during his stay in Amsterdam (1690) that the well-k…

Ha-Kohen Ha-Itmari, Elijah ben Solomon Abraham

(396 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Elijah ben Solomon Abraham ha-Kohen, known as ha-Itmari because of the fame of his Midrash ha-Itmari(Constantinople, 1695), was a scion of a rabbinical family in Izmir (Smyrna). His brother Isaac moved to the Holy Land and died there at an early age. Elijah was active as a rabbi, kabbalist, and exegete in the last quarter of the seventeenth century and the first quarter of the eighteenth. Especially noted as a preacher, he had a strong tendency toward kabbalistic Hasidism, and his homilies on the commandment of charity ( ṣedaqa) reveal a great sensitivity to social injustice. He ap…

Boton, Abraham de

(385 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Abraham Ḥiyya ben Moses de Boton (or Button), generally considered to have been one of Salonica’s foremost rabbis during the second half of the sixteenth century, was born into a family of expellees from the Iberian Peninsula. Various dates have been given for his birth, with ca. 1545 being most likely. He died in Salonica in 1592 (other dates given in the secondary literature are as early as 1588 and as late as 1605). De Boton studied under Samuel de Medina and may have been a relative of Rabbi Moses ben Joseph de Trani (Mitrani) the Elder (known as Mabit, d. 1580 or…

Homosexuality in Jewish society

(1,771 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Human sexual activity is influenced by its surroundings, and whether it is labeled as “normative” or “deviant” depends upon the norms relative to the place and time, the social and cultural contexts, and the standing of the individual. The study of homosexuality among Jews in the Ottoman Empire and in the lands of Islam, and also of the attitude of Jewish society, amply demonstrates this. Like Judaism (Lev. 18:22 and 20:13), Islam strictly forbids sexual relations between males (Qur’an 7:81, 26:165, 27:55; and even more explicitly in the ḥadīth), but in actuality, the official stan…

Algazi family

(967 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Algazis were a noted Turkish rabbinical family from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century. Their origins lay in the city of Bursa, near Istanbul. The family was founded by Abraham ben Moses Algazi the Elder (ca. 1560–ca. 1640), who lived in Bursa and was the son-in-law of Rabbi Joseph ben Moses Benveniste de Segovia. Abraham had three sons: Moses, Isaac, and Solomon Nissim.  Little is known about Moses ben Abraham Algazi except that he mutilated himself in some way and emigrated to the Land of Israel in the mid-1630s. He returned to Bursa in his old age, and died there around 1671. Sol…

Ashkenazi Jews in the Ottoman Empire

(954 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe migrated to the Ottoman Empire in a series of waves that began as early as the fourteenth century. In part they were motivated by repeated invitations from Romaniot Jews urging them to escape the difficult conditions in Christian Europe by settling in the safer, more accommodating Ottoman realm. Rabbi Isaac Ṣarfati in Edirne, for instance, sent a missive to this effect to the Jewish communities of Germany in the fifteenth century. In addition to  Ashkenazi Jews who moved into Ottoman territory of their o…

Ḥazzan family

(1,029 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Ḥazzans (Ḥazan) were a Sephardi rabbinical family first mentioned in seventeenth-century Izmir (Smyrna). Several members of the family served as rabbis in communities of the Ottoman Empire from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century.  Joseph ben Elijah Ḥazzan (d. after 1694) was a pupil of Joseph di Ṭrani (Mahariṭ; d. 1638) in Istanbul. After some time in Izmir, he settled in Jerusalem. He was the author of several works, including ʿEn Yosef (The Face of Joseph; Izmir, 1675), a collection of homilies on the weekly Torah portions,and ʿEn Yehosef (The Face of Jeho…

Gabbay Family (Iraq)

(264 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The  Gabbay family of merchants and Ottoman officials flourished from the late eighteenth century through the end of the nineteenth. The name Gabbay is found mostly in Iraq, but it also appears in Turkey and other countries. It is one of the most common surnames of Iraqi Jewry, attributed by family lore to Davidic descent. A number of well-known members of the family served in key roles in the Baghdad community.        Isaac ben David ben Joshua Gabbay was chief banker (Ar. ṣarrāf bāshī) and   nasi (Heb. head) of the Jewish community of Baghdad from 1745 until his death in 1773. His son Ezra al…
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