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(2,332 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ayalon
Safed (Heb. Ṣefat, Ar. Ṣafad) is a town in the Upper Galilee area in Israel, situated about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Tiberias. Jews have lived in Safed at least since the eleventh or twelfth century, and the town was a major center of Jewish commercial and scholarly activity during most of the sixteenth century, when it boasted a large Sephardic community. The Jewish presence declined thereafter, and until the second half of the eighteenth century only a few hundred Jews resided the…


(1,546 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ayalon
The Hebrew term parnas (pl. parnasim), which first appears in rabbinic sources (BT Sanhedrin 82a), denotes leadership status. In medieval Europe, the parnas was the head of the community, elected for a fixed period that, depending on locality, could be as brief as a month or as much as several years. In the eastern Mediterranean and the Arab world, the parnasim were lay leaders of the community who functioned alongside the rabbis. Their position was therefore similar in many ways to that of “the seven good men of the city” ( shivʿa ṭove ha-ʿir) in the Talmud (BT Megilla 26a–27a). Parnasim are …