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Algazi family

(954 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…

Benveniste Family

(808 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Benveniste (Benvenest, Benvenisti) family, which had its origins in the Iberian Peninsula, produced noted rabbis and scholars throughout the Ottoman period. They were active primarily in Istanbul and Izmir (Smyrna) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.The first member of the Benveniste family known to have attained prominence was Moses Benveniste, a rabbi who also served as  physician to Grand Vizier Siyavuş Pasha (r. 1582–1584, 1586–1589, 1592–1593). Moses was eventually exiled from Istanbul to Rhodes by order of the sultan. He had two sons…

Rosanes (Rosales) Family

(854 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Rosanes (Rosales) family was a noted Sephardi family of rabbis, scholars, and merchants who flourished in the Ottoman Empire from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century. The family probably originated in the small town of Castallvi de Rosanes in Catalonia, not far from Barcelona. After the expulsion in 1492, some members of the family went to Portugal, where their name became Rosales. After 1497, the members of this branch became anusim (crypto-Jews), some of whom later returned to Judaism and gained prominence in Morocco (see Rosales, Jacob). Others ma…

Navon family

(788 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Navon family, of Spanish origin, settled in the Ottoman Empire from the Iberian peninsula after the expulsion in 1492 and 1497. It included several important rabbis, scholars, and public figures in Istanbul and Jerusalem during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.Ephraim ben Aaron Navon (ca. 1677–1735) was a rabbi in Istanbul and Jerusalem. Born in Istanbul, he moved to Jerusalem around the beginning of the eighteenth century, but in 1720 left as a rabbinical emissary ( shadar or meshullaḥ) to the cities of Turkey. When this mission was concluded in 172…

Qimḥi/Qamḥi family

(526 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Qimḥi (Qamḥi, Kimḥi) family, a noted rabbinical family in the Ottoman Empire over several centuries, produced many important scholars.Judah Qimḥi was the father of Abraham and Ḥayyim. Also known are Raphael, Samuel, and Israel Ḥayyim. Samuel was the father of Rabbi Jacob Qimḥi (Istanbul, ca. 1720–London, 1800).Abraham ben Judah Qimḥi (d. 1722) was the head of a religious court and a chief rabbi in Istanbul during the 1720s.Raphael Israel ben Joseph Qimḥi was born in Istanbul and was a disciple of Ḥayyim Alfandari. He followed his teacher to Safed in 1713 and there also st…

Papo, Eliezer

(364 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Eliezer ben Isaac Papo, born in Sarajevo in 1785, was the rabbi of the small Jewish community in Silistre and one of the best-known Jewish scholars in the Balkans in the early nineteenth century. His fame derived primarily from his Peleʾ Yoʿeṣ (Wonderful Counselor), an important work on morals and ethics ( musar) published in his lifetime (Istanbul, 1825) and many times thereafter down to the present. In addition to the numerous Hebrew editions, it has appeared in Judeo-Spanish, Judeo-Arabic, and Yiddish, as well as in abridged translations in En…

Ashkenazi, Samuel

(248 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Samuel ben Isaac Jaffe Ashkenazi (1525–1595) was a leading talmudic scholar of the sixteenth century. A native of Bursa (Brusa) in Turkey, Ashkenazi studied under Joseph ben David ibn Lev (1505–1580). Toward the end of the 1540s, he moved to Istanbul, where he was closely associated with Samuel Ṣaba. In the 1550s, already one of the leading scholars in the capital, he was appointed rabbi of one of the city’s congregations, most likely that of the Ashkenazi community. He excelled as an interpreter of halakha, wrote many responsa which are frequently cited by seventeenth-century …

Ṭrani (Miṭrani), Joseph ben Moses di, the Elder

(606 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Joseph ben Moses di Ṭrani (Miṭrani) the Elder (ca. 1569–1639) was a leading rabbi and scholar in the seventeenth-century Ottoman Empire. The youngest son of Moses ben Joseph di Ṭrani (Miṭrani, 1500–1580), he was born in Safed around 1569 when his father had already reached an advanced age. Even as a youth, Joseph stood out for his knowledge and talent, and when he was only eighteen years old, he left Safed as a rabbinical emissary (Heb. shadar or meshullaḥ) for the community. Known by his Hebrew acronym as Mahariṭ, he was in Egypt for some time after 1587, then moved to I…

Hagiz, Moses

(579 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Moses ben Israel Jacob Ḥagiz (Ḥagis) was a halakhic scholar, rabbinical emissary ( shadar), kabbalist, and vigorous opponent of the Sabbatean heresy. He was born in Jerusalem in 1672 into a family of North African origin and was the son of Israel Jacob ben Samuel Ḥagiz (1620–1674), one of the leading rabbis of Jerusalem. Due to his father’s untimely death, however, he was educated by his maternal grandfather, Moses ben Jonathan Galante the Younger (1620–1689). Ḥagiz married the daughter of the scholar-physician Raphael Mordecai Malkhi and was…

Caro, Isaac Ben Joseph

(426 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Isaac ben Joseph Caro (d. 1518–1535) was a rabbi and scholar of the generation of the expulsion from Spain. Born in Toledo, Caro had a superb religious education and also studied medicine. He was called to become the head of the yeshiva in Lisbon, whence he was exiled in 1497. He then settled in Istanbul, where he established himself as a respected halakhic scholar. It is known that for a while he also lived in the city of Manisa in western Anatolia. If Caro had children, none of them survived childhood, but he raised and educated his nephew Joseph ben Ephraim Caro (1488–1575), the author of…

Gabbay Family (Iraq)

(257 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…

Ha-Kohen Ha-Itmari, Elijah ben Solomon Abraham

(390 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…

Silva, Hezekiah da

(374 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…

Ṭrani (Miṭrani), Moses Ben Joseph di

(506 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Moses ben Joseph di Ṭrani (Miṭrani) the Elder (1500–1580), known also by his Hebrew acronym Ha-Mabiṭ, was one of the greatest religious scholars of Safed during the sixteenth century. Born in Salonica into a Sephardi family of Iberian origin that had come to the Ottoman Empire via Trani in southern Italy, he moved to Edirne at an early age to live with his uncle Aaron following the death of his father. He was educated by his uncle and at the yeshiva of Joseph Fasi. In either 1520 or 1521, he moved to Safed and within a short time was given the rabbinical title of marbiṣ torah (teacher of Torah stud…

Farḥi, Isaac

(280 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Isaac ben Solomon Farḥi, born in Safed in 1779, was a rabbinical scholar and writer noted for his piety and his concern for the impoverished. Educated in Jerusalem, Farḥi was a pupil of the Bet El kabbalist and halakhic authority Yom Ṭov ben Israel Jacob Algazi (1727–1802). He twice traveled abroad as a rabbinical emissary ( shadar or meshullaḥ) for the Jerusalem community. In addition to being a member of the religious court of Ḥayyim Abraham ben Moses Gagin (1787–1848), who was also of the Bet El yeshiva, Farḥi was a prolific and varied writer and exegete, and a sin…

Boton, Abraham de

(378 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…

Names and Naming Practices - Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic

(4,335 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

(350 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…

Sürgün (Forced Resettlement)

(340 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Turkish word sürgün (expulsion, deportation) was mainly used in two contexts. First, it designated forced migration, or exile, imposed on dissidents either temporarily or permanently to maintain political stability in the place from which they were removed. Second, and more important with regard to Jews, sürgün designates the Ottoman population-transfer policy whereby large numbers of people were forced to relocate for strategic purposes.Within the Jewish context, the most noted instance of sürgün concerns the repopulating of Constantinople, the new capital of the …


(4,244 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (Heb. Qushṭa or Qushṭandina) in 1453 was a turning point in the history of the city’s Jews. Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror (Turk. Fatih Sultan Mehmed, r. 1444–1446, 1451–1481) changed the city’s name to Istanbul. At the time of the conquest, the city had three distinct districts: The first was the Byzantine nucleus, enclosed by walls and forming a sort of continental peninsula on the European side (Thrace). This was the area where the Ottomans established the seat of their government, embodied in the impe…
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