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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…

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 …

Istanbul

(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…

Bassan Yeḥiel

(233 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…

Bekemoharar Family

(511 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Bekemoharar family of rabbis and scholars was descended from Menahem ben Isaac Ashkenazi (1666–1733), who was born in Timişoara (Temesvár) near the border between present-day Romania and Serbia. His family moved to Edirne (Adrianople) in the heartland of the Ottoman Empire when he was two years old. When the chief rabbi of Edirne, Abraham ben Isaac Ṣarfati, died in 1722, the city’s thirteen congregations could not agree on a candidate to replace him. Seven congregations favored the late rabbi’s son-in-law Abraham Geron (d. 1751), but the other six chose Ashkenazi as thei…

Haskama

(1,040 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
From the sixteenth century on, the fundamental rules guiding the life of the Jewish community in the Ottoman Empire were based upon legal decrees known as haskamot (sing. haskama,also askama) or taqqanot (sing. taqqana). Both terms were used in medieval Iberia and were carried over into the Sephardi diaspora following the expulsion. Taqqanot (Heb. ordinances) formulated to cope with new needs and changing realities organized and ensured the management and proper functioning of the community for the benefit of its members. The most important taqqanot determined the unchallengeab…

Ḥazzan family

(1,015 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…

Handali, Esther

(314 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…

Ibn Yaḥya, Gedaliah ben Jacob Tam

(311 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…

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 …
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