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Ḥamawī Family

(617 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
The roots of the Ḥamawī family lead to the city of Ḥama, situated midway between Damascus and Aleppo. Some members of the family left Ḥama and settled in Aleppo. Many members of the family were famous rabbinical scholars.Abraham Shalom Ḥay ben Raphael Ḥamawī was born and raised in Aleppo in the mid-nineteenth century; the date of his death is unknown. After studying in the yeshiva, he left Aleppo and journeyed across North Africa, Western Europe, Baghdad, India, and Palestine. Wherever he wandered he sought libraries and ancient m…

Duwayk (Dweck, Dwek, Duek, Douek, Doweck, Dowek) Family

(823 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
The Duwayk family (the name comes from Ar. meaning either a cockerel or long-necked earthenware jug) traces its origin to a line of priests (Heb. kohanim) who served in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem and is extremely well known among Jews from Aleppo. Over the course of many generations, members of the family, including rabbis and community leaders, have settled all over the world, particularly in Israel, the United States, Lebanon, India (Calcutta), Egypt, England, Italy, France, South and Central America. Jacob Duwayk-haKohen, son of Saul and Qamar, was born around 1830 in Aleppo. …

Kassin Family

(797 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
According to a tradition of the Kassin (Kaṣin) family, its roots go back to Spain before the expulsion in 1492. The first known member of the family was Señor Solomon Kassin, who fled Spain and settled in Aleppo. His descendants included many eminent scholars and communal leaders both in Aleppo and in American immigrant communities.The first well-documented descendant of Señor Solomon Kassin was Judah ben Yom-Ṭov Kassin, who was born in Aleppo in 1708 and died in 1783. Like his father, he served as av bet din (head of the rabbinical court), and on many issues he was in opposition to Chief Rabbi R…

Ṣafra Synagogue (Aleppo), al-

(344 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
According to local Jewish tradition, the Great Synagogue of Aleppo,known as Al-Ṣafra (the Yellow), was built by Joab ben Zeruiah, the commander of King David’s army, right after he conquered Aram Ṣoba (Aleppo). However, the west wing, the oldest part of the synagogue, was probably built in the fifth century C.E. The oldest surviving inscription is from the year 834. The building was partly damaged after the Mongol conquest in the thirteenth century and then was turned into a mosque. The central part of the synag…

Labaton, Mordechai

(339 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
Ḥayyim Mordechai Labaton, son of Rabbi Ḥalfon and Luna Labaton, was born in Aleppo around the year 1780. He engaged in the soap trade to support himself. For many years, he served as deputy to Chief Rabbi Abraham ʿAntebi. Their joint tenure was marked by stability and by efforts to strengthen the standing and authority of the rabbinical court ( bet din), because in the aftermath of the Ottoman reforms (Tanzimat), which left only matters of personal status under its jurisdiction, the court had been somewhat undermined. Their Torah scholarship, the popular belief …

ʿAntebi (Antibi) Family

(1,091 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
According to a tradition of the ʿAntebi family, its roots go back to the expulsion from Spain in 1492. Some members of the family settled in the small town of ʿAyn-Ṭab (Good Source), known today as Gaziantep, in Turkey. Later, on moving from ʿAyn-Ṭab to Aleppo, the family was renamed ʿAntebi, and its original Spanish name was forgotten. The first known member of the family was Rabbi Raḥamim ʿAntebi (1554–1627). Succeeding generations produced many famous Torah scholars, rabbis, and leaders of the Jewish communities in Aleppo, Safed, and Tiberias.Rabbi Abraham ʿAntebi was born in 176…

Ṭārab-Maslaton Family

(418 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
The Ṭārab-Maslaton family is one of the most famous Jewish families of Damascus. Over the years it has produced many outstanding Torah scholars, some of them served as spiritual leaders in Syria, Lebanon, and the Syrian communities in Egypt, the United States, and Israel.Ezra ben Elijah Ṭārab-Maslaton was an eminent scholar in Damascus in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth. After the dismissal of Isaac Abulafia from the post of chief rabbi and the appointment of Solomon Eliezer Alfandari in his place, Ezra was nominated as head of the ra…

Pinto, Josiah ben Joseph

(302 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
 Josiah ben Joseph Pinto (known as Rif) was born in Damascus in 1565. As a youth, he studied in the academy of Rabbi Jacob Abulafia. He also studied Kabbala under Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital. Vital’s son, Samuel, was Pinto’s student and later became his son-in-law. Pinto was one of the foremost scholars of Damascus. In 1625, he moved with his family to Jerusalem and then to Safed. After the death of his son Joseph, he returned to Damascus and was recognized as chief rabbi. He passed away in Adar of 1648.Pinto wrote a number of books, most of which have the word kesef (silver) in their titles. Some of th…

Mann, Elijah Salim

(209 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
Elijah Salim Mann was born in Beirut around 1872, and passed away there in 1969. As a young man he taught Arabic in the Alliance Israélite Universelle school and wrote two textbooks for students of Arabic: Bākūra al-Manhaj al-Qawīm (1899) and Kitāb al-Manhaj al-Qawīm (1900). In 1902, he founded the first press in Beirut and printed the first official regulations of the local Jewish community. For a short time in 1911, he published a newspaper named Al-Riwāyāt al-ʿAṣriyya (The New Stories).In 1921, Mann began publishing Al-ʿĀlam al-Isrāʾīlī (The Jewish World), a Zionist-oriented w…

Ḥuṣīn, Ṣadqa

(410 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
Rabbi Ṣadqa Ḥuṣīn was born in Aleppo toward the beginning of the seventeenth century and was considered to be one of the community’s preeminent Torah scholars. In 1742 and 1743, a severe epidemic struck the city of Baghdad, and many prominent local scholars died. Moses Shandūkh, the nasi (head) of the Jewish community, urgently asked Samuel Laniado, the chief rabbi of Aleppo, to send a learned scholar to Baghdad to serve as judge (Heb. dayyan) and chief rabbi. Laniado chose Ṣadqa Ḥuṣīn.One can certainly say that Rabbi Ḥuṣīn revived Torah study in Baghdad, but in doing so he …


(3,844 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
Damascus (Ar. Dimashq al-Shām, Damascus of Syria, or simply al-Shām) is the capital of modern Syria and the largest city in the country. Located in southwestern Syria, Damascus is about 80 kilometers (129 miles) from the Mediterranean Sea behind the Lebanese mountains, some 680 meters (2,231 feet) above sea level. One of the most ancient cities in the world, Damascus extends along both banks of the river Barada.1. Ancient PeriodThe history of Jewish settlement in Syria, the nearest place of exile to the Land of Israel, extends from ancient times in unbroken succession …

Shabbetay, Hezekiah

(380 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
The rabbinical scholar and jurist Hezekiah ben Gabriel Joshua Shabbetay was born in Salonica in 1862. Some years later, his family emigrated to Jerusalem. Over the years he was sent abroad on several missions as a rabbinical emissary ( meshullaḥ or shadar) to collect contributions for the academies of Jerusalem and Hebron. Between 1900 and 1904, he served as chief rabbi of Jaffa. He then became chief rabbi of Tripoli (Libya), but in 1908 was appointed chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Aleppo. He was selected for this post because he seemed well suited to deal with …

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), Isaac ben Moses

(376 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
Rabbi Isaac Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya) was born in Damascus in 1825, the son of Moses and Oro Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya and the grandson of Rabbi Ḥayyim Nissim Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya, chief rabbi of Jerusalem from 1854 to 1861. During the Damascus Affair (1840), Moses Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya converted to Islam under torture and testified against the chief rabbi, Jacob ʿAntebi. Afterward he returned to Judaism, but he had lost his prestige in the community. He sent Isaac to his grandfather in Tiberias. Isaac was tutored by his grandfather, and after they moved to Jerusalem, he was r…

Aleppo Riots (1947)

(311 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
On November 18, 1945, following on the Tripolitania riots earlier that month, a mob broke into the Great Synagogue of Aleppo on al-ʿĪd al-Kabīr, damaged ritual objects, and beat up two elderly men who were studying there.Far more serious rioting took place in the wake of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 for partitioning Palestine, approved on Friday, November 29, 1947. On Sunday, the Arab inhabitants of Aleppo went on strike in protest against the resolution, and the city’s Jews locked themselves in their homes. The next day, soldiers were sent to protect the Great Synagogu…

Dayan Family

(772 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
The Dayan family in Aleppo had an ancient tradition tracing its descent to King David. In the introduction to his book Yashir Moshe (Heb. Moses Sang), Rabbi Moses Dayan (d. 1901) actually detailed the family tree for eighty-five generations from King David to himself.Members of the family were the leaders of the Jewish community of Aleppo for centuries. The family’s original name was Nasi (Heb. prince), but it was later known as Dayan (Heb. dayyan, judge) in recognition of the importance of passing judgments in the role of communal leadership. Authority was passed dow…

ʿAṭiyya Family

(1,102 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
The name ʿAṭiyya (Attiah, Attia, Attieh) is thought to derive either from the name of a Spanish city or from the Arabic for “gift.” The family, according to its long-held tradition, originated in Spain. Generation after generation, in the centuries since the expulsion in 1492, it produced rabbis and communal leaders in Jewish communities the world over, among them Ḥayyim ʿAṭiyya, Ḥalfon ʿAṭiyya, Judah Aslān ʿAṭiyya, Moses ʿAṭiyya, and Nissim ʿAṭiyya. Some of the most noteworthy are discussed in this article.Rabbi Isaac ben Isaiah ʿAṭiyya, born in Aleppo in 1755, was one of…