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Ḥayyim, Samuel

(673 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Samuel ben Moses Ḥayyim (ca. 1760–ca. 1842) was a rabbinical jurist ( dayyan) and teacher in Istanbul, and a chief rabbi ( haham başi) of the Ottoman Empire. One of the city’s most learned scholars, Ḥayyim studied in a yeshiva where his teachers were Rabbis Elijah Palombo (b. 1762), Menahem Ashkenazi, and Raphael Jacob Asa. He spent most of his life in Balat, the Jewish quarter in the Fatih district of Istanbul, where he headed his own seminary. As early as 1798, he was recognized as an authority on the laws of divorce ( giṭṭin), and in consequence he supervised many such cases in the bet din headed…

Karmi Shelli (Edirne)

(377 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Karmi Shelli (My Own Vineyard), called Bağım in Turkish, was a Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish monthly published in Edirne (Adrianople) from 1890 to 1891, but printed in Vienna and Belgrade. It was founded by Baruch ben Isaac Miṭrani (di Trani) (1847-1919), an intellectual and writer born in Edirne in 1847, as a literary and national journal to promote the idea of national rebirth and Jewish colonization of Ottoman Palestine. It was a successor to an earlier monthly, Karmi (My Vineyard), which he had published in Edirne (and Pressburg) from 1881 to 1882. Both Karmi and Karmi Shelli were printed …

Diplomacy, Jews in, Ottoman Empire and Sharifan Morocco

(3,679 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
From the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, Jews played a prominent role in foreign relations between the Ottoman Empire and European states, sometimes as active, formal participants who might be labeled “diplomats,” but often informally in the background. Jews were involved on the both the Ottoman and European sides, but the participation of women on the Ottoman side is especially worthy of note. The involvement of Jews in Ottoman diplomacy declined after the seventeenth century, but it continued for some time in the Dardanelles, Syria, and Sharifan Morocco. 1. Fifteenth to Six…

Salem, Emmanuel Raphael

(1,077 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Emmanuel Raphael Salem (1859–1940) was a lawyer and specialist in international law, as well as an active member of the Jewish communities of Salonica and Istanbul during the final decades of the Ottoman Empire. Named after his ancestor Rabbi Emmanuel Salem, he was born to Raphael Salem, a moneychanger, and Flor née Carasso; through his mother, he was related to the political activist and fellow Salonican lawyer Emmanuel Carasso (Karasu, 1862–1934). His early education consisted of both traditional religious studies and modern subjects, and he had mastered Turk…

Fua, Albert

(963 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Albert Fua was a noted early Jewish member of the Young Turk movement and was active in the constitutionalist movement during the last decades of the Ottoman Empire. Originally from Salonica, Fua settled in Paris, where he lived for many years, writing and maintaining contacts with Ottoman liberals. His birth and death dates are unknown. The Paris branch of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the party of the Young Turk movement, published an official organ, the Turkish-language Meşveret (Consultation), which included a French-language supplement, Mechveret Supplément Fran…

Yehoshuʿa, Azariah (Joshua Ashkenazi)

(706 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Azariah Yehoshuʿa (d. 1648), also known as  Joshua Ashkenazi, was a rabbi and scholar, and one of the early leaders of the Jewish community of Izmir (Smyrna). He was born and educated in Salonica, where he attended its noted seminaries and was taught by its leading rabbinic figures. He moved to Izmir during the 1620s, preceded by another native of Salonica,  Joseph Escapa (1572–1661), who had studied and worked in Istanbul under Joseph ben Moses di Ṭrani the Elder (1569–1639) and had become acquainted with several younger scholars, such as Ḥayyim ben Isra…

Avanté

(451 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The Judeo-Spanish newspaper Avanté (Forward), initially a weekly, then a daily, was published in Salonica from 1912 to 1934, printed in Hebrew Rashi characters. Avanté promoted the interests of the city’s Jewish workers and its pages are an important source for the history of the Jewish labor movement. The paper was founded by Avraam Benaroya, a socialist leader and head of the Workers’ Socialist Federation of Salonica (Selanik Sosyalist Işci Federasyonu), to replace his Turkish newspaper Mücadele after the Greeks took control of Salonica. (Previously he had published La Solidarida…

Kethüda (Kâhya, Heb. Shtadlan)

(1,025 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The terms kethüda, kâhya, and shtadlan were all used to designate the individuals appointed by Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire to represent them to the government. Kethüda is an Ottoman Turkish term derived from the Persian ket-khodā or kad-khodā (master of a household). When spoken, kethüda was pronounced kâhya or kyâhya (pl. kâhyalar), and carried the meaning of “administrator.” In the Ottoman context, the term was an element in kapi kethüdasi or kethüda bevvabân, the title of the chief of the doorkeepers who guarded the imperial palace in Istanbul. In the …

Bulgaria

(4,194 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The Jewish community of Bulgaria is one of the oldest on the European continent. Its continuous history reflects larger historical developments in the region and the rise and ebb of the political forces that have dominated Bulgaria from antiquity to the present day. A constant theme is the relative tolerance enjoyed by Jews in Bulgaria, from the arrival of the Bulgars in the seventh and eighth centuries through the long period of Ottoman rule. Prosperous and thriving from international trade and …

Salem, Avram

(302 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Avram Salem (Sālim; d. 1907) was a Jewish medical student turned activist in the Young Turk movement. Originally from Salonica, Avram and his brother Asher both studied medicine at the Royal Medical Academy in Istanbul. While there they became involved in political activitiesdirected against the reactionary regime of Sultan Abdülhamit II (r. 1876–1909) and were exiled to Tripoli in 1897 for “having nourished modern ideas.” Simon notes that they, together with the physician Dr. Albert Bakish, were almost the only Jewish activists sent to Libya. Avram and possibly his brother esca…

Sasson, Aaron Ben Joseph

(352 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Aaron ben Joseph Sasson(1550 or 1556–1626) was a  rabbinical scholar and author in the Ottoman Empire. A native of Salonica, he studied in the yeshivot of that city and became an outstanding student of Mordechai Maṭalon (d. 1580). Counted as one of Salonica’s foremost scholars, Sasson was a respected teacher and rabbi, as well as an adjudicator ( poseq) of questions of religious law. Petitions reached him from cities near and far, and his opinions were cited by many of Salonica’s rabbis, particularly Solomon ben Isaac ha-Levi(le-Vet ha-Levi, 1532–1600), his father-in-law. The …

Carasso (Karasu), Emmanuel

(1,179 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Emmanuel Carasso (Karasu) (1862–1934) was a lawyer and statesman who was active in the Young Turk movement and a member of the Ottoman parliament during the last years of the empire. Born in Salonica in 1862, Carasso studied law and gained experience in the legal practice of  Yudajon Yeni, who also mentored several other successful Jewish lawyers, including Carasso’s relative Emmanuel Raphael Salem (1859–1940) and Vitali Farraggi (or Faraji, 1854–1918), who like Carasso was a member of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). Carasso became a noted lawyer and taught criminal …

Sciuto, Lucien

(935 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Lucien Sciuto (1868–1947) was a journalist, poet, and writer who was active in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and afterwards in Egypt. Born into a religious family in Salonica in 1868, he received his primary education at the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) school there, continuing his studies independently after leaving school at the age of fourteen. He began his literary career in 1884 with Poèmes misanthropiques, and another volume of poetry in French that included the satirical “l’Or.” In 1894, he published Paternité (Paris, 1894), which included a poem dedicated…

Ibn Yaḥya, David ben Solomon

(541 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
David ben Solomon Ibn Yaḥya (ca. 1440–1524) was a rabbi, grammarian, and scholar who fled Portugal at the end of the fifteenth century. After enduring many hardships, he eventually reached Istanbul and settled there. In his native Lisbon, as a member of a prosperous and distinguished family of rabbis, scholars, and communal leaders, Ibn Yaḥya had been the rabbi of the Jewish community and had taught numerous pupils. Noted for his wealth and generosity, he welcomed and helped many of the Spanish Jews who arrived in Portugal followin…

Levi (Ha-Levi), Moshe

(1,203 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Moses Levi (Moshe ha-Levi) (c. 1827 - 21 July 1910) served for more than three decades, from 1872 to mid-1908, as acting chief rabbi of the Ottoman Empire, a tenure defined by his own conservatism and that of the Ottoman regime with whom he maintained close ties. Born in Bursa around 1827, Levi was educated at the city’s rabbinic seminary. On the death of Yaqir Geron (Guéron, r. 1863–1872), Levi succeeded to the office of chief rabbi after several days of stormy discussions between various factions in the Jewish community of Istanbul. The appointment of a ch…

Danon, Abraham

(598 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Abraham Danon, who was born in Edirne (Adrianople) on August 15, 1857, and died in Paris on May 23, 1925, was a Haskala (Jewish Enlightenment) rabbi, educator, writer, and linguist. A student of the noted Orientalist Joseph Halévy, but largely autodidactic, he sought throughout his life to synthesize traditional learning with modern ideas. In 1879, he founded the Ḥevrat Shoḥare Tushiyya (Society of the Proponents of Wisdom), also called Dorshe ha-Haskala (Seekers of Enlightenment), in Edirne. He encouraged the study of Jewish history and literature, particularly that o…

L’Aurore (Istanbul)

(625 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
L’Aurore (1908–1920, 1924–1931) was a French-language pro-Zionist newspaper, initially a bi-weekly and then a weekly, that was published first in Istanbul, and later in Cairo. Its founder and publisher, the Salonica-born poet and writer Lucien Sciuto (1868–1947), saw L’Aurore as a newspaper for Jewish readers that would promote Zionism and Ottomanism, which he saw as complementary movements. The first issue came out one day after the proclamation of the 1908 Ottoman constitution and opened with a quotation from Theodor Herzl (1860–1904). L’Aurore quickly established itself a…

Nehama, Joseph

(1,314 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Joseph ben David Nehama (Néhama) (March 17, 1881 – October 29, 1971) was an educator, historian, and public figure whose name is closely associated with the Jewish community of Salonica. He was born on March 17, 1881 into a prestigious family that had been settled in Salonica for many generations. One of his relatives, Judah ben Jacob Nehama (1824–1899), a leading nineteenth-century reformer, was headmaster of an Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) school. Nehama began his own seventy-year association with the AIU as a child. Following his education in a traditiona…

Ṣarfati, Isaac

(643 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Isaac Ṣarfati was a German rabbi who settled in the Ottoman Empire prior to the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. He is thought to have been the author of the famous circular letter urging the Jewish communities of Central Europe to immigrate to the Ottoman realms. Although his surname indicates a family origin in northern France ( Ṣarfat), Ṣarfati came to the Ottoman Empire from Germany. Soon afterwards, he became a prominent member of the rabbinate of the Jewish community in Edirne (Adrianople), then the Ottoman capital. Rosanes and others have argued that Ṣarfati served as chief ra…

Carmona Family

(856 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The Carmona family produced a number of prominent Jewish political, economic, and social figures during the last two centuries of the Ottoman Empire and was part of the Jewish elite of Istanbul. The family probably originated in the city of Carmona in southern Spain, but little is known about it until the eighteenth century, when mention is made of the scholar Rabbi Abraham Carmona, who died in Jerusalem in 1739. His contemporary in Istanbul, Isaac Carmona, had two sons, Moses and Elia.  The elder son, Moses, engaged in the textile trade in Salonica and then founded a bank, a…
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