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Sürgün (Forced Resettlement)

(347 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

(4,287 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…

Papo, Eliezer

(371 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…

Navon family

(801 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…

Mizraḥi, Elijah ben Abraham

(471 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Elijah ben Abraham Mizraḥi (d. before 1527), generally known by the Hebrew acronym Reʾem,  was one of the greatest rabbis of the Romaniot community of Istanbul. Born there around the middle of the fifteenth century, he headed a yeshiva and apparently figured as the leader of the city’s rabbinical community. Modern scholarship tends to dismiss the claim that he was formally styled chief rabbi ( haham başı ), however, although this was assumed in the past. Aside from being an adjudicator (Heb. poseq) of Jewish law, Mizraḥi possessed broad general knowledge on numerous subjects,…

Rosanes (Rosales) Family

(872 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…

Almosnino, Joseph ben Isaac

(289 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Joseph ben Isaac Almosnino (1642–1689) was a noted rabbi of the late seventeenth century. Born in Salonica, Almosnino (the surname also appears as Almoshnino or Almoshnini) was the nephew of Rabbi Judah ben Samuel Lerma. He studied in Jerusalem at the Bet Yaʿaqov seminary of Israel Jacob ben Samuel Ḥagiz (1620–1674). In 1666, he went to Belgrade to continue his education under Simḥa ben Gershon ha-Kohen, the rabbi of the local community and the head of its seminary, as well as the author of Shemot ha-Giṭṭin. Shortly thereafter, Almosnino married his teacher’s daughter, Leah. She…

Ibn Yaḥya, Gedaliah ben Jacob Tam

(316 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…

Bassan Yeḥiel

(238 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…

Ashkenazi, Judah Ben Joseph

(338 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Judah ben Joseph Ashkenazi, born ca. 1730, was one of the most notable scholars of Izmir (Smyrna) during the eighteenth century. His father, Joseph, immigrated from Vienna to Izmir around 1700. Judah was the son-in-law of Rabbi Barzilay Ya‘beṣ, a scholar and communal leader. From various sources, it appears that Judah was known for his sharpness of mind, his profilic literary output, and his accomplishments as a teacher. He grew up among the students of the Maḥziqe Torah seminary and eventually became an outstanding scholar and teacher. Rabbi Ḥayyim ben Jacob Pallache (known by the…

Handali, Esther

(321 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…

Sassoon Family

(1,509 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Sassoons (Sasons, Sassons) are a prominent Jewish family of Baghdadiorigin whose commercial and financial networks dominated trade in India and the Far East at the height of the British colonial period. Members of the family engaged in philanthropic and scholarly enterprises throughout the Jewish world. The Sassoons were typical of the Jewish notable families that prospered in business and finance in the late Ottoman period cities likeIstanbul (the Zonana, Aciman/Adjiman, Camondo/Kamondo, and Gabbai families), Izmir (Smyrna), Damascus, and Acre (Akko, the Farḥi family), a…

Caro, Joseph Ben Ephraim

(1,127 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Joseph ben Ephraim Caro (1488–1575), known also by his Hebrew acronym as the Riq, was one of the most important halakhic adjudicators of all time. Honored with the title maran (Heb. our master) or maran ha-meḥabber (Heb. our master the author) for his monumental compilation, the Bet Yosef, he was born in 1488, apparently in the city of Toledo in the Kingdom of Castile. In 1492, when the Jews of Spain were expelled, his family went to Portugal, but after only a few years they were forced to flee eastward and headed to the Ottoman Empire. Caro…

Castro, Jacob

(287 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Jacob ben Abraham Castro was one of the most important  rabbis of Egypt during the sixteenth century and the first decade of the seventeenth. Born in 1525, either in Egypt or Jerusalem, into a family of Iberian origin, Castro (known by the acronym Mahariqas) was a pupil of both Levi ben Ḥabib (Ralbaḥ, ca. 1483–1545) and David ibn Abi Zimra, (Radbaz, 1479–1573). Castro stood at the head of the community of Mizraḥi Jews ( Musta‘ribūn) in Egypt throughout the second half of the sixteenth century until his death in either 1612 or 1610. A leading halakhic authority in his …

Israel family

(580 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Israel family, noted for producing many prominent rabbis, flourished in Alexandria, Rhodes, and Palestine in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The earliest distinguished member of the family, Moses Israel, was born in Jerusalem around 1670 and died in Alexandria in 1740. Perhaps descended from earlier rabbis whose names are unknown, he was a pupil of Abraham ben David Yiṣhaqi (1661–1729) and married Hannah, the daughter of Moses ben Solomon ibn Ḥabib (ca. 1654–1696), one of the foremost rabbis of Jerusalem during that period. From 1710 to 1713, Moses…

Names and Naming Practices - Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic

(4,393 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

(356 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…

Pallache, Ḥayyim

(432 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Ḥayyim ben Jacob Pallache (Palache, Palaggi), known by the Hebrew acronyms Ḥabif and Maharḥaf, was a chief rabbi of the Ottoman city of Izmir (Smyrna). Born in Izmir in 1788, he was educated by his father, who was a well-known rabbi and kabbalist, as well as by his grandfather Joseph Raphael ben Ḥayyim Ḥazzan (Ḥazzan, 1741–1820), who was also a chief rabbi of Izmir. Ḥayyim Pallache was already a rabbi in 1813, when he was but twenty-five years old; by the time he reached forty in 1828, he had been appointed head of the Bet Yaʿaqov rabbinical seminary. Ten years later, he became the head …

Taytaṣak, Joseph

(545 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Joseph ben Solomon Taytaṣak was a scholar and rabbi, active from the late fifteenth to the mid-sixteenth century, who excelled both in traditional Jewish subjects and in secular subjects. As a young man in Castile, where he was born in 1465, Taytaṣak caught the attention of Rabbi  Levi ibn Ḥabib (Ralbaḥ, ca. 1480–1545). He moved from Spain to Portugal but fled to Italy after the expulsion edict in 1497. Taytaṣak lived in Salonica during the first decade of the sixteenth century, and later spent time in Yanina (Ioannina) and Serres. He was considered one of Saloni…

Silva, Hezekiah da

(382 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…
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