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Beja, Isaac Ben Moses

(128 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Isaac ben Moses Beja (d. 1628) was a preacher in several congregations in Salonica, and in his later years taught in the yeshiva of Nikopol (Nigbolu). In addition to homilies, eulogies, and poems, his published works include Bayit Neʾeman (A Faithful House), published in Venice in 1621, and a homily on the building of the synagogue of Nikopol entitled Keter Torah (Crown of the Torah), printed as a section of Le-Ohave Leshon ʿEver (For Lovers of the Hebrew Language) in 1628 in Paris. Two other individuals named Isaac Beja are known to have lived in Salonica. One died in 1635, the other in 1734.  Le…

Av Bet Din in the Ottoman Empire

(353 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
In the Jewish communities of the Ottoman Empire, the congregational rabbi ( marbiṣ tora) also often served as av bet din, or head judge, of a rabbinical court, assisted by two other judges in criminal cases. Thus the number of avot batte din in each community corresponded to the number of congregations. Large communities, such as Salonica, Istanbul, and Safed, had dozens of rabbis in that office. Bursa (Prousa) and Patras in the sixteenth century each had four avot batte din. Jews from small- and middle-seized communities often turned to the avot batte din of the larger communities, w…

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya) Family

(961 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
The Abulafia family (also Abulafia, Abulefia; from Ar. Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya, father [possessor] of good health) was an influential Sephardic family of rabbis, intellectuals, poets, dayyanim, communal leaders and Court Jews in Spain in the Middle Ages. After the expulsion from Spain in 1492, many of its descendants settled in the Ottoman Empire, where they continued to serve as rabbinic and communal leaders and halakhic decisors (Heb. posqim). The most important branch of the family lived in Toledo from the twelfth century onward, and its members were generally called Levi (…

Alfandari, Aaron ben Moses

(249 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Aaron ben Moses Alfandari (1690?–1774) was a rabbi and halakhist and the scion of a distinguished Sephardi family that had spread widely through the Ottoman Empire. He taught at the yeshiva of Izmir (Smyrna) and served also as a dayyan. About 1757 he settled in Hebron, where he was appointed chief rabbi in 1770. His known halakhic works are Yad Aharon (The Hand of Aaron) and Merkevet ha-Mishne (The Second Chariot) . In Yad Aharon, a work in four volumes, he attempted to bring Ḥayyim Benveniste’s Keneset ha-Gedola up to date by including later decisions and other sources, his own d…

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), Ḥayyim ben Jacob

(499 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Ḥayyim ben Jacob Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), known as “the Second,” was the grandson of Ḥayyim ben Jacob Abulafia “the First.” He was born in Hebron around 1660 and studied Torah in Jerusalem after his family moved there in 1666. His teachers were the rabbis Moses Galante, Abraham Amigo, and Solomon Algazi. In 1699 he was sent to Salonica as an emissary. He served as a rabbi in Izmir (Smyrna) in 1712 and from 1721 to 1740; from 1718 to 1721 he served as a rabbi in Safed. In 1740, Abulafia was invited by Shaykh Ḍāhir al-ʿUmar, the ruler of the Galilee, to settle there and renew the communi…

Algazi, Solomon ben Abraham

(230 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Solomon ben Abraham Algazi was born in Jerusalem in 1673 and died in Cairo(?) in 1762. A rabbi and halakhist, and a member of the distinguished Algazi family, he was the half-brother of Ḥayyim ben Moses Abulafia, who restored the Jewish community in Tiberias in 1740. Algazi’s teacher was Hizkiya da Silva. Later Algazi served in the bet din and yeshiva of Abraham Yiṣḥaqi in Jerusalem. One of Algazi’s disciples was Judah Navon. In 1715, Algazi was sent as an emissary to Salonica. In 1728, he became a dayyan in Cairo, and in 1740 he was appointed chief rabbi of Cairo. As a loyal disci…

Geron (Gueron) Family

(619 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
The Geron (Gueron) family produced many rabbis, judges, and communal leaders in Edirne (Adrianople) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The first known member of the family was Mordecai Geron, a well-to-do merchant in Edirne who died after 1680. The Gerons reappear in the sources in the eighteenth century. After Abraham Ṣarfati, the chief rabbi of Edirne, died in 1722, the Jewish community could not agree on a single successor. One faction selected Menahem ben Isaac Ashkenazi as its chief rabbi. The other chose Ṣarfati’s son-in-law,  Raphael Jacob Abraham Geron (d. 1751).…

Alfandari, Solomon Eliezer ben Jacob

(582 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Solomon Eliezer b. Jacob Alfandari (b. ca. 1826 or 1829/30), known as Mercado or Maharsha, and as Saba Qadisha, was a halakhist and rabbinic leader. Born in Istanbul to a distinguished family, he was appointed head of the Foa yeshiva at the age of twenty-five and also served as rabbi of the Orta Koy quarter of Istanbul. At the age of thirty, he was elected to the general religious coun…

Algazi, Solomon Nissim ben Abraham

(590 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Solomon Nissim ben Abraham Algazi the Elder, a scion of the famous Algazi family and the grandson on his mother’s side of Joseph de Segovia Benveniste (see Benveniste Family), was the foremost halakhic authority in the Ottoman Empire in the seventeenth century. He was born in the Turkish town of Bursa (Prousa) around 1610 and died in Jerusalem in 1684 or 1685. The name Nissim (Heb. miracles) was not given him at birth but was added later upon his recovery from a serious illness. Solomon Algazi was educated by his fat…

Geron (Gueron), Yakir Astruc

(411 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Yakir Astruc ben Eliakim Geron (1813–1874) was born into the distinguish Geron family of rabbis in Edirne (Adrianople). Early in his career he served as a…

Alba, Isaac de

(451 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Isaac de Alba was a rabbinic teacher of the young Shabbetay Ṣevi. Their association began in 1642, when de Alba arrived in Izmir (Smyrna) from Salonica along with several other scholars. He taught Kabbala to Shabbetai Ṣevi for several years. Whether de Alba objected when Shabbetai Ṣevi first began making messianic claims is unknown, but he strenuously condemned him for  his conversion to Islam in September 1666. After the death of Rabbi Joseph Eskapa in 1661, de Alba was appointed chief dayyan of the Smyrna community with responsibility for financial and administrative matters (Heb. dine mamonot). He served in this capacity from 1662 to 1665 in conjunction with Ḥayyim Benveniste, who was the chief dayyan for ritual matters (Heb. i ssu…

Ha-Levi, Abraham

(229 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Abraham ha-Levi (d. 1837), also known as Hezekiah and Nissim, was the first chief rabbi ( haham başı) of the Ottoman Empire. He became a  dayyan in the Jewish court in the Balat district of Istanbul in 1820, and later served as its chief judge ( av bet din). In 1834 he was a dayyan in the court of the Istanbul community ( bet din issur ve-heter). In January 1835, Sultan Maḥmūd II issued an imperial decree ( ferman) appointing Halevi the empire’s first chief rabbi. He served in this office only a short time, possibly because of blindness, and was replaced in September of the same year by Samuel ben Moses Ḥayyim. No details about his family have been preserved. It is possible that he was a descendant of the merchant ( bazirgân) Samuel Halevi of Istanbul, an influential figure in the Jewish community. Another Abraham Halevi, known to have been a rich man in Istanbul in the 1850s and 1860s, might have been his son. Leah Bornstein-Ma…

Covo Family

(803 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Members of the Covo family were scholars and communal leaders in Salonica and Jerusalem for …

Covo, Raphael Asher

(334 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Raphael Asher Covo (1799– January 1874) was chief rabbi of Salonica, head of a yeshiva, and a sponsor of communal charity. The grandson of Rabbi Abraham Covo (d. 1792), he studied with his father and with Rabbi Isaac Barzilai. Covo was a rabbi in Salonica for over fifty years, during which time he founded the city’s Lishkat ha-Gazit Yeshi…

Peraḥya, Aaron Ben Ḥayyim Abraham ha-Kohen

(177 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Aaron ben Ḥayyim Abraham ha-Kohen Peraḥya(1627?–1697) was born in Salonica into a well-known family of Italian origin. He…

Navon, Ephraim Ben Aaron

(216 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Ephraim ben Aaron Navon (1677–1735) was a rabbi, dayyan, and author. Born in Istanbul, he moved to Jerusalem with his father-in-law, Judah Ergas, around 1700. He returned to Istanbul as an emissary (Heb. meshullaḥ or shadar) of the Jerusalem community in 1720 but chose to remain there. Three years later, he was appointed dayyan in the bet din (rabbinical court) of Judah Rosanes and became one of the leading rabbis of the Istanbul community. Navon was a founder of the Committee of Officials for Jerusalem in Istanbul. His legal work Maḥane Efrayim (The Camp of Ephraim; Istanbul, 1738) contains responsa and commentaries on the Talmud and the works of earlier halakhic authorities. Navon’s son, Aryeh Judah Navon (1707–1761), also a rabbi in Istanbul, was the author of  Qiryat Melekh Rav (The City of the Great King; Istanbul, 1765), a commentary on Maimonides, and was the teacher of Yom Ṭov Algazi. Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky Bibliography Barnai, Jacob.  The Jews in Palestine in the Eighteenth Century under the Patronage of the Istanbul Committee of Officials for Palestine, trans. Naomi Goldblum (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992), pp. 114, 131, 210. Bornstein-Makovetsky, Leah.  Pinqas Bet Din Issur ve-Heter be-Qush a, 1710–1903 (Lod: Orot Yahadut ha-Maghreb, 1999), pp. 86–87. Yaʿari, Abraham. Shelu e Ere Yisraʾel (Jerusalem: Mercaz Harav…


(1,237 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
The gabela (from Sp.

Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya), Hayyim ben David

(138 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Ḥayyim ben David Abulafia (Abū ʾl-ʿĀfiya) was born around 1700. Known as “the Baḥur” (Heb. Young Man), he was a rabbi and kabbalist. After serving as rabbi in Larisa, he became head of a Jewish court ( bet din) in Salonica in 1761, and while there taught the Sabbatean Abraham Miranda. Abulafia later settled in Izmir (Smyrna) and was appointed one of the community’s two chief rabbis; he died there on February 25, 1775. Abulafia wrote the Nishmat Ḥayyim (Salonica, 1806) on the Sefer Miṣvot Gadol. The book also includes some of his sermons. Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky Bibliography Benayahu, Meir…

Peraḥya, Ḥasday Ben Samuel ha-Kohen

(166 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Ḥasday ben Samuel ha-Kohen Peraḥya was a rabbi and halakhic authority in Salonica. Born around 1605 into one of the city’s distinguished families, and a disciple of Ḥayyim Shabbetay (d. 1647), he was appointed a dayya n in the city’s old Italian congregation in 1647. From 1671 until his death in 1678, he served as  chief rabbi of the Salonica community and raised up some noteworthy disciples, most especially  Jacob ben Abraham de Boton (d. 1687). In 1723, some years after Peraḥya’s death, a collection of his responsa, entitled Torat Ḥesed (The Law of Kindness) was published in Sal…

Bursa (Prousa)

(919 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Bursa (ancient Prousa), in northwestern Anatolia, was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, between 1326 and 1365. When the Ottomans captured the city from the Byzantines, it had a small Romaniot Jewish presence. In the first half of the sixteenth century, newly arriving Spanish exiles were soon in the majority. Culturally and numerically dominant, the Sephardim fairly quickly assimilated the Romaniots, and Judeo-Spanish became the day-to-day spoken and written language of  the city’s Jews.  The community paid its poll tax ( jizya) through its representative to authorities, the k…

Buton, Meʾir de

(197 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Meʾir ben Abraham Ḥiyya de Buton (di Boton) was born  in Salonica around 1575. He studied under his father, the great halakhic scholar Abraham Ḥiyya ben Moses de Buton (1545–1588), and wrote an introduction to the Leḥem Mishne, his father’s commentary to Maimonides’s Mishne Torah. He was later appointed rabbi of the community of Gallipoli and served there until his death in 1649. Under the leadership of Me’ir de Buton, the yeshiva in Gallipoli became one of the great centers of Torah study in the Ottoman Empire. Throughout his life, Meʾir corresponded with the ha…

Conforte, David

(449 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
David Conforte (1618–ca. 1677) was born into a scholarly Sephardic family in Salonica. His teacher, Asher Zevulun, was a disciple of Conforte’s grandfather, also named David Conforte. The younger Conforte studied Torah and Kabbala in Salonica, and in 1644 moved to Jerusalem to continue his education in a bet midrash. He also spent a year in Cairo, where he studied in the bet midrash of Abraham Skandari, and some time in Gaza, learning with Rabbi Moses Najara. In 1648, he returned to Salonica, but he went back to Jerusalem in 1652 to found his own academy. In 1671 he m…

Ashkenazi, Jonah ben Jacob

(348 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Jonah ben Jacob Ashkenazi was a printer and publisher who helped to make Istanbul a center of Hebrew printing in the Ottoman Empire. He was born in Zalosce, Poland (now Zaliztsi, Ukraine), to an Ashkenazi family, and later emigrated to Istanbul. In 1710, Ashkenazi engraved movable-type settings in Hebrew and decorations for title pages, and with these founded a printing press in the city. During his first two years in Istanbul, he worked in partnership with a Jew from Vienna, Naphtali ben Azriel. Ashkenazi later moved his press north of the city, to Ortaköy. In 1714 he went…

Malchi (Malkhi) Esperanza

(280 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Esperanza Malchi (Malkhi) was the third Jewish kira ( kiera, kyra), a Greek honorific title meaning lady, given to the women who attended to matters outside the palace for the queen mother ( valide sultan) and other influential women in the Ottoman royal harem. As a personal agent for Safiye, the consort of Murad III (r. 1574–1595) and the mother of Mehmed III (r. 1595–1603), Malchi played a part in the correspondence between Safiye and Queen Elizabeth I of England. At least once, in 1599, she addressed a letter in Italian to Elizabeth, dealing with the exchange of g…

Almoli (Almuli), Solomon ben Jacob

(593 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Solomon ben Jacob Almoli (Almuli) was probably born in Portugal before 1490 and died in Istanbul in 1542. He served as a dayyan, but it is unclear whether he was also a congregational rabbi; he seems not to have raised up students. Earning a meager livelihood as a physician, he lived in poverty and devoted himself to science and to popularizing science. He planned to compile an extensive general encyclopedia, but his fellow scholars in Istanbul rejected the idea. As a result he was only able to publish a brief prospectus for the encyclopedia in twenty-four pages, under the title Meʾassef le-…

Vital, David Ben Solomon Ha-Rofe

(496 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
David ben Solomon Vital was an Italian rabbi, preacher, philosopher, and payṭan (liturgical poet). He was called ha-rofe (Heb. the doctor) even though he was not a physician. Vital was apparently born before 1492 in Calabria (Italy), and was among the Sephardi and Italian exiles who immigrated to the Ottoman Empire. Vital settled in the Greek town of Patras, but in 1532 fled to Arta, also in Greece, together with the majority of the city’s Jews, just before a Christian army conquered Patras. During the course of this hasty move, many precious manuscri…

Adarbi, Isaac

(242 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Isaac ben Samuel Adarbi was a  Sephardi rabbi and halakhic authority in Salonica. Born there between 1515 and 1520, he served for a time as rabbi of the Lisbon congregation in Salonica, with which his family was affiliated, while from around 1552 till his death (ca. 1584), he was rabbi of the Shalom congregation. The date of death on his tombstone (5337/1577) seems to be in error, as Adarbi signed a communal regulation in the year 5384/1584. Like Samuel de Medina, Adarbi was a disciple of  Joseph Taitatzak, but the two students disagreed with each other on some halakhic matters. …

Italian Jews (Bene Roma)

(607 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Italian Jews, primarily from the cities of Genoa and Venice, began to immigrate to the Byzantine Empire during the Middle Ages. Most of them settled in the western parts of the empire (Rumelia) and established congregations next to already existing Romaniot ones. The expulsion of Jews from Italian cities in the sixteenth century prompted hundreds of families to move to the Ottoman Empire. Most of the new arrivals in the Ottoman lands, descended from Jews who had been living in Italy for centuries, continued to follow Italian customs ( Bene Roma), but some were Sephardi (Spanish and P…

Alfandari Family

(572 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
The Alfandari family originated in Spain. During the centuries following the expulsion, it produced numerous communal leaders, rabbis, and halakhists in the Ottoman Empire, particularly in Istanbul, Smyrna (Izmir), Bursa (Prousa), Egypt, and Palestine. A few members of the family lived in Portugal as anusim. The first known member of the family was Isaac ben Judah in Toledo (d. 1241). He was followed by Jacob ben Solomon of Valencia, who (together with Solomon Zarza) translated Sefer ha-Azamim, attributed to Abraham ibn Ezra, from Arabic into Hebrew. Other members include the mercha…

Textile Manufacture and Trade

(725 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Textiles of various kinds were manufactured and used throughout the Muslim world in the Middle Ages. As S. D. Goitein observed: “Comparable to the place of steel and other metals in modern economy, textiles represented the major industry of medieval times in the Mediterranean area” (p. 101). According to information found in the Cairo Geniza, many Jews in Egypt were in the business of exporting locally grown flax to Tunisia and Sicily for use in the production of linen and of importing and selling silk and cotton (primarily from Central Asia, but …

Ottoman Empire

(18,935 words)

Author(s): Efrat E. Aviv | Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky | D Gershon Lewental | Avigdor Levy
1.  From 1300 to 1492 Background The Ottoman Empire (Ott. Tur. Devlet-i Âliye-yi Osmâniyye; Tur. Osmanlı İmparatorluğu; Ar. al-Dawla al-ʿUthmānīyya) emerged from a group of Turkic principalities in western Anatolia. The conventional date for the foundation of the Ottoman state is 1299, when one Osman (r. 1299–1324), the son of Ertuğrul, made the town of Söğüt his capital and embarked on a series of raids against neighboring villages and towns. In 1302, the Ottomans faced and defeated the Byzantines for the first time in the Battle of Nicaea, whence Osman’s forces moved on to capture most…
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