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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…

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 …

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…

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…

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…

Amatus Lusitanus (Amato Lusitano)

(1,555 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Amatus Lusitanus (also Amato Lusitano or Ḥaviv ha-Sephardi) (1511–1568) was a noted Jewish physician and marrano  who achieved renown throughout Western Europe before fleeing antisemitic persecution to settle in the Ottoman Empire toward the end of his life. Born in 1511 in Castel-Branco, Portugal, to marrano parents who had survived severe persecution, he grew up with a knowledge of Jewish religion, culture, and tradition that remained with him throughout his life; he also learned Hebrew from his parents. In his works, he mentions two bro…

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…

Usque, Samuel

(983 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Samuel Usque, in the mid-sixteenth century, was a noted marrano poet and the author of a classic work of Portuguese literature. He emigrated to the Ottoman Empire and lived in Safed and Istanbul. Few details of his life are known; he belonged to the distinguished Usque family, from the Spanish city of Huesca, and was born in Lisbon around the beginning of the sixteenth century. However, the persecution of marranos and Jews compelled him to settle in Ferrara by mid-life (perhaps the 1540s). He lived there at the same time as Amatus Lusitanu…

Shaul, Moshe

(283 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Moshe Shaul (b. 1929) is a journalist whose career has been devoted to the preservation and propagation of the Judeo-Spanish cultural heritage. Born in Izmir (Smyrna) in 1929, he immigrated to Israel in 1949, where he joined the Ladino department of Kol Israel(Voice of Israel) broadcasting in 1954. In 1959, he graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with degrees in sociology and political science. From 1977 to 1994, Shaul headed the Ladino department at Kol Israel. In 1979, he founded Aki Yerushalaim: Revista Kulturala Djudeo-Espanyola as a supplement to his broadcast…

Levi, Shabbetai

(583 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Shabbetai Levi (Istanbul, April 10, 1876 – Ḥaifa, November, 1, 1956) was a noted early Zionist leader. As the first Jewish mayor of Haifa, he oversaw the city’s rapid development during the first half of the twentieth century. Born in Istanbul on April 10, 1876, to Siman-Ṭov Nathan ha-Levi, a merchant and businessman, and Sarah née Pereṣ, he received both a traditional and a modern education and graduated from the Faculty of Political Science and Administration at Istanbul University. He moved to Palestine in 1894 a…

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…

Del Medico, Henri E.

(389 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Henri E. Del Medico was a  Semitist scholar and translator who specialized in his later years in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Born in Istanbul in 1896, Del Medico left for France in 1922, where he commenced his study of the ancient Near East, continuing at the Pontifical Institute in Rome during the Second World War. His early works focused on the Hebrew Bible and the Ugaritic texts from Ras Shamra. Especially noteworthy were his Essai sur Kahrié Djami au début du XIIème siècle (Leipzig and Berlin, 1932), Armées et finances dans l’Ancien Testament (Paris, 1933), Le Rite de la guerre da…

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…

Ha-Mevasser, Istanbul, 1909-11

(614 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Ha-Mevasser (The Herald [of Good Tidings]), a Hebrew weekly published in Istanbul from December 21, 1909 to December 3, 1911,  was founded by a group of Zionist leaders that included Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, Victor Jacobson, and Nahum Sokolow. The paper was managed and edited by Sami Hochberg with the assistance of Aharon Ḥermoni, who largely set the editorial tone. During its two-year life, Ha-Mevasser was Istanbul’s only entirely-Hebrew periodical. The scarcity of printers of Hebrew in Istanbul at the time rendered printing an expensive venture, and indeed Ha-Mevasser suffer…

Ben Yaʿesh (also Ibn Yaʿish or Abenæs), Solomon

(1,243 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Solomon Ben Yaʿesh (also Ibn Yaʿish or Abenæs and Alvaro Mendès) was born in Tavira, Portugal in 1520 and died in Istanbul in 1603. A wealthy and influential Jewish statesman and diplomat, he worked to stymie Spain at the height of its power by engineering an alliance between England and the Ottoman Empire. The man who later received the title of duke of Mytilene was born to a marrano ( anusim) family in Portugal as Alvaro Mendès, a name which most Europeans would continue to use with him throughout his life. In his youth, Mendès worked as an apprentice to a goldsmith before going to India in 1545 …

Bikayam, Meʾir

(370 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Meʾir ben Ḥalifa Bikayam, who died on August 3, 1769 in Izmir (Smyrna), was a rabbinical scholar, teacher, and author, noted both for his knowledge of Kabbala and his inclination toward Sabbateanism. Sometime after 1710, while still a young man, he attended classes conducted by Rabbi Jacob ben Benjamin Wolf Wilna (d. ca. 1732) in Izmir. Wilna, a Sabbatean kabbalist, introduced Bikayam to the mystical ideas taught by Shabbetay Ṣevi (1626–1676), the messianic claimant who a few decades earlier had electrified much of the Jewish world. Bikayam became an important f…

Ibn Yaḥya, Jacob Tam ben David

(760 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Jacob ben David Tam Ibn Yaḥya (ca. 1475–1542) was one of the leading Jewish scholars in Istanbul and indeed the Ottoman Empire during the first half of the sixteenth century. In addition to Judaica and rabbinics, he commanded a broad knowledge of medicine, Islamic law, and other subjects. Jacob was born in Lisbon into a prosperous and distinguished family of rabbis, scholars, and communal leaders. His father, David ben Solomon Ibn Yaḥya (ca. 1440–1524), was rabbi of the community, but was driven from the country under persecution by  King João II(r. 1481–1495) while Jacob was still…

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 …

Kalef (Kalev), Yehoshua

(1,018 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Yehoshuʽa Yuda Kalef (Eshua Kalev, Joshua Kalef, Josué Caleb) (1875–1943), a lawyer and journalist, was an early member and leader of the Zionist movement in Ottoman and independent Bulgaria. Descended from the respected Kalef and Romano families, he received a traditional Jewish education before attending the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) school in his native Plovdiv, where he studied French and developed an appreciation for French culture that remained with him throughout his life. His childhood also nurtured in him a strong sense …

Ashkenazi, Bekhor (Behor Efendi)

(308 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Bekhor Ashkenazi (1840–1909), also known as Behor Eşkenazi and Behor Efendi, was an Ottoman official and politician and a leader of the Jewish community in Istanbul during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1869, promoted to the rank of rütbe-i saniye, sinif-i sani (Turk. second grade, second class) in the Ottoman civil service, Ashkenazi was appointed by the sultan as one of two Jewish memebers to the forty-member  Council of State (Turk. Şura-yi Devlet), the empire’s highest legislative body, a post in which he continued to serve until 1899. In August 1873 Ashkena…
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