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Benveniste, Ḥayyim Ben Israel

(907 words)

Author(s): Jacob Barnai
Known as the Ḥaviv (the acronym for his name in Hebrew), Ḥayyim Benveniste is considered to have been one of the greatest halakhic sages of the Sephardic Diaspora and of world Jewry in general. He was born in Istanbul in 1603 to a family of rabbis, physicians, and advisers to the Ottoman court descended from Portuguese Jews who had been exiled from the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the fifteenth century; he died in Izmir (Smyrna) in 1673. Benveniste was a student of Joseph Trani (Mitrani), known as Maharit, the chief rabbi of Istanbul. In 1643, after serving for a time as supervisor of issur ve-h…

Escapa, Joseph

(628 words)

Author(s): Jacob Barnai
Joseph Escapa (d. 1661 or 1662) was born in Salonica around 1560 according to some accounts, and around 1570 according to others. He was educated in Salonica, possibly by his father, Rabbi Saul Escapa, and became an influential rabbi already at a young age. Sometime during the 1620s, Escapa settled in Istanbul, along with many Jews who left Salonica in the early seventeenth century for economic reasons. In Istanbul, he was closely associated with the leading rabbis there, among them  Joseph ben Moses Ṭrani (Mahariṭ, d. 1639) and the young Ḥayyim Benveniste (d. 1673), who was still in…

Rosanes, Salomon Abraham

(1,105 words)

Author(s): Jacob Barnai
Salomon Abraham Rosanes was a historian of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans. He was born in Ruschuk (Ruse, Tur. Rusçuk) in Bulgaria on April 14, 1862, to Abraham and Rachel Rosanes. His parents were both descendants of the Rosanes family, whose members had filled leadership positions in Sephardic Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire down the centuries. Their number included Abraham Rosanes (d. ca. 1680) and Judah Rosanes (d. 1727), who both served as rabbis in Istanbul, and another Abraham Rosanes (d. 1748), as well as…

Shabbetay Ṣevi

(3,363 words)

Author(s): Jacob Barnai
Shabbetay Ṣevi (Sabbatai Ṣevi, Shabbetay Tzvi, 1626–1676) was born in Izmir (Smyrna) on August 1, 1626, which coincided with the ninth of Av, the fast-day in remembrance of the destruction of the Temple, and also, according to tradition, the day on which the messiah will be born. Shabbetay’s father had moved with his family to Izmir from Greece. The family was apparently Romaniot by origin. Shabbetay had two brothers, Elijah and Joseph. Izmir, a flourishing city in Hellenistic times (traditionally held to be Homer’s birthplace), was reduced to a small town under the…