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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…

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 …

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…

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. din…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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  rabbi in Bucharest. After his return to Edirne, he sojourned for a time in  Rustchuk (Ruse, Bulgaria) and helped the Jewish community there reach a compromise on a major (but now unknown) issue. Geron left so strong an impression that in 1852 the community named a synagogue after him, Qahal Qadosh Geron (The Holy Congregation of Geron). When his father died in 1835, Geron inherited the rabbinate of Edirne from him. He helped rees…

Gabela

(1,237 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
The gabela (from Sp. gabela, It. gabella, Fr. gabelle, excise tax; a word thought by O.E.D. to be of Teut. origin, but perhaps ultimately from Ar./med. Jud.-Ar. qabāla, a lease) was a tax on meat and other food staples that Jewish communities in Christian Spain, Islamic lands, and the Ottoman Empire imposed on their members. In the Maghreb, it was often called sija or siza (from Sp. cisa, Mod. Sp. and Port. sisa). In Tripolitania, it was called khaba. Although the terms gabela and sija appear to have come in with Sephardi exiles, such taxes existed in the Islamic world well bef…

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…

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 studied with Rabbis Asher ben Ardut ha-Kohen, Ḥasday ha-Kohen Peraḥya, and Ḥayyim Shabbetay. In 1689, he succeeded Elijah Covo (see Covo Family) as chief rabbi of Salonica. Aaron was the author of Paraḥ Maṭṭe Aharon (Aaron’s Staff Blossomed; 2 vols., Amsterdam 1703), a collection of responsa; Pirḥe Kehunna (Flowers of Priesthood; Amsterdam, 1709), a commentary on tractates Bava Qamma, Bava Meṣiʽa, Ketubbot, Giṭṭin, ʽAvoda Zara, and Qiddush…

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…

Chios

(626 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Chios (Turk. Sakız) is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea located off the southwestern coast of Anatolia near Izmir (Smyrna). Jews first settled there in the Hellenistic period. Spanish exiles began to arrive after 1492, and by the time the Ottomans captured the island from the Genoese in 1566, most of the Jews in Chios were Sephardim. In the seventeenth century, there were two congregations on the island, one Sephardi and the other Romaniot. The two groups were recognized by the Ottoman government, which treated the Sephardim and Romaniots as separate communities for t…

Covo Family

(803 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Members of the Covo family were scholars and communal leaders in Salonica and Jerusalem for a period of three centuries. They are first mentioned in the seventeenth century. Rabbi Judah Covo (d. 1636) headed a communal delegation from Salonica that went to Istanbul in 1636 in hopes of improving the terms governing the annual gift to the sultan required of Salonica’s cloth manufacturers. Unfortunately, the government officials decided that what the delegation had brought was unsatisfactory in quantity and value, and as a result Judah Covo was executed. His son Elijah (ca. 1628–1688) w…

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 Yeshiva. His halakhic decisions were oft-quoted by rabbis in many communities. By 1835, Covo was already a prominent dayyan (judge), and in 1849 he was appointed chief rabbi ( ḥakham bashi) of Salonica concurrently with Ḥanokh Saporta. In 1856, Sultan Abdülmecid…

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).…

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-…

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…
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