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Safra Family

(382 words)

Author(s): Tomer Levi
The  Safras are a Sephardi banking family that built a worldwide banking network. Their first known bank, Safra Frères, was founded in Aleppo in the mid-nineteenth century. It traded in gold and currency, and financed the camel caravan trade in the Ottoman Empire. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Jacob Safra (1891–1963) settled in Beirut, where he founded a new bank. Taking advantage of the booming commerce in the French-ruled port-city, Safra consolidated his bank on a firm basis. In light of the growing anti-Jewish propaganda in the l…

Farḥi, Joseph David

(488 words)

Author(s): Tomer Levi
Born in 1878 into a family of Jewish notables in Damascus,  Joseph David Farḥi was a maskil, educator, merchant, and pillar of the Jewish community of Beirut from 1908 until his death in 1945. Members of his family often filled high positions in the courts of local Ottoman rulers. After receiving a traditional elementary education, Farḥi attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) school in Damascus and in 1893 entered the teacher-training program at the Ecole Normale Israélite Orientale in Paris. Until 1903 Farḥi served as vice-director of the AIU schools in Izmir, Sossa,…

Beirut

(1,353 words)

Author(s): Tomer Levi | Kirsten Schulze
1. Late Antiquity to Early Modern Times Although an organized community did not really develop until the nineteenth century, Jews have lived in small numbers in Beirut since late Antiquity and a synagogue may have existed there as early as the sixth century CE.  The Megillat Evyatar (Scroll of Abiathar) relates that the Jewish community of Beirut was under the control of David ben Daniel in the late eleventh century.   In the 1170s, the Spanish Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela noted that there were approximately fifty Jews living in Beirut, but the community was appare…

Alexandria

(2,461 words)

Author(s): Miriam Frenkel | Norman A. Stillman | Tomer Levi
1. Medieval Alexandria (Ar. al-Iskandariyya), on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the western edge of the Nile Delta, is the principal port city of Egypt and was the capital until the Arab conquest, when it was replaced by Fustat.  There was a substantial Jewish community in the city from the third century B.C.E.  (According to Josephus, Jews already settled there at the time of Alexander's founding of the city.)  Alexandria became the principal center of Hellenistic Jewish culture in Antiquity.  It was there that the Bible was translated into Greek (the…