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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 …

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…

Ibn Yaḥya, David ben Solomon

(541 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
David ben Solomon Ibn Yaḥya (ca. 1440–1524) was a rabbi, grammarian, and scholar who fled Portugal at the end of the fifteenth century. After enduring many hardships, he eventually reached Istanbul and settled there. In his native Lisbon, as a member of a prosperous and distinguished family of rabbis, scholars, and communal leaders, Ibn Yaḥya had been the rabbi of the Jewish community and had taught numerous pupils. Noted for his wealth and generosity, he welcomed and helped many of the Spanish Jews who arrived in Portugal followin…

Levi (Ha-Levi), Moshe

(1,203 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Moses Levi (Moshe ha-Levi) (c. 1827 - 21 July 1910) served for more than three decades, from 1872 to mid-1908, as acting chief rabbi of the Ottoman Empire, a tenure defined by his own conservatism and that of the Ottoman regime with whom he maintained close ties. Born in Bursa around 1827, Levi was educated at the city’s rabbinic seminary. On the death of Yaqir Geron (Guéron, r. 1863–1872), Levi succeeded to the office of chief rabbi after several days of stormy discussions between various factions in the Jewish community of Istanbul. The appointment of a ch…

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…

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…

Nehama, Joseph

(1,314 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Joseph ben David Nehama (Néhama) (March 17, 1881 – October 29, 1971) was an educator, historian, and public figure whose name is closely associated with the Jewish community of Salonica. He was born on March 17, 1881 into a prestigious family that had been settled in Salonica for many generations. One of his relatives, Judah ben Jacob Nehama (1824–1899), a leading nineteenth-century reformer, was headmaster of an Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) school. Nehama began his own seventy-year association with the AIU as a child. Following his education in a traditiona…

Ṣarfati, Isaac

(643 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Isaac Ṣarfati was a German rabbi who settled in the Ottoman Empire prior to the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. He is thought to have been the author of the famous circular letter urging the Jewish communities of Central Europe to immigrate to the Ottoman realms. Although his surname indicates a family origin in northern France ( Ṣarfat), Ṣarfati came to the Ottoman Empire from Germany. Soon afterwards, he became a prominent member of the rabbinate of the Jewish community in Edirne (Adrianople), then the Ottoman capital. Rosanes and others have argued that Ṣarfati served as chief ra…

Carmona Family

(856 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The Carmona family produced a number of prominent Jewish political, economic, and social figures during the last two centuries of the Ottoman Empire and was part of the Jewish elite of Istanbul. The family probably originated in the city of Carmona in southern Spain, but little is known about it until the eighteenth century, when mention is made of the scholar Rabbi Abraham Carmona, who died in Jerusalem in 1739. His contemporary in Istanbul, Isaac Carmona, had two sons, Moses and Elia.  The elder son, Moses, engaged in the textile trade in Salonica and then founded a bank, a…

Dragomans (Tercuman; Translators)

(1,394 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The influx of European Jews into the Ottoman Empire following the expulsion from Spain provided the state with a valuable source of loyal citizens who spoke useful foreign languages and had personal or commercial ties to both Christian courts and Jewish communities in their countries of origin. Many Jews exploited their talents to achieve important positions in the Ottoman court, particularly in its international relations, often starting their careers as   dragomans (translators/interpreters, from Trk. tercuman, itself borrowed from Ar. root t-r-j-m,to translate). Aware of …

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…

Carasso (Karasu), Albert

(514 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Albert Carasso (Karasu, 1885–1982)was a  Jewish journalist and political scientist in Turkey. Born in Salonica, Carasso learned French from his parents and then attended the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po). After completing his studies, Carasso moved to Istanbul, where in 1918 he founded and edited the French-language daily Le Journal d’Orient (1918–1924, 1926–1971). Carasso intended the newspaper to reach an elite audience in Istanbul; its readership, particularly in later years, consisted mostly of minorities. Albert Av…

Conegliano (Conian), Israel

(567 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Israel ben Joseph Conegliano (Conian) was born in Padua around 1650 and died in Istanbul around 1717. He was a Jewish physician and diplomat in Padua, Venice, and the Ottoman Empire. Conegliano graduated from the medical school in his hometown on June 8, 1673, thereafter practicing in Venice for a couple of years before relocating to Istanbul in 1675. There he soon became the personal physician to the grand vizier, Karam Mustafa Pasha (in office, 1676–1683), and also treated Sultan Mehmed IV (r. 1648–1687). On October 10, 1682, the Venetian bailo (ambassador) appointed Conegliano as …

Benaroya, Albert

(451 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Albert (né Armand) Avram Benaroya, a Turkish journalist, linguist, and educator,  was born in Edirne in 1887 and died in Istanbul on June 20, 1955. He received his primary education at the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) school in Edirne, from which he graduated at a precocious age, and then attended the École Normale Israélite Orientale (ENIO) in Paris (1906). From October 1910 he taught at the École Ṣror ha-Ḥayyim de Hasköy in Istanbul before being appointed teacher of French at a Turkish…

Pallache Family (Turkish Branch)

(1,479 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The Pallache (Palaggi, Palache, Palacci) family originated in the Iberian Peninsula and had branches in many places along the Mediterranean littoral. It produced several leading rabbinical scholars in the Ottoman city of Izmir (Smyrna) during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Two of them, Ḥayyim ben Jacob and his son Abraham, served as chief rabbi ( haham başı) and became the focus of a fierce dispute that engulfed the town’s Jewish community, while a third, Solomon ben Abraham, contributed to its decline. Ḥayyim ben Jacob Pallache(January 28, 1788– February 10, 1…

Gatigno, Elyakim Ben Isaac

(202 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Elyakim ben Isaac Gaṭigno (d. 1781 or 1795) was a rabbi and scholar in Izmir (Smyrna) in the eighteenth century. A scion of the Gaṭigno (Gaṭṭigno, Gaṭeigno) rabbinical family of Iberian origin, he was born in Salonica, but spent most of his life in Izmir, where he was a leading rabbi in the Jewish community until his death. Gaṭigno authored a number of works, including Toʿafot Reʾem (The Lofty Horns of the Wild Ox; Livorno, 1761), a commentary on the commentary on Rashi by Rabbi Elijah ben Abraham Mizraḥi, known as the Reʾem (d. 1526); Agura be-Ohalekha (I Will Abide in Thy Tabernacle; Sal…

Carmona, Elia Rafael

(1,022 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Elia Rafael Carmona, born October 21, 1869 in Istanbul, was a writer and journalist, who died in 1935. He was the author of many dozens of novellas in Judeo-Spanish and edited the humoristic weekly El Jugeton for over twenty years (1908–1931). A member of the distinguished Carmona family, he was the grand-nephew of the banker Bekhor Isaac David ben Elia Carmona (1773–1826) through the latter’s younger brother Hezekiah. Although Elia Carmona was raised in penury because of his parents’ economic difficulties, his connection with more illustrious Carmonas opened do…

Usque, Solomon

(788 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Solomon ben Abraham Usque, also known as Salusque Lusitano (ca. 1530–ca. 1596), was a Portuguese marrano author, playwright, printer, and Ottoman courtier during the second half of the sixteenth century. A member of the distinguished Usque family from Huesca, Spain, Solomon Usque was born in Portugal around 1530. His father, Abraham ben Solomon Usque, took the family to Ferrara in Italy in the 1540s because of the growing pressure upon marranos in Portugal. In Ferrara, Abraham (also known by his Christian name, Duarte Pinhel) set up a printing press th…

Le Jeune Turc

(433 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Le Jeune Turc was a daily newspaper in French published in Istanbul from 1908 to 1918. It was edited by Sami Hochberg, Vladimir Jabotinsky, and the Turkish journalist Celâl Nuri. The origins of Le Jeune Turc lay in Le Courrier d’Orient, owned by Ebüzziya Tevfik, an outspokenly antisemitic deputy from Antalya. Hochberg, Victor Jacobson, David Wolffsohn, and other Zionists purchased the paper from Tevfik in 1909 and transformed it into an organ sympathetic to the ruling Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). Under their control, the paper promoted the CUP and its program, democrac…

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…

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…

Ḥevra (Charitable or Sacred Society)

(3,510 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The ḥevra (Heb. society, association; pl. ḥevrot, ḥavarot) was a private society or confraternity which provided various services to Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere in the Islamic world—and indeed throughout the countries of Christian Europe. Most ḥevrot resembled modern nonprofit organizations and charitable foundations, receiving funds from communal taxes and offering burial, medicine, food, and other benefits to the needy. Benevolent societies of this kind continue to function in present-day Turkey, although…

Kasabi, Joseph ben Nissim

(453 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Joseph ben Nissim Kaṣabi (Qaṣṣabi) ( ca. 1625- ca. 1690) was a rabbi and scholar in the Ottoman Empire. Born in Istanbul around 1625 and educated at the yeshiva of Joseph ben Moses Ṭrani (Miṭrani) the Elder (1569–1639), Kaṣabi was one of the foremost religious teachers in the Ottoman capital and often sought to obtain the agreement of other prominent rabbis on matters that he taught his students. He maintained a close friendship with Abraham ben Meʾir Rosanes (ca. 1635–1720) and corresponded with other important rabbinical figures of the time, receiving queries on hal…

La Luz de Israel (Istanbul)

(214 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
La Luz de Israel (The Light of Israel; Istanbul, 1853–?) was a Judeo-Spanish weekly gazette in Istanbul, printed in Rashi script and edited by Léon de Ḥayyim Castro, a member of the Italian Castro family. Founded in 1853, and also known as Or Yisraʾel (The Light of Israel), the paper followed the first major Jewish newspaper to appear in Istanbul, the Journal Israélite (1841–1860). It was devoted primarily to news and reportage on the Crimean War. According to Moïse Franco, Castro owned a printing press and began issuing the paper in 1853 to capitalize on Jewish readers’ …

Ibn Verga, Joseph

(441 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Joseph ben Solomon ibn Verga (d. 1559) was a rabbi, author, and scholar who was active in the Ottoman Empire during the first half of the sixteenth century. Probably born near Seville, Ibn Verga went to Istanbul with his family via Portugal after the expulsions from Iberia, and later settled in Edirne (Adrianople). He studied under Joseph Fasi and was a contemporary of Jacob Tam ben David Ibn Yaḥya (ca. 1475–1542) and Moses Hamon (ca. 1490–ca. 1554), both of whom were imperial physicians to Süleyman I Kanuni (Sul…

Cohn, Tobias (Tuviyyah Cohen)

(720 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Tobias ben Moses Cohn (Ṭuviyya Cohen) (1652–1729) was a noted physician who served five successive Ottoman sultans. He was born in 1652 in Metz into a family of physicians from Poland (his grandfather Eleazar Cohn had gone to Poland from Palestine around the turn of the seventeenth century; his father, Moses Cohn, fled westward in 1648 to escape the Chmielnicki [Khmelnytsky] uprising). Orphaned at an early age, Cohn received a traditional upbringing in Metz and then was educated at a seminary in Cracow. He began his medical studies at the University of Frankfurt-an-der-Oder in 1678, …

Niégo, Joseph

(989 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Joseph Niégo (1863–1945) was an important Jewish figure toward the end of the Ottoman Empire and in the early decades of the Turkish Republic. During the course of his variegated career, he worked as an agronomist in Palestine, was an inspector of agricultural settlements, founded the Istanbul B’nai B’rith lodge, managed a loan fund, and was a communal leader and teacher. Born in Edirne to Ezra Niégo and the sister of Rabbi Raphael Bekemoharar (1837–1899), the city’s religious leader, Joseph Niégo was orphaned at an early age. His uncle, the last member of the famed…

Lapapa, Aaron Ben Isaac

(978 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Aaron ben Isaac Lapapa (ca. 1604–1667) was a highly regarded rabbi who led the Jewish community of Manisa for many years and then moved to Izmir to share the post of chief rabbi with Ḥayyim ben Israel Benveniste. He was one of the few rabbis in Izmir to oppose Shabbetay Ṣevi. Lapapa was born and grew up in Manisa. He studied at the yeshiva of Abraham Muṭal and under Ḥayyim ben Shabbetay (ca. 1555–1647) in Salonica, then went to Istanbul to study under Joseph ben Moses Miṭrani (Mahariṭ, 1569–1639), who often praised him. Lapapa was already considered an important scholar by the…

Le Journal d’Orient

(598 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Le Journal d’Orient (1918–1924, 1926–1971), a daily newspaper in French published in Istanbul, was founded and edited by Albert Carasso (Karasu, 1885–1982). A French-educated political scientist born in Salonica, Carasso ran the enterprise with the help of Albert Avram Benaroya (1887–1955), Lea Zolotarevsky, Marsel Shalom, Regenstreif (first name never indicated), and others. In later years, Moşe Benbasat (Benbasan) and Aaron Zonana also contributed. In its early period, Le Journal d’Orient was sympathetic to Zionism but had no formal connection to the movement. …

Ibn Borgil, Abraham ben ʿAzīz

(202 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Abraham ben ʿAzīz Ibn Borgil (d. ca. 1595) was a rabbi and religious teacher in the Ottoman Empire. He may have been born in Salonica, where he studied with the renowned Samuel ben Moses de Medina (known as the Maharashdam, 1506–1589). However, for most of his life he headed a yeshiva in Nikopol (Bulgaria). Borgil was a prominent scholar of Talmud. His chef d’oeuvre was the Leḥem Abbirim (Bread of the Mighty; Venice, 1605), published after his death by Joseph ben Judah de Novis. The book reflects his deep knowledge of all matters relating to the Talmud and cont…

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…

La Nation (Salonica)

(665 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
La Nation was a bi-weekly, then weekly, and later daily newspaper published in Salonica from 1900 to 1913. Edited by Judah Salomon Asseo, and printed in Judeo-Spanish (using Rashi script) and French, it served as an organ of the Cercle (later Club) des Intimes, a Jewish philanthropic and cultural organization in Salonica, as stated in its subtitle, “Revista Nasional Judea Independiente, organo del Club des Intimes.” The Cercle des Intimes was founded in 1873, and was restructured in 1907 as the Club des Intimes. For a brief period, La Nation flirted with Zionism and printed articles by Vlad…

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…

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 …

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…

Benaroya, Avraam

(946 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Avraam Benaroya, a socialist leader and journalist, was born in Bidini, Bulgaria, in 1886 and died in Ḥolon, Israel, in 1979 (?). Raised in Lundt, Bulgaria, Benaroya studied law in Belgrade, but left his studies to teach in Plovdiv, where he published The Jewish Question and Social Democracy (in Bulgarian). Immediately after the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, he moved to Salonica, where he worked as a typographer and soon organized the Sephardi Circle of Socialist Studies, which initially counted thirty members. Dumont notes that Benaroya’s group fell within the “Broad” facti…

Recanati Family

(2,199 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Since the late nineteenth century, the Recanati family has consisted of journalists, Zionist activists, and financiers who flourished in the Ottoman Empire, Greece, and Israel. The family traces its origins to central Italy—Tuscany, the city of Livorno on the western coast, and the eastern Marche—and counts among its ancestors the late-thirteenth-century rabbinical scholar and kabbalist Menahem ben Benjamin Recanati. Members of the family in Salonica entered various fields of business and made the Recanatis one of the leading families of the Jewish elite. …

Saporta, Ḥanokh

(332 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Ḥanokh Saporta (Ṣaporta, Sasportas) was a scholar from the Iberian Peninsula who moved to the Ottoman Empire before the expulsion of 1492. Born into one of Catalonia’s foremost Jewish families, Saporta first settled in Edirne (Adrianople) together with other distinguished rabbis from Spain and Portugal who became the leaders of the local Romaniot, Ashkenazi, and Italian congregations. Around 1481, sometime after the arrival of Isaac Ṣarfati from Germany, Saporta moved to the new Ottoman capital of Istanbul. There he headed a yeshiva whose students came from many different …

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 …

Miṭrani, Barukh ben Isaac

(976 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Barukh ben Isaac Miṭrani (1847–1919) was a rabbi, educator, writer, Hebrew reformer, and noted precursor of Zionism in Edirne during the second half of the nineteenth century. A precocious child, he received a specialized education from both his father, a Hebrew teacher, and another noted Sephardi intellectual figure, Joseph Halévy (1827–1917). The latter recognized his ability and mentored him; Miṭrani would become his spiritual successor, carrying on, expanding, and building upon his ideas throughout his life. After traditionalist opponents…

Capital Tax Law (Varlik Vergisi, 1942)

(1,337 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The Capital Tax Law (Turk. Varlık Vergisi kanunu) was a wealth levy enacted by the Turkish Grand National Assembly on November 11, 1942 as Law No. 4305. Although its ostensible purpose was to raise funds against Turkey’s possible entry into World War II, it really was intended to destroy the economic position of non-Muslim minorities in the country and reinforce the ongoing process of economic Turkification. The Varlık Vergisi law was the final act in the pattern of anti-Jewish and anti-minority measuresadopted in the early years of the Turkish Republic. Such action…

El Progresso (Yosef ha-Daʿat)

(307 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
El Progresso, also known as  Yosef Daʿat (Increase of Knowledge) was a Hebrew and  Judeo-Spanish bimonthly, published in Edirne (Adrianople) from March to December 1888 by Rabbi Abraham Danon, an exponent of the Haskala. The first Jewish periodical to appear in Edirne, it reflected Danon’s lifelong effort to synthesize traditional learning with modern ideas. The paper was sponsored by the Ḥevrat Shoḥare Tushiyya (Society of the Proponents of Wisdom), also called Doreshe ha-Haskala (Seekers of Enlightenment), which he founded in 1879. It was printed both in Judeo-Sp…

Qimḥi (Kamḥi), Solomon Ben Nissim

(326 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Solomon ben Nissim Joseph David Qimḥi was a rabbi who sparked an anti-Karaite dispute within the Jewish community of Istanbul during the mid-nineteenth century. Qimḥi was born into a noted family of scholars, dating back to the Iberian Peninsula and Provence, but little is known about his personal life. He was a follower of  Rabbi Isaac ben Abraham Akrish(d. 1888?), the leader of an anti-modernist movement in Istanbul. Akrish’s influence undoubtedly prompted Qimḥi’s publication of Melekhet Shelomo (The Work of Solomon; Salonica, 1862), a  pamphlet declaring that the Karaites we…

Kalai, Mordechai Ben Solomon

(482 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Mordechai Bekhor ben Solomon Kalai (Qalaʽi, ca. 1556–1647) was a rabbi and scholar in the Ottoman Empire. Born in Salonica, he received his education from such renowned rabbis as Aaron ben Joseph Sasson (1550 or 1555–1626), Aaron ibn Ḥason, and Isaac Franco. Although not of Sephardi extraction (he was perhaps Romaniot or Ashkenazi), Kalai was trained in the Sephardi tradition and eventually headed the yeshiva and synagogue of the Portugal Yaḥiyya congregation. A pious and humble scholar, he taught numerous students, many of whom went on to become noted figures in…

Nahmias Family

(1,432 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Naḥmias (also Ibn Naḥmias) was a common Sephardi family name in various parts of the Ottoman Empire from the late fifteenth century on. Individuals bearing the name have been found in Istanbul, Salonica, the Holy Land, Morocco, and elsewhere. While it is possible that the Naḥmias families, particularly the ones in Istanbul and Salonica, were related, scholarly research has so far failed to demonstrate any familial ties. Various Naḥmias families have attributed their origins to different cities in the Iberian Peninsula, including Toledo, Lisbon, and Majorca. The name Naḥmias first…

Gatigno Family

(1,029 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The Gaṭigno (Gaṭṭigno, Gaṭeigno) family, of Iberian origin, produced numerous rabbis and scholars who held leadership positions in Salonica and Izmir (Smyrna) from the seventeenth century on. Originally from Aragon, the Gaṭignos lived in Denmark before settling in Salonica in the early seventeenth century, when Moses Gaṭigno served as rector of the Majorca synagogue. Ḥayyim Abraham (I) ben Benveniste Gaṭigno (1672–1730) was a kabbalist who studied under his uncle Joseph ben Abraham (d. Jerusalem, 1709) before becoming a  rabbi and communal leader in Salonica. He authored Ṭirat Ke…

Levi (Le-Vet Ha-Levi) Family, Salonica

(2,002 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The Sephardi family known as  ha-Levi or le-Vet ha-Levi (Heb. of the House of Levi) produced a number of leading scholars and communal leaders in Salonica during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Originating in the Portuguese city of Évora, Solomon (I) ben Joseph (d. ca. 1538), a physician and rabbi, made his way to the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the fifteenth century. He traced his ancestry back to several other distinguished and wealthy physicians, including his grandfather, Moses ben Solomon ben Isaac, and the latter’s great-grandfather, Joseph. Solomon had tw…

Primo, Samuel

(706 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Samuel Primo (Cairo, ca. 1635 or 1640–Edirne, 1705 or 1708) was a rabbinical scholar who served as a scribe to the false messiah Shabbetay Ṣevi (1626–1676) and remained a secret adherent to Sabbateanism in his later life, Born in Cairo in either 1635 or 1640, Primo was one of the brightest pupils in the yeshiva of Judah Sharaf. He moved to Jerusalem around 1662 and  represented the city’s Jewish community in a lawsuit against Judah ben David Ḥabillo (d. 1661) to obtain the funds collected in Izmir by his father. When Shabbetay Ṣevi arrived in the city in June 1665, Pr…

La Boz de Izmir

(355 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
La Boz de Izmir (The Voice of Izmir) was a Judeo-Spanish political and literary weekly published in Izmir (Smyrna) from 1910 to 1922. Printed in Rashi script, it began under the editorship of Bekhor Ḥannah, who also edited the journal Bayram (The Feast), but from 1916/1917 until 1918/1919, he was replaced by B. Luria. Ḥannah had worked for many years as a clerk for the Austrian Post in Izmir, and later for the Ottoman Post after the Capitulations were abolished. Ḥannah produced La Boz de Izmir with the assistance of Jacques (Ya‘aqov) Ben-Senior, who also wrote for several other Judeo…
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