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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…

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…

Salem, Avram

(302 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Avram Salem (Sālim; d. 1907) was a Jewish medical student turned activist in the Young Turk movement. Originally from Salonica, Avram and his brother Asher both studied medicine at the Royal Medical Academy in Istanbul. While there they became involved in political activitiesdirected against the reactionary regime of Sultan Abdülhamit II (r. 1876–1909) and were exiled to Tripoli in 1897 for “having nourished modern ideas.” Simon notes that they, together with the physician Dr. Albert Bakish, were almost the only Jewish activists sent to Libya. Avram and possibly his brother esca…

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…

Karmi Shelli (Edirne)

(377 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Karmi Shelli (My Own Vineyard), called Bağım in Turkish, was a Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish monthly published in Edirne (Adrianople) from 1890 to 1891, but printed in Vienna and Belgrade. It was founded by Baruch ben Isaac Miṭrani (di Trani) (1847-1919), an intellectual and writer born in Edirne in 1847, as a literary and national journal to promote the idea of national rebirth and Jewish colonization of Ottoman Palestine. It was a successor to an earlier monthly, Karmi (My Vineyard), which he had published in Edirne (and Pressburg) from 1881 to 1882. Both Karmi and Karmi Shelli were printed …

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…

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…

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…

Fonseca, Daniel de

(721 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Daniel ben Abraham de Fonseca (ca. 1668–ca. 1740) was a Jewish physician of Iberian origin who achieved prominence for his involvement in Ottoman diplomacy. Born into a marrano family in the Portuguese city of Porto, Fonseca grew up as a Christian after  his grandfather and uncle were burned at the stake and his father fled the country. Although he was baptized and joined the priesthood, he practiced the Jewish faith secretly and eventually went to France, where he studied medicine in Bordeaux and Paris. Sometime between 1680 and 1702, he arrived Istanbul, where he reverted to Judais…

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. …

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…

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…

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’ …

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…

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…

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. …

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…

Bulgaria

(4,194 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The Jewish community of Bulgaria is one of the oldest on the European continent. Its continuous history reflects larger historical developments in the region and the rise and ebb of the political forces that have dominated Bulgaria from antiquity to the present day. A constant theme is the relative tolerance enjoyed by Jews in Bulgaria, from the arrival of the Bulgars in the seventh and eighth centuries through the long period of Ottoman rule. Prosperous and thriving from international trade and …

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…

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 …

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…

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…

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…

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…

Kira (Kiera, Kyra)

(1,619 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The term kira ( kyra, kiera, chiera, chierara, chirazza) was applied to certain female functionaries who served the women of the imperial harem in the Ottoman Empire in various capacities. Scholars have disputed the origin of the term . The likeliest explanation is that it derived from the Greek κυρία/ kyria (lady), despite an imaginative Spanish origin proposed by Rosanes. During the second half of the sixteenth century, a period known as the Kadınlar Saltanatı (sultanate of the women), the combination of weak sultans and rampant intrigue at court provided an opening for the women of th…

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, …

Carmona, Bekhor Isaac David

(938 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Bekhor Isaac David ben Elia Carmona (1773–1826)was  an important merchant, courtier, Jewish community leader, and political figure in the Ottoman Empire whose influence reached its peak under Sultan Mahmud II (r. 1808–1839). Born in Istanbul to the distinguished Carmona family, which produced a number of prominent figures on the Ottoman political, economic, and social scene during the empire’s last centuries, Carmona built upon the financial and political success of his uncle Moses ben Isaac Carmona, who had founded a bank and obtained a concession for the sale of alum ( şap), succee…

Avanté

(451 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The Judeo-Spanish newspaper Avanté (Forward), initially a weekly, then a daily, was published in Salonica from 1912 to 1934, printed in Hebrew Rashi characters. Avanté promoted the interests of the city’s Jewish workers and its pages are an important source for the history of the Jewish labor movement. The paper was founded by Avraam Benaroya, a socialist leader and head of the Workers’ Socialist Federation of Salonica (Selanik Sosyalist Işci Federasyonu), to replace his Turkish newspaper Mücadele after the Greeks took control of Salonica. (Previously he had published La Solidarida…

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 …

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…
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