- Early History.
- Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries.
- Office of Ḥakam Bashi.
- Comtino and the Karaites.
- Isaac Ẓarfati's Letter.
- Effects of Expulsion from Spain.
- Sixteenth Century.
- Under Sulaiman the Magnificent.
- Nicolo Nicolai's Account.
- Office of Kahiya.
- French Ships Seized by Joseph Nasi.
- Sumptuary Laws.
- Messianic Hopes.
- Seventeenth Century.
- The Dönmeh.
- Michel Febre's Description.
- Eighteenth Century.
- Turkish Colony at Vienna.
- The Janizaries.
- In the Nineteenth Century.
- Blood Accusations.
- Cabalistic Writers.
- Distribution of Jews.
- Legal Status of the Jews.
- Amplification of the Term "Kharaj."
- Present Administration.
Empire of southeastern Europe and western Asia. For present purposes Turkey is taken to mean that part of Europe which is directly under Ottoman rule, Asia Minor, the islands of the Archipelago, and Mesopotamia. Syria and Palestine, although under the direct administration of the Porte, and Arabia are considered as distinct countries, and have been so treated in
Jews have lived in Turkey from very early times. Tradition says that there was a colony of them in Thessaly at the time of Alexander the Great; and later they are found scattered throughout the eastern Roman empire (see Adrianople; Byzantine Empire). The first Jewish colony in Turkey proper was at Brusa, the original Ottoman capital. According to one tradition, when Sultan Urkhan conquered the city (1326) he drove out its former inhabitants and repeopled it with Jews from Damascus and the Byzantine empire. These Jews received a firman permitting them to build a synagogue; and this edifice still exists, being the oldest in Turkey. The Jews lived in a separate quarter called "Yahudi Mahalessi." Outside of Brusa they were allowed to live in any part of the country; and on payment of the "kharaj," the capitation-tax required of all non-Moslem subjects (see below), they might own land and houses in the city or country.Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries.
Under Sultan Murad I. (1360-89) the Turks crossed over into Europe, and the Jews of Thrace and Thessaly came under Ottoman dominion. The change was a welcome one to them, as their new Moslem rulers treated them with much more toleration and justice than they had received from the Christian Byzantines. The Jews even asked their cobelievers from Brusa to come over and teach them Turkish, that they might the quicker adapt themselves to the new conditions. The Jewish community of Adrianople began to flourish, and its yeshibah attracted pupils not only from all parts of Turkey, but also from Hungary, Poland, and Russia. The grand rabbi at Adrianople administered all the communities of Rumelia. About fifty years after the conquest of Adrianople a converted Jewish Moslem, Torlak Kiamal by name, took part in an insurrection of dervishes and preached communistic doctrines, for which he was hanged by Sultan Mohammed I. (1413-21).
Sultan Murad II. (1421-51) was favorably inclined toward the Jews; and with his reign began for them a period of prosperity which lasted for two centuries and which is unequaled in their history in any other country. Jews held influential positions at court; they engaged unrestrictedly in trade and commerce; they dressed and lived as they pleased; and they traveled at their pleasure in all parts of the country. Murad II. had a Jewish body-physician, Isḥaḳ Pasha, entitled "ḥakim bashi" (physician-in-chief), to whom the ruler granted a special firman exempting his family and descendants from all taxes. This was the beginning of a long line of Jewish physicians who obtained power and influence at court. The same sultan created also an army corps of non-Moslems called "gharibah" (= "strangers"); and to this Jews also were admitted when they were unable to pay the kharaj.
Murad's successor, Mohammed the Conqueror (1451-81), issued three days after the conquest of Constantinople a proclamation inviting all former inhabitants to return to the city without fear. Jews were allowed to live freely in the new capital as well as in the other cities of the empire. Permission was granted them to build synagogues and schools and to engage in trade and commerce without restrictions of any kind. The sultan invited Jews from the Morea to settle in Constantinople; and he employed Jewish soldiers. His minister of finance ("defter-dar") was a Jewish physician named Ya'ḳub, and his body-physician was also a Jew, Moses Hamon, of Portuguese origin. The latter likewise received a firman from the sultan exempting his family and descendants from taxes.Office of Ḥakam Bashi.
It was in this reign that the office of ḥakam bashi of Constantinople came to have so much importance. Moses Capsali was the first to fill the position, being appointed thereto by the sultan. He took his place in the Turkish divan, or state council, beside the mufti, or chief of the Ulema, and above the Greek patriarch. He was the official representative of the Jews before the Turkish government: he apportioned and collected their taxes, appointed rabbis, acted as judge, and administered the affairs of the Jewish communities generally. After Capsali the Jews themselves elected their chief rabbi, the government ratifying their choice as a mere matter of form.Comtino and the Karaites.
Another celebrated rabbi who lived during the reign of Mohammed the Great was Mordecai b. Eliezer Comtino. Karaites as well as Rabbinites studied under him. The former, although having been the most influential element among the Jews during the Byzantine empire, had now fallen intosuch a state of ignorance that for a full century they had produced no author of repute and had been obliged to turn to the Rabbinites for instruction. They were stirred to new life, however, by the increase in their numbers through immigration from Poland and the Crimea, and by contact with the Rabbinites; and they used their new energy in disagreeing among themselves, notably in regard to a reform in connection with the Sabbath light and about the old question of the calendar (see Karaites). Certain Rabbinites, therefore, particularly Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya, thought the proper time had come to effect a reconciliation between the two parties. Mordecai Comtino spoke with respect of the Karaites; and the Karaites and Rabbinites who studied under him acquired tolerance as well as knowledge. The Rabbinite teachers Enoch Saporta, Eliezer Capsali, and Elijah ha-Levi made their Karaite pupils promise not to speak disrespectfully of the Talmudic authorities, and to observe the Rabbinite festivals. On the other hand, the grand rabbi, Moses Capsali, was strongly opposed to any affiliation of the two parties, holding that Karaites ought not to be instructed in the Talmud, since they rejected it. His successor, Elijah Mizraḥi, was more tolerant, and used all his influence to preserve friendly relations. The Karaite community, however, became more and more isolated. Many of its members went to the Crimea; and those who were left lived in a separate quarter walled off from the rest of the Jews.Isaac Ẓarfati's Letter.
The condition of the Jews in Turkey about the middle of the fifteenth century was so prosperous and in such contrast to the hardships endured by their fellow Israelites in Germany and Europe generally that Isaac Ẓarfati, a Jew who had settled in Turkey, was moved to send a circular letter to the Jewish communities in Germany and Hungary inviting their members to emigrate to Turkey. The letter is preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris (Ancien Fonds, No. 291). It gives a glowing description of the lot of Jews in Turkey (for its date see Grätz, "Gesch." viii., note 6). Ẓarfati says:
"Turkey is a land in which nothing is lacking. If you wish, all can go well with you. Through Turkey you can safely reach the Holy Land. Is it not better to live under Moslems than under Christians? Here you may wear the finest stuffs. Here every one may sit under his own vine and fig-tree. In Christendom, however, you may not venture to dress your children in red or blue without exposing them to the danger of being beaten blue or flayed red."
This letter caused an influx into Turkey of Ashkenazic Jews, who soon became amalgamated with the earlier Jewish inhabitants.Effects of Expulsion from Spain.
The greatest influx of Jews into Turkey, however, occurred during the reign of Mohammed's successor, Bayazid II. (1481-1512), after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal. That ruler recognized the advantage to his country of this accession of wealth and industry, and made the Spanish fugitives welcome, issuing orders to his provincial governors to receive them hospitably. The sultan is said to have exclaimed thus at the Spanish monarch's stupidity: "Ye call Ferdinand a wise king—he who makes his land poor and ours rich!" The Jews supplied a want in the Turkish empire. The Turks were good soldiers, but were unsuccessful as business men; and accordingly they left commercial occupations to other nationalities. They distrusted their Christian subjects, however, on account of their sympathies with foreign powers; hence the Jews, who had no such sympathies, soon became the business agents of the country. Coming as they did from the persecutions of Europe, Mohammedan Turkey seemed to them a haven of refuge. The poet Samuel Usque compared it to the Red Sea, which the Lord divided for His people, and in the broad waters of which He drowned their troubles. The native Turkish Jews helped their persecuted brethren; and Moses Capsali levied a tax on the community of Constantinople, the proceeds of which were applied toward freeing Spanish prisoners.Sixteenth Century.
The Spanish Jews settled chiefly in Constantinople, Salonica, Adrianople, Nicopolis, Jerusalem, Safed, Damascus, and Egypt, and in Brusa, Tokat, and Amasia in Asia Minor. Smyrna was not settled by them until later. The Jewish population at Jerusalem increased from 70 families in 1488 to 1,500 at the beginning of the sixteenth century. That of Safed increased from 300 to 2,000 families and almost surpassed Jerusalem in importance. Damascus had a Sephardic congregation of 500 families. Constantinople had a Jewish community of 30,000 individuals with forty-four synagogues. Bayazid allowed the Jews to live on the banks of the Golden Horn. Egypt, especially Cairo, received a large number of the exiles, who soon out-numbered the native Jews (see Egypt). The chief center of the Sephardic Jews, however, was Salonica, which became almost a Spanish-Jewish city owing to the fact that the Spanish Jews soon outnumbered their coreligionists of other nationalities and even the original native inhabitants. Spanish became the ruling tongue; and its purity was maintained for about a century.
The Jews introduced various arts and industries into the country. They instructed the Turks in the art of making powder, cannon, and other implements of war, and thus became instruments of destruction directed against their former persecutors. They distinguished themselves also as physicians and were used as interpreters and diplomatic agents. Salim I. (1512-20), the successor of Bayazid II., employed a Jewish physician, Joseph Hamon. This ruler also was kind to the Jews; and after the conquest of Egypt (1517) he appointed Abraham de Castro to the position of master of the mint in that country. Salim changed the administrative system of the Jews in Egypt, and abolished the office of nagid. It is interesting to note that the Turkish Jews were in favor of the conquest of Egypt, whereas the orthodox Moslems opposed it.Under Sulaiman the Magnificent.
Sulaiman the Magnificent (1520-66), like his predecessor Salim I., had a Jewish body-physician, Moses Hamon II., who accompanied his royal master on his campaigns. Turkey at this time was at the high-water mark of its power and influence and was feared and respected by the great powers ofEurope. Its Jews were correspondingly prosperous. They held positions of trust and honor, took part in diplomatic negotiations, and had so much influence at court that foreign Christian ambassadors were frequently compelled to obtain favors through them. Commerce was largely in their hands; and they rivaled Venice in maritime trade. In Constantinople they owned beautiful houses and gardens on the shores of the Bosporus. In 1551 Nicolo Nicolai, chamberlain to the King of France, who accompanied the French ambassador to Constantinople, described the Jews in Turkey as follows:Nicolo Nicolai's Account.
"There are so many Jews throughout Turkey, and in Greece especially, that it is a great marvel and downright incredible. They increase daily through the commerce, money-changing, and peddling which they carry on almost everywhere on land and on water; so that it may be said truly that the greater part of the commerce of the whole Orient is in their hands. In Constantinople they have the largest bazars and stores, with the best and most expensive wares of all kinds. In addition, one meets among them many skilled artists and mechanicians, especially among the Maranos, who some years ago were driven out of Spain and Portugal. These, with great harm and injury to Christendom, have taught the Turks to make implements of war. . . . The said Jews have also established a printing-press, which is a wonderful thing to the Turks. They print books in Latin, Greek, Italian, Syriac, and Hebrew; but in Turkish and Arabic they are not allowed to print. Besides, they know most languages; so that they are employed as interpreters"
Nicolai also mentions Hamon as "a person of great honor, great activity, great renown, and great wealth."
If one recalls the warlike activity of the Turks at this time, when they were laying siege to Vienna and threatening to overrun Europe, the full significance of Nicolai's allusion to the manufacture of implements of war is evident. The Jews also had a more direct influence on the making of war and of peace through the diplomatic negotiations in which they took part. Moses Hamon influenced the sultan in favor of Donna Gracia Mendesia; and the ruler sent an imperial messenger to Venice demanding that the authorities set her at liberty and allow her to proceed to Turkey. She and her nephew Don Joseph Nasi at once took a prominent part in Jewish affairs in Turkey. Joseph, through his wide business connections among his fellow Maranos in the capitals of Europe, was able to furnish the sultan with confidential information as to what was taking place at the foreign courts; and he soon became a favorite counselor. The sultan was induced to take an interest in the fate of the Turkish Jewish prisoners at Ancona; and he wrote a haughty letter to Paul IV. demanding their release. In revenge for the fate of the other Jews at Ancona, the Turkish Jews, led by Donna Gracia and Joseph, endeavored to place an effective boycott upon the port of that city, and to transfer its trade to Ferrara; but the scheme fell through owing to lack of unity among its promoters. Joseph's influence at court was further strengthened by the fact that he openly supported the claims of Sulaiman's son Salim to the throne at a time when the succession was doubtful. He thus won that prince's lasting favor, of which all the later intrigues of the French and the Venetian envoys were unable to deprive him.Office of Kahiya.
Sulaiman instituted for the benefit of the Jews the office of "ḳiahya" or Kahiya (). It was the duty of this official to represent them at court and to defend them against injustice and oppression. The first incumbent of the office, appointed by the sultan himself, was Shealtiel. There was the more need for such a defender, since the Jews in the Turkish empire were continually being harassed by their Christian neighbors. In Amasia, in Asia Minor, the old accusation of ritual murder was revived; and several Jews were slain. Later, when their innocence had been established, the cadi in anger put to death some of the Greeks who had made the accusation. Another instance of the kind led Sulaiman to enact a law under which all future blood accusations should be tried before the sultan himself.
Sulaiman conferred the city of Tiberias and its environs upon his favorite Joseph Nasi; and the latter at one time planned the foundation of a Jewish colony in Palestine. The walls of Tiberias were rebuilt, and Joseph invited Jews from Europe, even providing ships for their transportation. It is not known how many responded to the call; but the scheme of a Jewish colony in Tiberias was not realized, and Joseph appears to have transferred his interest elsewhere.French Ships Seized by Joseph Nasi.
At the accession of Salim II. (1566) Joseph was created Duke of Naxos and of the Cyclades Islands; but he continued to reside at Constantinople, appointing as his vicegerent for the islands a Spanish nobleman named Coronello. Thus in less than 100 years after the Jews had been driven out of Spain a nobleman of that realm was in Jewish employ. In the year following Salim's accession an Austrian embassy was commissioned to call on Joseph Nasi and offer him a fixed salary to secure his good graces. In the next year he received a firman from the sultan empowering him to seize the cargoes of French ships in Turkish waters, to the amount of the debt which the French government had long owed to the Mendesia family and which both Sulaiman and Salim had unsuccessfully tried to collect for him. In 1569 he finally succeeded in reimbursing himself from cargoes seized in the port of Alexandria, France complaining and protesting in vain. Not more successful were the efforts of the French ambassador to undermine Joseph's position at the Turkish court (see Nasi, Joseph). A few years later Joseph succeeded in influencing the sultan to make war against Venice because of Cyprus. Joseph's influence with the sultan was known to be such that even Christian rulers applied directly to him. Emperor Ferdinand of Austria addressed a letter to him, as did also William of Orange, the latter trying to induce him to declare war on Spain. This move, although favored by Don Joseph, was opposed by the grand vizier Mohammed Sokolli, who had long been his enemy. Joseph's influence ceased at the death of Salim, when the rule of the grand viziers, beginning with Sokolli, commenced.
Joseph Nasi's place was taken by another Jew, Solomon Ashkenazi, who, although remaining more in the background, and working through the grand viziers instead of coming directly in contact with the sultan, was even more influential than Joseph. Ashkenazi's name is frequently mentioned in the diplomatic correspondence of the time between the Porte and the other European courts. The war with Venice which had been begun by one Jew was terminated by another. Ashkenazi, who had been working in behalf of peace while hostilities were still in progress, was delegated by the Porte to arrange terms of peace and was sent to Venice for that purpose. The Venetians, distasteful as it was to them, were obliged to receive the Jew with all the honors due the ambassador of so powerful a nation as Turkey. Ashkenazi was influential also in causing the choice of a king of Poland to fall on Henry of Anjou. He was likewise entrusted with the negotiations for a peace between Spain and Turkey.Sumptuary Laws.
All the favor shown to individual Jews, however, did not affect the lot of the community as a whole, whose fate depended on the caprice of a despotic ruler. Sultan Murad III., for instance, on one occasion ordered the execution of all the Jews in the empire merely because he was annoyed by the luxury which they displayed in their clothing. It was only after the intervention of Solomon Ashkenazi and other influential Jews with the grand vizier, seconded by the payment of a large sum of money, that the order was changed into a law restricting dress. Thereafter Jews were required to wear a kind of cap instead of a turban, and to refrain from using silk in making their garments.
Certain Jewesses became prominent about this time as physicians and intriguers. Esther Kiera was especially famous as the favorite of the Venetian sultana Baffa, wife of Murad III. and mother of Mohammed III. Turkish women of the harem have always exercised more influence than is commonly attributed to them; and the Jewesses who were made welcome there in various capacities frequently acted as go-betweens, and indirectly influenced the actions of prominent men. Esther Kiera, through her position as an intimate of the sultana Baffa, became all-important in the diplomatic intrigues of the time; and she carried on a traffic in army posts. She acquired great wealth, much of which was spent in helping her poor coreligionists and in furthering their literary efforts. Greed, however, appears to have overmastered her discretion; and she met a tragic end. The Mendesia family produced two women, Gracia Mendesia and her daughter Reyna Nasi, wife of Joseph Nasi, who did much for the Jews of Turkey. Another Jewess of importance was the widow of Solomon Ashkenazi. She succeeded in curing the young sultan Aḥmad I. of the smallpox, after all other doctors had failed. A contemporary of Esther Kiera in 1599 wrote a letter which accompanied a present from the sultan's mother to the Queen of England. A translation of it may be found in Kayserling, "Die Jüdischen Frauen," pp. 91-92.Messianic Hopes.
The prosperity enjoyed by the Jews of Turkey in the sixteenth century led them to entertain hopes of the Messiah, and cabalistic doctrines spread rapidly. Especially prominent in promoting them were Judah Ḥayyaṭ, Baruch of Benevento, Abraham b. Eliezer ha-Levi of Adrianople, Meïr ibn Gabbai, and David ibn Abi Zimra (Franco, "Histoire des Israélites de l'Empire Ottoman," p. 52). In the early part of the century the appearance of that eccentric adventurer David Reubeni, who claimed to be an ambassador from an independent Jewish king in Arabia, sent to seek aid against the Turks, aroused hopes throughout the Jewish world that he was the precursor of the Messiah. Influenced by him, Solomon Molko of Portugal began to have visions, and was moved in one of them to go to Turkey. In Salonica, one of the chief seats of the Cabala in the empire, he fell in with the aged cabalist Joseph Ṭaiṭazaḳ; and in Adrianople he inspired the young Joseph Caro with cabalistic visions. Molko went also to Palestine and remained for some time in Safed, at that time a veritable nest of cabalism. He proclaimed that the Messianic period would begin in 1540 (5300
After Berab's death Joseph Caro became the leading rabbi in Safed, having come to Palestine filled with the idea that he was destined to take a prominent part in preparing the way for the Messiah. He, like Molko, saw visions and dreamed dreams. But the visions and religious ecstasies of Molko and Caro were as nothing compared with the extravagances of the cabalistic leaders who succeeded them. In the last three decades of the sixteenth century Safed and all Galilee became the scene of excesses of religious demoniacs, conjurers, and miracle-workers; and cabalistic notions spread thence throughout Turkey and into Europe. This movement derived its impulse principally from two men, Isaac Luria and his disciple Ḥayyim Vital. The former communed with departed spirits, talked with animals and angels, and developed a peculiar theory concerning the origin and quality of souls and their migrations. The Zohar was placed on a level with the Talmud and the Bible.Seventeenth Century.
The prosperous condition of the Jews in Turkey during this period was not a deep-rooted one. It did not rest on fixed laws or conditions, but depended wholly on the caprice of individual rulers. Furthermore, the standard of civilization throughout Turkey was very low, and the masses were illiterate. In addition there was no unity among the Jews themselves. They had come to Turkey from many lands, bringing with them their own customs and opinions, to which they clung tenaciously, and had founded separate congregations. And with the waning of Turkish power even their superficial prosperity vanished. Aḥmad I., who came to the throne in the early years of the seventeenth century, was, it is true, favorably disposedtoward the Jews, having been cured of smallpox by a Jewess (see above); and he imprisoned certain Jesuits for trying to convert them. But under Murad IV. (1623-40) the Jews of Jerusalem were persecuted by an Arab who had purchased the governorship of that city from the governor of the province; and in the time of Ibrahim I. (1640-49) there was a massacre of Ashkenazic Jews who were expecting the Messiah in the year 1648, and who had probably provoked the Moslems by their demonstrations and meetings. The war with Venice in the first year of this sultan's reign interrupted commerce and caused many Jews to remove to Smyrna, where they could carry on their trade undisturbed. In 1660, under Mohammed IV. (1649-1687), Safed was destroyed by the Arabs; and in the same year there was a fire in Constantinople in which the Jews suffered severe loss. Under the same sultan Jews from Frankfort-on-the-Main settled in Constantinople; but the colony did not prosper. It was also during this reign that the pseudo-Messiah Shabbethai Ẓebi caused such an upheaval in Judaism. It is characteristic of the Turkish attitude toward the Jews, and in striking contrast with the attitude of European powers, that no steps were taken to punish the Jews who took part in the agitation. Shabbethai Ẓebi was one of the few pseudo-Messiahs who have left sects behind them.The Dönmeh.
The chief seat of his followers is at Salonica. They are called "Dönmeh" (a Turkish word signifying "apostates") or "Ma'aminim." There are three subsects, whose devotions are separate and secret. The first is that of the Ismirlis or Smyrnians, who shave their chins; the second is composed of the followers of Jacob Querido, a reputed son of Shabbethai, who shave their heads, but not their chins; and the third, the members of which shave neither the chin nor the head, consists of followers of Othman Baba, who in the eighteenth century tried to reconcile the first two sects. The Dönmeh resemble the Moslems and outwardly practise their customs, even going to the mosques on Fridays. Their own meeting-houses, or "kals," are secret, and connect with their dwelling-houses by interior passages. They are very respectable and prosperous, and are said to have no poor among them (see Dönmeh; J. T. Bent, "A Peculiar People," in "Longman's Magazine," xi. 24-36).
Michel Febre, a Capuchin monk who lived in Turkey for eighteen years and who published an account of his experiences there and in other lands, has given a description of the Jews in Turkey in the middle of the seventeenth century. He says ("Théâtre de la Turquie," in "R. E. J." xx. 97 et seq.):Michel Febre's Description.
"There are two classes of Jews in Turkey, viz., natives, or original inhabitants of the country, and strangers, so called because their ancestors came from Spain and Portugal. The former, like the Christians, wear colored turbans, and are only to be distinguished from them by their shoes, which are black or violet, while those of the Christians are red or yellow. The second class wear a ridiculous head-dress, like a brimless Spanish hat. They have separate cemeteries and do not agree with Jews of the other class on certain tenets of religion. Both classes are found in large numbers in most of the cities belonging to the grand seignior, especially in commercial towns such as Smyrna, Aleppo, Cairo, Thessalonica, etc. They are mainly occupied as bankers, money-changers, and usurers; in buying old things and, after mending them, selling them as new; as employees in the custom-houses, as intermediaries in bargains, and as doctors, chemists, and interpreters. . . . They are so skilful and industrious that they make themselves useful to every one; and there will not be found any family of importance among the Turks and the foreign merchants which has not in its employ a Jew, either to estimate merchandise and to judge of its value, to act as interpreter, or to give advice on everything that takes place."
Febre also comments on the filth which he noticed in the Jewish houses.Eighteenth Century.
The history of the Jews in Turkey in the eighteenth century is principally a very brief chronicle of misfortunes. One name stands out against the dark background—that of Daniel de Fonseca, who was chief court physician and played a certain political rôle. He is mentioned by Voltaire, who speaks of him as an acquaintance whom he esteemed highly. Fonseca was concerned in the negotiations with Charles XII. of Sweden.
In 1702 a law was passed forbidding Jews to wear yellow slippers and ordaining that in future they should wear only black coverings for the feet and head. In 1728 the Jews living near the Baluk Bazar, or fish-market, were obliged to sell their houses to Moslems and to move away so as not to defile the neighboring mosque by their presence. In 1756 one of the most terrible fires that Constantinople has ever experienced broke out in the Jewish quarter and devastated the city; in the following year the sumptuary laws against the Jews were renewed; and in the next year an earthquake destroyed 2,000 Jewish houses in Safed.Turkish Colony at Vienna.
In the beginning of the eighteenth century a colony of Turkish Jews settled in Vienna. Their position was established in the Treaty of Passarowitz (1718) between Turkey and the German empire, which made it possible for the inhabitants of one country to live in and to receive the protection of the government of the other, and vice versa. Many Turkish Jews took advantage of this treaty to live in Vienna, which was forbidden to native Austrian Jews. Consequently the latter obtained passports allowing them to live in Vienna as Turkish subjects (see
The destruction of the janizaries in the early part of the nineteenth century (1826) was a great boon to the Jews; for this lawless corps of soldiery had long been such a terror to them that the word "janissaro" was (and still is) used by Jewish mothers to frighten their disobedient children. The word "janizary" (Turkish, "yenicheri") was applied to soldiers recruited from Christians who as children had been taken away from their parents and brought up in the Mohammedan faith. The corps was first instituted in the middle of the fourteenth century. No Jews appear ever to have been forced into this service; but they suffered most from the excesses of this unruly military body. Nearly every great fire in Constantinople started in the Jewish quarter, being lighted by greedy janizaries, who then pretended to help to quench the flames, while in reality they plundered the houses. The rabbinical responsa from the sixteenth to the nineteenthcentury are full of cases submitted to Jewish tribunals concerning the outrages, assassinations, and robberies of which the Jews were victims at the hands of these soldiers, both in Constantinople and in the provinces. Nevertheless certain wealthy Jews, under imperial authorization, held the position of banker to this corps. They were called "ojak baziriani," "ṣarraf bashi," "ojak ṣarrafi," or "shapchi bashi." The best-known Jews who occupied this post were Judah Rosanes, Meïr Ajiman, Jacob Ajiman, and Baruch Ajiman, in the eighteenth century, and Isaiah Ajiman and Behor Carmona, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Jews of the lowest classes at times fraternized with the janizaries in their drunken debauches; and on the day of their destruction many janizaries sought refuge in Jewish houses.In the Nineteenth Century.
The low grade of civilization existing throughout Turkey since the beginning of the wars with Russia in the eighteenth century seriously affected the status of the Jews, who were in a miserable condition until toward the end of the nineteenth century, when the fruit of the labor expended by the Alliance Israélite Universelle for their enlightenment began to be visible. The masses are still very ignorant; and in the large cities they live in cramped, dirty quarters. Their sufferings are due not to the legal discriminations against them, but to the general economic condition of the country and to the poverty and ignorance caused by the despotic rule of centuries. The attitude of the government is uniformly kind; and prompt punishment follows attacks on the Jews. Thus reparative acts on the part of the government followed the events that caused the Damascus Affair in 1840; the abduction of a Jewish girl at Haifa in 1864; the extortions of the governors of Bagdad, Larissa, and Salonica in 1866; the troubles in Janina in 1872; and those in Smyrna in 1873. In 1875, through the intervention of the Alliance, the Jews in the region of Diarbekr were proteeted from molestation by surrounding Kurds. In the same year in Khania the Alliance brought about the appointment of a representative of the Jews in the general council of the island; and again in 1882 the threatened electoral rights of the Jews were safeguarded. In 1883 the sultan publicly expressed his sympathy for the fate of the Jews of other countries and declared his satisfaction at the presence of Jewish officials in the Ottoman administration. That same year, when a fire devastated the Jewish quarter at Haskeui, in Constantinople, the sultan subscribed £T1,000 for the relief of those who had been left homeless, and placed certain barracks at their disposal. In 1887 the minister plenipotentiary from the United States to Turkey was a Jew, Oscar S. Straus. When Straus was replaced by Solomon Hirsch, the grand vizier in his address of welcome to the latter said (see "Allg. Zeit. des Jud." Aug. 15, 1889): "I can not conceal the satisfaction it gives me to see that for a second time your country has called a son of Israel to this eminent position. We have learned to know and esteem your coreligionists in our country, which they serve with distinction." Straus was again minister from 1897 to 1900. The Jews have been loyal supporters of the government. In the war of 1885, although not admitted to the army, they gave pecuniary and other aid. In Adrianople 150 wagons were placed by them at the disposal of the government for the transportation of ammunition; and in the war of 1897 the Jews of Constantinople contributed 50,000 piasters to the army fund.
On the failure, in 1866, of a Belgian firm, Baron de Hirsch acquired from the sultan concessions for the construction of railways in Turkey; and it was owing to his enterprise that the important line connecting Constantinople with the rest of Europe was carried through.
The Turkish government discriminates against foreign Jews visiting Palestine; and they are not allowed to stay in the Holy Land longer than three months. The question of Jewish immigration to Turkey came to the front in 1882, when the good offices of the United States were invoked in obtaining permission for Russian Jews to settle in Turkey. In 1885 the Lubrowsky brothers, two American citizens, were expelled from Safed because they were Jews. The United States government at once protested; but no permanent settlement of the question was arrived at. In 1888 the Porte declared that foreign Jews could not remain in Palestine longer than three months, whereupon the governments of the United States, Great Britain, and France sent notes protesting against such discrimination against creed and race. The Turkish government then announced that the restriction applied only to Jews arriving in Palestine in numbers, the political effects of colonization there being feared. Various protests have since been made at different times and by different governments, but the rule remains in force, and foreign Jews are not allowed to remain in the Holy Land longer than three months.
In 1895 the further question arose whether foreign Jews might hold real estate in Jerusalem, and the Porte decided it in the negative.Blood Accusations.
Accusations of ritual murder were frequent during the nineteenth century, hardly an interval of more than two or three years passing in which a disturbance on that score was not created in some part of the country. So late as 1903 there was a serious outbreak in Smyrna. The Ottoman government has always been quick to punish the guilty. The law made in the sixteenth century by Sulaiman the Magnificent in this connection has already been noticed. In 1633 a plot to injure certain Jews by the same accusation was discovered by the grand vizier, and the offenders were summarily punished by the sultan. In 1840 an outbreak in Damascus (see Damascus Affair) caused so serious a massacre of the Jewish inhabitants that the attention of the outside world was attracted to the sufferings of the Jews. A committee composed of Moses Montefiore, Isaac Adolphe Crémieux, and Salomon Munk journeyed to the Orient and insisted on reparation to the injured. This event, by revealing to the Western world the miserable condition of the Jews in Turkey, led to the foundation of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. This society, through its schools—especially its manual-training and agricultural schools, which prepare their pupils for occupations other than those connected with the handling of money—has done much and is doing more to elevate the Turkish Jews. The names of the Hirsch and Rothschild families as well as that of Sir Moses Montefiore will be forever associated with the work of improving the condition of the Jews in Turkey. With influence and money and through philanthropic foundations they have ably seconded the work of the Alliance. At different times cholera, fire, and famine have reduced the Turkish Jews to the utmost misery, which their Western coreligionists have done their best to alleviate. The Jews in Asia Minor were affected also by the Armenian troubles in the latter part of the nineteenth century; and a rabbi was killed in Keui Sanjak on the Little Zab.Literature.
The flourishing period of Jewish literature in Turkey was in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, after the arrival of the Spanish exiles, though before this time, also, the Turkish Jewry had not been without its literary and scientific men. Printing-presses and Talmud schools were established; and an active correspondence with Europe was maintained. Moses Capsali and his successor, Elijah Mizraḥi, were both Talmudists of high rank. The latter was noted also as a mathematician for his commentary on Euclid's "Elements," as well as for his independent work "Sefer Ha-Mispar." Mordecai Comtino wrote a Bible commentary entitled "Keter Torah," and commentaries on the mathematical and grammatical works of Ibn Ezra and others, and on the logical works of Aristotle and Maimonides. Elijah Capsali, in Candia, a nephew of the ḥakam bashi, wrote in Hebrew a history of the Turkish dynasties (1523), and his correspondence, entitled "Sefer No'am," is of historical value concerning the disputes between Italian, Greek, and Turkish rabbis. Another contributor to historical literature was Samuel Shullam from Spain, who edited Abraham Zacuto's "Yuḥasin" (1566) and wrote a continuation of Abu al-Faraj's "Historia Dynastiarum." Solomon Algazi wrote a compendium of chronology; and Peraḥyah and Daniel Cohen (father and son) in Salonica, and Issachar ibn Susan in Safed, published mathematical and astronomical works. Karaite literature was represented by Elijah Bashyaẓi and Caleb b. Elijah Afendopolo.Talmudists.
Especially eminent as Talmudic authorities were Levi b. Ḥabib (son of Jacob b. Ḥabib of Salonica, author of "'En Ya'aḳob") and Jacob Berab, the dispute between whom, noticed above, causing the leading rabbinical writers to take sides with one or the other. Moses Alashkar, the synagogal poet, defended Ḥabib, while Moses b. Joseph Trani, the ethical and homiletic writer, took up the cudgels in behalf of Berab. Trani wrote a collection of ethical treatises entitled "Bet Elohim," and a commentary on Maimonides' "Mishneh Torah." His son, Joseph Trani, was also prominent in this field. Other Talmudic scholars were: David ibn Abi Zimra, who wrote exegetic, cabalistic, and methodological works; Samuel Sedillo of Egypt; and his namesake in Safed, who wrote a commentary on the Palestinian Talmud. Collections of responsa were made by David ha-Kohen, David b. Solomon Vital, Samuel of Medina, Joseph b. David ibn Leb, Joseph Ṭaiṭazaḳ, Eliezer Shim'oni, Elijah ibn Ḥayyim, Isaac Adarbi, Solomon b. Abraham ha-Kohen, Solomon Levi, Jacob b. Abraham Castro, Joseph ibn Ezra, Joseph Pardo, Abraham di Boton, Mordecai Ḳala'i, Ḥayyim Shabbethai, Elijah Alfandari, Elijah ha-Kohen, Benjamin b. Metalia, and Bezaleel Ashkenazi of Egypt.
Commentaries on different books of the Old Testament were written by Jacob Berab, David ibn Abi Zimra, Joseph Ṭaiṭazaḳ, Isaac b. Solomon ha-Kohen, Joseph Ẓarfati, Moses Najara, Meïr Arama, Samuel Laniado, Moses Alshech, and Samuel Valerio. Moses b. Elijah Pobian published a translation of the Bible into modern Greek (1576); and a Persian translation was made by Jacob Tawus, who appears to have been brought from Persia to Constantinople by Moses Hamon. Moses Almosnino, a celebrated preacher in Salonica, wrote articles on philosophy and astronomy, a commentary on the Bible, a collection of sermons, and a description of Constantinople entitled "Extremos y Grandezas de Constantinople." Poetry, also, flourished. The most important Hebrew poet of Turkey and of the century was Israel b. Moses Najara of Damascus, who is represented in the ritual of Jewish congregations everywhere.Cabalistic Writers.
The more distinguished cabalistic writers were: Moses Cordovero, Solomon Alḳabiẓ, Moses Galante and his sons, Elijah di Vidas, Moses Alshech, Moses Basula, and, most celebrated of all, Isaac Luria and Ḥayyim Vital. The leading representative of the Halakah was Joseph Caro, whose Shulḥan 'Aruk, the only really great work published on Turkish soil, marked an epoch in the history of Judaism.
Jewish literature in Turkey declined somewhat after the sixteenth century. The best-known writers of the seventeenth were Joseph Delmedigo, Joseph Cattawi, and Solomon Ayllon; of the eighteenth, Jacob Culi, Abraham of Toledo, and Jacob Vitas, who wrote in Judæo-Spanish. A large number of Talmudic works appeared in the eighteenth century (see Franco, l.c. pp. 124 et seq.). Many rabbinical works in Hebrew were published during the nineteenth century also; but the Judæo-Spanish literature underwent a change, becoming more popular in style and including translations of novels, biographies of eminent men, histories, scientific works, etc. (see list in Franco, l.c. pp. 270 et seq.). A certain amount of Hebrew literature has been published in Turkey by Protestant missionary societies (Franco, l.c. p. 276).
The only important Jewish writer in Turkish was Ḥaji Isḥaḳ Effendi, who became converted to Islam and was in the service of the Ottoman government as professor of mathematics and interpreter.Distribution of Jews.
The total number of Jews in Turkey, including Syria, Palestine, and Tripoli, is estimated at 463,688 ("Bulletin de l'Alliance Israélite Universelle," 1904, p. 168). Of these, 188,896 (including the Jews of Constantinople) are in Europe. The accompanying table No. I. (compiled from Cuinet, "LaTurquie d'Asie," Paris, 1892) shows the distribution of Jews in Asiatic Turkey, Syria, and Palestine, according to vilayets, sanjaks, and mutessarifats or mutessarifliks. Table No. II. shows the Jewish population according to cities, and the schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. Where the two tables do not agree the figures in No. II. should be given the preference, as the Jews for various reasons (e.g., the fear of increased taxation) are disinclined to give correct figures to a representative of the government ("Bulletin de l'Alliance," 1904, p. 164). In the tables, names are spelled as in the authorities cited.
|Kara Hissar Sahib.|
|Jewish Population.||No. of Pupils in Alliance Schools.|
|Salikh (and environs)||305|
|Palestine and Syria:|
|*||Saida (and environs)||610||110|
Besides these schools, the Alliance has charge of the following: the Talmud Torahs of Adrianople and Damascus, numbering respectively 1,082 and 771 pupils; the Talmud Torah of Smyrna; the schools Revka-Nurial and Aaron Saleh, numbering 500 pupils, in Bagdad; and the common school in Smyrna, numbering 255 pupils. The Alliance has also agricultural schools, which, together with the industrial ones, offer the most hopeful outlook for the Jews of Turkey.Characteristics.
The Sephardim have held themselves more aloof from the original Jewish inhabitants of the country, and have preserved many of the customs which they brought with them from Spain. The chief seat of the Sephardic Jews is at Salonica; but they predominate in the other cities of western Turkey. Besides these Jews of foreign descent there are the original Jewish inhabitants of the country, called in Palestine "Musta'ribin," and also the "Maghrabin," or Jews of northern Africa. In the eastern part of the Turkish empire, in the vilayets of Van and Mosul, are Jews who are said to be descendants of the Assyrian captives and of those brought back from Palestine by the Armenian king Tigranes III. They are hardly distinguishable from the other inhabitants of the country except by the long curls that they wear hanging over the temples (Cuinet, l.c. ii. 654). Of the 5,000 Jews in the vilayet of Van, only 360 adhere to their ancient faith, the rest having adopted the religion of the Armenians.Language.
The language spoken by the Jews in Turkey is mainly a mixture of Spanish and Hebrew, in which the former is the predominating element. The Ashkenazic Jews speak a Judæo-German jargon. For about a century after their arrival in Turkey the Spanish exiles preserved their mother tongue in its original purity. Gonsalvo de Illescas, a Spanish writer of the sixteenth century, says that he met Jews in Salonica who spoke Castilian with as pure an accent as his own. In later years, however, through the intermixture of words from Hebrew and other tongues, the language degenerated into a jargon (see Judæo-Spanish). For some unknown reason, contrary to their practise in most lands, the Jews have been slow to learn the official language of the country, which is Turkish. Even in the schools founded by the Alliance a knowledge of French was at first held to be more important. Of late years, however, the Jews have become alive to the fact that through their ignorance of the official language they have been crowded out of governmental positions by Greeks and Armenians; and an earnest effort is being made to spread the knowledge of Turkish. The Jews do not appear to have the same antipathy to Arabic; and in Aleppo, Syria, and Mesopotamia, or south of the linguistic line dividing Turkish and Arabic, the Jews ordinarily speak the latter, although Hebrew also is used. In the vilayet of Van the Jews use an Aramaic dialect. The Jews are called "Yahudi" by the Turks, or, with more respect, "Musavi" = "descendants of Moses." A term of contempt which is very commonly applied to them is "tchifut" = "mean," "avaricious."Legal Status of the Jews.
The Jews have in the main been well treated by the Turkish government; and, as compared with their coreligionists in European countries generally, have been subjected to few restrictions as regards dress and residence. Today they enjoy the same privileges as all "rayahs," i.e., non-Moslem subjects, whose official position was established in the laws of the "tanzimet" (reform). These were contained in the ḥaṭṭi-sherif of Gul-Haneh of 1839 and the ḥaḃṭi-humayun of 1856, both issued by the sultan Abd-ul-Mejid. The former placed rayahs and Moslems on an equal footing, guaranteeing them inviolability of person and property. This edict was confirmed and the privileges granted to non-Moslems were increased by the ḥaṭṭihumayun, which assured to all subjects of the sultan, irrespective of creed, the following rights: (1) security of life, honor, and property; (2) civil equality; (3) admission to civil and military service; (4) liberty of religious worship and public instruction; (5) equal taxation; (6) equality on the witness-stand; (7) special and mixed courts; and (8) representation in provincial and communal councils and in the supreme councils of justice. This edict also admits the principle of exemption from military service among non-Moslems on the payment of a fixed tax; and this is the system at present in vogue, non-Moslems not being admitted to the army and paying instead a tax known as "bedel-i-askerieh" (see below).
After the Damascus Affair in 1840 the sultan issued a special firman defining the position of the Jews and protecting them from calumnious accusations. Sultan Abd-ul-Aziz issued a similar firman in 1866 for a similar cause (Franco, "Histoire des Israélites de l'Empire Ottoman," p. 222).
The constitution of 1876 proclaimed the equality of all Ottomans before the law, and admitted them to public office. Thus in the national assembly of 1877 three of the deputies were Jews; there were two Jews in the senate, and two in the council of state; and the secretary of the council was also a Jew. This parliament, however, was adjourned sine die before the world was able to discover what a Turkish parliament could accomplish.
At the time of the Armenian troubles more reforms and privileges were granted to the sultan's non-Moslem subjects, without, however, materially affecting their position. It is not from the nature of the laws but from the method of their execution that the Jews in Turkey suffer; and in this particular they fare no worse than all the other classes of the population.Taxation.
As regards taxation, it may be remarked that originally the kharaj (see above) was a ransom exacted according to Mohammedan law from conquered peoples who refused to accept Islam and hence were liable to death. Later it came to be regarded as a compensation for exemption from military service. The Jews of Brusa were the first to pay the tax. The tax-paying Jews were distributed into three classes according to property: those of the first class paid 40 drams of silver; those of the second, 20; and those of the third, 10 (a dram at that time was worth a little over 5 cents). The "ḥakam bashi," or chief rabbi, the "millet-cha'ush," or secular agent of the community, the "ḥakam cha'ush," or rabbinical representative, the officiating ministers, teachers, the public slaughterer, and a few families specially favored by the state, were exempt from the tax. It was collected by the millet-cha'ush; and as it was discovered that the statistical lists were not trustworthy, owing to the fact that the rich Jews sometimes paid the tax for the poor, the Jewish tax-gatherers were required to take an oath on a scroll of the Law before delivering the taxes collected by them.Amplification of the Term "Kharaj."
At the end of the sixteenth century the signification of the term "kharaj" was extended to include twelve different taxes; so that to be exempt from the kharaj was to be exempt from all taxes. The twelve taxes, paid by Jews and Christians alike, were the following: (1) "saliane," or annual levy; (2) "ordu-akchesi," or army-tax; (3) "resim-kismet," or heritage-tax; (4) "cherahor-akchesi," or imperial pasturage-tax; (5) "ḳaza-akchesi," or tax for maintaining the residence of the governor; (6) "ḳassab-akchesi," or meat-tax; (7) "chair-akchesi," or bird-tax; (8) "rab-akchesi," a tax payable by the community collectively; (9) "bedel-kharaj," or "bashi-kharaj," tax for exemption from military service; (10) "jelb-akchesi," tax for the support of the imperial flocks; (11) tax for the support of the imperial couriers; and (12) tax to supply the sultan with furs. Besides these levies the kharaj included certain services to the number of seven, exemption from which might be purchased. These were: work on the fortifications, public buildings, roads, etc.; sentry duty, etc.; and the quartering of new recruits. The promulgation of the ḥaṭṭi-sherif of 1839 abolished the kharaj in principle, although the tax survived in fact as compensation for non-performance of military duty, until the issue of the ḥaṭṭi-humayun. The admission of rayahs into the army as ordained by this edict presented so many difficulties that a new device was invented: every rayah purchased exemption from military duty by paying the bedel-iaskerieh (see above) instead of the old kharaj. The rayahs of Constantinople—Jews and Christians alike—were exempt from this tax. In the provinces the tax was collected by the "mukhtar," or collector for the rabbinate.
In its turn the bedel was modified; and to-day the rayahs throughout the empire (Constantinople excepted) pay in place of the old kharaj two annual taxes, namely: (1) the "bedel-i-askerieh," which amounts to about $1.68 for every male between the years of twenty and sixty; and (2) the "darbieh," or "yol-parasi" (road-tax), which averages about 76 cents for every male between the same years. In addition the Jews pay communal taxes.Present Administration.
In the year 1864 the Jews of Constantinople, at the request of the government, drew up a constitution which was approved by Sultan Abd-ul-Aziz May 5, 1865. This provided for three councils: (1) a "mejlis-'umumi," or national assembly, to be composed of eighty members; (2) a "mejlis-jismani," or temporal council, of seven lay members; and (3) a "mejlis-ruḥani," or spiritualcouncil, of nine rabbis. The grand rabbi at Constantinople has no authority over the other grand rabbis of the empire, merely representing them before the Porte and transmitting to them communications from the government. It should be stated that beginning with the reign of Sultan Maḥmud II. (1808-39) the spiritual chief chosen by the Jews has received the imperial sanction before entering upon his duties. The first rabbi to be elected in this way was Abraham Levy (1835), who was installed in office with much pomp and ceremony. His successor, Samuel Ḥayyim, was removed by the government after a year of office because he was a foreigner. Since that time there have been five ḥakam bashis (see Constantinople). The present chief rabbi, Moses ha-Levi, bears the title "ḳaimaḳam" (= "locum tenens").
The judicial authority is in the hands of a bet din of three members, who adjudicate civil and religious cases, but may not pronounce sentence of capital punishment. In the provinces the rabbi or a member of the bet din represents the community before the governor of the province. There are ḥakam bashis also at Adrianople and Salonica in Europe and at Aleppo, Bagdad, Beirut, Jerusalem, and Smyrna in Asia. See Arabia; Bulgaria; Egypt; Palestine; Rumania; Servia; Syria; and special articles on the cities of these countries and of Turkey.
- R. Andree, Zur Volkskunde der Juden, Bielefeld and Leipsic, 1881;
- P. Baudin, Les Israélites de Constantinople;
- Bulletin de l'Alliance lsraélite, passim;
- V. Cuinet, La Turquie d'Asie, Paris, 1892;
- idem, Syrie, Liban et Palestine, Paris, 1896-1901;
- Pulido Fernandez, Los Israelitas Españoles, Madrid, 1904;
- M. Franco, Essai sur l'Histoire des Israélites de l'Empire Ottoman, Paris, 1897;
- Frankl, The Jews in the East, transl. by P. Beaton, London, 1859;
- L. M. G. Garnett, The Women of Turkey, ib. 1893;
- Grätz, Gesch. Index;
- J. von Hammer-Purgstall, Gesch. des Osmanischen Reiches, passim;
- M. A. Levy, Don Joseph Nasi, Breslau, 1859;
- I. Loeb, La Situation des Israélites en Turquie, Paris, 1877;
- Nicolo Nicolai, Viaggi nella Turchia, Venice, 1850.