Title of a political representative in Turkey. The word, pronounced "kehya" or "kyahya," is Turkish and is a corruption of the Persian "ketkhoda." It means "head man," or representative in a small village where the people usually appoint the oldest and richest one among them to represent them in matters of state. He collects the taxes, entertains any government officials who may visit the village, and in return receives annually a certain part of the crops and live stock of the villagers. In every larger town and city of Turkey each nation has a kahiya in its own quarter. Under him are subordinate officials, called "mukhtar"; and no police officer may enter a house unless he is accompanied by one of the latter. In addition, every state in Turkey is represented at Constantinople by its kahiya, who receives a regular salary from the Porte and is known in official circles by his original name "ketkhoda." For example, the ketkhoda of Egypt receives £100 a month.
In connection with the Jews the office is first heard of under Sulaiman the Magnificent. In his time the kahiya was a person named Shealtiel. His position appears to have been an honorable one; he was a favorite at court, and had free entry to the palace. If an injury or injustice was done to Jews anywhere in the empire, no matter by whom, whether by government official, private citizen, or foreigner, it was Shealtiel's duty to defend their rights. The office has been continued ever since the days of Sulaiman, but in a considerably modified form. At present inConstantinople the kahiya is little more than a guardian of the peace; the same office being found in the Jewish, Greek, and Armenian quarters.
- M. Franco, Histoire des Israélites de l'Empire Ottoman, pp. 46-47;
- Grätz, Gesch. ix. 32-33.