Istanbul 04: 1600-1800
Leader problems - fires - fusion of communities -
blood libel - redemption actions for East European
Jews - tax actions for towns in Palestine - boat
from: Istanbul; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 9
presented by Michael Palomino (2008)
<The 17th Century.
[No leading person for the
Jewish communities - fires in the town and change of
places - fusion]
The economic and cultural decline of the Jewish community of
Istanbul began during the 17th century, together with the
general decline of the Ottoman Empire.
[[Supplement: The main direction of world wide trade changed
to the "new colonies" in America, and also the protestant
powers (Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia) started their
East Asian Companies for a direct trade with the Far East
products. So the towns on the west European coast
(Amsterdam, Lisbon etc.) were growing now, and Istanbul was
more and more "out". The definitive "out" and bankrupt
decline came only with Suez Canal in 1859]].
The community was gradually weakened and lost its importance
to the point that a man with sufficient firmness and status
to act as interceder at the court of the sultan could not be
found. the great fires which devastated (col. 1090)
a number of quarters during the 17th century brought about
changes in the structure of the kehalim [[congregations]].the ancient
organization according to origin, synagogue, etc., fell into
disintegration and many Jews joined synagogues near their
new places of residence, even if they belonged to another kahal [[assembly]].
This process was essentially responsible for the fusion of
the Romaniots with the Sephardim.
[Jewish women with
influence at the sultan's court]
During the reigns of the sultans Muhammad III and Ahmad I
(1595-1603; 1603-17), two women wielded influence at the
court: Esther *Kiera Handali, the wife of R. Elijah Handali,
and Bula Ikshati Ashkenazi, the wife of R. Solomon
Ashkenazi, the physician.
[1633: Blood libel -
massacres in Eastern Europe and Jews sold as slaves - redemption action]
During the reign of Sultan *Murad IV, in 1633, an accusation
was brought against the Jews of Istanbul saying that they
had murdered a Turkish child on the eve of Passover (see
Following the massacres of 1648-49 in Poland (see *Poland),
the Cossacks, Tatars, and Ukrainians took many Jews into
captivity and sold them in Istanbul. The Jews of Istanbul
competed with one another in observing the precept of
redeeming captives. Together with the communities of
Salonika, Venice, Rome, Amsterdam, and Hamburg, they thus
succeeded in saving tens of thousands of Jews.
The community of Istanbul sent a special emissary to Italy
and Holland in order to raise funds for the redemption of
captives. R. Nathan *Hannover, the author of Yeven Mezulah, who was
an eyewitness to the events in Podolia and Volhynia and
escaped through Western Europe, writes:
"There was among them [the Jews] a hazzan [[cantor]] and his name was R.
Hirsch. When the Tatars came, he began to lament ant to
intone the El Male
Rahamim [prayer for the departed] in a loud voice
over the deaths of our brothers of the House of Israel; all
the assembled broke into a great weeping and they aroused
the mercy of their captors who comforted them with kind
words and said to them: 'Be not concerned, you will not lack
food nor drink. Tomorrow we shall bring you to your brothers
in Constantinople and they will redeem you.' In this fashion
the Tatars dealt with our brothers of the House of Israel in
Istanbul, who redeemed them together with the other captives
from Poland - about 20,000 souls - and they spent much money
movement under Shabbetai Zevi]
In 1666 *Shabbetai Zevi arrived in Istanbul in order to
depose the sultan. The opinion of the Jews of the capital
was divided: the majority feared that the appearance of
Shabbetai Zevi would be the cause for actions against the
Jews in general. Others were attracted by his messianic
enthusiasm and went out to meet him in order to pay him
homage. The opponents informed the grand vizier of this and
he ordered Shabbetai Zevi's arrest. The royal police seized
and imprisoned him. His opponents also persecuted the
adherents of the "sect of Shabbetai Zevi", who were in the
capital and elsewhere in Turkey. A herem ("ban") was also
issued there against Nehemiah Hayon.
[Decline of the Jewish
community after some fires - dispersed Jews in the suburbs
- clothe and hat regulations]
After the failure of Shabbetai Zevi's movement, the decline
of the Jewish community set in.
The 18th Century.
During the 17th and 18th centuries several fires devastated
the Jewish quarters. The greatest of these was in 1740 after
which the Jews were not allowed to rebuild their quarter. As
a result most of the Jews moved to Ortaköy and Galata.
Others also settled in Üsküdar, Hasköy, and Piri Pasa.
During this period orders concerning apparel were again
issued, which included detailed instructions on appearance
in more modest clothes and shoes. It was forbidden for Jews
to go out into the street in silk clothing and they were to
wear an anomalous hat which was pointed at the top and wide
at its base, in sharp contrast to the turban of
greenish-lemon color which was worn by the Muslims.
REPAYMENT OF THE EREZ ISRAEL COMMUNITY'S DEBTS.
[Contact with Jewish
spiritual leaders of Palestine - money transfer between
Europe and Palestine]
In Istanbul, as in many other communities, the "treasurers
for Erez Israel", or the "officials for Erez Israel", were
active during this period. They collected various
contributions for the inhabitants of Erez Israel and
transferred them through special emissaries. Istanbul was
one of the most important centers for funds because of its
geographic proximity, and since it was the capital of the
central government of Erez Israel, its hakhamim [[spiritual
leaders]] were spiritually close to those of the Holy Land.
The funds destined for Erez Israel from Eastern Europe also
passed through the capital and it was there that the letters
and recommendations of the emissaries and their missions
[Payment of the debts of
the Jews of Jerusalem]
In 1727 the Jews of Istanbul undertook the payment of the
debts owed by the Jews of Jerusalem. The community of
Istanbul imposed a payment of one parà per week per person
in favor of Jerusalem on all the communities of the (col.
Ottoman Empire and later on the oriental countries in
general and Italy. This tax was called the "parà donation"
or the "parà obligation".
[Tax action for Hebron -
Jewish donations from Istanbul for Palestine]
Istanbul also served as a center for the other holy cities
of Erez Israel - *Hebron, Tiberias, and Safed. On some
occasions there were also indirect taxes, for example, a tax
imposed on the capital in 1763, which consisted of
"half a lavan (the Ottoman coin akçé, whose meaning is
lavan, "white") on every metro (measure of volume) of wine
in order to save Hebron from its debts.
There were special societies, whose members contributed
regularly to charities for Erez Israel, the first having
been founded during the last third of the 16th century for
the benefit of the yeshivah
[[religious Torah school]] of Tiberias. There were also
societies which saved the same purpose in both the Sephardi
and Romaniot kehalim,
[[congregations]], in addition to the generous contributions
of the wealthy Nasi family. Professional societies were also
founded in Istanbul, but there is little information
available on them.
THE BOAT OWNERS' SOCIETY
[1715 approx.-1912 approx.:
Kaïkçis (ship owners) society in Istanbul - developments
with other professions - structures]
The existence of the "Benevolent Society of the Congregation
of the Kaïkçis" [[ship owners]] has been revealed through a
manuscript which records decisions of the bet din
[[ecclesiastical court]] from the years 1815-94. From a note
of 1815 it is learned that the society was founded in
Istanbul in about 1715 by the Jewish boat owners whose task
it was to ferry people from one side to the other of both
the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. The objective of this
union was not a professional one but to provide its members
with assistance in times of need.
They were later joined by workers from related professions:
fishermen; the manafis,
fruiterers, who often sailed on boats because of their
occupation; and the mayahaneçis,
wine merchants, the owners of taverns, who used boats in
order to convey their goods from the town to the villages.
Every member was required to contribute one perutah [[small
silver coin]] per week, i.e., an akçe [[Ottoman silver coin
unit]] or parà [[40th part of an akçe]], toward the
society's fund. The mayahaneçis
brought four metros (measure of volume in Ladino) free of
charge in every boat for the fund. This money was used for
two principal purposes: for the poorer members on the
occasion of a celebration or a mourning, and for the burial
of those drowned at sea. The society would send a number of
members to search for the corpse and return it for a Jewish
burial. It was later decided that even a person who was
taken sick at sea, or who had been recovered from the sea
alive and later died from the consequences, would be buried
by this society and not another.
Because the incomes of these workers were small, the rabbis
exempted them from payments to other public charities and
also forbade the officials of the benevolent societies and
institutions to collect funds from them in order not to
endanger the income of the society of the boat owners. In
order to assure the proper function of the society, the bet din
[[ecclesiastical court]] of Istanbul appointed two scholars
as "supervisors of all the affairs of the society". It
appears that the society continued to exist until shortly
before World War I.> (col. 1093)