Istanbul 05: Cultural life 1700-1923
Secular developments - Hebrew and Ladino
literature and printing - Jewish positions - poll
tax abolished 1853 - modernization of schools and
systems - split of Jewry - Jewish refugees from
from: Istanbul; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol.
presented by Michael Palomino (2008)
<CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS SITUATION OF THE JEWISH
[18th and 19th century:
secular development of Jewry in Istanbul - Ladino
literature: authors and translations]
During the 18th and 19th centuries the study (col. 1093)
of the Torah decreased and the cultural standard reached
such a low point that the majority could not even read the
Bible. It was for this reason that books came to be
published in Spanish and Ladino (see below, Hebrew
Printing). The leading author of the Spanish literature
period was R. Jacob *Culi of Safed and Jerusalem, who
settled in Istanbul during the middle of the 18th century
and wrote Me-Am Lo'ez.
*Ladino literature also began to develop at that time and
many works were published in this language. Besides Rabbi
Culi, R. Abraham b. Isaac Asa, who may be referred to as
"the father of Ladino literature", is worthy of note. He
translated religious works, the Bible, the Shulhan Arukh,
and works of history, ethics, and science into Ladino. In
Istanbul during the 18th century the most distinguished
families in Judaism and literature included the Kimhi,
*Rosanes, and Navon families. R. Hayyim Kimhi headed a
yeshivah [[religious Torah school]]; members of the Rosanes
family were rabbis, dayyanim
[[judges]], and authors, and R. Judah *Rosanes was an author
and opponent of the notorious Shabbatean sect.> (col.
<THE 17TH CENTURY.
[Prints under the David
A Marrano, Solomon b. David, revived the trade by printing
Rashi's Pentateuch commentary in 1639. He was followed by
his son Abraham and son-in-law Jacob b. Solomon *Gabbai.
They published mainly Sephardi authors, such as the responsa
of Joseph b. Moses *Trani (1641). They also published a Midrash Rabbah in the
same year, a vowelled Mishnah text with the commentary Kav Nahat by Isaac
Gabbai (1644-45), and other halakhic, homiletic, and
THE 18TH CENTURY.
[Prints under the Jacob
Ashkenazi family - Ladino literature]
Hebrew printing during the 18th century in Istanbul was
dominated by Jonah b. Jacob Ashkenazi, his sons, and his
grandsons, who between 1710 and 1778 issued 188 works,
employing at one time as many as 50 workers. Jonah designed
and improved his type, and was among those who cast the
first Turkish type in 1728. He traveled widely in search of
worthwhile manuscripts. He printed such important works as a
Zohar (Istanbul 1736-37); the first edition of the famous
and influential book Hemdat
Yamim (Smyrna, 1731-32; Istanbul, 1735-72); and a
Bible with Ladino translation (in partnership with the
Venetian Benjamin b. Moses Rushi). Altogether, his Ladino
production, originals or translations from the Hebrew,
brought about a revival of Ladino literature and language.
THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES.
Using the remnants of the Ashkenazi press, Elijah Pardo
produced six books between 1799 and 1808, among them Rashi's
Pardes (1802) and
the Zohar on Genesis (in installments, 1807-08). Isaac b.
Abraham Castro, his sons and his grandsons printed with
interruptions from 1808 to 1848, beginning with Tikkunei Zohar,
rabbinical works, Ladino translations, and polemics against
the Christian missions. The Castro press remained active
until 1925. The Christian printer Arap Oglu Bogos,
commissioned by Jews, printed at least 18 books in Hebrew
and Ladino from 1822 to 1827.> (col. 1099)
<The 19th and early 20th
[Jewish positions: Powerful
Jews bankers, scholars, merchants. rabbis]
During the first half of the 19th century powerful Jews from
distinguished families were prominent. Isaiah Adjiman,
Bekhor Isaac Carmona, and Ezekiel *Gabbai were the allies of
the Janissaries, for whom they acted as bankers and
moneylenders. They also held positions of leadership in the
community of Istanbul.
Later, influence was wielded by Abraham de *Camondo, the
representative of a respected family of scholars and wealthy
merchants. He was also influential in ruling circles and
founded a modern school in the capital, guaranteeing one
half of its expenses.
Sultan Mahmud II (1808-39) conscripted a unit of 30 Jewish
soldiers from Hasköy and 30 from Balat into the army which
set out to suppress the revolt in Morea (the Peloponnesus).
In 1836 or the beginning of 1837 the office of *hakham bashi (chief
rabbi) was instituted and R. Abraham ha-Levi was its first
[Jews admitted in the
military school of medicine - poll tax abolished in 1853 -
modern school - split of Jewry]
During the reign of the sultan Abdu-l-Mejid I (1839-1861)
the authorities allowed the admission of Jews into the
military school of medicine and the poll tax was abolished
(1853). The era became known as the tanzimat period (after the
name of the sultan's progressive legislation). As a result
of the publication of the khatt-i
humayun ("sultanic decree", 1856), the secular
leadership began to gain strength at the expense of the
religious leadership in various communities, including that
of the Jews.
After the foundation of the modern school by Abraham de
Camondo, a Va'ad Pekidim (Majlis jashmi, "Committee of
Functionaries") was founded; it was composed of wealthy men
and intellectuals of progressive views, under the leadership
of Camondo. In 1860 the three members of this body were
Carmona, Hamon, and Adjiman. At that time the hakham bashi was R.
Jacob Avigdor. Splits occurred between the
progressive-intellectual circles and the
conservative-religious Jews within the community. In the
course of this conflict the French language was introduced
into the school.
A campaign against Camondo was led by Isaac Akrish and R.
Solomon Kimhi, who claimed that the school which he headed
encouraged children to convert to Christianity. Thereafter,
a herem [[highest
ecclesiastical censure (critical comment) in the Jewish
community]] was issued against Camondo, but Isaac Akrish was
imprisoned upon the order of the hakham bashi. He was set free by Sultan
[1864: admission of the
Jewish congregations into the state's structures - fixed
During the reign of this sultan (1861-76) an order by the
name of hakham-khane
nizam namesi ("Organizational Regulations of the
Rabbinate") was issued (1864). It defined the administration
of the town's kehillot
[[congregations]], which was to consist of 12 notables and,
among them, four chief rabbis. A year later, in 1865, a law
was passed which defined the institutions of the community.
It was to be headed by the hakham bashi [[chief rabbi]], a secular
council, and a religious council. (col. 1094)
The first council included most of the Jewish officials of
the government administration, while the second included
rabbis. Both were elected for three years. In every quarter
there was a local rabbi who headed the synagogue committee,
as well as a kakhya
[[leader]] whose duty it was to report births, deaths, and
the like to the authorities. There were also three battei din [[house of
the court]] which dealt only with matrimonial matters. All
other affairs were brought before the secular tribunals of
The above-mentioned regulations remained in effect until the
establishment of the republic [[until 1923]], when they were
allowed to lapse without being replaced.
In 1866, R. Solomon Kimhi published a pamphlet against the
Karaites, in which he collected all the arguments which had
been voiced against them over the generations. The Karaites
addressed petitions to the chief rabbi, who ordered the
destruction of all the copies which had been circulated.
During the reign of Abdu-l-Hamid II (1876-1909) individual
Jews of the town are mentioned as having received
decorations and as having held senior positions in the
[Jewish newspapers in
From the second half of the 19th century newspapers and
periodicals began to be published in Ladino. The first
periodical appeared in 1853 under the name of Or Yisrael and was
edited by Leo Hayyim de Castro. A soup kitchen and relief
and charitable institutions were also established.
At the beginning of the 20th century the community
organization consisted of two separate councils: the
religious council (bet din) and the secular council, the
latter of which dealt with the administrative and financial
affairs of synagogues, schools, hospitals, etc.> (col.
<From 1860 to 1940 the Ladino newspaper press, as well as
some Jewish printers and publishers, printed mainly Ladino
literature.> (col. 1099)
[1906: Russian Jewish
refugees - 100,000 Jews in Istanbul]
<In 1906 a large number of refugees arrived from Russia
as a result of the revolution of 1905. The Jewish population
of Istanbul grew to 100,000 a the beginning of the 20th
[A.H. / J.GEL.]> (col. 1095)