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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Situation of Jewry.
Fortified city in northern Spain. As early as 1002 Pope Sylvester acknowledged to Bishop Odo of Gerona the receipt of the tax ("census") of the Jewish community there ("Marca Hispanica," Appendix, No. 150, p. 959). The Jews were in possession of houses and lands, which they could hold without restriction; but the councils of Gerona (1068, 1078) decided that a tenth of any landed property which a Jew acquired from a Christian should accrue to the state. The Jews lived in a separate quarter situated at the outermost end of the fortifications on the right bank of the River Onyar, which intersected the city. The quarter included a rather long lane called Carre de S. Lorenzo, or Calle de la Forsa, north of which was the real Calle Judaica; then came the Carre de la Ruca, a continuation of which was the Carre de la Claveria. From this opened a narrow street which led to the synagogue and extended to the Carre de S. Lorenzo. The Calle Judaica with the market-place formed the center of the Juderia. At the end of the Calle de la Forsa stood the Jewish assembly-hall or communal house, now the Church of the MM. Escolapias, near which was the house of the wealthy Bonastrucfamily; and not far off was the house of the rich Jew Abraham Isaac. The Jewish cemetery, as in Barcelona, was on the Monjuich, a hill near the city, called "Monte Judaico" in the old records. A hundred years ago Hebrew inscriptions were still found in this cemetery, the "Fossar dels Juhens."
The Jews of Gerona lived undisturbed under the Saracens and during the long reign of King Jaime the Conqueror. The latter showed himself just and even benevolent toward them. In 1229 he fixed their rate of interest at 20 per cent; at the instance of the Bishop of Gerona, he forbade Christian women to live in the same house with Jews; and he directed the officials to act justly toward the Jews as debtors. In 1257 he appointed Bonastruc de Porta as "bayle" of Gerona, and Astruc Ravaya (whom he released from all taxes for life) and his son Yucef as tax-farmers. To Bonastruc de Porta, "maestro de los Judios de Gerona," who is identified by Graetz and others with Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman, he gave a mill located in the market-place. This learned Jew was invited by the king himself to take part in a public debate on Judaism and Christianity with the Dominican Pablo Christiani at Barcelona in 1263. The evil effects of this discussion were soon felt in Gerona, a city which was the seat of a fanatical bishop, and in which a strong clerical spirit was predominant. On a certain Good Friday the antagonism against the Jews manifested itself in an outbreak of such vehemence that the king was obliged to interfere with an armed force.
The subsequent history of the Jews in Gerona is a long series of molestations and persecutions. After the accession of Pedro III., at a time of general insurrection against the king, the clergy, with a mob incited by them, attacked the Jews and their houses, laid waste their vineyards and olive-orchards, and devastated their cemetery. When the town-crier gave warning in the name of the king against a repetition of such excesses, the clergy made such a tumult that his voice could not be heard. Pedro, who in 1276 had given the taxes from the Gerona Jewry to his wife, Constança, regarded these disturbances as a personal insult as well as an injury to the treasury, and in a document dated April, 1278, remonstrated earnestly with Bishop Pedro de Castellnou, who had showed himself ill disposed toward the Jews, and also with the "bayle" of the city. When in 1285 Gerona was preparing to defend itself against the advancing French army, the Spanish mercenaries forced their way, murdering and plundering, into the Jewry. Pedro had some of the guilty persons hanged.
The persecution of the Pastoureaux also affected the Jews of Gerona. During the Black Death (1348) the loss of life in Gerona was appalling, two-thirds of the population being swept away. At the end of May, 1348, the people, incited by certain of the knights and clergy, removed Jewish corpses from their graves and burned them together with the bodies of the Jews whom they had killed.
Contributions to the Treasury.
The Jewish community of Gerona, at the head of which was a directorial board consisting of twenty persons, was distinguished for its size, prosperity, and piety. Toward the end of the fourteenth century it was so wealthy that it was required by the authorities to defray half the expenses incurred in erecting the city fortifications. Its burden of taxation was both excessive and oppressive. In addition to the usual taxes, which amounted annually to 13,000 sueldos, the Jews had to pay 500 sueldos at each coronation and were further required to make extra contributions on many occasions. In 1314, in order to enable Jaime II. to purchase the county of Urgel, the Jewries of Gerona, Valencia, Lerida, Barcelona, and Tortosa placed 11,500 libras at his disposal. As a sign of his appreciation he released them from paying taxes for four years. When Pedro IV. in 1343 was in need of money for the purpose of conquering the county of Roussillon, he summoned the Jewish communities of Gerona, Barcelona, and other towns to come to his aid immediately ("Coll. de Documentos Ineditos," 31:291). The kings regarded the Jews as a reliable source of income, and were not averse to seeing the communities increase in size; thus in 1306 the Jewry of Gerona was permitted to receive ten of the Jewish families driven out of France.
After 1391, however, the splendor of the Jewry in Gerona disappeared, and the community fell into an impoverished condition. All sorts of crimes were laid at the door of the Jews as pretexts for tormenting and oppressing them. The persecutions of the year 1391 began on Aug. 10, St. Lorenzo's Day. Armed peasants in large numbers ran furiously into the Jewry, attacked the unarmed Jews without mercy, butchered them in the most cruel manner, and burned their houses and goods. According to a report presented by the councilors to the King and Queen of Aragon on Aug. 13, 1391 (which report agrees with that of Ḥasdai Crescas), many Jews were killed, while only a few embraced Christianity in order to save themselves. The remainder sought protection in the fortified tower of Geronella, but even there they were attacked by the peasants (Aug. 18), and, as the councilors reported to John I. on Sept. 11, were daily insulted and derided. On Sept. 18 the councilors again complained to the king that the peasants of the vicinity had united with the knights and clergy, and were planning a new attack upon the Jews, and that they themselves were not in a position to protect them. Not until a year had passed did Queen Violante, wife of John I., commend the Jews to the protection of the city and advise clemency with regard to the taxes, which they were unable to pay (Sept. 25, 1392). After still another attack had been made on the Jews and many of them had been forced to accept baptism, John I., who cared more for the dance and the chase than for affairs of state, commanded the "jurados" of Gerona to punish the ringleaders with great severity (Feb. 1, 1393). The sentence was repealed the same day, however, and the punishment changed into a money fine which would fall to the king. Martin I., brother and successor of John, was more energetic in his measures against those who attacked the Jews in the tower of Geronella in 1391.
Share in the Tortosa Disputation.
On Dec. 8, 1412, Pope Benedict XIII. sent through Bishop Ramon de Castellar a command to the communityin Gerona to send delegates to the disputation at Tortosa. The representatives of Gerona at that time were BONASTRUC DESMAËSTRE, Azay Toros (Todros), Nissim Ferrer, Jaffuda (Judah) Alfaquin ("the physician"), and Bonastruc Joseph. Of these Azay Todros (ben Yaḥya) and the learned Bonastruc Desmaëstre were chosen to go to Tortosa. Scarcely had the disputation commenced when a popular uprising against the Jews broke out in Gerona itself, probably on account of the speeches made by the delegates from that city. The king punished by a fine of 20 sueldos, or twenty days' imprisonment, any insult to a Jew or damage to his property.
The Jews were held responsible for every accident and misfortune that befell the city. When the old tower of Geronella fell in 1404, the clergy announced that this was God's punishment upon the city for tolerating the Jews within its walls; and even the terrible earthquake which visited Gerona and its vicinity in 1427 was laid at their door. The lives of the Jews were in danger on every Christian feast-day and during every procession. On the occasion of one procession (April 16, 1418), which purposely went through the Jewry, the young clergy together with a large crowd forced their way into the synagogue, shattered doors and windows, and tore up all the books they could find. To put an end to such frequently recurring excesses, the Jewry was shut off on the side of Calle de S. Lorenzo, and Jews were forbidden to live in that street. They were forced to attend church in order to hear sermons for their conversion; and in 1486 they were compelled to wear special clothing in order to distinguish them from Christians.
Expulsion in 1492.
The Jews left Gerona on Aug. 2, 1492, only a few accepting baptism; and the houses in the Jewry were sold at auction. The old synagogue, which had been destroyed in 1285 with the rest of the Jewry—the Jews apparently having been driven out (Solomon ibn Adret, Responsa, No. 634)—and rebuilt some years later, passed in 1494 into the possession of the presbytery of the cathedral, and, unaltered in its main features, now belongs to D. José Bover de Besalu. An inscription pertaining to it, found about fifteen years ago, is now in the Archeological Museum at Gerona.
Gerona, a strictly religious community, in which much attention was paid to the study of the Talmud, was the birthplace of several men bearing the cognomen "Gerondi," who have made the city famous. Among the scholars who lived in Gerona were: Isaac ha-Levi and his son, Zerahiah ha-Levi; Jonah ben Abraham Gerondi, Nissim ben Reuben Gerondi (RaN), Abraham Ḥazzan Gerondi, Isaac b. Judah Gerondi, Solomon ben Isaac Gerondi (a pupil of Moses b. Naḥman), Moses de Scola Gerondi, Samuel b. Abraham Saporta (a tombstone of Enoch ben Shealtiel Saporta, who died in 1312, was found in Gerona in 1873), the eminent Moses ben Naḥman (RaMBaN), called "Rab d'España"; and his son, Naḥman ben Moses. Gerona was also the birthplace of the cabalists Azriel and Ezra and of Jacob ben Sheshet Gerondi. The tombstone of a Joshua ben Sheshet and his wife was found on the Monjuich near Gerona in 1883.
- Girbal, Los Judios en Gerona, Gerona, 1876, with some additions from De los Rios;
- Ḥasdai Crescas, in Shebet Yehudah, ed. Wiener, p. 130;
- Boletin Acad. Hist. 8:498, 13:324 et seq.;
- Revista Hist. 1:1 et seq., 33 et seq.; 3:138 et seq.;
- R. E. J. 10:108 et seq. (Isaac b. Sheshet, Responsa, No. 220), 17:149 et seq.;
- Revista de Gerona, 13:225 et seq.;
- Jacobs, Sources, Nos. 142, 144, 173, 308, 723, 756, 980;
- Grätz, Gesch. 6:231 et seq.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Gerona'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/g/gerona.html. 1901.
the Seventh Sunday after Easter