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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Seaport city in Rumelia, European Turkey; chief town of an extensive vilayet of the same name which includes the sanjaks of Salonica, Serres, Drama, and Monastir; situated at the northeast extremity of the Gulf of Salonica. Although it may be inferred from the Acts of the Apostles and from the Epistles of Saint Paul that a Jewish community existed there in the first century of the common era, the earliest document concerning it dates from the time of the first Crusade. It is a letter, found in the genizah at Cairo (see "J. Q. R." 9:27-29), which was sent from Tripolis to Constantinople, and in which the community of Salonica is said to have been exempted from taxation by Emperor Alexius Comnenus and the patriarch. This liberality was due either to the fact that the Jews of Salonica were unable to pay their taxes at that time, or to an ulterior motive on the part of the emperor, who, fearing that the Jews would sympathize with the Crusaders, endeavored thus to secure their loyalty. About 1170 Benjamin of Tudela visited Salonica and found there 500 Jewish inhabitants. They were engaged in various handicrafts, and had their own mayor (á¼ÏÎ¿ÏÎ¿Ï), who was appointed by the government (Benjamin of Tudela, "Itinerary," ed. Asher, p. 18). During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the community was increased by the arrival of a great number of immigrants from Germany, France, and Italy, who, fleeing from persecutions in their respective countries, settled in Salonica, where they were afforded many commercial opportunities. The immigrants from Italy formed two distinct congregations, the Sicilian and the Apulian.
Resort of Maranos.
A new era for the community began with the conquest of Salonica by Amurath (May 1, 1430). The Jews were granted equal rights with the other non-Mussulman inhabitants, and their rabbis were placed on the same footing as the spiritual heads of the Greek Church. The happy condition of the Jewish community of Salonica at that time is described by Isaac áºarfati in a letter addressed to the Jews of Germany, whom he advises to emigrate to Turkey. His advice was followed by many, and at the end of the fifteenth century there were so many German Jews in Salonica that Benjamin ha-Levi of Nuremberg deemed it necessary to compose a special ritual for them. The sixteenth century was the golden age of the Salonica community; Sultan Bayazid II. (1480-1512) received the exiles from Spain, and these gave a great impulse to material and intellectual life. Moreover, thousands of wealthy Maranos who had been persecuted in Italy and in Portugal sought refuge in Salonica, where they resumed the profession of their old faith. Talmudic schools were founded, which acquired such a high reputation that Isaac Abravanel sent his son Samuel to study there. Large libraries were opened for the public by Judah Benveniste, the son of a former Spanish minister of finance, and by others. Besides the Greek congregation, called "El Kahal de los Javanim," and that which comprised immigrants from Germany, France, Italy, and other lands, there were about thirty Spanish and Portuguese congregations, each of which had its own synagogue and retained its own customs, rites, and liturgy. A poet of that period, Samuel Usque, paints in vivid colors the prosperity of Salonica, which he calls "a mother of Judaism." "The largest numbers," he says, "of the persecuted and banished sons from Europe and other places have met therein and have been received with loving welcome, as though it were our venerable mother Jerusalem."
Fire of 1545.
The year 1545 was a very unfortunate one for the Jews of Salonica. On the 4th of Ab a terrible fire broke out which caused the death of 200 persons and destroyed 8,000 houses and eighteen synagogues. Except for this catastrophe, which was soon forgotten, the prosperity of the community long remained uninterrupted. It is true some Greeks, envious of the riches of certain Jews, endeavored from time to time to incite the populace against them; but as the government, at the request of deputies sent to Constantinople, renewed on several occasions Jewish privileges, the anti-Jewish movements invariably failed. Still, in order to give their neighbors less cause for envy, the rabbinate deemed it necessary to take measures against the display of luxury of which the Spanish Jews seemed to be very fond. These measures were embodied in a decree which for a period of ten years forbade women to wear any jewel or any ornament of gold or silver,with the exception of a simple ring on the finger. Wedding processions at night also were prohibited. At the same time the Rabbis forbade the employment of male musicians at solemnities, participation in games of hazard, and the dancing together of the members of both sexes.
A decadence both in the material and in the intellectual condition of the community began in the second half of the seventeenth century. It was greatly due to the Shabbethai áºebi agitation, which found a very fertile soil in Salonica, then the center of cabalistic studies and Messianic vagaries. The Rabbis at first took measures against the movement, and they even had the courage to banish the pseudo-Messiah from Salonica; but in the end they were compelled to give way to the popular enthusiasm, and Salonica became the theater of disgraceful scenes of revelry. The Shabbethaian movement gave birth to a sect of Crypto-Jews, descendants of whom are still living in Salonica. They call themselves "ma'aminim" (believers), "á¸¥aberim" (associates), or "ba'ale milá¸¥amah" (warriors), while officially they are known under the name of "DÃ¶nmeh" (apostates). Following the example of their master, Shabbethai áºebi, they outwardly profess Mohammedanism, but they secretly observe certain Jewish rites, though in no way making common cause with the Jews, whom they call "koferim" (infidels). See see DÃNMEH.
From the middle of the nineteenth century the material and intellectual condition of the community began gradually to improve. This was due to the efforts of several prominent Salonica families, such as the Fernandez, the Allatini, and others. In 1873 the Alliance IsraÃ©lite Universelle opened in the city a school for children; and in 1875 two additional schools, patterned after Western institutions, were founded by the Allatini. There are at present (1905) about 75,000 Jews in Salonica in a total population of 120,000. The majority of them are poor, and are engaged in all kinds of handicrafts and in petty trade. Still there are among them wealthy exporters of corn (the main article of commerce), besides bankers, physicians, and lawyers of high standing. Salonica possesses thirty-seven synagogues, most of which belong to the Sephardim. Among the numerous benevolent institutions which were founded in the course of the nineteenth century, the most noteworthy are: Eáº á¸¤ayyim, áºeda-á¸³ah we-á¸¤esed, á¸¤uppat 'Aniyot, Biá¸³á¸³ur á¸¤olim, and 'Ozer Dallim. The aim of the first two is to furnish medical assistance and medicine to the poor; of the third, to provide dowries for orphaned girls; and of the last two to render pecuniary aid to families impoverished by illness, death, or the like.
The security and prosperity enjoyed by the Jews under the first Turkish rulers brought about an active intellectual movement; and Salonica became the center of Jewish learning. Sambari (see Neubauer, "M. J. C." 1:154) gives the names of the rabbis of Salonica who officiated from 1430 to 1672 as follows:
Authors and Rabbis.
Eliezer Shimeoni, Eliezer Aruvas (? ), Jacob ben á¸¤abib, Solomon á¸¤azzan, Joseph ibn Leb, Levi ben á¸¤abib, Joseph Fasi, Joseph ben Yaá¸¥ya, Solomon de Trani, Joseph á¹¬aiá¹aáºak, Samuel Almosnino, á¸¤ayyim Bozzolo, Abraham Sidalvo, MeÃ¯r ben Aramah, Solomon á¹¬aiá¹aáºak, á¸¤ayyim Obadiah, Samuel á¹¬aiá¹aáºak, Benjamin ha-Levi Ashkenazi of Nuremberg, MeÃ¯r Benveniste, Isaac Bedersi, Akiba ha-Kohen, Samuel di Medina, Isaac Adarbi, Solomon ha-Kohen, Mordecai Matalon, Jacob á¹¬aiá¹aáºak, Daniel Peraá¸¥yah ha-Kohen, Jacob Samet, Moses Obadiah, Elijah Uziel, Moses Almosnino, Solomon Levi, Isaac Levi, Solomon Levi, Samuel Almosnino, Samuel Kala'i, Jacob ben Aramah, Samuel Florentin, Aaron ben á¸¤asan, Aaron Sason, Abraham de Boton, Joseph ibn Ezra, Samuel á¸¤ayyim, Shemaiah di Medina, Shabbethai Jonah, á¸¤ayyim Shabbethai, Elijah Rozanes, Samuel ha-Kohen Peraá¸¥yah, Joseph Levi, Solomon ben á¸¤asan, Asher Cohen Ardot, Mordecai Kala'i, Baruch Kala'i, Abraham Motal, Jacob Robio (? ), Levi Cosin, Solomon Matalon, Abraham Yiáºá¸¥aá¸³i, á¸¤iyya Abravanel (?), Moses ben Samuel di Medina, David ha-Kohen, Isaac Pardo, Menahem Solas (? ), Daniel , Jacob ben Abraham de Boton, Abraham ha-Kohen Peraá¸¥yah, á¸¤isdai ha-Kohen Peraá¸¥yah, Baruch Engel, Samuel Gaon, Judah Benveniste, Joseph Crasso, and Moses ben á¸¤ayyim Shabbethai.
The retrogression in the political and economic condition of the community caused by the Shabbethai áºebi agitation extended to the literary field; and names of high repute like those given by Sambari were not to be found in Salonica during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The most renowned rabbis of the nineteenth century were Raphael Asher Covo (1848-74) and Abraham Gatigno or Gattegno (1875).
For the present status of the community TURKEY
- M. J. Ottolenghi, Gli Ebrei de Salonicco, in Vessillo Israelitico, 45:150;
- Rose, Die Juden in Salonichi, in JÃ¼disches Literaturblatt, 1:30,34,58,67;
- GrÃ¤tz, in Monatsschrift, 26:130; 33:49,62;
- D. Kaufmann, in R. E. J. 21:293;
- Danon, ib. 206; 41:98,250;
- Kaminka, in Ha-Meliáº, 28:456;
- Franco, Histoire des IsraÃ©lites de l'Empire Ottoman, 1897.
In the year 1515 Judah Gedaliah established the first printing-office in Salonica, with type supposed to have been transported from Lisbon. Its initial work was an edition of the Book of Job, with a commentary thereon by Arama. After a period of about twenty years of great activity Gedaliah's establishment began to decline: it produced only two or three works between 1534 and 1546 (or 1551), when it ceased to exist. A new printing-office, which existed for about ten years, was established in 1560 by the brothers Solomon and Joseph Jabez. The first work produced by them was a Maá¸¥zor of the Ashkenazic rite published by Benjamin ben MeÃ¯r ha-Levi Ashkenazi of Nuremberg. After a lapse of several years a press was established by David ben Abraham Asovev, whose first work was an edition of the Midrash Taná¸¥uma. It was characterized by indifferent execution and by the coarseness of its type. With the financial aid of several wealthy men of Venice, a press of a better class was established in 1592 by the sons of one Mattithiah. Its first work was an appendix to the second volume of Solomon Cohen's responsa.
Printing was not carried on in Salonica between 1628 and 1651. It was resumed by Abraham the Proselyte, but his establishment existed for four years only. Toward the end of the seventeenth century two printing-offices were established by David Naá¸¥man and Campellas respectively, which, together with those founded later by Bezaleel Levi Ashkenazi and Raphael Kala'i, existed throughout the eighteenth century.
- Cassel and Steinschneider, JÃ¼dische Typographie, in Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. section , part 28, pp. 42-45;
- Franco, Histoire des IsraÃ©lites, 1897.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Thessalonica'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/t/thessalonica.html. 1901.