Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Proposed demolition of Bevis Marks synagogue, London

In 1886, and again in 1891, the Elders of Bevis Marks synagogue proposed that the historic building be pulled down, and the site sold to the highest bidder!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Reports of the Jewish Messiah reach Constantinople, 1728

The report of an army of half a million Jews, headed by the Messiah and marching out of Africa, is treated dismissively by the author who seems to be English ambassador to Turkey. I wonder what he thought at the time. His Jewish servant is convinced of the story.

I took my leave of this good natur'd and generous Sultan, who wants only our Education and Religion, to make a great figure in the world. I got to my lodgings about two hours after fun-set, much pleas'd with the magnificent variety of one day's diversions; and was hardly set down on my sofa to repose myself, after so agreeable a fatigue, when my old Druggerman or Interpreter, Abraham, a learned Jew, whose conversations often entertain my solitary hours, came to me with a good deal of surprize and amazement in his face. I immediately saw something extraordinary had happen'd, and enquir'd of him what was the matter? My Lord, says he, I bring you an account, which if it proves true, will make the enemies of my nation, and the despis'd Jewish people, glad to lick the dust of their shoes. Here is Rabbi Solomon just come from Tunis, who is sent to warn our brethren, that the ten Tribes are discovered in the middle part of Africa, where they retir'd in the days of their Captivity and affliction. He says they have a vast Empire there, and are very powerful, having near 50 millions of souls under their Kings, who are most observant of the Law, and have preserv'd their language pure and unmix'd, as well as their rites and ceremonies. The said Rabbi Solomon avers, that the great Messiah is risen among them, and hath chosen out an army of 500000 pick'd men, all as valiant as the Maccabees; that they have left all the strong holds of their Empire of Gangara and Seneganda well garison'd, and are in motion from the frontiers of those kingdoms, to cross the desarts of Borno and Guoga, and pass the Nile, seize on Egypt, and then the land of Canaan their Inheritance, and build up the fallen glories of mount Sion and Jerusalem. As I had a map of Africa in my room, I immediately search'd it for the kingdoms and desarts, my good Druggerman had settled his friends in, and found so far all was right; but desiring to know what authorities he or Rabbi Solomon had for this report, he gave me two letters from the Synagogue of Tunis, directed to the faithful Jews of Stamboul and its Provinces, willing them to be on their guard, and behave like men, for the Kingdom was about to be restor'd to Israel. Along with these he communicated to me, under the solemnest promises of secrecy, the Messiah's Manifesto; in which he exhorts his subjects and brethren to prepare to rifle, for the restoring both the sword and sceptre, into the hands of the faithful and chosen of heaven; and commands them to be ready, to depart for Jerusalem, to- the solemn sacrifice, so soon as they had certain intelligence from him, of his being possess'd of Egypt and Grand Cairo. I read them all over (that is, the Turkish translation of the Hebrew) with much admiration; and asking Abraham, if he believ'd these to be genuine letters? he answer'd me very hastily and angrily, as genuine as the Talmud; and that it was universally known to all the Turks, and the merchants in Stamboul, that these things were true; and it is certain, I had heard for several days, of some commotions in the inland parts of Africk, of a strange people.

I then ask’d him, what the Jews determined to do? Even, says he very eagerly, to obey the commands of their Messiah; and so soon as, he hath conquer'd Egypt to depart from the four winds under heaven, and be gather’d unto the brethren of the dispersion at Jerusalem at the solemn sacrifice. He said this with tears in his eyes, and such emotion of hearts that I could not chuse but pity him and his deluded people, who are as credulous as malice or love; and will probably, throughout this vast Empire, be, standing with their ears prickt up, and, like birds, ready to take wing with all they can carry with, them, if the news of this Revolution?



Upon this the Chiaus related Abraham's story, very much in the fame manner I have told it your Lord/hip; but with this addition, that the new Messiah was the strongest and most beautiful man upon earth.


But the Jews, my Lord, ate above all other nations foolishly credulous; this Abraham my Truchman, is really more knowing and judicious than'most of his Tribe, and yet he reads the Talmud, the Misnah, and all the fabulous mysteries of the Cabbala, with as much veneration as the Pentateuch. He is as much persuaded that our tears were not salt, till Lot's wife was chang'd into a pillar of salt; that she has still her Menses; and that me was thus chang'd,becau fe that out of malice she would not put down the faltseller on the table to the angels; as that Sodom was burnt.


Source: Memoirs of the twentieth century. 1728.

Jews in the wine trade, 1728

This snippet is quite unusual. The author has something positive to say about Jewish business practice.

I know not whether so abstemious and regular a person as my constitution and course of life have obliged me to be, may venture to mention another Custom which universally prevails here, since the use of Wine has been so general; and that is, that the Jews are entirely possest of the monopoly of Wine in this Country, who are found by experience to fell it pure and unmixed. This practice they give into out of principle, the Law of Moses strictly forbidding all mixtures; and as they scrupulously adhere to it, and dare not violate it, they are observed to keep it unadulterated, as it comes from the Vineyard. How far this might deserve to be encouraged in Great Britain where we consume so much Wine, and so abominably brewed and compounded, by the tricks and imposture of our Merchants; or how far at least, these Brokers of the World, who lie sucking the life-blood of our Trade, mjght be made useful in this branch of our Commerce, I leave to your Lordship's consideration, who knows so well how much the health and lives of the Subjects are concerned in it, as well as the Excise on the consumption.


Source: Memoirs of the twentieth century. 1728. Page 196.

Amsterdam Jews, 1701

A description of the Jewish Amsterdam community in 1701. One members seems to have more money than taste.

The Jews, who are very considerable for the Trade of this City, have Two Synagogues, one of which is the largest in Christendom, and as some say, in the World. Within their CourtYard where there Synagogue stands, they have seveial Rooms or Schools, where their Children are taught Hebrew, and carefully instructed in the Jewish Principles.

….

When you have visited the Arsenals, if you have not a mind to keep along by the Port, you must cross the Jews Quarter, which would be one of the most Beautiful in the City, were those Disciples of Moses as neat as the Hollanders. There are two Synagogues, one for the Greeks and German Jews, another for the Portugueses. This is much the fairer, being built in a great Square, cover'd with a Duomo, and resembles rather a Citadel then a Jewish Temple; So that when the Jews built it so high, and so thick, the Magistracy began to grow jealous, afraid, lest under the pretence of a Temple they were building a Fortress, that might one day trouble the repose of the City; and out of this fear it was, that the Jews were commanded to go no further ; so that they were forc'd to cover it, before the Structure was brought to its intended Perfection; and this is the only reason of the Defects which the Architects observe in the Building.
AS to what remains, I make no scruple to affirm that there are Jews in Amsterdam far richer than some of our European Princes. There was one who built a House where nothing but Gold and Silver, Azure and Marble glitter'd on every side; there was one great Room pav'd with Silver Ducatoons: and he would have put Silver Bars in the Window of a lower Apartment that look'd into the Street, whereas Iron ones content all the rest of the City ; but the Magistracy no less Wise then Politick, considering that the Jews in general are not belov'd by the Christians, and fearing lest the multitude might take an occasion from this piece of Vanity to plunder his House, and the Houses of his Country-men, forbid him to do it: so that instead of Silver Grates, he put up Iron Gilt.

Page 78

Source: A new description of Holland, and the rest of the United Provinces. 1701

Amsterdam Portuguese Synagogue, 1689

A 1689 English report that the Amsterdam synagogue had a huge number of Sepher Torahs.

The Jews of the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam have at least fifty Rolls of their Sepher tora, or Book of the Law, which, for the most part, are very well written, but they are all new. If any ask for ancient ones, they take no notice, because they are prepossessed with a Belief, that there can be no difference betwixt the ancient and the modern.


Richard Simon. A critical history of the text of the New Testament. 1689

French report of Bevis Marks, London, 1708

A French report on Bevis Marks, dated 1708, and possibly derived from one of the earlier English reports:

Les Juifs avoient été bannis autrefois d'Angleterre, mais Cromwell leur permit de revenir. Dans ce tems-là ils étoient peu considerables, mais aujourd'hui leur nombre est si fort augmenté, qu'ils ont bâti à Londres près de Duke's Place, une fort belle Synagogue.


Guy Miège. L' Etat Present De La Grande-Bretagne Après son heureuse Union. 1708.

A 1704 report on the establishment of Bevis Marks synagogue, London

A rather grudging 1704 report on the 1701 establishment of Bevis Marks synagogue:

"Touching the Jews, which by the late Usurper were admitted at London, and since continued by the bare permission of our Princes, and suffered to hire a private House, wherein to hold their Meetings; they were not considerable either for Number, making not above 80 or 100 Families; or for their Wealth or Abilities, being for the most part poor and ignorant, to what they are in other Countries; yet of late they are increas'd and have built themselves a sumptuous Synagogue near Duke's Place, within the City of London."

Robbery at Bevis Marks, London, 1748

Robbery at Bevis Marks in 1748:

The Jews synagogue, in Duke's Place was broke open on the 28th ult by one Jeremiah Levi, a Jew (since apprehended) and robb'd of plate, vestments, &c. value 300 £.

Bevis Marks synagogue, London, 1714

An 1714 description of Bevis Marks, London.

Observe that this and other Churches are for Distinction, denominated Jewry, from some few Jews who dwelt thereabout in former Times ; but now having more considerable Admission into England and London by the late Usurper ; to whom large Proposals were made at White-Hall in 1656, by Manasses Ben Israel) a Jewish Merchant in Name of the rest, for Leave to trade and dwell in this Nation, than in former Days, when they were banished, taxed, and punished by King Edward I, and others, and a bare Permission since his Days; they are exceedingly increased both in Number and Wealth, and have built a sumptuous Synagogue near Duke's Place by Aldgate, whither they do now all resort, and have their Habitations thereabout only, which Place may be properly called the Jewry of London at this Time ;


James Paterson (A.M.). Pietas Londinensis: or, the present ecclesiastical state of London. 1714. Page 132.

Bevis Marks synagogue, London, 1745

A 1745 description of Bevis Marks synagogue, in London.

The Jews synagogues are in Dukes-place, where, and in that neighbourhood, many of that religion inhabit: The synagogue stands east and west, as christian churches usually do: The great door is on the west, within which is a long desk upon an ascent, raised above the floor, from whence the law is read. The east part of the synagogue also is railed in, and the places where the women sit inclosed with lattices; the men sit on benches with backs to them, running east and west; and there are abundance of fine branches for candles besides lamps, especially in that belonging to the Portuguese.


A collection of voyages and travels. The Voyages of Don Gonzeles. 1745. Page 116

Jewish Prostitutes in Constantinope? 1794

It may be remarked that both Du Loir and D'Arvieux agree in ascribing the honorable office of bawds to the Jewesses. At Constantinople, the shops of the Jews are said to be the ordinary places of rendezvous; which they certainly are not at Aleppo, being all situated in the public Bazar, and in size very incommodious.


Alexander Russell. The natural history of Aleppo, Volume 1. 1794. Page 428.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Port Royal, Jamaica, 1742

The anecdote below is from the murder trial of John Richardson, a rogue. It gives an insight into Caribbean trade. It also shows a Jew being swindled by a Christian Englishman. The tenor of the statement seems to be that there is nothing morally wrong with cheating a Jew.

From thence I went on board a Vessel which came from Guiney [Guiana?], and was bound for Jamaica; and as soon as I arrived, I took Lodgings at one Mr. William Torkman's at Port-Royal, where I had not been a Month, before I shipp'd myself on board with Capt. Trevisa, bound for Carthagena; but, before I went from Jamaica, I laid out the Money I brought with me in Goods, which I bought of a Jew Merchant, intending to sell them at Carthagena. The Jew seeing me able to buy Goods, asked me what Voyage I was going to make? I told him I was going to Carthagena, with Capt. Trevisa. He hearing that, offered me an hundred Pounds worth of'his own, and 'tis usual for the Merchants in those Places, to entrust Goods with Traders for half Profit. I accepted of his Goods, and we sailed from Jamaica to Carthagena; when we arrived there, I made a good Market of my Goods, but I took Care to return no more to Jamaica to give the Jew any Account of his Merchandize.


Select trials: at the Sessions-House in the Old-Bailey, for murder ... 1742

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

French analysis of Jewish commerce, 1741

The French analysis below says that the Jews (by which they mean Spanish and Portuguese Jews) are regarded as clever but untrustworthy. The analysis focused on Amsterdam and Livorno, not even mentioning London, Hamburg or Salonica (or Bordeaux!).

They estimate there are around five thousand Sephardim in Amsterdam, and that they have three quarters of the Dutch North African trade, especially at the ports of Salé, Saphia[?] and SainteCroix [?]. I guess that SainteCroix was once a Christian enclave. The Jews bought what the Barbary pirates had captured from Christian ships, and resold it in Amsterdam. I am dubious about this claim as it seems inconsistent with Amsterdam notarial records.

There are estimated to be more that ten thousand Jews in Livorno, much loved by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and with a beautiful synagogue. The Jews have 90% of the trade, while the French, Italians, Dutch, English and Armenians have only 10% between them. Again, this doesn't ring true.

I have the impression that the authors got their information from someone with a particular axe to grind. Trade with the Americas, Baltic or Turks isn't even mentioned.

Les Juifs ont la réputation d’être très-habiles dans le commerce, mais aussi ils font soupçonnés de ne le pas faire avec toute la probité & la fidélité possible.

Quoiqu'il en soit de ce reproche, il est certain que les Nations même qui font le plus prévenues contre les Juifs, non-seulement les souffrent parmi elles, mais semblent même se piquer d'en apprendre les secrets du négoce, & d'en partager avec eux les profits.

II est vrai que plusieurs des Souverains de l'Europe Chrétienne ne les ont reçus dans leurs Etats, qu'à condition de porter une marque extérieure, pour les distinguer de leurs autres Sujets ; mais il y a aussi quelques Souverains qui ne les regardent point autrement que le reste des Bourgeois de leurs Villes , & qui n'y mettent de différence que par le plus ou le moins d'utilité qu'ils en retirent par rapport au commerce.

Les deux principaux établissemens que les Juifs ont dans les Etats des Princes Chrétiens, font celui d'Amsterdam & celui de Livourne.

A Amsterdam ils font comme partagés en deux tribus différentes; l'une des Juifs Portugais, au nombre de près de cinq mille; & l'autte des Juifs Allemands, qui ne font gueres moins de douze cens. Les uns & les autres sont riches, & se mêlent de toute forte de commerce , particulièrement de celui de la Banque; mais les Portugais font les plus accrédités , soit pour le change , soit pour les entreprises du négoce de marchandises au dedans & au dehors.

Entr'autres commerces, ce sont les Juifs Portugais d'Amsterdam qui font presque tout celui de Barbarie -, & il n'y a guetes qu'eux qui ayent part aux trois ou quatre vaisseaux Hollandois qui y vont tous les ans; tout ce commerce se faisant entr’eux & les Juifs des Echelles de cette Côte, particulièrement de Salé, de Saphia & de SainteCroix, dont la principale attention est d'acheter les prises que font les Corsaires fur les Chrétiens, pour les revendre ensuite aux Juifs d'Amsterdam.

Ce sont ordinairement ces prises rachetées qui font les principaux retours de ces derniers : & ils font si habiles, qu'après en avoir déguisé les marchandises, soit en les mêlant avec d'autres, soit en les remballant d'une autre manière, soit en leur mettant d'autres marques, qu'ils ne craignent point d'aller les revendre dans quelques Ports de Portugal, & souvent même aux Marchands fur lesquels les prises avoient été faites.

Les Juifs de Livourne semblent être encore plus favorisés du Grand Duc, que ceux d'Amsterdam ne le font des Bourguemaîtres d'Amsterdam.

Non-seulement ils y ont une superbe Synagogue , où ils font les exercices de leur Religion en toute liberté, mais encore le Duc Ferdinand qui les y a établis, leur a accordé une Jurisdiction civile & criminelle qui leur est propre, dont eux-mêmes ont le pouvoir de créer les Magistrats , & de laquelle il n'y a appel que pardevant le Grand Duc , en cas de mal jugé.

On estime que les Juifs de Livourne y font présentement au nombre de plus de dix mille ; & ils ont une si grande part dans le Commerce qui se fait dans cette Ville célèbre, qu'on y respecte en quelque sorte leur jour de Sabbat ; personne ne se trouvant sur la place le samedi, & ne s'y faisant aucune affaire.

On estime que s'il se fait pour cent mille écu9 de commerce au Levant par les Marchands de Livourne, il y en a pourquarre-vingt-dix-huit mille pour les Juifs, & seulement deux mille écus qui le partagent entre les François, les Italiens, les Hollandois, les Anglois & Arméniens établis dans cette Ville.

Ce sont aussi les Juifs qui pour la plupart font les fonctions de Censaux ou de Courtiers. Vojez CENSAL.

On parle en plusieurs endroits de ce Dictionnaire du Commerce que les Juifs font dans le reste de l'Europe , en Asie & en Afrique. Voyez. l'Etat général du Commerce , Terne I.


Source : Jacques Savary des Bruslons, Philemon-Louis Savary, Jacques Estienne. Dictionnaire universel de commerce. 1741

Jews in Hampstead ahd Highgate, London, 1725

High-gate and Hamstead are next on the Northside; At the first is a very beautiful House built by the late Sir William Ashurst, on the very summit of the Hill, and with a view from the very lowest Windows over the whole Vale, to the City: And that so eminently, that they see the very Ships pasting up and down the River for 12 or 15 Miles below London. The Jews have particularly fixt upon this Town for their Country Retreats, and some of them are very Wealthy; they live there in good Figure, and have several Trades particularly depending upon them, and especially, Butchers of their own to supply them with Provisions kill'd their own way; also, I am told, they have a private Synagogue here.

Daniel Defoe. A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain. 1725

King of Denmark visits Livorno synagogue, 1709

No doubt a brilliant PR move by King Frederick IV of Denmark, whose principal enemies were Protestant, not Catholic. I am sure the visit helped keep the Jewish merchants in the Danish, rather than Swedish, camp.

"The Jews have a handsome Synagogue in this City [Leghorn/Livorno]. The King of Denmark being there in the Year 1709, would not go to any of the Roman Catholick Churches, but went to the Synagogue, as they say; of which they keep a Memorial in an Inscription on the Stair-case which goes up to it."


Edward Wright (Esq.). Some observations made in travelling: through France, Italy, &c. 1730. Page 373

Rotterdam Jews propose raising taxes in Dublin, 1768

My understanding is that tax farming is where a government outsources tax-raising to private business in return for a guaranteed income. The tax-farmer keeps the difference between what was raised and what was paid to the government. One advantage for the government is that the focus of unpopularity falls elsewhere. In Spain, Jews were often used as tax-farmers. Typically, all Jews are lumped together in this snippet.

THE Jews of Rotterdam have offered to farm the Revenues of Dublin at twenty thousand pounds per Annum. Several eminent Quakers are also willing to take them at that rent; but the undertaker has rejected their Proposals, being resolved to deal with none but Christians.


Jonathan Swift, John Hawkesworth, Deane Swift. The works of Dr. Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin: Volume 13. 1768. Page 398

Jews in Dublin, Ireland, 1786

It is not stated if these Jews are Sephardi or Ashkenazi. I believe there been Sephardi Jews in both Dublin and Cork a few decades earlier.

"Of the Jews there are but two or three families in Dublin, who have a Cemetery at Ballyboughbridge, but no synagogue or place of public worship."


William Wilson (topographer.). The post-chaise companion: or, Travellers directory through Ireland. 1786

Loyal Jewish Sermon in London, 1756

A glowing report of a sermon by Isaac Nieto, Haham of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews congregation of London, son of David Nieto. Contrast this with some of the negative stereotypes seen elsewhere. Needless to say, then as now, the community was too busy squabbling to notice.

22. Preached in the Jews Synagogue. By Isaac Netto [Isaac Nieto], Archisynagogus [possibly Haham, although he resigned the following year after a fight with members of the Bet Din over job titles] of the Portuguese Jews Synagogue.

This sermon was written originally in Spanish and is now translated by the Author into English. The translation is well executed, but there is a dignity in the Spanish, which makes us prefer the original to the copy: it is printed in both languages. There is, in this discourse, a strain of piety, goodness, and loyalty, that is greatly commendable. The practice of morality and benevolence is recommended as the great end of religion ; and the prayer for the King is such as any Christian may with pious pleasure pronounce, it being perfectly agreeable to the sentiments of every good citizen, whether Christian or Jew, who is a well-wisher to his country.


Ralph Griffiths, G. E. Griffiths. The Monthly review, or, Literary journal: Volume 14. 1756.

Cayenne and Suriname

Is it true that the Portuguese government approved a Jewish colony?

THE SCATTERED PEOPLE.—In 1639, David Nasci, a Portuguese Jew, obtained from the Portuguese India Company authority to form a Jewish colony at Cayenne [today capital of French Guiana, South America]. On the conquest of Cayenne by the French, in 1644, the Jews retired to Surinam, where their numbers prodigiously increased.


The Church of England Magazine, 1862

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Jews in Jamaica, 1778

8 or 900 Jews. Jamaica is perhaps the only place in the world where they have a country, since it is the only one where a right has been given them to carry arms for its defence: they have justified the confidence of the legislature in an invasion made by the French, where they behaved with a great deal of courage. The Jews possess several estates, and carry on an extensive trade, especially with the Spaniards. Their sobriety and manner of living make them come to a greater age in Jamaica than the other Whites; but one is sorry to find that they have carried to this island a spirit of division in their tenets which renders them sometimes unhappy, and often ridiculous.

The present state of the West-Indies
. 1778. Page 59

Jewish Exodus from Spain and Portugal, 1720-40

Mirabeau appears to say that 20,000 Sephardim left Iberia for England between 1720 and 1740. This figure seems very high.
It is a somewhat extraordinary circumstance, that the Spanish and Portuguese Israelites consider their German and Dutch brethren as vile remains of the tribe of Benjamin. With regard to themselves, they affirm that they are descended from the tribes which Nebuchadnezzar had transplanted to the banks of the Euphrates. The Arabian Caliphs, becoming masters of Asia, extended their conquest, by degrees, to Spain, where several Jewish families came to establish houses of commerce; and where they multiplied to such a degree, that, if we may believe them, all the families, both in Spain and Portugal, most distinguished for noble birth or opulence, are of Jewish extraction. The Spanish and Portuguese Christians warmly defend themselves from this imputation. They prefer, contrary to all probability, representing themselves as descended from Visigoth or Arian soldiers. Strange enough, for the Jewish race, being the most ancient, is consequently the noblest, in the world.

These Jewish families, after the establishment of the Inquisition, found means to compromise matters with that body. For money, and external conformity to the Christian religion, the inquisitors winked at them: they gave vent to their rage only against such fanatics as were obstinately determined to get themselves burnt. Tired of such a state of constraint, disgusted with the contempt which accompanied it, and allured by the tolerating spirit of the English, the Spanish and Portuguese Jews crossed the seas in great numbers, with immense wealth. From 1720 to 1740, the number exceeded twenty thousand.


Honoré-Gabriel de Riquetti Mirabeau. Mirabeau's letters during his residence in England: with anecdotes ..., Volume 2. 1832

Portuguese anti-Semitism and Sephardi arrogance

In Portugal the very name of Jew is a term of such high reproach, that the government enacted a law which forbade any person to call another by that appellation: if a man who was styled a Jew to his face, stabbed the offender, the law did not condemn him. When we consider the horrid persecutions with which these unhappy people were assailed in that country to drive them from their faith, and the tortures with which the inquisition was ready to receive those 'new Christians,' whom anguish and fear had cast violently into the pale of the Romish church, we cannot wonder that we find the Portuguese Israelites although preserving still a remembrance of the sunny country of their fathers' exile, so much more like their own land than our northern regions, should yet be found dwelling upon more hospitable shores, exiled even from that, which was in itself banishment.

The Spanish and Portuguese Jews (or the Sephardim as they are called) claim their descent from the tribe of Judah ; and found these pretensions on a supposition which prevails among them, that many of their ancestors removed, or were sent into Spain, at the time of the Babylonian captivity. In consequence of this supposed superiority, they would not until of late years, by marriage or otherwise, connect themselves with their brethren of other nations. They had separate synagogues,; and if a Portuguese Jew, even in England or Holland, married a German Jewess, he was immediately expelled from the synagogue, deprived of every civil and ecclesiastical rite, and ejected from the body of the nation.


Souce: Emanuel Hecht, Max E. Lilienthal. Synopsis of the history of the Israelites: from the time of Alexander. 1857.

Allegation of Sharp Practices by Jewish merchants trading from London, circa the 1630s

"Our merchants do much complain of some Portugal Jews here in London, that trade greatly for Spain, to their great prejudice. But this is not all: they do receive damage by them another way, as thus : a ship of London being laden with linen cloth at St. Malo, in France; this ship the French took, as she was homeward bound, and, searching what lading she had aboard, they find, by the bills of lading, some parcel of this linen cloth was consigned for Lisbon in Portugal, and to be first landed at Dover, to be shipped presently again to go for Spain. This landing of these French goods was only a deceit, to avoid the French king's edict, that no French commodity should go for Spain, under the penalty of forfeiture of the ship, and all the goods aboard her. This ship is carried to Boulogne, our merchants having near £6000 in her, which goods were to be brought up to London; but the other small parcels belonging to some Portugals have confiscated all. Our merchants complain ; but the French will not forego that advantage; so we lose all."

Cyprien (de Gamaches). The court and times of Charles the First. 1848
By

English report of the Expulsion from Spain, 1689

The English is a bit tortuous, but I think historians tend to accept that Jews went to Italy before settling in Islamic territories. I suppose, if nothing else, there wouldn't have been transport from Spain to their mortal enemies.
It is a matter of little moment to know whether the Jews that departed from Spain and Portugal retired amongst the Moors or elsewhere, since it is without doubt, that there are at this day Jews of the Spanish Rite in the Levant, who beside that of the Places where they reside, have still preserved their ancient Spanish Tongue. This is the ground of the present Dispute: and by this it is made appear, that it is not impossible that the Jews should retain their ancient Language where there is another that is vulgarly spoken. We see moreover, that the Portugal Jews of the Spanish Rite, who are settled at Amsterdam, do keep the Portugal, with the Language of the Country; and that their Rabbins do also preach in Portugaise in their Synagogue.

Furthermore, it is not true that all the Jews that were driven out of Spain and Portugal took refuge among the Moors: there were many that withdrew themselves into Italy, from whence some passed afterwards into the Levant. However it were, it is certain that there is at this day, in the Turkish Territories, a considerable number of Jews, who follow the Spanish Rite; and besides that of the Places where they remain, do speak their ancient Spanish Language. I believe also, that a Party of these Jews was in those Countries before those of their Nation were expelled out of Spain and Portugal.


Richard Simon (oratorien). Critical History of the Versions of the New Testament. 1689.

Fire near Bevis Marks synagogue in London, 1737

Maybe this article solves the mystery of who invented one of England's national dishes, fried fish.
On Friday in the Afternoon a Fire broke out in White Horse Yard, Dukes Place, near the Portuguese Jews Synagogue, occasion’d by a black Woman, that was dressing some Fish after the manner of the jews, in which they use Oil, which by Carelesness boil'd over into the Fire; and, for the want of Water, consum'd by the nearest Computation upwards of 20 Houses, and part of Dr. Watts's Meeting House, and damaged several other Gentlemen's Houses thereabout. We bear that two Children and a young Women of 20 Years of Age, perished in the Flames and several others were much bruised. The Right Hon. the Lord Mayor was present, to give Orders to blow up what Houses should be thought necessary to prevent its spreading any farther; but having just before, and then, a Plenty of Water, the Fire was got under by Seven o' Clock. The Inhabitants sent to the Tower for a Party of Soldiers to keep the Mob off.

We hear that Mr. Isaac Delvalle's Collection of Books, deem'd worth about 700L was consumed in the said dreadful Fire.

On Monday the Portuguese Jews met in their Council Chamber by their Synagogue, for the Relief of tbe Poor who were burnt out of their Houses by the Fire the Friday before, when a Collection was made, which amounted to 1200£, and upwards.

Source: Laurence Clarke, Samuel Butler. Exposition on the Common prayer. 1737

False alarm of Ritual Murder in Italy, 1721

It is interesting that as late as 1721, when people were more-or-less modern they were still living with accusations of ritual murder. Perhaps this helps explain Protestant disdain towards Catholicism, and perhaps why Sephardi Jews ended principally in non-Catholic countries.

In the case below, I suspect the Papal States were concerned the ritual murder rumous might be bad for business. Also, they wanted to keep control.

I can't help noticing that the Notary's name sounds Spanish.
Having in the last Register, Page 260, inserted an Account concerning the Jews at Ferrara, which appeal's altogether groundless, and Letters from that City assuring us, that no Jews of that Place have been committed to the Prison of the Inquisition, nor accus'd of the Murder of any Child, or of any other Misdemeanor, nor of any Thing contrary to the Respect due to the Christian Religion, or the Fidelity and Submission they owe to their Sovereign- the Pope : That Felix Coen, mention'd in the said Account, and all the other Jews in Ferrara, enjoy a full and entire Liberty and Tranquillity ; and, in a Word, that it was a most malicious and false Contrivance, which might have occasion'd the Death of a World of innocent People, as appears by the following Decree of the Inquisition of Sinigaglia, where the common People had begun to insult the Jews, and would, in all Probability, have proceeded farther, had not that Tribunal interpos'd their Authority, by publishing the said Decree, which is as follows:

THE Rumour spread in this City, that the Jews of Ferrara have murder'd a Christian in that Part of the Town they inhabit, with several Circumstances altogether contrary to our Holy Faith, having given Occasion to some Christians to reproach, insult, and abuse the Jews of this City, and to threaten them with farther Resentment ; and there being certain Advice, by a Letter from the most Reverend Father Inquisitor of Ferrara, dated the 2nd Instant, and directed to the most Reverend Father Inquisitor of Ancona, that the said Report is notoriously false and groundless: For these Causes we have thought fit to give Notice thereof to the Publics by these Presents, forbidding every Body to rail at, abuse, or insult the Jews in any Manner whatsoever, upon Pain of Imprisonment, and other arbitrary Punishment, as the Superiors shall think fit, even upon the Deposition of one single Witness. Therefore we exhort every Body to pay ready Obedience to this Order, that they may not incur the Penalties aforesaid. .-.

Given at Sinigaglia, July 14, 1721.

Sign'd,

Settimio Cinueh, Vicar-General
Fr. J. B. Badalini, Vicar of the Holy Office of the Inquisition
Bernando Mostrada, Notary


Source: The Historical Register, 1721

Jews of Constantinople, 1784

The report below suggests that in 1784 Jews lived better in Constantinople than London. If so, it was probably the end of the era. Between the usual anti-Semitic nonsense it shows the Jews' role as (essentially powerless) middlemen.
The Jews wear drawers and slippers of a sky-blue colour, their turban is totally different from the Christians, and they have two bunches of hair hanging down by the sides of their ears. These people are very fond of appearing what they are, lest they should be mistaken for Christians. But there are some privileged persons, both Greeks and Jews, who are allowed to wear yellow slippers, and scarlet drawers, the fame as the Mussulmen; but these are the dragomen to ambassadors, and the Metzellemins, who pay no annual tribute.

The Jews come next under our consideration. Their number in and about Constantinople is astonishing; they reckon 40,000 families, which, upon a moderate computation, makes 200,000 persons. They are subject to a kind of aristocratical government among themselves. They have a class of men whom they call Cajams [Haham?], they are doctors of their law, and to them they submit the decision of all common causes which occasion any differences between them ; and it seldom or ever happens that they appeal from the sentences of those judges to the Turkish tribunals. They possess great riches, and live as much, if not more at their ease, than their brethren at London ; for the Turks esteem them far beyond Christians. They carry on every branch of art and commerce, from which they acquire their opulence.

There is not a Turkish house at Constantinople of any note, but what has Jews familiar in the family. One may judge from this of the number and quality of their protectors; a circumstance which makes them haughty and insolent to the Greeks and other Christians. All the under-officers of the custom-house are Jews, who make very considerable gains. The factor to the Agha of the Janissaries is a Jew, and perhaps the most considerable in the city. Though they are held in slavery, not being suffered to purchase lands, they have a strong tincture of ambition, and love to lord it over their inferiors, by the strength of their riches. A prodigious number, as in other capital cities, follow the profitable business of exchange-brokers, money-scriveners, and dealers in jewels. Their intercourse with the Turks of rank gives them a knowledge of their private circumstances, and of their secrets; a science which they turn to very good account as pimps and spies. A foreign ambassador may know more of the state of the Turkish cabinet by gratifying the avarice of a Jew, that being his ruling passion, than from any other quarter whatever.


Source: Elias Habesci. The present state of the Ottoman empire. 1784.

British cloth trade with Turkey, 1753

The piece below shows the mistrust the Christian English merchants had for the their Jewish opposite numbers. My impression is that the underlying fear is that the Jewish merchants in London and those in Constantinople would cooperate to squeeze out the Christians.

I don't know about the claim that the Jews might supply French rather than English cloth to the Turks. The English merchants fancifully suggest that the Jews might actually replace the French as competitors of the English. They are at pains to say that being of a different religion should not be a bar to doing business, but this is hardly surprising if they are planning to trade with Muslim Turks through the agency of Sephardic Jews and Armenian Christians.
The JEWS now desired to be admitted into a share of the trade, and the demand of the generality of the people was for an open commerce, or a limitation of the charter granted to the TURKEY company: the JEWS were strongly objected to, particularly by those members of the company who had most experience in the trade. The consideration of difference in religion among people subject to one common government, does not seem essential in commercial affairs, nor is it regarded much in our EUROPEAN trade; but the great influence they are supposed to have in ASIA, created an insuperable difficulty to their admittance. It seemed natural to believe, that by admitting no other JEWS than those of LONDON, and placing these under the fame common restrictions as other subjects, .that they would employ their power in favour of this nation, under whose government they are happy. It appeared however on this occasion, as if they were doomed to be excluded on account of their religion, at least it seemed a hard supposition, that EUROPEAN JEWS mould be at the bottom of all schemes against EUROPEAN trade with ASIA, as was then alledged. It was further objected, that the JEWS in CONSTANTINOPLE would promote a monopoly of the TURKEY commodities with the JEWS in ENGLAND, to the prejudice of the other subjects of this nation, and that the JEWISH factors abroad would underwork the CHRISTIANS: it was also urged, that the influence of the JEWS, arising from their great riches, would have too great a weight in the commercial scale. But was not this an acknowledgment that they were bold traders, possessed of large capitals, and would be contented with small profits? if it was, and that the trade was really in danger of being loft to this nation, were not these the very people who bid fairest to rival the FRENCH? There was yet a further objection, that they might go to market to MARSEILLES for their cloths, and only bring their silk here: even this might be preferable to the loss of the trade, for all commodities which we manufacture at home, are certainly great national benefits: but it was reasonable to imagine, that the JEWS under the protection of the BRITISH crown, might be restrained to a subjection to BRITISH laws, as well in commerce as in civil society in general.

It was however allowed, that the JEWS who reside in TURKEY are, for the most part, an immoral people, and have by a kind of confederacy established an exorbitant brokerage of i or more per cent. as it were by inheritance; and this reason, joined to others of the like nature, induced the FRENCH to stipulate with the TURKS, that they might not be obliged to employ JEWS. The debate, which at this time ran high, was at length reduced to this issue, viz. whether the liberty of trading to TURKEY should be granted to all his majesty's subjects, or to all his christian subjects only; and whether it should be made an open trade, or continue exclusive under the restrictions the legislature might judge necessary. Upon this occasion the following bill for enlarging and regulating the trade to the LEVANT seas was proposed to the parliament.

Source: Jonas Hanway. An historical account of the British trade over the Caspian sea. 1753.

Jews in Ancona, 1766

[Ancona] “is frequented by some merchants from all parts, and about 2000 Jews arc settled there, who are distinguished by a red piece of taffaty which covers the top of their hats.”

Source: John Northall. Travels through Italy. 1766.

Sinigaglia in 1766

"SENIGALLIA [Sinigaglia]. … The town is meanly fortified, and has a small harbour, with several good houses. It is well peopled, and contains about 7000 inhabitants, including the Jews, who have their ward apart."

Source: John Northall. Travels through Italy. 1766.

Jews of Venice, 1766

“There are about 4000 Jews, who have seven synagogues, and live at the farther end of the city in three ghetto or streets, which are shut up, each with two gates.”

Source: John Northall. Travels through Italy. 1766.

Jews of Mantua, 1766

"The Jews have a pretty synagogue in this city, where they live cleaner and more comfortable than we have observed them in other places."

Source: John Northall. Travels through Italy. 1766.

Jews of Rome, 1766

THE Jews in this city are indulged in the use of synagogues ; but are obliged to live all together in the Ghetto *, as they call such places in the cities of Italy. At nine o'clock every evening the gates of the place where they live are shut up, and opened again in the morning ; but at Easter they are locked up from Thursday in passion-week 'till the Monday following, during which time no Jew dares to be seen abroad. When they appear in the streets they are distinguished by a piece of yellow silk, or crape, on the crown of their hats, and are subject to a great penalty if seen without it. They are most of them very poor, and little respect is paid to the richest of them. Their synagogue has a mean appearance; yet it has some sine apartments, adorned with a great number of silver lamps.

These places have several little streets, and a synagogue; but the gates at the several entrances are all shut about sun-set. Wright, p. 31

Source: John Northall. Travels through Italy. 1766.

Jews of Livorno, 1766

INDEED the Jews and Armenians are generally brokers and factors for all nations at Leghorn [Livorno]. Their brokerage-fees are half per cent, both for sales and purchases: they have half per 1000 for exchanges, and a fourth per cent, for insurances of entry.

THE number of inhabitants within the walls are reckoned 40,000, including 10,000 Jews*. The streets are very regular, broad, and well paved ; and there are a great number of good buildings, especially in that part called New Venice.

* Other say, there are 18,000 Jews at Leghorn, which is called their paradise; for, except living by themselves in one particular part of it be reckoned a hardship, they enjoy all manner of freedom; without any ignominious mark of distinction. Keysler, p. 392

Source: John Northall. Travels through Italy. 1766.

No Jews in Genoa, 1766

"There are no Jews tolerated at Genoa which makes the other Italians say, the Genoese are so cunning, that it would be impossible for a Jew to get bread among them."

Source: John Northall. Travels through Italy. 1766.

Jews of Nice, 1800

The shopkeepers of this place are generally poor, greedy, and over-reaching. Many of them are bankrupts of Marseilles, Genoa, and other countries, who have fled from their creditors to Nice; which being a free port, affords an asylum to foreign cheats and sharpers of every denomination. Here is likewise a pretty considerable number of Jews, who live together in a street appropriated for their use, which is shut up every night. They act as brokers; but are generally poor, and deal in frippery, remnants, old clothes, and old household furniture.

Tobias George Smollett. Miscellaneous works: with memoirs of his life and writings. 1800

Jews of Rome, 1714

"The Jews at Rome enjoy'd some Measure of Liberty, and liv'd somewhat easily before the Pontificate of Paul IV [He was Pope from 1555-1559]; but that Pope was a terrible Enemy to 'em: For whereas before they were permitted to live in any Part of the City, he confin'd 'em to one Corner of it, whither he order'd 'em to retire at the Close of the Evening. He fore'd 'em to sell their Possessions, and suffer'd 'em only to trade in old Clothes, or old Goods. He commanded 'em, for a Mark of Distinction, to wear yellow Hats, and issu'd out an express Prohibition, That no Christians shou'd either eat or converse with 'em. I am inform'd, that by a Decree of Gregory XIII, they were oblig'd, or at least a certain Number of 'em, to hear a Christian Sermon every Saturday in the Afternoon, but I have not yet had an Opportunity to see that Assembly. The Italian Jews, and particularly those of Rome, as some of them assur'd me, do scrupulously observe the Law that enjoins 'em to marry at Twenty Years of Age at farthest, under the Pain of Ignominy, and being treated as Persons living in Sin. The Number of the Jews at Rome may at present amount to about Seven or Eight Thousand, according to the vulgar Computation.


The Author of la Roma Santa affirms, that the Jews stink, and that their noisome Smell vanishes . after they are baptiz'd. ( Cosa maravigliosa, che ricevuto il Sto Battesimo non puzzano più ) I know not why this shou'd be reckon'd wonderful for those who are to be baptiz'd are so carefully wash d and cleans'd, that they must needs become sweet, tho' they really stunk before. But 'tis ridiculous to imagine that the Jews, as being Jews, have a peculiar Smell. The Jews at Rome are very poor; those who are poor are always nasty, and those who are nasty, usually stink: That is the Mystery. 'Tis also a vulgar Error that the Jews are all black; for this is only true of the Portuguese Jews, who marrying always among one another, beget Children like themselves, and consequently the Swarthiness of their Complexion is entail'd upon their whole Race, even in the Northern Regions. But the Jews who are originally of Germany; those, for Example, I have seen at Prague, are not blacker than the rest of their Countrymen."

Source: Maximilien Misson. A new voyage to Italy. 1714. Pages 138-139

Jews in Altona / Hamburg, 1746

"It is a common Maxim amongst Merchants,that no Town can enjoy a flourishing Trade, except its Inhabitants permit the Jews to settle amongst them. This Maxim, as it should seem, has prevailed in Hamburg; since there arc above thirty-five Thousand Jews in that City. Many of these inhabit Part of the New Town, towards Altena. The Streets occupied by the Jews are pretty large, but consist of very poor Houses. They have here, as in other Places, several Marks of Distinction, by which they are easily known."
The estimated Jewish population, which would have been Ashkenazi as well as Sephardi, may be exaggerated in this report.

Source: Edward Harley Oxford (Earl of).The Harleian miscellany. 1746.

Monday, 21 November 2011

English cleric's view of Jews pretending to be Christians, 1676


This extract from The Present State of the Jews by Lancelot Addison, a chaplain to King Charles II was published in 1676. Addison spent seven years as a chaplain in Tangier, although apparently sections of his book are simply repetitions of the translation of an earlier work by Johannes Buxtorf.

I have absolutely no idea why they illustrated the book with an Indian.

I think there is some interesting, and funny, stuff in here. I am surprised Addison is sanctimonious. I would think an Englishman of that time would have a good understanding of the need to bend in the wind to survive. Perhaps a plagiarist shouldn’t be so self-righteous.

“And yet it cannot be denied but that there are several Jews who make use of a scandalous complyance in this particular. Of which sort are many of those who coming within the cognizance and power of the Papal Inquisition, can joyn themselves to a Crucifix and Rosary, as well as to the Zizith and Tephillim.

And I am assured that some Jews have gone herein so far as to enter into Holy Orders, and the Profession of a Religious Life, who yet coming to places where the Jews have publick Toleration, have joyned themselves to the Synagogue.

And of this, we have a very late instance of two Jews, who in Spain having for several years professed the Religion of Saint Dominique coming to Legorn in their Fryar-Habits, they instantly changed their Cowl for a Ganephe, and of idle Fryers became progging Jews.

Another Jew (of my acquaintance, who for about five years had studied Physick at Saragoza in Spain) being asked how he could comply with the Religion, he merrily made this reply, That his complyance was only the work of his Nerves and Muscles, and that his Anatomy told him nothing of the heart was therein concerned.

Another Jew who in Malaga counterfeited Christianity so well as to be intrusted with the Sale of Indulgences, having made a good Market thereof in Spain, came with what he had left to a Christian City in Barbary, where his Indulgences being all bought up by the Irish and others of the Papal persuasion, he declared his Religion. The Papists who had bought his Indulgences impeach him to the Governor for a Cheat, and clamour to have him punished according to demerit. The Jew pleaded the Laws of the free Port, that he had neither imported nor sold any thing but his professed Merchandise, and therefore desired (and obtained) the Liberty and Priviledges of such as traffick'd to that Port. I report nothing but matter of personal knowledg.”

Spanish Prince tries to attract Jewish merchants to Naples, 1740

Naples was conquered by the Spanish prince, the Duke of Parma (future Charles III of Spain, pictured). He was crowned King of Naples and Sicily in 1735. The proclamation below, dated 1740, appears to have been a serious attempt to attract Jewish merchants, possibly from Livorno. He was offering freedom of worship, freedom of movement, freedom of trade, immunity from extradition to face Inquisition persecution and numerous other rights that must have been utterly shocking to conservative opinion back in Spain.

Given that he was a future king of Spain (albeit a Bourbon, and great-grandson of Louis XIV of France) it is remarkable that he was making a play for Jewish business just twenty after the Inquisition killing-machine was at the peak of its activities. It suggests Charles was, at least, was pragmatic and brave. He later, unsuccessfully, tried to modernise Spain.

Whatever his good intentions, the Jews didn’t take the bait. This is hardly surprising given the context, but it raises a number of historical “what ifs”. I like Charles III.

On the Trade of Naples

THIS Capital of the Kingdom of the same Name, is a Place of great Trade, and the Goodness of its Port attracts vast Numbers of foreign Vessels to it, but in order still to increase its Commerce, and raise it to the highest Pitch possible, Don Carlos, the present King, has invited the Jews to settle there, by granting them several very great and singular Privileges, as will appear by the following Edict published on the Third of Februarys 1740, by Order of his Sicilian Majesty, viz.

I. It is granted to all Merchants or others of the Hebrew Nation, a full and absolute Safe-guard, Faculty and Permission, to come, remain, traffick, pass on,, or stay, with or without their Families, in our Kingdoms and States, as also to depart, and return, without any Obstacle, both in regard of their Effects, and Persons; and this for the Term of fifty Years next following, to commence the first Day of this; declaring that the fiftieth Year being expired, there shall yet be granted five others, during which, if it be the good Pleasure of his Majesty, or his Successors, to abrogate the present Licence at the End of the fifth Year, they may freely, and without Hindrance, regulate all their Affairs, &c. we willing, that no extraordinary Duty be exacted from them on the Departure of their Ships, Vessels, Horses, Carriages, &c.

II. If any Hebrews coming from other Kingdoms or Countries to ours, shall be accused in those States from whence they came, of having committed some enormous Action, or Crime there, for which they have been prosecuted ; as also in cafe that they were disguised as Christians, and had feigned to be of this Religion, we annul and make void the Causes of such Accusation, and will not permit that they be called to account for it, in our Dominions, on any Pretext whatsoever; in fine, we grant to the said Hebrews, the free Exercise of their Ceremonies, Solemnities, Use and Customs, according to the Jewish Laws, prohibiting their wearing publickly Cloaks, or other distinguishing Dress, under any Denomination whatsoever.

III. That the Hebrews shall not be subject to any Registry or consular Jurisdiction, nor to any Company of Tradesmen; but if any Difference arises between a Christian and a Jew, on some Affair concerning Arts and Trades, the Judge Delegate, who shall be named for this Purpose, shall be deemed a competent one, and decide it.

IV. We grant to the Hebrews and their Families, who shall establish their Residence in our States, to enjoy, in respect of their Commerce, either at home or abroad, the same Privileges, Franchises, and Immunities, which the other Citizens or Inhabitants of the said Cities or Places, do, or may enjoy.

V. That all their Moveables or Ornaments making a Part of their Apparel, acquired either within or without our Dominions, shall be exempt from paying any Customs, or Duty of Passage, at their Importation or Exportation.

VI. There shall be a Judge Delegate at Naples, Palermo, and Messina; and a Magistrate appointed at Messina as at Naples, who shall judge of the Differences that shall arise between a Christian and a Jew, or between two yews, in case that the Crimes merit a severer Chastisement than confining or banishing; and in other Cases, that they be carried exclusively before their People of the Law, and if they are wronged or aggrieved, they may recur to the Royal Protection of his Majesty.

VII. This Article regards the Punishment to be inflicted on the Jews, who shall frequent or keep Company with either Christians, Turk, or Moor.

VIII. This is to prevent the false Accusations, which may be intended against the Jews.

IX. If there happens any disastrous Accident to a Hebrew, that should oblige him to fail, and that he falls into Penury, so as to disable him from paying his Debts; in this Cafe the Merchandize, Bills of Exchange, and other Effects, or Money appertaining to any Correspondent, shall not be stopt to satisfy his said Debts.

X. Is relative to the Dowry of married Women.

XI. On the Subject of Sequestrations obtained against the Jews.

XII. Concerning the Validity of the Securities which the Jews shall give, when they shall be obliged to leave the Kingdom.

XIII. Permits the Hebrews to have all Sorts of Books, after being (however) inspected by their Delegate.

XIV. and XV. Favour the Jewish Physicians.

XVI. Grants them a publick Synagogue.

XVII. Leaves them at Liberty in regard of their Wills.

XVIII. In regard to Contracts of Purchase and Sale, or in Trade, in relation to the Jews in our Dominions, the Sales shall not be held as perfected, till after a Writing has passed between the Buyer and Seller, under their Hands, and confirmed by a Notary, or two Witnesses ; provided that if between Merchants in the Retail Way, at Fairs, Markets, &c. they be made without these Formalities, they shall have all Force, according to the usual Custom and Law, in regard to the other Inhabitants.

XXV. We grant to the Jews all the Favours, Privileges, and Faculties, enjoyed by the other Merchants of this Kingdom; they may exercise all Sorts of Trades, and Traffick; but it shall not be permitted them, after the Manner of our Subjects, to cry about the Streets, old Cloaths to fell: Though the Jews have Leave to sell and buy every one in particular, in his own House or Shop; none of them or their Family shall be obliged to wear any Mark that they may be known by.

XXXI. The Merchandize of the Jews, and of their Correspondents, and their Persons, coming to any Place whatsoever in our Ports, shall be free, as well in their Merchandizes and Persons, as the Ship which brings them, on Payment of the ordinary Customs, Gabelles, and Taxes, even when they have no Passport, provided that it appears by the Vessel's Documents, that it was destined with its Goods for one of our Ports, and no Magistrate or Officer shall molest either the Ships or any of the Effects; but on the contrary, shall observe our present Privilege, and in case of Disobedience, shall be punished, and all the Merchandizes restored to the Jews, with Charges and Expences, without any Hindrance real or personal.

XXXV. We grant to the Jews six Warehouses for their Use in the Customhouse of Naples Rent-free, since we consider them as our own Subjects; they may have also the like, in the other Customhouses of bur Kingdoms for their Conveniency, equally with the other Burgesses and Inhabitants, in Proportion to their Number and Trade, according to the Informations that their Declaration shall give in; and in case that the Magazines of the Customhouse are not sufficiently large to contain their Goods, it shall be permitted the Jews to hire others to their Liking, under the Guard and Inspection of the Customhouse Officers, enjoying the Privilege of Portos Francos, as if their Effects were inclosed in the Offices of the Customhouse.
Source : Wyndham Beawes, Jacques Savary, Jacques Savary des Brûlons. Lex mercatoria rediviva, or, The merchant's directory. Page 610-611

Jews of Morea / Peloponnese, 1689

This snippet is from an English traveller in 1689. I suspect the Jews are not Spanish and Portuguese.
There are also a great many Jews, who for the most part are Merchants and Shop-keepers, living but poorly.
Bernard Randolph. The present state of the Morea: called anciently Peloponnesus. 1689. Pages 16-17.

Agrinio, Arta and Patras on the Ionian coast, 1816

More now-forgotten Jewish communities on the west coast of Greece.

Janina, 6th of Alonari, (July) 1816.

Vrachori [Agrinio], the residence of Elmas the governor, and the modern capital of Ætolia or Carleli, is said to have been founded and reared by Jews driven from Lepanto and other places in that quarter; but this is probably an error, for the Jews always take up their abode in towns already established, and are never known to form new colonies. The town, nevertheless, contains 120 persons, of the Hebrew nation, authorised to have a synagogue. Three churches, and as many mosques appropriated to the use of 600 families, Christian and Mahametan. The Turks live on the revenue of their military lands and pensions; the Greeks are wholly engaged in agriculture, so that the trade in silk, the only proper business of Vrachori, is altogether in the hands of the Jews. The bazars presented but a few poorly furnished shops; and on the river Thermissus, which passes a mile east from the town, are established tanneries for the manufacture of red and yellow morocco-leather.



The extinction of the Jews of Patras is chiefly ascribed to the brutal treatment they received from the Turks during the dreadful pestilence of 1756, when they were forced into a walled inclosure, and there they perished by contagion and famine; war in such a condition would have been welcomed as a mercy.



The town [Arta, Greece] contains also the residence of the archbishop, with twenty-six Greek churches, seven synagogues, and five mosques; circumstances announcing a place of no small extent and population. Still, the inhabitants did not exceed 7000 Greeks, 1000 Jews, originally from the south of Italy, and 800 Mahometans, up to the breaking out of the pestilence of 1816.


François Charles Hugues Laurent Pouqueville. Travels in southern Epirus, Acarnania, Ætolia, Attica, and Peloponesus. 1816. Page 40.

Patras and the Albanian trade, 1813

At various points Patras, situated on the northern Peloponnese on the Gulf of Corinth was ruled by the Genoese and Venetians. Apart from 1687–1715, when the Venetians re-established themselves, this area was ruled by the Turks and their vassals. Possibly the Jews arrived during the Venetian rule and remained.
"Patras is governed by a bey, subject to the pasha of the Morea; the town contains a great number of Jews, who are the principal commercial agents; almost all business in this way passes through their hands. France names a commercial agent who receives no salary, but all ships of the country which stop here make him some present; they also pay an anchorage, though it cannot be exacted. The drogmans are all Jews, who eagerly seek after an office which they know very well how to turn to a good account. To judge by one of these good people, by name Solomon, they do no great honour to the languages they pretend to speak: the French, as he called it, which he spoke was a terrible mix of the Provençal and Barbary languages, pronounced with so strange and discordant an accent, that it was no very easy matter to comprehend what he meant to say."
Pouqueville comments that French trade has done very well in Albania over the preceding ten years. The merchants of Ancona and Sinigaglia pass their shoddy products off as French. While the locals still prefer Venetian-supplied muskets from Brescia to the French product, the Jews can’t compete with the French. I suspect the situation changed within the year once formerly embargoed British products entered the market.

François Charles Hugues Laurent Pouqueville. Travels in the Morea, Albania, and other parts of the Ottoman empire. 1813

Amsterdam and Freedom

A book about Abbé Nudham was published in Brussels in 1783, so I would guess the story below is from the mid 18th Century. It has a ring of truth. And it made me laugh.

Observations on the Portuguese

It is remarked, that one-third of the Portuguese nation, though they profess themselves to be catholics, are in reality Jews; that are an infinite number of them so, the following little narrative, as related by Abbé Nudham, who died some time since at Brussels, will strongly confirm:

The Abbé, some time since, was passing from Lisbon to Amsterdam, on a Dutch bottom; among many other passengers, were a large and opulent Portuguese, who frequently called on the Abbé for his spiritual assistance, at which time, they counted their beads, and appeared righteous over-much; nor had the good Abbé the least doubt, but they were as sincerely devout, as he himself was – But they had no sooner arrived so near the city of Amsterdam as to perceive that neither wind or weather could prevent their being safely landed, than they took out their beads, their breviaries, crucifixes, &c. &c. and, in the face of the Abbé, threw them all into the sea, observing to him, that “now it was high time to have done with such trifles.”


Gleanings of Wit, From the Works of an Old Military Officer. 1805. Pages 79-80

Coffee arrives in England from Turkey, 1651

Coffee was introduced into England from Turkey in 1651 by "Jacob", a Jew who presumably had contacts or experience of the Ottoman Empire. He started trading in Oxford, then moved to Southampton Buildings in Holborn in London. That area is overwhelmed by coffee shops today, but not sure what Jacob would think about the quality.

"It has been held by many respectable authorities, that coffee was first brought to England in 1652 by Mr. Edwards, a member of the Turkey Company, and that his servant was the first who opened a house for publicly vending it as a drink; but it appears from the following extracts from the Life of Wood, the antiquarian, that a coffee-house had been opened at Oxford a year or two sooner. “In 1651 one Jacob, a Jew, opened a coffee-house at the Angel, in the parish of St. Peter, in the East Oxon, and there it was, by some who delighted in noveltie, drunk. When he left Oxon, he sold it in Old Southampton Buildings, in Holborne, neare London, and was living there in 1671.”

William Milburn. Oriental commerce, Vol 2. 1813. Page 530.

Indian Jews using Amsterdam prayer books, 1816


Bishop Middleton, the first Bishop of Calcutta - whose diocese covered all India - visited the Cochin Jews at Mattancherry in 1816. What caught my eye is that this community was using prayer books imported all the way from Amsterdam.

I wonder how early contact was made between the European Sephardim and the Cochin Jews. Presumably there were secret Jews in the Portuguese colony of Goa. Also, Sephardi diamond merchants are known to have been in Madras in the late 17th Century.

"The year 1816 was chiefly spent by the Bishop in visiting his widespread diocess. He proceeded first to Madras, next to Bombay; but as no journal appears to have been kept of his progress, the particulars which the author gives of it are few and not very satisfactory. On his return to Calcutta he touched at Goa, and also at Cochin, near which is Mattencherry [Mattancherry], the residence of a sect of Jews, whose history is curious. The town is altogether unlike any other in India; the streets are regular, the houses, which are in general two stories high, have doors and windows after the European fashion and are repeatedly whitewashed; the countenances of their inhabitants are perfectly fair, compared with the Indian face in general, and yet they have all the Jewish physiognomy. Their synagogue is like those of the Jews in Europe, and their history is as follows:-
‘Their history, according to their own account, is this: that they belong to the tribe of Benjamin, Judah and half Mannasseh, and that their forefathers left Sappanat (probably the same with Sepharad mentioned in Obadiah 20) after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus; that they originally dwelt at Cragnore, from which they were driven by the Inquisition of Goa about 300 years since; and that soon after they were settled at Cochin, they assisted the Dutch against the Portugeuse. With regard to the dispersion of their nation, one story current among them is, that the ten tribes are to this day beyond the river Sambattin [Sambation], which is continually throwing up stones and earth to prevent their return; except on the Sabbath, on which day, as their law forbids them to stir, the miracle is suspended! They all believe that they shall be restored to the Holy Land in peace, in the year 1839, and that the temple is then to be rebuilt by the freemasons, with Solomon at their head. They are perfectly enraged at the mention of Jesus as the Messiah. They have a high veneration for the book of Job; and believe the house of Esau to be the Christians! Shiloh they interpret as the name of a city, and the prophesy which says, his name shall be called Emmanuel, they apply to Hezekiah. They read the whole psalter frequently in their houses; the ninety-first psalm every night. They follow the customs of the Portuguese Jews, and have their books from Amsterdam.’ – vol. i. pp. 261, 262."


Source: Life of Dr. Middleton. Published in The Monthly review. 1831. Page 540.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

“Mortifying Ceremony to which the Jews are subject in Rome”, 1769

I think that the Roman Jews follow their own, Italian, minhag rather than those of Spain & Portugal. The account below is fascinating; a piece of medieval theatre in Enlightenment Europe.

At the time of the possesso [I think, Papal coronation] the Jews in Rome are subject to a very mortifying ceremony, but strictly kept up. Near Titus’s triumphal arch, the rabbis and elders of the Ghetto stand in a place fitted up at their expence. As the pope is on his solumn procession to St. John de Lateran, they step forth, and on their knees offer him the Pentateuch in a basin full of gold and silver coins. The pope, making a stop, touches the basin with a wand, and performs the like ceremony on the head and shoulders of the chief rabbi, in token that he accepts of the Jews homage, and allows them to remain in Rome during his pontificate.


Annual Register, 1770. Page 169

Roman Inquisition, 1843


This is an edict from the Roman Inquisition dated 1843. This is the same year the British were launching metal hulled ships and Verdi was writing opera. All other Inquisition had been abolished, even in Spain.

The Roman Inquisition was active in the Papal States, that part of Italy directly ruled by the Pope. The Pope at that time was the reactionary Gregory XVI (right) who even opposed gas lighting and railways. The edict was an international public relations disaster for the Catholic Church. Its mean-mindedness will have made life harder for Jews in Ancona and Sinigaglia, and no doubt some of them emigrated.

We, Fra Vicenzo Salina, of the Order of Predicatori, Master in Theology, General Inquisitor in Ancona, Sinigaglia, Jesi, Osinio, Cingoli, Macerata, Tolentino, Loreto, Recanati, and other towns and districts, &c.

It being deemed necessary to revive the full observance of the disciplinary laws relative to the Israelites residing within our jurisdiction, and having hitherto without effect employed prayers and exhortations to obtain obedience to those laws in the Ghetti (Jewries) of Ancona and Sinigaglia, authorized by the despatch of the Sacred and Supreme Inquisition of Rome, dated June 10, 1843, expressly enjoining and commanding the observance of the decrees and pontifical constitutions, especially in respect to Christian nurses and domestic servants, or to the sale of property either in towns or country districts, purchased and possessed previously to 1827, as well as subsequently to that period, we decree as follows:—

1. From the interval of two months after the date of this day, all gipsy and Christian domestics, male and female, whether employed by day or by night, must be dismissed from service, in the said two Ghetti; and all Jews residing within our jurisdiction are expressly prohibited from employing any Christian nurse, or availing themselves of the service of any Christian in any domestic occupation whatever, under pain of being immediately punished according to the Pontifical decrees and constitutions.

2. That all Jews who may possess property, either in town or country, permanent or moveable, or rents or interest, or any right involving shares in funded property, or leased landed property, must within the term of three months from this day dispose of it by a positive and real, and not by any pretended and factitious, contract. Should this not be done within the time specified, the Holy Office is to sell the same by public auction, on proof of the annual harvest being got in.

3. That no Hebrew nurses, and still less any Hebrew family, shall inhabit the city, or reside in, or remove their property into, any town or district where there is no Ghetto (place of residence for Jews); and that such as may actually be there in contumacy to the laws must return to their respective Ghetto within the peremptory period of six months, otherwise they will be proceeded against according to the tenour of the law.

4. That, especially in any city where there is a Ghetto, no Hebrew must presume to associate at table with Christians, either in public houses or ordinaries, out of the Ghetto.

5. That, in a city which has a Ghetto, no Hebrew shall sleep out of the Israelite quarter, nor make free to enter into familiar conversation in a Christian house.

6. That no Hebrew shall take the liberty, under any pretext whatever, to induce male Christians, and still less female Christians, to sleep within the boundaries of the Ghetto.

7. That no Hebrew shall hire Christians, even only by the day, to work in their houses in the Ghetto.

8. That no Hebrew, either male or female, shall frequent the houses of Christians, or maintain friendly relations with Christian men or women.

9. That the laws shall remain in force respecting the decorum to be observed by the Hebrews who may absent themselves from their Ghetto, to travel in other parts of the state.

10. That all Hebrews are expressly prohibited from trafficking in sacred ornaments, or books of any kind, and from purchasing, reading, or keeping possession of prohibited hooks of any sort, under the penalty of 100 scudi and seven years' imprisonment; and they who may have such articles in their possession must surrender them to the tribunal of the Holy Inquisition; and in case of failing to do so, they will be subject to the above-mentioned penalty.

11. That the Hebrews, in conveying their dead to the place of burial, shall not observe any pomp or ceremony, and must especially abstain from singing psalms, or carrying torches or lighted tapers through the streets without the boundaries of the Ghetto, under pain of forfeiting the torches and tapers, and suffering other punishments, to which the nearest relative of the deceased will be condemned.

They who violate the above articles will incur some or all of the penalties prescribed in the edicts of the Holy Inquisition. And in order that no one may be ignorant of the dispositions above decreed, they shall be formally communicated to the deputies and representatives of the Israelite community of this Ghetto of Ancona, with the injunction that the same shall be published in the synagogue, the present edict being affixed thereto; and these dispositions are to be enforced in the same manner as if they were made known to all and every one, and notice must he given forthwith to the Hebrews residing out of Ancona, but belonging to this Ghetto.

Given at Ancona, in the Chancellery of the Holy Inquisition, on the 24th of June, 1843.

FRA VICENZO SALINA, General Inquisitor.
Don VITALIANO BURATTINI (for the Chancellor).

Ancona, 1833

ANCO’NA, a seaport town in the Papal states, on the coast of the Adriatic sea. … The population, according to the latest accounts, is about 30,000, of whom 5000 are Jews. Ancona exports wax, silk, wool, and corn. It is the best, indeed the only good harbour on the Italian coast of the Adriatic between Venice and Manfredonia, and is the common point of departure for the Ionian islands and Greece. Packets are established between Ancona and Corfu.

Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. The Penny cyclopaedia. 1833. Page 509.

Jewish Population of the Ottoman Empire, 1819

Extract from a letter dated Constantinople, October 26, 1819. It gives estimates for main Jewish population centres in the Ottoman Empire.

"The Jews of Constantinople, and indeed most of the cities in Turkey, are Spanish Jews; and to the present day speak a language which with great propriety may be denominated the Jewish Spanish. I formerly entertained an idea, that perhaps they had adopted the Turkish as the language of their families, and of their written intercourse with each other: this however is not the case, for in every quarter of Asiatic and European Turkey, where the Spanish Jews are to be found, the Jewish Spanish is the language of their family circles and of their written correspondence. This language of their’s is said to be spoken and written with the greatest purity in Salonica, (the ancient Thessalonica,) where their numbers amount to about 10,000 souls. Their numbers in and about Constantinople are very considerable, but cannot be exactly ascertained, from causes over which a traveller has no controul (sic). However, I have heard some of the most intelligent Jews here estimate them at between 60 and 70,000 souls. They reckon about 8000 more in Smyrna [Izmir], 4000 in Adrianople [Edirne], 3000 in Gallipoli, 3000 in Brusa [Bursa], 7000 in Jenichere [?], 100 families at the Dardanelles, and so further in other towns of minor note throughout Turkey."


Source: American Bible Society, Annual report of the American Bible Society. 1821. Page 182.

Spanish Jews of Constantinople, 1833

This missionary report claimed that Constantinople had the largest Jewish population of any city in the world in 1833. I suspect this is incorrect.

"The Jews at Constantinople [Istanbul] are variously estimated at from 40,000 to 80,000. The number is uncertain, but it is believed that more Jews are collected there than at any other place of their dispersion. … Having come originally from Spain on the expulsion of the Jews from that country, their language is corrupted Spanish which is written in the Spanish Rabbinical letter; differing from the German Rabbinic and still more from the Hebrew letter. Their language contains a mixture of Spanish and Hebrew words. …

The Jewish boys attend school for several years, but not the girls. Instances where males cannot read are rare, as rare is to find a female reader."


Source: William G. Schauffler, Missionary. Mission to the Jews of Turkey. Annual report - American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions: Volumes 24-26. 1833. Page 45

Sephardim in Hungarian territory, 1840

I never realised that Sephardim had migrated so far north, to the edge of central Europe. The towns mentioned in Miss Pardoe's book are today in Serbia, but were formerly in the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It had been Ottoman territory for around 150 years until 1699. I have no idea when the Sephardim arrived. In 1840 Miss Pardoe reported that Hungarian Jews were tolerated rather than emancipated. Some of the wealthier had converted to Catholicism and joined the Hungarian aristocracy.

"At Semlin [Zemun in Serbia?] and Pancsova [Pančevo in Serbia] many Spanish and Portuguese Jews still reside descendants of those who were compelled to exile themselves during the persecutions of Torquemada.

These people retain their original language, like their brethren at Constantinople, of whom I have spoken in a previous work [The City of the Sultan, vol. iii. (2nd edition.)], and who fled at the same time from the same evil."


Source: Julia Pardoe. The City of the Magyar, or Hungary and her Institutions in 1839-40: Volume 3. Page 300.

Salonica / Thessalonica, 1867

The magazine account below is derived from the report (in a competing magazine?) of two English ladies who travelled to Athens for the warm weather.

"But the real curiosity of Salonica is its population, that strange medley of antipathetic races. The Therma of ancient history, and the Thessalonica of St. Paul’s Epistles, yields at present the curious instance of a city historically Greek, politically Turkish, geographically Bulgarian, and ethnographically Jewish. Out of about 60,000 inhabitants some 40,000 are Hebrews. These came from Spain, whence they were expelled by the Inquisition. The Hebrews settled in Salonica are handsome, many of them auburn-haired, and their women often delicate and even fair."

Source: Harper's new monthly magazine: The Turks, the Greeks and the Slavons. Volume 35, 1867. Page 297

Salonica / Thessalonica, 1815

This report from the year of Napoleon's final defeat contains the usual racial stereotyping, but shows that only a minority of Thessalonica's Jews were brokers. Most did manual labour at the docks.

The Jews form a large portion of the population of the city, and the number of houses occupied by this people is estimated at between three and four thousand. The community is of Spanish descent, and settled here under certain conditions of protection and privilege, which appear to have been faithfully executed on the part of the Turks. The Jews of higher class obtain a livelihood chiefly as brokers, or retail-dealers in the Bazars; the greater number are employed as porters on the quays, and in other similar offices. They exhibit the same active diligence here as elsewhere; but the repute of fraudulent habits goes along with that of industry; and the Jews of Salonica are characterized in a saying of the country, as a people whom it is the business of every stranger to avoid.”*

* This saying conveys a caution, “to shun the Greek of Athens, the Turk of Negropont, and the Jew of Salonica.”


Source: Sir Henry Holland, Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia, &c, 1815.

Livorno


On 10 June 1593 Jews received rights in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. In showing the Jews more respect than their rival states, the Medici attracted Jewish settlement and commerce to the city of Livorno (then called Leghorn in English). Tuscany quickly became a player in the East-West Mediterranean trade that had formerly been dominated by Genoa and Venice. Regardless of who dominated the seas – Dutch, French or English – the trade still flowed.

I used to think that the decline of this trade was a consequence of all the wars. The Mediterranean was no longer safe for shipping. I begin to wonder if the absolute and relative economic decline of the Ottoman Empire was the real cause. Once, spices and other exotic items came from the eastern Mediterranean. By the 18th Century there were trade routes that circumvented the Ottoman Empire. Perhaps the defeat at Vienna in 1683 marked the moment at which the Turks went into decline. Economic growth in Europe and new markets in the Americas and Asia meant that the Turkish trade became a backwater. For Jews, who operated as middlemen in this trade, the options were to accept this change in circumstances or leave. The Jews of Livorno lived by this trade. Certainly a number of Livornese Jews moved to Amsterdam and London in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries. Others seem to have moved to Arab ports such as Alexandria or Tunis, perhaps to use their skills in the local market.

Maybe the last gasp of Livorno as a major port was the Napoleonic Wars. I have seen that Tunis was France’s main market in Africa, and it seems likely that (notwithstanding the British naval blockade) much of this trade passed through Livorno.

The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was overrun by the French revolutionary armies in 1799. It was then abolished. Between 1801 and 1807, Livorno was part of the short-lived Kingdom of Etruria, a French client-state. That state was then abolished, and territory became part of metropolitan France. Livorno was made capital of the new département of Méditerranée which, incidentally, included the island of Elba to which Napoleon was exiled in 1814.

The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was reconstituted after Napoleon’s defeat. The Government was overthrown by a popular revolution in 1859. Livorno was briefly part of the short-lived United Provinces of Central Italy, but voted for annexation by Piedmont-Sardinia in 1860. Italy was unified around Piedmont-Sardinia. With Italian unification, Livorno became just one of many Italian ports.

The image of Livorno above is somewhat romanticised, but note the two men in the right foreground. One merchant is in European dress and the other oriental.

The Spanish and Portuguese Jews in Germany, 1825

The Portuguese and Spanish Jews, but especially the former, have long held a high rank among their nation. Persecution drove numbers of them, from time to time, to Germany, whither they carried with them considerable treasures, These they invested in the public funds of England, France and Holland; and hence they soon became distinguished for that ambiguous sort of speculation in the stocks, which is more allied to the practices of gambling than of honest trade. They have kept themselves in a great measure distinct from the German Jews, whom they look upon as an inferior race; and they form a separate congregation, with religious rites and ceremonies peculiar to themselves.


The Monthly Review article by M. Paul Van Hemert, translated from Dutch by Lewis Jackson. State of the Jews in the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century. London, 1825.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Judeo-Spanish Balkans, 1849

A report from a Mr Parsons, quoted by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1849. I suspect the respondent may be the Rev. Justin W. Parsons who was resident with his wife in Salonica.

The report suggests that Spanish was the Jewish culture in the Balkans, except in those territories that had been long held by the Austrian Hapsburgs.

The Jews of Seres [Serres, Greece], as also those of the other cities of Macedonia, and of the cities of Bulgaria, Servia [Serbia] and Wallachia [more or less southern Romania] seem to have gone forth originally from Salonica. They have the same language [Spanish]; while the Jews of the southern provinces speak Greek. But all have the same blind submission to the rabbies, the same prejudices, the same evasions of the truth, the same subterfuge. “Gold is their god, and traffic is their religion,” one would say who should meet them only in their fair. But in their prayers, and their observance of the Sabbath, the Deceiver causes them to appear, to themselves at least, devout and holy, separate from all the nations, the favorites of heaven.


Parsons perhaps overlooks the former influence of Spanish Jewish communities in what were Venetian enclaves along the Adriatic coast.

Jews of Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1868

This report is from 1868 when Bulgaria was still part of the Ottoman Empire, ten years before independence.

Many 19th Century Protestant missionaries appear to have been interesting characters and keen observers. Mr G. Neumann is not one of these. He is a dreary tactless fanatic untroubled by self-doubt. I have the impression that even the missionary society was sick of him.

“Sophia [Sofia] was, in olden times, the capital of Bulgaria, and is still a considerable, but very miserably built town, with six hundred Jewish families; the greatest part, however, very poor, degraded, very ignorant, and strongly bigoted and fanatical. Hundreds of them are not able to read their prayers in the prayer book; the whole of their devotion in the synagogue consists of saying and repeating, Amen, when the precentor says Amen. They possess three synagogues, a school-house, with eight large rooms, each crowded with poor and dirty boys – the poor girls excluded even from this miserable education.”



“I visited a wealthy Jewish family, where I met a select party of more than twenty men and women; the latter richly adorned with Oriental head dresses of gold, jewels and pearls. I secured the good-will of the lady of the house by complying with her expressed desire to talk a little German to her younger son, who had recently returned from Vienna. I was offered confections and whiskey. They wondered I refused the latter.”

After politely discussing the Jewish, Spanish and Hebrew newspapers their killjoy guest launched into an evangelical diatribe. Neumann reports that: “They were evidently taken by surprise, hearing me so boldly bringing before them the doctrine of a suffering and atoning Messiah.” One can surmise what the hosts actually thought. “It being now dinner time, the visitors rose to leave”. I bet! Neumann had a copy of the Bible in Judeo-Spanish.

Reported in The Jewish Herald (and Record of Christian Effort for the Spiritual Good of God’s Ancient People), 1 September 1868

Jews of Split, Dubrovnik and Kotor - remnants of Venice's Adriatic empire - in 1844


Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, F.R.S., later described as "the Father of British Egyptology", travelled down the Adriatic coast of what is now Croatia and Montenegro in 1844. The ports along the coast had formerly guarded Venice’s trade route to the East. By the time Gardner Wilkinson visited the Venetian Empire was long gone. In passing he mentions remnant Jewish communities in Split, Dubrovnik and – possibly – Kotar. A little over 500 Jews remained in these towns, stranded by history.

In 1833 there were reported to be 510 Jews in the Circoli of Dalmatia. These were mainly Spanish and lived at Spalato [Split] and Ragusa [Dubrovnik]. Today these cities are in Croatia. Formerly they had been Venetian colonies. By 1844 their numbers had reduced to 483.

“The inhabitants of Spalato are nearly all Roman Catholics; but some are of the Greek church, and thirteen are Protestants. There are also about three hundred and twenty Jews, many of whom wear the turban and oriental costume; and in place could a better study for Shylock be found than at Spalato [Thanks!]. They are mostly descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Spain, in 1493 [sic], and who established themselves in Smyrna, Salonica, and other places in Europe and Asia. One colony then settled at Spalato, notwithstanding the rigid restrictions imposed upon them by the Venetians, who obliged them to live in a particular part of the town, as at Venice, called the Ghetto. The same name is applied to the Jews’ quarter at Rome, to which they are confined even at the present day, as in the East; though the present enlightened Pope intends to remove the restriction. To the credit of the Austrians, it has long been abolished in Dalmatia, where the Jews enjoy the same privileges, as in the most civilised towns of Europe.”

Ragusa is reported to be in a reduced state with a total population of only 6,318, of whom 146 were Jews.

Gardner Wilkinson reports that there was a Spanish-Jewish cemetery near Castel Nuovo which is the largest town, but not the capital of the Circoli of Cattara [today Kotor in Montenegro], which was another Venetian outpost on the Adriatic. The commune of Cattaro had a population of 3,550 which included just nine Jews.

Source: Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, F.R.S., Dalmatia and Montenegro: with a journey to Mostar in Herzegovina, and remarks on the Slavonic nations; The History of Dalmatia and Ragusa; the Uscocs; &c. &c. Vol 1 (of 2). Published by John Murray, London, 1848.

There is more information on the Republic of Ragusa on my Jewish Genealogy website.

Jews in post-independence Greece

In his book, The Jews of the East, Dr. Ludwig Frankl reports on the miserable state of Jews in post-independence Greece. At the time of Frankl’s visit, Greece did not yet include several major Jewish population centres. Salonika and Rhodes were under Turkish rule, while the Ionian Islands were a British protectorate.

… a few words must be said about the Jews, in Greece, in general. There is nothing to prevent the Jews from settling in Greece; before the law, they enjoy the same constitutional rights as the other citizens; still, very few of them are to be found here. They were numerous under the Turkish Government, and, because faithful to their lawful masters, they took no part with those who fought for liberty, when the latter proved victorious, they were destroyed with fire and sword. On the day of the atonement, in the year 1821, the Greeks captured Tripolitza [Tripoli, in the central Peloponnese], and massacred the whole of the Jews assembled at prayer. The Greek fought with and for the cross; the Jew could not advance with him to battle, and, even when oppressed by the Mohammedan, felt himself more closely allied with him, in religion, through their common belief in the unity of an invisible God.

Only one of the former Jewish communions in Greece survives at the present day – at Chalcis, in the island of Euboea, because it remained longest, till the year 1833, in the possession of the Turks, and was first surrendered, when Greece was declared free and erected into a kingdom. Fugitives from Spain – according to another account which I have received from Mr. Von Hahn, consul at Syra, fugitives from Venice were the first who settled at Chalcis, 600 years ago, and formed a communion, which now contains 300 souls. They speak Spanish and Greek. They are very poor; most of them support themselves as mechanics, or dealers in fruit; the whole community assembles in a miserable little synagogue every morning and evening; their Rabbi’s name is Benjamin Cohen. They have a vote in the election of the Members of the Chamber of Deputies, and there is nothing to prevent any one of them, if possessed of sufficient education, from being chosen a member. They live on the best terms with neighbouring Greeks, among whom they occupy a peculiar position as a colony, and nothing but their poverty prevents them from obtaining land, and directing their attention to agriculture.

Till the year 1854, there were only two Jewish families living at Athens; since that time, eight or ten from the island of Zante have settled here. As yet, they have not formed themselves into a community, and on high feast days, they have divine service in a room engaged for the occasion; when a death occurs, the body is interred in the Christian cemetery.


Source: The Jews of the East, written by Dr. Ludwig August Frankl, an Austrian doctor, and translated by Rev. P. Beaton in 1859