ABRABANEL, ABRAVANEL (Heb. אַבְּרַבַנְאֵל; inaccurately Abarbanel; before 1492 also Abravaniel and Brabanel), Sephardi family name. The name is apparently a diminutive of Abravan, a form of Abraham not unusual in Spain, where the "h" sound was commonly rendered by "f" or "v." The family, first mentioned about 1300, attained distinction in Spain in the 15th century. After 1492, Spanish exiles brought the name to Italy, North Africa, and Turkey. Members of the family who were baptized in Portugal at the time of the Forced Conversion of 1497 preserved the name in secret and revived it in the 17th century in the Sephardi communities of Amsterdam, London, and the New World. The family was also found in Poland and southern Russia. Of recent years Sephardi immigrants from the eastern Mediterranean area have reintroduced it into western countries. It is also common in Israel.
The first of the family who rose to eminence was JUDAH ABRABANEL of Córdoba (later of Seville), treasurer and tax-collector under Sancho IV (1284–95) and Ferdinand IV (1295–1312). In 1310 he and other Jews guaranteed the loans made to the crown of Castile to finance the siege of Algeciras. It is probable that he was almoxarife ("collector of revenues") of Castile. Another eminent member of the family was SAMUEL of Seville, of whom Menahem b. Zerah wrote that he was "intelligent, loved wise men, befriended them, was good to them and was eager to study whenever the stress of time permitted." He had great influence at the court of Castile. In 1388 he served as royal treasurer in Andalusia. During the anti-Jewish riots of 1391 he was converted to Christianity under the name of Juan Sanchez (de Sevilla) and was appointed comptroller in Castile. It is thought that a passage in a poem in the Cancionero de Baena, attributed to Alfonso Alvarez de
Villasandino, refers to him. He and his family apparently later fled to Portugal, where they reverted to Judaism and filled important governmental posts. His son, JUDAH (d. 1471), was in the financial service of the infante Ferdinand of Portugal, who by his will (1437) ordered the repayment to him of the vast sum of 506,000 reis blancs. Later he was apparently in the service of the duke of Braganza. His export business also brought him into trade relations with Flanders. He was father of Don Isaac *Abrabanel and grandfather of Judah *Abrabanel (Leone Ebreo) and Samuel *Abrabanel.
M. Kayserling, Geschichte der Juden in Portugal (1867), 74ff.; D.S. Blondheim, in: Mélanges… M. Alfred Jeanroy (1928), 71–74; C. Roth, Menasseh ben Israel (1934), index; B. Netanyahu, Don Isaac Abravanel (Eng., 19682); Baer, Spain, index; J.A. de Baena, Cancionero… ed. by J.M. Azaceta (1966), 127. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M.M. Kellner, in: Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 6 (1976), 269–96; M.A. Rodrigues, in: Biblos (Coimbra), 57 (1981), 527–95; M. Idel, in: M. Dorman and Z. Harvey (ed.), Filosofyat ha-Ahavah shel Yehudah Abravanel, (1985), 73–114; M. Awerbuch, Zwischen Hoffnung und Vernunft. (1985); S. Regev, in: Asupot, 1 (1987), 169–87; C. Alonso Fontela, in: Sefarad, 47 (1987), 227–43; G. Weiler, Jewish Theocracy, (1988), 69–85; A. Gross, in: Michael, 11 (1989), 23–36 (Heb. section); A. Ravitzky, in: L. Landman (ed.), Scholars and Scholarship (1990), 67–90; A. Dines, O Baú de Abravanel (1992); E. Lipiner, Two Portuguese Exiles in Castile (1997).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.