GABBAI


GABBAI, family with many branches in *Baghdad and India. Noteworthy members include ISAAC BEN DAVID BEN YESHU'AH (d. 1773), known as Sheikh Isḥāq Pasha because he ruled with the firmness of a pasha from 1745 to 1773 as nasi of the Jewish community and as *ṣarrāf bāshī ("chief banker") for the governor of Baghdad. On the other hand, his contemporaries praised his good deeds, especially his efforts to encourage R. Ẓedakah Ḥusin who was very active in propagating the study of the Torah among Iraqi Jewry. He died together with his three sons in the plague of 1773. EZEKIEL BEN JOSEPH NISSIM MENAHEM GABBAI (d. 1826), also known as Baghdadli, was a prominent banker in Baghdad. With his assistance, Talʿat Effendi succeeded, in 1811, in suppressing the rebellion of Suleiman Pasha, the governor of Baghdad. Gabbai was called to Istanbul, where he became a favorite of Khālid Effendi, the secretary to the Sultan. He was introduced to the court of the sultan and appointed ṣarrāf bāshī. In this position he revealed exceptional talents and wielded tremendous unofficial influence; many honors were bestowed upon him, and he succeeded in displacing the Armenian faction from the court. He exploited his position for the benefit of his coreligionists and family in the leadership of the Baghdad community. The nasi Sasson ibn Ṣāliḥ was replaced by his brother Ezra who held the position from 1817 until 1824. When the Armenian faction regained its influence, Ezekiel was exiled, and both brothers were later executed as a result of libels brought against them. EZEKIEL GABBAI (1825–1898), a grandson of Ezekiel b. Joseph, was the first Jew to hold office in the Ottoman Ministry of Education. He was also an active member of the Istanbul community. In 1860, he founded a Ladino newspaper, El Zhurnal lzraelit, in which he fought for reforms within the Jewish community. He also summarized the laws of the Ottoman State in regard to the Jews. His son ISAAC published until 1930 the newspaper El Telegrafo, which followed a similar policy to that of his father. EZEKIEL BEN JOSHUA GABBAI (1824–1896), the disciple and nephew of R. Abdallah *Somekh of Baghdad, traveled in 1842 to India, where he became wealthy. He was accustomed to set aside ma'aser ("a tenth") of his income for charities in India, Iraq, and Ereẓ Israel. He extended his business to China in 1843, becoming one of the first Baghdadis to trade there. In 1853, he married ʿAzīza (d. 1897), the daughter of Sir Albert (Abdallah) *Sassoon. The traveler Jacob *Saphir wrote of him in 1860 that he was a distinguished scholar, sharp-witted and shrewd, cultured and industrious. His five sons and five daughters included Flora (Farḥa), the wife of Sir Solomon *Sassoon, David, president of the Jewish community in Shanghai, and one son who became a judge in Bombay. EZEKIEL BEN ṢĀLĪḤ GABBAI (1812–1887) traveled in 1842 from Baghdad to India, where he was "gabbai ("treasurer") of the Four Lands" (Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias, and Safed) for 40 years. Under his direction, large sums were collected for Ereẓ Israel. In 1870, the traveler Solomon *Reinmann (Masot Shelomo, 182) stated that Ezekiel possessed a fortune amounting to several million francs. He later lost most of his wealth and became the manager for David Sassoon and Company in Calcutta.

AARON (d. 1888) and Elijah (d. 1892), sons of Shalom Gabbai, were born in Baghdad. In 1840, they journeyed to Calcutta and amassed a fortune in the opium trade between India and China. Outstanding philanthropists, they contributed generously to charitable causes in India, Iraq, and Ereẓ Israel. Elijah lived in China for a time and later returned to Calcutta, where he became a member of the municipal council and an agent for David Sassoon and Company. RAPHAEL BEN AARON GABBAI (d. 1923) was also born in Baghdad and later settled in Calcutta. Another noted philanthropist, he left a bequest of £100,000 to be distributed among charitable institutions in Ereẓ Israel, Baghdad, Calcutta, and London. SASSON BEN EZEKIEL MORDECAI GABBAI, "gabbai of the Four Lands" in Bombay during the 19th century, raised considerable funds for charities in Ereẓ Israel. JOSHUA BEN SIMEON GABBAI (1828–1898) settled in Calcutta in 1851, where he was a communal worker and gabbai of the Maghen David Synagogue.

[Abraham Ben-Yaacob]

SOLOMON SALIH GABBAI (1897–1961), poet and educator in Iraq. After having taught for many years in Baghdad, he became rabbi of Amara (1943–44) and later rabbi of the Iraqi community in Teheran. He wrote many poems in Hebrew and collected them in two booklets entitled Shirei ha-Kerem (Baghdad, 1925–26); some of these are poems on Zion. He also wrote an elegy on the massacre of the Jews in Baghdad during June 1941. He settled in Israel in 1951.

[Haim J. Cohen]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

A. Ben-Jacob, Yehudei Bavel (1965), index; D.S. Sassoon, O hel Dawid, 1 (1932), 36,430–1; idem, History of the Jews in Baghdad (1949), index.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.