HUESCA (Osca), city in Aragon, N.E. Spain. It had one of the most important Jewish communities in the kingdom. With Saragossa and Calatayud, they were the three major Jewish communities in the Kingdom of Aragon. The correspondence has been preserved of a learned and wealthy Jew of Huesca, Basaam b. Simeon, with an Arabic author of Umayyad origin, dating from the last generation of Muslim rule in the city. At this time Jews in Huesca engaged in agriculture and owned fields and vineyards. Many also were craftsmen and traders, especially cloth and silk merchants.
[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]
This remained the position after the Christian reconquest in 1096. From the Christian conquest onwards, we have a great abundance of sources on the Jews of Huesca. The Jewish quarter in the Christian period, as in Muslim times, was situated in the southwestern section of the town; its center was the present Plazuela de la Judería. The location of the Church of St. Cyprian in the vicinity gave rise to conflicts between Jews and Christians, since the latter would shorten their way to church by passing through the Jewish quarter. James I authorized the Jews of the town to close their quarter during Easter from Holy Thursday until the following Saturday morning. The three synagogues in the quarter, the Great, Middle, and Little Synagogues, existed until the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. At the beginning of the 14th century the Jews of Huesca were occupying 108 houses, and the Moors 69 houses. This means that the number of Jews in Huesca was between 550 and 700. The community's cemetery is first mentioned in 1156. After the expulsion, the name of the quarter was changed to Barrio Nuevo, as happened with other Jewish quarters.
In 1106 an important member of the community, Moshe ha-Sefaradi, a famous scholar and scientist, decided to become baptized and assume the name Pedro Alfonso. During the 12th and 13th centuries the Jews of Huesca engaged in trade, moneylending, and crafts. In 1134 King Ramiro II of Aragon granted Huesca, among other privileges, the right to acquire real property which had been owned by Jews or Muslims. In about 1170 Esteban, the governor of Huesca, concluded an agreement with several Jews on the construction of shops in the city. Jewish contractors from Huesca were commissioned by the governor of Barbastro to build shops there. In 1190 there was an important Jewish settlement in the commercial center on land owned by the Monastery of Sigena. Some of the Jews who lived there played a leading role in the public and economic life of the city and also moved in court circles, among them Eleazar, the repositarius ("treasurer") of the king, and Joseph the physician, probably in the service of Queen Sancha.
The history of Huesca Jewry is typical of a large Jewish community in Aragon. In 1207, Pedro II granted the community a privilege stipulating that none of its members could be imprisoned for debts whether owed to the king, the city authorities, the merino ("royal officer"), the judge, or any other person. It was also forbidden to distrain on Jews on the Sabbath or on festivals. The king authorized the community to impose bans, seizures, and other methods of enforcement on any person who tried to evade paying taxes. It was also stipulated that, in cases where the death penalty was carried out, the community would pay 1,000 sólidos to the crown treasury. The community of Huesca took part in the controversy over *Maimonides' writings. In 1279, Pedro III ordered the Jews of Huesca to attend the conversionary sermons given by the Dominicans.
The situation of the Huesca community declined during the 14th century. The *Pastoureaux disorders of 1320 severely affected Huesca, and Alfonso, the son of James II, ordered 40 of the rioters to be hanged in the city. The community, however, apparently recovered from the damage since by 1327 it paid an annual tax of 6,126 sólidos. The communal regulations of 1340 indicate that there were 300 men from the age of 15 upward, and it can be assumed that the community then numbered up to 1,500 persons. During the riots at the time of the *Black Death (1349), the Jews of Huesca fortified themselves within their quarter and were thus saved. Nevertheless, from this period began the decline of the community. The community's difficulties increased in 1376, and it had to mortgage the Torah crowns to pay its debts to the king. In 1377, several of the community's notables were accused of having stolen a
In 1390, John I granted the Jews of the city a privilege empowering the leaders of the community to judge slanderers and informers at their own discretion. During the persecutions of 1391 one of the grandees of the kingdom, Don Lope de Gurrea, was ordered to go to Huesca to protect its Jewish inhabitants. The community slowly recovered after the disorders. In 1394, John I prohibited Jews from leaving Huesca before they had settled their debts to the community. After the Disputation of *Tortosa, oppressive measures against the community increased. The royal officials compelled the Jews of the city to leave their homes and settle in places so distant from their quarter that they could not earn their livelihood.
In 1414, the infante Alfonso intervened on their behalf and ordered that the status of the Jews should remain unchanged. A municipal order of 1449 prohibited the Jews of Huesca from grazing more than 100 sheep on the pastures belonging to the city, for the use of which a special tax was to be paid to the municipal council.
From 1440 until almost the Expulsion, a period of cultural efflorescence prevailed in Huesca. Its greatest figure was Abraham *Bibago (Bivach).
In 1465 a number of *Conversos who had arrived in Huesca from Castile were received back into Judaism by the community. About 25 years later, many of those who had been present at the ceremony were tried by the Inquisition. The initiators of the affair had been Abraham b. Shem Tov *Bibago (Bivach), author of Derekh Emunah, and Abraham *Almosnino, who was burned at the stake together with Isaac *Cocumbriel. Another trial held by the Inquisition during the 1480s concerning events of the 1460s was that of the community's beadle Abraham Alitiens, who had sent away his son Eliezer, a young physician who had also qualified as rabbi, to prevent him from being baptized. The father was finally martyred, along with so many other Jews of his generation.
One of the most complete descriptions of the implementation of the decree of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (March 1492) has come down from Huesca. Special commissioners, among them the city magistrate and the judge of the Hermandad, were appointed to supervise the expulsion. On May 1, 1492, they began to register the properties of the Jews and to confiscate their gold and silver which the decree of expulsion prohibited them from taking out of the country. Numerous waivers of outstanding debts were registered with the city notaries. The community council met on July 23 and authorized its administrative officers to liquidate the debts of the community and proceed with the sale of its property. Guards were posted in the Jewish quarter to prevent Jews from selling their property without the authorization of the commissioners. Several Jews were imprisoned for debt. On the day of the expulsion, the Jews left Huesca by the road to the west, accompanied by the head of the municipal council, Pedro Cavero.
Organization of the Community
The information that has been preserved about the organization of the Huesca community is especially important for understanding the structure of the Jewish communities in the Crown of Aragon in general, and in the Kingdom of Aragon in particular. At the beginning of the 14th century, the community appointed a council, Eẓa in Hebrew, of 18 elders whose number was reduced to 12 in 1324. The community was headed by muqaddimūn ("administrative officers") or adelantados in Romance, who were also invested with judicial authority. The communal taxes were levied according to a system of assessments, the tax assessors being appointed every two years. Those whose assets amounted to less than 50 sólidos, and "those who study by day and night and have no other profession" (tax regulations of 1340), as well as the teachers and the synagogue beadles, were exempted from paying tax. A complicated proportionate system was established to assess the tax, which was levied on houses, gardens, fields, vineyards, loans, commercial deposits, mortgaged lands, rented houses and shops, transactions in real estate, textiles, grain, foodstuffs, gold and silver, furs, and other commodities. Taxes were also collected on the daily earnings of craftsmen. Loans to communities, servants, and scholars, as well as the sums specified in engagement contracts and wills, were exempted from tax.
In 1374, the community of Huesca adopted, with certain changes, the communal organization of *Barcelona. Among other regulations, it was decided that 12 arbitrators would appoint two muqaddimūn and two bookkeepers. In 1391, John I confirmed additional regulations. At the end of the 13th century 160 members of the Huesca community took part in the elections for a cantor in the Great Synagogue of Huesca (resp. Rashba, vol. 1, no. 300). The community of Huesca also had a burial society, run on the lines of a charitable society, whose regulations were confirmed by Pedro I in 1374 and re-endorsed by John I in 1391.
Nothing has remained of the judería (the Jewish quarter) of Huesca. From the sources we know exactly where it was located. The neighborhood is known, as usual, as Barrio Nuevo. The quarter was surrounded by a wall and had four gates and was located in the area where the current San Jorge, Loreto and Amistad streets are found. San Jorge street was originally the carrera Mayor which was divided by the alcaiceria, the bazaar. In Huesca there were three synagogues. In the Sinagoga Mayor meetings of the community took place. Together with the Sinagoga Menor, it used to be on San Jorge street. We do not know the location of the third synagogue, the Sinagoga Mediana. The community had its own hospital catering to the poor and visitors.
[Haim Beinart /
Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]
Baer, Urkunden, index; Baer, Spain, index; R. del Arco, in: Sefarad, 7 (1947), 271–301; R. del Arco and F. Balaguer, ibid., 9 (1949), 351–92; R. del Arco, in: Estudios de Edad Media de la Corona de Aragón, 4 (1951), 320–409; F. Cantera, Sinagogas Españolas (1955), 229ff.; J. Caberzudo Astrain, in: Sefarad, 23 (1963), 265–84; Ashtor, Korot, 2 (1966), 169–73; idem in: Zion, 28 (1963), 45–46. ADD.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.