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Bursa, Turkey

BURSA (Brusa, formerly Prusa), city in northwestern Anatolia, capital of the Ottomans in the 14th century; afterward a provincial capital. According to seven Hebrew inscriptions from 820 C.E., Jews lived in Bursa in the Byzantine period. When Bursa was captured by the Ottomans (1326), the city was vacated by its inhabitants but the Jews returned shortly thereafter. A 14th-century colophon identifies a member of the Jewish community in Bursa as Shlomo ha-Nasi, son of Rabbi Jesse ha-Nasi of Trnovo. In one case, in 1471–74, the public scales at the market in Bursa, where goods were officially weighed and certified, were in the hands of Istanbul Jews originally from Trnovo and Cernova. The tax farmers were still paying off their debt to the government as late as 1478. Spanish exiles settled in the city in the first half of the 16th century and the existing community of *Romaniot (Byzantine) Jews assimilated among them. The Jews in Bursa lived in a special quarter where they continued to reside until the 1960s. The Eẓ Ḥayyim synagogue, which resembles a mosque, is the oldest of the town's three synagogues, the others (Gerush and Mayor) having been established later by Spanish exiles. In 1592 several Jews were accused of luring a man named Mirza b. Ḥusain into their home and tying him to a pillar where they drew his blood although he ultimately escaped. The sultan ordered the eight Jews involved to be exiled to Rhodes. In the late 16th century, an attempt was made to remove Jews from shops in the marketplace at Bursa, but the Jews were able to produce orders proving that the government had guaranteed them the right to occupy those shops without interference and even to pass them on to their children. This privilege was probably issued in the early part of the century to encourage Jews to settle and stay in Bursa. According to the Tapo documents and other Ottoman documents, in the years 1538–39 and 1540–41, 166 Jewish families lived in the city of Bursa, in 1546 there were 250 Jewish families, and in 1594–95 there were 650. By 1598, 735 Jewish families lived in Bursa. All these families paid the jizya tax to the Ottoman Empire. There are many documents about the Jewish community of Bursa in the 17th century. In 1618–19 and c. 1641–42, 270 Jewish families lived in the city, but by 1696–97 there were only 141 Jewish families in Bursa. The Jews lived in large corporate houses that were owned by Muslim waqfs in the city, the majority of them in the Koro-Çesme quarter. The Jews were deeply involved in the economic activities of Bursa unlike the Christians. Generally, the Jews enjoyed the favors of the authorities and there were Jews who even purchased Muslim slaves. They also bought Jewish slaves and ransomed them. Only a few Jews were murdered in Bursa during the Ottoman period. The Jews owned many shops in the city markets and did business with other groups. The Jews were also members of the local guilds. They paid the jizya tax through their representative, the *kakhya . In 1603–04 the kakhya was Joseph ben Moses. In the 17th century there were local Jews who had a monopoly (Iltizam) on the mercantile taxes of the Ottoman government, including the Persian silk tax, the wine tax, etc. By the mid-17th century many Jews lost their businesses to military personnel who took control of the markets. During the Ottoman period the Jews in Bursa stood out especially as goldsmiths, luxury metalworkers, and financiers but only a few were moneylenders. Sometimes the Sarraf-Bashi in the city was a Jew, such as Isaac ben Joseph. The majority of Jews were textile workers and merchants. Many imported Persian silk and were members of the silk merchants guilds. Many others were silk manufacturers and dyers. Many, however, were poor. In 1539 or 1543 Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ya'ish (b. c. 1520) lived there. He was a member of the yeshivah founded around that time by R. Isaac ibn Lev and also the rabbi of the Gerush congregation in the city. Other known scholars of the period were Moses Ibn Gamil, Yom Tov Alroyo, Meir Halevi ibn Migash, Moses Shorbiel, and Jacob Sirilano. They corresponded with such famous rabbis as Joseph *Caro and Samuel *Medina . R. Gabriel ben Elia founded another yeshivah in Bursa and was head of the city's rabbis until 1560. He settled in Lepanto in 1561 but died before 1570. Ibn Ya'ish immigrated to Istanbul and died there before 1579. The rabbis of Bursa in the first half of the 17th century were Abraham Algazi and his son Judah Algazi (d. 1636) and Abraham Ganso. In the second half of the same century the rabbis Samuel Sagnis and Isaac Raphael Alfandari served in the city. Moses Algazi, the father of R. Solomon Algazi of Izmir, was the chief rabbi of Bursa in 1668. Joshua *Benveniste lived in the city for a short period in the mid-17th century. Raphael Samuel Hadjes was the chief rabbi in 1672–80. At the beginning of the 18th century Elijah Joseph Shilton was the chief rabbi in the city, and Yom Tov Saban officiated in Bursa in the mid-18th century.

The majority of Bursa Jews during the Ottoman period were religious but not cultured people. Modernity penetrated the city only in the late decades of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. The Jews spoke and wrote Ladino. Before Passover 1865, another blood libel accusation occurred, but the authorities took immediate measures to punish the Greeks who rioted in the Jewish quarter. At the end of the 18th century R. Ḥayyim Moses Galipolity lived in the city. The latter was also a physician. In the 19th century R. Jacob de Leon, the stepfather of R. Hayyim *Palache , lived in Bursa. He wrote Tikkun ha-Shulḥan, published in Istanbul in 1849. R, Shabbetai Galipolity served as a rabbi in the second half of the 19th century and wrote his book Yismaḥ Mosheh, published in Izmir in 1868. Other rabbis in the city during the last decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th were Nissim Medini, Solomon Uziel, David Papo, and Moses ben Habib.

The Alliance Israélite Universelle founded a boys and a girls school in 1886, which 450 pupils attended in 1914–18. In 1923 the schools were closed and the students were transferred to a Turkish school. Another scholar in that town was R. David Papo, the author of the book of sermons Benei Me'ir, which was published in Izmir in 1888. There were a few cases of local Jews who married Muslims. In 1883, 2,179 Jews lived in the city; in 1886, 600 families (2,800 people). The entire Jewish community lived in the same quarter and was poor. Before World War I the community numbered 3,500. In 1927 this fell to 1,865, due to considerable immigration to South America. In 1939 there were 2,400 Jews, but by 1969 only 350–400 remained. By 1977 that number had dwindled to 192 Jews. The number of those employed was 52, of whom 46 were textile merchants. The leaders of the community were then Joseph Ventura and Kamal Ezuz. The rabbi was Uriel Arisa, a native of Istanbul. The Jewish waqf survived. It contained a complete street with 30 shops that in the past were rented by Jews and a large area where the Etz Ḥayyim synagogue once stood. This synagogue was burned in 1851. The estate is rented to Gentiles, with the monies going to the community treasury. The Gerush synagogue has existed for 400 years and includes seating for 500 men and 200 women. The ancient Mayor synagogue has seating for 250 men and 100 women.


Rosanes, Togarmah, 1 (19302), 2–3; 2 (1938), 47; A Galanté, Histoire des Juifs d'Anatolie, 2 (1939), 94ff.; idem, Appendice à l'Histoire des Juifs d'Anatolie (1948), 18–21; Heyd, in: Sefunot, 5 (1961), 137–44; Nathan, in: JJSO, 6 (1964). 180–1. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: JQR, 57 (1967), 528–43; M. Benayahu, in: Sefunot, 11 (1971–78), 267–69; H. Gerber, in: Sefunot, 1:16 (1980), 235–72; M.A. Epstein, The Ottoman Jewish Communities and their Role in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (1980), 111, 122, 214; S. Bowman, The Jews of Byzantium, 1204–1453, (1985), 91; S. Tuval, in: Peʿamim, 12 (1982), 131–32; A. Rodrigue, Ḥinukh, Ḥevrah ve-Historiah, Kol Yisrael Ḥaverim ve-Yehudei ha-Yam ha-Tikhon, 1860–1929 (1991), 28, 132–34, 156; A. Levy (ed), The Jews of the Ottoman Empire (1994).

[Aryeh Shmuelevitz / Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]

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