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Manissa, Turkey

Manissa, identical with the ancient Magnesia, today the chief town of the Turkish province bearing the same name, N.E. of Izmir. A Jewish community probably existed in Manissa from the first century C.E., but there is no extant information on it. During the Byzantine period, there was a congregation in the town and a synagogue, Eẓ ha-Ḥayyim. After the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul, according to the Surgun system, the Sultan Mehmet II transferred the Jews of Manissa to Istanbul and the Jewish community of Manissa ceased to exist. After 1492, however, groups of Jews expelled from Spain arrived in Manissa; they founded two congregations and two synagogues, Lorca and Toledo. Later, as a result of a dispute which broke out in the town, a third congregation, Shalom, was established. At the end of the 15th century, there were more than 100 Jewish families in the town. Rabbi Eliahu Mizrachi writes in a responsum dated after 1504: "But in our case, while in the town of Magnesia people from these places stay there only occasionally, the Sephardim came and settled by themselves without any strangers among them." In the 16th century there was a yeshivah in Manissa, and in the second half of that century the physician and scholar Rabbi Shem Tov Melamed lived and wrote there and in Üsküb. A document from the year 1530/31 notes 88 Jewish families and 33 Jewish bachelors in the city. In 1543 a regulation was passed by the Toledo and Lorca congregations in which they forbade the establishment of a new congregation for a period of 20 years. In the 16th century there existed in the community a society for the ransoming of captives and a ḥevra kaddisha society, a cemetery, and other charity institutions. In 1575, according to a Turkish document, there were 117 Jewish households and 10 bachelors in the city.

In the 17th century there were three synagogues in Manissa before the large-scale emigration from the city. The Jews of Manissa suffered from the attacks of the Cellali gangs at the beginning of the century. These bands attacked Manissa in 1632 and plundered the Jewish community, and most of the Jews lost their property. With the rising importance of Izmir, and as a result of a plague which broke out in the town in 1617, many families left for Izmir. During this period the local rabbi was R. Aaron Lapapa. Many Jews followed Shabbetai Ẓevi’s movement in 1665–66. During the 17th–19th centuries there existed in Manissa an Ashkenazi congregation and a Sephardi one. Three Jewish cemeteries and some tombstones from the 17th century have survived, the oldest of which is dated 1646. In 1671 the community was very poor and could not pay taxes to the government, because most of the Jews had left the city. In 1702 the traveler Tourenfort found in Manissa three synagogues, and another traveler, Pococke, wrote in 1733 that most of the merchandise in the city was concentrated in the hands of the Jews. The old charity institutions existed throughout the Ottoman period and for halakhic questions the Jews of Manissa turned frequently to the rabbis of Izmir. In 1692 the Hebron emissary Rabbi Nissim Rozilio visited the community. In the responsa literature of the 16th and 17th centuries many regulations and minhagim of the community are recorded. Many old minhagim and traditions are mentioned in the 19th century by Rabbi Ḥayyim Falaji of Izmir. A known rabbi in the community in the 18th century was Raphael Abraham Maz liah (d. 1784).

At the beginning of the 19th century, the synagogues were renovated and a plot of land was consecrated for a new cemetery. In 1837, 200 Jews died of the plague. In 1838 the Jewish community numbered about 1,200, and in 1873 about 3,000. The main families of the community in the 19th century were Alazraki, Algranati, Gomel, Danon, Mazliah, Franco, Cohen, Levy, Ben-Djoya, Polity, Ninio, Nahom, Shikar, Shochet, Gargir, Lere’ah, Pessoah, Ashkenazi, Azar, Shalom, Buenavida, Israel, Dayan, Saban, Simsolou, Cherkerdji, Conforte, Misriel, Tobi, Beja, Mendes, Janon, Gagin, Sereno, Armaltes, Gayero, Faradji, Cheres, Mizrahi, Gourdji, and Uziel. There were blood libels against the Jews in the town in 1883 and 1893. In 1892 the first school for boys was founded, and in 1896 this was followed by a school for girls. Both were administered by the Alliance Israélite Universelle. Rabbi Baruch Kalomity (d. 1825) was active in Manissa and Izmir. The rabbis of the community in the second half of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th were Abraham Mazliah (d. 1861); Moshe Mazliah, the author of the halakhic book Em ha-Banim (died in Jerusalem); David Gomel (d. 1904); and Ḥayyim Mazliah (d. 1906). The last ḥakham bashi, Rabbi Ḥayyim Nahum, was born in Manissa. At the end of the 19th century many local Jews immigrated to America, Egypt, South Africa, and other places. At the beginning of the 20th century the Jewish community numbered about 2,000, out of a total population of some 40,000. During this period two additional synagogues were built. The president of the community in 1908–18 was Bechor Abraham Gomel. After the conquest of the region by the Greeks in 1919, the Jews continued to support the Turks. They did not fly the Greek flag on their institutions and did not attend the Congress (August 1922) which demanded autonomy for Izmir and its surroundings. When the Greeks retreated in 1922, a great fire broke out in the town, as a result of which a number of Jewish institutions, including the yeshivah, were destroyed. In the late 1930s the community numbered only 30 families. The principal occupations of the Jews were commerce – the export of agricultural products (fruit, tobacco, and raisins) and the import of manufactured goods – and crafts – tailoring, shoemaking, money changing; there were also some farm owners. A few Jews served as physicians in the government hospitals, as judges, and as translators in the foreign consulates of the town. In the mid-20th century many families immigrated to the U.S., South Africa, Egypt, and Israel. By 1970 no Jews were living in Manissa. In a work by the Turkish writer Nazim Hikmet, written in 1936, there appears a historical character, a Jew who had converted to a heretical sect for which he gave his life. This Jew was Samuel, who was known by the name of Torlak Kemal of Manissa.


Rosanes, Togarmah, 1 (19302), 172–3; 5 (1937–38), 57–58; A. Galanté, Histoire des Juifs d'Anatolie, 2 (1939), 70–100. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Galanté, in: ISIS, 4, 30–60, 304, 329, 330; 6:135, 259, 260; G. Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi (1973), index; L. Bornstein, in: Mi-Mizraḥ u-mi-Ma'arav (1974), 94; M. Benayahu, Ha-Yeḥasim bein Yehudei Yavan li-Yehudei Italyah (1980), 137. E. Bashan, Sheviyah u-Pedut (1980), 99–100, 199–200; M.A. Epstein, The Ottoman Jewish Communities and Their Role in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (1980), 245; Y. Barnai, in: Pe'amim, 12 (1982), 49–54; A. Levy, in: A. Levy (ed.), The Jews of the Ottoman Empire (1994), 114–20; N. Gürsel, in: A. Levy, The Jews of the Ottoman Empire (1994), 648–54; J. McCarthy, in: A. Levy (ed.), ibid., 380; F.M. Emecen, Unutulmuş bir Cemaat, Manisa Yahudileri (1997); idem, XVI. Asirda Manisa Kazasi (1989), 50, 53, 62–65, 79, 81, 86, 298; A. Rodrigue, Ḥinukh, Ḥevrah ve-Historiyah, Kol Yisrael Ḥaverim ve-Yehudei ha-Yam ha-Tikhon, 18601929 (1991), 39, 169; J. Hacker, in: A. Rodrigue (ed.), Ottoman and Turkish Jewry, Community and Leadership (1992), 34, 63.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.