Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home


ROSETTA (Rashid), town in Egypt, situated on the western bank of the western tributary of the Nile. The *Genizah documents point to the economic activity of the Jews in Rosetta, e.g., a letter dated February 16, 1000, from Fustat sent to Yeshua ben Ismail al-Maghrebi in Rosetta. Meshullam of Volterra mentioned the existence of a Jewish community in Rosetta in 1481. When, at the beginning of the 16th century, *Alexandria lost its commercial importance, Rosetta became the most important transit harbor for the maritime trade between *Egypt and *Turkey. Jews in Rosetta did business with Jews from Rhodes. There were Jews in the town during the late Middle Ages, but the Jewish population increased considerably during the 16th century with the arrival of Spanish refugees. Rosetta became a well-organized community headed by learned rabbis. These included: R. Moses ibn Abudraham, R. Judah Meshʿal, R. Abraham b. Sur, and R. Abraham Medina in the 16th century; the great posek R. Mordecai ha-Levi (born in Rosetta in 1620); in the first half of the 17th century the great dayyan R. David Gershon; R. Abraham b. Nathan (d. 1725); and R. Shabbetai Nauavi, his brother Isaac, and R. Judah Crispin in the 19th century.

Abraham ben Ḥayyim Nathan (d. 1725) settled in Rosetta in 1695 and for 30 years dealt in international trade, employing agents in Turkey and *Italy in the 18th century. He contributed money to the Viga Yeshivah in *Jerusalem. Close to the year 1740, there was a debate about his inheritance, whose result was the foundation of the Ḥesed le-Avraham u-Binyan Shelomo Yeshivah in Jerusalem in 1747. In the 17th century Israel Crispin and David Re'uel served also as dayyanim. The *Karaite Samuel b. David, who visited Egypt in 1641, relates that there were then two synagogues in Rosetta. Israel Benjamin (*Benjamin II) found 50 families there in the middle of the 19th century. After the opening of the Mahmudiya Canal which connected the Nile with Alexandria, Rosetta lost its importance and the majority of its Jews left, so the community disappeared. The Jews lived earlier in their own quarter. The Jewish translator for the French vice consul in Rosetta at the beginning of the 18th century was Abraham Metinoly. In 1709 there was a Jewish dragoman (translator) who served the French merchants in Rosetta. The scholars of the community had good connections with the Jerusalem community. There were Ottoman Jews, like Joseph Mitinoly who were translators. There were also Jews in the city who were French subjects. Some were also customs officers in the Ottoman period.


Neubauer, Chronicles, 1 (1887), 156; J.Saphir, Even Sappir, 1 (1866), 3a; A. Yaari, Mas'ot Ereẓ Yisrael (1946), 230; Ashtor, Toledot, 1 (1944), 23–24; 2 (1951), 113, 423, 445, 486, 506, 537; J.M. Landau, Jews in Nineteenth-Century Egypt (1969), 31; E.N. Adler, Jewish Travellers (1930), 163–4, 223, 335–8. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: N. Golb, in: Journal of Near Eastern Studies 33 (1974), 137; S.Z. Havlin, in: J.M. Landau (ed), Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Miẓraim ba-Tekufah ha-Otmanit, 1517–1914 (1988), 275, 301; M. Rozen, in: ibid., 428, 431, 445, 468; E. Bashan, in: ibid., 84–85; L. Bornstein-Makovetsky, in: ibid., 149, 194; S.Z. Havlin, in: Shalem, 2 (1976), 152ff.; A. David, in: Pe'amim, 54 (1993), 117–32; M. Gil, Be-Malkhut Ishmael, I (1997), 683.

[Eliyahu Ashtor /

Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]

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