SORIA, city in Old Castile, N. central *Spain. The Jewish community of Soria was a major cultural and religious center in Castile. Nothing is known about the beginnings of the Jewish settlement in Soria. During the 12th century the Jews there benefited from a number of rights which were mentioned in several articles of the town fuero ("charter"). This also included regulations concerning jurisdiction over, and protection of, the merchants who came to trade in Soria. At first, the Jewish quarter was situated in a fortress, where about 50 families lived during the middle of the 13th century and throughout the 14th. (At that time there were 700 families in the town.) In the 13th century the community was very well organized. Jews continued to live there until the expulsion. During the second half of the 13th century, Soria was renowned for its kabbalists. According to tradition, *Jacob ha-Kohen was born there. Toward the close of the 13th and early 14th century, Shem Tov b. Abraham *Ibn Gaon lived in Soria; there was also a school of
The 39,895 maravedis levy imposed on the Soria community in 1290 is an indication of its economic strength. According to an estimate of F. Cantera, there were over 1,000 Jews living in the town at the close of the 13th century. Their occupations included trade, the cultivation of vineyards, and crafts. During the civil war (c. 1366–69) between the brothers Pedro the Cruel and Henry of Trastamara, one of the tax farmers of Soria, Samuel ibn Shoshan, joined Pedro's camp and was compelled to flee from the kingdom after Henry's victory.
Although devastated by the persecutions of 1391 (see *Spain), the community appears to have recovered gradually, and in 1397 they were granted certain rights in respect of their quarter in the fortress by Henry III. A leader in the rehabilitation of the community was Don Abraham *Benveniste, who organized a convention of the delegates of the communities of Castile in Valladolid in 1432. In the 15th century, Soria was among the most important communities in Castile. Around 300 Jewish families lived in the city, constituting around 20% of the population. They were merchants, moneylenders, and artisans. Several of the inhabitants of Soria were important tax farmers. In 1465, Henry IV exempted the Jews of Soria from some taxes in appreciation of their services to the crown. Since the tax imposition in 1474 was 5,000 maravedis, it would appear that the community no longer ranked among the largest and wealthiest. In 1490, however, it paid 80,915 maravedis. The anti-Jewish policy adopted by the crown from the 1470s was felt in Soria by the restriction of the Jews to a special quarter and by the actions and attitude of the municipal council vis-à-vis the local Jews. In 1485, a levy of 308,000 maravedis was imposed on ten Jews of Soria to cover the expenses of the war against Granada. During the same year Ferdinand and Isabella authorized the Jews to maintain workshops and shops in various quarters of the town on the condition that they did not work on the Christian festivals and did not eat or sleep in these quarters. At the time of the expulsion of the Jews from Castile (1492) some Jews of Soria left for the kingdom of Navarre and most of them for Portugal. The crown ordered that debts still owed to Don Isaac *Abrabanel and other Jews in Soria be collected for them.
From the very beginning, and until the expulsion, the Jews of Soria lived in the fortress. The fortress has disappeared and on its grounds there is a park.
Baer, Spain, index; Baer, Urkunden, index; J. Weill, in: REJ, 74 (1922), 98–103; F. Cantera Burgos, in: Sefarad, 16 (1956), 125–9; Suárez Fernández, Documentos, index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: F. Cantera Burgos, in: Revista de dialetogía y tradiciones populares, 32 (1976), 87–102; idem, in: Homenaje a Fray Justo Pérez de Urbel, OSB, vol. 1 (1976–7), 445–82; D. Gonzalo Maeso, in: Celtiberia, 56 (1978), 153–68; E. Cantera Montenegro, in: Anuario de estudios medievales, 13 (1983), 583–99; M. Diago Hernando, in: Sefarad, 51 (1991), 259–97; J. Edwards, in: Past & Present, 120 (1988/0, 3–25; idem, in: Pe'amim, 48 (1991), 42–53 (Heb.)).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.