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MONASTIR:

Capital of Rumelia, European Turkey; 400 miles west of Constantinople; the ancient Vitolia. It has a population of 65,000, including 6,000 Jews. There are no documents referring to Jews in Monastir before the arrival of the Spanish exiles in 1492. In the middle of the sixteenth century there was a Talmudic school in Monastir which was under the direction of R. Joseph ibn Leb, the author of four volumes of responsa (see "Ḳore ha-Dorot," ed. Cassel, p. 37b). In 1863 a terrible fire swept over the city; 1,008 out of the 2,080 houses and shops that were burned belonged to Jews. In 1884 there were 4,000 Jews in Monastir. In 1900 the Jews were accused of ritual murder in connection with the disappearance of an Orthodox Bulgarian, sixty years of age.

The affairs of the community are administered by a chief rabbi ("ḥakam bashi"; officially recognized by a decree of the sultan), a bet din or religious court, and a council of notables; from the taxes levied by the last-named the chief rabbi, the judges, and the schools are supported, and the poor relieved. There are three synagogues and five batte midrashot; a large Talmud Torah with 250 children; a boys' school with 150 pupils, founded in 1895, and subsidized by the Alliance Israélite Universelle and the Anglo-Jewish Association; a girls' school with 110 pupils, also aided by the Alliance; and day-nurseries that care for about 120 infants. Its two ḥebra ḳaddishahs date back to the first settlement of the Jews in the city. The occupations followed by the community are as follows: 600 merchants, including bankers; 150 cobblers; 150 tailors; 150 blacksmiths; 50 tinsmiths; 250 porters; and 150 dealers in old clothes (in which the Jews have the monopoly). The Jewish workmen belong to unions. Formerlythey lived in "cortijos," or groups of houses enclosed by a wall, but most of these have been destroyed by the frequent fires. Down to the beginning of the last century the Monastir Jews put no inscriptions on their tombstones.

The following have occupied the rabbinate of Monastir: Joseph Jacob Israel (c. 1768); Joseph Israel (c. 1790); Jacob Joseph Israel (1854-89; author of "Yismaḥ Mosheh," a book of devotions in Judæo-Spanish, published by his grandson; Belgrade, 1896); Abraham Levi of Janina (1896-98).

Bibliography:
  • M. Schwab, Histoire des Israélites, p. 238;
  • Bulletin All. Isr. 1884, 1900, 1901;
  • M. Franco, Histoire des lsraélites de l'Empire Ottoman, p. 206;
  • El Avenir di Salonica, Dec. 31, 1902;
  • Jacob Joseph Israel, Yismaḥ Mosheh, Belgrade, 1896.
D. M. Fr.
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