Seaport of Asia Minor, in the Turkish vilayet of Aidin. The city had a Jewish population as early as the time of the martyrdom of Polycarp in the second century, although there is no further mention of Jews there until 1605, despite the fact that the neighboring towns had communities even before the Spanish expulsion. The refugees from Spain did not go directly to Smyrna in a body, but settled there gradually, their numbers being augmented by their coreligionists from Angora, Janina, Crete, Corfu, and (more recently) Russia. During the Greek revolution, on the other hand, many Jews removed to Turkey in Europe.Disasters.
The congregation of Smyrna was founded by Joseph Escapa, the first chief rabbi, in 1631; it was the center of all the communities of Asia Minor and preserved almost the entire body of their rabbinical responsa until the city was destroyed by fire in 1841, although even then some responsa and copies of communal laws were saved. In 1772 every synagogue in Smyrna was burned, and for twenty-eight years the Jews of the city had no place of worship. In the course of time, however, other synagogues were built, among them the Talmud Torah Synagogue, destroyed in 1838. Three years later there swept through the Jewish quarter a fire that left in ashes all the synagogues with the exceptionof the Shalom. Three Jewish quarters and a portion of the Christian quarter were devastated by fire in 1881, 1,500 Jewish houses being destroyed and 5,000 Jews being rendered homeless. About forty houses were burned in 1903. Seismic disturbances are frequent, and the city has been entirely destroyed by earthquakes no less than six times, the most disastrous occurring in 1688, in which, according to the "Velo Od Ela" of Elijah Cohen (Smyrna, 1853), 400 Jews, including the chief rabbi, Aaron ben Ḥayyim, were killed. Smyrna had ten epidemics of cholera between 1770 and 1865, and in the latter year the daily Jewish death-rate varied from five to twenty, while on one day it rose to 100. In 1892 the plague broke out in the city, when, as on many other occasions of distress, the community was aided by the government and by the Protestant missions. This scourge has swept the city repeatedly, and various infectious diseases occasionally ravage its unhealthful and overcrowded ghetto.
The charge of ritual murder has been brought against the Jews of Smyrna several times, notably in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and in 1864, 1872, 1874, 1876, 1888, and 1901, all these accusations being refuted. The most important of these charges were made in 1872 and 1901. In the former year the body of a Greek child was found in a small stream in the Armenian quarter, and the Greeks in revenge, after murdering a Jew and a Jewess, attacked the ghetto, which was defended by the inhabitants until the arrival of the police. On March 9, 1901, a young Greek named Anesti Kaliopulos suddenly disappeared, and, all search for him proving fruitless, the Greeks thereupon prepared to attack the Jews. Kiamil Pasha, the governor-general, at once called out the garrison and the police, while many of the Jewish population armed themselves for defense. A conflict ensued during which several Greeks were wounded, and in the confusion Kaliopulos was found in a dazed condition.Occupations.
The Jews of Smyrna have been important figures in the city's history. In the seventeenth century, as dragomans for European merchants, several of them held the key to the commerce of Smyrna, and in view of their large profit paid a heavier tax to the community than did the Jewish merchants themselves. Many Jews still occupy similar positions with the various consulates and banking-houses. In 1718 Moses Soncino was controller of the custom-house; Moses Arditi was governmental treasurer in 1812. In 1852 Jacob Gabai and later Danon, Samuel Segura, and Isaac Pasha were members of the municipal council, and Johanan Cohen was dragoman for the governor-general. Among the present (1905) municipal officers may be mentioned Jacob Effendi Saul, in the bureau of political affairs; Jacob de Vidas, censor; Nissim Levy, member of the administrative board; Toledano, member of the board of health; and Danon, city physician. The municipal courts always include Jewish members; Nissim Strugo has served repeatedly as a member of official committees, and Ḥayyim Polaco has held the presidency of the Smyrna chamber of commerce. Several Jews of Smyrna have also won distinction abroad, among them David Leon, a Parisian financier.
Since the seventeenth century there have been many Jewish physicians in the city; these include Behor Strugo, Azariah Strugo, Abraham Castro, and Angelino, plague specialists; as well as Fano Pascha, a military surgeon and president of the Jewish hospital. The Jews of Smyrna entered the European trade in 1744; recently their commerce has declined, although they still export cereals, figs, raisins, scammony, opium, oil, hides, carpets, licorice, ore, and beans. The manufacture of clothing and that of carpets are important industries, several factories being maintained in the city.
Literature on exclusively rabbinical subjects has been extensively fostered, and more than 300 volumes have been issued from the presses of Smyrna. The first printing-press was established there in 1660, and four are still in operation. The earliest Jewish paper was the "Puerta del Oriente," which was founded by Pincherle in 1846; of the five periodicals subsequently founded, three—"La Buena Esperanza," "El Novelista," and "El Messerret"—are still published.
About 1690 Solomon of Ciaves, a rich Dutch merchant, arrived at Smyrna; later he built the synagogue which bears the name of Biḳḳur Ḥolim, and he also purchased the Jewish quarter called Yebesh.Moses Soncino, who has already been mentioned, built the synagogue which bears his name, taking as his model the Smyrniot mosque Hissar Jami', other members of his family also rendered important services to the community. In 1839 the two brothers Chelebi and Menahem Hajez rebuilt the Talmud Torah Synagogue, while Johanan Cohen took the initiative in founding a lazaretto containing 156 small houses for the poor.Synagogues.
The city contains ten synagogues and eight prayer-houses. Of the synagogues the oldest is the Portuguese, which was in existence in 1710, closely followed by the Maḥaziḳe Torah (1722), the Biḳḳur Ḥolim (1724), and the Algazi (1728). The other synagogues are the Shalom (1800), the Talmud Torah (rebuilt in 1838), the 'Eẓ Ḥayyim (repaired in 1851), the Bet Lewi (1898), and the Sengnora and Forasteros, both of unknown date. The sacred scrolls at Smyrna number 150. While numerous yeshibot formerly existed in the city, the great majority of them have disappeared, and those which remain have but a scanty attendance. Smyrna has had three Jewish cemeteries. Of the first all traces have disappeared, while the second is a large field containing no monuments of value for chronological data. The third cemetery, which is situated outside the city, dates from 1886; there is likewise a small burying-ground at Burnabat, near Smyrna, which is five years older.
The intellectual status of the Jewish community, except as regards candidates for the rabbinate, was formerly very low; but in 1847 Abraham Enriquez founded a Talmud Torah, which was enlarged in 1871 and which now (1905) accommodates 500 children. In 1878 the Alliance Israélite Universelle founded a school for boys, followed in the next year by one for girls, while a public school was established in 1898; none of these institutions has, however, proved altogether successful. In 1903 Baron Edmond de Rothschild presented 70,000 francs for the construction of a new Talmud Torah. In addition, many Jewish pupils are educated in the Catholic and Protestant institutions of the city.
The social condition of the Jews, as compared with adherents of other creeds, has been one of much vicissitude in Smyrna. According to the archives found in the Orthodox Greek community, and dated March 17, 1781, the Greeks, Jews, and Armenians were required to pay their taxes to the treasury of the Greek community that it might remit them to the government, while according to the " 'Abodat Massa" the Jewish community paid the Greeks 150,000 piasters to discharge its debt. In the course of time the condition of the Jews improved greatly and is now excellent.
A Jewish hospital was maintained by the Rothschilds of Vienna after the year 1840, although one had been established in the city about thirty-five years before. This Rothschild infirmary, which superseded the older institution, was later enlarged; but since the community did not add to the annual subvention of 15,000 piasters, the baron, who for several years had borne the entire expense, abandoned the institution, which then resumed its old name of "The Jewish Hospital." There are in Smyrna numerous benevolent societies, the principal being as follows: the Biḳḳur Ḥolim and the Biḳḳur Ḥolim shel Nashim, which serve as a hebra ḥaddisha; the Ḳuppat Reḥiẓah and the Ḥebrat Lewayah, both devoted to rendering honors to the dead; the Ḥebra Ḳedosha shel Ḳebarim, which keeps the cemetery in good order; the Emet wa-Ẓedeḳ, which assists impoverished families in time of mourning; the 'Ozer Dallim (originally called Gabba'e Ẓedaḳah), founded by Behor Danon in 1879 as the first institution of its kind in Turkey, and reestablished in 1883 and 1894, its purpose being the support of 260 pauper families, among which it distributes small sums every Friday; the Haknasat Oreḥim, which provides for needy strangers; the Ḥayyat 'Aniyyeka, which cares for the pauper sick; the Malbish 'Arummim and the Nashim Ẓadḳaniyyot, which clothe the children of the poor; the Midrash Shelomoh, the Magen Dawid, and the Or ha-Ḥayyim, which read the Psalms on Sabbaths, applying their income to the support of the poor; and the Mohar u-Mattan, which dowers indigent girls.
Among the benefactors of the Jewish community of Smyrna may be mentioned: Alexander Sidi, who purchased the cemetery of Burnabat in 1881; Moses b. Ghayyat; Ḥayyim Argi and his wife; Jacob Melamed; Nissim Levy; Abraham Pardo; the Baron and Baroness de Hirsch; and Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Behor Danon has been the radical reformer of Smyrna, and the initiator of the establishment of the Rothschild hospital and of the society called'Ozer Dallim, and Nissim Crespin has been a prime mover in the foundation of the schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle at Smyrna. Among the famous Jews who have visited the city may be mentioned Moses Montefiore and his wife, as well as the Baron Edmond de Rothschild. In 1879 the society Gemilut Ḥasadim was authorized to establish a lottery from which the Talmud Torah and the school of the Alliance Israélite Universelle derived much profit. The abuse of its privileges, however, led to the suppression of the lottery, although in 1903 a new one was organized for the benefit of the hospital and the Talmud Torah, and is still in existence.Disputes of Rabbis.
One of the misfortunes of the Oriental Jewish community is the rabbinical problem arising from personal intrigues on the part of the leading men, and sometimes of the rabbis themselves. Soon after the establishment of the community of Smyrna in 1631, Azariah Joshua Ashkenazi was elected as the colleague of the chief rabbi Joseph Escapa. The next chief rabbi, Ḥayyim Benveniste, became the sole head of the community, but, being opposed by a portion of the congregation, he was imprisoned by the governor; Aaron Lapapa thereupon received a call from Magnesia, thus becoming the head of the opposition. In 1639 a quarrel broke out between the community and the people, which was ended only on the intervention of Chief Rabbi Fresco of Constantinople. In 1886 the chief rabbi Ḥayyim Palacci became involved in various quarrels with the members of the community, and the chief rabbinate of Constantinople sent R. Samuel Danon to arbitrate. He proved incompetent, however, and Palacci finally went to the synagogue, opened the Ark, sat on the floor, fasted, and wept. By a curious coincidence a severe earthquake occurred a few moments later, and the people, interpreting this as a mark of divine judgment, ceased all hostility against their rabbi. After Palacci's death the chief rabbi of Magnesia, Joseph Hakim, was chosen as the head of the Jewish community of Smyrna, but his incompetency finally resulted in his supersession by Abraham Palacci, whose election was ratified by the government in 1870. On his death in 1899 the community was again divided into two hostile camps, one faction desiring the election of Solomon Palacci, and the other wishing to have no more rabbis of his family. All efforts to settle the dispute have proved vain, and Joseph Ben-Señor, the chief rabbi finally chosen, is not recognized by the government. This partizan strife has resulted in the custom of frequently having two chief rabbis simultaneously, the list being as follows: Joseph Escapa and Azariah Joshua, Ashkenazi; Ḥayyim Benveniste and Aaron Lapapa; Solomon Levi and Jacob ibn Na'im; Solomon Levi and Israel Benveniste; Elijah Cohen; Abraham Ben-Ezra and Jacob Saul; Ḥayyim Moda'i and Isaac Mayo; Ḥayyim David Abulafia; Jacob Albagli; Joseph Hazan and Isaac Mayo; Solomon Ben-Ezra; Isaac Navarro; David Amado; Joshua Abraham Judah; Yom-Ṭob Danon; Ḥayyim Palacci; Joseph Hakim; Abraham Palacci; and the present non-official chief rabbi Joseph Ben-Señor.
The Jews form a considerable part of the population in twelve wards of Smyrna, and are numerous also in the suburbs of Burnabat, Bunar Bashi, Alay Bey, and Cordelio. The community, which now (1905) numbers 25,500 out of a total population of 201,000, is governed by a chief rabbi and two councils, the one clerical and the other lay; the decisions of the councils are binding on the chief rabbi, who forms the bond of union between the government and the community.