City in Catalonia where Jews lived and owned land as early as the Roman period. This Jewish community was one of the richest in the country in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and had certain ancient privileges which were confirmed from time to time until 1328. In 1262 the "bayle" of Tortosa and farmer of the royal taxes was Astruc Jacob Xixen or Xuxen (Shushan). The Jews of the city owed him 9,000 sueldos, and on their refusal to pay, the king, with whom he stood in special favor, and who had granted him privileges for life, gave him the right of distrainer.
The Jews of Tortosa were always ready, however, to make sacrifices if it was for the good of the country. When James II. was in need of money for conquering the county of Urgel, which also contained Jewish communities, the Jews of Tortosa, together with those of Barcelona, Gerona, Valencia, and Lerida, furnished him with 115,000 livres; and when Alfonso, the son and successor of James, was fitting out a fleet in 1323 for the conquest of Cerdeña, the Jewish community of Tortosa contributed and manned two ships, being exempted from all taxes for several years in recognition of their services.
The chief occupations of the Jews of this city were farming, viniculture, commerce, and manufacturing. In 1220 the brothers Astruc of Tortosa possessed lands upon the island of Majorca. They owned large establishments for dyeing linen and cotton, and sold their wares in a special market-place. They were allowed to take an annual interest of four dinars per livre, but were subject to heavy special taxes, since they were obliged to pay the state 4,000 sueldos in 1284 alone, as table-moneys ("cenas"), in addition to the municipal assessments on their houses and lands. On its own responsibility the Jewish community in Tortosa ordained that, to be valid, all marriages must be performed before authorized persons of the community and in the presence of ten grown men, and that any woman of Tortosa could contract a new marriage without a previous ritualistic divorce, unless married in this fashion. The year of terror, 1391, was eventful for the Jews in Tortosa as well as in other cities. The community, previously so wealthy, could no longer pay its taxes, and there, as elsewhere, many accepted baptism; many Maranos fell victims to the Inquisition in Tortosa.
Tortosa was either the birthplace or the residence of several Jewish scholars. Menahem ben Saruḳ, the earliest Hebrew lexicographer; Shem-Ṭob ben Isaac and his son Abraham, both Hebrew translators; and the physician and philosopher Jacob Mantino were born there; there, too, lived Isaac Maimon and Abraham b. Alfual, who carried on a correspondence with Isaac ben Sheshet; and also the modern Hebrew satiric poet Solomon ben Reuben Bonfed, rabbi and delegate of the community at the disputation of Tortosa.
- Belaguer, Historia de Cataluña, vi. 12;
- Boletin Acad. Hist, lii. 508;
- Isaac b. Sheshet, Responsa, Nos. 361 et seq., 399;
- Jacobs, Sources, Nos. 201, 253, 806, 830, 834;
- Rios, Hist. ii. 71, 155.