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BASQUE PROVINCES:

In the Thirteenth Century.

A district of Spain, including Guipuzcoa, Biscay, and Alava, extending along both sides of the Pyrenees, where the Basques or Vasconians lived. Under an old fuero, or ordinance, Jews were never allowed in Guipuzcoa and Biscay. A Jew visiting Guipuzcoa for business purposes was not permitted to stop at one place longer than three days, and in the whole province not longer than fourteen days at the utmost. At Vitoria, the capital of the province of Alava, Jews lived from the twelfth century, but after 1203 in a special street, the "Calle Nueva," or "New Street." They grew to a considerable community, which was under Castilian rule, and which in 1290 paid a tax amounting altogether to 11,392 maravedis. The Jews of Vitoria were chiefly moneybrokers. In 1332 Alfonso XI. of Castile issued a decree forbidding Jews to take promissory notes from the Christians of Vitoria. During his stay in the city it is said that Vincente Ferrer converted four of the leading families to Christianity.

In the Fifteenth Century.

The enactments against the Jews of Vitoria during the ten years immediately preceding the expulsion were devised to bring about their complete separation from the Christian inhabitants. According to the decree of Aug. 21, 1482, no Jew or Jewess was permitted, under heavy penalty, to enter the Franciscan monastery until after mass. On May 28 and July 24 of the same year a decree had been issued to the effect that no Christian woman, or Christian girl under ten years of age, might enter the ghetto by day or night unless accompanied by a man, on pain of being fined or imprisoned; nor should a Christian woman, either alone or accompanied by a man, light a fire—either on the Sabbath, or on any other day—in the house of a Jew, or cook for him. Against this decree, which hindered the Jews in their religious observances, David Chacon appealed at once in the name of the community. The assembly of representatives forbade the Jews (June 16, 1486) "to bake their bread in the ovens of the Christians, to keep their shops open on Christian holidays, and to work in public on Sundays and festivals." Christians were forbidden to sell vegetables or fruit or any food whatever in the ghetto, to take service with Jews, or to livewith them. In 1484 Christians were also forbidden, on penalty of being fined 2,000 maravedis, to allow the Jews to read the decrees of the ecclesiastical authorities, or to permit them to act as lawyers in lawsuits.

Among the richest and most eminent Jews of Vitoria were various members of the Chacon family (Gacon, Gaon), Eleasar Tello, and Moses Balid.

After the Edict of 1492.

The general edict of banishment from Spain naturally affected the Jews of Vitoria. On June 27, 1492, the above-mentioned Moses Balid, Ismael Moratan (the president of the community), Samuel Benjamin Chacon, his relations Abiatar and Jacob Tello, and Samuel de Mijaneas came before the councilors of Vitoria, and presented to the city, in the name of the Jewish community and in recognition of the friendly treatment received from the city, their cemetery, "Judemendi" (Jews' hill), adjoining the ghetto, together with all its belongings, on condition that no plow should ever furrow it. The town council accepted the gift, and the condition has been faithfully observed ever since.

Before the end of July, 1492, the Jews left Vitoria; many went into the neighboring province of Navarre; others, such as members of the family Chacon, took passage for the Orient; while a few only renounced their faith. A very clever Jew of Vitoria, Zentolla by name, was baptized by Bernaldez, the priest of Los Palacios, and named by him Tristan Bogado. By the end of 1492 there were no Jews in Vitoria. The synagogue became the property of the town and was converted into a classical school. The Jews' street was called "Calle de la Puente del Rey" (Kingsbridge street); but later on it again received its old name, "Calle Nueva." On Aug. 20, 1493, the Maranos were ordered to leave this street and to live among the old Christians, in order that they might not continue their Jewish practises. The inhabitants of Guipuzcoa did not suffer any Jews to live among them.

In some places in the Basque Provinces French Jews have recently settled.

Bibliography:
  • Joaquin Jos. de Landazuri y Romarate, Historia Civil, Eclesiastica, Politica y Legislativa de la Ciudad de Vitoria, in Memorias de los Judios y Juderia de Vitoria y de su Expulsion de Ella (Madrid, 1780) contains all documents which are cited by J. Amador de los Rios, in Historia de los Judios de España, iii., as coming from the Archivo Municipal de Vitoria;
  • see also De los Rios, l. c., iii. 611 et seq.;
  • Kayserling, Gesch. der Juden in Spanien, i. 113-132.
G. M. K.
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