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ESTELLA or STELLA (, ):

Capital of a district of the same name in Navarre. Its Jewish community dates as far back as those of Tudela and Pamplona. In 1144 its synagogue was turned over to the bishop by King Garcia Ramirez, and transformed into the Church of S. Maria. Twenty years later the legal status of Estella Jews was established in a way favorable to them (see the "Fuero" in Kayserling's "Geschichte der Juden in Spanien," i. 198).

Under Philip the Fair of France the Jews of Estella suffered greatly. They were obliged to forego all interest on loans to Christians and to accept repayments of the capital by instalments extending over eight years. Louis Hutin, the successor of Philip, was more just. When in 1308 the seneschal of Estella caused the arrest of certain Jews, the king removed the seneschal from his office, set the prisoners at liberty, and placed them under the protection of the seneschal of Pamplona. Nevertheless, the situation of the Jews soon became desperate. Many popular uprisings occurred against them, fomented by the tax-collector Juan Garcia and the Franciscan Pedro Olligoyen.

Shortly after the death of Charles I. (March 5, 1328) the long-impending storm of persecution came upon them. The Jews of Estella, together with many from outside who happened to be there on business, united and defended themselves valiantly from within the walls of their Juderia. But, reenforced by peasants from the surrounding districts, the enraged inhabitants stormed the walls and forced their way into the Jewish houses. The whole Jewish quarter was burned to the ground and its residents were put to the sword, only a few escaping slaughter. Menahem ben Zerah, the author of "Ẓedah la-Derek," was among the survivors, though his family perished. Philip III. instituted an inquiry, and, in order to preserve the semblance of justice, imposed a fine of 10,000 livres on the city. This, however, was remitted, even Pedro Olligoyen, the chief instigator, going unpunished.

On one side of the Estella Juderia was the Castle Belmelcher, and on the other a flour-mill called "la Tintura." The "aljama" had a special magistracy, composed of two directors and twenty "regidores," or administrators, retiring members being replaced by election. The aljama was privileged to introduce new measures, impose fines, and to ban and expel from the community, etc.

The Jews of Estella were engaged principally in commerce and finance. Several of them, like Judah Levi, Abraham Euxoeb (Euxep), Abraham, Joseph, Isaac, and Moses Medellim, were tax-farmers. The Jewish population of Estella in 1366 numbered eighty-five families, and, like their brethren throughout Navarre, bore a heavy burden of taxation. In 1375 they paid nearly 120 florins monthly. Two years later the king levied a distress upon them for refusing to pay the balance of a sum which had been imposed upon them unjustly.

The restrictions to their trade were steadily increased, and many were driven to leave the country. The edict of 1498 drove the Jews out of Navarre; most of those in Estella emigrated; a small remnant embraced Christianity.

Several well-known medieval scholars came from Estella. Among them were Sento Saprut and Abraham ben Isaac (sentenced to death and their goods confiscated "por sus ecsesos" in 1413); Rabbi Menahem ben Zerah, son-in-law of Benjamen Abez (Abaz); David ben Samuel, author of "Ḳiryat Sefer"; and Judah ben Joseph ibn Bulat, whose grandfather, 'Joseph ibn Bulat, was president of the aljama of Estella in 1358.

Bibliography:
  • J. A. de los Rios, Historia de los Judios de España, ii. 176 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. vii. 331;
  • Jacobs, Sources, Nos. 1408, 1428, 1614;
  • Kayserling, Gesch. i. 32 et seq., 39 et seq.
G. M. K.
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