By: Paul Wendland
Leader of the Karaites of the Crimea, who died in 1824. He was the royal treasurer of Selim Ghyrey Khan, the last Tatar ruler of the Crimea, and therefore is called in Karaite literature Ha-Neeman ("the Trusted")—an appellation bestowed also upon his father Samuel, who died in 1770, and who probably held the same office under former khans. When Ghyrey Khan fled for his life from his rebellious subjects, and sought succor from his protectress Catherine II. in St. Petersburg, Aga followed him, hoping to collect the large sums of money that he had advanced to the fugitive. In 1795, after the Crimea had been under Russian rule for over a decade, Benjamin Aga, Solomon ben Nahamu Bobowitz, and the astronomer Isaac of Kalea, the son-in-law of Jacob Aga, who was the elder brother of Benjamin Aga, went to St. Petersburg as a delegation from the Crimean Karaites, to petition the empress to release their sect from the double rate of taxation which all the Jews then had to pay. Through the intervention of the notorious Count Zoubov (who was one of the assassins of Emperor Paul in 1801), the delegation obtained from the empress the exemption from the obnoxious "Jewish" taxes, some land grants, and other privileges which had not been asked for. This established an important precedent for exempting the Karaites from subsequent antijewish legislation. The extraordinary success of the mission served to arouse great enthusiasm among the Karaites, and Aga and his fellow delegates were received with great honor on their return. A large monolith, fashioned out of marble, with fitting inscription, was erected in the court of the synagogue at Guzlowo (Eupatoria or Koslov), to commemorate an event so important in the history of the Karaites of Russia.
- Isaac of Kalea, Or ha-Lebanah, Jitomir, 1882.