Today in Sephardic Jewish History


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 1682: Died, Asser Levy, the "founding father" of North American Jewry. He was survived by his wife Miriam (aka Maria). Though Levy and the "Levy" family of New York are thought of as Sephardic with roots in Holland and even further roots in Spain, he might have been the son of Benjamin Levy, an Ashkenazi shochet from Recife, Brazil.

 1814: Gershom Mendes Seixas of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York gave a sermon saying because the ruling powers have declared war, it is their duty to "act as true and faithful citizens, to support and preserve the honor, the dignity, and the independence of the United States of America!" Gershom asked the people to pray to God for protection and a strengthening of faith and to get rid of the evil that is around them.  He discusses the horrible conditions that many people have been faced with and the numerous deaths that have occurred.

1912: Chief Rabbi Franco of Jerusalem protests to the Turkish Minister of Justice and Public Worship of the removal of seats at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The Governor ignores his protest.

1944: Allied planes drop bombs on a German shipping port and accidentally kill Jews on the Island of Rhodes in the Jewish quarter.

 1915: Ottoman forces attempt to cross the Suez Canal but are repelled by the British. The Turks then turn towards Beersheba in Palestine after suffering near 2000 casualties.

 1900: Death of Reverend Jacob Aron Mendes Chumaceiro of Amsterdam at the age of 67; and the death of Rabbi Israel Benamozegh at Leghorn at the age of 76.

1921: Conference of Greek Zionists at Salonica adopt a resolution agreeing that Jewish education at the Alliance Israelite Universelle schools is not in tune with their national views and aspirations.

 1864: In a decree from the Sultan, brought about by the intervention of Moses Montefiore, the Jews of Morocco were ordered not to be harmed, and to be treated in accordance of the laws of Allah. However, it was reported many Jews became "arrogant and reckless" after hearing this ruling, especially the Westernized Jews who worked the ports.

1908: Riots and massacres for 2 days have devastated the Jewish community at Setatt, Morocco.

 1298: King Jaime II had a Jewish man's property confiscated. Moses Avencurel of Elche was punished for taking part in an anti-royalist rebellion.

1481: Several affluent men of the community in Seville, let by Diego de Susan, plotted to strike back at the Inquisitors.  He stated to his co-religionists:

"Are we not the principal men of this city in standing, and the best esteemed of the people? Let us assemble troops; and if they come to take us, let us start an uprising with the troops and the people; and so we will kill them and avenge ourselves on our enemies!"

 1624:  The Jamestown City, VA Census demonstrated 38 year old Elias Legardo, a Jew, came to America in 1621 on the ship Abigall. Legardo was one of the earliest Jews in the Colonies.

1917: Died, Yosef Levi in Paris. Levi was an archeologist and philologist of African and oriental languages. Born in Adrianople December 15, 1827, he went on to write 33 books during his career.

 1907: The Jewish community of Kingston, Jamaica issues an appeal for help in rebuilding three synagogues laid in ruins by an earthquake. Many Jews were killed during the disaster. The Jewish community in England offer some assistance.

1910: Hahambashi is formally asked if he has any recommendations for the Turkish authorities over the subject of Ottoman Jews in Persian. At the time the Persian ambassador to Turkey, Prince Mirza Riza Khan utilized the Hahambashi as the final decider of Jewish law.

1917: The 600-year-old synagogue of Congregation Shaari Zedek in Tunis was destroyed by fire.

 1996: Died, Rabbi Albert J. Amateau, founder of the Brotherhood of Rhodes, and the Sephardic Brotherhood, and offshoot of the Salonican Brotherhood.


 1911: Died, Madame Fakima Modiano a prominent philanthropist of Salonica.

1911: Minister of War at the request of the Hahambashi directs his officers in every Army Corps to provide money for Jewish soldiers to buy matzah and kosher food over the 8 days of Passover.

 1490: In Spain it was declared that no Jew or convert ever be allowed to rule over any Muslims. This was part of Spanish/Muslim negotiations leading up to the eventual surrender of Granada, the last Muslim territory in Iberia.

1482: By a Papal order, seven new Inquisitors were nominated, among them Tomas de Torquemada.

1910: Turkish Council of State approves statutes, which will allow a Jewish bank to be opened in Salonica.

 1486: Over 750 people would be mandated to participate on this very cold day as prisoners in an auto-de-fe in Toledo. They were forced to march barefooted and bareheaded through the streets. Many people came from the countryside to howl and scorn at the prisoners. Among some of the many stipulations of punishment, was the fining of 1/5 of their property, to which the funds went to battle the Muslims in Granada, as well as public self-flagellation over six consecutive Fridays.

 1943: Jews in Salonica were prohibited from walking on the street at night, nor using any telephone, private or public.

 1952: The Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America established the Lena and Henry J Perahia Scholarship Foundation Award as a permanent endowment.

1915 Congregation Shearith Israel abolishes family pews from its synagogue.

 1655: The twenty-three Sephardic Jews which arrived in the fall seeking sanctuary from the Inquisition are officially admitted into New Amsterdam over Stuyvesant's objections.

 1912: A Turkish Jew, G. Valensin Bey, member of the municipal council of Alexandria, was appointed Commander of the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus by the King of Italy.

1917: First Jewish congregation organized and first synagogue built in 425 years in Madrid, Spain.


 1574: An auto-de-fe took place in Mexico City; nearly 100 people were sentenced that day, including New Christians.

1577: The Jews of Safed requested assistance from the Sultan for persecution by local officals. In a letter to the local Ottoman officials, the Sultan told his people that the Jews, "have complained of wrong done to them." The Jews were forced to pay high taxes, transport dung on Saturdays, were levies tolls on the road to Damascus, and were beaten with a strip of metal. The Sultan ordered his people not to molest the Jews, to investigate and give back what the Jews are owed.

 1956: The Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America dedicated a community center in New York, with impressive ceremonies. Speakers included Judge Jonah J. Goldstein and the late Judge Edgar J. Nathan, Jr. The Brotherhood Memorial Post presented the colors (flags).


 1856: A blood libel case occurred in Constantinople, with Jews being targeted with violence from Greeks, Armenians, and Turks. This occurred only three days after the Ottoman "reforms" which were to bring equality.

 1501: On this day and the following two tremendous auto-de-fe's took place in Toledo. A woman prophet and over 100 of her followers were burned. The woman envisioned those Jews who had previously died as martyrs were taken to heaven, and the Jewish Messiah was speedily going to return the Jews to the Promised Land.

1656: The Jews in New Amsterdam are granted, "A little hook of land situate [sic] outside of this city for a burial place." This cemetery land was located by the Bowery, near Oliver Street in what is now lower Manhattan.

 1484: Over this day and the next, 30 men and women were burned alive, as well as the bones of 40 others at the Inquisitional Tribunal of Ciudad Real.

1658: Jacob (John) Lumbrozo, the first doctor in Maryland was tried for having, "Denied Jesus of Nazareth´┐Ż." Lumbrozo was convicted, sentenced to death, and was to have all his property confiscated by the government. He was later freed from these penalties. Lumbrozo was born in Portugal. He then moved to Holland and finally settled in Maryland in 1656.

1910: Hahambashi proposes to convene, in summer, a conference of delegates of all Jewish communities in the Empire to consider reform of rabbinate and to plan a new reorganization of the community. Included in this would be the elimination of life appointments in favor of elections.

1912: A New York Ladino language newspaper called La Aguila hit the presses, but failed due to lack of support and finished running on March 22 of the same year.

1912: Jews in Kustendil, Bulgaria attacked by a mob, nine people were injured.

1912: A bill introduced in the Portuguese Congress provides for cession of land to Jewish emigrants to Angola, Portuguese West Africa.

 1917: H. Pereira Mendes celebrates 40th anniversary as rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel of New York City.

1917: The Judeo-Spanish newspaper El Emigrante was established in New Jersey.

 1908: Continued massacres in Setatt drive Jews to Casablanca for safety. During this period the Jewish population of all Morocco is somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000.

1921: Greek authorities expropriate the old Jewish cemetery in Smyrna.

 1974: The American Sephardi Federation at its founding convention announced its goals: First to revitalize Sephardi heritage, and also to aid the underprivileged population in Israel.

 1976: The World Sephardi Federation headed by Nessim Gaon met with King Juan Carlos of Spain. The WSF goal of helping to normalize relations with Israel and Spain did not come to fruition immediately, but over time a relationship developed and eventually the two countries recognized each other.

 1348: King Alfonso XI at the Cortes of Alcala de Hebares issued a "startling" decree which forbid Jews and Moors, in the future, to lend money on interest.

1921: Fire destroys 120 homes and a large amount of shops in the Jewish quarter of Kouskoundjouk, Constantinople. Most of these belonged to poor Jews.

1921: Conference of rabbis in Jerusalem elects a court of Justice and chooses four Ashkenazi and four Sephardi rabbis with Rabbi Kook (Ashkenazi) &  Jacob Meir (Sephardic).





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