Hakham Bashi

Hakham Bashi (Ottoman Turkish: حاخامباشی, Turkish: Hahambaşı, IPA: [hɑˈhɑm bɑˈʃɯ]) is the Turkish name for the Chief Rabbi of the nation's Jewish community. In the time of the Ottoman Empire it was also used for the chief rabbi of a particular region of the empire, such as Syria or Iraq, though the Hakham Bashi of Constantinople was considered overall head of the Jews of the Empire.


Chief Rabbi Jacob Saul Dwek, Hakham Bashi of Aleppo, Syria, 1907.

The institution of the Hakham Bashi was established by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, as part of his policy of governing his exceedingly diverse subjects according to their own laws and authorities wherever possible. Religion was considered as primordial aspect of a communities 'national' identity, so the term Ethnarch has been applied to such religious leaders, especially the (Greek Orthodox) Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (i.e. in the Sultan's imperial capital, renamed Istanbul in 1930 but replaced by Ankara as republican capital in 1923). As Islam was the official religion of both court and state, the Chief Mufti in Istanbul had a much higher status, even of cabinet rank.

Because of the size and nature of the Ottoman state, containing a far greater part of the diaspora then any other, the position of Hakham Bashi has been compared to that of the Jewish Exilarch.

In the Ottoman Empire, and as such, the Hakham Bashi was the closest thing to an overall Exilarchal authority among Jewry everywhere in the Middle East in early modern times. They held broad powers to legislate, judge and enforce the laws among the Jews in the Ottoman Empire and often sat on the Sultan's divan.

The office also maintained considerable influence outside the Ottoman Empire, especially after the forced migration of numerous Jewish communities and individuals out of Spain (after the fall of Granada in 1492) and Italy.

The Chief Rabbi of the modern, secular Republic of Turkey is still known as Hahambaşı.

List of incumbents

Chief Rabbis of the Ottoman Empire (Hahambaşı)

Eli Capsali 1452–1454
Moses Capsali 1454–1495
Elijah Mizrachi 1497–1526
Mordechai Komitano 1526–1542
Tam ibn Yahya 1542–1543
Eliyyah Benjamin ha-Levi 1543
Eliyyah ben Ḥayyim 1543–1602
Yeḥiel Bassan 1602–1625
Joseph Miṭrani 1625–1639
Yomṭov Ben Yaʿesh 1639–1642
Yomṭov ben Ḥananiah Ben Yaqar 1642–1677
Ḥayyim Qamḥi 1677–1715
Judah Ben Rey 1715–1717
Samuel Levi 1717–1720
Abraham ben Ḥayyim Rosanes 1720–1745
Solomon Ḥayyim Alfandari 1745–1762
Meir Ishaki 1762–1780
Elijah Palombo 1780–1800
Ḥayyim Jacob Benyakar 1800–1835
Abraham ha-Levi 1835–1836
Samuel ben Moses Ḥayyim 1836–1837
Moses Fresco 1839–1841
Jacob Behar David 1841–1854
Ḥayyim ha-Kohen 1854–1860
Jacob (or Yakup) Avigdor 1860–1863
Yakir Geron 1863–1872
Moses Levi 1872–1908
Haim Nahum Effendi 1908–1920
Shabbetai Levi 1918–1919
Ishak Ariel 1919–1920

Chief Rabbis of the Turkish Republic (Hahambaşı)

Haim Moşe Becerano 1920–1931
Haim Ishak Saki 1931–1940
Rafael David Saban 1940–1960
David Asseo 1961–2002
Ishak Haleva 2002–

Chief Rabbis of the Galilee

Makhlouf Eldaoudi 1889–1909

Chief Rabbis of Ottoman Palestine

Chaim Abraham Gagin 1842–1848
Isaac Kovo 1848–1854
Haim Nisim Abulafia 1854–1861
Haim David Hazan 1861–1869
Abraham Ashkenazi 1869–1880
Raphael Meir Panigel 1880–1892
Jacob Saul Elyashar 1893–1906
Elijah Moses Panigel 1907

Chief Rabbis of British Mandatory Palestine

Jacob Meir 1921–1939
Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel 1939–1948

Chief Sephardi Rabbis of Israel

Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel 1948–1953
Yitzhak Nissim 1955–1972
Ovadia Yosef 1972–1982
Mordechai Eliyahu 1982–1993
Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron 1993–2003
Shlomo Amar 2003–2013
Yitzhak Yosef 2013–present

See also


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