The forgotten giants. Rabbis before and after the expulsion of Spain

Edict of Expulsion

A book by Yosef Bitton cites 20 Jewish personalities who lived between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, eight of them in Zamora

This is the title of the book by Yosef Bitton, formerly the Great Rabbi of Uruguay and current spiritual leader of the Ohel David & Schlomo congregation in Brooklyn, New York, who in the book chronicles twenty six Jewish personalities who lived between the end of the fifteenth century and Mid-17th century.
What struck me as I read it was that of the twenty-six names, eight have a direct connection with Zamora-Isaac Aboab II, Moshe Alashkar, Issac Campanton, Isaac Caro, Isaac Arama, Jacob and Levi Habib, Abraham Sabbath At least five -Jacob Berab, Samuel Medida, Salomón Serilo, David ben Zimra and Abraham Zacuto-, being disciples of the previous ones, would have relation of first degree, what would put to the city of Duero in a preminent place in the intellectual production Jewish in the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries.
In addition to his religious ordination by the Grand Rabbinate of Israel, Bitton, a native of Argentina, studied at institutions such as Yeshiva University and Emory in the United States, as well as the Ben Gurion and Bar Ilan universities in Israel. Academic rigor, including familiarity with the theological concepts and ideas drawn from the rabbis studied. Nowadays, Bitton is considered one of the rabbinical authorities of the Sephardic world.

During one of the epistolary exchanges I had with him about the various references to Zamora in his book, Rab Bittón commented that “something very special had to be happening in the city so that so many personalities would leave there.” After four congresses to study the Jewish past of Zamora, we can say that what was happening here in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was the same thing that had happened in Cordoba, Toledo and Barcelona in previous periods: a vibrant cultural coexistence of which it formed Part of the Jewish community, which allowed the Zamoran Jews, for at least two centuries, to specialize in the study of the sacred scriptures.
The historical documentation indicates that after 1391, when several aljamas and Castilian juderías were violently attacked, Zamora became the refuge of the Jewish knowledge until the year of the expulsion, leaving from here the methodological and doctrinal corpus that, through its teachers , Would accompany the thousands expelled on their various routes, from Lisbon and Amsterdam to Istanbul and Jerusalem, passing through Fez, Cairo and Safed, as well described in the biographies of several of the figures presented in the book.
I confess that reading these stories was very satisfying to me because in a certain way validates what since 2010 a group of Spanish, Portuguese, American and Israeli scholars and researchers have been defending about the place of Zamora on the map of Sefarad. Or what is the same, the Jewish past of the city should not be studied only as a moment common to other towns and cities, but as the turning point of Jewish culture in the Iberian peninsula and as such, value its significance for Hispanic Judaism as a whole.
(*) Director of the Isaac Campantón Center


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