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Intrigue and RevolutionChief Rabbis in Aleppo, Baghdad, and Damascus, 1774-1914$
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Yaron Harel

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113874

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113874.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 27 June 2022



(p.1) Introduction
(p.iii) Intrigue and Revolution

Yaron Harel

, Yehonatan Chipman
Liverpool University Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the rabbinate, particularly the chief rabbis, in the Jewish communities of the Ottoman Empire. There is a widely held conception that, throughout history, the rabbi was the ultimate Jewish leader and, in the absence of counterbalancing community institutions, had the final word in all matters. For Jews within the Ottoman Empire, the right to appoint their rabbis was part of the autonomy they enjoyed, an aspect of the community's life with which the imperial authorities were not involved. However, the creation in 1835 by the Ottoman authorities of the institution of ḥakham bashi transformed the chief rabbi from the senior religious figure within Jewish society into its senior government official. With this change, the long arm of the government began to reach into Jewish communal affairs, and as a result Jewish autonomy gradually weakened. From this point on, the chief rabbi's relationship with the rulers became the most important aspect of his position. This tendency was strengthened throughout the period of the Ottoman reforms (1839–76), during which security, protection, and equality before the law were promised to members of all religions.

Keywords:   rabbinate, chief rabbis, Jewish communities, Ottoman Empire, Jewish leader, Ottoman authorities, ḥakham bashi, Jewish society, Jewish autonomy, Ottoman reforms

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