views updated May 09 2018


DURAN , family which originated in Provence, settled in Majorca in 1306, and after the persecutions of 1391 in Algiers. ẒemaḤ astruc duran (d. 1404), a grandnephew of Levi b. *Gershom, was respected as a scholar by both the Jews and non-Jews of Majorca. He died in Algiers. His son was Simeon b. Zemah *Duran (14th–15th century). Until the end of the 18th century, the descendants of Simeon b. ẓemaḥ provided uncontested lay and spiritual leaders among Algerian Jewry. His son was Solomon ben Simeon *Duran whose three sons were dayyanim in Algiers. They were aaron (d. c. 1470), a rabbinical authority consulted by such distant communities as Constantinople; Ẓemaḥ ben Solomon *Duran who was married to the daughter of the illustrious Rab (rabbi) Ephraim al-Nakawa of Tlemçen; and Simeon ben Solomon *Duran. ẒemaḤ ben simeon ben ẒemaḤ (d. 1590) wrote a commentary on the poem for Purim by Isaac b. Ghayyat which was published in Tiferet Yisrael (Venice, 1591?) by his son solomon (d. c. 1593). The latter wrote notes on the works of his grandfather Simeon b. Ẓemaḥ, Yavin Shemu'ah and Tashbaẓ, which are followed by his casuistic responsa Ḥut ha-Meshullash, part 1. In addition, Solomon wrote a collection of sermons, a commentary on the Book of Esther, and a treatise on temperance. All of these are included in his Tiferet Yisrael. He is also the author of a commentary on Proverbs, Heshek Shelomo (Venice, 1623). His son ẒemaḤ (d. 1604) was a talmudist whose death inspired Abraham *Gavison to write an elegy. aaron duran (d. 1676), dayyan in Algiers, was probably his grandson.

Ẓemaḥ ben Benjamin (d. 1727) was a prominent authority in religious matters. He also was active in Algerian commerce and left a large fortune to his sons: joseph benjamin (d. 1758), whose responsa were published in the works of Judah Ayash, together with whom he was dayyan in Algiers; and Ḥayyim jonah (d. c. 1765), who settled in Leghorn, where he published the first part of Magen Avot (1763). moses ben ẒemaḤ, one of the notables of Leghorn, had a previously unpublished part of Magen Avot printed in 1785 from an original manuscript which was in the possession of his family. david duran (18th–19th centuries), whose father judah (d. c. 1790) was a direct descendant of Simeon b. Ẓemaḥ and one of the wealthiest merchants of Algiers, himself held a distinguished position in Algerian commerce from 1776. He became a rival of the *Bakri-*Busnach merchant families who were then at the height of their power. After the assassination in 1805 of Naphtali Busnach and, two months later, of the dey himself, David was appointed muqaddim (leader of the Jewish community) by the new ruler of Algiers, Aḥmad Dey, but was replaced in the same year owing to the intrigues of Joseph Bakri. He continued representing the interests of England in Algiers as against those of France and Spain, whose side was taken by the Bakri-Busnach families. David Bakri was appointed muqaddim in 1806 and held the position for over four years but Duran's machinations evidently caused his execution. Although David Duran was again appointed muqaddim he was himself executed the same year (October 1811) for no apparent reason, immediately after bringing the annual tax, or presents, to the dey.

The descendants of Simeon b. Ẓemaḥ who had established themselves in Leghorn settled in London before 1826.


Benjacob, Oẓar, 203 (no. 875), 222 (no. 215), 659 (no. 699), 674 (no. 995); I. Epstein, Responsa of Rabbi Simon ben Zemah Duran as a Source… (1930), 1–5, 16, 102; I. Bloch, Inscriptions tumulaires… (1888), nos. 7, 17, 27, 37, 46; A. Devoulx, Le Livre d'or des Israélites algériens (1872), 4ff., 34, 65ff.; Hirschberg, Afrikah, index.

[David Corcos]

Duran, Simeon Ben Zemah

views updated May 21 2018

Duran, Simeon Ben Zemah, known as Rashbaz (1361–1444). Rabbinic authority and philosopher. He emigrated from Majorca to Algeria in 1391 where he became Chief Rabbi in 1408. He was regarded as a great legal authority and was well-known for his careful judgements. He respected, but did not always agree with, the philosophy of Maimonides. His major philosophical work was Magen Avot (Shield of the Fathers), written as an introduction to Avot. He maintained that many so-called dogmas were open to argument (and substantiation), but that Judaism must insist on three foundational beliefs which were not to be disputed: the existence of God; the divine origin of Torah; and reward and punishment after death.