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Carmona, Bekhor Isaac David


CARMONA, BEKHOR ISAAC DAVID (1773–1826), Turkish financier. The Carmona family is of Spanish origin and appears to have come from the Andalusian city of the same name. Bekhor Isaac bore the title Çelebi ("gentleman of fashion," "Sir"), a Turkish award to educated persons. As a young man he dealt in alum (şap in Turkish), and hence came to be known as "Şapci Basi." He was also a money changer, and with two other Jews, Ezekiel Gabbai and Isaiah Ajiman, the paymaster of the Janissary regiments, which he even accompanied on campaigns. He lent money to the commanders of the regiments to enable them to advance payment to the soldiers; the commanders then shared the profits from these loans with Bekhor Isaac and his two associates. Later, he became the court banker and chief tax collector.

Bekhor Isaac moved from his residence at Hasköy to an imposing mansion he had built for himself on the Bosporus. Here he maintained a yeshivah, providing the students with all their personal needs and supplying them with books. In 1826 an Armenian rival accused him of conspiring with the Janissaries, who had been disbanded, and of defrauding the government treasury. On a Sabbath evening Bekhor Isaac was arrested by the sultan's guards and executed on the spot; the family's property was confiscated. The sultan's mother, who had greatly respected him, delivered his body to his sons, and he was buried the following Sunday with great honors. For many years the Jews of Istanbul added a special elegy in memory of Çelebi Bekhor Isaac to the kinot recited on the ninth of Av.


M. Franco, Essai sur l'Histoire des Israélites de l'Empire Ottoman (1897), 134f., 150f.; A. Galanté, Histoire des Juifs d'Istanbul (1941), 56–59; Rosanes, Togarmah, 6 (1945), 64–70.

[Abraham Haim]

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