Castro, Abraham

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CASTRO, ABRAHAM

CASTRO, ABRAHAM (d. 1560). Castro was of Spanish origin, perhaps himself an expellee, and an outstanding figure in early Ottoman Egyptian-Jewish society. Contemporary Hebrew and Muslim sources (including Cairo Genizah documents) indicate that he moved in official government circles, especially in the financial realm. He leased the taxes on customs and trade in Alexandria, and from 1520 (and perhaps earlier) he served as master of the mint (mu'allim dār al-darb). He was also renowned for his philanthropic activity on behalf of individuals and institutions in Egypt and Ereẓ Israel. Hebrew sources as well as Jerusalem Sharia court documents indicate that Castro resided in Jerusalem from the late 1530s. Here, too, he played a central role in the city's Jewish society, primarily in its economic life, dealing with real estate and apparently tax farming as well. During his residence in Jerusalem, Castro maintained close relations with various sages, Joseph Ibn Sayyah in particular. Moreover, it seems that Castro had a special interest in Kabbalah. A Jerusalem Sharia court document from 1540 mentions his name as a convert to Islam. This, however, contradicts our knowledge of the man. Non-Jewish sources indicate that another Jew by the same name also resided in Jerusalem at the time, and it was this individual who converted. Castro evidently remained in Jerusalem until his death in 1560. Two of his sons are known: Moses and Jacob. The latter was the famous halakhic sage in Egypt, R. Jacob *Castro.

bibliography:

A.B. Pollack, "The Jews and the Egyptian Treasury in the Times of the Mamluks and the Beginning of the Turkish Regime," in: Zion, 1 (1935), 24–36 (Heb.); A. David, "Le-Siyumah shel ha-Negidut be-Mitzrayim u-le-Toledotav shel Avraham di Castro," in: Tarbiz, 41 (1972), 325–37; idem, "Le-Toledotav shel Avraham Castro le-Or Mismakhim min ha-Genizah," in: Michael, 9 (1985), 147–62; idem, To Come To the Land (1999), 140–41; H. Gerber, "An Unknown Turkish Document on Abraham di Castro," in: Zion, 45 (1980), 158–63 (Heb.); A. Cohen, "Ha-Omnam Nivenu Ḥomot Yerushalayim al yedeiAvraham Castro?" in: Zion, 47 (1982), 407–18; E. Shochetman, "Additional Information on the Life of R. Abraham Castro," in: Zion, 48 (1983), 387–405 (Heb.); B. Arbel, Trading Nations: Jews and Venetians in the Early Modern Eastern Mediterranean (1995), 28–54.

[Avraham David (2nd ed.)]

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