Écija, Joseph (Yuçaf) de

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ÉCIJA, JOSEPH (Yuçaf) DE (Joseph b. Ephraim ha-Levi ibn Shabbat ; d. 1339/40). Écija was born in Écija, Andalusia, and was chief tax farmer (almoxarife mayor) of Alfonso xi of Castile. He played a major role within the Jewish community and cooperated with R. *Asher ben Jehiel, then the leading halakhic authority in Castile. He was advanced in the royal service through the patronage of Infante Felipe, son of Sancho iv. By 1322 he was almoxarife mayor and a member of the royal council, besides two other Christians. In 1326 he was sent by Alfonso xi to meet his betrothed, the daughter of the Portuguese king. While at Valladolid, some of the knights who accompanied him stirred up the populace against him, but he was saved through the intervention of Dona Leonor, the king's sister. He was dropped from the royal council in 1328 as a concession to the Cortes, which had been summoned to approve extraordinary taxes. A year later, however, he was again high in royal favor, conducting negotiations with Alfonso iv of Aragon. He gained the latter's favor as well and appealed to him to relieve the Aragonese Jews from the obligation to wear the Jewish *badge. In a letter of 1329 the Aragonese king expressed his regret over his inability to grant Joseph de Écija's request at that time. At court Joseph's rival was the royal physician, Samuel ibn Waqar of Toledo. The two competed for the farming of various royal revenues. Gonzalo Marténez de Oviedo, a protégé of Joseph, became royal major-domo and commander of the Order of Alcántara. Marténez turned against his benefactor and brought about the imprisonment of both Joseph and Samuel. Joseph appears to have died in prison. Solomon *Ibn Verga in his Shevet Yehudah emphasizes the fact that Joseph, for all his high rank at court, was a loyal and devoted son of his people. He built a synagogue in Seville and endowed a house of learning in his native Écija, providing for the maintenance of the dean and students. In 1342, the king asked Pope Clemens vi to permit the Jews of Seville to worship in the synagogue that was built by Joseph. He was also a lover of music, an interest which he shared with Alfonso iv of Aragon, who asked Joseph to send him his favorite Castilian musicians.


Amador de los Ríos, Historia de los Judíos de España y Portugal, 2 (1876), 128f.; Y. Baer, in: Minḥah le-David (Yellin) (1935), 198f.; Baer, Urkunden, 1 (1929), 262f.; 2 (1936), 141f., 163f.; A. Ballesteros, in: Sefarad, 6 (1946), 253–87; A. Shochat (ed.), Shevet Yehudah (1947), 52f., 181; Samuel ibn Sason, Sefer Avnei ha-Shoham, ed. by A. Ḥamiel (1962), 22f.

[Haim Beinart]