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ISCANDARI (originally Al-Iscandari, from al-Iscandria = *Alexandria, also written as Ascandarani, Scandarani, and Scandari ), family of talmudists and authors, heads of the *Mustaʿrab (Arabic-speaking Jews) community who were in close touch with government circles in Ereẓ Israel and Egypt in the 17th and 18th centuries. According to Joseph *Sambari, the family originated in *Spain, the first of the family to immigrate to *Egypt being a certain Joseph who settled in Alexandria and, on moving to *Cairo, was called Scandari. This is, however, doubtful; it is almost certain that the Iscandaris were an ancient Mustaʿrab family.

(1) joseph ben abraham ascandarani (1430?–after 1507) lived in *Jerusalem. He studied together with Obadiah of *Bertinoro and according to Jacob *Berab was a most erudite scholar. He moved to *Safed, c. 1491, where he became the head of a Mustaʿrab yeshivah; he spent the rest of his life there. He wrote commentaries on the Yad of Maimonides and on the Tur of *Jacob b. Asher. The letter he sent in about 1507 to the nagid, Isaac ha-Kohen *Sholal, in Egypt, is one of the most important documents about the Jewish community in Ereẓ Israel after the expulsion from Spain. He described the yeshivah, and asked for Sholal's intervention in a dispute he had with Moses ha-Dayyan who was responsible for its administration.

(2) joseph scandari (after 1527), rabbi and physician. He is said to have lived first in Alexandria before moving to Cairo, where he became one of five appointed leaders of the Mustaʿrabim community.

(3) abraham the elder, son of Joseph (2), was also a rabbi and physician, and succeeded to his father's post in the community. Ḥayyim Joseph David Azulai possessed a manuscript of his halakhic rulings.

(4) eleazar b. abraham scandari (d. 1620; called Aba, after the initials of his name), son of Abraham, court physician of Sinan Pasha, the Turkish governor of Egypt. He healed Sinan of a severe illness, whereupon the latter appointed him finance minister of his dominion. Eleazar was the head of the Mustaʿrabs. In 1591 when Sinan was appointed chief vizier, Scandari moved to Constantinople where he became the leader of the Jewish community. As a result of his participation in the formulation of Turkish policy in Moldavia and Transylvania, he became involved in a dispute with the Moldavian governor, Aron-Wodah, who did not fulfill the promises he had made to Scandari. On one occasion when Scandari accompanied Sinan Pasha to Jassy, he was arrested by the governor and held captive in Transylvania until 1596. On his release he returned to Cairo and in 1618 was awarded the Turkish title, chelebi. He was put to death on the orders of the Turkish governor of Egypt after he had been falsely accused by the Muslims. According to Joseph *Sambari, he was the author of glosses on the Yad of Maimonides.

(5) abraham b. eleazar iscandari (1565?–1650), one of the four sons of Eleazar, was one of the greatest Egyptian rabbis and halakhists. He was a pupil of Abraham *Monzoni. He maintained a yeshivah in his own home and possessed a large and valuable library, containing many manuscripts. Through him an impressive collection of the responsa of Maimonides was copied. From his responsa, copies and digests were made, some of which were published in the books of the scholars in Egypt, Palestine, and Turkey. The historians Joseph Sambari and David *Conforte resided with him and assisted with his library. He also engaged in the study of Kabbalah and copied the Sifra de-Ẓeni'uta with the commentary of Isaac *Luria, adding his own glosses (Benayahu collection). Collections of his sermons are extant in manuscript (Ms. Guenzburg, Moscow, no. 1055).

(6) joseph ha-levi iscandari (d. 1768) was head both of the Mustaʿrabim and the general Egyptian community where he also served as a tax collector. Ḥayyim Joseph David Azulai was one of his friends. He was executed by Ali-Bey.


Conforte, Kore, 30b, 41, 49b, 51a; Neubauer, Chronicles, 1 (1887), 155–6, 158, 162; Ḥ.Y.D. Azulai, Ma'gal Tov ha-Shalem, ed. by A. Freimann, 1 (1921), 51, 53; R.A. Ben-Shimon, Tuv Miẓrayim (1908), 5a–7a, 9a, 13b–14b; Rosanes, Togarmah, 3 (1938), 316–8, 358–60; Ashtor, Toledot, 2 (1951), 487–9; Benayahu, in: Sefer Assaf (1953), 111–3; idem, Rabbi D. Azulai (Heb., 1959), 22, 549, 572–3; Ben-Ze'ev, in: Sefunot, 9 (1965), 272–6, 278, 292–3; Baer, Spain, index, s.v.Ascandrani; Tamar, in: Rabbi Yoseph Caro, ed. by I. Raphael (Heb., 1969), 12ff.