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TARAZONA , city in Saragossa province, N.E. Spain. Its Jewish community was one of the most important in the kingdom of Aragon. The proximity of the town to the border of the kingdoms of Castile and Navarre offered its inhabitants extensive commercial opportunities, and the community had lengthy periods of prosperity and expansion. There were two Jewish quarters: an old and a new, each having a synagogue and located near one another; the new was really an extension of the old among houses of Christians. The old quarter was situated between the Conde and Rua Alta Streets up to the Iron Gate; a street there is still known as the "Street of the Jews." The new one began to form in 1371 between the Aires Street, the town square, and the Rebate Square (at present known as de la Merced). The Jewish cemetery was in its vicinity.

The Jewish settlement in Tarazona was an ancient one; in 1123 Alfonso i granted the bishop of Tarazona a tithe from the taxes of the Jews of his bishopric. However, it began to increase in importance in the 13th century, and members of the *Portella family were active there during that period; Don Musa de Portella acted as the bailiff of the town during the reign of James i until being appointed bailiff of the kingdom; after him, Ishmael de Portella acted as the executor of the infante Pedro, son of Alfonso iii. Baer states that this family was capable of financing the taxes and budget of the whole community (see bibliography).

Pedro iii took a special interest in the organization of the community and in 1285 ratified a communal regulation which established procedure for the payment of taxes on real estate and movable property, as well as stipulating persons exempted from such payments, the declaration of the assessed serving as the basis for taxation.

After the *disputation which he conducted in Pamplona with Cardinal Pedro de Luna (1375), R. Shem Tov b. Isaac Shaprut settled in Tarazona, where he probably wrote Even Boḥan during the early 1380s and served as physician. However, he became involved in a controversy, of which the details are unknown. A number of Jews in Tarazona engaged in moneylending and provided loans for the municipal council and to the inhabitants of nearby towns in Navarre and Castile.

After the Persecutions of 1391

The community of Tarazona was unaffected by the persecutions of the Jews in Spain in 1391, through the energetic protection given by the crown. The wave of conversions among the Jews in Spain in this period also affected this community, and after the disputation of *Tortosa (1413–14) many of its members abandoned the Jewish faith, including some of the most prominent local Jews. There were other members of these families, however, who remained loyal to Judaism and continued to take important roles in the community administration.

The community had apparently regained its strength by the 1430s. Jews built houses there, the building contractors being apostate Jews and Moors. To assist the community further, in 1457 Alfonso v granted its request for alleviations and exempted it from payment of taxes and other levies. Alfonso's favorable attitude was guided by his desire to rehabilitate the communities in the kingdom as a whole (as in Saragossa, Jaca, Teruel, etc.). John ii also adopted this policy with regard to the Jews of Tarazona. However, like the rest of the Jews in the kingdom, Tarazona Jewry suffered from the internal policy of Ferdinand v. In 1484 Ferdinand ordered the Jews of the town to testify before the *Inquisition if they knew of any *Conversos who observed the Jewish precepts. In 1491 several members of the Santa Fé (Asniel) family were burned at the stake; others were sentenced in 1497 and 1499.

When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, those of Tarazona probably left for nearby Navarre. The collection of their outstanding debts was entrusted to Luis de Alkalá and Fernando Núñez Coronel (Abraham *Seneor).


Baer, Spain, index; Baer, Urkunden, 1 (1929), index; J.M. Sanz Artibucilla, Historia de la Ciudad de Tarazona, 2 vols. (1929–30); idem, in: Sefarad, 4 (1944), 73–98; 5 (1945), 337–66; 6 (1946), 374–6; 7 (1947), 63–92; 9 (1949), 393–419; F. Cantera, ibid., 3 (1943), 240f.; L. Piles Ros, ibid., 10 (1950), 107ff.; F. Cantera, Sinagogas españolas (1955), 311–3; Suárez Fernández, Documentos, 30, 486.

[Haim Beinart]