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Of Orphans, Marriage, and Money: Mating Patterns of Istanbul’s Jews in the Early Nineteenth Century

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Chapter Summary

This chapter offers a glimpse into the world of the Jewish family in Istanbul in the first half of the 19th century. It focuses on the history of the Jewish community from the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople to the death of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1453-1566). The chapter presents a tapestry of Jewish family life in Istanbul, a community made up of interwoven strands of local Greek-speaking Jews and emigrants from Italy, the Iberian peninsula, and to a lesser degree, the lands of Ashkenaz. An additional feature of the Istanbuli Jewish family of this era is the perception of the woman as a means of strengthening the family lineage. In all societies, orphans, in particular daughters without a father, were low in status, both physically and legally. To address this disadvantage, Jewish communities everywhere decided that the beit din (Jewish religious court) would serve as the "father" of orphans.

Keywords: Istanbul; Italy; Jews; Orphans; Ottoman Empire



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