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Poor Relief in Ottoman Jewish Communities

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores Jewish communal charity in the pre-nineteenth century Ottoman Empire and shows its resemblance to practices that had existed among Jews during the classical Geniza period. It divides Jewish charitable giving into three main spheres: public, semi-private, and private. The first included ordinary giving of money, food, and other items directly to funds the community administered. Officials appointed by each congregation were responsible for receiving and distributing charitable assets. Semi-private charity referred to forms of giving the community encouraged and often helped in facilitating, yet did not fund or administer directly. All other charitable activities were considered private: they were performed without intermediaries, away from public attention, and were almost never recorded. The chapter argues that an array of interests and loyalties, and not formal obligations instituted by communities, stimulated Ottoman Jews to participate in communal charity.

Keywords: Geniza period; Jewish communal charity; Ottoman Empire; pre-nineteenth century; Semi-private charity



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