Tarazona et alia
This deliberately isolated chapter is devoted to the Town and to the known Family presence there in view of the impressive Community documentation recently discovered. That documentation, - which includes five name-lists including those of the Family, - is quite convincing as to the fact of our residence 600 years ago, well before the Expulsion of 1492. This single chapter is based only upon the name as we now know it, - Aven/Ben/Ibn Ardut.

First and foremost we owe a debt to Sue Clamp - (see Facebook), - for having brought us face to face with that documentation, which as a general discovery has inspired on-going research at Tarazona into its own Jewish heritage. The extract concerning us is brought together with her comments under the heading "
Five Lists of Names from Tarazona ".

The pdf and other items in this section are mainly from Spanish websites, - only partly in English and sometimes perhaps rather tourist-geared, - with some in Hebrew on a somewhat more academic level. Although there is an enormous amount there of general History, one is brought to believe that there is still much more to find, - if you happen to speak Ladino or Spanish and can visit the town personally too.

The first Jewish settlers in Aragon, - at Zaragoza, - arrived in the 3rd century by all accounts. That is as recorded by current-day authorities, - See the web-site maintained by the Zaragoza Provincial Authorities and presented in a very positive light under "Aragon - Space Sepharad ". This site alone will lead you into pastures you may never have trod, in particular via the very extensive Bibliography given.

We have already mentioned a Family presence in other Towns, in itself cause for celebration and calling for due expansion of this whole family enterprise. For there was indeed Family amongst the very important community of
Huesca for example, (also in Aragon), and I have added a page taken from the works of our own Yom-Tov Aziz, together with a general survey and a second page from a short Article by Richard Gottheil and Meyer Kaiserling which happens to open with a reference to Solomon ben Adret. These are just appetizers.

Reference to the Family in Huesca is to be found in the "
Spain before the Expulsions " chapter, - amongst them Eliazar [Aziz] Ibn Ardut, doctor to Pedro of Aragon, - so there may be many others waiting to be discovered within what was then a very wealthy and substantial community. The earliest known Benardout doctor came from Navarre.

Your collator has visited Tarazona once and walked its streets, learnt much but still needs to spend a couple of months there in the Archives with a translator, (see the El Retorno de Tarazona chapter).
Should anyone do the same, - please keep in touch and bring us all up to date.

So far, and taken only from the five documents brought here, we can learn of the following
Benardut presence in Tarazona :

House owners
: In 1405, Simuel Benardut owned houses (in the plural), in the "dos carreras ", in the Jewish Quarter, between Rua Alta and Rua Balta, both of which still exist, - with a rateable value of 250 sueldos.
The word "sueldo " today means simply wages or salary, but its cash-value is not known to your collator. At that time however, a sueldo was an accounting measure equivalent to 1/20 of a Pound, - in structure, this seems to have been similar to one shilling in the days of Queen Elizabeth I although not necessarily so in commercial value. At all events it was equivalent to a working man's wage.

Productive Lands
: In 1379, Alazar Benardut already held, bought and/or rented two vineyards and an olive grove worth altogether in the region of 100 sueldos, (whether in capital value, rents receivable or annual value of the crop is not clear). On my visit I was taken to see the site of these lands, roughly, but no evidence was presented........

: In 1405, Simuel Benardut, Solenit his Wife and together with their son Gento Galit, owed 200 sueldos to Lope de Conchiellos and his wife Jurdana, (to whom many seemed to have been indebted by the way).

One gets the impression that these records include only those with assets of moment, - i.e. those worth taxing or, more practically, - those with assets which perhaps needed to be saved from expropriating Church and Crown. Note that the
later date of 1405 is just after the 1391 "Troubles " when pressures on the Jews to convert would have been particularly heavy. This date may be both that of preparation and an indication as to when the documents were hidden.

The Families
: Alazar's family is mentioned in three generations, - Alazar the grandfather, his son Gento and the grandson Alazar. In addition there were Simuel, Solanit his Wife and their son Gento Galit, - only two generations mentioned alas.

Rescuing a Corner Of The Past
Walter Ruby - Special To The Jewish Week (March 16, 2001)

One day in the summer of 2000, an archivist in the magnificent medieval cathedral of the northern Spanish town of Tarazona found that the cover of a 14th-century book in the church's collection of manuscripts had been ripped. Examining the book closely, he discovered that inside the cover was an until-then undetected document written in Hebrew that had apparently been inserted into the cover hundreds of years ago to help hold the book together. The Hebrew text was a synagogue document from Tarazona's long-lost Jewish community, which like the rest of Spanish Jewry, was expelled from the country in 1492.

Excited by the discovery, the archivist informed Javier Bona, a local archaeologist who only months earlier had created an organization known as The Association of the
Friends of Jewish Culture-Moshe De Portella, named for a Jew from Tarazona who was a legendary financier for the King of Aragon during the 13h century. Spurred on by Bona, a team of archivists peeled back the covers of a number of other venerable volumes preserved in the cathedral, and found to their great excitement that these books too had been held together by inserting inside their covers Jewish documents which obviously had been confiscated by the local Catholic Church.

In the months since, the archivists have discovered some 60 of these medieval
Hebrew documents; an assortment of legal deeds and religious writings, including one that is written in Arabic with Hebrew lettering. These unque documents are proving invaluable to Bona and other members of his association in fleshing out the life of the long-disappeared Jewish
community of the town.

Mention the glory of Spanish Jewry in the days before the Inquisition and what comes immediately to mind are the southern cities of Cordoba and Granada, where giants of Jewish history like Moses Maimonides and Yehuda Halevi lived and wrote, and where highly literate Jewish communities helped the Muslim leaders of Spain create a glorious civilization at a time when Christian Europe was slumbering in the Dark Ages.

Another city where Jewish life flourished before the Inquisition is Toledo, the beautiful former capital of Castille, located near Madrid in central Spain, which, like Cordoba and Granada, is today much visited by Jewish tourists from around the world. But until now, there has been almost no awareness in the Jewish world of the Judaic legacy of Tarazona and other ancient towns in the northern kingdom of Aragon, whose King Ferdinand married Castilian Queen Isabella and united their kingdoms to form modern Spain.

That ignorance and neglect are expected to come to an end this summer (2001) when Tarazona, a gemlike medieval town of 12,000 set on a verdant plain below towering Mt. Moncayo about halfway between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, hosts a festival called "The Return of Sepharad to Tarazona ". The festival, to be held on July 27-28, will be attended by the Israeli ambassador to Spain, Aragonese and Spanish government officials and Jewish dignitaries from around the world.

The two-day event will feature an exhibition of the recently discovered
Hebrew manuscripts of the town at the venerable palace of the bishop of the city; the presentation of a new book on the history of Tarazona Jewry; a celebration of the cuisine of the Jews of Spain and a concert featuring medieval Sephardic music. (For more information check the website, http://portella.pvirt.com.)

There will also be walking tours of the Juderia (Jewish Quarter), an area of the old town which has retained its name among the local population even though there have been no Jews living there in 500 years.

Expected to take part in the festivities will be Israeli and Palestinian children who will attend a peace camp in the town this summer under the auspices of the government of Aragon and "Encounter ", an on-line community for Jewish-Arab

The Jewish renaissance in Tarazona is likely to prove only the tip of the iceberg in a coming revival of interest in and knowledge about the long forgotten Jews of Aragon. According to Bona : "Like Tarazona, virtually every old city in Aragon has a Juderia, but until recently no one seemed to care who those Jews had been and what their lives had been like.

We were motivated to investigate the story of
the Jews of Tarazona not simply out of academic interest, but from a conviction that it is time to do justice, however late, to Sepharad by recovering the memory of the Jews of Tarazona. We must rescue a corner of the past for our common future. "

Bona said there is evidence of Jewish life in Tarazona and neighboring towns going back to Roman times. He noted that the Jews of Tarazona had a close relationship with the kings and queens of Aragon, going back to Moshe De Portella in the 13th
century, who was the equivalent of the Rothschilds in his era.

Around 1370, after Tarazona had nearly been destroyed in a ruinous war between Castille and Aragon, the Jews of Tarazona financed the rebuilding of the city's walls. When a massive pogrom against the Jews swept across Spain in 1391, Tarazona was the only town in which the mayor issued an edict - the text of which still can be found in the municipal archives - promising stern punishment against anyone who committed violence against Jews. The Jewish community of Tarazona remained intact until 1492, when after the union of Castile and Aragon, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella decreed the expulsion of the Jews from Spain.

Visitors to the Juderia today will find a rabbit's warren of narrow alleys and Spanish and Moorish style buildings, most of them still lived in, which has changed little with the passage of centuries. Several of the buildings, which are built on top of natural rock formations, are known as the "hanging houses. " Below them are caves, which also evidently served as rooms in the homes of residents of the Jewish Quarter. In the past year, through use of old maps and documents discovered in the Cathedral and the Bishop's Palace, Bona has managed to figure out the function of many of these buildings during the 13th and 14th centuries when the Juderia was at its height.

In the center of the quarter is a large ruined dwelling that retains an ornate door from medieval times, which apparently served as a Talmud Torah, and which has clear evidence of a
mikveh in the basement. Bona said that the Association of the Friends of Jewish Culture of Tarazona is now looking for the funding necessary to do a full restoration of this house, in which it plans to place a museum devoted to the life of the Jews of Tarazona.

Nearby are buildings that have been identified by Bona as a synagogue and a butcher shop. The Juderia is a three-minute walk from Tarazona's ornate city hall, which has a magnificent frieze on its exterior depicting the coronation of Emperor Charles V of Spain and Germany during the 16th century. The Cathedral and other venerable buildings of Tarazona are built in the distinctive "mudejar style, " a
delicate lace-like form of brickwork which was created by Muslim master artisans in Aragon and other provinces even after the re-conquest of those areas by the Christians.

Another unique sight in the town is that of the only inhabited bullring in the world, a creaky-looking circular structure that today contains the apartments of families who hang their laundry from balconies from which audiences cheer the matadors.

People in Tarazona seem gratified that they are finally beginning the process of healing a 500-year-old wound by celebrating the Jewish heritage of the town. They
are also evidently excited by the possibility that they will soon see a surge of Jewish visitors, which would give a needed economic boost to a town that despite its beauty and antiquity, has hitherto been far off the beaten tourist-track.

"We look forward to welcoming home to Tarazona today the descendants of the Jews forced to leave here in 1492, " said the town's Mayor, Javier Calavia. "That will be a kind of symbolic closing of the circle, and will open us up to the world in a way we have not been before. "

Officials of the Aragonese government in the capital city of Zaragoza, an hour's drive from Tarazona, point out that their own city of 700,000 also has a rich history of harmony between Christians, Jews and Muslims and has much tourist interest as well. Zaragoza's jewel in the crown is clearly the Aljaferia, a sprawling castle and fortress built by the Muslim conquerors of Zaragoza in the 10th century that later became the palace of the Christian kings of Aragon. Today the castle houses the
Cortes (Parliament) of Aragon.

Jose Maria Mur, president of the Cortes, said : "We hope the Aljaferia will serve as a place of encounter for the former Jewish and Muslim communities of Aragon. Let them come home and reconnect to their Aragonese roots. " Juan Carlos Trillo, Aragon's ambassador to the central government in Madrid, remarked : "We are
gratified that Aragon is finally coming to terms with the terrible injustice of the expulsion of our Jews, which not only devastated their lives, but did grievous damage to Aragon itself and the rest of Spain. "

Manuel Blasco, director of "Zaragoza 2008 ", - an effort is being made by the city to win
the right to host the World Expo of 2008, noted that Zaragoza has applied for a United Nations designation as a City of Peace. "Having been the scene of religious persecution in the past, " he said, "we in Aragon hope to build a brighter future by making a significant contribution to peacemaking and to conflict resolution in the years ahead. "

Pedro C. Mariju
Fundaci CIRCE
CPS Univ. Zaragoza, 50015 Zaragoza, Spain
TEL. (34) 976 762036-761863, FAX (34) 976 732078
email: marijuan_at_posta.unizar.es


City in Aragon. Toward the end of the thirteenth century it contained a specially privileged Jewish community of 160; it also had a rabbinical college of its own (Solomon ben Adret, Responsa, Nos. 300, 1179).

The congregation, which had imposed a special tax upon bread, meat, and wine consumed by its members, was obliged, by the indigence of the people, to remit part of such tax in 1257.

During the wars of King Alfonso III. of Aragon with Sicily and France it raised such considerable subsidies that in 1288 the king remitted part of the taxes.

The Shepherd persecutions threatened the Huesca congregation; in 1391 it was attacked,
and many members were baptized. By 1437 the congregation had declined to such an extent that it paid only 300 sueldos in taxes.

The congregation had a regulated communal system; its statutes were enacted and its administrators and syndics (12) appointed with the approval of the king.

At the disputation in Tortosa it was represented by Don Todros Alconstantini.

Huesca was a seat of Jewish scholarship; here lived, in the thirteenth century, Jacob b. Moses Abbasi and Joseph b. Isaac Alfual, translators of portions of Maimonides' commentary, and contemporaries of Isaac b. Sheshet, Ḥayyim Galipapa,
Joseph b.Ḥayyim b. Ardot, Abraham and Ḥayyim b. Solomon ibn Baka, Joseph Cohen, Baruch and Isaac Alitensi, Abraham Bibago, etc.

Petrus Alfonsi was baptized at Huesca July 29, 1106.

The Usque family, which lived in Italy, probably came from Huesca, which was also the birth-place of the Almosnino family; Abraham Almosnino of Huesca was burned at the stake on Dec. 10, 1489.

The Jews of Huesca were engaged in weaving; one of the most important woolen factories at the time of the expulsion was Don Solomon Abenaqua's.

The total population in 1887 was 13,041.

Bibliography: Shebeṭ Yehudah, p. 68;
Rios, Hist. ii. 149, 155;
Jacobs, Sources, Nos. 118, 613, 928, 1193;
Read more: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=951 letter=H#ixzz19D7eVZEU

The emphasis was introduced by your author - AB-Y



City in Aragon, N.E. Spain. It had one of the most important Jewish communities in the kingdom. With Saragossa and Calatayud, they were the three major Jewish communities in the Kingdom of Aragon. The correspondence has been preserved of a learned and wealthy Jew of Huesca, Basaam b. Simeon, with an Arabic author of Umayyad origin, dating from the last generation of Muslim rule in the city. At this time Jews in Huesca engaged in agriculture and owned fields and vineyards. Many also were craftsmen and traders, especially cloth and silk merchants. [Haim Z'ew Hirschberg]

This remained the position after the Christian reconquest in 1096. From the Christian conquest onwards, we have a great abundance of sources on the Jews of Huesca. The Jewish quarter in the Christian period, as in Muslim times, was situated in the southwestern section of the town; its center was the present Plazuela de la Juderia. The location of the Church of St. Cyprian in the vicinity gave rise to conflicts between Jews and Christians, since the latter would shorten their way to church by passing through the Jewish quarter. James
I authorized the Jews of the town to close their quarter during Easter from Holy Thursday until the following Saturday morning.

The three synagogues in the quarter, the Great, Middle, and Little Synagogues, existed until the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. At the beginning of the 14th century the Jews of Huesca were occupying 108 houses, and the Moors 69 houses. This means that the number of Jews in Huesca was between 550 and 700. The community's cemetery is first mentioned in 1156. After the expulsion, the name of the quarter was changed to Barrio Nuevo, as happened with other Jewish quarters.

In 1106 an important member of the community, Moshe ha-Sefaradi, a famous scholar and scientist, decided to become baptized and assume the name Pedro Alfonso. During the 12th and 13th centuries the Jews of Huesca engaged in trade, moneylending, and crafts. In 1134 King Ramiro
II of Aragon granted Huesca, among other privileges, the right to acquire real property which had been owned by Jews or Muslims.

In about 1170 Esteban, the governor of Huesca, concluded an agreement with several Jews on the construction of shops in the city. Jewish contractors from Huesca were commissioned by the governor of Barbastro to build shops there. In 1190 there was an important Jewish settlement in the commercial center on land owned by the Monastery of Sigena. Some of the Jews who lived there played a leading role in the public and economic life of the city and also moved in court circles, among them Eleazar, the repositarius ( "treasurer ") of the king, and Joseph the physician, probably in the service of Queen Sancha.

The history of Huesca Jewry is typical of a large Jewish community in Aragon. In 1207, Pedro II granted the community a privilege stipulating that none of its members could be imprisoned for debts whether owed to the king, the city authorities, the merino ( "royal officer "), the judge, or any other person. It was also forbidden to distrain on Jews on the Sabbath or on festivals. The king authorized the community to impose bans, seizures, and other methods of enforcement on any person who tried to evade paying taxes. It was also stipulated that, in cases where the death penalty was carried out, the community would pay 1,000 solidos to the crown treasury.

The community of Huesca took part in the controversy over *Maimonides' writings. In 1279, Pedro III ordered the Jews of Huesca to attend the conversionary sermons given by the Dominicans.

The situation of the Huesca community declined during the 14th century. The *Pastoureaux disorders of 1320 severely affected Huesca, and Alfonso, the son of James II, ordered 40 of the rioters to be hanged in the city. The community, however, apparently recovered from the damage since by 1327 it paid an annual tax of 6,126 solidos.

The communal regulations of 1340 indicate that there were 300 men from the age of 15 upward, and it can be assumed that the community then numbered up to 1,500 persons.

During the riots at the time of the *Black Death (1349), the Jews of Huesca fortified themselves within their quarter and were thus saved. Nevertheless, from this period began the decline of the community. The community's difficulties increased in 1376, and it had to mortgage the Torah crowns to pay its debts to the king.
In 1377, several of the community's notables were accused of having stolen a *Host. Some of those arrested were tortured and burnt at the stake; the others were tried by the governor of Saragossa and eventually set free.

In 1390, John I granted the Jews of the city a privilege empowering the leaders of the community to judge slanderers and informers at their own discretion. During the persecutions of 1391 one of the grandees of the kingdom, Don Lope de Gurrea, was ordered to go to Huesca to protect its Jewish inhabitants. The community slowly recovered after the disorders. In 1394, John I prohibited Jews from leaving Huesca before they had settled their debts to the community.

After the Disputation of *Tortosa, oppressive measures against the community increased. The royal officials compelled the Jews of the city to leave their homes and settle in places so distant from their quarter that they could not earn their livelihood. In 1414, the infante Alfonso intervened on their behalf and ordered that the status of the Jews should remain unchanged.

A municipal order of 1449 prohibited the Jews of Huesca from grazing more than 100 sheep on the pastures belonging to the city, for the use of which a special tax was to be paid to the municipal council.

From 1440 until almost the Expulsion, a period of cultural efflorescence prevailed in Huesca. Its greatest figure was Abraham *Bibago (Bivach).
In 1465 a number of *Conversos who had arrived in Huesca from Castile were received back into Judaism by the community. About 25 years later, many of those who had been present at the ceremony were tried by the Inquisition. The initiators of the affair had been Abraham b. Shem Tov *Bibago (Bivach), author of Derekh Emunah, and Abraham *Almosnino, who was burned at the stake together with Isaac *Cocumbriel.

Another trial held by the Inquisition during the 1480s concerning events of the 1460s was that of the community's beadle Abraham Alitiens, who had sent away his son Eliezer, a young physician who had also qualified as rabbi, to prevent him from being baptized. The father was finally martyred, along with so many other Jews of his generation.

One of the most complete descriptions of the implementation of the decree of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (March 1492) has come down from Huesca. Special commissioners, among them the city magistrate and the judge of the Hermandad, were appointed to supervise the expulsion. On May 1, 1492, they began to register the properties of the Jews and to confiscate their gold and silver which the decree of expulsion prohibited them from taking out of the country.

Numerous waivers of outstanding debts were registered with the city notaries. The community council met on July 23 and authorized its administrative officers to liquidate the debts of the community and proceed with the sale of its property.

Guards were posted in the Jewish quarter to prevent Jews from selling their property without the authorization of the commissioners. Several Jews were imprisoned for debt. On the day of the expulsion, the Jews left Huesca by the road to the west, accompanied by the head of the municipal council, Pedro Cavero.

Organization of the Community

The information that has been preserved about the organization of the Huesca community is especially important for understanding the structure of the Jewish communities in the Crown of Aragon in general, and in the Kingdom of Aragon in particular.

At the beginning of the 14th century, the community appointed a council, Eẓa in Hebrew, of 18 elders whose number was reduced to 12 in 1324. The community was headed by muqaddimūn ( "administrative officers ") or adelantados in Romance, who were also invested with judicial authority. The communal taxes were levied according to a system of assessments, the tax assessors being appointed every two years.

Those whose assets amounted to less than 50 solidos, and "those who study by day and night and have no other profession " (tax regulations of 1340), as well as the teachers and the synagogue beadles, were exempted from paying tax.

A complicated proportionate system was established to assess the tax, which was levied on houses, gardens, fields, vineyards, loans, commercial deposits, mortgaged lands, rented houses and shops, transactions in real estate, textiles, grain, foodstuffs, gold and silver, furs, and other commodities. Taxes were also collected on the daily earnings of craftsmen. Loans to communities, servants, and scholars, as well as the sums specified in engagement contracts and wills, were exempted from tax.

In 1374, the community of Huesca adopted, with certain changes, the communal organization of *Barcelona. Among other regulations, it was decided that 12 arbitrators would appoint two muqaddimūn and two bookkeepers. In 1391, John Iconfirmed additional regulations.

At the end of the 13th century 160 members of the Huesca community took part in the elections for a cantor in the Great Synagogue of Huesca (resp. Rashba, vol. 1, no. 300). The community of Huesca also had a burial society, run on the lines of a charitable society, whose regulations were confirmed by Pedro I in 1374 and re-endorsed by John I in 1391.
Feel free - I will always relate to what you say