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Haham Bashi[note 1] (Ottoman Turkish: حاخامباشی, Turkish: Hahambaşı, IPA: [haˈham baˈʃɯ]; Ladino: xaxam (חכם) baši; translated into French as: khakham-bachi) is the Turkish name for the Chief Rabbi of the nation's Jewish community. In the time of the Ottoman Empire it was also used for the chief rabbi of a particular region of the empire, such as Syria or Iraq, though the Hakham Bashi of Constantinople was considered overall head of the Jews of the Empire.
Hakham is Hebrew for "wise man" (or "scholar"), while başı is Turkish for "head".
The institution of the Hakham Bashi was established by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, as part of his policy of governing his exceedingly diverse subjects according to their own laws and authorities wherever possible. Religion was considered as primordial aspect of a communities 'national' identity, so the term Ethnarch has been applied to such religious leaders, especially the (Greek Orthodox) Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (i.e. in the Sultan's imperial capital, renamed Istanbul in 1930 but replaced by Ankara as republican capital in 1923). As Islam was the official religion of both court and state, the Chief Mufti in Istanbul had a much higher status, even of cabinet rank.
In the Ottoman Empire, and as such, the Hakham Bashi was the closest thing to an overall Exilarchal authority among Jewry everywhere in the Middle East in early modern times. They held broad powers to legislate, judge and enforce the laws among the Jews in the Ottoman Empire and often sat on the Sultan's divan.
The office also maintained considerable influence outside the Ottoman Empire, especially after the forced migration of numerous Jewish communities and individuals out of Spain (after the fall of Granada in 1492) and Italy.
The Chief Rabbi of the modern, secular Republic of Turkey is still known as Hahambaşı.
The position of Hakham Bashi of Palestine terminated with the appointment of separate Ashkenazi and Sephardi Chief Rabbis in 1921.
List of incumbents
Chief Rabbis of the Ottoman Empire (Hahambaşı)
|Tam ibn Yahya||1542–1543|
|Eliyyah Benjamin ha-Levi||1543|
|Eliyyah ben Ḥayyim||1543–1602|
|Yomṭov Ben Yaʿesh||1639–1642|
|Yomṭov ben Ḥananiah Ben Yaqar||1642–1677|
|Judah Ben Rey||1715–1717|
|Abraham ben Ḥayyim Rosanes||1720–1745|
|Solomon Ḥayyim Alfandari||1745–1762|
|Ḥayyim Jacob Benyakar||1800–1835|
|Samuel ben Moses Ḥayyim||1836–1837|
|Jacob Behar David||1841–1854|
|Jacob (or Yakup) Avigdor||1860–1863|
|Haim Nahum Effendi||1908–1920|
Chief Rabbis of the Turkish Republic (Hahambaşı)
|Haim Moşe Becerano||1920–1931|
|Haim Ishak Saki||1931–1940|
|Rafael David Saban||1940–1960|
Chief Rabbis of Ottoman Galilee
Chief Rabbis of Ottoman Palestine
|Chaim Abraham Gagin||1842–1848|
|Haim Nisim Abulafia||1854–1861|
|Haim David Hazan||1861–1869|
|Raphael Meir Panigel||1880–1892|
|Jacob Saul Elyashar||1893–1906|
|Elijah Moses Panigel||1907|
Sephardi Chief Rabbis of British Mandatory Palestine
|Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel||1939–1948|
|Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel||1948–1953|
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