18 January 2009

Sephardim: The Calahora-Kalahora family

Our friend Joel W. Davidi writes the Jewish History Channel. He's been offline for awhile working on a very detailed paper on the history and genealogy of Sephardic Jews who settled in Eastern Europe.

To paraphrase, in case there are still some unbelievers out there: Yes, Virginia, there were Sephardim in Ashkenazi Eastern Europe!

Joel is back with a great post on one prominent and very interesting Sephardic family, the Calahora - Kalahora (with such varients and changes documented as Kolhari, Kolchor, Kolchory, Kalvari, Landsberg, Posner, Zweigenbaum, Rabowsky, Olschwitz, and Misky). As I generally do with postings of this type, the names are bolded for easy reference.

What does the name of a Spanish city, two Jewish martyrs and a Socialist activist have in common?

My upcoming paper (now over 30 pages and growing) explores the history and genealogy of Sephardic Jews who settled in Eastern Europe. It is a subject that I find fascinating and I believe is woefully unexplored.

In the course of my research I stumbled across a remarkable family - about whom I will cite here only several tidbits - namely the Kalahora family of Poland.

Joel details the lives of Dr. Solomon Kalahora, personal physician to both Polish King Sygmund August(1520-1572) and King Stephen Bathory (1533-1586). Kalahora settled in Cracow, Poland in the 16th century. Among name varients and changes for this family: Kolhari, Kolchor, Kolchory, Kalvari, Landsberg, Posner, Zweigenbaum, Rabowsky, Olschwitz, and Misk.They came to Poland from Italy; their name reflects the Spanish town of Calahorra, where the family originated.

Solomon had six children: Moses in Cracow, and Israel Samuel, the Rabbi of Lenchista, who founded the Poznan branch.

Israel Samuel’s son Matitayahu Calahora was a well-known physician with an extensive practice. Unfortunately, he got into a religious dispute with one Havlin, a Dominican friar. Russian Jewish historian Simon Dubnow described it:

The priest invited Calahora to a disputation in the cloister, but the Jew declined, promising to expound his views in writing. A few days later the priest found on his chair in the church a statement written in German and containing a violent arraignment of the cult of the Immaculate Virgin. It is not impossible that the statement was composed and placed in the church by an adherent of the "Reformation or the Arian heresy" both of which were then the
object of persecution in Poland. However, the Dominican decided that Calahora was the author, and brought the charge of blasphemy against him. The Court of the Royal Castle cross-examined the defendant under torture, without being able to obtain a confession. Witnesses testified that Calahora was not even able to write German. Being a native of Italy, he used the Italian language in his conversations with the Dominican. In spite of all this evidence, the unfortunate Calahora was sentenced to be burned at the stake. The alarmed Jewish community raised a protest, and the case was accordingly transferred to the highest court in Piotrkov. The accused was sent in chains to Piotrkov, together with the plaintiff and the witnesses. But the arch-Catholic tribunal confirmed the verdict of the lower court, ordering that the sentence be executed in the following barbarous sequence: first the lips of the " blasphemer " to be cut off ; next his hand that had held the fateful statement to be burned; then the tongue, which had spoken against the Christian religion, to be excised ; finally the body to be burned at the stake, and the ashes of the victim to be loaded into a cannon and discharged into the air. This cannibal ceremonial was faithfully carried out on December 13, 1663, on the market-place of Piotrkov.

For two centuries the Jews of Cracow followed the custom of reciting, on the fourteenth of Kislev, in the old synagogue of that city, a memorial prayer for the soul of the martyr Calahora.

Matityahu’s son Michael and two grandsons were also physicians. In Poznan, Israel Samuel's son - Solomon Calahora (d. 1650) - married the daughter of Posen physician, Judah de Lima (another Sephardic family in Poland). Solomon’s grandson, Aryeh Leib, founded the Landsberg and Posner families. He was martyred in a 1735 blood libel by Catholic authorities, and died in prison after refusing to convert to save himself. Aryeh Leib’s great-grandson, Solomon Posner (1780-1863) wrote a family chronicle, Toar Penei Shlomo.

Other Sephardic Jewish physicians who settled in Poland around the same time were Samuel de Lima, Samuel bar Meshulam, Shlomo Ashkenazy, brothers Levi-Lieberman Fortis Ostila, and Moses Montalto.

Read Joel's complete post at the link above, and if you are new to his blog, do see the archived postings. Thank you, Joel. We have missed you!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:56 AM

    Hi Schelly,

    Have you thought in the possibility of you being related to the Calahorranos? Salamon fi de Tolayo lived there in 1333, 1334, ...

    Have you been tested by Judy yet ?

    Maria Jose