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Dossier: Mobility and Displacement in and around the Mediterranean. A Historical Approach

Between Welfare and Vagrancy: Migrants, Refugees and Travellers between Hamburg and the Mediterranean in the Seventeenth Century

Entre assistência e mendicidade: migrantes, refugiados e viajantes entre Hamburgo e o Mediterrâneo no século XVII
Entre assistance et vagabondage: Migrants, réfugiés et voyageurs entre Hambourg et la Méditerranée au XVIIe siècle
Hugo Martins
p. 39-59

Resumos

À semelhança de outras comunidades mercantis no período moderno, as comunidades sefarditas da diáspora ocidental assumiram um papel de relevo na assistência social e religiosa, tanto dos seus membros como de indivíduos exteriores à comunidade. Neste contexto, surgiram várias iniciativas beneméritas e de acção social para viajantes e cativos de comunidades judaicas (em particular na Terra Santa). Este artigo explica o contexto e o conteúdo das políticas filantrópicas das comunidades sefarditas no norte da Europa e como essas políticas afectaram as comunidades judaicas espalhadas pelo Mediterrâneo. No sentido inverso, analisa-se as consequências da mobilidade no Mediterrâneo e o seu impacto nas comunidades judaicas no norte da Europa, em particular no caso de Hamburgo. Este artigo faz parte do dossier temático Mobilidade e desenraizamento no Mediterrâneo em perspetiva histórica, organizado por Cátia Antunes e Giedrė Blažytė.

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Notas do autor

This paper was financially supported by the COST ACTION project People in Motion: Entangled Histories of Displacement Across the Mediterranean (1492-1923) (PIMo) as a result of the PIMo workshop “Movement and Displacement”, Centro de História, University of Lisbon, 9-10 March 2020.

Texto integral

  • 1 Such mobility could also be found in other early modern trading diasporas and merchant nations, s (...)

1Contemporary scholarship is unanimous in regarding mobility as one of the defining characteristics of the early modern Jewish experience (Israel 1985; Trivellato 2009; Ruderman 2010). From the expulsions of Iberian Jews in the 1490s and their progressive resettlement in Northern European, Mediterranean and colonial territories to the westward and southward migration of thousands of Jewish refugees from Poland and Lithuania in the seventeenth century, Jews experienced accelerated mobility that drove them to encounter new peoples, cultures and languages, thus enhancing their contacts both with one another and with the wider non-Jewish world.1 Beyond the constraints of forced migration, the voluntary mobility of Jews also experienced a boom during this period, not only in the form of migration for economic and professional reasons, but also through the religious, cultural and philanthropic networks of scholars, peddlers and emissaries who moved from one community to another in overlapping circuits of rabbinic, trading and family networks (Oliel-Grausz 2004; Bregoli, Uberti and Schwarz 2018).

2The increased frequency and intensity of these networks profoundly influenced the Jewish world, challenging perceptions of the ethnic “other” and testing the boundaries of religious solidarity across linguistic and geographical lines. Networks of Jewish philanthropy, some perhaps more so than others, exemplified these tensions between a fragmented Jewish reality and the unifying duty of transregional charity. But while far-flung philanthropic networks had always been an integral part of Jewish life at least since medieval times, early modern interactions were distinctly different from their predecessors in reach, impact and intensity (Cohen 2009, 80-81; Ruderman 2010). With the advent of the printing press and the expansion of Jewish knowledge and education, these networks served as outlets not only for exchanging human and financial capital, but also for exchanging crucial objects and information such as books, news and ideas (Schrijver 2018; Lehmann 2014). Matthias Lehmann (2014, 2-5) explains how rabbinic emissaries from the Holy Land functioned as cultural agents in “contact zones”, mediating between different Jewish cultures while also contributing to a synchronic experience of an interconnected Jewish community or, as he calls it, a certain kind of “pan-Jewish sensibility”.

  • 2 On the relationship between Jewish History and the Mediterranean, see: Goitein (1967-88), Arbel ( (...)
  • 3 On the Portuguese-Jewish community of Hamburg, see: Cassuto (1927 and 1930), Kellenbenz (1958), W (...)
  • 4 On the Sephardic Diaspora, see: Beinart (1992), Levy (1992), Benbassa and Rodrigue (2000), Israel (...)

3Although extending beyond the scope of the present work, Lehmann’s thesis presents itself as an inevitable starting point for thinking of the Mediterranean as a distinct analytic category in the context of pre-modern Jewish history, particularly in relation to the wider transcontinental topics of Jewish migration and mobility, whether in Europe, Asia or Africa.2 The current article aims thus to understand how the Jewish mobility networks in the Mediterranean and beyond affected the philanthropic policies of Northern European Sephardic communities and the lives of Jews in their realm of influence and, conversely, how the decisions taken by these communities impacted on the philanthropic networks and their agents in the Mediterranean basin. As a case study it takes the Portuguese-Jewish community of Hamburg during what is considered to be one of the most important periods in the community’s history, the second half of the seventeenth century.3 By focusing on poor relief in the Portuguese Nation of Hamburg between 1652 and 1682, this article analyses the evolution of the community’s philanthropic activities in the context of the wider development of the Sephardic Diaspora, particularly in relation to seventeenth-century Jewish philanthropic networks in the Mediterranean basin.4

4The study begins with an overview of the local, regional and transregional philanthropic networks, in particular those associated with contributions to the holy land, to captives and to Jewish communities in distress. It then proceeds to analyse the assistance granted to travellers and outsiders by the community of Hamburg and its impact on congregational policies on emigration, demographic control and social assistance. Section 3 focuses on the inverse phenomenon – emigration (forced or voluntary) from Hamburg to other centres of the Portuguese diaspora – and the respective assistance provided by the community in form of travel grants and subsidies. The article concludes with the impact of Sabbateanism and the ensuing economic crisis for the poor-relief system in Hamburg, and, in particular, for welfare policies concerning migrants, travellers and paupers, both inside and outside the community.

1. Local, Regional, and Transregional Philanthropic Networks

  • 5 At its peak, in the 1660s, the Portuguese Jewish community of Hamburg numbered around 800 individ (...)
  • 6 Tzedakah (lit: righteousness) was the religious obligation to help the needy through voluntary do (...)

5As in many other communities of the Portuguese Diaspora, the Hamburg community assumed as one of its main responsibilities the social and religious duty of assisting its coreligionists beyond the confines of the congregation (Toaff 1990; Swetschinski 2000; Barnett 1940).5 As part of an international network of solidarity, this extra-communal assistance was characterised by its convergence into three main areas of action: contributions to the communities of the Holy Land, contributions to the rescue of captives originating from the Portuguese Nation and, finally, contributions to Jewish communities, both Sephardi and Ashkenazi, in times of particular calamity or adversity. This magnanimity, however, was not disinterested. Although in apparent contradiction to the ethnoreligious conception fostered by the Portuguese leaders, this activity was one of the few ways in which the community could reaffirm its influence in the vast contemporary Jewish world, as well as demonstrate its economic supremacy to the local authorities (Bernfeld 2012, 83-86; Kaplan 2000, 51-77). Nevertheless, as we will see in this article, clear distinctions emerged in the choices made by Portuguese Jews, with an evident preference for Sephardic communities over Ashkenazi and an even greater preference for “Men of the Nation” over all others. By reaffirming rabbinic tradition through the practice of tzedakah,6 Portuguese Jews were in effect legitimising their new-found Jewish identity by demonstrating their ethnic solidarity along both national and religious boundaries.

  • 7 For an analysis of the selichim and their activities in Portugal in the sixteenth century, see Ta (...)
  • 8 On the Portuguese Jewish community of Venice, see Davis and Ravid (2001), Ruspio (2007). For Amst (...)
  • 9 Selichut: hebrew term designating the missions carried out by rabbinic emissaries. The emissaries (...)

6Financial assistance to the communities of the Holy Land – Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias – became a highly institutionalised activity during the seventeenth century, characterised by coordinated action both on the part of the giving communities, through strict cooperation in the supply and distribution of funds, and on the part of the beneficiary communities, through the sending of religious emissaries (the selichim) on long transcontinental journeys to promote financial support and solidarity (Lehmann 2014, 1-2).7 While the Jewish community of Venice pioneered the first comprehensive and organised system of philanthropic aid to the communities of the Holy Land, its activities were gradually taken over by Istanbul, Amsterdam and Livorno at the turn of the eighteenth century, with the last known record of gizbar kelali, the Venetian overseer of remittances to the Holy Land, dating back to 1708.8 The impressive nature of some of these networks, including that of the Istanbul-coordinated selichut,9 had its origins in the seventeenth century, as shown by the communal records of Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities throughout Central and Western Europe (Bernfeld 2012; Kaplan 2020). In Hamburg, no fewer than eleven contacts were established between the community and the emissaries of the Holy Land between 1650 and 1670; in other words, one every two years.

  • 10 Staatsarchiv Hamburg (StAHH), Jüdische Gemeinden 993, Protokollbuch (1652-1682), Vol. I, 49, 95, (...)

7Despite clear indications from contemporary sources that the Portuguese leaders came to view emissaries’ arrivals as an intrusion on their authority, the dissatisfaction caused by these visits seldom prevented the former from assisting their Levantine brethren (Swetschinski 2000, 198-199). Portuguese leaders appear also to have preferred their own impersonal and official channels of charity rather than conceding priority to the Istanbul system of emissaries, a situation decried by Moshe Hagiz in his book Sefat Emet (Amsterdam, 1707), especially when referring to Portuguese contemporary perceptions of the Holy Land (Lehmann 2014, 127). However, despite the shorter time frame, the testimonies from Hamburg show a somewhat more nuanced picture, with the likes of H. Natan Safira, H. Biniamin Levy, H.R. Natan Gotta, H.R. Jehuda Ciff, Samuel Salom, R. Natan Bar Raphael, R. Mordochay Askenazy, H. Abraham Caregal and H. Elisa Navarra being warmly welcomed into the community, and their concerns being dutifully and humbly addressed by Portuguese leaders.10 In equal fashion to their Sephardic counterparts, Ashkenazi communities in Western Europe regularly collected funds destined for the Holy Land (Kaplan 2020, 37). But unlike the former, the philanthropic networks, agents and overall dynamics of the Ashkenazi are yet to be fully understood, particularly in the way they interacted with the emissaries, who became increasingly institutionalised.

  • 11 Election of the various gabbaim with strong links to the Ottoman Jews: Abraham Lumbroso (6 Thishr (...)
  • 12 The focal points along this important financial and migratory route were Jerusalem, Safed, Smyrna (...)

8In Hamburg, contributions to the Holy Land and the rescue of captives were administered by a single official, the gabbai of the Holy Land and captives, who was elected each year by the Mahamad (the board of directors of a Sephardic congregation) and was also in charge of managing the community funds intended for the sedaca. In addition to receiving the weekly promessas at the synagogue, the gabbai was obliged by communal decree to attend all beretiot (circumcision ceremonies) held in the community in order to diligently record the donations to Jerusalem (Livro da Nação, I, 300). Favourites for the position of gabbai were mainly, and above all initially, individuals strongly linked by kinship to the Sephardic communities of the Ottoman Empire, such as those from the Benveniste, Abarbanel, Penso, Abas and Lumbroso families.11 This distinction was motivated by these individuals’ greater ability to serve as intermediaries and correspondents on the migratory and financial routes linking Levantine Jewry with the main European Sephardic communities.12

  • 13 Manoel Valentim (alias Fernando Rodrigues Henriques) was the main commercial correspondent of the (...)

9Typically, remittances to the Holy Land were made by order of the Mahamad, following a visit to the community by an emissary from the Holy Land, or following receipt of correspondence from Amsterdam or the Levant. After the visit of the Saliach H.R. Natan Gotta of Jerusalem (Livro da Nação, I, 158), for example, 150 marks were sent to the intermediary in Venice, Hacham Samuel Aboab, while 870 marks were sent in January 1662 following the stay of the jechudim of Jerusalem and Safed (Livro da Nação, I, 218). These remittances were almost always intended for the Sephardic communities in the Holy Land or for poor family members of Portuguese Jews living in Hamburg. Only very rarely do we see tudescos (German Jews) as recipients of such contributions. Sometimes the funds were sent directly to the community of Livorno, instead of through the usual route of Venice, as in the case of the October 1667 remittance distributed by the intermediary Manoel Valentim.13 It appears that, with the gradual waning of the Venetian community in the second half of the seventeenth century, Livorno took over as the main intermediary linking Northern European communities (Amsterdam, London and Hamburg) to the Eastern Mediterranean Jewry in the Holy Land (Lehmann 2014, 36-39).

  • 14 Izaque Senior Teixeira (150 patacas), Abraham Senior de Matos (50), Selomo Curiel (50), David Cur (...)

10On some occasions, the dependence of the kahal on the magnanimity of a limited number of individuals became rather noticeable. In 1667, for example, only ten individuals actually contributed to the funds earmarked for the Levant. These were Isaque Senior, Moseh de Pinto, Binjamin Abensur, Dr Pimentel, Dr Nahamias, Selomoh Coen, Abraham Naar Selomoh, David Curiel, Jeosua Abar and Abraham Senior de Matos (Livro da Nação, I, 362). By January 1671, meanwhile, their number had reduced to only seven.14 This decreasing pattern became particularly pronounced towards the end of the 1660s and occurred regularly throughout the 1670s, a fact which led the community to draw attention to the low income from this mitzvah (Livro da Nação, II, 98). The creation of a private brotherhood in 1659 also sought to fill the obvious gaps in the provisions made by the central administration as, to help the “holy city of Jerusalem”, this brotherhood’s members undertook to gather one Reichsthaler each year from its membership and, together with the Mahamad, to contribute these funds to this important pious work (Livro da Nação, I, 169).

  • 15 As revealed by Swetschinski (2000, 203), a typical remittance from Amsterdam to the Holy Land in (...)
  • 16 On the social and religious impact of sabbateanism in Hamburg, see Martins (2019c, 215-223).

11Although the Hamburg community sought to cultivate an image of itself, over the years, as generous and sensitive, its contributions to the outside world were particularly modest compared with those of other contemporary Portuguese communities.15 This, of course, was due not only to the Hamburg community’s smaller size and financial power, but also to the particularly devastating effects of the economic crisis of 1667-80. Obliged to meet the growing needs of their own congregants, members of the Hamburg community’s contributions to the outside world consequently became increasingly sparse, and were even temporarily suspended at the height of the economic crisis. Interestingly, this suspension seems to be correlated to a lack of data on visits by emissaries between 1670 and 1680. Although it is impossible to infer a decline in the numbers of contacts from that fact alone, this interruption is likely to have been attributable to the social, religious and economic upheavals caused by the Sabbatean movement around that time.16

  • 17 For a detailed analysis of the subject, taking the community of Amsterdam as an example, see Bern (...)
  • 18 This was the case, for example, with Moseh de Mercado, a Hamburg resident, who was offered 6 Reic (...)

12In general, the approach of prioritising domestic causes over foreign ones was similar to that adopted by the Western Sephardic communities of Hamburg, Amsterdam and London on providing assistance to captives. As the name suggests, contributions to the rescue of captives were intended to free Jews who were in captivity across the extensive Portuguese Diaspora, whether in territories under Spanish or Portuguese rule or elsewhere in the Mediterranean basin.17 Where necessary, sporadic requests for contributions devoid of any connection with resident members’ families were rejected, as, for example, when the Hamburg congregation refused to assist the captives of Krakow, and the Mahamad chose to help first and foremost those in its own community “and not the tudescos” (Livro da Nação, II, 163). Contributions that did not follow the traditional institutional path were also avoided, if only because, in themselves, they represented a violation of communal statutes.18

  • 19 From the eighteenth century onwards, central operations were transferred from Venice to Livorno, (...)
  • 20 The bank ducat was a currency with a fixed exchange value and used for settling international fin (...)
  • 21 This new model of remittances is explained in a letter sent to the deputies of pidyon sebuim, in (...)

13By contrast, Northern European Sephardic communities were largely willing to contribute to the Venice-based confraternity pidyon sebuim, which served as the key node in a far-flung philanthropic network connecting Northern Europe to Italy, and the latter to the major Mediterranean slave markets in Malta, Turkey and North Africa.19 These remittances were collected by the treasurers of the respective communal funds, the cautivos in Amsterdam and London, and the camara de cativos in Hamburg, with their interventions having a decisive influence on the relatives of the captives residing in those communities. This is evident, for example, in Hamburg’s remittances of March 1654, June 1655, June 1659, July 1661 and September 1664, each of which yielded between 70 and 150 bank ducats (Livro da Nação, I, 28, 42, 145, 208, 265).20 From August 1667 until at least 1682, remittances to captives in that city were secured almost exclusively from the mitzvah of Abraham Senior Teixeira, which amounted to an annual 75 patacas.21

  • 22 After receiving news of the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna, Abraham Senior Teixeira advocated (...)

14Having themselves suffered the torments of persecution and forced exile, the Portuguese Jews were willing, whenever possible and despite their immediate priorities, to alleviate the needs of other communities facing crises or humanitarian disasters. In Amsterdam, for example, the parnassim extended extraordinary aid to the communities of Creps, Oran, Belgrade, Buda, Prague, Sarajevo and Constantinople throughout the seventeenth century (Swetschinski 2000, 203). In Livorno, meanwhile, the situation was no different, and the economic upswing experienced by the community at the turn of the eighteenth century meant taking on a leading role in the transcontinental philanthropic networks of Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jewry. Besides the numerous requests for help received, many of which were granted, Livorno campaigned fiercely against the expulsion of the Jews of Prague, Bohemia and Moravia in 1745, granting a total of 500 florins to their cause, in response to a letter from Baron Diego de Aguilar (Lehmann 2014, 39). Despite its lesser size, the community of Hamburg, too, did not shirk its responsibilities when called to assist, with the 100 Reichsthaler sent to the kahal of Livorno for moving 480 “Jewish brothers to Oran”, or the 30 or so Reichsthaler granted after the destruction of the Polish kahal of Lemberg (Livro da Nação, I, 296, 413), being worthy of note. And so, too, in a different yet equally relevant sense, was Abraham Senior Teixeira’s intermediation with influential European monarchs following the edict ordering the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna in 1669-70.22

2. Assistance to Travellers and Outsiders

  • 23 Saraiva’s pouzada (“guesthouse”) was apparently the main resting place for outsiders and travelle (...)

15In addition to providing assistance to members of their own community, the leaders of the Portuguese community offered limited assistance to all those who wished to spend short periods of time in their midst. This assistance included giving such people the minimum necessary for their livelihood, shelter and travel, in return for which they, especially the most destitute, were expected to leave again to “seek their own paths” (procurar as suas vidas). The costs of board, lodgings and other expenses related to the guest’s stay were normally paid by the Mahamad, as well as commission being paid to the host for his time and work. Such activities thus benefited those members of the Nation who partly earned their living as hosts. Samuel Saraiva, for example, received 4 Reichsthaler for providing lodgings for H.H. Elisa Navarra, a distinguished visitor from the Holy Land.23

  • 24 See the registers on assisted foreigners in the ledgers of the Hamburg community – Livro da Nação(...)
  • 25 Some examples of registers concerning artisans, pilgrims, refugees, students and ex-captives in L (...)

16While communal criteria were explicit in the priority granted to Jewish travellers of Iberian origin, the data, however, tell a different story. Of the 168 foreigners assisted by the Hamburg community between 1652 and 1682, an impressive 59 were of German, Polish or Central European origin and only 35 were from the Portuguese Nation.24 Of the remaining individuals, 18 were Italian, 17 from the Levant, 9 from the Maghreb, 6 from the New World and the rest from unknown locations. Their occupations, too, covered a wide range of activities and conditions, from students, rabbis and itinerant intellectuals to artisans (goldsmiths and tailors), pilgrims, refugees, recent prisoners, relatives of captives, wandering travellers, shame-faced poor, newly poor and needy poor.25 Some brought letters from their community of origin, be it Prague, Frankfurt, Tunis or Venice, or from well-known Portuguese rabbis such as Amsterdam’s hacham Isaac Aboab (Livro da Nação, I, 200, 260, 323; II, 368). Some were travelling to visit relatives in the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, others to attend their daughters’ marriage or do penance in Amsterdam, and yet others to print books or attend seasonal fairs (Livro da Nação, I, 25, 390; II, 82).

  • 26 On this ethnic divide, and how it affected practices of charity and its perceptions, see especial (...)

17All in all, the vast array of destinations and contacts established between these migrants constituted a veritable philanthropic network that, albeit spontaneous and decentralised, managed to link the various key centres of contemporary Jewry, connecting Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities across the vast European continent and down to the Mediterranean ports of Italy (Venice and Livorno), Turkey (Salonica, Izmir and Constantinople) and North Africa (Tunis and Salé). While shifting the philanthropic effort to different communities at differing moments and forging new relations of interdependence among the various Jewish groups and cultures, this constant flux of migrants also served to stress these communities’ differences and strengthen their sense of distinctiveness vis-à-vis one another, as becomes especially apparent in the Sephardi-Ashkenazi divide.26

  • 27 The concept of “circular migration” is described in detail by Levie Bernfeld (2012, 40-41). Polic (...)

18Although communal leaders were well aware that for the vast majority of migrants, Hamburg, unlike Amsterdam, was not a key destination, this alone did not prevent the extended and unwanted presence of outsiders from becoming a problem for the Hamburger parnassim. Driven, among other things, by catastrophes, wars, epidemics and persecution, many of these travellers moved across Europe in search of better living conditions, attracted by rumours of the wealth and magnificence of Hamburg and bringing with them no more than their clothes and money for their trip. Of those who were forced to take to the road again, a significant number returned to Hamburg and Amsterdam weeks or months after requesting support, and re-entered the community’s welfare lists. This phenomenon, known as “circular migration” and practised both by the Nation’s poor and Jews from Italy, North Africa and the Ottoman Empire and by the various German and Polish communities in Northern Europe, had a considerable impact on congregational policies on emigration, demographic control and social assistance, resulting in more restrictive measures being adopted to discourage these migrants’ access to and permanence in the destination communities.27

  • 28 Together with H. Saliach of Jerusalem, Mose Israel and Abraham Benveniste walked the streets of H (...)

19In Hamburg, one of the first steps after the congregational merger was designed specifically to deal with the large numbers of outsiders flocking to the city and their apparent reluctance to “be on their way” (porem-se a caminho). On 17 September 1654, the leaders of the Portuguese community passed a new provision limiting any outsider’s period of stay to a maximum of four days, after which they would be excluded from communal support and actively encouraged to leave (Livro da Nação, I, 35). The fact that this measure was largely ineffective can be seen from the successive entries reporting their unwelcome presence in the city. This motivated some congregants to provide private alms – in contravention of the community statutes – as a way of alleviating their coreligionists’ needs.28 In other cases, however, the Mahamad simply ordered the forced expulsion of entire groups of outsiders to Amsterdam, with the support of the state authorities (Livro da Nação, I, 57).

20As was the practice in most contemporary Jewish communities, alms for outsiders were permissible only with the prior permission of the governing council. On the other hand, outsiders themselves also had to obtain communal approval if they wished to request alms within the congregation. In such cases, a distinction was granted to certain members of congregations from the Levant, such as rabbis or notable religious leaders, a situation which often led to their stay in the community for several weeks and their presence being celebrated through elaborate rituals and ceremonies. One hacham from the Holy Land, Biniamin Levy, for example, asked the Portuguese Mahamad for help due to the “misfortune” of his son who had forced him to travel the world. After being offered 100 marks from the treasury, Levy was granted permission to preach in the general synagogue, so that “zealous people could offer him whatever God had wished” (Livro da Nação, I, 95).

  • 29 “Beo a junta hum homem de prahga com recomendaçao de mizrach dizendo era netto de R. Izaque Portu (...)
  • 30 See, for example, a reference of two somewhat suspicious letters of recommendation, one from Veni (...)

21Some outsiders distinguished themselves from others by means of a document conferring credibility on their claims by highlighting the honour of their character and the respectability of their family background. These documents, appropriately called cartas de recomendaçao (“recommendation letters”), were usually written by the rabbis in their own communities, and were an effective way to ensure the veracity of the many aid requests presented to the Mahamad. Often they also served as a way of attesting to the Portuguese identity of outsiders and confirming their belonging to the Portuguese Nation. This is made explicit in, for example, the following excerpt: “A man from Prague came before the board with letters from the mizrach saying he was the grandson of R. Izaque Portugues, and not knowing his surname his petition was refused…”.29 Despite their usefulness, the increased adoption of recommendation letters made the task of the Portuguese parnassim ever more complicated, and caused them on more than one occasion to question the authenticity of these letters.30

3. Travel Grants and Forced Migration

  • 31 Motivated by the potentially adverse political consequences of vagrancy, the Senate undertook to (...)

22For the poor already living in the city, the decreased willingness to include them in the regular welfare lists gave way to concerted efforts to prepare, peacefully if possible, for these people to depart from the city. If, contrary to the statutory provisions and defying the invective of the governing council, indigents extended their stay indefinitely, the council reserved the right to prepare for their expulsion by land or sea. This right, informally recognised by the city’s magistrates through a prior agreement with the Nation, was one of the clearest examples of the strict cooperation between the Senate and the Mahamad on disciplinary matters.31 Thus, the Senate undertook to assist and facilitate the expulsion of paupers by the Portuguese nation; for their part, the Portuguese solved part of their image problem by keeping beggars away but more importantly, perhaps, they relieved the heavy socioeconomic burden represented by their unwanted presence in the community.

  • 32 The high sum granted to Aboab was predicated on his service to the Nation as a community clerk (L (...)
  • 33 In Hamburg, the list of beneficiaries of financial support was designated by tamid, term which al (...)

23Enticed by the prospect of better living conditions abroad, attractive travel grants and bonuses, and in some cases the possibility of being offered communal positions in the communities of the New World, the Nation’s poor often viewed these opportunities with more anticipation than fear. The subtle persuasion by the Mahamad, however, had clear trade-offs. As a matter of principle, these migrants’ return to their community of origin was forbidden, as were any social contributions enjoyed there initially. Some of the grants were not given to them until they arrived in the destination community. This was in order to prevent “circular migration”, as well as guard against possible abuses. Finally, the destination was expected to be sufficiently remote to deter any intention of returning to the community of origin before the contractual period. After receiving the considerable sum of 300 marks to leave Hamburg for Amsterdam, the community clerk Semuel Aboab was forced to promise never to return to Hamburg, let alone to reside there.32 Similarly, Jacob Jessurun and his sister, both leaving for Amsterdam, were each granted 20 and 12 Reichsthaler respectively on the express condition that they would no longer be assisted if they returned to Hamburg, thus effectively losing their right to the tamid and other communal benefits (Livro da Nação, I, 242).33

  • 34 See the beneficiaries of travel allowances in the ledgers of the Hamburg community – Livro da Naç (...)
  • 35 The amount disbursed often depended on various economic and social considerations, for example: t (...)

24Among the 117 migrants receiving travel allowances to leave the community of Hamburg between 1652 and 1682, 48 went to Amsterdam, either temporarily or permanently, to seek their fortunes.34 Of the remaining 69, the destination of the vast majority is, unfortunately, unknown or not stated. However, it is possible to ascertain that London, Italy and Turkey were the next destinations of choice for Sephardim from Hamburg, closely followed by the settlements of the New World, namely Curaçao, Barbados, Cayenne and Essequibo, in no particular order. For the most part, these were individuals without an occupation and livelihood and whose mere presence harmed the Nation by swelling the ranks of those receiving communal benefits. Their departure was thus desired, at the risk of administrative mismanagement, as a necessary trade-off between short-term expenditure and long-term gain.35 On the other hand, by getting rid of these individuals the Mahamad purged the community of what it perceived to be the pernicious effects of idleness, including begging, vagrancy, addiction, a bad life and poor morals, all behaviours seen as threatening the image of the community in the eyes of the city’s authorities (Livro da Nação, I, 384, 428; II, 140).

  • 36 Curaçao was by the time a Dutch colony. For more on the presence and role of Sephardic Jews in th (...)

25In addition to Amsterdam, London and Venice or Livorno, which were the main destinations chosen by or imposed on migrants from Hamburg, a renewed interest in the newly-founded Portuguese-Jewish communities of the New World can be observed, especially from the 1660s and 1670s onwards. Reflecting a clear demand for manpower for the new ambitious projects in the Caribbean, the Dutch and French colonies of Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana, Cayenne, Curaçao and Essequibo became some of the preferred destinations for indigent emigrants sponsored by the Mahamad. Examples of such expeditions can be found in the case of Jacob Mendes, who received 50 marks for his trip to Cayenne, or Izaque Habilho, who was given 10 Reichsthaler to “go to Cayana” (Livro da Nação, I, 242, 256). Ishack Mendes, meanwhile, received 10 Reichsthaler from the Mahamad to send his son to Curaçao, on condition that he did not return to Hamburg (Livro da Nação, II, 132).36 And on 28 April 1658, an influential Portuguese Jew, Abraham Senior Teixeira, offered alms and favours to all those who wished to join an expedition to the “newly discovered land” of “Serepique” (Essequibo) and stay there for at least three years (Livro da Nação, I, 107). The signatories of the agreement to provide these alms and favours included Imanoel de Campos, Daniel de Abraham Campos, David Oliveira, David Nunes, Jacob Senior, David Jessurun, Eliau Israel and Gabriel Luria.

26Not infrequently, disciplinary purposes were also associated with economic reasons and young unemployed and unmarried men were frequently the target of communal policies. In such situations, the community sought the support of relatives to help the Mahamad expel rebellious elements from the congregation. In one of these cases, Abigail Habilha persuaded her son, Simson Habilho, to move to Barbados at the behest of the Mahamad, asking for help with his travel expenses. Since the Mahamad wished to “cleanse the land of vagrant boys”, it gladly agreed to Abigail’s request, albeit not without imposing some conditions. Serving as guarantor for the agreement, Abigail promised that her son would not return to Hamburg for at least two years. In the event of default, the travel grant of 10 Reichsthaler would be forcibly deducted from her tamid (Livro da Nação, II, 140).

  • 37 On these cases – Saraiva, Jessurun, de Campos, and Pimentel – see, respectively Livro da Nação, I (...)

27Sometimes it was family members themselves, particularly mothers, who took the initiative to send their children away from the community. Failing at her first attempt to raise money for her son’s journey, Ms. Saraiva finally persuaded the Mahamad to finance the trip, with the latter stating that it was “advantageous to get the idlers off the land”. Financial considerations motivated another woman of the community, Clara Jessurun, the widow of H. Izaque Jessurun, to send her two sons away so that, as grown men, they would “seek their paths and not add to her misery”. The extreme needs of some families also led the Mahamad to move whole households to other parts of the diaspora. Unable to support himself from communal charity, Jacob de Campos was forced to move with his entire family to Barbados, receiving 50 Reichsthaler for that purpose. In another case, Abraham Abenjacor Pimentel and his family were advised to leave for Amsterdam, from where he had come two years earlier, allegedly due to complaints that he had no occupation and spent his time idling away.37

4. Sabbateanism, Economic Crisis and Welfare Cutbacks

  • 38 In one fell swoop, all records of Sabbatai’s existence – including books, correspondence and entr (...)
  • 39 In addition, all the decrees of herem (excommunication) were lifted for fear of bad decisions. In (...)

28The forced conversion of the self-proclaimed messiah Sabbatai Zevi to Islam on 16 September 1666 sent shock waves through the vast European Jewish world (Scholem 1975, ch. 7). As soon as news of his apostasy reached Amsterdam and Hamburg (by November of the same year), eschatological hopes evaporated almost instantly, giving rise to a spiritual and religious crisis of unprecedented proportions.38 Unlike in Amsterdam, where the impact of Sabbateanism and its eradication was controllable, the political and religious reorientation promoted by the congregational leaders in Hamburg now had to take into account the increased financial difficulties faced by the community. These difficulties were the result, in particular, of the high level of commitment that had marked the actions of its leaders during the religious upheaval, with these leaders having decided at one point to sell all the houses owned by the Nation, and, in the absence of buyers, having even suggested putting these houses up for auction in order to prepare for the “final journey” (Livro da Nação, I, 283, 310-311).39

  • 40 On this troubled period in the history of the community, see Kaplan (1994) and Martins (2018).
  • 41 This was the name given to the lists of the recipients of regular welfare payments.

29It is in this context that a series of gradual changes to communal assistance should be understood, with a view to reforming it to reflect the new socioeconomic situation.40 Such was the case, for example, in the increased importance given to examining the tamidim lists (rol de tamid),41 which began to suffer deeper and more frequent cuts (Livro da Nação, I, 352, 423; II, 14, 49). According to the leaders of the Portuguese community, this was due in particular to the “unfounded consideration by the Lords of the Mahamad that in their time our pilgrimage and captivity was over” (Livro da Nação, I, 352). Criteria such as necessity or recent conduct came to hold even more weight in the final considerations of the Mahamad. As a result, the tamid of beneficiaries who had somehow disappointed the community and its expectations of them was correspondingly withdrawn or restricted (Livro da Nação, I, 423, 497).

  • 42 Habilho was forced to give 4 Reichsthaler each month to his poor uncle (Livro da Nação, I, 280).
  • 43 For some references to despachados (poor relocated people) in Hamburg, see Livro da Nação, I, 98, (...)
  • 44 On forced migrations from the Portuguese-Jewish communities of Amsterdam and Hamburg, see Kaplan (...)

30Similarly, a new emphasis was placed on families and the domestic sphere for providing the kind of support and solidarity previously provided by the Mahamad. Sara de Cunha, for example, saw her tamid being cancelled owing to her having wealthy relatives in Amsterdam (Livro da Nação, II, 21). Another member of the community, Jeosuah Habilho, was admonished for not supporting his family as he had previously promised and for living at the Nation’s expense while his uncle was in great distress.42 The rationing of the welfare system also involved stricter observation of communal regulations, or escama. In this context, the previous practice of “tamid anticipation” (anticipaçao de tamid) – a custom widely disseminated and promoted by communal authorities – was, effectively, no longer an acceptable procedure. With the publication of a new statutory decree on 1 September 1669, the Mahamad now unequivocally reiterated that any abuses in the way that treasurers allocated tamidim would be severely punished, with a fine of 10 Reichsthaler for each infringement (Livro da Nação, I, 418). One of the direct consequences of the renewed rigour and rationalisation that began to characterise the new orientation of social assistance was, in fact, the progressive increase in forced migrations during the final decade under analysis, namely between 1670 and 1680.43 As explained previously, the relocation of poor and indigent people from the congregation to other centres of the Portuguese Nation was a common practice, both in Hamburg and in other communities of the Portuguese Diaspora. However, it was not until the second half of the 1660s, when the number of poor people in the city increased considerably, that the community was finally forced to deal with the full extent of the problem.44

31Emigration, which was initially actively desired by communal leaders, as suggested by the community-sponsored forced migrations from the late 1670s onwards, went on to have a considerable effect on the community, and to account for the departure of more than half of its population by 1690. Although it is impossible to determine the precise impact of austerity measures on emigration after 1670, it seems certain that, despite these measures’ undeniable importance, other factors are likely to have played an equally or possibly more important role in many families’ decision to leave the community for Amsterdam. Among these factors were, for example, the community’s precarious political and legal situation externally, and the loss of its regional attractiveness as a centre of religious and social freedom, a situation to which the repeated failures to expand the synagogue undoubtedly contributed, as well as the deterioration in the city’s economic outlook over the previous quarter of a century (Martins 2018, 72-75, 79-80).

5. Final Considerations

32Mobility patterns to and from the Jewish centres of the Mediterranean played a considerable role in the policies adopted by the Portuguese community of Hamburg in the seventeenth century. These policies – which ranged from contributions to the Holy Land and contributions for captives and calamities to providing financial assistance to outsiders and migrants in the form of travel grants, welfare and forced migrations – suggest the important role played by Hamburg as a leading purveyor of financial help to the chronically indebted communities of the Levant and the Ottoman Empire during the seventeenth century. Representing close to a third of all foreigners assisted by the Hamburg community between 1652 and 1682, the influx of Mediterranean migrants and travellers stressed, above all, the new economic primacy of communities such as Hamburg in the wider context of Jewish philanthropic networks of the Mediterranean.

33Despite the contingencies of the economic crisis that struck the community in the late 1660s, and which ultimately led to severe cutbacks in communal welfare, the frequent visits by emissaries from the Levant at around the same time attest to the uninterrupted role of Hamburg as a vital component in what was to become one of the largest networks of beneficence in the pre-modern Jewish world: the eighteenth-century, Istanbul-based philanthropic network of selichut. By contrast and not least because of its longevity, sheer size and elaborate administrative coordination, this network reasserted the centrality of the Holy Land (and, by extension, of the Mediterranean) in the devotional world of Northern European Portuguese Jews, thus offsetting the latter’s pre-eminence in economic matters. By forming the basis of their relationship in the years to come, this reciprocity underlined the close links between the Sephardic communities in the North and their coreligionists in the Mediterranean basin.

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Notas

1 Such mobility could also be found in other early modern trading diasporas and merchant nations, such as the Quakers, the Armenians and the Huguenots, to name only a few. For more on this see Curtin (1984), Walvin (1998), Aslanian (2014) and Stanwood (2020).

2 On the relationship between Jewish History and the Mediterranean, see: Goitein (1967-88), Arbel (1995), Schwartz (2009), Goldberg (2012), Bregoli (2014), Ray (2013), and Lehmann and Marglin (2020).

3 On the Portuguese-Jewish community of Hamburg, see: Cassuto (1927 and 1930), Kellenbenz (1958), Whaley (1985), Studemund-Halévy (1994-97 and 2000), Braden (2001), Wallenborn (2003), Poettering (2013) and Martins (2018; 2019a, 2019b, 2019c, 2020, 2021a, 2021b).

4 On the Sephardic Diaspora, see: Beinart (1992), Levy (1992), Benbassa and Rodrigue (2000), Israel (2002), Trivellato (2009), and Kagan and Morgan (2009).

5 At its peak, in the 1660s, the Portuguese Jewish community of Hamburg numbered around 800 individuals. Around the same time, the community of Amsterdam counted with 2,200 members, making it the most important center of the western Sephardic diaspora. Reliable figures for the remaining Portuguese communities in Western Europe can be found in Swetschinski (2000, 91-94).

6 Tzedakah (lit: righteousness) was the religious obligation to help the needy through voluntary donations so that these could become self-sufficient and achieve economic independence.

7 For an analysis of the selichim and their activities in Portugal in the sixteenth century, see Tavim (2014, 168-191).

8 On the Portuguese Jewish community of Venice, see Davis and Ravid (2001), Ruspio (2007). For Amsterdam, see Bodian (1997) and Swetschinski (2000). For Livorno, see Toaff (1990).

9 Selichut: hebrew term designating the missions carried out by rabbinic emissaries. The emissaries are usually referred by Portuguese Jews as selichim.

10 Staatsarchiv Hamburg (StAHH), Jüdische Gemeinden 993, Protokollbuch (1652-1682), Vol. I, 49, 95, 158, 317, 498; Vol. II, 322, 345 (cited hereafter as “Livro da Nação”).

11 Election of the various gabbaim with strong links to the Ottoman Jews: Abraham Lumbroso (6 Thishrey, 5415), Jahacob Lumbroso (28 Elul, 5439), David Benveniste (28 Elul, 5415), Jacob Benveniste (27 Elul, 5423), Joseph Penso (28 Elul, 5416), Jeosuah Abas (27 Elul, 5418) and Jacob Abas (25 Elul, 5413) (Livro da Nação, I, 22, 35, 47, 74, 116, 246; II, 243).

12 The focal points along this important financial and migratory route were Jerusalem, Safed, Smyrna, Constantinople, Belgrade, Venice, Livorno, Hamburg and Amsterdam.

13 Manoel Valentim (alias Fernando Rodrigues Henriques) was the main commercial correspondent of the Teixeira in Venice, as well as of the Tinoco and the Pinto, two of the wealthiest New-Christian families of the time. His diamond trading firm was one of the most prominent in Venice, extending to the four corners of the world. Valentim died in Venice in 1669, leaving the business to his two sons in Constantinople – see Livro da Nação, I, 362; Ruspio (2007, 122-123) and Boyajian (2008, 138).

14 Izaque Senior Teixeira (150 patacas), Abraham Senior de Matos (50), Selomo Curiel (50), David Curiel (50), Moseh de Pinto (50), Ishack Nunes Henriques (50) and Efraim Castiel (25) (Livro da Nação, I, 480). By the time, one pataca corresponded to two guilders and seven stuivers, or about 2 marks lübisch in the local currency, in Hamburg.

15 As revealed by Swetschinski (2000, 203), a typical remittance from Amsterdam to the Holy Land in the mid-seventeenth century amounted to 760 patacas (value for the year 1660), while the typical annual remittance from Hamburg did not exceed 150 or 200 patacas (Livro da Nação, II, 187, 305, 340).

16 On the social and religious impact of sabbateanism in Hamburg, see Martins (2019c, 215-223).

17 For a detailed analysis of the subject, taking the community of Amsterdam as an example, see Bernfeld (2020). For an overview of the relationship between Jews and the Mediterranean slave trade, see Hershenzon (2020). On the wider historiography on captivity in the early modern Mediterranean, see Voigt (2009), Weiss (2011), Kaiser and Calafat (2014), Hershenzon (2018) and Heinsen-Roach (2019).

18 This was the case, for example, with Moseh de Mercado, a Hamburg resident, who was offered 6 Reichsthaler due to his wife and children being held captive, or even Jacob Israel, who was offered 100 marks as help for the rescue of his captive wife in North Africa (Livro da Nação, I, 31, 41, 37).

19 From the eighteenth century onwards, central operations were transferred from Venice to Livorno, where a pidyon sebuim society had existed since 1606. See Lehmann (2014, 20).

20 The bank ducat was a currency with a fixed exchange value and used for settling international financial transactions.

21 This new model of remittances is explained in a letter sent to the deputies of pidyon sebuim, in Venice (Livro da Nação, I, 354-355). Teixeira’s will, specifying the donation for the ransoming of captives, can be found in the ledgers of the Portuguese community of Hamburg: Livro da Nação, I, 184-187.

22 After receiving news of the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna, Abraham Senior Teixeira advocated on behalf of Austrian Jews before the Princes and Kings of Europe, especially the Queen of Sweden and the authorities of Rome (Livro da Nação, I, 457-458).

23 Saraiva’s pouzada (“guesthouse”) was apparently the main resting place for outsiders and travellers in the community (Livro da Nação, II, 347).

24 See the registers on assisted foreigners in the ledgers of the Hamburg community – Livro da Nação, I-II.

25 Some examples of registers concerning artisans, pilgrims, refugees, students and ex-captives in Livro da Nação, I, 13, 31, 61, 316; II, 114.

26 On this ethnic divide, and how it affected practices of charity and its perceptions, see especially Lehmann (2014, 169-185).

27 The concept of “circular migration” is described in detail by Levie Bernfeld (2012, 40-41). Policies of social and demographic control were a common feature of early modern poor-relief systems, as detailed in Jütte (1994) and Geremek (1994). On regulation of migration in early modern cities, see De Munck and Winter (2012). For a gendered perspective on the topic, see Kamp (2020).

28 Together with H. Saliach of Jerusalem, Mose Israel and Abraham Benveniste walked the streets of Hamburg “begging for alms against the statutes of the nation”. Each was forced to pay a fine of 1 Reichsthaler (Livro da Nação, I, 158).

29 “Beo a junta hum homem de prahga com recomendaçao de mizrach dizendo era netto de R. Izaque Portugues e não se conhecendo nem saber de seo sobrenome não se admetio su petiçao e para ajuda de seo gasto se lhe deo 1 reichthaler” (Livro da Nação, II, 168).

30 See, for example, a reference of two somewhat suspicious letters of recommendation, one from Venice and the other from the Holy Land, in Livro da Nação, II, 49.

31 Motivated by the potentially adverse political consequences of vagrancy, the Senate undertook to assist and facilitate the expulsion of indigents by the Portuguese Nation. For their part, the Portuguese resolved their image problem, not only by keeping the poor beggars away but also, and perhaps more importantly, by alleviating the heavy socioeconomic burden represented by their unwanted presence in the community (Livro da Nação, I, 57).

32 The high sum granted to Aboab was predicated on his service to the Nation as a community clerk (Livro da Nação, I, 41).

33 In Hamburg, the list of beneficiaries of financial support was designated by tamid, term which also referred to the allowance itself.

34 See the beneficiaries of travel allowances in the ledgers of the Hamburg community – Livro da Nação, I-II.

35 The amount disbursed often depended on various economic and social considerations, for example: the reason of the trip (poverty, punishment, pilgrimage, work), the social position of the migrant (professional status, social and economic standing, family lineage), or even the financial situation of the community.

36 Curaçao was by the time a Dutch colony. For more on the presence and role of Sephardic Jews in the territory, see Arbell (2002), Israel (2002, 511-32), De Lima (2019), and Leitão (2019).

37 On these cases – Saraiva, Jessurun, de Campos, and Pimentel – see, respectively Livro da Nação, I, 424, 428; I, 382; I, 98; and II, 43.

38 In one fell swoop, all records of Sabbatai’s existence – including books, correspondence and entries in protocol books – were burnt and erased from the collective memory. See Studemund-Halévy (2001, 211).

39 In addition, all the decrees of herem (excommunication) were lifted for fear of bad decisions. In order to “surrender due zeal and obedience” to the “King Sabbatai”, steps were also taken to send an ambassador to Constantinople.

40 On this troubled period in the history of the community, see Kaplan (1994) and Martins (2018).

41 This was the name given to the lists of the recipients of regular welfare payments.

42 Habilho was forced to give 4 Reichsthaler each month to his poor uncle (Livro da Nação, I, 280).

43 For some references to despachados (poor relocated people) in Hamburg, see Livro da Nação, I, 98, 382, 384, 404, 428, 490; II, 74, 132, 140.

44 On forced migrations from the Portuguese-Jewish communities of Amsterdam and Hamburg, see Kaplan (1994) and Studemund-Halévy (2015).

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Para citar este artigo

Referência do documento impresso

Hugo Martins, «Between Welfare and Vagrancy: Migrants, Refugees and Travellers between Hamburg and the Mediterranean in the Seventeenth Century »Ler História, 78 | 2021, 39-59.

Referência eletrónica

Hugo Martins, «Between Welfare and Vagrancy: Migrants, Refugees and Travellers between Hamburg and the Mediterranean in the Seventeenth Century »Ler História [Online], 78 | 2021, posto online no dia 23 junho 2021, consultado no dia 01 julho 2022. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/lerhistoria/8285; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/lerhistoria.8285

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Autor

Hugo Martins

Centro de História, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal

hugo.fcc.martins@gmail.com

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