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by Tito Benady

 

General Overview

 

Current General Population (2008): 28,750

Current Jewish Poulation (2008): 600

Percent of Population: Approximately 2%

Migration routes: Mainly Morocco, particularly from the Ladino speaking city of Tetuan; a small number from England.

Languages Spoken: English and Spanish

 

Historical Overview

 

1160, The city of Gibraltar was founded by the Emperor of Morocco.

1462, Gibraltar was captured by Spain.

1474, Gibraltar was sold by its lord, the Duke of Medina Sidonia,to the Conversos of Cordoba.

1476, Medina Sidonia expelled the Conversos.

1704, Gibraltar was captured by an Anglo-Dutch force in the name of the pretender to the crown of Spain.

1705, Gibraltar was cut-off from Spain and the garrison depended largely on supplies from Morocco.  A number of Jewish merchants from London, Lisbon and Livorno who dealt with Morocco settled in Gibraltar, as also did a number of Jews from Tetuan in Morocco.

1713, Gibraltar was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht.  Spain insisted on inserting a clause in the Treaty, which precluded Jews from Living in Gibraltar.

1717, Jews were expelled from Gibraltar in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht.

1718, Britain at war with Spain again after Spain had invaded Sicily and upset the arrangements made a Utrecht.  Gibraltar once again cut-off from supplies from Spain and the Jews were readmitted to ensure supplies from Morocco.

1721, Treaty negotiated with Morocco by Commodore Stewart of the Royal Navy.  On the Moroccan side the negotiations were handled by Moses Ben Hatar, the treasurer of the Emperor of Morocco and Jews were henceforth allowed to settle in Gibraltar.  The first land grants given to Jews.

1723, Foundation of the Great Synagogue of Shaar Hashamayim (Gate of Heaven) by Isaac Netto on land granted by the governor.  The synagogue and its services followed those of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue at Bevis Marks in London

1750, Governor Bland makes the elders of the synagogue responsible for maintaining order among the poorer members of the community.

1754, there were 573 Jews in Gibraltar and they formed one-third of the civilian population.

1759, The yeshiva (Talmudic academy) of Es Hayim (Tree of Life) was turned into a synagogue.

1766, The Great Synagogue was destroyed by floods that followed torrential rains and was rebuilt two years later.

1777, The number of Jews had increased to 863, but they now formed only a quarter of the larger civilian population.

1779, The Great Siege by Spain commenced in June, it lasted until February 1783.

1781, beginning of heavy Spanish bombardment; the synagogue was burnt down and many of the Jewish inhabitants took refuge in England to escape from the rigours of the siege. Most returned in 1783.

1793, The French Republic declares war on Britain.  The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars which lasted (with an intermission of less than three years) until 1815, were to bring great prosperity to the merchants of Gibraltar and Jewish merchants participated in this. Two of them, Aaron Cardozo and the Banker Judah Benoliel, achieved considerable fame abroad.  Cardozo’s mansion is now the City Hall.

1800, The Flemish Synagogue, Nefusot Yehudah (Dwelling Places of Israel), built.

1881, Jewish population 1,800 forming 10% of the civilian population.

1940, The non-combatant population of Gibraltar was evacuated because of fears of a combined attack by Spain and Germany.  Most of the evacuees went to England but some went to Jamaica and the Portuguese island of Madeira.  They return in 1944 and 1945.

The city of Gibraltar was founded in 1160 by the Moroccans and there is evidence of a Jewish community during the subsequent three centuries of Moslem rule. It was captured by Spain in 1462 and the only Jewish connection during the Spanish period was the sale of the city in 1474 to the Conversos (Jews who had adopted Christianity) of Cordoba, by the lord of the city, the Duke of Medina Sidonia. This interlude did not last long and Medina Sidonia expelled the Conversos two years later. It was not until Gibraltar became a British possession that the present Jewish community was established.

Gibraltar was captured by British and Dutch forces in 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, and was held by Britain for the remainder of the war. Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain under the terms of Article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. During this time the garrison was cut off from the Spanish hinterland and had to turn to neighbouring Morocco for fresh provisions. The trade of northern Morocco was largely in the hands of the Jews of Tetuan, which is only 50 miles from the Rock, and a number of Jewish merchants from that place settled in Gibraltar. They were later joined by a few secret Jews from Seville and Portugal.

Spain was not at all pleased by the Jewish presence on the Rock and in spite of strong British objections, insisted on inserting a clause in the treaty of cession, which stipulated that “Jews and Moors” were not to be allowed “to reside or have their dwellings in the said Town of Gibraltar”.


Moorish Castle, Gibraltar

In 1716, there was a rapprochement with Spain, the frontier reopened and supplies were obtained from across the border. The British government ordered the expulsion of the Jewish merchants from Gibraltar in accordance with its treaty obligations. Reluctantly the local governors complied with the pressing orders they received, although this meant a financial loss to them personally, as it reduced the taxes and rents they collected. The Jews were expelled in February 1718, and Morocco retaliated by stopping all exports to Gibraltar. .

But the good relations between Britain and Spain did not last long. Within a few months the two countries were at war again over Spanish expansion in Italy, and Admiral Byng destroyed the Spanish fleet in the naval battle of Cape Passaro. This left the garrison of Gibraltar in difficulties as they were no longer able to obtain supplies from Spain either. The Jewish merchants who had returned to Tetuan were therefore invited back to supply the garrison.  The British Government, aware of the importance of securing this trade, sent Commodore Stewart as an ambassador and a treaty was signed in January 1721. On the Moroccan side the treaty was negotiated by Moses Ben Hatar, the leader of the Jewish community of Salé, who was the Emperor of Morocco’s treasurer and man of business, and who for some years had used the European Jewish merchants of Gibraltar to make purchases for his master.  Article 7 of the treaty stipulated that British merchants were allowed to settle in Morocco and “that the subjects of the Emperor of Fez and Morocco, whether Moors or Jews, residing in the dominions of the King of Great Britain, shall entirely enjoy the same privileges that are granted to the English residing in Barbary”.

The Jewish merchants returned to Gibraltar and bought properties. In 1721 the Governor made grants of land to Abraham Acris, Abraham Benider and Moses Cansino.  In 1723 a grant was made to Isaac Netto and the following year he received a further grant for the construction of a synagogue.  Netto was the founder of the Jewish community of Gibraltar.  Born in Livorno, Italy, he had been taken to London at a young age by his father Rabbi David Nieto when he became Haham of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in London.  Although he was in Gibraltar as a merchant, he had been educated and given his rabbinical degree by his father.  He therefore not only acted as the religious leader of the young community but his position as an important merchant enabled him to set up a complete communal organisation on the lines of the London synagogue.  The synagogue itself received the name of Sha’ar Hashamayim (Gate of Heaven) which was the name of the London synagogue. The original building was destroyed by a flash flood in 1766 and was rebuilt on more substantial lines.  The other institutions that Netto set up were similarly named after their London equivalents.  He started a yeshiva called Es Hayim (Tree of Life) and a boys’ school called Talmud Tora (Teaching of the Law).  A census taken in 1725 showed that there were 137 Jews in Gibraltar and they formed ten percent of the civilian population.  After the death of his father, Netto left Gibraltar to become Haham of the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation in London.

In 1727

North Front Encampment, Jewish Immigrants
Spain besieged Gibraltar for several months and most of the Spanish residents in the town left. After the unsuccessful siege, the Spaniards built a line of fortifications along the isthmus that divides Gibraltar from Spain and the Spanish element in the civilian population declined considerably. Jewish immigrants from Morocco took their place and the next census in 1753 shows there were 572 Jews in Gibraltar and that they formed a third of the civilian population.

 

The British Government was concerned about the clause that gave Jews the right to settle in Gibraltar that was written into the 1721 treaty with Morocco, as it was contrary to the undertaking they had given Spain under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht so this clause was modified in subsequent treaties.  The next treaty signed in 1729 allowed them only to come to Gibraltar on business for a maximum period of thirty days “but not to reside”. Similar clauses appeared in subsequent treaties until 1760.  But successive governors of the fortress paid no attention to this limitation.  The 1777 census shows that while the rate of immigration had levelled off in recent years, the number of Jews had increased to 863, of whom three-quarters had been born in Gibraltar, and were therefore British subjects by birth.  They now formed a quarter of the increased civilian population and owned a quarter of all the registered properties, which shows their established position.  Although some were affluent merchants many were ordinary craftsmen or working men, as the lists of registered porters and boatmen show.

Read More..

 

 

References and Further Reading - Books and Articles:

 Belilo, Mesod, 1995, Talmud Torah. Gibraltar

Benady, Tito M., 1979, “The Settlement of Jews in Gibraltar, 1704 - 1783.” Pp. 87-110 inTransactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England 26.

-   1989, “The Jewish Community of Gibraltar” Pp. 144-179 in Western Sephardim. Richard D. Barnett and Walter Schwab, eds., Gibraltar Books.

-  1994, “The role of the Jews in the British colonies of the Western Mediterranean.” Pp 45–63 in Trandactions of the Historical Society of England 33.

-  2004, ed., Aaron Cardozo, life and letters. Gibraltar Books.

Gibraltar Heritage Trust. Jackson, Sir William, and Francis Cantos, 1995, From Fortress to Democracy: The Political Biography of Sir Joshua Hassan. Gibraltar Books.

Lamelas, Diego, 1992, The Sale of Gibraltar. Gibraltar Books.

Lombard, Anthony, 1997, “The Roman Catholic Abudarham Family.”  Pp 75-90 in Gibraltar Heritage Journal 4.

-   2000, “Fives Court: the Benzimra and Levy families” Pp 49-73 in Gibraltar  Heritage Journal 7.

Serfaty, Abraham B. M., 1933, The Jews of Gibraltar under British Rule. Gibraltar.

Seymour, Anthony A. D., 1996, “A Tale of Two Families.” Pp 49-60 in Gibraltar Heritage Journal 3.

 

 

Contemporary Overview

Trades and Professions: Jews participate in all the trades and professions but a number are lawyers as Gibraltar’s finance centre which incorporates a number of overseas companies offers many opportunities to the legal profession.

Communal Institutions: There are four orthodox synagogues practising the Sephardi rite. The Managing Board of the Jewish Community controls all communal affairs.  There is an elementary school, which recently celebrated its centenary, and more recently, separate secondary schools have been started for girls and boys.  There is an active burial society Hevrat Gemilut Hasadim, which is entirely run by volunteers.

Communal relations: The Jewish community is well established and relations with other religious sections are very good and on special occasions joint services are held.  There is no anti-Semitism and the situation has no doubt been eased by considerable intermarriage in past years.  Today a quarter of the general population have some Jewish ancestry.

Present Economic Conditions: The finance centre and tourism make Gibraltar an affluent place with a GDP of over £20,000 per person, above the average for southern Europe, nevertheless opportunities are limited and has led to much Jewish migration to Britain and Israel.

 

References and Further Reading - Books and Articles:

 Belilo, Mesod, 1995, Talmud Torah. Gibraltar

Benady, Tito M., 1979, “The Settlement of Jews in Gibraltar, 1704 - 1783.” Pp. 87-110 inTransactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England 26.

-   1989, “The Jewish Community of Gibraltar” Pp. 144-179 in Western Sephardim. Richard D. Barnett and Walter Schwab, eds., Gibraltar Books.

-  1994, “The role of the Jews in the British colonies of the Western Mediterranean.” Pp 45–63 in Trandactions of the Historical Society of England 33.

-  2004, ed., Aaron Cardozo, life and letters. Gibraltar Books.

Gibraltar Heritage Journal, 2004, Special Edition. Gibraltar Heritage Trust.

Jackson, Sir William, and Francis Cantos, 1995, From Fortress to Democracy: The

Political Biography of Sir Joshua Hassan. Gibraltar Books.

Lamelas, Diego, 1992, The Sale of Gibraltarin 1474. Gibraltar Books.

Lombard, Anthony, 1997, “The Roman Catholic Abudarham Family.”  Pp 75-90 in Gibraltar Heritage Journal 4.

-   2000, “Fives Court: the Benzimra and Levy families” Pp 49-73 in Gibraltar  Heritage Journal 7.

Serfaty, Abraham B. M., 1933, The Jews of Gibraltar under British Rule. Gibraltar.

Seymour, Anthony A. D., 1996, “A Tale of Two Families.” Pp 49-60 in Gibraltar Heritage Journal 3.

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