Jewish Scholars in Bari

The existence of a rabbinical school or, at least, of famous teachers of the Law is attested by the old saying cited by Rabbenu Tam in the twelfth century: “From Bari shall the Law go forth, and the word of the Lord from Otranto”‚ paraphrasing of Isa. ii. 3. Another tradition, narrated by Ibn Daud in his “Sefer ha-sabbalah”, connects Bari with the four teachers who set out in the year 960 from that port for the purpose either of providing dowries for brides, or of seeking aid for the languishing schools in Babylon. On their way to Sebaste, their ship is said to have been captured by the Moorish admiral Ibn Rumahis, and the teachers were sold into slavery It is uncertain if these teachers came from Babylon, as it is generally thought. They may have been Italians from Bari itself, as the existent manuscripts of the “Sefer ha-sabbalah” say simply, “four renowned scholars from the city of Bari.”

Among many prominent personalities, the statesman, philosopher and biblical commentator Isaac ben Jehudah Abrabanel lived near Bari after fleeing Spain (see Monopoli).

Nothing further is known of the fortunes of the Jews in this place; Benjamin of Tudela does not even speak of it in his travels. Mention is made of a Moses Khalfo of Bari in 1025 and of a physician and copyist, Isaac ben Solomon, whose family name was “del Bari,” in the middle of the fifteenth century. According to Porges, the manual for the reader of the Law was brought from Jerusalem to Bari .

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