Abū Yaḥyā Nahray "Nehorai" ben Nissim, Nagid (c.1025 - c.1098) Transparent

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Al-Qayrawan, Kairouan North, Kairouan, Tunisia
Death: Died
Managed by: Jaim Harlow
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About Abū Yaḥyā Nahray "Nehorai" ben Nissim, Nagid

Nahray ben Nissim (ca. 1025-1098), nicknamed Abū Yaḥyā, was a North African merchant and communal leader. More than 350 letters, notes, and accounts from the Cairo Geniza are either addressed to him or emanate directly from his hand, comprising the largest corpus of documentary sources from the Geniza concerning a single individual.

Born around 1025 and descended from a leader (nagid) of the Qayrawan community, Nahray migrated to Egypt around 1040, where he entered the patronage of his relative Barhūn b. Isḥaq Tahertī. At the center of a network of traders plying the Mediterranean in the eleventh century, mostly of North African descent, Nahray was trusted and respected for his ability to determine the market value of commodities. After sojourning for a time in Alexandria, the center of flax commerce, he eventually settled in Fustat, though he regularly traveled throughout North Africa and visited Israel at least once. His commercial pursuits involved trade, money-changing, and debt collection by power of attorney.

Having studied at the Qayrawan academy of Nissim b. Jacob, Nahray was learned in rabbinic literature; he acted as a professional jurisconsult in Fustat and responded to queries from throughout North Africa. He also maintained ties to the Jerusalem academy and received two honorary titles therefrom. Nahray headed the congregation of "Babylonian" Jews in Fustat and even, for a time, also managed the affairs of the Palestinian synagogue. He supported the Palestinian nasi David ben Daniel in his conflict with Mevorakh ben Sa'adya between 1082 and 1094, but threw his support of the latter upon his restoration to the headship. In addition, Nahray interacted with officials of the Fāṭimid caliphate on behalf of members of the Rabbanite community and was a generous patron of the needy, ensuring that funds were paid to the heirs of those who perished in international commerce and acting as an agent for orphans. He also raised funds for the redemption of captives, in one case mobilizing the community to free Jewish merchants held by Byzantine forces in Amalfi.

Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman

Bibliography

Cohen, Mark R. Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980).

Gil, Moshe. Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 2004).

Goitein, Shelomo D. A Mediterranean Society, 6 vols. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967-88).

Michael, Murad A. "Arkhiyono shel Nahray ben Nissim" (Ph.D. diss., Hebrew University, 1967).

Udovitch, Abraham L. Further Letters from the Eleventh-Century Correspondence of Nahray ben Nissim (Princeton, N.J., 1992).

Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman. " Nahray ben Nissim." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Jim Harlow. 09 July 2012 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/nahray-ben-nissim-SIM_000336>

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