Shmuel ben Ya'akob Hananya, Gaon of Jaen al-Andalus

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About Shmuel ben Ya'akob Hananya, Gaon of Jaen al-Andalus


Jaén (Ar. Jayyān) is an Andalusian city and the capital of the province of the same name situated on the slopes of the rocky Santa Catalina hills on top of which the Muslim fortress still sits, a reminder of the frontier character of the region. Jaén province is located in northeastern Andalusia, in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. Today the region is known for its production of olive oil, but according to Arabic sources, in the early Middle Ages it was renowned as the granary of Cordova. It is also mentioned for the cultivation of silkworms. The region was involved in the revolt of Ibn Ḥafsūn against the Umayyad emirate at the end of the ninth century and beginning of the tenth. After the dissolution of the caliphate, the region became independent in the second decade of the eleventh century [1020 C.E.] and was immediately occupied by the Zīrids of Granada.

There was already a Jewish community in Jaén during the Umayyad caliphate. The family of Ḥasday ibn Shapruṭ originated in Jaén, but his father, Isaac ben Ezra, settled in Cordova. Jaén was the largest Jewish community in the northern province of Granada during the taifa (party kings) period, and it prospered in the eleventh century under Zīrid rule. Its Jews were engaged in a variety of commercial activities.

Jews designated as Jayyānī (from Jaén) are mentioned in rabbinical responsa, including a responsum of Isaac al-Fāsī, who corresponded with the city's spiritual leader, Rabbi Isaac of Jaén. Traders from Jaén are mentioned in documents in the Cairo Geniza. One is a written amulet of a pilgrim from Jaén who intended to go to Jerusalem. His name was Abraham ben R. Judah, and as his nickname (al-ṣarrāf, Ar. the banker or the moneychanger) indicates, he was probably involved in trade or monetary matters.

In 1246 Ferdinand III ("El Santo"), king of Castile, conquered Jaén. Jews had disappeared from the city during the Almohad persecution, but from the very beginning of Christian rule they returned and played an important role in its economic and fiscal life. At the end of the thirteenth century Jaén appears in the Padron de Huete, a list of Jewish communities of Castile that paid taxes to the king. The list, still extant, indicates that the Jaén community paid its taxes together with the communities of Ubeda and Baeza; its importance is reflected by the significant amount.

The Jaén community suffered greatly during the civil war in Castile between Pedro I and his brother Enrique de Trastamara. Many of the city's Jews were sent to the Muslim kingdom of Granada as slaves in payment for the Muslim king's support of Pedro I.

The community was probably completely destroyed during the riots against Jews that spread through Andalusia and other regions of the Peninsula in 1391, for it is no longer mentioned after that date. Some of the survivors may have left, but others are known to have converted, because after the destruction there were converts still living in the Jewish quarter of Jaén. This allows us to trace the outlines of the former Jewish quarter. According to Lacave, it was in the streets of Rodero, Santa Cruz, and the Plaza de Santa Cruz.

Arturo Prats


Ashtor, Eliyahu. The Jews of Moslem Spain (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1973-84), vol. 1, p. 319; vol. 2, pp. 149-150, 191-92.

Coronas Tejada, Luis. Conversos and Inquisition in Jaén (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1988).

---. Judíos y judeoconversos en el reino de Jaén (Jaén: Universidad de Jaén, 2003).

Goitein, S. D. A Mediterranean Society, vol. 5: The Individual (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967-93), p. 401.

Lacave, José Luis. Juderías y Sinagogas Españolas (Madrid: Editorial Mapfre, 1992), pp. 378-379.

Citation Arturo Prats. " Jaén." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Jim Harlow. 31 January 2013 <>

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Shmuel ben Ya'akob Hananya, Gaon of Jaen al-Andalus's Timeline

Baghdad, Baghdād, Iraq
Age 17
Age 18
Age 20
Age 29
Jaén, Jaén, Andalusia, Spain