- Jews engaged in the slave trade – although they never played a prominent role in it – from the early Middle Ages to the early modern period. While it was not proscribed to pagans, none of the three monotheistic religions either prohibited slavery or trade in slaves except insofar as converts to a particular religion were concerned. It was as if three circles were drawn, each opposing only the enslavement of its own members by a member of one of the other two. Thus the only legitimate objects of slavery and the slave trade were pagans and Jews, Christians, and Muslims captured in war by victors of either of the other religions. In Europe, aside from the Nordic countries, in the early Middle Ages there remained pagans in the Slav countries only (and their generic name, or variations thereof, became the appellation for the slave throughout Western Europe). Slaves were needed for agriculture, domestic service, and as eunuchs in Muslim harems. They were one of the few "commodities" that Europe could export to the Byzantine and later Muslim Mediterranean, from which it imported so much, thus restoring to some extent the balance of payments. The Jewish slave owner, however, was expected by the Church to release his slave the moment the latter converted to Christianity, sometimes by inducement. Jews also used slaves in their vineyards, and a forced conversion of a slave was a loss to them. As each slave owner in all religions considered himself responsible for the soul and behavior of his slaves, he felt in duty bound to convert them to his faith; in the case of the Jews, who were in a minority everywhere, this caused friction and problems for the Jewish owners. Thus tension colored the attitude to Jewish ownership of slaves and participation in the slave trade in Christian countries. Under the Muslim rule in Spain, where there was a slave market in Baena in the ninth century, Jews owned slaves without hindrance as long as the slaves were not Muslims. However, there is no evidence of a slave trade carried on by Jews in Christian Spain (Baer, Spain, 1 (1961), 417). Slaves were employed primarily for domestic and agricultural service in the households of the Jewish upper classes, and this situation persisted for some time under Christian rule, especially in majorca , where Jews owned large estates and many slaves; in the middle of the 13th century James I put obstacles in the path of Jewish ownership of Moorish slaves in Majorca, who wished to be baptized and thereby freed. In late Roman Spain and Frankish Gaul, Church opposition to Jewish ownership of slaves was much in evidence. church councils repeatedly denounced Jewish ownership of Christian slaves and of those slaves who wished to convert to Christianity; but these denunciations remained ineffectual. Pope George the Great (sixth century) inveighed against a Jewish merchant, because his import of slaves from Gaul into Italy included some Christians. The Muslim conquest of Spain created a nearby market for slaves, to which Jews were accused of catering. Emperor Louis I the Pious granted a number of Jews (c. 825–8) the right to import foreign slaves and sell them within the confines of the empire. archbishop agobard of Lyons claimed that royal officials in Lyons accepted the Jewish traders' view that heathen slaves who requested baptism should be considered as doing this solely in order to gain their freedom, and that this should not be granted unless the owner was paid the sum he demanded. Agobard denounced this view, claiming in the course of his arguments that in some cases Jews even sold people born Christian into slavery. Jewish slave traders (among others) are recorded in 906 in the custom dues rolls of Raffelstetten on the Danube, a major interregional market in the early Middle Ages. The Arab geographer Ibn-Khurdadbah (c. 870–92) includes slaves (eunuchs) among the many articles sold by the Radhanites, said to have traveled from Franconia to China by sea or land. Ibrahim ibn Yaʿqub, the Jewish traveler, recorded the presence of Jewish slave traders in Prague around 970 (alongside Muslims and Turks), and Bishop Adalbert of Prague resigned in 988 after failing to buy the freedom of a group of slaves bought by a Jewish trader. The Jews of that period regarded the Slavic east as the land of slaves par excellence – "Canaan" (see Gen. 9:25 and Midrashim to this verse). Jewish slave traders appear in the koblenz custom rolls of 1004; they are mentioned in 1009, when the margrave of Meissen was accused of selling slaves to Jews, and in 1085, when a Polish princess in Silesia was praised for buying up Christian slaves from Jews and freeing them. With the Christianization of most of the Slavs, this trade ceased as far as Jews in Christian Europe were concerned. While responsa and deeds of manumission indicate the frequency of slaves, mainly women employed as housemaids and occasionally men who were business agents, in personal service in Jewish households in Muslim lands, a thorough study of conditions in Egypt in the 11–13th centuries reveals that "during the classical Genizah period the Jews had no share in the slave trade" (S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society (1967), 140), in particular after Maimonides' time. Slave ownership in Muslim lands raised the problem of responsibility for the slaves' conversion to Judaism and, frequently, that of sexual relations between the owner and his female slave. Ketubbot quoted in Maimonides' responsa include the condition that the husband promise not to buy a female slave without his wife's consent, parallel to his promise not to take a second wife against his first wife's will. He also referred to the question of castration (forbidden in Jewish law) and the sale of eunuchs. In the Ottoman Empire slavery flourished through the wars of expansion. Most wealthy Jewish families owned one or more slaves for domestic purposes. The Marrano Diaspora in the New World (particularly in the Carribean) became both customer for, and trader in, African and Indian slaves. Slave-owning Marranos settling in Protestant countries created serious legal difficulties (as in London and Hamburg); a Portuguese relative of albertus denis was forced to leave Danzig because of public indignation at his treatment and ownership of slaves. The Ottoman authorities opposed Jewish participation in the slave trade, but one exception occurred during the 1571 war against cyprus when Jewish slave traders were required to pay a special state tax. Toward the end of the 16th century the sultan decreed also that a special tax be paid by Jews who owned slaves. Subsequently, slaves and slavery gradually disappeared from Jewish life. Modern European and U.S. historians up to the mid-1950s (including Jewish historians) confused the ownership of slaves by Jews with their part in the slave trade. The role of the Jews in the slave trade was also vastly exaggerated. This was done either to overemphasize the importance of Jews in early medieval trade or to put the odium of this trade onto the Jews (according to modern views – in disregard of the acceptability of slavery during the period of Jewish participation in it). This tendency was reinforced by antisemitic prejudices. (Toni Oelsner and Henry Wasserman) -In the Americas Until 1730 the Dutch West India Company maintained a monopoly on the importation of slaves into all the Dutch colonies in the Americas, but Jews appear to have been among the major retailers of slaves in Dutch Brazil (1630–54), because Jews possessed ready money and were willing to trade slaves for sugar. The bylaws of the Recife and Mauricia congregations (1648) included an imposta (Jewish tax) of 5 soldos for each slave which a Brazilian Jew purchased from the West Indies Company. In Curaçao, the Dutch occasionally gave permission to a merchant to conduct independent transactions in slaves; two such Jewish entrepreneurs were the brothers David and Jacob Senior, who came to the island from Amsterdam about 1685. Another Curaçao Jew, Manuel Alvares Correa (1650–1717), who was active in the local slave trade for many years, served in 1699 as an intermediary between the Dutch and Portuguese West Indies companies for the transfer of a shipment of slaves from Africa to Mexico via Curaçao. In all of the American colonies, whether Dutch, French, or British, almost every merchant or trader had dealings in slaves: when he acted as auctioneer or agent for the sale of an estate, when he served his planter clients in the sale or purchase of slaves or in the pursuit of runaways. In the Barbados, until 1706, Jews were limited by law in the number of slaves they themselves could own, but in Jamaica there was no such restriction. Among the Jamaican Jewish merchants who seem to have specialized in the slave trade were David Henriques, hyman levy , and especially Alexander Lindo (1753–1812), who was a major importer of slaves during the period 1782–92. During an investigation of slave mortality conducted in Jamaica in 1789, Lindo testifies that 150 slaves on a ship "consigned to" him had died in the Middle Passage and that another 20 perished after their arrival in Jamaica, but it is unclear whether he owned this slave shipment or any of the others in which he was involved. Members of the well-known gradis family of Bordeaux were active in the shipment of slaves from West Africa to such French colonies as Santo-Domingo (Dominican Republic). On the North American mainland, a number of Jews were active participants in the infamous triangular trade, which brought slaves from Africa to the West Indies, where they were exchanged for molasses, which was in turn taken to New England and converted into rum for sale in Africa. david franks of Philadelphia was in this business during the early 1760s; aaron lopez and jacob rodriguez rivera of Newport, Rhode Island, had at least one slaver on the high seas each year after 1764, and in 1772 and 1773 had a total of eight such ships under sail. isaac da costa of Charleston was another large-scale importer of slaves. In Louisiana, under both French and Spanish rule, the Monsanto brothers made frequent transactions in slaves; during 1787 they purchased 44 blacks. Although Jews in Philadelphia and New York City were active in the early abolition movement, Jewish merchants, auctioneers, and commission agents in the Southern states continued to buy and sell slaves until the end of the Civil War. The fact that Jacob Levin of Columbia, South Carolina, and Israel I. Jones of Mobile, Alabama, two merchants who often dealt in slaves, were leaders of their Jewish communities in the 1850s is evidence that at no time did Southern Jews feel tainted by the slave trade. Levy Jacobs was an active trader in slaves both in New Orleans and in Mobile during the 1820s; Ansley, Benjamin, George, and Solomon Davis of Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, went on the road to sell gangs of slaves in the states of the lower South beginning about 1838; B. Mordecai of Charleston had large slave pens alongside his warehouses and purchased $12,000 worth of slaves at one sale in 1859. But the total business activity of all the Southern Jews who dealt in slaves in any way probably did not equal the turnover of the largest single non-Jewish firm which specialized in slaves, Franklin and Armfield. (Bertram Wallace Korn) -BIBLIOGRAPHY: S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, 1 (1967), index; T. Oelsner, in: YIVOA, 12 (1958/59), 184f.; idem, in: YLBI 8 (1962), 188f.; Baron, Social2, 3 (1956), 30f., 243f.; 4 (1956), 187–96; 332–8; idem, in: Essays on Maimonides (1941), 229–47; Roth, Dark Ages, 27f., 306–10, 386, 410; S. Assaf, Be-Oholei Ya'akov (1943), 223–56; idem, in: Zion, 4 (1939), 5 (1940); M.S. Goodblatt, Jewish Life in Turkey (1952), 125ff.; A.S. Diamond, in: JHSET, 21 (1962–67); J. Starr, Jews in the Byzantine Empire (1939), index; D.B. Davis, Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (1966), 98ff.; S. Grayzel, Church and the Jews in the 13th Century (19662), index; J. Parkes, Church and Synagogue (1934), index; M. Hoffman, Der Geldhandel der deutschen Juden waehrend des Mittelalters (1910), 15ff.; Baer, Spain, index; B.Z. Wacholder, in: HJ, 18 (1956), 89–106; I.A. Agus, Urban Civilization in Pre-Crusade Europe (1965), index; A. Hertzberg, The French Enlightenment and the Jews (1968), index; E. Taeubler, in: M. Philippson Festschrift (1916), 381–92; B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et Chrétiens dans le Monde Occidental 430–1096 (1960), 18–55, 107, 190f., 337; C. Haase, in: Die Staedte Mitteleuropas im 12. und 13. Jahrhundert, ed. by W. Rauch (1963), 133 and n. 50; C. Cahen, in: REJ, 123 (1964), 499–504. IN THE AMERICAS: F. Bancroft, Slave Trading in the Old South (1931); Chyet, in: AJHSQ, 52 (1962/63), 295–300; I.S. Emmanuel, Precious Stones of the Jews of Curaçao (1957), 304; idem, History of the Jews of the Netherlands Antilles (1970), index; Friedenwald, in: AJHSP, 5 (1897), 60–97; B.W. Korn, Early Jews of New Orleans (1969); idem, Jews and Slavery in the Old South (1961); Report, Resolution and Remonstrance of the Honourable the Council and Assembly of Jamaica at a Joint Committee on the Subject of the Slave Trade (London, 1790); A. Wiznitzer, Jews in Colonial Brazil (1960), 72–73; idem, Records of the Earliest Jewish Community in the New World (1954), 28, 74; Jamaica Royal Gazette (March 30, 1782; Apr. 12, 1806); Kingston Journal (July 28, 1787; Nov 10, 1787); H.M. Alvares Correa, Alvares Correa Families of Curaçao and Brazil (1965), 10–11.
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.