||This volumes contains the Haftarah for the eighth day of Passover (Isaiah 10:32-12:6) translated into Ladino, with a sentence in Hebrew followed by its Ladino translation. The title page and the back page are pink, and both are decorated with a border. The back page includes a listing of other publications by Ephraim Melamed’s publishing company. The page following the last page of text has a colophon with Imprimeria Ephraim Melamed written in Hebrew characters and a drawing of a printing press.
Izmir (historically Smyrna) is the principal seaport of Western Anatolia on the coast of the Aegean Sea and provincial capital of the Turkish Vilayet (province) of Aidin, the third largest city in the Republic of Turkey.
The city had a Jewish population in antiquity. Apparently, the Jews had some influence on the local pagan population and some of them converted to Judaism; however, the appearance of Christianity had reduced the power of the Jewish community, although only a minority of the local Jews accepted the new religion. There are almost no mentions of a Jewish settlement in Smyrna during the Byzantine times and it is possible that the local Jewish community disappeared for most of the medieval epoch, although Jewish communities continued to subsist in a number of neighboring towns. Smyrna, at the time an unimportant town, became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1424, following its capture from the Byzantines. Testimonies of Sephardi Jews arriving in Smyrna during the 16th century suggest the existence of a local small Romaniot Jewish community. The first Jews arrived in Izmir in the 1530s, following their expulsion by the Ottomans from Belgrade, Serbia, in 1521, and Buda, Hungary, in 1524. Gravestones with Jewish motifs dating from 1540 and 1565 and found in Izmir indicate a Jewish presence in the city during the 16th century. It appears that a Jewish Sephardi-Portuguese community made up of Jewish immigrants from other cities in Asia as well as from Northern Africa and Venice was established in 1569, although there is no evidence of its existence or of any other organized Jewish community in contemporary Ottoman documents. The great wave of Sephardi immigration into the Ottoman Empire skipped over Izmir for most of the 16th century; they began to settle in any significant numbers only towards the end of the 16th century, when gradually Izmir turned into a major Ottoman seaport.
The development of the Jewish community of Izmir started in the early 17th century corresponding with the increased economic status of the city as a major transit seaport. The new Jewish settlers came mainly from among Sephardi refugees, although the great majority arrived in Izmir after first settling in other cities in the Ottoman Empire. A major group of settlers came from Istanbul; they were joined by Jewish immigrants from small Jewish communities in Western Anatolia as well as from Crete, Corfu, Janina (now in Greece), Ankara, and especially Salonika. The majority of Jewish inhabitants were Ottoman subjects and according to the Muslim law were considered ahl al-dhimma - protected non-Muslims, an inferior status in the Muslim society. Jews enjoyed relative religious freedom and were able to administer separate educational and judiciary institutions. The community, known in Turkish law as taifa or kamat, and after mid 19th century, as millet, was free to collect taxes from its members in order to support its activity. Resulting from their status as dhimmis, Jews were compelled to pay a special tax - jizya - to the Ottoman authorities that promised them protection of their lives and property. For practical reasons, the community paid the jizya in one inclusive sum for all its members. However, the Muslim law was not strictly enforced and the Jews of Izmir were allowed to build new synagogues, of which there were already six by the mid years of the 17th century, despite a regulation permitting only renovation of exiting synagogues and forbidding the building of new ones.
After 1631, there was in Izmir a chief rabbi over all local congregations, whose number grew to six by 1644. They were mostly of Sephardi origin, but the city also had a small Ashkenazi congregation.. Following a bitter controversy that arose between the two rabbis, the community split into two factions, each supporting one rabbi. The dispute reflected differences in the way Salonikan Jews interpreted and practiced certain Jewish traditions concerning dietary laws, mourning practices, the counting of the Omer, ritual slaughter and Tisha Be-Av, among others, as opposed by the traditions of the immigrants from Istanbul. R.Escapa was instrumental in consolidating Jews of various backgrounds and traditions into a common community. R. Escapa's achievements were pursued by a series of distinguished rabbis including R. Aaron Lapapa (d.1667), R. Solomon Algazi, and R. Hayim Benveniste (1603-1673) that helped transform the Jewish community into a major Jewish center of the 17th century. Its significance became evident in the important halakhic studies composed by local rabbis, especially Knesset Ha-Gedolah ("Great Assembly"), a commentary by R. Hayim Benveniste on the Shulkhan Aruch, and the ethics treatise Shevet Musar ("Staff of Reproof") by R. Eliyah HaKohen (d.1729) of Izmir. The community comprised many affluent members that supported large yeshivot and Jewish schools. It also excelled as a center of Jewish learning: the prestige of its religious leaders having been recognized by many other Jewish communities in Anatolia, a Hebrew printing press established in 1657 and several celebrated physicians contributed to the fame of the Izmir community. Following Shabbetai Zvi's apostasy, it took some time for the Jewish community of Izmir to settle down the virulent conflicts brought out by the false messiah.
During the 18th and the 19th centuries, the Jewish community of Izmir continued to flourish as its economic activity moved to the manufacture, especially of wool from goat's fleece, and of carpets. The European trade of the local Jews flourished after 1774, with many acting as exporters of cereals, figs, oil, raisins, carpets, licorice and beans. Jews also acted as dragomans (translators and local agents) for European merchants, banking houses and consulates. During the 19th century, especially after the liberal reforms known as Tanzimat were introduced in the Ottoman Empire bringing about an end to the formal discrimination against the dhimmis, an increasing number of Jews held various positions in the local municipal government and judicial court. However, the fortunes of the Jewish community of Izmir were impaired by frequent disasters: great fires (1743, 1772, 1841, and 1881), at least eleven epidemics of cholera between 1770 and 1892, and a number of powerful earthquakes.
The intellectual life of the community was bolstered with the establishment of a printing house in 1657 by Abraham ben Jedidiah Gabbai, an immigrant from Livorno, Italy. Rosh Yosef by R. J. Escapa was the first book published in Izmir. In addition to several Hebrew books, Gabbai printed a second edition of Mikve Yisrael - Esperanza de Israel ("The Hope of Israel") by R. Manassh Ben Israel and Apologia por la noble nacion de los Judios, by Eduardo Nicholas, both books in Spanish with Latin characters, the last one being a translation from English by R. Manasseh. Izmir became the third printing center in the Ottoman Empire, after Constantinople and Salonika. More than 400 titles, mostly of rabbinical literature were printed in the Izmir from the 18th until the early 20th century by twelve various printers. During the 19th century, the cultural activity diversified with the publication of the first Jewish newspaper - Puerta del Oriente - founded by Pincherle in 1846. It was followed in the 19th century by at least other five periodicals, among them La Buena Esperanza (1871-1910), El Novelista (1889-1922), and El Messerret (1897-1922), all published in Ladino, the language of the local Jews. After 1838, more than 110 books were published in Ladino, and by the end of the 19th century, many were volumes of poetry, novels, and stories, besides religious works. The Jewish population of Izmir has been since the middle of the 19th century in a steadily decline. Out of about 40,000 Jews in 1868, making Izmir the third largest Jewish community in the Ottoman Empire, after Salonika and Istanbul, there remained only 25,000 in the early years of the 20th century. There are now about 2,400 Jews in Izmir out of a total population of 2,300,000 inhabitants, making it the second largest Jewish community in Turkey, after Istanbul.