Sephardic Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943. A web companion
to a new history.
the period before 1863, the entrance to the Jewish quarter
separated more than it connected the Jews to the rest
of Monastir. The narrow, gated passageway set between
two houses was meant to restrict traffic, not encourage
it, and it seemed to promise access only to a warren of
once past this corridor Monastir´s Jewish world
expanded. The center of the Jewish quarter was a large
courtyard surrounded and enclosed by the houses, which
presented their backs to Monastir. This was "The
Great Court," called kortijo by the Sephardim.
homes around the courtyard were little more than a room
or two in which several generations of a family slept
and ate, and indoor kitchens were almost unheard of in
Monastir, so the courtyard served as an extension of the
crowded residence and a host to domestic life.
held the communal ovens, coal-sheds, and other resources,
and it was here that Monastirli women cooked and baked,
and where neighbors greeted each other with a stylized
díes" (Good day), brought the rhyming response
"Buene salú y vides" (Good health and
life). Or the reply might be "Seyes bien vinidu"
(Let good things come), which brought in return, "Seyes
bien fayadu" (Let all be well with you).
Jews in the Ottoman Empire were never forced to live in
separate sections of their cities, as they were in Christian
Europe, it was common for Jews to live in enclaves of
communal separateness corresponded well to the arrangement
of Ottoman society, which recognized its subjects as members
of religious groups.
kortijo also had advantages for the organization of Sephardic
society. Like all communities, it upheld its values through
a combination of social pressure and formal policing,
both of which were easily accomplished in the cortijo.
everyone exposed to the eyes and judgments of their neighbors,
people were sure to conform to social norms, such as regular
to a witty Monastirli proverb (refrane), the Jewish quarter
was all-knowing: Dil Dió y dil vizinu no si puedi
nade incuvrir (From God and from the neighbor one can't