The Jewish Female Kira in the Ottoman World
Keywords: Ottoman, Christian, Jewish, Female Kira
The Spanish Jews expelled from the Christian World migrated to Turkic territories in the year 1492. These emigrants continued to ply the leading trades of the day in their new home and became financially prosperous. Due to the lack of interest on the part of the Turks, they concentrated their talents in the economic sphere. Their skills and expertise were recognized by the government, so that Jews were appointed as the chief administrator of the large mints like those at İstanbul, Edirne, and Gelibolu. The Jews enjoyed a "Golden Age" in the greatest empire of the 16th century. Jewish females also entered into intimate dialog in the Women's Quarters of the imperial palace and assumed important positions. Such women were called kira kadın, that is to say, a female economic advisor. These females succeeded in gaining access to the Imperial Harem-which had no relations with the outside world-by the back stairs, so to speak, and everyone who hoped to receive a favor from the Court wished to employ them as intermediaries. These economic advisors made their presence known in the 16th century. Those so far identified are Fatma Hatun (d. 1548), who assumed a Muslim name, Ester Handali (d. 1590), and Esparanzo Malchi (d. 1600). Conclusions that may be drawn in this regard suggest that the Jews were leading actors of the economy in the Classical Period of the Ottoman realm and that this circumstance arose in response to the need for such a function. They served as a window opening onto the West in the constraining atmosphere of the Imperial Harem. But they also unavoidably became involved in less pleasant situations like graft and favoritism. This may be perceived as an indicator that the period of ascendancy of the Ottoman polity had now come to an end and that the bells warning of danger were ringing and that the onset of the period of stasis had begun. But, despite everything, no accusations of blood crimes have occurred in any period of Turkish history.