- Arrival of the Francos

By the late 17th century, Aleppo’s lively trade attracts people from all over the world: Arabs and Turks, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, Kurds, Albanians, and Romanians. The latest to arrive is a group of prosperous Jewish merchants from the Italian cities of Livorno and Venice, known as the Francos or Franji. Signor Hillel Haim Picciotto first travels to Aleppo from Livorno in 1732, and eventually settles there in 1771. The Picciotto family becomes one of the city’s most prominent families, serving as consuls to European countries for over one hundred years and assisting their fellow Jews with their position and wealth. Other well-known, influential Franco families were the Altaras, Silvera and Ancona clans.

Although they settled in Syria, the Francos retain their European citizenship and do not become subjects of the Ottoman Empire. They are also not subject to the rules and regulations imposed by the local Jewish community. Even though the Francos are exempt from contributing to certain charities, they generously support local communal institutions and establish philanthropic organizations of their own for the Jewish community.  One of the most famous Franco philanthropic endeavors is the establishment of Aleppo’s Bikur Holim organization during the eighteenth century.

(Image of de Picciotto family seal.)

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