The Abravanel family (also Abarbanel or Abrabanel) is one of the oldest and most distinguished Jewish Spanish families; they trace their origin from the biblical King David. Members of this family lived at Seville, where dwelt its oldest representative, Don Judah Abravanel. Samuel Abravanel, his grandson, settled at Valencia, and Samuel's son, Judah (or perhaps he himself), left Spain for Portugal. Isaac, the son of Judah, returned to Castile, where he lived till the time of the great expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Then, with his three sons, Judah, Joseph, and Samuel, Isaac went to Italy. Their descendants, as well as other members of the family who arrived later from the Iberian peninsula, lived in Holland, England, Turkey, and elsewhere during and since the sixteenth century. Pedigree.
There are articles on a number of members of this family:
- Don Isaac Abravanel, also Isaac ben Judah Abravanel, also Abarbanel. 1437–1508) was born in Lisbon, Portugal. He was a Jewish statesman, philosopher, Bible commentator, and financier.
- Judah Abravanel, a receiver of customs at Seville, Spain, in 1310. He rendered substantial service to the grandees of Castile. The infante Don Pedro, in his will, dated Seville, May 9, 1317, ordered that Judah be paid: (1) 15,000 maravedis ($36,000) for clothes delivered; (2) 30,000 maravedis ($72,000) as part of a personal debt, at the same time requesting Judah to release him from paying the rest. Judah had been in great favor with King Alfonso the Wise, with whom he once had a conversation regarding Judaism.
- Joseph Abravanel was a physician and scholar; son of Don Isaac Abravanel; born at Lisbon in 1471; died about 1552. He lived at Venice and later at Ferrara, and enjoyed a great reputation
- Isaac Abravanel, son of Joseph Abravanel, grandson of the Bible-commentator. He lived at Ferrara, Italy, where he died in 1573.
- Jonah Abravanel, a poet who lived in Amsterdam in the seventeenth century; died in 1667. He was the son of the physician Joseph Abravanel, and a nephew of Manasseh ben Israel. He wrote "Elegio em Louvar da Nova Yesiba, institudo por o Senhor Yshac Pereira, de que he Ros Yesiba o Senhor Haham Menasse ben Israel" (Amsterdam, 1644). He wrote also elegies upon the martyrs Isaac de Castro Tartas (1647) and the Bernals (1655). He published with Dr. Ephraim Bueno, after 1630, ritualistic works and "Psalterio de David . . . transladado con toda fidelidad" (Amsterdam, 1644).
- Samuel Abravanel, son of Judah Abravanel of Seville; settled in Castile. He became a patron of learning. He supported the scholar, Menahem ben Zerah, and had him elected rabbi of Toledo. As a mark of his gratitude Menahem dedicated to Abravanel his work, "Ẓedah la-Derek" (Provision for the Journey). During the persecution of 1391 he submitted to baptism and was named, according to Zacuto, Juan of Seville. He soon, however, returned to Judaism.
- Samuel Abravanel, youngest son of Isaac Abravanel, and grandson of Judah; was born in 1473, at Lisbon. His father sent him to Salonica to pursue his Talmudic studies, where he became the pupil of Joseph Fasi. He lived at Naples, and was employed as financier by the viceroy Don Pedro de Toledo. Samuel Abravanel was a patron of Jewish learning. His house was a favorite resort for Jewish and Christian scholars. The Portuguese refugee, David ben Yaḥya, whom Samuel succeeded in placing as rabbi at Naples, and the cabalist Baruch of Benevento, were his intimates. Following in the footsteps of his father, and aided by his noble wife, Samuel was always ready to defend his brethren in faith. When Charles V. issued an edict to expel the Jews from Naples, Benvenida, with the assistance of Leonora, intervened in their behalf so effectively that the decree was revoked. But several years later, when Charles V. ordered the Jews either to leave the land or to wear the badge, the Abravanels settled in Ferrara, where Samuel died in 1551, and Benvenida three years later.
- Maurice Abravanel, born in 1903 in Saloniki, Greece. He was raised in Lausanne, Switzerland and after emigrating to the US, became the conductor of the Utah Symphony Orchestra. He died in Salt Lake City in 1993.
There was a ladino proverb in Thessaloniki saying "Ya basta mi nombre ke es Abravanel" meaning "It is sufficient that my name is Abravanel". This proverb was used to denote the pride the members of the Abravanel clan used to take in their aristocratic origin.