Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

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Subject: Jewish Studies

Executive Editor: Norman A. Stillman

The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online (EJIW) is the first cohesive and discreet reference work which covers the Jews of Muslim lands particularly in the late medieval, early modern and modern periods. The Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World Online is updated with newly commissioned articles, illustrations, multimedia, and primary source material. 

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Jabès, Edmond

(553 words)

Author(s): Aimée Israel-Pelletier
Edmond Jabès (Heb. Yaʿabeṣ) holds an eminent place in twentieth-century French literature. He is best known for introducing a new literary form and for shaping discussion of the Jewish condition at a time when writers and thinkers were struggling to come to terms with Auschwitz. Born in Cairo in 1912, Jabès left Egypt for France in June 1957, during the Second Exodus. He was naturalized a French citizen in 1968 and died in Paris in 1991. He is buried at Père Lachaise. The presence of his paternal family in Egypt is traceable to the early nineteenth centu…

Jacob ben Eleazar

(737 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Jacob ben Eleazar was a prolific writer, poet, translator, grammarian, and philosopher in Christian Toledo and a member of one of the city’s distinguished families. Little is known about his life, but he was active during the first three decades of the thirteenth century and left several important works, among them a translation of the Arabic classic Kalīla wa-Dimna, a linguistic treatise written in Arabic, piyyuṭim , and two works on ethics. Kalīla wa-Dimna is the Arabic version of the popular oriental collection of fables based upon the Indian tales of Bidpai. The …

Jacob ben Joseph ha-Rofeh

(417 words)

Author(s): Zvi Zohar
Jacob ben Joseph ha-Rofe, who died on October 2, 1851, was a rabbinic scholar and dayyan in Baghdad. He studied with Rabbis Moses Ḥayyim, Reuben Nawwi, and Nissim Maṣliaḥ, and in 1848 was described by the traveler Benjamin the Second (J. J. Benjamin II) as “Highly respected, by virtue of his fine qualities and broad knowledge.” Little is known of his life. He died of cholera, and left a learned son, Joseph, who died on October 21, 1877.  Jacob left a number of literary works. Shir Ḥadash (A New Song), an extensive commentary on the Song of Songs, was included in the first volume  of Mishmeret ha-Qo…

Jacob ben Reuben

(666 words)

Author(s): Marzena Zawanowska
Jacob ben Reuben, who was active in the late eleventh century and the early part of the twelfth, was a Karaite scholar and biblical exegete from Byzantium. While traveling to spread his religious doctrines, he apparently collected  Karaite Bible commentaries, especially those written in Judeo-Arabic. His most important work was the Sefer ha-ʿOsher (Book of Riches),a concise commentary in Hebrew, with Greek glosses, on the entire Bible. As Jacob explains in the introduction, the word “riches” in the title indicates that he drew from so many differ…

Jacob Hayyim ben Isaac Ben Na'im

(13 words)

Author(s): Daniel Schroeter
see Ben Nāʾīm Family Daniel Schroeter

Jacopo of Gaeta (Hekim Yakub)

(468 words)

Author(s): Cengiz Sisman
Jacopo (or Giacomo) of Gaeta, who was also known as Hekim Yakub, was born around 1430 into a Jewish family in the Italian town of Gaeta and died in Istanbul in 1484. A convert to Islam, he was an influential Ottoman physician, diplomat, and court official during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror. Where Yakub obtained his medical knowledge, when he settled in Istanbul, and the circumstances of his conversion to Islam are all uncertain. Historical sources suggest that he must have studied medicine in Italy, moving to the Ottoman Empire after Pope Nicholas V’s abolition of …

Jacques, Paula

(608 words)

Author(s): Aimée Israel-Pelletier
Paula Jacques, French novelist and journalist, was born in Cairo in 1949.  Her family immigrated without her parents to Israel in 1958, along with her two brothers,  during the great expulsion of the Jews under Nasser.  She lived on kibbutz Nahschonim before joining her widowed mother in France in 1961.  She has been involved in French theater, radio, and the press. .  Since 1999, she produces and presents a cultural magazine, Cosmopolitaine, on France Inter.   Jacques’ eight novels to date focus exclusively on the Jews of Egypt during their final decades in that count…
Date: 2015-09-03

Jadīd-i Islām

(658 words)

Author(s): Jaleh Pirnazar
The dual religious life of the anusim (Heb. forced converts) of the town of Mashhad in Iran began following a massacre in the Jewish quarter, known in Persian as the ʿ īdgāh (lit. place of celebrations, feasting place), by a hostile Shīʿī mob made up both of residents of the city and pilgrims. On that day, March 26, 1839, referred to as Allāhdād (Pers. God-given; God’s Justice), Mashhad’s entire Jewish population was forced to convert to Islam. However, the majority of this community of jadīd-i Islām (Ar./Pers. new to Islam) continued secretly to maintain their Jewish faith for …

Jadīds in Central Asia

(1,152 words)

Author(s): Albert Kaganovitch
In 1839 the Jews of Mashhad in Iran were forcibly converted to Islam by Shiʿi fanatics. Many of the converts, referred to as jadīd-i Islām (Pers.) or jadīd al-Islām (Ar.) by Muslims, and as “Mashhadis” by themselves and other Jews, continued to practice Judaism secretly. Several decades after the conversion, more than two-thirds of them moved to Khurasan and Afghanistan, where they returned to Judaism openly. Many settled in Herat, and in time, because they were better educated and wealthier, they assimilated the local Jews. In the emirate of Bukhara, in contrast, the local Jews abs…

Jaén

(614 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Jaén (Ar. Jayyān) is an Andalusian city and the capital of the province of  the same name situated on the slopes of the rocky Santa Catalina hills on top of which the Muslim fortress still sits, a reminder of the frontier character of the region. Jaén province is located in northeastern Andalusia, in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. Today the region is known for its production of olive oil, but according to Arabic sources, in the early Middle Ages it was renowned as the granary of Cordova. It…

Jāme-yi Rowshanfikrān-i Yahūd-i Irān

(363 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Jāme-yi Rowshanfikrān-i Yahūd-i Irān (Pers. The Organization of Iranian Jewish Intellectuals), a body that deals with Iranian Jewish communal matters, was founded in March 1978 when the new generation of progressive Jewish Iranian intellectuals succeeded for the first time in supplanting the established Jewish communal organization, Anjumān-i Kalīmīān. The Anjumān was replaced by the radical and moderate young intellectuals. Due to internal tense conflicts, the new body wasn't able to function and a decision was made to set new elections. A…

Japheth (Abū ‘Alī Ḥasan) ben Eli

(1,608 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Japheth ben Eli ha-Levi, known also by his Arabic name as Abū ʿAlī Ḥasan ibn ʿAlī ʾl-Lāwī ʾl-Baṣrī, was apparently of eastern origin, as were many of the Jerusalem Karaites of his day. As suggested by his nisba (relational suffix), he may have been from the city of Basra in southeastern Iraq. It is possible that his full first name was Saʿīd Japheth, because that is how he is once referred to by his son Levi (Abū Saʿīd) ben Japheth. Together with the Karaite littérateurs Abū ʾl-Surrī ibn Zūṭā, Sahl ben Maṣliaḥ, Salmon ben Jeroham, and Joseph ibn Nūḥ, Japheth was an importa…
Date: 2015-09-03

Jebel Nafusa

(1,302 words)

Author(s): Rachel Simon
The oldest Jewish settlements in Libya were in Jebel Nafusa (Nafusa Mountain), also known as al-Jabal al-Gharbī (Ar. Western Mountain) and Adrar n Infusen (Ber.). The region extends some 170 kilometers (106 miles) southwest of Tripoli to the Tunisian border, and includes the areas around Yefren, Gharian, and Nalut. It is a mountainous desert plateau interspersed with deep valleys and fertile oases. Due to its rough terrain, governments located in the coastal areas historically found Jebel Nafusa…

Jerba

(2,940 words)

Author(s): Jacques Taïeb
Jerba (Djerba), called the island of the Lotophagi in ancient times, probably because its inhabitants ate  jujubes, was named after Jirba, a town at its northern end mentioned in the sixth century C.E. It is a scrap of land in the Gulf of Gabès (also known as Little Syrte) a few kilometers off the southeastern coast of Tunisia. On this low island, olive trees, palm trees, and rustic fruit trees are grown with dry agriculture. Other industries include fishing, blanket weaving, and pottery, but fo…

Jeshua ben Elijah ha-Levi

(770 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Jeshua ben Elijah ha-Levi lived between ca. 1160 and ca. 1250, probably in al-Andalus, and was the last known compiler-redactor of the poetry collections (Ar. dawāwīn; sing. dīwān) of the preeminent medieval littérateurs Judah ha-Levi and Abraham ibn Ezra. The poems in both dawāwīn were arranged by Jeshua in the same tripartite fashion according to their poetic form—namely, as summarized in his introduction to Judah ha-Levi’s dīwān (Geiger, p. 170): “the first part encompasses rhyming metrical poems, the second part encompasses distinctly metrical strophic compositions [Ar. muwas…
Date: 2015-09-03

Jeshua ben Joseph ha-Levi

(223 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Jeshua ben Joseph ha-Levi was a talmudist born in Tlemcen, Algeria. Around 1467, while still a young man, he left Algeria for Spain and settled in Toledo. There, at the request of his patron, Vidal ben Lavi, and several other members of the local community, he wrote a work on the methodology of the Mishna and Talmud. Known as Halikhot ʿOlam, it was printed in Lisbon around 1490, again in Constantinople in 1510, and in numerous later editions. A Latin translation, Clavis Talmudica, by the Christian Hebraist Constantin l’Empereur, was published in Leiden in 1634. The work was c…

Jeshua ben Judah (Abū ʾl-Faraj Furqān ibn Asad)

(684 words)

Author(s): Ofra Tirosh-Becker
Jeshua ben Judah (also known as Abū ʾl-Faraj Furqān ibn Asad) was one of the most renowned Karaite scholars in eleventh-century Jerusalem. An outstanding Karaite philosopher and Bible exegete who flourished circa 1040-1060, he was a student of Levi ben Japheth, Yūsuf al-Baṣīr, and Abū ʾl-Faraj Hārūn. Following his mentor Yūsuf al-Baṣīr, Jeshua became a prominent exponent of the Jewish kalām (scholastic theology), which was influenced by the Baṣran school of the Muʿtazila. The philosophical work of al-Baṣīr and Jeshua became the recognized theology of Karaism for …

Jewelry Smithing

(1,599 words)

Author(s): Ester Muchawsky-Schnapper
Jews were gold- and silversmiths (Ar. ṣā'igh; Pers. zargar) in Muslim countries from pre-Islamic times until the mid-twentieth century, passing on their craftsmanship down the generations. The roots of the profession harken back to the biblical era, and the Bible refers to gold- and silversmiths both as individuals and as guilds (Exod. 37—39:1–31; Neh. 3:8:31–32). Passages in the Mishna and Talmud further mention Jewish silver- and goldsmiths. A major center of Jewish artisanry flourished from the fourth century B.C.E. in Alexandria, where the sections in the synagogue rese…

Jewish Day School, Istanbul

(357 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
The Jewish Day School of Istanbul, originally called Midrash Yavneh or Lycée Béné Bérith, was founded between 1914 and 1915 by the Constantinople Lodge of B'nai B'rith,  Joseph Niego, the president of the lodge, and Rabbi Dr. David Marcus. Niego, a graduate of the Ecole Normale Israélite Orientale, the teachers’ college of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) in Paris, was an agronomist who had taught at the AIU’s Mikve Israel Agricultural School in Palestine for eighteen years before he settled in Istanbul in 1904. M…

Jewish Journals in the Islamic World

(18,763 words)

Author(s): Rachel Simon
ADEN Aden Niv Geʾulah; Hebrew; 1949; Organ of the Geʾulah emigrants’ camp. ALGERIA Algiers Adziri; See: L’Israélite Algérien Annuaire du Judaïsme Nord-Africain; French; 1953; single issue; Informative publication of the Jewish Algerian Committee for Social Studies (single issue). L’Anticlérical Juif; French; 1898; monthly; Political monthly, edited by Henry Tubiana. L’Appel; French; 1947–1948; bimonthly; Political, social and literary independent. Bamaavak = Ba-Maʾavaq; French; 1950; single issue; Zionist journal of the Halutz “Dror” movement. Besorot Yisraʾel; See:…
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