Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

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Executive Editor: Norman A. Stillman

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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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Bénichou-Aboulker, Berthe

(420 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Berthe Bénichou-Aboulker, born in Oran in 1886, was the daughter of Adelaïde Azoubib and her second husband, Mardochée Bénichou. She was descended from a family of Jewish notables in Algeria with a long lineage of rabbis and poets. Her parents, Adelaïde and Mardochée, were distant relatives who shared a common ancestor, Simon ben Ṣemaḥ Duran. Adelaïde was a woman of letters at a time when female writers were a rarity in Algeria. She learned Hebrew after the age of sixty and wrote En méditant les Livres saints (Paris, 1922 ).In 1907, Berthe married Dr. Henri (Samuel) Aboulker, the scion …

Bénichou Family

(455 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Bénichou family, originally from Oran, Algeria, included many members who held leadership positions in the Jewish community. The family name may be of Berber origin: Aït Ishu, from the Izaïn and Aït Sgugu tribes in the area around Meknes in Morocco. It also appears among Muslims of the Atlas and Aurès Mountains in the forms Ishu and U Ishu, but some claim it is of biblical origin (Heb. son of Joshua). The name appears in documents from the Cairo Geniza, where a Tunisian merchant of the early twelfth century is named Abraham ben (ibn) Yijū, but is also called Ben Yishū and Ben Ishū.…

Bénichou, Raymond-Joseph

(507 words)

Author(s): Colette Zytnicki
Raymond Bénichou was a leading Algerian Jewish intellectual, philosopher, and advocate interfaith dialogue among Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Algeria.  He was  born in Oran in 1890 to Mardochée Bénichou and Adelaïde Azoubib, distantly related members of two distinguished Algerian Jewish families that piously maintained the memory of their famous fourteenth-century rabbinical ancestor Simon ben Semaḥ Duran. Raymond was the brother of the playwright and poet Berthe Bénichou-Aboulker.Educated in Paris, Raymond Bénichou earned a literature degree, a diploma fr…

Benider, Jacob ben Abraham

(347 words)

Author(s): Brock Cutler
Jacob Benider (ben Idder) was a British consular official from Gibraltarof Maghrebi extraction, who also served as Morocco’s ambassador to Great Britain. Born around 1704 in Gibraltar, he was the son of Abraham Benider, who had also been employed by the British government as an interpreter and consular official. Beginning in 1763, Benider served as British vice consul in Tetouan, Tangier, and Salé (see Rabat-Salé, and later at Essaouira (Mogador), Safi, and Agadir.He was given a yearly stipend by the British after helping Admiral Richard Spry to ne…

Beni Hayoun

(6 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Dra’aNorman A. StillmanBibliography: S

Beni Mellal

(367 words)

Author(s): Sarah Frances Levin
Beni Mellal, a town in central Morocco on the road between Fez and Marrakesh, sits in the foothills of the Middle Atlas Mountains in the agriculturally rich Tadla region, irrigated by abundant springs. It has long been an important market center. Its population is a mix of Berber-speakers descended from the mountains and Arabic-speakers from the plains.It is unknown whether there was a Jewish community in 1688, when Mawlāy Ismāʿīl founded the qaṣba (walled town). In the 1880s, Charles de Foucauld noted three hundred Jews out of a total population of about three thousand, …

Beni Sbih

(4 words)

Author(s): Daniel Schroeter
see Dra’aDaniel Schroeter

Benjamin ben Jonah of Tudela

(1,001 words)

Author(s): Abraham David
Benjamin ben Jonah of Tudela was one of the most famous Jewish travelers. There is no biographical information about him except that he hailed from Tudela (Navarra) in northern Spain. His journey to the Middle East probably took place between 1165 and 1173, but may have begun as early as 1159. The itinerary included northern Spain, Provence, Italy, Greece, the Balkans, Turkey, Syria, the Holy Land, Babylonia, and Persia. From there he sailed via the Persian Gulf and around the Arabian Peninsula to Egypt, and thence to Italy via …

Benjamin al-Nahāwandī

(728 words)

Author(s): Yoram Erder
Benjamin al-Nahāwandī, whose name suggests that he was of Persian origin, was active in the first half of the ninth century in the Jewish communities of Babylonia and Persia. What is known about him comes mainly from Karaite sources. He wrote a Book of Commandments ( Sefer Miṣvot), a Book of Laws ( Sefer Dinim), and several biblical commentaries, but few of his works have survived. The Karaites of the tenth and eleventh centuries considered him and his predecessor, ‘Anan ben David, to have been forerunners of the Karaite movement because they both denied the divine authority of the Oral L…

Benmayor, Gila

(183 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Gila Benmayor is a prominent Turkish journalist. Born on April 13, 1952 in Istanbul, she graduated from the French Notre Dame de Sion Lycée and later on from the English Language and Literature Department of  Istanbul University. She also holds a master’s degree in journalism from the Faculty of Public Relations and Journalism at Istanbul University. In 1981 she joined the foreign news division of the mainstream Hürriyet newspaper, eventually rising  to the position of chief of the foreign news department. Over the years she has conducted innumerable interviews…

Ben, Myriam

(970 words)

Author(s): Jessica Hammerman
Myriam Ben (né Marylise Ben Haïm) was an Algerian activist, novelist, poet, and painter. She was born in Algiers on October 10, 1928. Her father, a Communist who had served in the French Army in Russia during the October 1917 revolution, claimed descent from the Judaized Berbers who had lived in Algeria since before the Arab conquest. Her mother’s family was of Andalusian descent and was active in the rich musical heritage of Algerian Jewry.Like the majority of Algerian Jews of her generation, Ben was born a French citizen, spoke French as her maternal language, and w…

Ben Nāʾīm Family

(1,554 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
The Ben Nāʾīm (Ibn Nāʾīm) family of rabbis and rabbinical jurists ( dayyanim) thrived in Algiers and Fez from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.Jacob Ḥayyim ben Isaac Ben Nāʾīm (d. 1803) was a noted rabbi and jurist in the second half of the eighteenth century. In his youth, Jacob studied with Ephraim ben Abraham Monsonego (1710–1780), a rabbi and kabbalist in Fez and Tetouan; he traveled to Palestine around 1760, but was delayed in Mascara, Algeria, and finally returned to Algiers in 1764, where he served as hea…

Ben Nāʾīm, Raphael Ḥayyim Moses

(10 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Ben Nāʾīm FamilyNorman A. Stillman

Ben Naphtali, Moses (or Jacob) ben David

(411 words)

Author(s): Marzena Zawanowska
Moses (or Jacob) ben David Ben Naphtali was a masorete—a scholar specializing in the reading and vocalization tradition of the Hebrew Bible (Heb. masora); see Grammar and Masora—who lived in Tiberias sometime during the ninth and tenth centuries. He was probably a contemporary of Aaron ben Moses Ben Asher. Nothing is known about his life, and even his first name is in dispute: Moses or Jacob. His surname is also suspect, resembling a random name intended to represent the factual or invented school under which different scholars of the Mas…

Ben Nūrīʾel, Bābāʾī

(8 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Bābāʾī ben NūrīʾelNorman A. Stillman

Benoliel, José

(219 words)

Author(s): Luis Cortest
José Benoliel (1888–1937) was born in Tangier, Morocco. He traveled extensively and studied in France and Palestine. Later he moved to Portugal, where he spent most of his life as a professor of Romance philology at the National University in Lisbon. José Benoliel was, without question, one of the foremost authorities on Haketia, the Moroccan dialect of Judeo-Spanish, in the first half of the twentieth century. Under the title “Dialecto judeo-hispano-marroquí o hakitia,” he published a series of groundbreaking studies in the Boletín de la Real Academia Española (vol. 13, 1926, pp.…

Benoliel, Judah

(482 words)

Author(s): Daniel Schroeter
Born in 1772, Judah Benoliel was a wealthy Jewish merchant from a Tetouani family who served as the Moroccan consul general in the British colony of Gibraltar in the 1820s and 1830s under the Alawid (ʿAlawī) sultans Mawlāy Sulaymān and Mawlāy ‘Abd al-Raḥmān. Morocco maintained only a few permanent consulates in foreign countries before the twentieth century, but Gibraltar, a key entrepôt for commerce in the western Mediterranean, was strategically a crucial center for Moroccan financial and political dealings wit…

Ben-Porat, Mordechai

(760 words)

Author(s): Daphne Tsimhoni
Born in Baghdad in 1923, Mordechai Ben-Porat (né Mordechai Qazzāz) immigrated to Palestine in 1945 following his family's migration two years earlier. In 1947 he joined the Hagana (the Jewish underground defense forces). He graduated the first officers-training course of the Israel Defense Forces in 1948 and fought in the War of Independence. In 1949, as persecution of the Jews of Iraq mounted, he was sent there by the Mossad la-ʿAliya to organize clandestine Jewish emigration.Together with Shlomo Hillel and others, Ben-Porat was a central figure in Operation Ezra an…

Ben Qīqī, Reuben and David

(348 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
Reuben and David Ben Qīqī were court Jews in early eighteenth-century Morocco under the Alawid sultan Mawlāy Ismāʿīl (r. 1672–1727). Appointed to the rank of nagid, they were, respectively, the secular leaders of the Jewish communities of Meknes and Rabat. Meknès had been a major Jewish business center since the final quarter of the seventeenth century, when Sultan Mawlāy Ismāʿīl made it his capital. Jewish businessmen—traders, customs officials, and entrepreneurs—had great influence at court. The Meknasi scholar Mordecai ben Joseph Berdugo (1715–1762), known by his Hebr…

Bensasson, Mario

(505 words)

Author(s): Gilat Brav
Mario Bensasson was born in 1923 in Tunis, into the Grana community. He graduated from the prestigious Lycée Carnot in Tunis. In 1950 he emigrated to France to study medicine, graduating in 1956 as an internal physician and receiving French citizenship. His oeuvre expresses fears, hopes, frustrations, questions, and reflections, via lamentations, humor, poetry, proverbs, and prose, not only in writing, but also through drawings.During the German occupation of Tunisia, the adolescent Mario, who had escaped with his family to the suburb of La Marsa, began writ…
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