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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(4,346 words)

Author(s): Yitzchak Kerem
1. Ottoman PeriodThe Balkan Peninsula was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. From then until the Ottoman retreat due to military defeats and the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Jews of the Balkans lived under Muslim rule. Before the Ottoman conquest, small Romaniot communities existed under the Byzantines, and the Romaniot rite remained dominant under the Ottomans until the arrival of masses of Sephardim in the aftermath of the expulsions from Spain (1492) and Portugal (1497). Sephardi co…


(798 words)

Author(s): Ben Zion Yehoshua-Raz
1. Historical overviewThe ancient city of Balkh was one of the most important centers of the eastern Islamic world. Situated in a region noted for orchards, horse-breeding, and minerals, and located on the main international trade routes to China and India, it was a crossroads for Persians, Indians, Arabs, and Chinese, and throughout its history attracted conquerors and migrants, Jews among them.According to the Arab chronicler al-Maqrizī (d. 1442), Jews first settled in Balkh during the reign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (705–681 B.C.E.) under his policy of transferri…


(494 words)

Author(s): Nancy E. Berg
Shimʿon Ballas was born in 1930 in Baghdad. He was brought up in a Christian neighborhood of the city and educated at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school. He developed a love for literature through French novels and French translations. Politically active, he worked for Senator Ezra Menahem Daniel and joined the Iraqi Communist Party at an early age. As the situation in Iraq became untenable for Communists and Zionists, he emigrated to Israel in 1951. There he worked as editor of Arab affairs for Kol ha-ʿAm for a time, then left to dedicate more time to his writing, and es…

Bana, Izzet

(250 words)

Author(s): Romina Meric
İzzet Bana was born in 1950 in Istanbul. He attended II. Karma Elementary School, where he later organized and directed numerous plays. He continued his education at Liceo Scientifico Italiano I.M.I, a missionary school in Istanbul.  Bana has been an important contributor to the betterment and cultural development of Turkey’s Jewish youth clubs, such as the Dostluk Yurdu Derneği (Dostluk Youth Club), Göztepe Kültür Derneği (Göztepe Youth Club & Jewish Community Center), Yıldırımspor Kültür Derneği (Yıldırım Sports & Youth Club), and Arkadaşlık…

Banderly, Bella (Bilha)

(641 words)

Author(s): David Guedj
Bella (Bilha) Banderly was born into a Hasidic family in the city of Safed in 1889. When she was still a child, her family moved to the Jewish colony of Metulla, where she attended a school supervised by the first Hebrew-speaking teachers in the Galilee. In 1912, she married Shimshon Banderly, a merchant and public figure from Haifa, in an arranged marriage. That same year, the couple moved to Paris and lived there until they returned to Haifa in 1920. Little is known about her life during this …


(738 words)

Author(s): Reeva Spector Simon
During the nineteenth century, whether as ṣarrāfs (financial advisers) in the Middle East or tujjār al-sulṭān (royal merchants) in Morocco, members of the Jewish commercial elite used assets accumulated from money-changing, moneylending, and trade to open banks and to invest abroad. Middle Eastern Jewish bankers, in partnership with the European merchant bankers who were penetrating the region economically, provided the capital for factories, railroad construction, and real estate development in the Middle East. The European financiers were ma…

B ( anti-Jewish violence in - Bzou (Morocco): Jewish quarters in)

(871 words)

Bulgaria  anti-Jewish violence in, Balkans anti-Zionist policies in, Plovdiv (Filibe) antisemitism in, Bulgaria, Plovdiv (Filibe), Varna, Varna  influence of Great Depression on, Varna autonomy of, Plovdiv (Filibe) Byzantine rule of, Bulgaria Christian-Jewish relations in, Bulgaria, Bulgaria conquest of Serres (Macedonia) by, Serres (Siroz) culture of, Jewish influences on, Bulgaria Hungarian attacks on, Bulgaria independence of, Bulgaria, Ottoman Empire, Plovdiv (Filibe), Plovdiv (Filibe), Vidin Jews in, Bulgaria, Sephardim/Sephardi Jews in the …

Banū ʾl-Naḍīr

(561 words)

Author(s): Shari Lowin
The Banū ʾl-Naḍīr were one of the three major Jewish tribes in Medina (Yathrib) during the time of Muḥammad, along with the Banū Qurayẓa and Banū Qaynuqāʿ. Some Arabic sources provide a genealogy of the Naḍīr (and Qurayẓa) linking them to the biblical Aaron, thus explaining the title al- kāhinān (Ar. the two priestly tribes). Their origins are otherwise murky. For example, the early Arab historian al-Yaʿqūbī, in the second half of the ninth century, maintains that they were Judham Arabs who converted to Judaism and settled in Mount Naḍīr, hence, their name( Taʾrīkh, ed. Houtsma, vol. 2,…

Banū Qaynuqāʾ

(540 words)

Author(s): Shari Lowin
The Banū Qaynuqāʾ were the only one of the three major Jewish tribes in Medina (Yathrib) that did not own major agricultural tracts in or around the city. Unlike the other two Medinese Jewish tribes, they made their living as goldsmiths, from their ownership of a marketplace, and possibly from some date orchards. Lecker maintains that Muḥammad’s real reason for the assassination of Kaʽb ibn al-Ashraf, the leader of the Jewish Banū ʾl-Naḍīr, was that he tried to prevent Muḥammad from establishing a new marketplace near the one owned by the Banū Qaynuqāʾ. C…

Banū Qurayẓa

(595 words)

Author(s): Shari Lowin
The Banū Qurayẓa were one of the three major Jewish tribes in pre-Islamic Medina (Yathrib). As with the other Jewish tribes, the Banū ʾl-Naḍīr and the Banū Qaynuqā’, the Islamic sources are murky on their origin. Some maintain that the Banū Qurayẓa and the Banū ʾl-Naḍīr were descended from the biblical Aaron, hence their nickname al-kāhinān (Ar. the two priestly tribes). Others claim that all three groups were Arab clans that had adopted Judaism. Like the other two Jewish tribes, the Banū Qurayẓa were wealthy and owned many fortresses in Yathrib. T…


(641 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
The poetic texts known as baqqashot comprise a category of piyyut im (Hebrew liturgical texts) that embellish religious concepts. Baqqashot were composed from the first century C.E. through the nineteenth century. Some were accepted and incorporated into the standard siddur (prayerbook). The practice of reciting baqqashot seems to have originated in Spain in the fourteenth or fifteenth century as a paraliturgical ritual preceding the Sabbath morning service. It included the singing of poetic texts, some by all present in unison, and some chanted by a soloist. At times the music was …

Baradānī, Joseph al-

(514 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Joseph al-Baradānī was a payṭan (liturgical poet) and a cantor in tenth-century Baghdad. His father, Ḥayyim, had also been a poet and cantor, and so too were his son Nahum al-Baradānī and at least one grandson, Solomon.  As indicated by his nisba (attributive name) the family was based at some point in the Baghdad suburb of Baradān, though by Joseph’s time it had moved into the city proper, where he served with distinction as cantor of the main synagogue—in fact, in a letter Hay Gaon refers to him, post-mortem, as “the great cantor” (Heb. ha-ḥazzan ha-gadol). Joseph’s corpus of liturgical…
Date: 2015-09-03

Baradānī, Nahum al-

(679 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Nahum al-Baradānī flourished in the second half of the tenth century and the first decade of the eleventh as the third (at least) in a line of poets and cantors. As indicated by his name, the family must once have been based in the Baghdad suburb of Baradān, but this would have been before the time of Nahum’s father, Joseph, who served as the “Great Cantor” in Baghdad’s central synagogue. Although his main occupation seems to have been as a merchant—and a quite wealthy one, at that—Nahum is know…
Date: 2015-09-03

Barazani (Barzani), Asenath

(382 words)

Author(s): Renée Levine Melammed
Asenath Barazani (d. ca. 1670) was the daughter of Samuel ben Nethanel ha-Levi (1560?–1625/1635?), an eminent rabbi, scholar, and mystic who strove to improve the level of Jewish learning and leadership in his native Kurdistan. He founded a yeshiva in Mosul where he trained a generation of scholars who went on to educate communities throughout the country. His two most outstanding students were his daughter Asenath, whom he taught because he had no sons, and Jacob Mizraḥi, who later became her husband.Because Asenath was such a fine scholar, her father was protective of her …


(615 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Barcelona (Ar. Barshilūna) was one of the most important commercial ports on the northeastern coast of Spain during the Middle Ages. There are references to the Jewish community of Barcelona as early as the ninth century, but its history is best documented during the period of the Crown of Aragon.The Arabs ruled the city during the eighth century, but it returned to Christian control in the ninth (801). Although the period of Muslim rule was quite brief -only three generations- there was constant contact with al-Andalus. After the destruction by al-Manṣūr ibn Abī ʿĀmir (Almanzor) in …

Bardavit, Beki

(273 words)

Author(s): Romina Meric
Beki Bardavid, born in Istanbul in 1936,  is a Turkish language instructor, writer, and translator. She graduated from Lycée Notre Dame de Sion in Istanbul, and subsequently obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in French Language and Literature from Istanbul University Faculty of Literature in 1980. After teaching French at Lycée Saint-Michel in Istanbul for some time, Bardavid got her second Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Spanish Language and Literature from Istanbul University Faculty of Literature in 1998.In addition to her books, Bardavid has written arti…
Date: 2021-04-06

Bargeloni, Isaac ben Reuben, al-

(335 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Rabbi Isaac ben Reuben al-Bargeloni was born in 1043, most probably in Barcelona, as his nisba (attributive name) asserts. According to M. E. Barjau and T. Calders he died in 1113. Documents from the Cairo Geniza describe him as a pupil of Ḥanokh ben Moses, whose lessons he probably attended while a student in Cordova.Al-Bargeloni was dayyan in Denia during the reign of the Slavic taifa king Mujāhid (r. 1014–1044/45). Abraham Ibn Da'ud states in Sefer ha-Qabbala that he was related by marriage to the powerful Ibn Lakhtush family. He was also an ancestor of Naḥmanides, and according to Simeon …

Barīd al-Yawmī (Baghdad), al-

(284 words)

Author(s): Orit Bashkin
The Iraqi newspaper al-Barīd al-Yawmī (Daily Mail) was nominally edited by a Muslim, Hāshim al-Bannā, but most of its writers and all the members of its editorial board were Jewish intellectuals, most notably Edward Shā’ul (Suhīl Ibrāhīm) and Mīr Mu‘allim (1921–1978). Nissim Rejwan, Ezra Ḥaddād, and Shalom Darwīsh were contributors.The atmosphere in which al-Barīd al-Yawmī came into being was colored by events connected with the conflict in Palestine in 1948. Iraq’s Jews were under attack by the right-wing press, while the affiliation of many radical young Jews w…

Bar Kokhba Society (Cairo)

(327 words)

Author(s): Ruth Kimche
The Bar Kokhba Society was founded in Cairo in February 1897 by Joseph Marco Baruch, a native of Turkey and graduate of the Universities of Paris and Bern, who arrived in Egypt in 1896. The society was the first Zionist organization in Egypt and in the Islamic world as a whole, and thus was the focal point of Zionist activism in Egypt at the turn of the twentieth century.The elected council of Bar Kokhba, headed by Jacques Harmalin, was made up entirely of Ashkenazi Jews belonging to the middle and lower classes. When its early efforts to recruit non-Ashkenazi members proved u…

Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah

(1,605 words)

Author(s): Shalom Sabar
1. Bar MitzvahThe Bar Mitzvah (Heb. son of the commandment) ceremony and its rituals as celebrated by the Jewish communities in the lands of Islam differed significantly from the better-known ceremony developed by European Jewry in the Ashkenazi world. Unlike the other major ceremonies of the Jewish life-cycle, Bar Mitzvah is not mentioned in the Torah, and even in texts from the talmudic era there is no indication that the day a boy reached the age of thirteen was celebrated as a festive event, although this age (plus a day) marked his legal maturity. The Mishna states that “at thirteen …
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