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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Names and Naming Practices - Kurdistan

(1,200 words)

Author(s): Yona Sabar
1. Typology of Kurdish Jewish Names Some Kurdish Jewish proper names were borrowings from local and neighboring ethnic groups, such as Dárweš, Xodéda (Persian-Kurdish), Xā́tun (Turkish), Ḥábib, Ná'im, Ṣabrī́ya, and Zakī́ya (Arabic). Arabic names, especially for females, became more common in recent times, probably due to the greater frequency of contacts with the Arabic-speaking Jews of Mosul and Baghdad. However, the majority of Kurdish Jews had Hebrew names, which, as in other Near Eastern Jewish co…
Date: 2014-09-03

Names and Naming Practices - Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic

(4,393 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Jewish denominations within the Ottoman Empire—Romaniots, Mustaʿribūn, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, and Karaites—all had their own distinctive naming practices, but the differences between them were more pronounced in the earlier period, from the fifteenth to the sixteenth century, than later. Starting in the seventeenth century, Italian (and later some French) Jews, collectively known as francos , began to settle in the empire. Their naming practices were not much different from those of Jews already living in the empire, but their family names, as …

Names and Naming Practices - Yemen

(2,206 words)

Author(s): Aharon Gaimani
The Jewish communities of Yemen did not have fixed rules for the selection of names. Commonly, the names for boys were picked by the father, while the names of girls were chosen by the mother, and occasionally the midwife or a female relative, such as a grandmother or an aunt. It was customary to name children after relatives or in harmony with events on the religious calendar around the time of birth. Thus, a girl born during or close to Sukkot was sometimes named Tiranja ( etrog), whereas a girl born close to Hanukka might be named Nissim (miracles). Raḥamim (mercy) was a popul…
Date: 2014-09-03

Naqqāsh, Samīr

(569 words)

Author(s): Nancy E. Berg
Samīr Naqqāsh (1938–2004) was an Iraqi-born Israeli writer of short stories, novellas, novels, and plays. He depicted his family in Baghdad as very comfortable if not wealthy. He was a passionate reader from a young age. Naqqāsh considered his family’s move to Israel in 1951 to have been the great tragedy of his life, and blamed the premature death of his father on the harsh conditions in the transit camp (Heb. maʿabara) where they were settled. A younger brother also died following the move, shortly after taking a fall of uncertain causes. Unhappy, Naqqāsh fled to…

Nasi, David

(313 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
In the period from 1721 to 1731, Iran was invaded by Afghans and Russians, and the Ṣafavid dynasty collapsed. During this turbulent decade the Jewish community of Kashan was internally divided and headed by weak leaders, foremost among them was David Nasi. In 1729, Ṭahmāsp Khān, fighting against the Afghans and attempting to install Ṭahmāsp II on the Ṣafavid throne, demanded money from the Jews of Kashan. They were willing to pay at first, but when the amount kept increasing, David Nasi and the other communal leaders declared that they would rather convert to Shīʿī Islam. Despite some …

Nasi, Gad

(273 words)

Author(s): Cengiz Sisman
Gad Nasi, born into a Sephardic family in Istanbul in 1937, is a psychiatrist, author, researcher, and public activist who now lives in Israel. Nasi graduated from Galatasaray High School and then from the Faculty of Medicine at Istanbul University. He began writing for local magazines while he was in high school and also translated popular articles from French and English into Turkish. During his university studies, he served as director of Şalom , the newspaper of the Jewish community of Turkey, and as a correspondent for various foreign publications. He also direc…

Nasi, Gracia Mendes

(1,145 words)

Author(s): Marianna D. Birnbaum
Gracia Nasi (Gracia Mendes, 1510?-1569) was the mother-in-law and business partner of Joseph Nasi, and a trader, banker, philanthropist, stateswoman and patron of Jewish activities in her own right. She was born Beatrix Luna (Beatrice de la Luna) in Lisbon to a family of wealthy Spanish Jews who had moved to Portugal after the expulsion in 1492, and there converted and lived as New Christians. At the age of eighteen, Gracia married Francisco Mendes, a relative and fellow converso with whom she had a daughter, Reyna. The Mendeses were a merchant family that traded in spices and m…
Date: 2015-09-03

Nasi, Joseph

(960 words)

Author(s): Marianna D. Birnbaum
Joseph Nasi(João Nasi, Nassi, Mykas, Zuan Miques, Juan Sixs) (ca. 1520–1579), the nephew, son-in-law, and business partner of Gracia Nasi, was a powerful banker and trader. For his services as an adviser to two Ottoman sultans, he was awarded the duchy of Naxos in the Cyclades archipelago. The son of a respected physician, Joseph Nasi was one of the most important traders in the Ottoman Empire. Born into a family of conversos, he and his younger brother Bernardo(Samuel, 1524?–159?) joined his uncle Diogo Mendes and his widowed aunt Gracia Na…
Date: 2015-09-03

Nataf, Elie

(427 words)

Author(s): Habib Kazdaghli
Elie Nataf, born in Tunis on February 14, 1888, came from a family of Jewish qāʿid s (community heads) and other communal leaders on his father’s side, and from the Borgel dynasty of rabbis on the side of his mother, Maïa Borgel. His father, Ange Nataf, was a civil servant in the central Finance department, one of the few Jews who worked in the Protectorate administration. His maternal uncle, Moïse Borgel, was the president of the  Jewish community. After graduating the Lycée Carnot in Tunis, Nataf attended law school at the University of Aix-en-Provence. Upon completing his law degree,  he o…

Nathan ben Abraham

(540 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
Abū Sahl Nathan ben Abraham ben Saul, a scion of a gaonic family on his mother’s side, was born in Palestine in the last quarter of the tenth century. He went to Qayrawan around 1011 in connection with an inheritance left by his father, but remained there to study under Ḥushiel ben Ḥananel. In Qayrawan, and later in Fustat, he engaged in commerce and made many important friends. His wife was the daughter of Mevorakh ben Eli, one of Fustat’s wealthier citizens. Around age forty, he returned to Palestine, where he was warmly received by the gaon, Solomon ben Judah. Nathan demanded to be appointed av b…

Nathan ben Hananiah

(495 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Nathan ben Hananiah (also attested as ben Ḥanina) flourished in Qayrawan between 820 and 870, during all or most of which period he and Judah ben Saul served as the heads ( rabbanan) of the bet midrash there and as dayyanim for the Jewish community of North Africa generally. Nathan corresponded with the Jewish authorities in Iraq in connection both with halakhic matters and the collection of donations (Heb. ḥoq or rashut) for the Babylonian yeshivot (see Yeshivot in Babylonia/Iraq). The period of Nathan’s gaonic correspondence was approximately forty years, as indi…
Date: 2015-09-03

Nathan ha-Bavlī

(446 words)

Author(s): Eve Krakowski
Nathan ben Isaac ha-Kohen ha-Bavli is the otherwise unknown author of a brief but very important historical text concerning the Babylonian academies and the exilarchate. The work, entitled Akhbār Baghdād (A Chronicle of Baghdad), was apparently written in Judeo-Arabic in North Africa in the mid-tenth century, but the sobriquet ha-Bavli indicates that Nathan came from Babylonia (Iraq). His account has been preserved in an undated Hebrew translation published by A. Neubauer. Fragments of the Judeo-Arabic original found in the Cairo Geniza were subsequently published by I. Friedlan…

Naṭronay bar Ḥavivay

(244 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
Naṭronay bar Ḥavivay, whose patronymic is also recorded as Zavinay in some texts of the Epistle (Heb. Iggeret) of Sherira Gaon, was Exilarch in Babyloniafrom 771 to 773. He was named to this post by Malka, the gaon of Pumbedita, during a dispute with the incumbent exilarch, Zakkay ben Aḥunay, possibly related to Zakkay’s genealogy. The Pumbeditan and Suran academies, however, supported Zakkay, and upon Malka’s death in 773, Naṭronay was exiled to “the West,” probably Spain. There Naṭronay is reported to have dictated the Talmud from memory, leading t…

Naṭronay bar Hilay Gaon

(379 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
Naṭronay bar Hilay was gaon of the Sura academy in the ninth century. The dating and duration of his reign are disputed by the early sources; he seems to have ascended to the gaonate between 853 and 859 and remained in office from five to ten years. A prolific writer of responsa, many of which have been preserved, Naṭronay maintained connections between the Sura academy and all parts of the Diaspora. One of his responsa, sent to the community of Lucena in Spain, includes a list of the hundred rabbinically ordained blessings to be recited daily; this responsum was the nucleus for the prayerbook of…

Naṭronay bar Nehemiah

(164 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
Naṭronay bar Nehemiah, also known as Mar Yanuqa, married into the family of the exilarch, and served as gaon of the yeshiva of Pumbedita from 719 until his death sometime before 739. His harsh treatment of the yeshiva’s students led many of them to move to the Sura academy. A few of his responsa survive, including some concerning heretical sects. While lenient in allowing the repentant followers of the false messiah Severus (Sāwīrā), also called Serenus, to return to the Rabbanite fold, Naṭronay was less welcoming of other penitents who had rejected biblical and talmudic ordinances. Philli…

Navaro, Leyla

(311 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Leyla Navaro, born in Istanbul in 1943, is an influential Turkish psychologist and writer. She graduated from Istanbul University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and subsequently attended Boğaziçi (Bosporus) University, where she earned a master’s degree in psychological counseling. Her graduate studies focused on personal growth and development, and individual potential. Additionally, her clinical work emphasized gender-sensitive and group therapies.             Navaro is the founder of Nirengi, an organization that provides psychological counseling an…

Navon, Albert

(318 words)

Author(s): Joy Land
Albert Haim Navon, an educator employed by the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) in North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and France, rose to become the principal of the AIU teacher-training school for boys in Paris, the Ecole Normale Israélite Universelle (ENIO Auteuil), a post in which he continued for more than twenty years, starting in 1911. Born in Edirne (Adrianople) in 1864, Navon obtained his brevet de capacité (basic teaching certificate) from the AIU’s normal school in Paris, originally located on the rue des Rosiers. He began teaching in Tunis in 188…

Navon, Ephraim Ben Aaron

(216 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Ephraim ben Aaron Navon (1677–1735) was a rabbi, dayyan, and author. Born in Istanbul, he moved to Jerusalem with his father-in-law, Judah Ergas, around 1700. He returned to Istanbul as an emissary (Heb. meshullaḥ or shadar) of the Jerusalem community in 1720 but chose to remain there. Three years later, he was appointed dayyan in the bet din (rabbinical court) of Judah Rosanes and became one of the leading rabbis of the Istanbul community. Navon was a founder of the Committee of Officials for Jerusalem in Istanbul. His legal work Maḥane Efrayim (The Camp of Ephraim; Istanbul, 1738) c…

Navon family

(801 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Navon family, of Spanish origin, settled in the Ottoman Empire from the Iberian peninsula after the expulsion in 1492 and 1497. It included several important rabbis, scholars, and public figures in Istanbul and Jerusalem during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Ephraim ben Aaron Navon (ca. 1677–1735) was a rabbi in Istanbul and Jerusalem. Born in Istanbul, he moved to Jerusalem around the beginning of the eighteenth century, but in 1720 left as a rabbinical emissary ( shadar or meshullaḥ) to the cities of Turkey. When this mission was concluded in 172…

Navon, Yitzhak

(568 words)

Author(s): Zion Zohar
Yitzhak Navon, the fifth president of the State of Israel (1978–1983), was born in Jerusalem on April 9, 1921. His father, a descendant of Jews who were expelled from Spain in the fifteenth century, came to Jerusalem from Turkey in 1870; his mother, a descendant of Morocco’s renowned Ibn ʿAṭṭār family, arrived there in 1884. The polyglot Navon studied Hebrew literature and Islamic studies at the Hebrew University. Navon served as secretary to Moshe Sharett during his tenure as foreign minister of Israel and as chief of staff to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. H…
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