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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(1,039 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Valencia is an important port on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The city was founded by the Romans in 138 B.C.E. with the Latin name of Valentia.  After the Muslim conquest in 714, it was known in Arabic as Balansiya (some scholars read this form of the name in a kharja preserved by Moses ibn Ezra: Hebrew series XIX).The town was of relatively minor importance during the Umayyad period, but in 1010 it became the capital of one of the taifa kingdoms that emerged on the disruption of the caliphate, ruled by two freedmen of the ʿĀmirids, al-Mub…

Valensi, Alfred

(253 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Alfred Valensi, the founder of the first Zionist organization in Tunisia,was born in 1878 in Tunis. He studied law at the University of Montpellier in France, writing his thesis on French divorce law. Influenced while in school by Jeshua Bouchmil, he became a follower of Max Nordau, who worked with Theodor Herzl. After graduating from the university in 1905, Valensi returned to Tunis, where he founded Agudat Ṣion, the first Zionist organization in Tunisia. He wrote an incisive defense of the Zionist movement in response to the criticisms of the French social reformer Alfred Naquetin  La …

Valensi, Georges

(792 words)

Author(s): Habib Kazdaghli
Georges Valensi was born in Tunis on May 1, 1908. After obtaining his high school diploma, he went to Paris in 1925 to study medicine. While there he mingled in intellectual circles and married Yolande Oliviero, the secretary of the Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists. She introduced him to the surrealist milieu, where he became acquainted with the novelist René Crevel and other notable figures.      In Paris, Valensi was one of the founders of the Clinic des Bleuets, which served metalworkers in a working-class district. He joined the Communist Party during the Popu…

Valensi, Maurizio

(717 words)

Author(s): Habib Kazdaghli
Maurizio Valenzi was born in Tunis on November 16, 1909 into a Livornese Jewish family (see Leghorn). After graduating with a baccalauréat from the Italian School in Tunis, he went to Rome to study law. He never completed the course, however, because he had developed a passion for art, which he began to pursue in a painting studio with a friend from Tunis, Antonio Corpora.      Returning to Tunisia in June 1932, Valenzi attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Tunis for a few years.With Antonio Corpora, Loris Gallico, and Jules Lellouche, he joined the cubist and…

Valero Family

(1,000 words)

Author(s): Ruth Kark | Joseph Glass
The Valeros were a wealthy Sephardi family in Jerusalem whose ancestors originated in Spain. After the 1492 Expulsion members of the family lived in Italy and later Istanbul. Jacob Valero (1813–1874), born in Jerusalem, was a ritual slaughterer ( shoḥet), religious scholar ( talmid ḥakham), moneychanger, and banker. In 1848 he established the first modern private bank in Palestine, Jacob Valero & Co. The bank built contacts within the Ottoman Empire and in European capitals, and served as a conduit for the transfer of charity funds by the…

Valona (Avlonya, Vlora)

(354 words)

Author(s): Yitzchak Kerem
Valona (Alb. Vlora; Ott. Turk. Avlonya; Heb. Avilona; other renderings include Vlone, Vlore, and Avlona) is an ancient port city in southern Albania. Historical accounts indicate that Jews have been residing in the city since Roman times. Valona was ruled by the Ottomans from 1417 to 1912, except for a brief Venetian occupation in 1690.During the period of Ottoman rule, the town accommodated numerous Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal, especially at the end of the fifteenth century. Turkish sources state that 528 of the 945 families residing in the city …

Vambery, Arminius

(527 words)

Author(s): Jacob M. Landau
Born in Bratislava in 1832 as Hermann Vamberger, Arminius Vámbéry, who died in Budapest in 1913, was a Jewish traveler and scholar in Ottoman, Tatar, Iranian, and Central Asian studies. Educated in both Hungarian and German, Vámbéry studied several Turkic languages which he acquired or improved his command of during his travels. Lameness notwithstanding, he ventured (disguised as a dervish) into areas little visited by Europeans. His travel publications, along with his first studies on Turkic linguistics, were instrumental in his 1865 appointment as the first h…

Varlik Vergisi

(10 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Capital Tax Law (Varlik Vergisi, 1942)Norman A. Stillman


(590 words)

Author(s): Yitzchak Kerem
Varna is a major Bulgarian port city on the Black Sea. The country’s third-largest city after Sofia and Plovdiv, Varna was named Odessos in ancient times and Stalin from 1949 to 1956. It was captured by the Ottomans in 1399 and remained under Turkish suzerainty until 1878. By making Varna one of their four main strongholds in Bulgaria, along with Shumla, Silistre, and Ruse, the Ottomans contributed significantly to the city’s economic development.The first Jewish inhabitants of Varna were Romaniots. After 1492, Sephardi Jews began arriving in the city and soon outnumbered …

Varnalı, Tereza

(71 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Tereza Varnalı is a Turkish Jewish scientist and academic administrator.  She was born on March 26, 1957 in Istanbul. In 1986 she was awarded a Ph.D. from Bosphorous University. Since 1986 she has been a member of the Chemistry Department of Bosphorous University, specializing in organic chemistry, computational chemistry, and molecular modeling. In 1998 she was promoted to the rank of full professor.Rifat BaliBibliographyCurriculum vitae on Boğaziçi University website:  www.chem.boun.edu.tr/personal/terezavarnali/cv.htm.

Varon, Ishak (Isak)

(290 words)

Author(s): Pamela Dorn Sezgin
Born in Gallipoli in 1884, Ishak Varon (1884–1962) moved to Salonica with his family and studied law. He became a clerk, first in Kavala, and later in the office of a prominent lawyer in Salonica, then relocated to Istanbul when his patron, Refik Bey, moved there. Upon Refik Bey’s death, Varon returned to Salonica, where he managed a succession of record companies: Pathé, Polydor, and the Ottoman affiliate of His Master’s Voice . He later returned to Istanbul to work in the insurance industry. His business activities supported his true passion, Turkish classical music and the Jewish mafṭiri…

Véhel, Jacques (Lévy, Jacques-Victor)

(589 words)

Author(s): Léo Samir Rougier
Born in Tunis in 1881, Jacques Véhel belonged to a branch of the Lévy family that had settled in Tunisia in the early nineteenth century and originally came from Brody (Galicia). His elder brother, Simah (1868–1922) was one of the first Tunisian publicists. Another brother, Isaac, who was known as Zriki (1874–1930), was the director of the Imprimerie Finzi.Jacques Véhel was educated at the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) school on the Rue Malta-Sghira in Tunis, and had from a very young age a vocation for literature. At only twelve, he founded Le Cid, a small weekly newspaper that…


(1,110 words)

Author(s): Hadas Hirsch
The concept of women’s wearing a veil has taken on one or another of three conceptually hierarchal forms in different cultures: covering the head, covering both the head and the face, and covering the entire body. Various styles of female veiling have been practiced since antiquity in patriarchal-patrilineal societies such as Assyria, Israel, Greece, and pre-Islamic Arabia, mainly as a means of exercising control, establishing a hierarchy, and imposing subordination by setting limitations and a div…


(649 words)

Author(s): Evelyn Dean-Olmsted
Sephardi/Mizraḥi Jews make up roughly 40 percent of Venezuela’s Jewish population of about 15,400 and boast a long and important role in the history of the nation. As Jacob Carciente has described, Portuguese, Italian, and Dutch Sephardim were the three streams that initially shaped Venezuelan Jewish life. After a few short-lived settlements of Italian and Portuguese Jews before the eighteenth century, favorable economic conditions and nearby Dutch-controlled islands enticed many Dutch Sephardim to trade in Venezuelan ports. The country’s first synagogue existed in Tucacas fr…

Ventura, Michon (Moïses)

(331 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Mişon (Moïses) Ventura was a Turkish legal scholar, lawyer, and community leader. Born in 1881 in Hasköy, a neighborhood of Istanbul with a great concentration of Jewish residents, Ventura graduated from the law school of Istanbul University in January 1905. After practicing for a time as a member of the Trade Court in Salonica and teaching in the Salonica law school,he was selected to go to Paris to continue his law studies. He graduated from the law school of the Paris Academy in 1912.Ventura registered with the Istanbul Bar Association in 1916 and that same year began teach…