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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Yafil, Abraham

(330 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Abraham ben Maymūn Yafil (Yāfīl; 1690–1770) was a rabbi and leader of the Jewish community of Algiers in the mid- to late eighteenth century. He was among the outstanding pupils of Raphael Yedidya Solomon Seror.  He succeeded Judah ben Isaac ʿAyyāsh (1700–1761) following the latter’s dramatic departure from Algiers in 1756. Yafil’s task was not easy, since the departure of ʿAyyāsh was a harbinger of the declining ability of religious leaders to enforce the laws of prohibition and permission (Heb. issur ve-hetter) and personal status (e.g., marriage), and portended the remova…

Yafil, Edmond

(392 words)

Author(s): Melanie Lewey
Edmond Nathan ben Mimoun Yafil (1874–1928) was a Jewish musician and music educator in Algiers. He held a baccalaureate certificate in Arabic and obtained his early musical training in the Arab cafes of the Casbah, learning, among many other things, the music of the ṣanāʿa genre. Yafil performed with and studied under the conductor and master Muḥammad Ben ʿAlī Sfindja. He subsequently worked as an interpreter and transcriber in the research on Algerian music conducted by the French ethnomusicologist Jules Rouanet. The collaboration between Yafil and Rouanet produced severa…


(337 words)

Author(s): Avigdor Levy
The Hebrew word yaḥid (pl. yeḥidim) has multiple meanings, of which the most common are single, individual, and unique. Sephardi Jews also use the term in the sense of a worshiper in a synagogue. In Sephardi congregations in the Ottoman Empire, it more specifically indicated a tax-paying member of the qahal (congregation) who had the right to vote on congregational matters.The yeḥidim of the congregation elected the maʿamad, an executive committee consisting of several aldermen (Heb. parnasim) who administered the affairs of the congregation. The executive committee was…


(252 words)

Author(s): Cengiz Sisman
Yahudihane (Turk. Jews’ house) is synonymous to Ladino cortejo and Turkish aile evleri (family houses). It designates the type of multi-story tenement houses where scores of poor Jewish families lived together in major centers of the Ottoman Empire. Yahudihanes were either specifically built for poor Jews in crowded neighborhoods or were converted existing large buildings. To cite but one example, the famous Tekfur Sarayı (Tekfur Palace) in Istanbul was converted into a yahudihane in the nineteenth century.An entire yahudihane or its individual rooms could belong to eithe…

Yahūdī, Yūsuf (Yūsuf b. Isḥaq b. Mūsā)

(193 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Yūsuf Yahūdī, whose full name was Yūsuf ibn Isḥaq ibn Mūsā, is known in Judeo-Persian literature as Yūsuf Bukhārāʾī. Hailing from Bukhara, Yūsuf Yahūdī lived in the eighteenth century and probably died in 1788. Like the great Judeo-Persian poets Shāhīn and ʿImrani, he is known by the Persian honorific mowlānā (our master), attesting to the respect accorded him during his lifetime. Yūsūf Yahūdī was a prolific writer of shorter Judeo-Persian poetry, such as ghazals (love poems) and rubāʿiyāt (Ar./Pers. quatrains). One of his longer poems, a mukhamas (Ar./Pers. five-lined strophes),…

Yahya, Nedim

(318 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Nedim Nessim Yahya, born in Istanbul in 1925, was a Turkish businessman, industrialist, and leader of the Jewish community. He graduated from the Jewish High School in Istanbul in 1943 and subsequently attended Istanbul Technical University, where he obtained a degree in electrical and mechanical engineering in 1948. Afterwards, Yahya started his own business selling milling machinery. Over the years, he became a successful and highly respected businessman and industrialist.            In the late 1960s, the lay council ( meclis cismani) of Turkey’s chief rabbinate appoint…

Yanbol Synagogue, Balat, Istanbul

(193 words)

Author(s): Naim Güleryüz
Named after its founders’ place of origin, the Yanbol Synagogue was founded by Jews who migrated from the town of Yanbol (Bulg. Yambol) in Bulgaria and settled in Balat. A firman dated May 21, 1693, as well as ancient buildings in the synagogue’s courtyard, imply that the synagogue was in existence during the Byzantine period. It has been in continuous daily use for more than five centuries.The Yanbol Synagogue is built of brick and has been repaired many times. The ceiling of the main building is embellished with oil paintings on subjects drawn from nature. The ehal (Heb. hekhal, ark) has d…

Yanina (Yanya, Ioannina)

(692 words)

Author(s): Omer Turan
Numerous Romaniot Jews were already living in the city of Yanina (Ioannina; Tur. Yanya), in the Epirus region of Greece, when it was conquered by the Ottomans in 1430. After the expulsion from Spain in 1492, Sephardi Jews also settled in Yanina. Relations between Romaniots and Sephardim were uneasy at first but improved toward the end of the sixteenth century as the two groups learned to tolerate each other. In the seventeenth century, the Sephardi and Romaniot communities lived in the Siarava and Leivadioti quarters outside the city walls. There were two synagogues, known as the old …


(565 words)

Author(s): Ari Ariel
The town of Yarim(Ar. Yarīm), on the main road leading to Taʿizz, between Dhamar and Ibb, in the southern Yemeni highlands, is more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Sanʿa. It is situated on an upland plateau in the northernmost part of Ibb province at an altitude of approximately 2,400 meters (7,874 feet) and is dominated by two mountains, Jabal Yusbah to its northeast and Jabal Sharbub to its southwest. As with the rest of the province, Yarim is highly fertile thanks to the abundant rainfal…

Yavne'eli (Jawnieli), Samuel

(480 words)

Author(s): Tudor Parfitt
Samuel Yavne’eli (Jawnieli; 1884–1961) was born in Kazanka, Ukraine, in 1884. His original surname was Warshavsky, but he changed it after emigrating to Palestine in 1905. Yavne’eli was a major figure in the Zionist labor movement and one of the early members of the Second Aliya (1904–1914).In 1911 Yavne’eli went to Yemen to organize the emigration of Yemenite Jews to Palestine. He was apparently selected to undertake this mission because of an article he had written in Hapoel Hatzair in 1910, discussing ways to encourage Zionism among the Jews of Yemen. However, there w…


(608 words)

Author(s): Judith L. Goldstein
Yazd is a desert city in central Iran whose inhabitants, in addition to the Shīʿī Muslim majority, include Jews, Zoroastrians, and Bahā'īs. The number of Jews in Yazd has diminished over time. Nineteenth-century travelers’ accounts estimated it at three thousand; it was two thousand in the early twentieth century, and seven hundred in a 1966 census of Jewish communities. In the mid-1970s, shortly before the 1979 revolution, the Jewish community had some fifty families, or about 250 individuals; …

Yazdī, Abraham

(253 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
In 1729, as reported in chapter 12 of Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān dar Bāb-i ʿIbrī va Goyimi-yi Sānī (Jud.-Pers. The Book of Events in Kashan Concerning the Jews; Their Second Conversion), the Jews of Kāshān came under great pressure to pay a huge sum of money to the rapacious Ṭahmāsp Khān, the future Nādir Shāh(r. 1736–1747). The community, including its leader, David Nasi, opted to convert to Shīʿī Islam rather than pay the amount demanded. Abraham Yazdī, a traveling merchant residing in Kāshān, staunchly opposed the decision to convert “voluntarily.” Maintaining…

Yazdī, Shihāb

(157 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Shihāb Yazdī was a Jewish Iranian poet known solely from one Judeo-Persian poem, Ay Qādir Qudrat Numā (Almighty Lord, Displaying Might), that appears in countless manuscripts. Shihāb (Pers. flame, bright star), was probably the poet’s pen name, and Yazdī indicates merely that he hailed from Yazd. There is no other information available about Shihāb Yazdī. As his famous poem makes its first appearance in Judeo-Persian manuscripts from the late eighteenth century, it has been assumed that Shihāb Yazdī flourished in that period. The poem itself is a superb paea…


(479 words)

Author(s): Maurice Roumani
Yefrenis situated in the Jebel Nafusa mountains in the northwestern region of Tripolitania in Libya. Its name comes from the same Berber root ( afri, ifri; cave, grotto) as the town in Morocco called Ifrane and the name Africa itself.According to one tradition, the Jewish presence in Yefren was the oldest in Tripolitania, because in 70 c.e., after the destruction of the Temple and the defeat of the First Revolt, one of Titus’s generals sold thirty thousand Jewish captives to Bedouins in Yefren. Mordechai ha-Kohen (1856–1929), the chronicler of  Libyan Jewry, claimed that the J…

Yehoshua, Avraham B.

(1,196 words)

Author(s): Stanley Nash
Avraham B. Yehoshua (b. 1936) has been in the forefront of Israeli fiction writers and intellectuals since the appearance of his first book, Mot ha-Zaqen (The Death ofthe Old Man, 1962), a collection of disturbingly allegorical tales in the vein of Kafka and Agnon. Stories such as “Massaʿ ha-ʿErev shel Yatir” (The Night Journey of Yatir) and “Shelosha Yamim va-Yeled” (Three Days and a Child) portray a welling-up of violent emotions, presumably due to Israel’s culture of denial and repression during its first two decades of statehood. “Mul ha-Yeʿarot” (Facing the Forests) portrays …

Yehoshuʿa, Azariah (Joshua Ashkenazi)

(695 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Azariah Yehoshuʿa (d. 1648), also known as  Joshua Ashkenazi, was a rabbi and scholar, and one of the early leaders of the Jewish community of Izmir (Smyrna). He was born and educated in Salonica, where he attended its noted seminaries and was taught by its leading rabbinic figures. He moved to Izmir during the 1620s, preceded by another native of Salonica,  Joseph Escapa (1572–1661), who had studied and worked in Istanbul under Joseph ben Moses di Ṭrani the Elder (1569–1639) and had become acquainted with several younger scholars, such as Ḥayyim ben Isra…

Yehuday Gaon

(811 words)

Author(s): Roni Shweka
Yehuday ben Naḥman Gaon headed the Sura academy in Baghdad from 758 to 762. According to the Epistle (Heb. ’ Iggeret) of Sherira Gaon, Yehuday was originally associated with the Pumbedita academy, but the exilarch Solomon ben Ḥisday selected him for Sura because none of its members was a suitable candidate. Yehuday’s brother Duday concurrently served as gaon in Pumbedita (761–764). Sherira states that Yehuday was blind, and this tradition was frequently repeated by French and Ashkenazi scholars.Yehuday Gaon was regarded as a prodigious figure, as indicated by the praises…


(8,432 words)

Author(s): Bat-Zion Eraqi Klorman
Yemen is located on the southern extreme of the Arabian Peninsula. Its western border stretches along the Red Sea, its northern frontier is shared with Saudi Arabia, and its eastern border lies in the Rubʿ al-Khālī desert, which is also part of Saudi Arabia. The territory in the south is adjacent to the Gulf of Aden (part of the Indian Ocean). In the past, the southern border was delineated along the length of a country that was known from 1967 as South Yemen. Before then, that stretch of land w…

Yemenite Judeo-Arabic

(2,028 words)

Author(s): Shachmon Ori
For daily communication, Yemenite Jews used Arabic dialects that were typologically similar to the local Muslim vernaculars. The dialects spoken by the Jews of Yemen are therefore classified in accordance with the general classification of Yemenite Arabic dialects (Vanhove 2013), with clear-cut isoglosses differentiating between Sanʿa and the central mountains, the northern province of Saʿda, the southern high plateau, the Habban region in eastern Yemen, and Aden. Linguistic differences existed between the speech of Jews and Muslims in the same area, but were m…

Yeshiva of Palestine

(1,615 words)

Author(s): Yoram Erder
Jewish historiography gave the geonic period its name on the basis of the title gaon (Heb. pride) that designated the heads of the Babylonian yeshivot in Sura and Pumbedita (see Yeshivot in Babylonia/Iraq). Thanks to documents found in the Cairo Geniza, it is now known that there was also a yeshiva in Palestine in this era, and it too was headed by a gaon. Like its counterparts in Babylonia, this yeshiva was called Yeshivat Ge’on Yaʿaqov (Academy of the Pride of Jacob), and it functioned throughout the early Muslim period in Palestine, from the Muslim conquest in 634…
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