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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Aharon, Ezra

(483 words)

Author(s): Edwin Seroussi
Ezra Aharon, né ʿAzzori (ʿAzzūrī) Shashoua (Shaʿshuʿa), was a famous composer and master player of the ʿ ud (Heb. oud). Born in Baghdad around 1903, Aharon was educated in the old Ottoman musical tradition in Iraq but was also familiar with modern Egyptian styles of Arabic music. In 1932 he headed the Iraqi delegation to the legendary Congress of Arabic Music held in Cairo. Two years later, in 1934, he settled in Palestine, arriving there much earlier than the larger contingent of Iraqi Jewish musicians that emigrated to Israel in the early 1950s.Aharon immediately began to compose so…

Aharoni, Ada

(404 words)

Author(s): Racheline Barda
Ada Aharoni, writer and poet, was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1933 and now lives in Haifa. She emigrated to Israel shortly after her matriculation from the Alvernia School in Cairo. She later attended London University, where she received her M.Phil. in English literature (1967), and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she was awarded her Ph.D. on the works of Saul Bellow (1975). She taught English literature at Haifa University and sociology at the Technion, and has published several novels,…

Ahavat Ṣiyyon Society (Safi)

(6 words)

Author(s): Daniel Schroeter
see ZionismDaniel Schroeter

Ahavat Zion (Cairo)

(243 words)

Author(s): Ruth Kimche
The Ahavat Zion (Love of Zion) association was founded on February 18, 1906 by Ashkenazi young people in Cairo, most of them new immigrants from the lower socio-economic classes. One of ten Zionist associations founded in Cairo between 1905 and 1913, it had several dozen members, mostly Ashkenazim, and a program of national education, diffusion of the Zionist idea, and fund-raising for Zionist causes. Its president, Elkana Waisel, was also the licensed representative of the Jewish National Fund in Egypt. In December 1908, Ahavat Zion sponsored a new organization, Yalde-Ṣiyyon (Child…

ʿAhd al-Amān

(1,007 words)

Author(s): Yaron Tsur
The ʿAhd al-Amān (Security Covenant) was a declaration on September 9, 1857 by Muḥammad Bey (r. 1855–1859), of the Husaynid dynasty, which commenced a period of Western-inspired legal reforms in Tunisia. It was often referred to in Europe as the Fundamental Pact ( le Pacte Fondamental) because it was a qānūn asāsī, which in contemporary Ottoman usage meant “constitutional law” (or constitution).Although the edict was issued because of a localized situation involving Jews, it must be understood within the framework of the reformist and modernizing policies of the Tanzimat period…

Ahrida Synagogue (Balat)

(231 words)

Author(s): Danielle Angel
Built by Jews from the town of Ohrid (Ohrida, Ahrida) in Macedonia, the Ahrida synagogue in the Balat quarter of Istanbul is the city’s oldest functioning synagogue. The exact date of  construction is unknown, because the original building was destroyed in the great fire of Istanbul in 1660, but it is believed to have been in the early fifteenth century, before the Ottoman conquest of the city in 1453. After the fire, the synagogue was completely rebuilt by 1709 and was renovated at later dates. Its present architecture reflects the inf…


(254 words)

Author(s): Mohamed Elmedlaoui
The term aḥwāsh signifies several local varieties of a Berber village group dance found particularly in the Atlas Mountains and elsewhere in southwestern Morocco in which participants sing while dancing. Although historical evidence on the everyday life of the Jewish communities that lived for centuries in Berber areas is lacking (see Berber Jews), Jewish participation in the aḥwāsh as dancers, singers, and even as improvisers of lyrics has been witnessed in Tifnout, Tidili, Aït Bou Oulli, Ighil n'Ogho, and other Berber regions of southern Morocco.      The tradition of the aḥwāsh w…

ʿĀʾila (Cairo), al-

(206 words)

Author(s): Lital Levy
A l-ʿĀʾila (The Family), a bimonthly Arabic-language journal for women published in Cairo, was founded and edited by the Beirut-born Jewish feminist and journalist Esther Azharī Moyal (1873–1948) and was intended for a general Arabic readership. Widely circulated in Egyptand beyond, it appeared in journal form from 1899 through 1902 and was briefly revived as a newspaper in 1904. A pioneering Arabic periodical for women, and possibly the first to describe itself as a newspaper (Ar. jarīda), a l-ʿĀʾila enjoyed a relatively long and stable run. Issues from the first year fo…


(256 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Aïn-Beida (Ar. ʿAyn Bayḍā', the white spring) is an Algerian town located at an altitude of 1,008 meters (3,307 feet) on Constantine’s high plateau, and owes its name to the abundant source that gushes forth. The community was founded by Jews from Constantine who settled there after the establishment of a garrison to contain the Harakta tribe, which ruled the border region of Souk-Ahras to Tebessa. The town fell under the authority of the Jewish consistory of Constantine. In the nineteenth century, a majority of its Jews were jewelers; especially well known was the Allouche family. In 19…

Aïn Témouchent

(484 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Algerian town of Aïn Témouchent, built on the site of the Roman Albulae and the Arab Qaṣr ibn Sinān, is located in northwestern Algeria, 70 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Oran, and 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of Tlemcen. Some traces of a Jewish community date back to the end of the fourteenth century, and to the seventeenth century, after the expulsion of Jews from Oran.The modern Jewish community of Aïn Témouchent dates from the period of the French conquest. The French army built a redoubt on the site in 1839, and colonization began in 1845. According to local…

Aït Bougmez

(6 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Atlas MountainsNorman A. Stillman

Aït Bou Oulli

(7 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Atlas MountainsNorman A. Stillman

Aït Ourir

(215 words)

Author(s): Yossef Chetrit
Aït  Ourir (Berb. Ayt Ūrīr) is a village of the Mesfioua tribe in Morocco, situated 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Marrakesh in the direction of Ouarzazate in Glawa land. It is known for its salt mine.The mellah (Ar. mallāḥ ) of Aït  Ourir was part of a chain of small Jewish communities scattered in the Telouet that may have dated back to the sixteenth century, next to Tidhdiwin, Tamazzert, and Iggi n-Isnain. It consisted of a few dozen families that lived modestly from agricultural associations with their Berber neighbors, and from crafts. In 1963, they left for Israel.The village is fam…

Akka (Aqqā)

(716 words)

Author(s): Aomar Boum
Akka is a valley of palm groves in southwestern Morocco at the mouth of the Oued Akka (Wādī Aqqā), a tributary of the Dra’a River, in which four Mallāḥs (mellahs) were located. There may have been a much earlier Jewish community in the Akka region, but the first known Jewish settlement was established in the eighteenth century by Jews from Ifrane (Oufrane, Ar. Ifrān) who left because of the persecution by Bū Iḥlās in 1792. Akka has many villages; the main Jewish settlements were located in Iraha…

Akrish, Isaac

(416 words)

Author(s): Joseph Ringel
Isaac ben Abraham Akrish (d. 1888?) was a prominent rabbi and dayyan (Heb. judge) in Istanbul. He studied in the yeshiva founded and endowed by Abraham Fua. The Hasidic work Maʾamar Ḥayyot Esh (The Utterance of the Living Creatures of Fire) published after Akrish’s death, identified Rabbi Solomon Eliezer Alfandari as Akrish’s teacher. Akrish’s only surviving book, entitled Qiryat Arbaʿ (City of Arbaʿ [Hebron]); Jerusalem, 1876), includes ethical sermons, commentaries on passages from rabbinic literature, and responsa. Other responsa of his were publishe…

Akrish, Isaac ben Abraham

(445 words)

Author(s): Joseph Ringel
Isaac ben Abraham Akrish was a prominent collector of books and publisher of rare rabbinic works in the sixteenth century. He was born in Salonica, where his family settled after fleeing Spain when the Jews were expelled in 1492. Akrish led the life of a wanderer, and claimed to have honed his debating skills by conversing with intellectuals of various religions encountered on his journeys. Eventually, he found a community of scholars to his liking in Egypt, joining the household of Rabbi David ibn Abi Zimra (Radbaz) and tutoring his grandchildren. An avid bibliophile, Akrish spent his …

ʽĀlamārā-yi Ἁbbāsi, Tārīkh-i

(308 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Tārīkh-i ʿ Ālamārā-yi Ἁbbāsī by Iskandar Beg Munshī (d. ca. 1632) is the most important work of Iranian historiography on the Ṣafavid era (1501–1722). While the introduction briefly discusses the reigns of Shahs Ismāʽīl I (1501–1524), Ṭahmāsp (1524–1576), Ismāʽīl II (1576–1578), and Muḥammad Khudābanda (1578–1587), it is mainly devoted to a detailed and spirited description of the reign of Shah ʽAbbās I (“the Great”; 1571–1629). As a royal secretary, Iskandar Beg Munshī observed many of the events he described and sought to acquire reliable information.…

Alaton, Ishak

(373 words)

Author(s): Stanford Shaw
Ishak Alaton is a member of an old Sephardic family that fled from Spain to the Ottoman Empire in 1492, settling first in Salonica and then in Istanbul, where he was born in 1927. Since his family lacked the means to send him to a university due to financial losses suffered during World War II, Alaton completed his formal education in 1946 at one of Istanbul’s best secondary schools, the Lycée Saint-Michel. From 1951 to 1953 he worked in Sweden as a welding apprentice. In 1954, following his return to Turkey, he joined the late Üzeyir Garih in founding what became Alarko Holding A.S., which he …

Alba, Isaac de

(439 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Isaac de Alba was a rabbinic teacher of the young Shabbetay Ṣevi. Their association began in 1642, when de Alba arrived in Izmir (Smyrna) from Salonica along with several other scholars. He taught Kabbala to Shabbetai Ṣevi for several years. Whether de Alba objected when Shabbetai Ṣevi first began making messianic claims is unknown, but he strenuously condemned him for  his conversion to Islam in September 1666.After the death of Rabbi Joseph Eskapa in 1661, de Alba was appointed chief dayyan of the Smyrna community with responsibility for financial and administrative matters (Heb. din…

Albalia, Barukh ben Isaac

(330 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Albalia, Barukh ben Isaac (1077-1126), member of a well-known Andalusi family, was son of Isaac Albalia, an astrologer at the palace of the Taifa king al-Muʿṭamid of Seville (r. 1069-1090). Barukh was born in Seville, and studied with his father, as did Joseph ibn Ṣaddīqq. After his father's death he went at the age of seventeen to Lucena and studied with Isaac b. Jacob al-Fāsi for nine years, the same as Joseph Ibn Migash. After al-Fāsī's death he became dayyan and head of the talmudic academy in Cordova.Albalia was the uncle and teacher of Abraham ibn Da'ud, and a friend of the …
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