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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Almoli (Almuli), Solomon ben Jacob

(593 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Solomon ben Jacob Almoli (Almuli) was probably born in Portugal before 1490 and died in Istanbul in 1542. He served as a dayyan, but it is unclear whether he was also a congregational rabbi; he seems not to have raised up students. Earning a meager livelihood as a physician, he lived in poverty and devoted himself to science and to popularizing science. He planned to compile an extensive general encyclopedia, but his fellow scholars in Istanbul rejected the idea. As a result he was only able to publish a brief prospectus for the encyclopedia in twenty-four pages, under the title Meʾassef le-…


(1,302 words)

Author(s): M.J. Viguera
The Almoravids (from Ar. al-murābiṭūn, men of the ribāṭ [military-religious stronghold]) were a Ṣanhāja Berber dynasty that conquered much of the western Maghreb (Morocco and western Algeria) and al-Andalus during the second half of the eleventh century. They had adopted a fundamentalist form of Mālikī Islam combined with Sufi mysticism and militant zeal. In 1063, the Almoravid amir Yūsuf ibn Tāshfīn (r. 1061–1106) founded the town of Marrakesh in southern Morocco as his capital, about 25 kilometers (16 miles) north of the older town of Aghmat, which had a sizable Jewish community. He f…

Almosnino, Isaac

(266 words)

Author(s): Mercedes García-Arenal
Isaac Almosnino was a physician and merchant born in Fez (ca. 1572) to a well-known family of Hispanic origin with many physicians and rabbis in its ranks. He was the grandson of Abraham Almosnino, physician of the Saʿdi (Saadian) sultan Mawlāy ʿAbd Allāh (r.1557-1574) and one of the rabbis who signed the taqqanot (communal ordinances) of Fez in 1554. Together with his brother Abraham, Isaac Almosnino participated in long-distance commerce along with his brother, visiting Italy, Egypt, Syria and Iran. Almosnino was taken prisoner by the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa (India) where…

Almosnino, Joseph ben Isaac

(289 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Joseph ben Isaac Almosnino (1642–1689) was a noted rabbi of the late seventeenth century. Born in Salonica, Almosnino (the surname also appears as Almoshnino or Almoshnini) was the nephew of Rabbi Judah ben Samuel Lerma. He studied in Jerusalem at the Bet Yaʿaqov seminary of Israel Jacob ben Samuel Ḥagiz (1620–1674). In 1666, he went to Belgrade to continue his education under Simḥa ben Gershon ha-Kohen, the rabbi of the local community and the head of its seminary, as well as the author of Shemot ha-Giṭṭin. Shortly thereafter, Almosnino married his teacher’s daughter, Leah. She…

Almosnino, Moses ben Baruch

(734 words)

Author(s): Olga Borovaya
Moses Ben Barukh Almosnino (c.1518-1580), was a famous Salonican preacher, prolific author, and the earliest known Ladino writer in the Ottoman Empire. He served as the first rabbi of the congregation Lyvyat Hen founded by Gracia Nasi (1559). Aside from the sermons (partly lost), Almosnino’s Hebrew works include responsa (which survived as quotes in the works of his contemporaries), commentaries on the Five Scrolls (Yede Mosheh, 1572), a book on various aspects of the Torah and the liturgy (Tefillah le-Mosheh, 1563 ), supercommentaries on the Torah commentaries of Rashi and …
Date: 2015-09-03

Alroy, David

(12 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Rūjī, Solomon and Menahem, al Norman A. Stillman

Alsheikh, Moses ben Ḥayyim

(386 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Moses ben Ḥayyim Alsheikh (Alshich, Alshekh), a prominent rabbinic scholar and author, was born in Edirne (Adrianople) around 1520. In his youth, Alsheikh studied under Joseph ben Samuel Taitatzak (ca. 1465–1546/50) and later under Joseph Caro (1488–1575). He then moved to Safed and, except for journeys abroad on behalf of the community, lived there for the rest of his life. Distinguished for his scholarship, he wrote dozens of halakhic works and commentaries on the Bible. Alsheikh was one of the select few to receive the ancient traditional ordination (Heb. semikha) revived by Jacob B…

Altabev, Samuel

(227 words)

Author(s): Naim Güleryüz
Samuel Altabev was secretary general of the chief rabbinate of Turkey from 1909 to 1938. Born in Gallipoli in 1862, he taught French at the Alliance Israélite Universelle schools in Galata and Balat in Istanbul for about twenty-five years. He was also well versed in Hebrew and Talmud, and was often sought to deliver sermons and lectures in synagogues and communal organizations. An important community activist, in 1898 he was one of the chief supporters of the founding of the Or Ahayim Jewish Hospital in the Balat quarter of Istanbul. In 1909, Chief Rabbi Haïm Nahoum appointed him secre…

Altaras, Jacques Isaac

(387 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Jacques Altaras was born Jacomo Bartolomeo in Aleppo on December 8, 1786.  He was descended from a family of Spanish rabbis that had settled in Venice in the seventeenth century and then in Aleppo in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, where they joined the Francos community. In 1805 the family moved to Marseilles, where Jacques Altaras became a wealthy merchant and shipbuilder. An important communal leader, he was elected vice-president of the Jewish community of Marseilles in 1835, and president in 1849. He was associated with the reorga…

Altıntaş, Yusuf

(297 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Yusuf Altıntaş, born in Istanbul in 1945, is the influential private civil secretary of the chief rabbinate in Turkey. Altıntaş attended the rabbinic seminary in Hasköy for his high school education. Subsequently, he went to the Grafik Hochschule in Stuttgart, Germany, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in graphic arts in 1967. After five years in Germany, Altıntaş moved to Florence, Italy, where he completed his higher education in typography by interning at Ciuli Imballaggi SPA. Upon his return to Istanbul, Altıntaş started his own printing and packaging company, and was it…

Amar, David

(471 words)

Author(s): Mohammed Hatimi
Born in Settat, Morocco, David Amar (1920–2000) was an important leader of the Moroccan Jewish community. As president of the Jewish community of Kenitra, the town where he began his career in business, he established ties with Moroccan nationalist circles, which helped him secure the position of secretary general of the Conseil des Communautés Israélites du Maroc (CCIM) after independence in 1956. During the difficult years between 1956 and 1967, he skillfully maneuvered to preserve the cohesion of the country’s Jewish communities amid massive …

Amar, Jo

(452 words)

Author(s): Edwin Seroussi
Joseph (Jo) Amar (1933-2009) was born in Oujda, Morocco. He began his singing career while attending the yeshiva in Meknes. Moving on to Casablanca, he was invited to record for Columbia, marking the beginning of his rise to stardom. His repertoire already included a variety of genres beyond the Moroccan payṭanut (Heb. religious songs) he had learned in Meknes and current popular songs in Judeo-Arabic. Amar emigrated to Israel in 1956, by then well known to Moroccan Jews from his recordings. One of his first collaborations in Israel was with the Mizmor Shir Choir, founded by Yossef Be…


(369 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
The town of Amasya in central Anatolia was the birthplace of the Greek historian Strabo (d. 24 B.C.E.). It was captured by the Ottomans in 1389 and made the capital of one of their three principal administrative districts (Turk. beylerbeylik). During the Ottoman period, the town was the seat of Ottoman princes and a stopping place on the Silk Road and other trade routes to the eastern and northeastern parts of the empire as well as to Iran and the Caucasus. It was also center for the manufacture of gold brocade, velvet, and silk fabrics. A group of Sephardi Jews settled in Amasya in the l…

Amatus Lusitanus (Amato Lusitano)

(1,555 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Amatus Lusitanus (also Amato Lusitano or Ḥaviv ha-Sephardi) (1511–1568) was a noted Jewish physician and marrano  who achieved renown throughout Western Europe before fleeing antisemitic persecution to settle in the Ottoman Empire toward the end of his life. Born in 1511 in Castel-Branco, Portugal, to marrano parents who had survived severe persecution, he grew up with a knowledge of Jewish religion, culture, and tradition that remained with him throughout his life; he also learned Hebrew from his parents. In his works, he mentions two bro…

ʿĀmilī, Muḥammad ibn Bahāʾ al-Dīn Ḥusayn al-

(333 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Muḥammad ibn Ḥusayn Bahāʾ al-Dīn al-ʿĀmilī (ca. 1547–1621), also known as Shaykh Bahāʾī, was one of the most respected Imāmī (Twelver Shīʿī) Ṣafavid theologians during the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I (1581–1629). Originally from Jabal ʿĀmila, Syria, he migrated to Iran in his youth. Thoroughly educated in medicine, mathematics, and literature in addition to Islamic law and theology, and imbued with Ṣūfī leanings, al-ʿĀmilī became shaykh al-Islām (supreme religious judge) of Isfahan for a while. He traveled extensively throughout Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine on his way to perform the ḥājj.

Amīnā, Benjamin ben Mishaʾel

(307 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Benjamin ben Mishaʾel, known by the pen name Amīnā (Pers. the faithful), was one of the most important Jewish poets of premodern Iran. A native of Kashan, he was born in 1672/73 and was alive as late as 1732/33. The only biographical information about him is provided by the poet himself in various works, namely, that he had seven children and was unhappily married. He witnessed the Afghan invasion of Iran, including his hometown, as described in the Judeo-Persian chronicle Kitāb-i Sar-Guzasht-i Kāshān dar bāb-i ʿibrī va goyimi-yi sānī (The Book of Events in Kashan Concerning…

Amir, Eli

(578 words)

Author(s): Nancy E. Berg
Born in Baghdad in 1937, Eli Amir arrived in Israel with his family in 1950 during the mass immigration from Iraq and was sent, with other teenagers, to Kibbutz Mishmar Ha-Emek. He later found work in the office of the prime minister, becoming in turn Arab affairs adviser, deputy director general of the Ministry of Immigrant Affairs, and director general of the Youth Immigration Division of the Jewish Agency (Aliyat Ha-Noʿar), where he applied lessons from his own experience to help new adolescent arrivals. Amir's writing is characterizd by humor that helps lubricate the way fo…


(7 words)

Author(s): Daniel Schroeter
see Atlas Mountains Daniel Schroeter

Amram ben Diwan

(457 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
Amram ben Diwan is one of the best-known saints (Heb. ṣaddiqim) in the pantheon of Moroccan Jewish holy men. According to tradition, he was a rabbinical emissary (Heb. shadar or meshullaḥ) from Hebron, who arrived in Morocco with his son, Ḥayyim, sometime in the eighteenth century and took up residence in Fez. When Ḥayyim fell gravely ill, Rabbi Amram prayed, offering his life for that of his son, who miraculously recovered. Shortly thereafter, while on a visit to Ouezzane to collect funds for the religious institutions in Hebron, he fell ill and died and was buried in the nearby cemetery of As…

Amram ben Sheshna Gaon

(581 words)

Author(s): Roni Shweka
Amram ben Sheshna was gaon (Heb. head) of the academy of Sura in the second half of the ninth century. According to Sherira Gaon in his historical Epistle (Heb. Iggeret Rav Sherira Gaon), Amram served as gaon in Sura after Naṭronay bar Hilay and before Naḥshon  bar Ṣadoq, a period of eighteen years. Sherira adds that Amram had a dispute with Naṭronay sometime before his accession and as a result left the academy to found his own school. He remained there until Naṭronay’s death, and then returned to Sura to become gaon. None of these details fits in with the Epistle’s chronological fra…
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