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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Bombay (present day Mumbai)

(697 words)

Author(s): Shalva Weil
There were two separate Jewish communities in Bombay: the Bene Israel (Children of Israel), and the Baghdadis. The Bene Israel claim that their ancestors were shipwrecked off the Konkan coast, south of Bombay, around 175 B.C.E. In the eighteenth century, the British enlisted them as soldiers and offered them employment beyond the confines of the Konkan villages. The first Bene Israel family moved to Bombay in 1749. By 1796, when Subedar Samaji Hasaji Divekar founded the Gate of Mercy Synagogue, there was more than a quorum of Bene Israel in the city. In 1843, the New Sy…

Bonan Family

(698 words)

Author(s): Moshe Amar
The Bonan family in the city of Tunis were associated with the city’s Grana (Portuguese) congregation. Several of its members became important scholars and communal leaders in Tunis and Palestine in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although the family was ultimately of Iberian origin (the name Buenanno is attested in Toledo, but Paul Sebag suggests an Italian derivation), its more immediate origin before coming to Tunis may have been in Morocco. In 1747, Rabbi Masʿūd Bonan (ca. 1705–1802) emigrated from Tunis to Tiberias. Subsequently he traveled to Western Eu…

Bône (Būna)

(6 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Annaba (Bône)Norman A. Stillman

Borgel Family

(502 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
The Borgel (Bordjel, Bourgel) family of Tunisia (so named from Col. Ar. bū rjel, man on foot) was famous for its many rabbis and communal leaders. The first member of the family was Nathan, who became grand rabbi and president of the rabbinical tribunal ( bet din) in 1774. A famous kabbalist, he  was the author of Ḥoq Natan (Heb. The Law He Gave; or punning, The Law of Nathan), a commentary on the Talmud (Livorno, 1776–78). He left Tunisia for Palestine in 1778 and died in Jerusalem in 1791.Nathan’s son, Elijah Ḥay I, was the author of a two-part work, Migdanot Natan (Precious Gifts He Gave; Liv…

Bornstein Guéron, Louise

(372 words)

Author(s): Joy Land
Louise Bornstein (Bernstein) Guéron was a teacher and principal in the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) network of schools. She was born in Paris in 1876 and graduated from the AIU teacher-training school there in 1894 with a brevet supérieur (teaching certificate granted after four years of study at a normal school). Her teaching career began in Tunis during the 1894-95 academic year. In 1896 she transferred to Salonica as a teacher and in 1897 became principal. From 1900 to 1911, Bornstein was the principal of the School for Girls in Tunis. In 1905 she married Lazare Guéron, a teach…

Bosnia, Bosnia-Herzegovina

(876 words)

Author(s): Yitzchak Kerem
Bosnia-Herzegovina is a country on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe, bordered by Croatia on the north, west, and south, Serbia on the east, and Montenegro on the south.Jews are known to have resided in the area that is now the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina since at least the late fifteenth century. The Ottoman Empire advanced into Bosnia in the 1450s, founded modern Sarajevo (Turk. Bosna Saray) in 1461, and finalized the conquest of the region in 1463 by establishing the sanjak of Bosnia, followed by the sanjak of Herzegovina in 1470. After the expulsion in 1492, Jews fr…

Botbol Hatchuel, Abraham

(341 words)

Author(s): Gisela Heffes
Abraham Botbol Hachuel, Venezuelan writer, economist, insurer, poet, and journalist, was born (no date available) in the Spanish-ruled port of Ceuta on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco. His family moved to nearby Tetouan while he was still an infant, and that is where he grew up and spent most of his youth. After earning a graduate degree in economics from the University of Geneva, he moved to Caracas in Venezuela. There he soon became a well-known leader of the Jewish community. He has been president of both the Asociación Israelita de Venezuela (AIV) and the Confederación de Asocia…

Boton, Abraham de

(378 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Abraham Ḥiyya ben Moses de Boton (or Button), generally considered to have been one of Salonica’s foremost rabbis during the second half of the sixteenth century, was born into a family of expellees from the Iberian Peninsula. Various dates have been given for his birth, with ca. 1545 being most likely. He died in Salonica in 1592 (other dates given in the secondary literature are as early as 1588 and as late as 1605).De Boton studied under Samuel de Medina and may have been a relative of Rabbi Moses ben Joseph de Trani (Mitrani) the Elder (known as Mabit, d. 1580 or…


(354 words)

Author(s): Yossef Chetrit
Boudenib (Ar. Bū Dhanīb) is located in southeastern Morocco in the central part of the Guir Valley, near a palm grove east of the Tafilalet, not far from the Algerian border, on the road that links Errachidia (formerly Ksar Souk) to Colombe Béchar in southern Algeria. Because of its location at the southeastern edge of the Moroccan desert and close to Algeria, Boudenib witnessed repeated battles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Berber tribe from Aït Izdeg settled there in the seve…


(6 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Béjaïa (Bougie, Bijāya)Norman A. Stillman


(257 words)

Author(s): Dale Eickelman
From its founding in the late sixteenth century until the beginning of the French protectorate in 1912, Boujad (Ar. Abu al-Jaʿad) was the only settlement of significance on western Morocco’s Tadla plain and the region’s most important Muslim religious center. In addition to the descendants and clients of its founding ṣaddīq (pious one, saint), who died in 1601, Boujad was home to a Jewish community. There was no special Jewish quarter, and in local usage the term mallāḥ was used only to designate the place where the synagogue was situated. From the late nineteenth…

Boujenah, Michel

(523 words)

Author(s): Dinah Assouline Stillman
Michel Boujenah was born in Tunis on November 2, 1952. His family left Tunisia for France in 1963 and lived in the outskirts of Paris. Michel suffered from nostalgia for his native country. At the age of fifteen, discovering the power of drama while attending the École Alsacienne in Paris, he decided to become an actor. Unable to enter a prestigious drama school because of his heavy Tunisian accent, he formed his own children’s theater troupe, La grande cuillère (The Big Spoon). Over the next six years, writing all of the troupe’s shows himself, he discovered the thrill…

Boukhobza, Chochana

(1,006 words)

Author(s): Nina Lichtenstein
Chochana Boukhobza is a French novelist born in Tunisia. Much of her work draws on the personal experience of exile and of living in-between cultures, nationalities, and memories. With echoes of the postcolonial Sephardic trajectory, her writing also brings together Ashkenazi and Sephardi characters and histories, as well as Arab and French.Born in Sfax, Tunisia, in 1959, speaking Arabic and Hebrew as a child, Chochana Boukhobza immigrated to France in 1964 with her family and most of the Tunisian Jewish community. At seventeen she moved to Isra…

Bou Saâda

(540 words)

Author(s): Danièle Iancu-Agou
Bou Saâda (Ar. Bū Saʿāda, place of happiness) is an oasis town in northeastern Algeria located in M’Sila province between the Chott el-Hodna (salt lake) and the Saharan Atlas Mountains, approximately 245 kilometers (152 miles) south of Algiers. Thanks to its palm grove oases, sustained by the Bou Saâda Wadi, and its convenient crossroads location, the El-Hodna area surrounding Bou Saâda has long been occupied by nomadic people, but there are no traces of permanent settlement until the Roman era.…

Bouskila, Yehiel

(481 words)

Author(s): David Guedj
Yehiel Bouskila was born in 1921 in a small town near Marrakesh. He moved with his parents to Casablanca when still a child and attended the Magen David and Keter Torah schools there. In 1938 he was given the position of teacher of Hebrew, history, and Bible in the Em Ha-Banim and Magen David schools. In 1946 he began to teach Hebrew in the Alliance school in Casablanca.At the end of 1942, the Magen David association founded a “Hebrew Club,” which Yehiel Bouskila ran. Members of the club met one evening during the week and for an oneg Shabbat on the weekend. The gatherings featured lectures …

Bouzaglo (Buzaglo), David

(238 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
David Bouzaglo (1903–1975) was a renowned rabbi, poet, and singer who lived in Morocco until 1965, when he emigrated to Israel. Bouzaglo was born in Zawiya, near Marrakesh, and studied Talmud and halakha.  In 1919, he moved to Casablanca, where he continued his religious studies and also received instruction in poetry and Arab-Andalusian music.  Poor eyesight kept him from ever assuming a position as the rabbi of a community, but Bouzaglo worked as a teacher of Hebrew, cantorial music, and traditional religious poetry (Heb. piyyuṭim ). In addition to teaching traditional works,…

Bouzaglo (Buzaglo), Ḥayyim

(278 words)

Author(s): Elon Goitein
Born in 1952 in Jerusalem to a Moroccan family, Ḥayyim Bouzaglo graduated from the Tikhon shel Yad ha-Universiṭa High School and studied literature and theater at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since 1987, he has established his career as a scriptwriter and director of award-winning Israeli and international films and television serials.Bouzaglo’s film credits include co-writer of Aviya’s Summer ( ha-Qayiṣ shel Aviya, 1988), which won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Festival, and writer-director of Fictitious Marriage ( Nisuʾim Fiqṭiviyyim, 1988), which won the Silver M…

Brami, Felix

(186 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Born in Tunis on September 9, 1940, Felix Said Brami became a renowned boxer. Between 1956 and 1961, with Joe Guez as his coach, he won all thirty of his amateur matches and the bantamweight championship (1959) of Tunisia. He left Tunisia for France in 1961 and began his professional career there, training with coach Gaston Charles Raymond and wearing a Magen David with the initials “FB” in the center on his boxing trunks. In 1964 he won the bantamweight championship of France and was rated no. 6 bantamweight in the world by Ring magazine. He lost the bantamweight championship in 1970, …

Brami, Joseph

(278 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Joseph Brami was born in the Jewish quarter (Ar. ḥārat al-yahūd) of Tunis in 1888. He was an outstanding student at Solomon Dana’s yeshiva Ḥevrat Limmud ha-Talmud (Association for the Teaching of the Talmud), but at the same time attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle school and learned French. Thus, he was exposed to French culture and at the same time led a traditional Jewish life. Brami became a teacher of Hebrew in Tunis, giving lessons to groups or at the Zionist club, and tutoring privately outside Tunis. He was, in addition, a correspondent for Haṣefira( Hazefira), a Haskala …


(2,319 words)

Author(s): Misha Klein
Brazilian history has been marked by distinct periods of Jewish immigration (both legal and illegal), and Brazilian society evinces an undeniable Jewish influence along a trajectory that began over five hundred years ago. While Brazil may be home to the largest population of Sephardim and people of Sephardi origin in the Americas, mostly descendants of Portuguese forced converts, the passage of time makes such speculations exceedingly difficult to substantiate. Such claims are further complicated by the fact that the vast majority of the…
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