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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Evliya Chelebi

(397 words)

Author(s): Cengiz Sisman
Evliya Çelebi, also known as Derviş Mehmed Zillî, was born in Istanbul in 1611 and died on his way back from Egypt in 1682. The most famous of Ottoman travelers, he journeyed for fifty years in the lands of the Ottoman Empire and beyond, and compiled a nine-volume memoir entitled Seyahatname (Trk. Book of Travels). In his youth, Evliya attended a madrasa and memorized the Qurʾān, learned calligraphy, and studied music. Thanks to his uncle Melek Ahmet Paşa, a senior Ottoman official, Evliya was recruited for the enderun-i hümayun (Trk. inside service), a system of palace schools, an…

Executive Editor's Introduction

(4,090 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
Why an Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World?Until the middle of the twentieth century, over a million Jews lived in the Islamic world, some 800,000 of them in the Arab countries. Some of these Jewish communities were very ancient, as in Iraq and Iran, where there had been a Jewish presence since the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century B.C.E. In most other Middle Eastern and North African countries, there had been Jews since Greco-Roman times, long before th…

Exilarch and Exilarchate

(2,222 words)

Author(s): Arnold Franklin
The title exilarch (Aram. resh galuta, Heb. rosh ha-gola, Ar. ra’s al-jalut) was given to those who held one of the principal offices of centralized Jewish administrative authority during the Middle Ages. The exilarchate first comes into view as an office responsible for administering the communal affairs of Babylonian Jewry in late antiquity. By the third century the family that controlled the exilarchate had developed, as a justification for its rule, a claim of descent from the line of King David, mirroring the royal ancestry alleged by the patriarchs in Palestin…

Ezekiel's Tomb (al-Kifl)

(695 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
The traditional tomb of the biblical prophet Ezekiel is situated in the village of al-Kifl (coll. Ir. Ar. al-Chifl) on the Euphrates River, 32 kilometers (20 miles) south of the town of Hilla in central Iraq. The name of the town is from Ezekiel’s epithet of Dhū ʾl-Kifl (the Guarantor) in Islamic lore (Ezekiel, Ar. Ḥizqīl, is not mentioned in the Qurʾān). The first known mention of the tomb is in the Epistle of Sherira Gaon ( Iggeret Rav Sherira Gaʾon) in the tenth century. Benjamin of Tudela visited the shrine around 1170 (Adler ed., pp. 67-68). His account notes that “people come from a distanc…

Ezra ben Abraham ben Mazhir

(446 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
Ezra ha-Kohen ben Abraham ben Mazhir was head of the rump Palestinian Yeshiva in Damascus from 1164 to 1191. He was apparently a son-in-law, but not a direct descendant, of the House of Ha-Kohen that had headed the venerable yeshiva, with interruptions, since 1025. By his time the yeshiva was in a serious decline, having been forced to move from Jerusalem to Tyre in 1071 and to Damascus around 1097. In view of the Seljuq and Crusader conquests, the yeshiva under Maṣliaḥ ha-Kohen ben Solomon was finally compelled to relocate to Egypt, which was still under Fatimid rule. Some …

Ezra ha-Bavli

(369 words)

Author(s): Lev Hakak
Ezra ha-Bavli was a rabbi and Hebrew poet who lived in Iraq during the first half of the eighteenth century. His Tokheḥot Musar (Heb. Moralistic Reproofs), completed in 1731, was published in 1735 in Castaneda. His Netivot Shalom (Heb. Paths of Peace), which included castigations, homilies, and biblical exegesis, was published in 1742.Ha-Bavli had a phenomenal knowledge of the Bible,the Babylonian Talmud, and other Jewish sources. His aesthetic achievement in  Tokheḥot Musar was remarkable. The book is a poetical guide to the ethical life intended to keep readers from strayin…

Ezra-nāma ('The Book of Ezra')

(328 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Ezra-nāma (The Book of Ezra) is a short Judeo-Persian narrative poem by Mowlānā Shāhīn-i Shīrāzī (Our Master, the Royal Falcon of Shiraz), the earliest known and best of the Judeo-Persian poets who flourished in Iran in the fourteenth century. It is superficially based on the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and was usually appended to and copied with Ardashīr-nāma (The Book of Ardashīr [Ahasuerus]), an epic by the same poet based on the Book of Esther, with whose contents i t is connected. Numbering only five hundred distichs, Ezra-nāma is written in the same meter as Ardashīr-nāma. It…

ʿEzrī, Me’īr

(412 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Born in 1924 in Isfahan, Me’īr ʿEzrī, is the son of the Zionist activist and local Jewish leader Tzion ʿEzrī. Me’īr ʿEzrī attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle and the Anglican Stuart Memorial College. At the age of fifteen he founded an organization of young people to advance Jewish education and build a charitable infrastructure. In 1946 he moved to Tehran.Me’īr ʿEzrī  was one of the most important figures in the Iranian He-Ḥalutz organization and Zionist movement. As the official general secretary of He-Ḥalutz he initiated its first three conferences. In 1947…

ʿEzrī, Tzion

(296 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Tzion ʿEzrī, born in 1892 in Isfahan, was one of the first graduates of the Alliance Israélite Universelle school founded in Isfahan in 1901. He completed his studies, which included the French language, in 1913, and in 1915 began working at the Isfahan branch of the Iranian Ministry of the Treasury, collecting taxes on alcoholic beverages and teaching French. Dismissed from the ministry after four years, he served in a secretarial and bookkeeping capacity in the Sixth Gendarmerie Regiment until 1921.ʿEzrī visited Palestine at the beginning of 1925. After his return to Isfa…