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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Joseph (Abū 'l-Ḥasan) ben al-Battāt

(229 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Very little is known about the Andalusian poet and theologian Joseph (Abū 'l-Ḥasan) ben al-Battāt (fl. 11th cent.) other than the brief notice in Moses ibn Ezra’s treatise on the ars poetica, Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa 'l-Mudhākara (Halkin ed., 42v): “Abū 'l-Ḥasan ben al-Battāt is a famous expert in law, theology (Ar. kalām), and poetry. He is from the houses of the prophets [i.e., well-born, from a noble family] and an excellent man.”Moses ibn Ezra’s poem Gedude Lel Nedod (Brody, no. 185) is addressed to Ibn al-Battāt from a place in Castile and praises his poetic talent in v…

Joseph bar Ḥiyya

(200 words)

Author(s): Roni Shweka
Joseph bar Ḥiyya became gaon of the Pumbedita yeshiva in Iraq in 825 and before this was av bet din (chief justice) under Abraham ben Sherira (816–828). He was nominated for the gaonate when Sherira was deposed in connection with the exilarchic succession dispute between David ben Judah and Daniel ben Saul.  He and Abraham ben Sherira apparently took opposite sides in the dispute, but it is uncertain which claimant each supported. They eventually agreed to share the leadership of the academy as co-geonim, but with Abraham enjoying superior status on public occasions. In his Epistle, Rav S…

Joseph ben Phinehas

(309 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Joseph ben Phinehas (d. ca. 920) was a jahbadh (banker) at the Abbasid court during the reign of al-Muqtadir (r. 908–932), a time of fiscal and political crisis in Baghdad. According to the Abbasid kātib and historian Hilāl al-Ṣābiʾ (d. 1056), the vizier Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. Muḥammad Ibn al-Furāt (r. 908–924, with interruptions) deposited funds confiscated from individuals the regime had executed not with the caliphal fisc but with Joseph ben Phineas and another Jewish jahbadh, Aaron ben Amram—not the first incident of embezzlement in Ibn al-Furāt’s career. In 918, wh…

Joseph al-Qarawī

(440 words)

Author(s): Esperanza Alfonso
Very little is known about the thirteenth-century Jewish poet Joseph al-Qarawī. What information there is derives from sixteen poems that were part of a poetic exchange between him and the celebrated poet Ṭodros ben Judah ha-Levi Abulafia (d. 1306) and are preserved in the latter's dīwān. The superscription to al-Qarawī's poem Ṣ eviyyat Ḥen Ḥavaṣelet Sheronim ("Charming Gazelle, Rose of Sharon") states that he wrote the poems at the age of twelve, a claim that some scholars have questioned. According to the superscription to his poem S efat ha-Meshorerim Avla ve-Navla ("The language …

Joseph Rosh ha-Seder

(269 words)

Author(s): Arnold Franklin
Joseph ben Jacob Rosh ha-Seder was an Iraqi scholar who was active in Egypt during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. His Hebrew title rosh ha-seder (head of the row) is one of the honorifics bestowed by the Babylonian authorities on local officials who demonstrated loyalty to them and their institutions. Joseph’s father, Jacob, was a disciple and emissary of the gaon Samuel ben Eliand the author of a number of halakhic works, including one on the laws of ritual slaughter. In Egypt, Joseph earned a living as a copyist, a profession that required frequent travel. Docume…

Josiah ben Aaron Gaon

(332 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
Josiah ben Aaron was gaon of the Palestinian yeshiva during the first two and a half decades of the eleventh century. His father had held the title ḥaver (Heb. associate or fellow), meaning that he was a member of the yeshiva, and the family claimed descent from the tenth-century gaon of Palestine, Me’ir Gaon. More than thirty letters from Josiah and his circle are preserved in the Cairo Geniza. These documents indicate that he was involved in several disputes within the yeshiva and in other Jewish communities, such as Tiberias. The correspondence gives the imp…

Josiah ben Aaron he-Ḥaver

(345 words)

Author(s): Marzena Zawanowska
Josiah ben Aaron he-Ḥaver (d. 1025) was probably the last Palestinian gaon from the family of Aaron ben Me’ir. Very little is know about his life, and even the exact dates of his gaonate are unknown, although it seems certain that he was for a time av bet din (head of the court) in Acre (Akko). It was only afterwards, but no later than 1015, that he became the gaon of the yeshiva in Jerusalem, and he served in this capacity at least until 1020. Later on, the yeshiva moved to Ramla, plausibly in consequence of the growing tension between the Rabbanite and Karaite communities in Je…

Josiah ben Jesse

(581 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Josiah ben Jesse flourished in the first half of the thirteenth century as part of a family of nesi’im centered in Mosul. He had three brothers—Hodiah (probably the Jalāl al-Dawla of several Geniza letters; cf. infra), Hezekiah, and Solomon (= Jedidiah? [see Gil, sec. 259, ad fin.])—and spent some time in Egypt (Ashmun, Bilbays, Fustat, al-Maḥalla, and, perhaps, Alexandria and Damira) as well as in Damascus, where he met the poet Judah al-Ḥarīzī. At least six different “date points” are attested for Josiah, based on dated or datable sources…
Date: 2015-09-03


(7,090 words)

Author(s): Olga Borovaya | Jaleh Pirnazar | Rachel Simon
1. Middle East and North AfricaJewish journalism in the Middle East and North Africa began in 1842 with the Ladino weekly La Buena Esperansa in Izmir (Smyrna). Between then and the end of the twentieth century, over eight hundred Jewish newspapers and periodicals were published in the region, many quite short-lived. Published by and about Sephardim and Mizraḥim, they appeared in regional, Jewish, and European languages, in a variety of formats and frequencies, differed great in longevity, and covered a wide range of t…
Date: 2015-09-03

Journo, Raoul

(252 words)

Author(s): Jacques Taïeb
Raoul Journo was born in Tunis on January 18, 1911, and died in Paris on November 22, 2001. Along with his Muslim colleague ʿAlī Riyāḥī, he was the most popular Arab singer of the twentieth century in Tunisia. With his tenor voice, he began singing early on, but his musical career really took off in the mid-1930s and was quite original. He mastered the ʿ arūbī genre of Bedouin-inspired poetry, and the taʿlīl, which were songs of praise performed at family gatherings. Journo embodied a Tunisian musical heritage and was rightfully honored by the Tunisian government. H…

Judah (Abū ʾl-Ḥasan) ben Samuel ha-Levi

(2,191 words)

Author(s): Raymond Scheindlin
1. LifeJudah (Abū 'l-Ḥasan) ben Samuel ha-Levi (d. 1141) was a poet, religious thinker, and physician. Born in Toledo or Tudela between 1075 and 1080, he went as a youth to Granada, where he joined the circle of Jewish public figures and intellectuals around Moses ibn Ezra, among whom he distinguished himself as a Hebrew poet and wit. His writings show him to have been knowledgeable in Hebrew grammar, the Hebrew literary tradition, Bible, rabbinic traditions, Arabic literature, Sufism, philosophy, and medicine. He practiced as a physician in both Castile and al-Andalus, and was a…

Judah (Abū Zakariyyā) ben Ḥanigā

(357 words)

Author(s): Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio
Judah (Abū Zakariyyā) ben Ḥanigā lived in al-Andalus between the tenth and eleventh centuries. He is mentioned by Moses ibn Ezra in his Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa ʾl-Mudhākara (Abumalham ed., p. 31) along with Abū ʿAmr ibn Yaqwā. Both are included among the authors from Cordova who followed in the footsteps of Isaac ibn Qapron and Ha-Kohen ben al-Mudarram, second-generation poets and grammarians. All of them belonged to the group of Hebrew intellectuals who contributed to making the city the center of Jewish life in Islamic Spain.In addition to this succinct reference, Judah ben Ḥanig…

Judah ben Eleazar

(429 words)

Author(s): Dalia Yasharpour | Vera B. Moreen
Judah ben Eleazar, the author of Ḥovot Yehuda (Heb. The Duties of Judah), the only known Judeo-Persian philosophical work, lived in the seventeenth century.  As is the case for most Judeo-Persian intellectuals, there is very little biographical information about him. He lived in Kāshān and practiced medicine. His father, Rabbi Eleazar, is believed to have been one of the religious leaders and judges of Kāshān who, along with his son and the rest of the Jews of Kashan, were forced to publicly convert to Islam during the anti-Jewish persecut…

Judah ben Eli (‘Allān)

(1,298 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Judah ben Eli, whose patronymic is usually attested as ben ʿAllān (the diminutive (?) of ʿAlī, the Ar. equivalent of Eli) and accompanied by the gentilic “the Tiberian,” was apparently one of the earliest Karaite scholars of Jerusalem, active at the end of the ninth century and during the first three decades of the tenth. Primary evidence for this chronological, geographical (Tiberias-Jerusalem), and sectarian placement of Judah is to be found in the portion of a muqaddama on parashat Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22) published by Pinsker (sec. 2, p. 64), written by Levi (Abū…
Date: 2015-09-03

Judah ben Joseph ben Eleazar ha-Kohen

(321 words)

Author(s): Arnold Franklin
Judah ben Joseph ben Eleazar ha-Kohen, often referred to simply as “the rav” in letters from the Cairo Geniza, was one of the most respected scholars in Egypt during the second half of the eleventh century. Sometimes confused with a prominent Egyptian merchant of the same name, he arrived in Fustat as early as 1050. It has been conjectured that he had family roots in North Africa and studied with Nissim ben Jacob ibn Shāhīn in Qayrawan. In his new home he became a highly regarded teacher and the spiritual leader of the circle of North African merchants around Nahray ben Nissim. Labraṭ ben Moses …

Judah ben Joseph of Qayrawan

(662 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Judah ben Joseph b. Simḥa was perhaps the most important figure in the Jewish community of Qayrawān toward the end of the tenth century and the beginning of the eleventh. Known in Arabic as Abū Zikrī/Zakarīyāʾ (the usual kunya for the name Judah), he was one of the wealthiest merchants in Qayrawān and was on very good terms with the Zirid sultan of Tunisia, al-Muʿizz ibn Bādīs (r. 1016–1062), and especially with the young sultan’s influential aunt Umm Mallāl, who, if indeed “the illustrious mistress” (Ar. al-sayyida al-jalīla) mentioned by Judah in a letter written toward the end …
Date: 2015-09-03

Judah ben Moses ha-Kohen

(441 words)

Author(s): Josefina Rodríguez Arribas
Judah ben Moses ha-Kohen, called in Christian sources Don Yhuda Mosca, Yhuda Mosca el Menor, Yhuda fi de Mose fi de Mosca, and Yhuda el Cohen (or Coheneso) Alfaquin, was one of the foremost translators working in the court of Alfonso X ("the Learned") of Castile (ca. 1243-1272). He was probably born in Toledo, probably into the well-known Ibn Matqa family, and was rabbi of the Toledo synagogue. In addition to Hebrew, he was literate in Arabic, Castilian, and Latin, and was learned in astronomy and astrology, the disciplines in which h…

Judah ben Saʿadya

(401 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Judah ben Saʿadya was the eldest of the five sons of Saʿadya ben Mevorakh. A physician at the Fatimid court like his father, Judah appears in Cairo Geniza records for the first time in 1043. He initially had two titles, rosh kalla (head of the assembly), given him by one of the leaders in Iraq after the closing of the Sura and Pumbedita academies, and he-ḥaver ha-meʿulle (exalted member) of the Jerusalem yeshiva. Sometime between late 1062 and mid-1064, however, he became the first Egyptian to bear the title nagid , probably given him by the gaon of Jerusalem, Elijah ha-Kohen ben Solomon (10…

Judeo-Arabic - History and Linguistic Description

(3,583 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
Of all the Jewish literary and spoken vernaculars of the post-talmudic period (Yiddish, Jewish Neo-Aramaic, Ladino, Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Greek, Judeo-Tat, Judeo-Berber, Judeo-Provençal, to mention only some of the better known), Judeo-Arabic holds a place of special significance. It has had the longest recorded history—nearly fourteen hundred years. It has had the widest geographical diffusion, extending across three continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe) during the Middle Ages. Until early moder…
Date: 2014-09-03


(1,275 words)

Author(s): Yossef Chetrit
Scholars have long pondered the existence of a distinct Jewish language that might have been used by Jewish communities living in a Berber-speaking environment. Recent studies based on linguistic and ethnographic investigations in southern Morocco and the High Atlas Mountains show that Judeo-Berber dialects existed until the twentieth century in some rural and semirural communities in Morocco, whether or not parallel to Judeo-Arabic dialects, but that they never fun…
Date: 2014-09-03
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