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Monsonego, Yedidya

(1,044 words)

Author(s): Joseph Tedghi
A scion of the Monsonego rabbinical dynasty, Yedidya ben Aharon ben Yehoshua Monsonego was born in Fez in 1907. He studied with Rabbis Shalom Azulay and Joseph Kohen before entering Meʾir Israel’s famous yeshiva. Even as a youth he showed remarkable intellectual ability. After completing his education, he worked as a ritual slaughterer (Heb. shoḥet), kashrut examiner ( bodeq), and scribe ( sofer) at the Fez  bet din. In June 1938, he was named dayyan and chief rabbi of Ouezzane (Wazzan), 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Fez ,which had a sizable Jewish community of …


(7,024 words)

Author(s): Joseph Tedghi
Historically the spiritual and intellectual capital of northern Morocco, Fez(Ar. Fās) was home to the largest Jewish community of the medieval Maghreb. Although tradition maintains that Fez was founded in 789 by Idrīs ibn ʿAbd Allāh (Idrīs I), who established the Idrisid dynasty, the early fourteenth-century Arabic chronicle Rawḍ al-Qirṭās by Ibn Abī Zarʿ maintains that it was founded in 808 by Idrīs II. The city stands at the confluence of the Fez and Sebou rivers on the northeastern end of the Saïss plain and marks the intersection of two major axes of c…

Em Habanim

(850 words)

Author(s): Joseph Tedghi
Until the end of the nineteenth century, Jewish children in Morocco were educated in traditional one-room schools where pupils of all ages were taught together and memorization of texts was the sole pedagogical method. The situation began to change in 1862, when the Alliance Israélite Universelle opened Morocco’s first modern Jewish school. By 1912, when the Alliance had twenty-five schools in thirteen towns with more than five thousand students, a new school system began, named Em Habanim, that was more specifically Jewish and Moroccan in its orientation and curriculum.The new sch…

Ibn Ḥayyim, Aaron ben Abraham

(370 words)

Author(s): Joseph Tedghi
Descended from a family of scholars that had come to Morocco from Spain, Aaron ibn Ḥayyim was born in Fez between 1555 and 1560. He first studied at his father Abraham’s school and went on to become a disciple of several famous rabbis, especially the dayyanJoseph Almosnino, whom he mentioned in his writings as his “master par excellence.” Rabbi Aaron became a member of the bet dinthen headed by the eminent scholar Vidal Ṣarfati (1592–1617). Along with other rabbis, he signed taqqanot (rabbinic ordinances) dealing with ostentatious displays of finery and precious jewelry by women ( taqqana…

Ibn Ḥayyim, Aaron (II)

(322 words)

Author(s): Joseph Tedghi
Aaron ben David ibn Ḥayyim was born in Hebron in 1630 and was the grandson of Aaron ben Abraham ibn Ḥayyim, who had emigrated from Morocco to the Holy Land via Egypt and Italy. He was also descended from a distinguished rabbinical family on his mother’s side, for his maternal grandfather was Eliezer ben Arḥa. He apparently received his principal education in the yeshivot of Jerusalem. After serving as a dayyan (rabbinic judge) in his hometown, he was sent abroad by the city of Hebron as a rabbinical emissary (Heb. meshullaḥ or shadar) to collect money for charitable purposes. From 167…

Monsonego, Aharon

(552 words)

Author(s): Joseph Tedghi
Born in Fez on February 9, 1929, Aharon Monsonego, the son of Rabbi father, began his education at the Em Habanim school, then attended the yeshiva of Meʾir Israel, who trained many generations of rabbis with the old shiṭa—a Sephardi study method perpetuated in Fez and of which he was probably one of the last masters. Monsonego also studied zealously with his father, who encouraged him to become one of the first students at the newly founded Aix-les-Bains Yeshiva in 1945. There he studied with leading Ashkenazi rabbis such as Ernest Weill and Chaim Chajkin. He received h…

Monsonego Family

(1,029 words)

Author(s): Joseph Tedghi
The Monsonego family (originally spelled and pronounced Monsonyego) belonged to the intellectual aristocracy of Moroccan Jewry for generations. Originally from Spain, probably the Aragonese town of Monzón (Monson, Montisson), the family settled in Fez after the 1492 expulsion. The first mention of a Rabbi Monsonego dates to the early eighteenth century. The members of the family in the following generations comprised a distinguished lineage of religious leaders, scholars, and poets.Ephraim ben Abraham Monsonego (1710–1790) was ordained by Rabbi Jacob Aben Ṣur (16…

Tunisian Judeo-Arabic

(7,777 words)

Author(s): Joseph Tedghi
In the territory that now corresponds to Tunisia and which they have inhabited ever since ancient times, the Jews have used various different languages: Hebrew, the Aramaic they brought with them before adopting the languages of the conquerors, Latin and Neo-Punic in the Roman period, and probably also Berber. After the conquest of the Maghreb by the Arabs they familiarized themselves with Arabic. They used it for more than a thousand years before progressively adopting French from the late nine…

Uzziel Family

(5,880 words)

Author(s): Joseph Tedghi
The theophoric biblical name Uzziel “God is my strength” (Ex 6:18; Nm 3:19) became a widespread patronym over the course of time, especially in medieval Spain. Following the expulsion of the Jews from Iberia in 1492, the Uzziel family spread to various countries around the Mediterranean. We thus find illustrious figures bearing this name in Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Morocco, and more precisely in Fez, where, for two centuries, they made their mark on the intellectual life of the Jewish communit…