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Chouraqui, Saʿadya

(548 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Saʿadya ben Elijah Chouraqui (Shuraqi; 1603–1704) was a prominent rabbinical scholar in seventeenth-century North Africa. He is especially noted for his struggle against Sabbateanism and his attempt to rehabilitate messianism some twenty-six years (1691) after Shabbetay Ṣevi (1626–1676) declared himself the messiah. A native of Tlemcen, Chouraqui was a theologian, philosopher, Bible commentator, poet, and mathematician.His numerous students called him the “Great Tamarisk” (Heb. ha-eshel ha-gadol), a medieval expression designating an important scholar. Jacob…

Ashqar, Joseph ben Moses al-

(497 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Joseph ben Moses al-Ashqar (1465–1540), known as al-Raqiyas (or er-Rkyèse, Pillar of Wisdom), was one of the most revered saints of North African Jewry. The legends surrounding him and his enormous erudition in poetry, Talmud, and Kabbala combined to make him the object of veneration, and his grave became the object of mass pilgrimages. Descended from a well-known Andalusian family in Seville, al-Ashqar arrived in Algeria together with other exiles from Spain following the Edict of Expulsion in 1492. His brother, Rabbi Judah (1460–1530), settled in Mostaganem, in…

Askénazi, Léon Yéhouda

(1,559 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Yehouda Léon ben David Askénazi, rabbi, educator, thinker, philosopher, and kabbalist, known as Manitou, was born in Oran, Algeria, on June 21, 1922, and died in Jerusalem on October 22, 1996. He was the son of David Ashkenazi (1893–1983), the last chief rabbi of Algerian Jewry, a descendant of Asher ben Jehiel (the Rosh, 1250–1327), and the grandson of the kabbalist Ḥayyim ibn Ṭubul (d. ca. 1925). The latter was himself a descendant of Joseph ibn Ṭubul al-Mughrabī, a disciple of Isaac Luria (the Ari, 1534–1572). Askénazi commenc…

Azubib Family

(432 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
The Azubib (or Azoubib) family was an old rabbinical family in Algiers that produced a number of prominent scholars and leaders for the city’s Jewish community. The paterfamilias was the jurist (Heb. dayyan) and community head (Ar. muqaddam ) Nehoray Azubib (1610–1690). His son Saʿadya Azubib (1650–1730) was a member of the rabbinical court (Heb. bet din) of Solomon Ṣeror (1660–1740) in Algiers. Saʿadya fought against the Sabbatean heresy that took shape in Algeria under the leadership of Nehemiah Ḥiyya ben Moses Ḥayon (ca. 1655–1730); the Sabbatean movement was one of th…

Zarqa, Solomon

(921 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Solomon ben Shalom Zarqa, who died in Guelma in 1876, was a noted rabbi, author, and translator of religious texts in Algeria during the nineteenth century. A native of Tunis, he migrated to Algeria and lived at various times in Souk-Ahras, Oran, Constantine, and Guelma. As a member of the first generation of Algerian rabbinical scholars after the French occupation, he had to contend with the changes in the legal status of Algerian Jewry, the many challenges to the traditional way of life, and the overlap between Jewish and French law that all served to undermine…

Abū ʾl-Khayr (Aboulker), Isaac b. Samuel II

(382 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Isaac ben Samuel Abū ʾl-Khayr, one of the prominent ancestors of the well-known Aboulker family, was the chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Algiers at the beginning of the nineteenth century. He was named after the first Isaac ben Samuel Abū ʾl-Khayr, a famous sixteenth-century scholar. During his tenure in Algiers there were several waves of emigration to Palestine, including some major Algerian rabbinical figures.The leadership of Algerian Jewry was deeply divided at the end of the eighteenth century and early in the nineteenth. One of the major causes w…

Yafil, Abraham

(330 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Abraham ben Maymūn Yafil (Yāfīl; 1690–1770) was a rabbi and leader of the Jewish community of Algiers in the mid- to late eighteenth century. He was among the outstanding pupils of Raphael Yedidya Solomon Seror.  He succeeded Judah ben Isaac ʿAyyāsh (1700–1761) following the latter’s dramatic departure from Algiers in 1756. Yafil’s task was not easy, since the departure of ʿAyyāsh was a harbinger of the declining ability of religious leaders to enforce the laws of prohibition and permission (Heb. issur ve-hetter) and personal status (e.g., marriage), and portended the remova…

ʿAyyāsh Family

(515 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
The ʿAyyāsh (also ʿAyāsh or Ayache) family was a noted rabbinical family that flourished in North Africa and Jerusalem during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.The paterfamilias, Judah ben Isaac ʿAyyāsh (Algiers, 1700–Jerusalem, 1761), a noted pupil of  Raphael Jedidiah Solomon ben Joshua Ṣeror (1681–1737), was one of the foremost scholars in Algeria during the eighteenth century and indeed in all the lands of Islam. As a religious decisor (Heb. poseq), ʿAyyāsh’s masterworks were his collections of responsa, Bet Yehuda (Livorno, 1746), Leḥem Yehuda (Livorno, 1745), Maṭṭe…

Renassia, Joseph

(1,157 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Joseph ben David Renassia (Ghenasiyya, 1879–1962) was a writer, educator, legal decisor (Heb. poseq), and rabbinical judge ( dayyan) in Algeria. As chief rabbi of Constantine, he was an architect of the city’s Jewish educational system. He also headed a school for Torah study ( bet midrash), was a leading local supporter of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, and was one of the heads of the ʿEṣ Ḥayyim yeshiva. His powerful influence was felt across the Jewish communities of Algeria and throughout the eastern Maghreb.Renassia’s religious writings, a total of 137 texts, touch upo…

Ṣeror, Raphael Jedidiah Solomon ben Joshua

(454 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Raphael Jedidiah Solomon ben Joshua Ṣeror (1681–1738) was one of the rabbinical elite of the Jewish community of Algeria in the early eighteenth century, the last era of communal stability before the French occupation and the ensuing erosion of the traditional way of life. Although a leading religious scholar, Ṣeror also possessed broad general knowledge: “He knew the quality and the matters of the country. . . and all turn to him for his medical wisdom, for his great acumen in the understanding of nature that he knows and with which he is familiar” (Introduction to Pri Ṣaddiq).Ṣeror was re…

Ḥalimi, Sidi Fredj

(405 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Rabbi Sidi Fredj ben Abraham Ḥalimi was born in Constantine in 1876 and died there in 1957. He was a dayyan (judge) of the rabbinical court of Constantine during the last generation of the Algerian Jewish community prior to the mass exodus (see Bet Din and Dayyanim). His fellow judges were Simeon Doukhan (Dukhan, 1875–1948) and Joseph ben David Renassia (1879–1962).Ḥalimi possessed a clear talmudic orientation. He became a dayyan at the tender age of eighteen and was head of the rabbinical court in Constantine by the time he turned thirty. He was respected by the community’s o…

ʿAllūsh (Allouche), Sīdī Bahi

(419 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Elijah (Sīdī Bahi) ʿAllūsh (Allouche) (d. 1892) was a noted rabbi and scholar of the second generation of rabbis of Constantine and Algeria following the French occupation—the last generation of the nineteenth century. He served the Jewish community as a jurist (Heb. dayyan) during a time of far-reaching changes that required him to cope with the implications of modernity. In particular, he took great pains to preserve the unity of both the family unit and the community. To compensate for the loss of rabbinic authority under the French …


(1,992 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
The city of Constantine (Ar. Qustanṭīna) is located on the coastal ridge of the Atlas Mountains in northeastern Algeria about 531 kilometers (330 miles) east of Algiers. It is the capital of Constantine Province. This ancient city, 80 kilometers (50 miles) inland from the Mediterranean, stands on a plateau 650 meters (2,133 feet) above sea level; the plateau descends into ravines as deep as 300 meters (984 feet), and the Rhummel River runs through the easternmost one. Thanks to its location at a ma…

Ashkenazi, David

(533 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
David Ashkenazi (1897–1983) served as chief rabbi of the department of Oran from 1930 to 1960, when he was appointed chief rabbi of Algerian Jewry. He remained in this office until Algeria became independent in 1962. He was the only Sephardi incumbent of the Algerian chief rabbinate during the entire period of French rule.As chief rabbi of Oran, Ashkenazi founded and presided over the Association for Learning and Culture centers. He was greatly concerned with the application of Jewish law in the realms of the family, conversion, mixed marriage, and the invol…

Gabbay, Moses ben Shem Ṭov

(310 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Moses ben Shem Ṭov Gabbay, who died around 1443, was a rabbi and scholar in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. He was active in Spain and North Africa, and particularly, after 1391, in the western Algerian city of Honaine. Situated on the Mediterranean coast north of Tlemcen, Honaine was an important port during the Zayyanid (or ʿAbd al-Wadīd) dynasty in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The city’s Jewish community was an active element in its mercantile culture.Leaving Spain after the edict of 1391, Gabbay spent some time as rabbinical judge (Heb. dayyan) of the J…

Zerbib, Abraham

(291 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Abraham Zerbib (1870–1942) was a rabbi and scholar in Algeria during the first half of the twentieth century. Born in Constantine, he served as head of the town’s ritual slaughterers (Heb. shoḥeṭim) and from 1912 to 1913 edited the Judeo-Arabic weekly Al-Ḥikma(Heb. Ha-Ḥokhma). During the 1930s he was appointed chief rabbi of the community of Setif, in the province of Constantine. He was known for his open-minded approach to French culture and his French patriotism. During the First World War, he encouraged his son to serve in the French army.Zerbib’s writings, none of which were pu…

Moaṭṭi, David

(230 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
David ben Samuel Moaṭṭi (Muʿaṭṭi; 1796–1876) was a teacher of religious subjects, head of the ʿEṣ Ḥayyim Seminary (yeshiva), a legal decisor ( poseq), author of responsa, and one of the leading religious judges ( dayyanim) in Algeria during the nineteenth century. As a member of the first generation of Algerian rabbinical scholars after the French occupation, he was forced to deal with its difficult consequences for the Jews of Algeria, such as the annulment of Jewish autonomy in 1841. Two of his works— Yede David, a reinterpretation of tractate Nazir of the Talmud (Algiers, 1856) and Qodsh…

Zerbib, Masʿūd

(539 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Masʿūd Zerbīb (or Zaghbīb) al-Ḥasid (1655–1719) was a scholar in the Algerian city of Constantine at the end of the seventeenth century. He was given the sobriquet al-Ḥasid (Jud.-Ar. the Pious) because of his piety and his commentaries on the Torah. While the Jewish community of Constantine and its leadership were autonomous during his lifetime, Zerbīb nonetheless strongly felt the yoke of Ottoman rule. This feeling finds expression in his book Zeraʿ  ’Emet (Livorno, 1851) in  the words “we are hereby in the lowest rung of the exile” (Jerusalem ed., p. 181). Although the book is a commenta…

Morali, Isaac

(817 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Rabbi Isaac Morali (Morʿali, Marʿeli), born in Algiers in 1867, was a noted scholar and rabbinical figure. He was a member of the second generation of Algerian rabbinic thinkers whose defining motif revolved around efforts to cope with the forces of change in the period from the late 1870s to the Second World War. Their work paved the way for observant Jews from the periphery to the center of Algeria’s cultural and communal existence, despite the deep penetration of the processes of secularizati…

Renassia, Daniel

(554 words)

Author(s): Yossef Charvit
Daniel ben Joseph Renassia (Ghenasiyya; 1904–1987) was a rabbi and teacher in Constantine and Israel in the twentieth century. As the successor of his father, Joseph ben David Renassia (1879–1962), he continued his educational work. This was evident, first and foremost, in his concern for teaching Judaism and Jewish culture during a period in which French cultural influences were quite dominant. It was also apparent in his translations of liturgical books and prayers into French, and his promotion of instruction in the Hebrew language. Renassia was principal of the Or Torah religiou…
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