Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

Get access Subject: Jewish Studies
Executive Editor: Norman A. Stillman

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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B (Boujenah, Matthieu - Bülbüli, Isaac)

(1,241 words)

Boujenah, Matthieu, Cinema, Arabic, Jews in Boujenah, Michel, Cinema, French, North African Jewish Actors and Characters in, France, Boujenah, Michel Boukhobza, Chochana, Francophone Maghrebi Jewish Literature Boumendil, Rosine seeRhaïs, Elissa Bourguiba, Habib, Monastir (Tunisia), Tunis, Tunisia, Cohen-Hadria, Elie, Tunis Riots (1967) Bouzaglo, David, Music, Bouzaglo (Buzaglo), David Bouzaglo, Ḥayyim, Bouzaglo (Buzaglo), Ḥayyim Bouzaglo, Mordecai, Mysticism, Draa (Dar‘a) Bouzet, Charles du, Anti-Judaism/Antisemitism/Anti-Zionism Bouzid, Nouri, Cinema, A…

Béchar (Colomb-Béchar)

(527 words)

Author(s): Jacob Oliel
Colomb-Béchar(today simply Béchar, Ar. Bashshār) is located 725 km south of Oran near the Moroccan border. It served as the state-capital of the French department Saoura, created by a decree of August 7,  1957.  It is an important road and railroad node that was also the gate to the Sahara.  The town was created from a conglomeration of villages along the banks of the Oued Bechar (Wādī Bashshār), when the French under General Hubert Lyautey occupied it in November 1903.   A few Jews had been living in the ksar of Béchar where they worked asjewelers, blacksmiths, tailors, shoemakers, pe…

Bedel-i Askeri

(330 words)

Author(s): İlker Aytürk
The   bedel-i askeri (military exemption tax) was a revamped version of the Ottoman poll tax ( cizye, Ar. jizya; see Taxation and Dhimma) that was adopted during the Tanzimat period. Until the modernizing reforms of the nineteenth century, non-Muslim subjects of the Ottoman Empire were not allowed to do military service in the army, which was considered to be a Muslim institution, some important exceptions notwithstanding. The Islahat Fermanı (Reform Decree) of 1856, however, provided legal equality to all Ottomans regardless of religion and br…

Behar, Cem

(248 words)

Author(s): Cengiz Sisman
Cem Behar, born into an illustrious Sephardi family in Istanbul in 1946, is an economist and a musician. He received his high school education at RobertCollege, and his baccalaureate and master’s degree from the University of Paris. Behar completed his Ph.D. in demography and economics at the Université de Paris–I (Panthéon-Sorbonne). He then taught as a visiting professor at Paris and Cambridge universities. From 1988 to 1994 and again from 1998 to 2001, he was head of the Department of Economics at Boğaziçi (Bosporus) University in Istanbul. Since 2004, he has been provost and …

Béhar, Nissim

(828 words)

Author(s): Elizabeth Antébi
Born in Jerusalem in 1848,  Nissim Béhar moved with his family to Istanbul, where he attended the Camondo School. Adolphe Crémieux took note of him during a visit to the school and arranged for him to go to Paris, where he became a member of the first class to graduate from the Ecole Normale Israélite Orientale (ENIO), established by the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) in 1867 to train teachers for its school system in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Over the next few years he directed AIU schools in Syria, Bulgaria, and Istanbul. In 1882 Nissim Béhar founded the Torah u-Melakha prima…

Béhar, Rachel

(301 words)

Author(s): Joy Land
Rachel Béhar Stein, an outstanding principal in the Alliance Israélite Universelle educational network, was born in Jerusalem in 1859 during the Ottoman period. Her father was an itinerant rabbi with a mystical bent; her mother was a descendant of the eighteenth-century kabbalist Isaac Luria of Safed. Along with her brother Nissim (1848–1930) and her sister Fortunée (Fortuna; 1860–1929), she was one of the first Sephardi students to enroll in the teacher-training program of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. In 1872, Rachel Béhar and her sister began their studies at the Institut B…

Behmoaras, Lizi

(197 words)

Author(s): Aksel Vansten
Liz Behmoaras is a Jewish author, translator, journalist, and columnist in Turkey. She was born in Istanbul in 1950. After graduating from the Lycée Notre Dame de Sion, she began translating books from French to Turkish. Among the famous authors whose works she translated were Simone de Beauvoir, Marie Cardinal, and Paul Valéry. Behmoaras edited the culture page of the Turkish Jewish newspaper Şalom (Shalom) from 1986 to 1996. She has written columns for the Turkish newspapers Yeni Yüzyıl and Cumhuriyet, as well as the French newspapers Liberation, L’Arche, and Le Tribune Juive, and ha…

Beirut

(1,353 words)

Author(s): Tomer Levi | Kirsten Schulze
1. Late Antiquity to Early Modern Times Although an organized community did not really develop until the nineteenth century, Jews have lived in small numbers in Beirut since late Antiquity and a synagogue may have existed there as early as the sixth century CE.  The Megillat Evyatar (Scroll of Abiathar) relates that the Jewish community of Beirut was under the control of David ben Daniel in the late eleventh century.   In the 1170s, the Spanish Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela noted that there were approximately fifty Jews living in Beirut, but the community was appare…

Béja

(414 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Béja (Ar. Bāja) is a town in the north of Tunisia about 97 kilometers (60 miles) west of Tunis in the fertile Medjerda Valley.  In ancient times, it was the site of a Roman colony called Vaga, and was the central wheat-growing region and breadbasket of Tunisia; hence its appellation throughout the medieval period was Bājat al-Qamḥ (Ar. Béja of Grain).  In the modern period, the French built a new residential quarter for French settlers who worked on large farms in the area.             Jews likely first came to the town in the seventeenth century, mostly from Algeria. One of t…

Béjaïa (Bougie, Bijāya)

(549 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Béjaïa (Fr. Bougie; Cl. Ar. Bijāya) is a town on the Algerian coast about 175 kilometers (109 miles) east of Algiers and west of Greater Kabylia. It became an important city and port when the Ḥammādid dynasty (1015–1152) moved its capital there in 1067. Jews from Qal‘at Banī Ḥammād, the former Ḥammādid capital, likely followed, as evidenced by a reference to a Jewish community in Béjaïa that was persecuted during the Almohad conquest of the city in 1152. The town is also mentioned in a number of documents from the Cairo Geniza, but always in a general context without specific referen…

Beja, Isaac Ben Moses

(128 words)

Author(s): Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky
Isaac ben Moses Beja (d. 1628) was a preacher in several congregations in Salonica, and in his later years taught in the yeshiva of Nikopol (Nigbolu). In addition to homilies, eulogies, and poems, his published works include Bayit Neʾeman (A Faithful House), published in Venice in 1621, and a homily on the building of the synagogue of Nikopol entitled Keter Torah (Crown of the Torah), printed as a section of Le-Ohave Leshon ʿEver (For Lovers of the Hebrew Language) in 1628 in Paris. Two other individuals named Isaac Beja are known to have lived in Salonica. One died in 1635, the other in 1734.  Le…

Bejerano (Becerano), Bekhor Hayyim

(466 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Bekhor Ḥayyim Moşe Bejerano, born in Eski Zagra (now Stara Zagora), Bulgaria, in 1846, was a respected scholar and the chief rabbi of the Turkish Republic from 1920 to 1931. From a very early age, he was educated in traditional Talmud Torahs and yeshivas. He also studied foreign languages and many other secular subjects, and ultimately became fluent in more than fifteen languages.             In 1880, Bejerano moved to Ottoman-ruled Rusçuk (Ruse), Bulgaria, where the students he taught included a future historian of Ottoman Jewry, Solomon Rosanes. Bejerano …

Bekache, Shalom

(442 words)

Author(s): Yosef Tobi
Rabbi Shalom Bekache (also Beccache), author, publisher, and exponent of the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskala), was born in Bombay in 1848 and died in Algiers in 1927. His father, Isaac Raphael, called Bekhash, had moved to India from Baghdad (Post Medieval). Shalom was educated and given his rabbinical ordination in Safed, Palestine. In 1878, after serving as a rabbi in Acre (Akko), he moved to Algeria, where he served as a rabbi first in a small community for four years, and then, until 1922, in the Ben Tuwwa congregation in Algiers. Bekache was typical of adherents of the Haskala movement i…

Bekemoharar Family

(518 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
The Bekemoharar family of rabbis and scholars was descended from Menahem ben Isaac Ashkenazi (1666–1733), who was born in Timişoara (Temesvár) near the border between present-day Romania and Serbia. His family moved to Edirne (Adrianople) in the heartland of the Ottoman Empire when he was two years old. When the chief rabbi of Edirne, Abraham ben Isaac Ṣarfati, died in 1722, the city’s thirteen congregations could not agree on a candidate to replace him. Seven congregations favored the late rabbi’s son-in-law Abraham Geron (d. 1751), but the other six chose Ashkenazi as thei…

Belaïche, Jacques

(351 words)

Author(s): Habib Kazdaghli
Jacques Bellaïche was born in Tunis on July 17, 1913. While working as a sales clerk he joined the Youth Hostel movement in its formative years. Later he joined the union movement during the period of the Popular Front (1936–1937) and was active in the Communist Party. He was arrested in April 1940 for distributing copies of the subversive newspaper L’Avenir Social, held in the civil prison of Tunis, and then moved to the military prison of Algiers. His case was dismissed in July 1941, after sixteen months in prison. He was arrested again on November 28, …

Belgium

(693 words)

Author(s): Brigitte Sion
The Jews of Belgium represent approximately 32,000 people out of a population of 10.4 million. The largest part of this community lives in Brussels and Antwerp, with over fifteen thousand in each city. Belgian Jews with origins in Islamic countries number around two thousand. The first Sephardim to settle in Belgium were Turkish Jews toward the end of the nineteenth century. The influx from Turkey continued until the 1920s. Those who settled in Antwerp worked in the diamond business and founded a community in 1898. In 1913, they built a synagogue with the financial support of the Bel…

Belgrade

(934 words)

Author(s): Yitzchak Kerem
Belgrade (Serb. Beograd; Ott. Turk. Belghād, and occasionally Belghād Üngürüz to distinguish it from other Balkan towns with the same name) is a city in southeastern Europe, situated at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, and the capital of Serbia. Jews have lived in Belgrade at least since the period immediately following the Black Death (1346–1350). In 1376, Ashkenazi Jews expelled from Hungary moved there. They were later joined by Jews from Bavaria (1470) and Italy, many of the lat…

Bénabou, Marcel

(533 words)

Author(s): Dinah Assouline Stillman
The French historian and writer Marcel Bénabou was born in Meknès, Morocco, on June 29, 1939, to an observant Sephardi family. A brilliant student at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school, he left Morocco and religious practice in 1956 to study in Paris and was a student at the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure. He later became a professor of ancient history at the University of Paris7—Denis Diderot and authored a number of scholarly works, most notably La résistance africaine à la romanisatio n (1976). In addition to his academic career, Bénabou is also a novelist and …

Benaioun (Ben Ayoun), Salomon

(191 words)

Author(s): Jamaa Baida
Salomon Benaioun (Ben Ayoun) (d. 1921) was a printer from Oran who, at the request of Haïm Benchimol settled in Tangier at the end of the nineteenth century to publish Le Reveil du Maroc . He also published the newspaper Le Moghrabi to defend Jewish interests. In June 1915, in addition to operating his printing house in Tangier (Imprimerie Française du Maroc), he managed the weekly La Liberté/El Horria, which was published in French and Judeo-Arabic. This newspaper was founded during World War I, and was supported by the French government, which had a stake in c…

Benamozegh, Elijah b. Abraham

(649 words)

Author(s): Laura Bonifacio Roumani
Elijah Benamozegh was born in Livorno (Leghorn), Italy, on April 24, 1823 into a family of wealthy merchants and rabbis. His parents, Abraham and Clara, were originally from Fez, Morocco. His father, who was seventy-one years old when Elijah was born, died when the child was three. Under the guidance of his maternal uncle,  Judah Coriat (see Coriat Family ), Elijah undertook traditional Jewish biblical and rabbinic studies; at a very early age he also began the study of Kabbala, especially the Zohar. Forced to enter the world of business to earn a living, Benamozegh worked in …
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