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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(1,169 words)

Author(s): Ruth Kimche | Orly R. Rahimiyan
1. Egypt Starting in the 1930s, a number of organizations calling themselves He-Halutz ( he-ḥaluṣ, The Pioneer) appeared in Egypt. The first was established during the summer of 1933 in Cairo and served as a Zionist training center (Heb. hakhshara). It did not offer an ideological educational program and operated for only a few months before disbanding. In 1934, Moshe Ben-Asher, a local Zionist activist, established a branch of the global He-Halutz organization in Alexandria. Most of those who joined the hakhshara saw immigration to Palestine as the solution to their economi…

Hekim Yakub

(12 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Jacopo of Gaeta (Hekim Yakub) Norman A. Stillman

Hekmat, Shamsi

(640 words)

Author(s): Haideh Sahim
Shamsi Hekmat (1917–1997) was a Jewish activist, educator, author, and women’s advocate in Iran and, after the Islamic Revolution, in the United States.  Shamsi Hekmat (Pers. Shamsī Ḥekmat), née Moradpour, was born in Tehran on December 25, 1917. An educator, activist, and humanitarian, she was educated at the American Girls’ School of Tehran and Sage College, both established and run by American Presbyterian missionaries (see Christian Missionaries and Missionary Schools). She graduated from Sage College with a B.A. …

Hekmat, Shamsi

(158 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
Shamsi Hekmat (Shamsī Murādpūr Ḥikmat) (1921–1998) was a women’s rights activist in the Jewish community of Iran. She was an advocate of changes in the inheritance laws for the benefit of women and in 1947 was one of the founders (with Maliḥeh Kashfī) of Sāzmān-i Bānovān-i Yahudī-yi Irānī (The Jewish Women’s Organization of Iran). She subsequently served as its president and was a member of its board of directors for thirty-two years. Working with the Women’s Organization, Hekmat helped to establish day care centers for children from poor families. She was also the treasurer…

Hellenistic sources

(9 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Sefer Josippon Norman A. Stillman

Hemsi, Alberto

(1,146 words)

Author(s): Edwin Seroussi
Alberto Hemsi (Chicurel) was born in Kassaba, Ottoman Turkey, on December 23, 1896 and died in Aubervilliers, near Paris, on October 7, 1975. His musical talent was recognized at an early age, and in 1907 he was sent to the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Turgutlu (New Izmir), where he studied Ottoman music with Shem Tov Şikyar and synagogue music with Isaac Algazi. At around the same time, as a member of the youth band at the Société Musicale Israélite, he was also exposed to Western music (flute, trombone, cornet, clarinet, piano, and composition). With the en…


(11 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Clothing, Jewelry and Make-up; Marriage Norman A. Stillman


(2,646 words)

Author(s): Noam Sienna
Henna was used throughout the Islamic world for both everyday and ritual ornamentation. In passage ceremonies it marked and protected participants. It was used as well on holidays and at times of joy—most prominently in prewedding ceremonies. Jewish communities adapted henna to their own purposes, creating novel rituals and ceremonies. Today, henna ceremonies have become popular again among Sephardi/Mizraḥi Jews in Israel and France. 1. Botany Henna (Ar. al-ḥinnāʾ , Pers. ḥana) refers to a reddish-brown dye produced from the ground leaves of the henna plant ( Lawsonia inermis), …

Heqdesh (Qodesh, Waqf, Ḥabs)

(990 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
Charity and social welfare have since ancient times been an integral part of the Jewish communal ethos. Already in biblical times, funds and property could be consecrated to the needs of the Temple (Bet ha-Miqdash) in Jerusalem (e.g., see II Kings 12:5–17; Mishna Temura 7:2, Sheqalim 4:7). The term for dedicated property was heqdesh (consecrated). The Talmud forbade the dedication of heqdesh property in the biblical sense following the destruction of the Temple, since the misappropriation of such property would have constituted sacrilege (Heb. meʿila). But in the Middle Ages bo…

Herat, Harat

(1,380 words)

Author(s): Ben Zion Yehoshua-Raz
1. Historical overview Herat (Harat) is a city and province in western Afghanistan and a part of Greater Khurasan, situated in the fruitful valley of the Hari-Rūd River. In antiquity the name of Herat is mentioned in several forms: The Greeks called the city Areia, and in the inscriptions of Darius the Great (522–486 B.C.E.) it is called Haraiva. Alexander the Great, who built the city in the fourth century B.C.E, called it Alexandria de Arya. The Sasanians turned Herat into a military center that …

Heskel, Sassoon (Sasson Hesqail)

(396 words)

Author(s): Reeva Spector Simon
Born in 1860, Sir  Sassoon Heskel (Sasson Hesqail [Eskell]) was the son of Ḥakham Heskel Shlomo David, a student of the renowned Baghdadi rabbi ʿAbd Allāh Somekh. Heskel studied at the Alliance Israélite Universelle School in Baghdad and went on for higher education to Vienna, Berlin, and London, receiving a law degree at the Ottoman law school in Istanbul. He returned to Baghdad in 1885, where he was appointed foreign secretary to the Ottoman governor. When the Young Turks came to power in 1908, Heskel became a deputy in the Ottoman Parliament, serving there for ten years. In 1909 h…

Ḥevra (Charitable or Sacred Society)

(3,510 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The ḥevra (Heb. society, association; pl. ḥevrot, ḥavarot) was a private society or confraternity which provided various services to Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere in the Islamic world—and indeed throughout the countries of Christian Europe. Most ḥevrot resembled modern nonprofit organizations and charitable foundations, receiving funds from communal taxes and offering burial, medicine, food, and other benefits to the needy. Benevolent societies of this kind continue to function in present-day Turkey, although…
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