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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Kaʽb al-Aḥbār

(441 words)

Author(s): Shari Lowin
Kaʽb al-Aḥbār (d. ca. 652), an early Yemenite Jewish convert to Islam, is widely credited in Islamic sources as a major source of Isrā’īliyyāt (Israelite tales). Scholars have posited that the name Kaʽb al-Aḥbār is the Arabic transcription of Jacob or ‘Aqiba he-ḥaver, either an honorific or a title indicating a scholar in a yeshiva. There is little concrete information about Kaʽb’s life or the circumstances of his conversion. According to Muslim traditions, he arrived in Medina during the caliphate of ʽUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (r. 634–644) and became one of his closest advisers. …

Kaʽb al-Ashraf

(370 words)

Author(s): Shari Lowin
Kaʽb al-Ashraf was an opponent of Muḥammad in Medina and the leader of the Banū ʾl-Naḍīr, a Jewish tribe, of which his mother was a member (his father was an Arab). Kaʽb’s claim to fame derives mainly from his assassination by Muslims, apparently acting on orders from Muhammad. The Islamic sources disagree as to the reason for the assassination. Some (e.g., al-Wāqidī, the early historian of the Prophet’s military campaigns) attribute it to Kaʽb’s poetic satires against Muḥammad and his Companions, which culminated in his going to Mecca to inci…


(701 words)

Author(s): Ben Zion Yehoshua-Raz
Kabul in eastern Afghanistan has been an important crossroads on the route to India and the Khyber Pass since antiquity and has been the capital of Afghanistan since 1773. End of 2009, its population of approximately 2.5 million included only one Jew. There were apparently Jews living in Kabul in their own quarter as far back as the twelfth century. The Arab geographer al-Idrīsī (d. 1166) wrote in his Nuzhat al-Mushtāq fi ʾ khtirāq al-Āfāq that the Muslim population of the city was so large that there was a special quarter for the Jewish “infidels.” Many Jews served i…


(841 words)

Author(s): Orly R. Rahimiyan
In premodern Iran, the   kadkhudā (Pers. master of the household; later, mayor or alderman) was the administrative head of a Jewish community. He had the same  standing as the community’s religious leaders. While they handled internal religious matters, the kadkhudā managed internal communal affairs as well as relations with persons outside the community, and especially government officials. He was the Iranian equivalent of the public administrative figure that in other Jewish communities of the Islamic world was known variously as nasi, nagid, shaykh, muqaddam , or qāʿid . Before t…

Kadoorie Family

(1,287 words)

Author(s): Maisie Meyer
The Kadoorie (Khaḍḍūrī) family has long played a major role in the economy of the southeastern China coast and of Hong Kong, which partly thanks to their contributions grew in the course of a century from a small provincial colony to a world financial center. In Baghdad, where the family originated, the Kadoories were “merchant farmers” in an era when livestock was an important medium of exchange. Members of the family were among the Baghdadi commercial pioneers who founded Jewish enclaves in trading ports in the Far East in the mid-nineteenth century. Ellis (1865–1922), later Sir Ell…

Kahanoff, Jacqueline Shohet

(382 words)

Author(s): Stanley Nash
Jacqueline Shohet Kahanoff was born in 1917 in Cairo to parents who hailed from Iraq and Tunisia. Educated in French schools, she moved to the United States in 1940–41, where she studied, wrote, and published in English, winning the Atlantic Monthly award for best short story and the Houghton Mifflin Fellowship for her novel Jacob’s Ladder. Returning to Egypt in 1951, she witnessed the decline in Jewish fortunes that began with the Nasser regime and the Sinai Campaign of 1956. After spending some time in Paris, she settled in Israel. She first gained prominence there through Aharon …

Kāhina, al-

(415 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
Al-Kāhina (Ar. the sorceress) was the name given by the Arabs to the leader of the Berber Jerāwa tribe in the Aurès Mountains region of the Central Maghreb (present-day Algeria). The name reflected the fact that she was an ecstatic who prophesied and performed divinations. Al-Kāhina led the resistance against the Muslim Arab invaders after the fall of Byzantine  Carthage in 692/93 to Ḥassān ibn al-Nuʿmān. She inflicted a major defeat on him and drove his forces out of Ifrīqiya (modern Tunisia) almost to Tripoli. For several years, she held sway over a lar…

Kalai, Mordechai Ben Solomon

(482 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Mordechai Bekhor ben Solomon Kalai (Qalaʽi, ca. 1556–1647) was a rabbi and scholar in the Ottoman Empire. Born in Salonica, he received his education from such renowned rabbis as Aaron ben Joseph Sasson (1550 or 1555–1626), Aaron ibn Ḥason, and Isaac Franco. Although not of Sephardi extraction (he was perhaps Romaniot or Ashkenazi), Kalai was trained in the Sephardi tradition and eventually headed the yeshiva and synagogue of the Portugal Yaḥiyya congregation. A pious and humble scholar, he taught numerous students, many of whom went on to become noted figures in…

Kalai (Qalʿī), Samuel Ben Moses

(381 words)

Author(s): Samuel Morell
Samuel ben Moses Kalai (Qalʿī; variant: le-vet Qalʿī) was a halakhic authority in the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century. His surname alludes to his family’s origin in Calatayud in Spain. Kalai was born and raised in Corfu, where he studied under David ha-Kohen, an important Romaniot halakhic authority. He later settled in the Greek town of Arta (southern Epirus), where he married the daughter of Rabbi Benjamin ben Mattityahu. From 1525 on, Kalai was deeply involved in defending his father-in-law in a bitter, prolonged, and widespread controversy in which …


(4,579 words)

Author(s): Gregor Schwarb
1.   Definition, Terminology The term  Kalām (Ar. speculative reasoning) is a generic name for doctrinal, speculative theology— i.e., the theoretical science of the fundamental doctrines of religion (Ar. uṣūl al-dīn)—in Arabic Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. It is theoretical reflection engaged in rationalizing and explaining the cognitive content of the symbolic language of religion and the nature of revelation, as well as its operation within the individual and its place and function within the community. The mutakallimūn (practitioners of Kalām) conceived this sci…

Kalef (Kalev), Yehoshua

(1,018 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Yehoshuʽa Yuda Kalef (Eshua Kalev, Joshua Kalef, Josué Caleb) (1875–1943), a lawyer and journalist, was an early member and leader of the Zionist movement in Ottoman and independent Bulgaria. Descended from the respected Kalef and Romano families, he received a traditional Jewish education before attending the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) school in his native Plovdiv, where he studied French and developed an appreciation for French culture that remained with him throughout his life. His childhood also nurtured in him a strong sense …

Kalīm (Cairo), al-

(340 words)

Author(s): Ovadia Yeroushalmy
Al-Kalīm was a bimonthly Arabic journal of the Karaite Jews of Egypt published in Cairo between 1945 and 1957. The name al-Kalīm (Ar. The Speaker) alludes to an epithet of the prophet Moses, who was known for speaking with God. Al-Kalīm covered the news of Karaite communities both in Egypt and worldwide. Its first issue appeared on February 16, 1945, following a period of around eight years in which no Karaite newspaper had been published in Egypt. From its founding until the declaration of independence of the State of Israel in May 1948 and afterwards, Al-Kalīm covered political and worl…

Kamhi, Cefi Jozef

(199 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Cefi Jozef Kamhi was born on November 21, 1952 in Istanbul and graduated from Bosporus University of Istanbul. He is the founder and chairman of Bodrum Yalıkavak Tourism and Yacht Harbour Investments S.A. Between 1995 and 1999 he was a member of parliament, representing the center-right Doğru Yol Partisi (True Path Party). The party selected him as a candidate because of his mastery of public relations and lobbying, as well as the reputation of his father, Jak Kamhi, the president of the Quincentennial Foundation, who often represented Turkey in international economic forums.…

Kamhi, Jak V.

(956 words)

Author(s): Stanford Shaw
Jak V. Kamhi has for many years been one of Turkey’s leading industrialists. He is a major figure in the effort to promote friendship for Turkey around the world, as well as reconciliation between Turkey and world Jewry. Born in Istanbul in 1925, Kamhi is a member of the prominent Qimḥī/Qamhi family of Sephardim, which traces its origins back to the expulsion from Spain. Over the years the family has produced a number of rabbis and other influential figures in the Ottoman Jewish community. Kamhi is a graduate of the Saint Michel French Lycée and the Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul…


(387 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ayalon
Kamishli (Ar. al-Qāmishlī) is a city in northeastern Syria on the Turkish border, founded in 1926 as a station on the Taurus railway. It has a mixed population of Kurds, Armenians, and Assyrian Christians. Little is known about its Jewish population. Jews arrived in the city in the late 1920s, mostly from neighboring Nusaybin (now in Turkey), where a community had existed for centuries. During the French mandate over Syria, there were about two hundred Jewish families in Kamishli. The number dropped sharply after the establishment of Israel in 1948, as the town’s Jews moved to the la…

Kaneti, Selim

(350 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Selim Kaneti (1934–1992) was a renowned Turkish professor of civil law. Born in Istanbul in 1934, he graduated from the Lycée Saint Benoît d’Istanbul and subsequently attended the Istanbul University Faculty of Law. In 1972, he obtained his doctorate from Istanbul University and became a professor of civil law at the Istanbul University Faculty of Law. In 1984, he was appointed head of the Finance and Economics Department and the Tax Law Subdivision at Istanbul University Faculty of Law. He served in these positions until …

Kanouï, Simon

(566 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Simon Kanouï, an influential banker and leader in the Jewish community of Algeria, was born into a wealthy and prominent family in Oran in 1842. Many of his relatives occupied positions of communal leadership. In 1863, he married Esther Lasry, daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Oran. On March 31, 1865, Kanouï became a lay leader of the Jewish Consistory of Oran, and on December 12, 1872, a member of the Oran Consistorial Committee. After serving as acting president of the consistory between 1870 and 1873, he became its president on July 20, 1876—a post he held …


(7,238 words)

Author(s): Daniel J. Lasker | Joel Beinin
Karaism (Heb. qaraʾut), the form of Judaism which claims to adhere to a more literal interpretation of the Bible ( miqraʾ) than that of the Rabbanites, the exponents of Rabbinic Judaism, and which rejects the institution of Jewish Oral Law as codified in the Mishna and Talmud, had its origins and greatest intellectual accomplishments in the Islamic world. It emerged in Iran, Iraq, and the Land of Israel in the late eighth and ninth centuries, and it had a Golden Age in tenth- and eleventh-century Jerusalem. During …
Date: 2015-09-03

Karaite Synagogues of Jerusalem and Cairo

(2,783 words)

Author(s): David Cassuto
The oldest known Karaite synagogue is the one in Jerusalem. Because all Karaite religious trusts, including the one in Jerusalem, were managed by the Karaite community in Egypt, in a sense this Israeli synagogue is an extension of the Karaite property in Egypt (al-Gamil 1988, p. 316.). The Karaites in Egypt were responsible for its maintenance and state of repair. In 1938, the British authorities named Elie Barukh Masʿudah of Cairo manager of the religious trusts in Jerusalem and put him in charge of the associated properties, including the old synagogue. It w…


(7 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Carasso Norman A. Stillman

Karmi Shelli (Edirne)

(377 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Karmi Shelli (My Own Vineyard), called Bağım in Turkish, was a Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish monthly published in Edirne (Adrianople) from 1890 to 1891, but printed in Vienna and Belgrade. It was founded by Baruch ben Isaac Miṭrani (di Trani) (1847-1919), an intellectual and writer born in Edirne in 1847, as a literary and national journal to promote the idea of national rebirth and Jewish colonization of Ottoman Palestine. It was a successor to an earlier monthly, Karmi (My Vineyard), which he had published in Edirne (and Pressburg) from 1881 to 1882. Both Karmi and Karmi Shelli were printed …

Kasabi, Joseph ben Nissim

(453 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Joseph ben Nissim Kaṣabi (Qaṣṣabi) ( ca. 1625- ca. 1690) was a rabbi and scholar in the Ottoman Empire. Born in Istanbul around 1625 and educated at the yeshiva of Joseph ben Moses Ṭrani (Miṭrani) the Elder (1569–1639), Kaṣabi was one of the foremost religious teachers in the Ottoman capital and often sought to obtain the agreement of other prominent rabbis on matters that he taught his students. He maintained a close friendship with Abraham ben Meʾir Rosanes (ca. 1635–1720) and corresponded with other important rabbinical figures of the time, receiving queries on hal…

Kasba Tadla

(9 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Atlas Mountains Norman A. Stillman


(1,566 words)

Author(s): Haideh Sahim
Located south of Teheran and north of Isfahan, Kashan (Pers. Kāshān) in central Iran is one of the country’s oldest cities. The origin of its Jewish population is unknown, but its dialect, Central or Median, points to its antiquity.  Little is known about the history of Kashan’s Jews until the Safavid period (1501–1736). Kashan was a flourishing city before the Mongol invasion in the early part of the thirteenth century, which wreaked harm on Jews and non-Jews more or less indiscriminately. Because Kashan’s Muslim inhabitants were already mostly Shī‛ī, t…

Kassin Family

(808 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
According to a tradition of the Kassin (Kaṣin) family, its roots go back to Spain before the expulsion in 1492. The first known member of the family was Señor Solomon Kassin, who fled Spain and settled in Aleppo. His descendants included many eminent scholars and communal leaders both in Aleppo and in American immigrant communities. The first well-documented descendant of Señor Solomon Kassin was Judah ben Yom-Ṭov Kassin, who was born in Aleppo in 1708 and died in 1783. Like his father, he served as av bet din (head of the rabbinical court), and on many issues he was in opposition to Chief Rabbi R…

Kassin, Jacob

(308 words)

Author(s): Mark Kligman
Rabbi Jacob Kassin (1900–1995), born and raised in Jerusalem, was the chief rabbi of the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York, from 1933 until his death in 1995. The son of Rabbi Saul Kassin (1864–1916), who moved from Aleppo to Jerusalem in 1892, he was descended from Solomon Kassin(b. 1540), who fled from Spain to Aleppo in the sixteenth century, there becoming a leader of the Jewish community and the progenitor of  a long line of religious leaders (see Kassin Family).  Jacob Kassin was taught by his father and attended the Yeshivat Porat Joseph. Like his father, h…

Katav, Shalom (Salīm al-Kātib)

(380 words)

Author(s): Lev Hakak
Shalom Katav was born Salīm al-Kātib in Baghdad in 1931. As a youth he attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle School there and became a member of the  Zionist underground movement (He-Halutz). He began publishing in Arabic in Iraq and continued to do so after he immigrated to Israel in 1950, but in time he shifted mainly to Hebrew. In  Israel, he was a teacher, elementary school principal, and school district superintendent. From 1969 to 1972 he was the World Zionist Organization’s educational and cultural director for southern France. Katav’s first book, Muwākib al-Ḥirmān (Carava…

Kattan, Naim

(300 words)

Author(s): Lital Levy
Naim Kattan is a Francophone Canadian novelist, essayist, and critic. Born in Baghdad in 1928, Naim Kattan attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle school and took a deep interest in Arabic and French literature at an early age. He studied law at the University of Baghdad from 1945 until 1947, then took a French government scholarship to study at the Sorbonne from 1947 to 1951, where he became active in Parisian literary circles. His fictionalized memories of these years appeared as Adieu, Babylone(1975; translated as Farewell, Babylon, 1976; 2nd ed. 2007) and   Les Fruits arrachés (1…

Kaya, Jak

(99 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Jak Kaya is a Turkish businessman. He was born on May 1, 1938 in Tire and in 1961 graduated as a construction engineer from the prestigious Istanbul Technical University. He is a partner in  Ege Mermer (Aegean Marble), a company specializing in the importing of machinery and materials for the production of marble. Between 1980 and 1990 he was vice president of the Izmir Karataş Jewish Hospital. From 1990 to 2004 he was vice president of the  Izmir Jewish Community, and he has been its president since January 2005. He is fluent in French and English. Rifat Bali

Kayat, Claude

(334 words)

Author(s): Brigitte Sion
Claude Kayat, born July 24, 1939 in Sfax, Tunisia, is one of the leading French-language writers from North Africa.He immigrated to Israel with his family in 1955, then to Sweden in 1958. The author of twenty-one plays in French and Swedish, he is mostly known for his seven novels, three of which have been awarded literary prizes.   Mohammed Cohen (1981), his first and most famous work, is an autobiographical novel that recounts the childhood of a boy born in Tunisia to a Muslim mother and a Jewish father. The hero lives in a colorful lower-class enviro…

Kebudi, Rejin (Akyüz)

(178 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Rejin (Akyüz) Kebudi is a Turkish Jewish scientist and professor of medicine. Born in 1958 in Izmir, she graduated first in her class from the Izmir American College for Girls, and in 1982 was first in her class in the Faculty of Medicine of Aegean University. In 1993 she became an associate professor of pediatrics and pediatric oncology. She became a full professor in 2000, and since then has also been a member of the executive board of the Istanbul University Oncology Institute and director of…

Kedourie, Elie

(496 words)

Author(s): Daphne Tsimhoni
One of the most outstanding British historians of the Middle East, Elie Kedourie owed his breadth of learning and the formation of his attitudes to his early life circumstances. Born in 1926 and reared in the traditional Jewish environment of Baghdad, schooled at the French-speaking Alliance Israélite Universelle primary school and then at the English-speaking Shammash High School, he acquired a deep familiarity with Arabic, French, and English language and literature. He also witnessed, at the age of fifteen, the farhūd , the pogrom against the Jews of Baghdad in 1941. Graduating in…

Keribar, Izzet

(267 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
İzzet Keribar was born in Istanbul in 1936. An enthusiast of photography from an early age, he gained experience and improved his skills in Korea, where he fulfilled his military service in the Turkish army in 1957. After a long interlude, Keribar went back to photography in 1980. Since then, he has traveled widely within and outside Turkey to practice his art. He is an honorary member of the Istanbul Amateur Photography and Cinema Club (İFSAK) and in 1985 and 1988, respectively, was awarded the International Federation of Photography ratings of AFIAP (Artist) an…

Kethüda (Kâhya, Heb. Shtadlan)

(1,025 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
The terms kethüda, kâhya, and shtadlan were all used to designate the individuals appointed by Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire to represent them to the government. Kethüda is an Ottoman Turkish term derived from the Persian ket-khodā or kad-khodā (master of a household). When spoken, kethüda was pronounced kâhya or kyâhya (pl. kâhyalar), and carried the meaning of “administrator.” In the Ottoman context, the term was an element in kapi kethüdasi or kethüda bevvabân, the title of the chief of the doorkeepers who guarded the imperial palace in Istanbul. In the …


(1,928 words)

Author(s): Judith Olszowy-Schlanger
The ketubba (pl. ketubbot, lit. what is written), or Jewish marriage contract, is a written document produced at every marriage which lists the husband’s obligations to his wife, primarily financial but also moral. The word ketubba refers both to the document and to the payment it records and guarantees. A written document ( ketav) is one of three ways by which a marriage can be contracted (M. Qiddushin 1:1), and with time it became a precondition of marital cohabitation (Maimonides, Mishne Torah, Ishut 10:7). As a binding legal document concerning a financial transaction, the ketubba is…

Ketubba Artistic Traditions

(1,354 words)

Author(s): Shalom Sabar
The art of decorating the marriage contract (Heb. ketubba) flourished in most of the Jewish communities in the lands of Islam. Whereas in Christian Europe large, richly decorated ketubbot were generally commissioned only by wealthy families, in the Islamic East the phenomenon was much more widespread and encompassed larger segments of Jewish society. The practice seems, in fact, to have emerged in the Islamic realm, and the earliest extant decorated ketubbot are from Egypt and Palestine of the tenth to twelfth centuries. Discovered in the Cairo Geniza, these early examples attes…
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