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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Melammed ha-Kohen, Raḥamim

(494 words)

Author(s): David Yeroushalmi
Raḥamim Melammed ha-Kohen (1864–1932) was an Iranian rabbi, communal leader, and author of numerous works in Hebrew and Judeo-Persian. Born into a family of rabbis and teachers in Shiraz, he was recognized as an exceptionally talented student and preacher already in his youth. Married in 1882, he performed a variety of rabbinic, educational, and congregational tasks in his native community. He emigrated with his family to Ottoman Palestine in January 1907, and, like the majority of Jews of Iranian extraction who arrived there between the 1880s and 1920s, he settled in Jerusalem. Melamm…

Melammed, Siman Ṭov

(530 words)

Author(s): David Yeroushalmi
Siman Ṭov Melammed (d. 1800, 1823, or 1828), also known by the pen name Ṭuvya, was a Jewish poet, thinker, and rabbi in Iran and Afghanistan. The information concerning his background, life, and dates of birth and death is scanty and at times conflicting. Born in Yazd in the first half of the eighteenth century, he moved to Herat (Afghanistan), where he served as a revered teacher, rabbi, and communal judge and evidently wrote his major philosophical work, Ḥayāt al-Rūḥ (Jud.-Pers. The Life of the Soul), published in Jerusalem in 1898. Sometime before 1793, probably spurre…

Melilla

(772 words)

Author(s): Rica Amran | Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah
Melilla (Mod. Ar. Mlīlya; Berb. Tamlilt, the white one; Med. Ar. Malīla) is a port city on the northwestern coast of Africa, today under Spanish sovereignty, but claimed by Morocco. It was probably founded by the Phoenicians under the name of Rusadir, alluding to a nearby cape. In the centuries that followed it was under Punic, Roman, and Visigothic rule and finally was incorporated into the Idrisid kingdom of Fez. It came under Fatimid suzerainty in the early tenth century, but in 930 it was taken by the Umayyad caliph of al-Andalus ,ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III, who fortified it and put it und…

Meliṣa, Sefer ha-

(250 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
Sefer ha-Meliṣa (Heb. The Book of Rhetoric) is one of the only two surviving Hebrew-Persian lexicons (the other was penned by Moses Shīrvānī). Comprising some eighteen thousand entries, it translates Hebrew words gathered from the Bible, Talmud, and midrashim  into Hebrew and comments on them in Persian (and occasionally in Turkish); it also translates numerous Aramaic, Syriac, and Greek words. The lexicon is of enduring importance to linguists because the words are translated into the old Persian dialect of  Khwārizm, but it has not yet been critically studied. Because it…

Mellah

(6 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
see Mallāḥ Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman

Memmi, Albert

(668 words)

Author(s): Julie Strongson-Aldape
Albert Memmi, one of the best-known North African Jewish writers of the twentieth century, was born on December 15, 1920 in a poor Jewish neighborhood of Tunis, to a father of Italian-Jewish descent and a mother of Berber-Jewish origins. As the son of an artisan, Memmi experienced a sense of alienation from the richer Jewish community which surrounded him. In his first and perhaps most famous work, the autobiographical La statue de sel ( Pillar of Salt), published in 1952 with an introduction by Albert Camus, Memmi explains this feeling of difference as one of the many layers o…

Menasce Family

(676 words)

Author(s): Adam Guerin
The Menasce family, of Sephardi origin, was one of the wealthiest and most powerful Egyptian Jewish families in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The first members of the family to settle in Egypt came there from Palestine and Morocco. The earliest mention of the family in Cairo dates to the eighteenth century. Jacob de Menasce (1807–1887) began his career as a money-changer (Ar. ṣarrāf) and banker in Cairo’s Jewish quarter; later, in partnership with Jacob Cattaoui (Qaṭṭāwī), he opened the international banking and trading house of  J. L. Menasce et fils, with branches thr…

Mendes, Alvaro

(15 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Ben Yaʿesh (also Ibn Yaʿish or Abenæs), Solomon Norman A. Stillman

Merida

(565 words)

Author(s): Arturo Prats
Merida is one of the most ancient Jewish settlements in Spain. The city is located in the region of Extremadura in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula, near the frontier with Portugal. It is a very ancient city, and its foundation dates from the Roman period. Eliyahu Ashtor asserts that Merida was "the most important [Jewish] community of all the western provinces of the peninsula." In Abraham Ibn Da'ud's Sefer ha-Qabbala , it is mentioned as the final destination of a group of exiled "noble Jews from Jerusalem" after the destruction of the Temple by Titus. Acco…

Mesas (Meshash), Joseph

(863 words)

Author(s): Zvi Zohar
Joseph Mesas (Meshash), the scion of a distinguished Sephardi rabbinical family and the son of Rabbi Ḥayyim Mesas, was born in 1892 in Meknes. In 1912 he participated in the establishment of a new institution for rabbinical training in Meknes, founded on the initiative of Rabbi Zeʾev Wolf Halperin, who was also the founder of the Em Habanim educational organization. In 1924 Mesas accepted a position as rabbi of Tlemcen  in Algeria. He returned to Meknes in the spring of 1940 and was appointed dayyan, a post he retained until 1964, when he made aliya and was elected chief rabbi of Haifa, in whic…

Meshullam of Volterra

(682 words)

Author(s): Abraham David | Alessandra Veronese
Meshullam  ben Menahem (Emanuele) da Volterra (Buonaventura) was born sometime before 1443 and died after 1507. A scion of a wealthy Tuscan Jewish family, he lived in Volterra and appears to have conducted a moneylending business there and in Florence for some twenty years. In 1461, he operated a pawnshop in the town of Arezzo in partnership with his father, his brother Lazzaro, and Buonaventura son of Abramo of Siena.  In addition to moneylending, Meshullam was a merchant dealing in precious stones, wine, oil, grain, wool, and cloth. He traveled extensively in connectio…

Mesopotamian Zionist Committee (Baghdad)

(314 words)

Author(s): Reuven Snir
The Mesopotamian Zionist Committee (Heb. ha-Aguda ha-Ṣiyyonit le-Aram Naharayim; Ar. al-Jamʿiyya al-Ṣahyūniyya li-Bilād al-Rāfidayn) was founded in Baghdad on March 5, 1921, with the assistance of the Jewish Agency. The head of the committee, Aaron Sasson ben Eliahu Nahum (1877–1962), known as ha-more (Heb. the teacher), is considered to have been the first Iraqi Jewish exponent of political Zionism. The committee took over the club and library of the Jewish Literary Society (Ar. al-Jamiʿiyya al-Adabiyya al-Isrāʾīliyya) and pressed the Zionist cause in Iraq. Zion…

Messianism

(9,438 words)

Author(s): Bat-Zion Eraqi Klorman | Michael G. Wechsler
1. Messianic movements in the Medieval period By the advent of Islam in the early seventh century, the messianic idea was already firmly established as a central tenet of Judaism in its broadest (i.e., pan-sectarian) sense—as famously dogmatized and concisely expressed in Maimonides’s Thirteen Principles (or Fundamentals) ( thalātha ʿashrata qāʿida) of faith, the twelfth of which is “Believing and affirming the coming of [the Messiah], and not [thinking] that he is tardy—but rather, ‘should he tarry, you shall wait for him expectantly’ (Habbaku…
Date: 2015-09-03

Messika, Ḥabiba

(546 words)

Author(s): Yosef Tobi
Ḥabība Messika (Messica) was born into a family of Jewish musicians in Tunisia in 1899. She studied voice and the piano with her aunt Layla Sfez. At the age of twenty she embarked on her performing career as a wedding singer. Later she was attracted to the theater. Her teacher in this area was Muḥammad Bourgiba, and thanks to him she played leading roles in famous comedies and world-famous dramas. It is sometimes said that she was more talented as an actress than as a singer. In her time she was seen as an ideal woman not only for her talent and beauty bu…

Mevasser (Calcutta)

(135 words)

Author(s): Lital Levy
The Mevasser (Herald) was a weekly newspaper in Judeo-Arabic published by the Baghdadi Jewish community in Calcutta on the Hebrew press of Ezekiel ben Sulaymān Hanin from 1873 to 1878. It was one of a number of newspapers in Judeo-Arabic and/or Hebrew printed by Baghdadi Jews in India during the second half of the nineteenth century. It carried local news of Jewish communities in India, announcements of births, deaths, and marriages, shipping news, and worldwide Jewish news translated and reprinted from other Jewish newspapers. Lital Levy Bibliography Avishur, Yiṣḥaq. “Baghdadi Ju…

Mevorakh ben Sa‘adya

(959 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
One of the five sons of Saʿadya ben Mevorakh, Abū 'l-Faḍl Mevorakh ben Saʿadya was born around 1040 and began his rise to prominence over the course of the late 1050s under the gaonate of Daniel ben Azariah (r. 1051–1062), even before his older brother Judah ben Saʿadya became nagid (head of the Jews in the Fatimid empire). By the time Judah attained that office, between 1062 and 1064, Mevorakh was already styled rayyis (leader or chief), a title acknowledging him either as physician or a government official or both. He seems to have enjoyed even more respect than his brother as a scholar, halakh…

Mexico

(582 words)

Author(s): Evelyn Dean-Olmsted
Sephardim and Mizraḥim make up more than half of Mexico’s nearly forty thousand Jews. In Mexico City, where over 98 percent of the country’s Jews reside, the four major Jewish subgroups maintain separate organizations—including synagogues, schools, and community centers—based on place of ancestral origin. Three of these organizations represent Sephardi and Mizraḥi Jews: the Comunidad Sefaradí for descendants of Judeo-Spanish speakers from Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans; the Comunidad Maguén David for descendants of Jews from Aleppo; and the   Alianza Monte Sinai for those …

Meyuḥas Family

(535 words)

Author(s): Pinchas Giller
The Meyuḥas family left Spain in 1492 during the expulsion and arrived in Jerusalem in 1510. Their earliest affiliation was with the Yoḥanan ben Zakkay Synagogue in the Old City. Other members of the family settled in Greece, Turkey, and elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire. The brothers Abraham ben Samuel Meyuḥas (d. 1767) and Raphael ben Samuel Meyuḥas (1695–1771) both studied in the Bet Yaʿaqov Yeshiva. Raphael subsequently became its head. Abraham was a noted kabbalist whose commentaries and conclusions were incorporated into the final recensions of the Lurianic canon (…
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