Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World

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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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Saadoun, Yaakov

(242 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Yaakov Saadoun, the son of a shoemaker, was born in 1928 in the Tunisian city of Sfax, where his family lived in Picvill, a new quarter built by the French. Saadoun attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle school until World War II, then went on to a French commercial school and became a clerk in a shipping company. Deeply affected by the German occupation of Sfax (November 1942 to April 1943), he joined  Tséiré Ohavé Tsion (Heb. Ṣeʿire Ohave Ṣiyyon), a local Zionist organization, when he was eighteen. He soon became one of its leaders and the editor of its newsp…

Saʿadya ben Judah

(158 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Saʿadya ben Judah, the scion of a family of physicians and heads of the Jewish community of Egypt, was a son of the nagid Judah ben Saʿadya. Since Judah died when Saʿadya was a child, the leadership of Egyptian Jewry passed to his uncle, Mevorakh ben Saʿadya, and thus Judah never became nagid or raʾīs al-yahūd (head of the Jews).  He was still active in the Jewish community when his uncle received the title nagid in 1094. The title rayyis granted to Saʿadya ben Judah in a poetic dirge did not indicate an official position in the community but rather a high rank at the Fati…

Saʿadya Gaon

(4,229 words)

Author(s): Haggai Ben-Shammai
Saʿadya ben Joseph, the greatest scholar and communal leader of the late gaonic period, was born in 882 in Dilāṣ, in the Fayyūm province of Egypt (after which he is often called al-Fayyūmī). He began to study Jewish sources and general science and philosophy while still in Egypt, around 900, and by then had already corresponded with the philosopher and physician Isaac Israeli of Qayrawan. Toward the end of the first decade of the tenth century he left Egypt for Palestine, apparently to Tiberias, the seat of the Palestinian yeshiva, where his wife and children joined him later.…

Ṣabāḥ (Tunis), al-

(296 words)

Author(s): Mohsen Hamli
Al-Ṣabāḥ (The Morning) was a four- to sixteen-page daily in Judeo-Arabic published in Tunis from November 1, 1904 to May 14, 1940. (The French part of its masthead read: Es-Sabah, seul quotidien israélite du Nord-Africain, le plus fort tirage des journaux israélites de Tunisie). As the organ of philanthropic Zionism, al-Ṣabāḥ was the most popular Jewish daily in Tunisia. It was founded and managed by Jacob Cohen, an accountant and teacher at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school, and Simon Cohen, and was edited successively by Jacob Cohen, Daniel Hagège, …

Saban, Rafael David

(277 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Rafael David Saban, born in Istanbul in 1873 into the family of a wealthy merchant, began his religious studies at a very early age and was taught by influential rabbis such as Yosef Kohen, Yomtov Kohen, and Konorte Delson. At the age of eighteen, Saban was ordained a rabbi and became the private secretary of the prominent religious leader Moşe Levi. Saban had years of experience in the affairs of the Turkish-Jewish community prior to his appointment to the chief rabbinate in 1953, for over the years he had been a member of several administrative committees, such as the Religious Council, the Is…

Saban, Rifat

(167 words)

Author(s): Rifat Bali
Rifat Saban, a grandson of Raphael Saban, a former chief rabbi of Turkey, was born in 1939 in Istanbul. He graduated from the Law Faculty of Istanbul University in 1964 and since then has practiced commercial law. From 1978 to1980 he was general manager of the BEREC Dry Battery Factory in Istanbul. Saban has been active in the Turkish Jewish community since his youth, and since 1983 has been a member of the Advisory Council of the Turkish Chief Rabbinate. From 1984 to 1986 he was president of  Fakirleri Koruma Derneği (Society to Protect the Poor), the successor to the B'nai B'rith Lodgeof Con…

Sābāwī Yūnis al-

(9 words)

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

Sabi, Musa

(480 words)

Author(s): Haideh Sahim
Musa Sabi (1914–1987) was a renowned Iranian lawyer, author, and translator. Musa Sabi (Pers. Mūsā Ṣabī), the distinguished Iranian Jewish lawyer, author, and translator, was born in Kerman on March 21, 1914, one of his father’s ten children. Not much is known about his early education, but since secondary education was limited in Kirman, he was sent to Isfahan to attend the Stuart Memorial College, which was run by the British Church Missionary Society, and later became the school’s prefect. In 1938, Sabi…

Sacred Grottoes, Pools, and Trees

(25 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
See Pilgrimages and Pilgrimage Rituals, Saints' Tombs (Modern Period), Saints' Tombs Venerated by Jews and Muslims Norman A. Stillman


(1,211 words)

Author(s): Yosef Tobi
The walled city of Saʿda (Ar. Ṣaʿda), the capital of North Yemen, was once an iron-mining and tanning center and an important station on the Himyarite Sanʿa–Mecca trade route. It is built on a plateau 2,300 meters (7,546 feet) high about 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Sanʿa. When the Zaydi imām al-Hādī ilā al-Ḥaqq from northern Persia established the Zaydi state in northern Yemen in the tenth century, he chose Saʿda as its capital, and it became a center of Zaydi Shiʿite learning. Al-Hādī Mosque in Saʿda is still an important Zaydi Shiʿite educational institution. Around the same time…

Ṣadaqa ibn Munajjā (Ṣadaqa al-Ḥakīm)

(939 words)

Author(s): Frank Weigelt
Ṣadaqa ibn Munajjā (also known as Ṣadaqa al-Ḥakīm) was an Arabic-writing Samaritan scholar and a renowned physician. Born probably in Damascus, he served at the court of the Ayyubid ruler al-Malik al-Ashraf Mūsā (d. 1237) in the Upper Mesopotamian city of Ḥarrān, where he died after 1223. Much of our information about his biography and bibliography comes from an entry in the Kitāb ʿUyūn al-anbāʾ fī ṭabaqāt al-aṭibbāʾ (ed. Rida, pp. 717–721), the famous encyclopedia of physicians by Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa (1203–1270). On the basis of manuscripts discovered so far, Sam…

Saʿd al-Dawla

(839 words)

Author(s): Reuven Amitai
Saʿd al-Dawla ibn Ṣafī b. Hibat Allāh b. Muhadhdhib al-Dawla al-Abharī was an Iranian Jewish physician who served Arghūn (r. 1284-91), the fourth Mongol īlkhān, as chief minister ( ṣāḥib-dīwān, or wazīr). He was executed just before the death of his master. The  Ilkhanids (ca. 1260-1335) were a Mongol dynasty that ruled Iran, the southern Caucasus, most of Anatolia, Iraq, and the territory covered by modern Turkmenistan and northern Afghanistan. Saʿd al-Dawla, originally from the town of Abhar in western Iran, first appears in the sources as an agent or broker of some kind (Ar.-Pers. dall…

Ṣafavid Dynasty

(177 words)

Author(s): Vera B. Moreen
see Iran/Persia Vera B. Moreen Bibliography Fischel, Walter J., Jews in the Economic and Political Life of Mediaeval Islam ( London: Royal Asiatic Society Monographs, no. 22, 1937). Gil, Moshe, Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 2004), pp. 241-248, 520-532. Goitein, S. D,  A Mediterranean Society:  The Jewish Communities of the World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza.  6 vols.  (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978) [Reprint 1999]. Al-Iṣfahānī, Abū Nuʿaym,  Ḏikr aḵbari- Iṣfahān (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1931), 1: 22-23. Al-Iṣṭakhrī, I…


(2,352 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ayalon
Safed (Heb. Ṣefat, Ar. Ṣafad) is a town in the Upper Galilee area in Israel, situated about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Tiberias. Jews have lived in Safed at least since the eleventh or twelfth century, and the town was a major center of Jewish commercial and scholarly activity during most of the sixteenth century, when it boasted a large Sephardic community. The Jewish presence declined thereafter, and until the second half of the eighteenth century only a few hundred Jews resided the…

Safi (Asfi)

(1,055 words)

Author(s): Thomas Park
The town of Safi (Ar. Asfī) on the west coast of Morocco is said to have been settled originally by Canaanites, named by Carthaginians, and settled by Romans, Goths, and Jews from Palestine before the Muslim conquest. It is also said that in 1174 its patron saint, Shaykh Abū Muḥammed Ṣāliḥ, built a ribāṭ (fortress retreat) for members of the Sufi military orders who guarded the borders of the Dār al-Islām and engaged in religious exercises there. Safi attracted Portuguese attention at the beginning of the sixteenth century. A Portuguese fort was built in 1508 after a commercial conc…

Safra Family

(382 words)

Author(s): Tomer Levi
The  Safras are a Sephardi banking family that built a worldwide banking network. Their first known bank, Safra Frères, was founded in Aleppo in the mid-nineteenth century. It traded in gold and currency, and financed the camel caravan trade in the Ottoman Empire. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Jacob Safra (1891–1963) settled in Beirut, where he founded a new bank. Taking advantage of the booming commerce in the French-ruled port-city, Safra consolidated his bank on a firm basis. In light of the growing anti-Jewish propaganda in the l…

Ṣafra Synagogue (Aleppo), al-

(351 words)

Author(s): Yaron Harel
According to local Jewish tradition, the Great Synagogue of Aleppo,known as Al-Ṣafra (the Yellow), was built by Joab ben Zeruiah, the commander of King David’s army, right after he conquered Aram Ṣoba (Aleppo). However, the west wing, the oldest part of the synagogue, was probably built in the fifth century C.E. The oldest surviving inscription is from the year 834. The building was partly damaged after the Mongol conquest in the thirteenth century and then was turned into a mosque. The central part of the synag…

Saguès, Albert

(370 words)

Author(s): Joy Land
Albert (Abraham) Saguès (1883–1956) was born in Constantinople-Hasköy (Istanbul) to Moïse Nissim and Sarah Sarfati. He was educated at the École Normale Israélite Orientale in Paris, where he earned the brevet supérieur (teaching certification granted upon graduation from four years of normal school) and brevet d'hébreu (diploma for Hebrew, entailing a salary increase). His teaching career with the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) began in Cairo in February 1903 and continued in Hamadan, Iran, in October 1903, and Seneh, Iran in 1904. Saguès became head of the school in …

Sahl (Abū ʾl-Sarrī) ben Maṣliaḥ

(469 words)

Author(s): Miriam Goldstein
Sahl (Abū ʾl-Sarrī) ben Maṣliaḥ was a Karaite exegete, legal scholar and propagandist who lived in the second half of the tenth century. The overwhelming majority of his works, composed both in Hebrew and in Arabic—sometimes with the two languages combined in the same composition—remain in manuscript and await publication. Sahl, the Arabic rendering of the Hebrew name Jashar , was a resident of Jerusalem, but according to his own testimony traveled abroad as a missionary seeking to convert Rabbanites to Karaism. He is best known for his a nti-Rabbanite polemic in Hebrew known as Sefer Tokh…

Sahlān ben Abraham

(532 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Abū ʿAmr Sahlān ben Abraham was a payṭan (liturgical poet) and head of the Iraqi congregation in Fustat from 1034 until 1049 or 1050. He succeeded to this post after the death of his father, Abraham ben Sahlān (1016–ca. 1032), and like his father he carried the rabbinic titles alluf from the geonim of Baghdad (probably from Hay Gaon of Pumbedita) and ḥaver from the Jerusalem yeshiva, reflecting the dual allegiance maintained by ambitious leaders adept at negotiating complex networks of patronage. Sahlān bore other lofty titles presumably granted him by the Iraqi exilarch Hezekiah. His f…

Sahl ibn Faḍl al-Tustarī

(367 words)

Author(s): Marzena Zawanowska
Abū ʾl-Faḍl Sahl ibn Faḍl al-Tustarī (al-Dustarī; Heb. Jashar ben Ḥesed ben Jashar) was a Karaite scholar and exegete from the famous Tustarī family. He came from Tustar (Shustar) in Persia and toward the end of the eleventh century settled in Jerusalem, where he soon entered into conflict with Jeshua ben Judah, the head of the Karaite community there. Sahl was one of the last known Karaite scholars active in Jerusalem. His son was taken captive by the Crusaders in 1099. Composing all of his works in Arabic, he wrote numerous commentaries, but nothing has been preserved except fragme…

Saʿīd ibn al-Ḥasan (al-Rūzbihān)

(137 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Abū ʿAbd Allāh Saʿīd ibn al-Ḥasan al-Rūzbihān (d. 861) was, according to Moshe Gil, a Jewish scholar who converted to Islam around the same time as his teacher, Yūsuf ibn Mūsā ibn Rashīd al-Qaṭṭān (d. 867) of Rayy and Baghdad. Both appear in al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī’s Taʾrīkh Baghdād (History of Baghdad). While they are not described there as having apostatized from Judaism, Gil argues that the name Rūzbihān, the Persian equivalent of the Hebrew name Yom Ṭov, was common among Jews. This was a period during which a number of Jewish converts to Islam achieved distinction as scholars. Marina …

Saʿīd ibn Ḥasan al-Iskandarī (al-Iskandarānī)

(796 words)

Author(s): Dennis Halft
Saʿīd ibn Ḥasan was a Muslim polemicist against Judaism and the Bible who lived in the late thirteenth and first half of the fourteenth century. He was born into a Jewish family in Alexandria and was taught the Hebrew Scriptures in childhood by his father. By his own account, both his father and he were “Jewish scholars” ( min ʿulamāʾ banī Isrāʾīl). Saʿīd accepted Islam in his hometown in the second half of May 1298, at a time when a certain Ibn al-Muwaffaq was a preacher in the local mosque. After his conversion, Saʿīd took up residence in Damascus. He p…

Saints' Tombs

(13 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Pilgrimages and Pilgrimage Rituals, Saints' Tombs Norman A. Stillman


(7 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Rabat-Salé Norman A. Stillman

Salem, Avram

(302 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Avram Salem (Sālim; d. 1907) was a Jewish medical student turned activist in the Young Turk movement. Originally from Salonica, Avram and his brother Asher both studied medicine at the Royal Medical Academy in Istanbul. While there they became involved in political activitiesdirected against the reactionary regime of Sultan Abdülhamit II (r. 1876–1909) and were exiled to Tripoli in 1897 for “having nourished modern ideas.” Simon notes that they, together with the physician Dr. Albert Bakish, were almost the only Jewish activists sent to Libya. Avram and possibly his brother esca…

Salem, Emmanuel Raphael

(1,077 words)

Author(s): D Gershon Lewental
Emmanuel Raphael Salem (1859–1940) was a lawyer and specialist in international law, as well as an active member of the Jewish communities of Salonica and Istanbul during the final decades of the Ottoman Empire. Named after his ancestor Rabbi Emmanuel Salem, he was born to Raphael Salem, a moneychanger, and Flor née Carasso; through his mother, he was related to the political activist and fellow Salonican lawyer Emmanuel Carasso (Karasu, 1862–1934). His early education consisted of both traditional religious studies and modern subjects, and he had mastered Turk…

Sālim Manṣūra (Shalom Mantzura)

(370 words)

Author(s): Mark Wagner
Sālim Manṣūra (1916–2007) was born in Sanʿa in Yemen and entered his father Yaʿīsh’s alcohol and rosewater business, an enterprise that was lucrative but dangerous because of the severe punishment for selling alcohol to Muslims (in fact, Yaʿīsh Manṣūra’s home was once demolished on the orders of Imām Yaḥyā Ḥamīd al-Dīn). Through his trade in luxury goods and alcohol, Sālim Manṣūra developed close ties with the imām’s family and especially his son and heir, Imām Aḥmad (d. 1962).Due to his unusual familiarity with the inner workings of the Muslim courts, Manṣūra often acte…

Salmon ben Jeroham (Sulaym ibn Ruḥaym)

(1,285 words)

Author(s): Michael G. Wechsler
Salmon ben Jeroham (Yerūḥam),—known in Arabic as Sulaym, or Sulaymān, ibn Ruḥaym, flourished in Jerusalem around the middle of the tenth century alongside such important Karaite littérateurs as Abu ʾl-Surri ibn Zūṭṭā, David ben Abraham al-Fāsī, Ḥasan ben Mashiaḥ, Sahl ben Maṣliah, Japheth (Yefet) ben ʿEli, and Joseph ibn Nūḥ. According to the chronicle of Ibn al-Hītī he died in Aleppo. His patronymic should probably be spelled Yerūḥam, as implied by the rhyme with yenūḥam in ( inter alia) the proem to his commentary on Esther (Ms. RNL Yevr.-Arab. I 4467, fol. 1v), though …
Date: 2015-09-03


(7 words)

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

Şalom (Shalom), Istanbul

(741 words)

Author(s): Aksel Erbahar
Şalom ( Shalom) is a weekly newspaper in Istanbul that was founded in 1947 by the journalist Avram Leyon and is now published by Gözlem Gazetecilik Basın ve Yayın. The only paper serving the Jewish community in Turkey, it focuses on news of the Turkish Jewish community, domestic and international affairs, and Jewish culture and traditions. In addition, Şalom has op-ed columns that discuss social and political issues in Turkey and abroad. Şalom’s motto, “ A lo tuerto tuerto, a lo dereço dereço” (Right for the right, crookedness for the crooked), is printed above the masthead of every issue. Af…

Salonica (Thessaloniki; Selanik)

(8,712 words)

Author(s): Minna Rozen
1.  Origins and Glory Days, 1430–1595 The Jewish community of pre-Ottoman Salonica was mostly Greek-speaking, and its life-style was much the same as that of the city’s Greek Christian residents. The Ottoman conquest of Salonica in 1430 did little to change this. With the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, however, Sultan Mehmet II ordered all the Jewish residents of Salonica moved to his new capital as part of the sürgün programof population transfers. As a result, there were in all likelihood no Jews at all in Salonica between 1453 and 1492, since none …

S (al-Salṭana, Ḥisām - Ṣarfati, Vidal (II) ben Isaac: writings of)

(1,512 words)

al-Salṭana, Ḥisām, Mashhad Ṣalūbā seeBustanay Salūnī n-nās (People Ask Me, Sami Elmaghribi), Elmaghribi, Samy (Amzallag) Salusque Lusitano seeUsque, Solomon ben Abraham Salut cousin (film, Merzak Allouache), Elmaleh, Gad şalvar (trousers), Clothing, Jewelry and Make-up, Clothing, Jewelry and Make-up salvation, Abraham ibn Ezra on, Ibn Ezra, Abraham (Abu Iṣḥāq) Salzer Weissmann, Hélène, Béhar, Rachel Samanpazari Synagogue (Ankara), Ankara Samaria, Samaritans under Muslim Rule  in Ottoman Period, Samaritans under Muslim Rule Samaritans  in Abbasid period   dress codes,…

Samaritans under Muslim Rule

(1,676 words)

Author(s): Friedrich Niessen
The archaeological history of Shechem, the chief city of Samaria, goes back to the fourth millennium B.C.E. Early in the second millennium, it is mentioned in the Egyptian execration texts. Over the centuries, the district was continuously populated. The Samaritans, as they emerged, always retained their capital, and the rural population of Samaria preserved their ethnic identity. Despite severe reduction in numbers in the medieval period, they never disappeared completely and survived in their old homeland. 1. Early Islamic period (634–1099) The victory of the Muslims at the  batt…

Samarqand (Samarkand)

(2,265 words)

Author(s): Albert Kaganovitch
Samarkand, today the second largest city in Uzbekistan, is one of the oldest cities in the part of Central Asia known historically as Transoxiana.  It was large and well populated in antiquity as well as in early Islamic times. Located at the crossroads between India, Afghanistan, Iran, and the Turkish steppes, along the Silk Road to Turkestan and China, it was an intensely fertile region, where agriculture flourished thanks to irrigation sustained by the Zarafshān River. Although the Jewish presence in Samarkand can be assumed to be ancient because of the trade routes …

Samawʾal al-Maghribī, al-

(987 words)

Author(s): Sabine Schmidtke
Abū Naṣr al-Samawʾal ibn Yaḥyā al-Maghribī (d. 1175), a renowned mathematician and physician, was the son of Judah ibn Abūn (Abū ʾl-Baqā Yaḥyā ibn ʿAbbās al-Maghribī), a rabbi and poet from Fez who moved to Baghdad prior to al-Samawʾal’s birth, and of Hannah, the learned daughter of Isḥāq ibn Ibrāhīm al-Baṣrī al-Lāwī (the Levite). As a child, Samawʾal was taught Hebrew writing, the Hebrew Bible, and the commentary literature by his father. From the age of thirteen, he was trained as a mathematician and physician…

Sambari, Joseph ben Isaac

(1,058 words)

Author(s): Benjamin Hary
Joseph ben Isaac Sambari, who lived in Cairo probably between 1640 and 1703, was a scholar with unique interests. Whereas most of his contemporaries had no interest in writing history, Sambari, in addition to engaging in biblical studies, was also a noted historian. His teacher was Ḥananiah Barhon, and his patron was Raphael Joseph, the chief financier (Ar. ṣarrāf bāshī) of the Ottoman governor of Egypt, Qaraqash ʿAlī. Like David Conforte, Sambari attended Abraham Scandari’s rabbinic academy, and over the years he made considerable use of its library. Shimon Shtober, who has writte…

Samuel (Abū Manṣūr) ben Hananiah

(403 words)

Author(s): Elinoar Bareket
A famous physician in Cairo, Samuel (Abū Manṣūr) ben Hananiah came from a family of physicians that included his father and brother and was appointed court physician to the Fatimid caliph al-Ḥāfiẓ (r. 1131–1149). According to Muslim chroniclers, his master, facing the prospect of a civil war between his two sons, summoned Samuel immediately upon his ascent to the throne along with another physician, a Christian. He asked Samuel to prepare a deadly drug for one of the sons. Samuel refused, claiming he did not know how to prepa…

Samuel ben Daniel ben Azariah

(168 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Samuel ben Daniel ben Azariah was the eldest of the four sons of the Palestinian gaon Daniel ben Azariah (1051–1062). He was born around 1050, and when his father died, he moved with his mother and siblings to Damascus. By 1074, Samuel was the head of the Jewish community in Damascus and of a rabbinic court there. He bore the yeshiva title “third” and also the title of nasi. Samuel was the probable author of a florid public epistle announcing his father’s death, the middle part of which has survived in the Cairo Geniza. Marina Rustow Bibliography Gil, Moshe.  A History of Palestine, 634–1099, tra…

Samuel ben David

(269 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Samuel ben David was exilarch in Baghdad during the Mongol conquest of 1258. His name appears in the letter of Jacob ben Elijah of Valencia (or of Venice?) to the apostate Pablo Christiani describing the situation of the Jews in Baghdad at the time. In order to raise funds to defend the city against the Mongol forces, the Abbasid caliph al-Mustaʿṣim (r. 1247–1258) imposed an enormous tax on the Jews, allegedly at the behest of Muslims who, according to Jacob, claimed that the head of the yeshiva and the exilarch were extremely wealthy: “the head of the yeshi…

Samuel ben Hananiah

(409 words)

Author(s): Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio
Almost nothing is known about Samuel ben Hananiah, who lived in al-Andalus in the eleventh century, possibly in the second half. The only information about him is from Moses ibn Ezra, who states in Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa 'l-Mudhākara (p. 72 ) that he was a contemporary of Isaac Ibn Ghiyyāth, the renowned religious scholar and poet from Lucena, which may indicate that Samuel ben Hananiah was connected to this important center of Jewish life and culture, although there is no confirming evidence. Ibn Ezra describes him as virtuous, devout,…

Samuel ben Ḥophni Gaon

(1,470 words)

Author(s): Roni Shweka
Samuel ben Ḥophni (d. 1013) was the gaon of the Sura yeshiva and an original exegete, theologian, and halakhist who continued in the Judeo-Arabic cultural and literary path forged by Saʿadya Gaon. Ben Ḥophni was a scion of a family that occupied a leadership position at the Pumbedita yeshiva in the tenth century. His grandfather Kohen Ṣedeq ben Joseph was gaon of Pumbedita from 917 to 935. His uncle Neḥemiah was gaon from 960 to 968, and his father, Neḥemiah’s younger brother, had been av bet din (chief judge of the court). Around 998, Samuel was selected to succeed Ṣemaḥ Ṣedeq b…

Samuel ben Hosha‘na

(394 words)

Author(s): Marina Rustow
Samuel ben Hoshaʿna was one of the central figures of the Jerusalem yeshiva in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. He first appears in Cairo Geniza records in a letter from 990 dealing with yeshiva affairs but does not yet have a title. He subsequently advanced to the rank of ḥaver (fellow of the academy), was named fourth by 1002 at the latest, and was styled third by 1004, the highest rank he attained. His piyyuṭim(liturgical poems) were preserved in the Geniza. Samuel was also the author of a letter written in 1002 describing the Fatimid battles in Palesti…


(1,932 words)

Author(s): Yosef Tobi
Sanʿa (Ar. Ṣanʿāʾ), the capital of the Republic of Yemen, has been the principal city of Yemen and its religious, political, and economic center throughout history, although for political reasons rulers have frequently preferred other cities as their capital. Sanʿa is located at an elevation of 2,200 meters (7,218 feet) above sea level on a plateau on the western slope of Jabal Nuqūm at the center of the Yemeni Highlands, 170 kilometers (106 miles) from the Red Sea coast and 300 kilometers (186 …


(460 words)

Author(s): Yona Sabar
Sanandaj (Sene, Sinna, Sinno) is the capital of the Iranian province (Pers. ustān) of Kurdistan and lies approximately 129 kilometers (80 miles) north of Kirmanshah. It was founded around 1640. The city was the seat of the Kurdish princes and nobility of Ardalan and a center of Kurdish and Persian poetry and other literary productivity. The Muslim-Kurdish population is Sunni, in contrast to the generally Shī’ī population in the rest of Iran. In addition to the Kurdish majority, Christian Chaldeans, Armenia…


(472 words)

Author(s): M.J. Cano
Santarém (Ar. Shantarīn) is a city in Portugal to the northeast of Lisbon. It had an important Jewish community throughout the Middle Ages, but there are no details about its Jews during the Islamic period. The first reliable information about a Jewish presence dates from 1140, when King Afonso Henriques (Alfonso I)conquered Santarém and found a noteworthy number of Jews and a synagogue considered to be the oldest in Portugal. He was the first Portuguese king to issue legislation on the relationships between Jews and Christians. In 1265,  Dinis (Denis) ascended the Portuguese thron…

Sanua, James

(11 words)

Author(s): Norman A. Stillman
see Ṣanūʿ (Sanua), Yaʿqūb (James) Norman A. Stillman

Ṣanūʿ (Sanua), Yaʿqūb (James)

(802 words)

Author(s): Jacob M. Landau
Yaʿqūb Ṣanūʿ, an Egyptian patriot, journalist, and playwright also known as James Sanua, represents one of the rare instances of a Jew who was actively involved in Egyptian politics. His father, Raphael, was a Sephardi Jew who had come to Egypt from Livorno and under the Capitulations (Ar. imtiyāzāt) enjoyed the status of a protégé. Yaʿqūb, born in Cairo in 1839, received a scholarship to study in Europe and went to Livorno for three years. On his return to Cairo, he earned a living for a few years by teaching foreign languages (of which he k…

Sao Pãulo

(8 words)

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

Saphir, Jacob

(307 words)

Author(s): Tudor Parfitt
Jacob Saphir (1822–1886) was a Jewish traveler and writer born in Oshmyany (Ashmyany) in what is now Belarus. His family moved to Palestine while he was still a child, settling in Safed, but in 1836, after their deaths, he moved to Jerusalem. In 1848, the Jewish community of Safed commissioned Saphir to travel as a meshullaḥ (emissary) through "the southern lands"  to collect alms, the so-called ḥaluqa, for the poor of Jerusalem. In 1854, he undertook a second journey, this time to raise funds for the construction of the Ḥurva Synagogue in Jerusalem, which…
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