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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Tobiah ben Moses ha-Avel

(810 words)

Author(s): Marzena Zawanowska
Tobiah ben Moses ha-Avel was a Byzantine Karaite scholar, exegete, translator, and liturgical poet of who studied for a period in Jerusalem. The wide range of his intellectual activities, personal qualities, and life experiences gained him a number of Hebrew honorific titles in addition to conventional Karaite appellations like he-ḥakham (the sage) and ha-maskil (the teacher). Since he had studied with the Jerusalem Karaites known as Mourners of Zion ( avele ṣiyyon), his colleagues in Byzantium called him ha-avel (the mourner), but also ha-ʿoved (the worshiper); his great erud…


(669 words)

Author(s): Aomar Boum
Todgha is a river valley on the southern slopes of the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Until the early 1960s, a significant Jewish population lived in three hamlets in this region: Tinghir (the most recently established), Taourirt, and Asfalou. The Jewish communities of Todgha were among the oldest on the southern fringes of the Atlas. The arrival of Jews in the area seems to have been connected to the nearby silver mines of Jebel Saghro. The Todgha mines were known since the end of the eighth and the mid-ninth centuries, and Jews were jewelers and minters of coins in the region.       Little…

Ṭodros ben Judah ha-Levi Abulafia

(723 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
The courtier and poet Ṭodros ben Judah ha-Levi Abulafia (1247-1306) was a member of the distinguished Abulafia (Abū 'l-‘afiya) family, which came to Toledo from Burgos. Among its members were the poet and talmudist Me’ir Abulafia, the religious leader of the Toledo community; Ṭodros ben Judah ha-Levi Abulafia, known as “the Rav”; and his son Joseph ben Ṭodros Abulafia. Ṭodros ben Judah Abulafia was the best and most prolific Hebrew author in Iberia during the reigns of Alfonso the Wise and Sancho IV. The culture of Toledo was still strongly arabized during his lifetime, and he…


(326 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
Tokat is a town in northern Anatolia, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Ankara. The town was captured by the Ottomans in 1399 and made part of the Sivas province. During the Ottoman period, the town was a major center of the transit trade between Europe and Asia, and specialized in silk production, textile dyeing, and metalworking, particularly copper. Sephardi Jews settled there from the late fifteenth century, but were registered by the Ottoman authorities in the tax-books of the neighboring old Jewish community of Amasya. In the mid-sixteenth century, the Jews of Tokat …

Toledano, Avi

(292 words)

Author(s): Amy Horowitz
Avi Toledano is a popular Israeli singer in the musiqa mizraḥit (Heb. Mizraḥi music) genre. He was born 1948 in Meknes, Morocco. In 1965, at the age of sixteen, he immigrated to an Israeli kibbutz with the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement. Shortly after his arrival in Israel, Toledano appeared on the Teshuʿot Rishonot radio show, a venue for the development of young talent. He released his first album during his army service, and several of his songs, such as “ Yehuda My Younger Brother,” about a fallen soldier, became popular. Toledano placed third in the 1969 Israel Song F…

Toledano Family (Moroccan Branch)

(2,254 words)

Author(s): Shalom Bar-Asher
The Toledano family, whose ancestors hailed from Toledo in Spain, produced a long line of important figures in Salonica, Palestine, and Morocco. The Moroccan Toledanos were considered one of the great Jewish families of the country and included notables, court Jews, scholars, and businessmen. Residing primarily in Meknes, the family reached its apogee of influence from the late seventeenth to the twentieth century and stood at the center of the city’s Jewish social and cultural life. 1.  Notables and Courtiers The rise of the Toledanos began with the reign of the second ʿAlawi sultan, M…

Toledano, Meyer

(343 words)

Author(s): Mohammed Hatimi
Meyer Toledano was born in 1918 in Casablanca, and became a political activist during World War II. From 1949 to 1952 he was the editor of the pro-Zionist newspaper Noʿar . In 1951 he changed its political direction and instead urged Moroccan Jewry to support the nationalist independence movement. Toledano succeeded in arousing a spirit of Moroccan patriotism among a small segment of Jewish youth and, with Félix Nataf, founded Amitiés Marocaines, an interfaith group with a platform advocating independence from France. During the Moroccan crisis in the 1950s, Toled…

Toledano, Sidney

(520 words)

Author(s): Alma Heckman
Sidney Toledano’s father, Boris, was born near Tangier and fought in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Republicans. Boris was subsequently expelled from France pursuant to Vichy law. Boris had a paper company and worked with the Americans upon their arrival to Casablanca in the Second World War with Operation Torch. It was out of this connection and admiration for Americans that Sidney received his American first name. Sidney Toledano, born July 25 1951, would come to lead the most luxuri…


(2,863 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
The city of Toledo (Ar. Ṭulayṭula)  is located in the central part of the Iberian Peninsula, about 72 kilometers (45 miles) south-southwest of Madrid. The first settlements on the site antedated by several centuries the arrival of the Romans, who rebuilt the former Carpetan oppidum in the second century B.C.E., giving it the Latin name Toletum. The old city sits on a hill encircled on three sides by the Tagus River. It was relatively small, but the circus and some other remains show that it was gaining splendor during the Roman presence. …

Torel, Rafael

(281 words)

Author(s): Naim Güleryüz
Rafael Fresco Torel was born in Istanbul in 1915. His father died when he was five years old, and the family lost all their property and belongings during the great fire of Dağhamam (1921), which destroyed the quarter they lived in. Rafael attended the Alliance Israélite Universelle school at Dağhamam and then the B’nai B’rith High School. At the age of ten, Torel began working during summer vacations to supplement the family’s income. After holding various temporary jobs, he was hired as a clerk in the packaging department of the Gişlaved Gummi rubber plant owned by Isaac Kohen. Years lat…


(1,158 words)

Author(s): Angel Saénz-Badillos
Tortosa (Lat. Dertusa or Dertosa , Ar. Ṭurṭūsha) is a commercial town in the northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula, near the Mediterranean estuary of the Ebro River, in today’s province of Tarragona, in Catalonia. Jews were living in Tortosa long before the Muslim conquest, for it was one of the oldest Jewish communities in Iberia, as evidenced by a sixth-century inscription in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek on the gravestone of a Jewish woman named Meliosa. After the Islamic conquest, when Christians from the Frankish kingdom reached as far as Tarragona, …


(1,329 words)

Author(s): Jane Gerber
Migration between the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa was a constant feature of medieval Jewish life, waxing and waning depending upon local political and economic conditions as well as the attitude of the ruling dynasties in both locales toward their Jewish subjects. Jews from Spain sought a refuge in Morocco as early as the time of the Visigothic persecutions in the seventh century. During the era of the Almohads (twelfth century), Jews in both countries again sought refuge in flight, cross…


(778 words)

Author(s): Jacob Oliel
Touat (Berb./Ar. Tuwāt) is a vast oasis region in southwestern Algeria. It is dotted by a dozen agglomerations of fortified hamlets (Ar. qṣūr), 248 of which are still inhabited. Although the original residents were Zenata Berbers, most of the present population is Arabic-speaking. Medieval Arab historians such as Ibn Khaldūn make occasional mention of the Touat, but seem to know very little about it. The fourteenth-century Moroccan traveler Ibn Baṭṭūṭa passed through in 1353, but gives few details. According to traditions mentioned by later Arab historians, Jew…


(370 words)

Author(s): Haim Saadoun
Tozeur (Ar. Tūzar) is an oasis town in southwestern Tunisia near the Algerian frontier and the great salt flat, the Shaṭṭ al-Jarīd. It is a fertile oasis well known for its palm trees and agricultural produce. Since ancient times, Tozeur has been a way station for caravans on the road from the Tunisian coast to the Sahara desert. The beginning of the Jewish community in Tozeuris not known, but there were Jews living in the region in ancient times, as well as in the early Islamic period, and some of the local Muslim population (the  Awlād al-Hādif) claimed Jewish origin. Reference is also …

Trabzon (Trebizond)

(270 words)

Author(s): Onur Yildirim
Trabzon is a small Turkish city on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea. A point of convergence for the major trade routes between Europe and Central Asia, it was the capital of a Byzantine successor state from 1204 until its capture by the Ottomans in 1461. The Ottomans made it the administrative center of a province with a predominantly Muslim but considerable Greek population. There is no record of a Jewish  presence for most of the Ottoman era. Jewish agents of European merchants occasionally operated in the city after the opening of the Black Sea to the commercial …

Trading Network

(1,080 words)

Author(s): Maurits H. van den Boogert | Reeva Spector Simon
1. Aleppan The Jewish community in Aleppo consisted of Jews native to Syria (Mustaʿrabim), Sephardi Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, and Italian Jews, often referred to as “ Francos,” who predominantly came from Livorno and Venice, and even when permanently settled in Syria generally retained their status as foreigners. The Francos engaged in trade with their cities of origin and also developed trading networks within Bilād al-Shām (Greater Syria). Members of prominent Aleppan mercantile families (such as the Picciotto family) also settled in Damascus, Jerusalem, and alon…

Ṭrani (Miṭrani), Joseph ben Moses di, the Elder

(617 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Joseph ben Moses di Ṭrani (Miṭrani) the Elder (ca. 1569–1639) was a leading rabbi and scholar in the seventeenth-century Ottoman Empire. The youngest son of Moses ben Joseph di Ṭrani (Miṭrani, 1500–1580), he was born in Safed around 1569 when his father had already reached an advanced age. Even as a youth, Joseph stood out for his knowledge and talent, and when he was only eighteen years old, he left Safed as a rabbinical emissary (Heb. shadar or meshullaḥ) for the community. Known by his Hebrew acronym as Mahariṭ, he was in Egypt for some time after 1587, then moved to I…

Ṭrani (Miṭrani), Moses Ben Joseph di

(514 words)

Author(s): Yaron Ben Naeh
Moses ben Joseph di Ṭrani (Miṭrani) the Elder (1500–1580), known also by his Hebrew acronym Ha-Mabiṭ, was one of the greatest religious scholars of Safed during the sixteenth century. Born in Salonica into a Sephardi family of Iberian origin that had come to the Ottoman Empire via Trani in southern Italy, he moved to Edirne at an early age to live with his uncle Aaron following the death of his father. He was educated by his uncle and at the yeshiva of Joseph Fasi. In either 1520 or 1521, he moved to Safed and within a short time was given the rabbinical title of marbiṣ torah (teacher of Torah stud…

Transcribed Hebrew texts

(698 words)

Author(s): Ofra Tirosh-Becker
The Karaites in the tenth and eleventh centuries often used Arabic script for their Judeo-Arabic writings, unlike their Rabbanite rivals, who used Hebrew script for Judeo-Arabic compositions (with very few exceptions). The earliest evidence for Karaite Judeo-Arabic manuscripts written in Hebrew script is found in colophons dated to the beginning of the eleventh century, but the practice became widespread in later centuries. Early Karaite scholars used Arabic script even to transcribe Hebrew texts, first and foremost the Bible. Such Arabic transcriptions are fo…

Translations of Rabbinic Sources into Arabic

(1,487 words)

Author(s): Ofra Tirosh-Becker
Numerous Judeo-Arabic translations of the Bible were composed throughout the centuries. These include pre-Saʿadian translations extant in fragments from the Cairo Geniza, Saʿadya Gaon’s monumental Bible translation known as the Tafsīr, Bible translations composed by early Karaite scholars (see Karaism), the later shurūḥ (sing. sharḥ ) that were transmitted in many Jewish communities in the Muslim world, and more. By contrast, translations of rabbinic sources into Arabic are much less common. Manuscript fragments with translations of sections from the Mishna have b…
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