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Names and Naming Practices - Introduction - Middle Ages

(2,054 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
Jewish names and naming patterns can be used as tools for describing Jewish demographic, economic, social, and cultural history. The formation of Jewish names in the medieval Islamic world followed many Islamic naming patterns. Individuals had both personal names and family names. The personal name (Ar. ism) was often supplemented or replaced in common parlance with a by-name (Ar. kunya). The ism was also often followed by a patronymic, which generally was constructed of ben/bar/ibn (“son of”) for a male or bat/bint (“daughter of”) for a female, followed by the father’s name. At times a n…

Resh Kalla

(341 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
Resh kalla (head of a row) was an Aramaic title bestowed upon leading members of the academies in Babylonia (see Yeshivot in Babylonia/Iraq) and prominent figures in the Diaspora communities. It was often substituted with its Arabic equivalent, raʼs al-kull, the Hebraicized form rosh kalla, or with the Hebrew term alluf (chief). The title derives from the circumstance that scholars in the Babylonian academies were organized in rows, with each row assigned a “head” who sat in the first row. The post was based largely on inheritance but also upon scholarly a…

Nethanel ben Mevorakh

(188 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman
Nicknamed Abu al-Barakāt, Nethanel ben Mevorakh was the middle son of Mevorakh ben Saʿadya, who served as ra'īs (or colloquially rayyis) al-yahūd (Ar. head of the Jewish community, i.e. nagid) of Fustat from ca. 1078 to 1082 and from 1094 to 1111. Nethanel seems to have been born around 1095. Unlike his father and his brother Moses, Nethanel did not ascend to the headship. On the other hand, he was an active participant in the culture of the political and economic elite of his community, and may well have served the Fatimid court, as perhaps is indicated by allusions to him in Geniza documents t…

Slavery, Slave Trade

(2,658 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman | Onur Yildirim
1. Medieval Period Gaonic responsa and Cairo Geniza documents alike allude to the fact that Jews living in Islamic lands in the medieval period owned slaves and engaged in the slave trade. Male and female slaves were identified by different terms— ṣabī or ghulām (Ar. boy) for males, and jāriya or waṣīfa (Ar. maid) for females—and were generally assigned different functions in the household economy. The concentration of Jewish economic life in crafts and trade rather than agricultural production meant that male slaves were often entrusted with du…

Long-Distance Trade

(4,465 words)

Author(s): Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman | Thomas Park
1.   Medieval Even before the rise of Islam,  Jewish merchants were involved in long-distance trade.Early sixth-century sources record that the Jewish king of Ḥimyar killed Byzantine traders who passed through his country on their way back from India. Jewish merchants in this period specialized in importing raw silk from Persia and India, and often manufactured clothing in Beirut and Tyre. Notwithstanding Pirenne’s 1937 thesis that the Islamic conquest led to the collapse of long-distance economic ties, chronicles and documentary evidence establish that Rādhānite merchants pl…
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