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Darmon, Amram

(399 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Amram Darmon (1815–1878), a military interpreter first class in the French army, was born in Oran, Algeria, to Elijah Darmon and Dinah Bacri, a family long in good standing with the beys of Oran. In 1834, at the age of nineteen, he joined the French army, serving with the Algerian artillery.On June 19, 1836, he participated in the Tlemcen expedition under Captain Cavaignac. In 1837 he was posted to Misserghin; and in September of that year he accompanied Captain Daumas, the French consul, to meet with ʿAbd al-Qādir in Mascara. Darmon w…

Marnia (Maghnia)

(386 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Marnia (Maghnia) is a city in northwestern Algeria located 13 kilometers (8 miles) east of the Moroccan border, at an altitude of 365 meters (1,198 feet), in a vast plain irrigated by the diverted canals of the Tafna River. There seem to have been Jews there in Roman times (when the city was called Numerus Syrorum, Syrorum, or Syr). The  modern Jewish community began after the town of Lalla Maghnia (named for an eighteenth-century Muslim female saint) grew up around a redoubt built by French troops in 1844. The community fell within the jurisdiction of the Oran Consistory, but oral traditi…


(400 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Guelma (Ar. Qālima) is a city in northeastern Algeria about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Mediterranean, located at an altitude of 290 meters (952 feet) in the valley of Wadi Seybouse, and surrounded by mountains. Known as Calama under the Romans, the town was probably first established as a Phoenician site. While Jews may have lived in Calama in the Roman period,  the only known community came into existence following the French conquest, when Marshal Bertrand Clauzel established a permanent camp there in 1834 and a settlement was reestablished.  With the development of the area…

Béjaïa (Bougie, Bijāya)

(549 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Béjaïa (Fr. Bougie; Cl. Ar. Bijāya) is a town on the Algerian coast about 175 kilometers (109 miles) east of Algiers and west of Greater Kabylia. It became an important city and port when the Ḥammādid dynasty (1015–1152) moved its capital there in 1067. Jews from Qal‘at Banī Ḥammād, the former Ḥammādid capital, likely followed, as evidenced by a reference to a Jewish community in Béjaïa that was persecuted during the Almohad conquest of the city in 1152. The town is also mentioned in a number of documents from the Cairo Geniza, but always in a general context without specific referen…

Tiaret (Tahert)

(874 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Tiaret (Tahert; Ar. Tāhart, Tīhart; Ber. Tagdemt) is a city in western Algeria, on the site of ancient Tingartia, located at the southern foot of the Ouarsenis Mountains in a pass of the Jebel Guezoul, at an altitude of 1,375 meters (4,511 feet). It was founded in 778 by the Ibāḍī Rustamid imāmate as its capital. Jews settled in the lower town and the community developed with the rapid growth of Tahert (this name will be used in reference to the premodern town) until the Fatimid conquest in 909.…

Bacri, Joseph Cohen

(451 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Joseph Cohen Bacri (1740–1817), one of the five sons of Michel Cohen Bacri, was a merchant-banker and the muqaddam (government-appointed president) of the Jewish community of Algiers from 1811 to 1816. Along with three of his brothers, Jacob  Bacri, Mardochée, and Salomon, he founded a trading company named Salomon Cohen Bacri and Brothers in 1782 . The company was spearheaded by Joseph in Algiers and Salomon in Livorno (Leghorn). The Algiers branch shipped raw materials (feathers, wax, coral, leather, wool) as well as great quantities of gold and silver to …

Honaine (also Honein)

(512 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The city of Honaine (Ar. Hunayn) is located on the coast of Algeria, near the Moroccan border and about 45 kilometers (28 miles) northwest of Tlemcen. It does not appear in descriptions of the region by tenth-century Muslim geographers, but is mentioned by the eleventh-century geographer Abū ʿUbayd al-Bakrī. He called it Ḥiṣn Hunayn (Hunayn Fortress) and notes that the townspeople were Kūmiyya Berbers. A century later, the geographer al-Idrīsī describes Honaine as an attractive and prosperous city surrounded by sturdy ramparts and thriving bazaars. There is no me…

Sidi Bel Abbès

(646 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Sidi Bel-Abbès (Ar. Sīdī Bil-ʿAbbās), located at an altitude of 470 meters (1,542 feet), is a city in northwestern Algeria, on the Mekerra River, in the center of the vast plain between Jebel Tessala in the north and the Daya Mountains in the south. Initially the site of a French military outpost during the conquest of Algeria, the town of Sidi Bel-Abbès was established in 1849 and remained an important base for the Foreign Legion. Jews from Oran, Tlemcen, and Mascara began to settle there in 1851. There was also a sizable migration of Jews from Morocco, especially fro…


(618 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Nédroma (Ar. Nadrūma) is a city in western Algeria in the Trara mountain range at the base of Mount Filaoussene, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of Tlemcen and 17 kilometers (11 miles) from the coast. According to a local Muslim legend, the exiled Joshua son of Nun came to the region of Nédroma; with Berber help he drove out his enemies, and later died there. The tomb of Sidi Youchaa (Joshua), on the coast several kilometers from the town, was an important pilgrimage destination for Muslims and Jews, but the Jews associated the site with the second-century Palestinian tanna, Rabbi Sime…


(283 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Khenchela (Ar. Khanshala) is a town in northeastern Algeria in the Aurès Mountains,  situated 1,200 meters (394 feet) above sea level. The majority of the population are Chaoui Berbers. When the French occupied the town and established a military administration in 1850, Jews began arriving in Khenchela, including baḥuṣim (Heb. outsiders), semi-nomadic Jews from the region, who settled in the town in 1874, creating a stable community that fell under the jurisdiction of the Constantine Consistory. Most of the town’s jewelers were Jewish, most notably the Touitou family. T…

Allatini, Moïse

(481 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Moïse Allatini (1809–1882) was a banker from Salonica who studied in Italy. Following a family tradition, he earned his doctorate in medicine from the University of Pisa. However, he never practiced his profession, because he had to take over the family business after the death of his father, Lazare, in 1834, to provide for the material needs of his numerous siblings. In 1837, he founded the firm of Allatini Frères, which later became Allatini and Modiano . The company managed the assets of the Darblay de Corbeil family, bought shares in mills, and was engaged in variou…


(473 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Biskra is an Algerian oasis town on the northern edge of the Sahara at the foot of the AurèsMountains, on the west bank of the Oued Biskra. In Antiquity, the city was called Vescera by the Romans and counted Jews in its population, most likely Carthaginian in origin. By the fifth century C.E., under Vandal rule, the Jews seemed to have had an organized community. While the origin of the Jewish community during the Islamic period is unknown, it is mentioned in the responsa of the Spanish rabbis and their descendants who ar…

Busnach (Būjanāḥ) Family

(557 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Busnach family was one of the three major families of shipowners and merchants in Algeria between 1730 and the French conquest in 1830 (the other two were the Bushʿaras and the Bacris). The Busnachs (the family name is also spelled Bouchnach, Bouznach, Bosnach, Busnak, and Bujanah; from Maghr. Ar. bū janāḥ, father or possessor of a wing) originated in Oran but moved to Livorno in the seventeenth century in search of business opportunities. They returned in the eighteenth century when their ventures in Italy failed. Abraham Busnach settled in Algiers in 1724 and began exportin…

Aïn Témouchent

(494 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Algerian town of Aïn Témouchent, built on the site of the Roman Albulae and the Arab Qaṣr ibn Sinān, is located in northwestern Algeria, 70 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Oran, and 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of Tlemcen. Some traces of a Jewish community date back to the end of the fourteenth century, and to the seventeenth century, after the expulsion of Jews from Oran. The modern Jewish community of Aïn Témouchent dates from the period of the French conquest. The French army built a redoubt on the site in 1839, and colonization began in 1845. According to local…

Darmon, Mordecai

(294 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Mordecai Darmon was the  head of the small Jewish community of Mascara, Algeria (about 450 people). He was a member of the Darmon family, which over the years had become allied to Jewish families that fled to Algeria from Spain or Portugal. In 1783, he was sent to Istanbul and Izmir on a diplomatic mission. He also became treasurer and adviser of Muḥammad al- Kabīr, the bey of Mascara (d. ca. 1798), and accompanied him on his military expeditions across Algeria. Darmon became quite wealthy from his service to the bey but nevertheless always found time to s…


(510 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Algerian city of Médéa (Ar. al-Madiya; Coll. Ar. Lamdiya), known in antiquity as Lambdia, is located 88 kilometers (55 miles) south of Algiers, at an altitude of 920 meters (3,018 feet) on the Tell Atlas, on a plateau dominating the north between the Blida Atlas and the Titteri Mountains. Jews may have lived in the area in ancient times, but the state of Médéa’s Jewish community, if any, during and after the Islamic conquest is unknown. The community was revived in the fifteenth century by Jewish settlers from Spain. When the French invaded Algeria in 1830, there were several hun…

Gozlan, Élie

(417 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Élie Gozlan was born on December 10, 1876, in Constantine, where his mother was a teacher of French in the French school. He graduated from the Ecole Normale in Constantine with a teaching degree in Arabic, and also taught French language and history. He left teaching for journalism after the Constantine riots in 1934. That same year he joined with some Christian and Muslim political and religious colleagues to found the Union of Monotheistic Believers in Algiers. Gozlan spent the next thirty years fighting racism, abuse, and injusticein Algiers, where he defended victims of p…

Allatini Family

(574 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
The Allatini (Alatini, Alatino) family, of Iberian origin, prospered in Italy and Salonica. The earliest family member on record was Isaac Allatini (Alatin), who was the rabbi of the Lisbon congregation in Salonica around 1512, soon after the expulsions from Spain and Portugal, which began in 1492. The next mentions of the family pertain to the three Alatino brothers Jehiel, Vitale (or Ḥayyim), and Moses Amram, all of whom were physicians in Italy in the sixteenth century. Jehiel settled in Todi, in central Italy. Vitale (d. ca. 1577) lived mostly in ne…

Philippeville (Skikda)

(292 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
Philippeville, today known as Skikda, is a Mediterranean port city in northeastern Algeria, between the Collo Kabylia Mountains to the west and the Wadi Safsaf to the east. The site was inhabited in both Punic and Roman times, when it was known as Rusicade. Following the French conquest, The town was founded in 1837 by Sylvane-Charles Valée (1773–1846) to serve as the port of Constantine. In 1842, a man named Assus, probably a naturalized French citizen, was made the president of the Jewish comm…

Bacri, David Cohen

(454 words)

Author(s): Richard Ayoun
David Cohen Bacri (1770–1811) was an influential Algerian merchant who played a significant role in the relationship between the Regency of Algiers and France at the turn of the nineteenth century. He was the son of Joseph Cohen Bacri, who founded, with his three brothers, the Salomon Cohen Bacri and Brothers trading company in 1782. The firm became much larger and changed its name to Bacri and Busnach in 1797, when Naphtali ben Moïse Busnach became a partner. That same year, David married Naphtali’s sister Aziza, further solidifying the already close relationship …
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