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Gaon, Moses David

(365 words)

Author(s): Walker Robins
Born in 1889 in Travnik (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in Bosnia), Moshe David Gaon came to prominence as an educator, writer, and Ladino specialist after his emigration to Palestine in 1909. Prior to making ʿ aliya, Gaon studied at the University of Vienna and worked in elementary education in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Smyrna (Izmir) in the Ottoman Empire. After settling in Jerusalem, Gaon continued to teach Hebrew and served as an elementary school administrator.  In addition to his work in education, Gaon was a prolific writer and editor. His works i…

Mizrahi, Togo

(623 words)

Author(s): Walker Robins
Togo Mizrahi was a pioneering director, producer, and actor in the Egyptian film industry and was largely responsible for making cosmopolitan Alexandria, his birthplace, a center of film production. Born in Alexandria in 1901, Mizrahi grew up in Egypt but maintained Italian nationality; he spent the greater part of the 1920s as a student in Italy and France. Mizrahi returned to Alexandria in 1928 and the following year  founded the Egyptian Films Company. That same year he opened the Bacos Studio, a converted theater in Alexandria, and made films there until 193…

Gaon, Nessim

(621 words)

Author(s): Walker Robins
Nessim David Gaon is a prominent international businessman, philanthropist, and advocate for Sephardic Jewry. Born in 1922 in Khartoum, Sudan, Gaon quickly established himself as a leader in the Sudanese Jewish community as well as a successful businessman. From 1947 to 1957 he served as vice-president and treasurer of the Sudan Jewish community while building up the export firm he had begun with his brother, Albert. Exporting oilseeds, grain, and other produce, the brothers’ firm became one of Sudan’s leading export companies. Its success allowed the Gaons t…

Batna

(497 words)

Author(s): Walker Robins
Once featuring a substantial Jewish population, Batna is a relatively new Algerian city nestled into a break in the Aures Mountains of northeastern Algeria a little over 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Constantine. It lies in the middle of the Chaouia Berber region. Although now rapidly growing, Batna began as an unpromising settlement around a French military encampment during the conquest of Algeria in the 1830s. It was declared a city in 1848, and was already home to a Jewish population of thirty-si…

Food and Drink - Wine and Alcoholic Beverages

(5,719 words)

Author(s): Walker Robins
Jewish production, trade, and consumption of alcohol in the Middle East and North Africa predates Islam by many centuries. By at least the sixteenth century, the spread of distillation techniques resulted in liquor, particularly brandies and fruit spirits, becoming an important beverage among Sephardi and Mizraḥi Jews. Despite intermittent repression by Muslim authorities in the medieval and modern periods, alcohol remained a central feature of Jewish religious, social, and economic life throughout the region up until the upheavals of the mid-twentieth century. 1. Religious I…

Cinema, Arabic, Jews in

(3,370 words)

Author(s): Walker Robins
1.Jewish Involvement in Arabic Cinema       Although an independent Arabic film industry did not really develop until the late 1920s and early 1930s in Egypt, Jewish involvement in Arabic cinema actually began decades earlier. It was a Tunisian Jew, Albert Samama Chikly, who first brought film to North Africa. A French citizen very much in tune with the Western technological innovations of the day, Chikly introduced the bicycle, the radio, and X-ray technology, as well as motion pictures, to the Maghreb. In 1896 and 1897 he screened a series of Lumière films in Tunis. A…

Christian Missionaries and Missionary Schools

(1,081 words)

Author(s): Walker Robins
Due to the strict prohibitions against proselytizing to Muslims, Christian missionaries in Islamic lands focused their efforts on Jews (and also on indigenous Christians in some areas). Aside from some briefs spurts in earlier eras, Christian missionary activity was mostly a phenomenon of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A notable exception took place in the decades following the expulsions from Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century, when Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries sought to con…