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Jewish Culture and Society in North Africa

Edited by Emily Benichou Gottreich and Daniel J. Schroeter

Publication Year: 2011

With only a small remnant of Jews still living in the Maghrib at the beginning of the 21st century, the vast majority of today's inhabitants of North Africa have never met a Jew. Yet as this volume reveals, Jews were an integral part of the North African landscape from antiquity. Scholars from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Israel, and the United States shed new light on Jewish life and Muslim-Jewish relations in North Africa through the lenses of history, anthropology, language, and literature. The history and life stories told in this book illuminate the close cultural affinities and poignant relationships between Muslims and Jews, and the uneasy coexistence that both united and divided them throughout the history of the Maghrib.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in Sephardi and Mizrahi Studies


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix

First and foremost, the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS), which sponsored the conference; the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM); and Thor Kuniholm, then director of the museum, which hosted it at its splendid building in the Tangier madina. AIMS officers Keith Walters, Jim Miller, Donna Lee Bowen, and Mark...

Part I. Introduction

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pp. 1

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1. Rethinking Jewish Culture and Society in North Africa

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pp. 3-23

The chapters in this volume grow out of the proceedings of the 2004 annual conference of the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS), held at the Tangier American Legation Museum in Morocco. It was co-directed by the editors of this book and included thirty-four participants from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Israel, and the United States. Its...

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2. Muslim-Jewish Relations in Contemporary Morocco

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pp. 24-31

A few preliminary remarks should be made about contemporary Moroccan history and the prevailing disequilibrium between the considerable number of doctoral dissertations dealing with precolonial times and the low levels of interest in the protectorate era among Moroccan scholars.1 First, it is obvious that not much can be said about the Jewish dimensions...

Part II. Origins, Diasporas, and Identities

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pp. 33

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3. Place Names in Western Algeria: Biblical Sources and Dominant Semantic Domains

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pp. 35-44

This chapter focuses on the linguistic customs and semantic traditions of monotheistic religions and mystical place naming in a region where different cultures, religions, and languages were in constant contact. Rather than attributing exegetical values and meanings to secular customs, I will instead try to answer the following questions: within...

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4. The Image of the Jews among Ibadi Imazighen in North Africa before the Tenth Century

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pp. 45-58

The history of the Jews in North Africa has captured the attention of many scholars.1 But many gaps remain in our knowledge, especially in the still-unexplored period of the early centuries after the Arab conquest in North Africa. We take for granted that the formation of a religious experience is determined both by the context where it appears...

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5. Jewish Identity and Landownership in the Sous Region of Morocco

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pp. 59-72

Muslim jurists once conceptualized and developed the rights of Jews to control property in Morocco’s southwestern region of the Sous according to whether the land in question was part of a residential quarter or an agricultural plot. In most Moroccan cities, Jews lived in a mellah, an urban quarter surrounded by a wall and endowed with a gate.1 In...

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6. Southern Moroccan Jewry between the Colonial Manufacture of Knowledge and the Postcolonial Historiographical Silence

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pp. 73-92

In the absence of an abundance of archival documents on the Jews of southern Moroccan rural communities, the European travel narrative1 became one of the key sources in the production of Jewish history in this part of the Islamic world.2 European travelers reported a large body of information about southern Moroccan Jewry during the nineteenth and...

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7. Dating the Demise of the Western Sephardi Jewish Diaspora in the Mediterranean

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pp. 93-104

Discussing Jewish communities in the Maghrib as a whole has certain advantages when the region is viewed as having historical connections that distinguish it from other parts of the Mediterranean and beyond. However, as with elsewhere in the Jewish world, the specificity of a given region can be better understood by examining the extensive...

Part III. Communities, Cultural Exchange, and Transformations

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pp. 105

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8. Jewish-Muslim Syncretism and Intercommunity Cohabitation in the Writings of Albert Memmi: The Partage of Tunis

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pp. 107-127

Although Judaism’s “golden age” in Andalusia reached its apogee during the period of intense Islamization of the Mediterranean basin, Jewish-Muslim “convivencia” was also marked by harassment and (less often) massacres. In spite of such incidents, and at a time when Jews in Europe were undergoing the worst of persecutions, North African Jews lived in a state...

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9. Making Tangier Modern: Ethnicity and Urban Development, 1880–1930

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pp. 128-149

Tangier is unusual in every sense, but especially in the way the city grew in the late nineteenth century. A walk around the old madina offers proof enough of that. The jostling of a Baroque-style bank against an Art Nouveau entryway, the proximity of an Italianate palazzo to a Spanish-tiled post office, a gargoyle peering out of a rainspout...

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10. Muslim and Jewish Interaction in Moroccan Meat Markets, 1873–1912

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pp. 150-167

According to M. Elmaleh, who headed Fez’s Alliance Israélite Universelle, a French educational organization dedicated to the betterment of Jews outside France, the sultan intended to feed these lungs to his cats, probably lions. Jewish butchers typically sold the lungs of slaughtered animals for one peseta. Arguing that they could not afford...

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11. A Moment in Sephardi History: The Reestablishment of the Jewish Community of Oran, 1792–1831

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pp. 168-176

On 27 February 1792, the Algerian regency reconquered Oran and took it from the Spanish for the second time, an unprecedented event for that era and one that was closely related to the extraordinary figure of the bey, Muhammad al-Kabir. The bey’s experience was unique in the Ottoman era in Algeria. His was not any ordinary military victory; rather...

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12. Crosscurrents: Trajectories of Algerian Jewish Artists and Men of Culture since the End of the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 177-187

This chapter focuses on several Algerian Jewish artists and cultural entrepreneurs who have not only influenced aesthetic evolutions but have originated artistic and cultural trends. The goal of this research is to reveal the role Jews played in the evolution of a common artistic heritage in North Africa and to demonstrate how artistic bridges can be built...

Part IV. Between Myth and History: Sol Hachuel in Moroccan Jewish Memory

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pp. 189

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13. Sol Hachuel in the Collective Memory and Folktales of Moroccan Jews

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pp. 191-200

In the collective imagination of Moroccan Jews, the heroic fate of Solika (Sol) Hachuel fascinates like no other historical figure from this community. A morality tale passed from generation to generation, Sol’s story lives on in various guises, including in popular songs, eyewitness accounts, stage plays, and novels; her tomb in Fez remains a pilgrimage site...

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14. Sol Hachuel, “Heroine of the Nineteenth Century”: Gender, the Jewish Question, and Colonial Discourse

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pp. 201-225

The execution in 1834 of Sol Hachuel, a young Jewish girl from Tangier, generated a great deal of attention and was the subject of numerous literary works and at least one French painting (Alfred Dehodencq, L’exécution de la Juive, 1852).1 Sol, or Suleika, as she was also known, was written about both in Jewish and European languages.2 There are two...

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15. Searching for Suleika: A Writer’s Journey

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pp. 226-235

Fierce African sun burns on my head as I weave my way between tiny white tombs packed helter-skelter, nearly on top of each other, half-hidden by stray grasses and tall weeds blowing in the hot wind. A white dome about eight feet high rises above Suleika’s tomb. The inscription is painted in childlike black letters. The first four lines, shaped in a...

Part V. Gender, Colonialism, and the Alliance Israélite Universelle

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pp. 237

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16. Corresponding Women: Female Educators of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Tunisia, 1882–1914

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pp. 239-256

The women educators of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) fulfilled many roles in the complex Muslim-Jewish environment of Tunisia during the period 1882–1914.1 Trained in Paris, teachers and principals were sent to far-flung destinations of the AIU educational system. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, the AIU established a network...

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17. Education for Jewish Girls in Late Nineteenth-and Early Twentieth-Century Tunis and the Spread of French in Tunisia

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pp. 257-281

Since at least the time of the Phoenicians, Tunisia has been multilingual, and from the time Jews first arrived there, they have contributed to that multilingualism. Enjoined to use Hebrew as a liturgical language, Jewish communities have necessarily been bilingual to varying degrees as they came to speak whatever languages were used in daily...

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18. “Les Temps Héroïques”: The Alliance Israélite Universelle in Marrakesh on the Eve of the French Protectorate

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pp. 282-301

In 1998, at the age of 91 Alfred Goldenberg published a memoir recounting the decades he spent in Marrakesh as an Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) teacher and school director. The AIU had operated in the city for almost thirty years by the time of Goldenberg’s arrival in 1927. In part owing to his efforts, the AIU’s presence over the next three decades...

Part VI. North African Jews and Political Change in the Late Colonial and Post-Colonial Periods

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pp. 303

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19. Jewish-Muslim Relations in Tunisia during World War II: Propaganda, Stereotypes, and Attitudes, 1939–1943

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pp. 305-320

For many centuries, different ethnic and religious communities have coexisted in the geographical area known today as Tunisia. After the region was conquered by the Arabs and it became the vanguard of the Muslim conquest of the Maghrib, Muslims came to form the majority. Archaeological and historical evidence reveals that Jews were...

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20. The Emigration of Moroccan Jews, 1948–1956

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pp. 321-333

In the history of every people, painful wounds exist that historians, particularly those writing about their own nations, have a tendency to avoid as themes of study. The emigration of Moroccan Jews falls into this category. In just a few years, Morocco was stripped of one of its essential ethnic and religious components. The country’s cultural diversity...

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21. Zouzef Tayayou (Joseph the Tailor), a Jew from Nedroma, and the Others

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pp. 334-340

This portrait relies almost exclusively on the testimony of the Muslim inhabitants of a city they cohabited with Jews.1 While working on this project, I was surprised by how extensive and important the Jewish presence was in the memory of this city’s inhabitants. This is also my city and my memory, even if my memory is slightly truncated...

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22. The Real Morocco Itself: Jewish Saint Pilgrimage, Hybridity, and the Idea of the Moroccan Nation

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pp. 341-360

Jewish pilgrimages to the shrines of saints have often been recognized as having roots in a North African cultural milieu that cuts across confessional distinctions. The ideological and ritual similarities between Jewish and Muslim pilgrimage in Morocco attracted the attention of twentieth-century commentators, writing across a wide range of disciplines...


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pp. 361-363


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pp. 365-373

E-ISBN-13: 9780253001467
E-ISBN-10: 0253001463
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253355096

Page Count: 386
Illustrations: 9 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Indiana Series in Sephardi and Mizrahi Studies