The Jews of Algeria
By Mitchell Bard
Jewish population: 140,000
2004: Less than 1001
Jewish settlement in present-day Algeria
can be traced back to the first centuries of the Common Era. In the
14th century, with the deterioration of conditions in Spain,
many Spanish Jews moved to Algeria. Among them were a number of outstanding
scholars, including Rav Yitzchak ben Sheshet Perfet (the Ribash)
and Rav Shimon ben Zemah Duran (the Rashbatz). After the French
occupation of the country in 1830, Jews gradually adopted French culture
and were granted French citizenship.2
On the eve of WWII, there were about 120,000 Jews
in Algeria. In 1934, Muslims,
incited by events in Nazi
Germany, rampaged in Constantine, killing 25 Jews and injuring many
more. Starting in 1940, under Vichy rule, Algerian Jews were persecuted
socially and economically. The Jews averted total destruction through
their initiative and participation in the resistance. Their resistance
activities helped neutralize Algiers while the Americans landed in the
country. In 1955 there were 140,000 Jews in Algeria.
After being granted independence in 1962, the Algerian
government harassed the Jewish community and deprived Jews of their
economic rights. As a result, almost 130,000 Algerian Jews immigrated
to France. Since 1948, 25,681
Algerian Jews have immigrated
Most of the remaining Jews live in Algiers, but there
are individual Jews in Oran and Blida. Jews practice their religion
freely, and Jewish community leaders are included in ceremonial state
functions. There is no resident rabbi.3
In 1994, the terrorist Armed
Islamic Group - GIA declared its intention to eliminate Jews from
Algeria; thus far, no attacks have been reported against the Algerian
Following the announcement, many Jews left Algeria and the
single remaining synagogue
All other synagogues had previously been taken over for use as mosques.
Singer,Ed., American Jewish Year Book 2004.
NY: American Jewish Committee, 2004.
Jewish Congress, Jewish Communities of the World.
Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1991, (DC: Department
of State, 1992), p. 1339.
State Department Report on Human Rights Practices
U.S. Department of
Annual Report on International Religious Freedom,
Released by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights,
and Labor Washington, DC, September 5, 2000.