TLEMCEN


TLEMCEN (Lat. Pomaria), city in N.W. *Algeria; Judeo-Berber center. The *Berber tribes in the neighboring areas of Tlemcen professed Judaism. Judeo-Muslim saints were worshiped there for a long time. In the 10th and 11th centuries scholars of the community corresponded with the geonim of Mesopotamia. The city was destroyed by the *Almohads in 1146. Jews settled there again only in 1248, when it became the capital of the Zeiyanid kingdom. The Jews of Tlemcen lived outside the city in a suburb or village called *Agadir. Abraham Ben-Jalil, ambassador of Aragon, settled there with his family in 1291. In 1415 R. Saadiah ha-Cohen Sullal served as a rabbi in Tlemcen. In the middle of the century his son Nathan took the rabbinate. The community's rabbis in the 14th century were Abraham b. Ḥakun and Moses b. Zakar. When Ephraim b. Israel Al-Nakawa (Enquaua), a Spanish refugee who was the son of the author of Menorah, settled in Agadir, he obtained permission for Jews to settle in the city of Tlemcen, where he built a synagogue. Among its outstanding scholars were Judah Najjār, Marzuk b. Tāwa, Saadiah Najjār, the Ankawas, Zerahia Zalmati, and the Alashkars. The Arab traveler 'Abd al-Bāsit remarks that he studied medicine with the famous teacher, Moses *Alashkar (1465). However, in 1467 this coexistence was disrupted by persecutions of the Jews by Muslim religious brotherhoods. At this time many Jews left for Castile. The appointment of R. Isaac bar Sheshet as a dayyan of Algerian Jewry was issued in Tlemcen. In the 15th century well-known rabbis lived there. Rabbi Joseph Sasportas (son of Abraham Sasportas) was born in the first decade of the 15th century in Tlemcen. He was the student of the dayyan R. Ephraim Enquaua. His son Judah and his grandson Moses studied in Tlemcen. Their teacher was R. Amram Najjari. The Jews had political influence in the court in Tlemcen during the 15th century. R. Joseph Sasportas was appointed dayyan by the king. The family of R. Abraham *Gavison settled in Tlemcen 50 years after the death of R. Ephraim Enquaua. In 1493, the Spanish rabbi Judah Khalass (Chalaz, *Khalaz), the author of Mesi'aḥ Illemim, settled in the city. In 1492 many Spanish refugees settled in Tlemcen, including the *Gavison, *Levy-Bacrat, and Khallas families. Some of them, including Stora, Ben-Mahiya, and Sasportas, assumed important diplomatic functions. The nagid Abraham ben Saadon helped the refugees, aiming to make Tlemcen a center of Torah study. R. Jacob Beirav and his son Joseph settled for a short time in Tlemcen after 1492. R. Jacob served there as a rabbi. Jacob Alegre was sent on a mission to Charles V (1531). In the treaties they negotiated a clause granting religious liberty to the Jews who wished to settle in Spanish territory. In the mid-15th century Rabbi Jacob ha-Kohen Ashkenazi from Ashkenaz settled in the city. He became a famous figure in the community, a kabbalist and teacher. His best-known student was R. *Jeshua ben Joseph ha-Levi, the author of Halikhot Olam. In the early 16th century Tlemcen suffered a series of disasters, from which it never completely recovered. In 1517 the Turks pillaged the city, destroyed Jewish property, and obliged the Jews to wear a piece of yellow material on their headgear. By 1520 there were no more than 500 "houses" (families) of Jews. In 1534 the Spanish army captured the town; massacres took place and 1,500 Jews were enslaved. Their coreligionists of *Fez and *Oran paid a ransom to set them free. In the second half of the 16th century the dayyan Solomon Khallas II was active in Tlemcen. Other scholars in that period were Solomon Enquaua, Maimon Khallas, and Judah Khallas III. At the beginning of the 17th century the dayyan Moses Shuraqi lived in Tlemcen. Although the Jewish community of Tlemcen was sacked by the Turks in 1670, it still produced such scholars as Nathan Djian and Isaac Moatti in the 1700s. When the French entered the city in 1830, they found 1,585 Jews and five synagogues, one of which they turned into a church in 1842. In the 18th century the community was organized and the local rabbis were David Djian, Jacob Benichou, Shalom Elashkar, Judah Djian, Nissim Elhaik, Messas Touati, and Joshua Allkabetz. The leader of the community was called Sheikh -al-Yahud. At the beginning of the 19th century, the chief rabbi of the community was Ḥayyim Kasbi, the author of Ẓeror ha-Ḥayyim (published in 1807). He immigrated to Oran. In the 19th century R. Abraham Enquaua founded a yeshiva, Eẓ Ḥayyim. In the second half of the century the rabbis Ḥayyim Blia'h, Nathan Assiag, and Masud Benishou lived there. The French authorities (from 1842) set up a consistoire in Tlemcen. In 1846 the Muslims slaughtered Jews in a pogrom. In 1851, 2,688 Jews lived in Tlemcen with eight synagogues and two schools. In the 19th century modernism spread in Jewish society. In 1866, 200 Jewish students studied in the French-Jewish school. The president of the consistoire was Simon Kanoui. There were local parents who sent their children to Christian schools. Jews from Tlemcen served in the French army. During the 1881 uprisings the Jews fought back their Christian adversaries. They were not attacked again until 1940, when legal discrimination was instituted. Their rights were restored later along with those of the rest of Algerian Jewry. In 1911 the Jews in Tlemcen numbered 5,000 and, in 1941/42, 4,907. The community was never larger than 6,000 persons, and its members were mostly workers and salaried employees. The *Alliance Israélite Universelle founded schools in the city, but at the end of the 19th century no yeshivah existed there. In 1902, the local rabbi, Abraham Meir, who came from France to Tlemcen in 1890, published a book there. He criticized the minhagim of the community and emphasized the backward character of the native Jews and the cultural difference between them and the European Jews in the city, in spite of the *Crémieux Decree giving Algerian Jews French citizenship. The local Jews in response to the book dismissed R. Meir and he returned to France. At the end of the 19th century the French rabbi Moïse Weil served in Tlemcen. He was the consistoire rabbi and after his departure R. Ḥayyim Blia'h (1832–1919) served as the local rabbi. Other rabbis of the period were Isaac Shuraky, Zemah Amselem, Aaron Alkobi, Saadiah Shuraki, and Judah Sultan. Another important rabbi was David Cohen Sekely. His disciples were the rabbis Ḥayyim Touati, Jacob Sharvit, Saadiah Sharvit, and Samuel Benichou. The traveler Jacob Goldman visited Tlemcen in 1890 and published a description of the community in the Jewish press in Europe. The Jews lived in a crowded quarter in single-story buildings. The wealthy Jews lived in other quarters in large houses. The Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Tlemcen was the most important place of pilgrimage for Jews and non-Jews. Located there is the tomb of Rabbi Ephraim Enquaua. Sometimes more than 10,000 people from many parts of the world convened there on Lag ba-Omer. In 1903 there is a description of the community as a conservative entity. Rabbi Ḥayyim Serehen published a phonetic siddur there in 1931. In 1924–40 the chief rabbi of Tlemcen was Joseph Mashash. The Alliance Israélite Universelle school was closed down in 1934. The last local rabbis of Tlemcen were Jacob Sharvit and Isaac Rouch. After 1962 no Jews lived in Tlemcen. A yeshivah was active in Tlemcen in the 20th century. R. David Ibn Halifa (b. 1906) studied in this yeshivah in his youth.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

L. Marmol de Carvajal, L'Afrique, 2 (1667), 329; Abbé Bargés, Tlemcen, ancienne capitale du royaume de ce nom (1859), passim; A. Cohen, Les juifs dans l'Afrique septentrionale (1867), passim; Revue Africaine (1870), 376–83; M. Weil, Le cimetière Israélite de Tlemcen (1881); E. Doutte, Les Marabouts (1900), 64–69; A. Meyer, Etude sur la communauté de Tlemcen (1902); SIHM, Espagne, index; R. Brunschvig (ed.), Deux récits de voyage inédits… (1936), 44–107; A.M. Hershman, Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet and his Times (1943), 161ff.; A. Ashtor, Toledot, 2 (1551), pp. 449, 471; Revue Africaine (1955), 177f.; G. Shukron, in: Qorot, 3 (1963), pp. 86–88; Hirschberg, Afrikah, index; A. Chouraqui, Between East and West (1969), passim. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. Chemouli, Une Diaspora Méconnue (1976), 7–64; M. Abitboul, in: Pe'amim, 2 (1979), 77ff.; J. Hacker, in: Zion, 45 (1980), 118–32; M. Bar-Asher, La composante hébraïque du Judéo-Arabe algérien (1992); S. Slymovics, in: Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Review, 15:2 (1993), 4–88; N. Aminoah, Rabbi Yosef Sasportas Ḥakham ve-Dayyan be-Malkhut Tlemcen ve-Sefer Teshuvotav (1995); E. Bareket, Shafrir Miẓrayim (1995), index; Y. Charvit, Elite rabbinique d'Algérie et modernization 17501914 (1995); S. Schwarzfuchs, Tlemcen mille ans d'histoire d'une communauté Juive (1995); Y. Charvit, Elite rabbinique d'Algérie et Ereẓ Israël au XIXème siècle, 3 vols. (1998); S. Schwarzfuchs, in: Kountrass, 78 (May-June 2000), 43–48; A.R. Marciano, Sefer Malkhei Yeshurun ve-Shivḥei Ḥakhmei Aljeria (2000); S. Bar Asher, in: Pe'amim, 86–87 (2001), 244; Y. Sharvit, Me-Ereẓ ha-Yam le-Ereẓ IsraelYehudei Aljeria u-Medinat Yisrael (19481998) (2002); A. Rodrigue, Ḥinnukh, Ḥevrah ve-Historyah (1991), 147–48.

[David Corcos /

Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.