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Algeria

 

 

 

Places of Jewish settlement in Algeria. Places of Jewish settlement in Algeria.

Resistance against the Arab invasion in the seventh century was organized first near Biskra and later in the Aurès mountains, where the *kāhina (an epithet meaning priestess), the "queen" of the Judeo-Berber tribe Jarawa, won brilliant victories. With the death of the kāhina in 693 came the collapse of *Berber independence. Most of the Jarawa adopted Islam, others escaped to the west and south reinforcing the Jewish elements there. Oriental Jews, who followed in the wake of the Arab armies in large numbers, rebuilt the old destroyed communities of Algeria. The Jews in the urban centers, such as Mejana or Mesila, were Rabbanites; so also were the Jews in the capitals of the various Berber kingdoms – Ashir, Tahert (Tiaret), where the philologist R. *Judah ibn Quraysh lived, *Tlemcen, and *Qalʿat Ḥammād, where R. Isaac *Alfasi was probably born. These communities were in contact with the communities of *Fez in the west and *Kairouan in the east, and even with the geonim of Babylonia and Palestine. It is partly through them that the teachings of the academies of *Sura and *Pumbedita, and later of Kairouan, spread to Morocco, and from there to Spain. Thus, the influence of these communities on the intellectual and religious development of the Jews of Spain can be seen. The teachings of the sages were spread to the area north of the Sahara Desert from Gabès, Tunisia, to Sijilmassa (in the Ziz Valley), Morocco, by traveling merchants. The Jewish tribes of the region of Wargha were *Karaites. They were nomad warriors. Their descendants were called "Bahusim" and remained in the eastern part of Algeria up to modern times. In the tenth century, a Jew named Abu al-Faraj instigated an important revolt against the Zirid sovereigns of the Berber tribes in the Setif region. Defeated, he was tortured to death in 989.

Apart from the fact that the community of *Tlemcen was destroyed, almost nothing is known about Algerian Jews during the rule of the Almohads in the 12th and 13th centuries. In any case, after that period of disorder the Jewish population of Algeria was considerably diminished. In the 13th and 14th centuries some Jewish merchants residing in Algeria had regular contacts with other countries, particularly with Catalonia, and these ties served to keep open channels of communication with the more developed Jewish communities. Jews of Languedoc and even Marseilles lived in Bougie, the Algerian harbor town, from 1248. Tlemcen, gate to the Mediterranean and a final station on the Sudanese gold route, known as the "Jewish Road," had a small but lively community, which was sustained by the rich Jewish merchants of Barcelona, Valencia, Tortosa, and Majorca. Most of these merchants were actually natives of the Maghreb and particularly favored by the kings of Aragon, who relied on them as essential to their prosperity. Their relatives had remained in the Maghreb, settling at *Algiers, Cherchel, Tenes, Mostaganem, and Tlemcen. At that time there was a continuous emigration of Muslims from the Christian kingdoms of Spain to Africa and they were assisted by the Jews in Spain. This was the very remunerative business of the great Jewish African-Spanish family Alatzar (also al-ʿAzār), in particular. The Jewish merchants of the central Maghreb had many trade activities, including the slave trade, so important at the time. However, they traded chiefly in Sudanese gold. Many traded with the Balearic Islands using their own ships.

The Christian kings of Spain appointed many Jews as their ambassadors to the Muslim courts. In that capacity Abraham and Samuel *Bengalil, Judas "Abenhatens," and the alfa-quim ("physician") *Bondavin made their first visit to Tlemcen in 1286. In 1305 Solomon b. Zequi of Majorca was chosen to settle a dispute with the town of Breshk. These experts in North African diplomacy, as well as the wealthy merchants in the country, were exceptions among the mass of Algerian Jewry, whose level of culture was very low. Largely because of them and the possibility of communication with the important economic centers which they represented, many Spanish refugees of 1391 chose Algeria as their haven. They emigrated in continuous groups from Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. They were favorably received by the Muslim authorities, in particular by the Ziyanid princes. In contrast, their relations with the local Jews, who had at first received them fraternally, later became tense. Their numbers gave rise to fear of competition in their professions. Differences in ritual, language, customs, and above all social conceptions, caused conflicts between the two communities. The Sephardi Jews asserted themselves by their intellectual superiority, financial means, and skills. The older community resisted the attempt of the newcomers to dominate communal life. However, there were refugee leaders who were able to mitigate the conflicts between the two groups. The learning and dedication of the new immigrants renewed the moral and religious life of Algerian Jewry. Their talent in organizational activities strengthened the Jewish institutions of Algeria.

R. Ephraim Ankawa reestablished the community of Tlemcen; the eminent talmudic authorities R. *Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet (Ribash), R. Simeon b. Ẓemaḥ *Duran (Rashbaẓ), and the latter's descendants were mainly responsible for Algiers becoming a religious and intellectual center. The communities of *Honein, *Oran, Mostaganem, Miliana, Médéa, Tenès, Breshk, *Bougie, *Bône, and *Constantine, although dependent on Algiers, also became centers of Jewish learning under the leadership of the rabbis Amram Merovas Ephrati, Samuel Ḥalawa, the brothers Najjār, and others.

Very few of the Spanish exiles of 1492 came to Algeria. The only city that attracted them was Tlemcen, which they reached by way of Oran. It has been said, however, that the loss of Granada, Spain, in 1492 by the Muslims had grave repercussions for the Jews in Algeria. In cases such as that of the Muslim preacher al-Maghillī, resentment was expressed in violent tirades against the Jews. The prosperous and powerful communities of Tlemcen and, in particular, Tuat were destroyed some years later as a result of such agitation. Just after these events, the Spanish occupation of Oran (1509–1708) and Bougie (1509–55), resulted in Jewish property being pillaged and the Jews themselves sold as slaves. Finally, however, some influential families such as Jacob *Cansino, Jacob b. Aaron, and *Sasportas convinced the Spaniards in Oran that their Arab policy would best be served by accepting a Jewish community in Oran. In the 17th and 18th centuries, descendants of Marranos and Jews from Leghorn, Italy, settled in Algeria, especially Algiers. Among the first who arrived were the Lousada, Alvarenga, Zacuto, Molco, and dela Rosa families; among the later ones were the Soliman, *Busnach, *Bouchara, *Bacri, Lealtad, and *Delmar families. They played an important role in ransoming Christian captives for European governments, and their commercial activities enriched the country.

The "refugees of 1391" had stimulated Algerian trade and brought prosperity to remote communities. They exported ostrich feathers from Mzab and African gold from Tuat, as well as burnooses, rugs, cereals, wool, and pelts to Europe, while European products were in turn sold in Africa by the same merchants. At that time the Jews owned estates, slaves, and flocks. In the regions subject to a central power, the Jews paid the *jizya, the tax levied on all non-Muslims. Their rabbis were exempted from it, as were the merchants, mainly descendants of megorashim, because they paid customs on their imports. The native Jews were thus in an inferior position. Moreover, the megorashim had a separate quarter, synagogue, and even cemetery. Their dress was also different from that of the native Jews; they continued this distinction by wearing berets or hoods. Thus, they were called ba'alei ha-kappus or kabbusiyyin, in contrast to the ba'alei ha-miẓnefet, native Jews who wore turbans.

The organization of the communities that was established in the 14th century was in effect until 1830. At the head of each community was a Sheikh al-Yahūd, or Zaken ha-Yehudim, called also *muqaddam, who was appointed by the Muslim authorities. His powers were discretionary, tempered only by protests of the rabbis. A prison and the police were at his disposal for punishing and carrying out the sentences of the bet din. He also named the officers (gedolei ha-kahal, ziknei hakahal) who were charged with the collection and administration of charity funds, and the management of the synagogue and charitable institutions. The Judeo-Spanish groups chose their officers (ne'emanim) themselves. The rabbinical courts were composed of three judges chosen and paid by the community. Only civil disputes were brought to them; they had no jurisdiction in criminal matters.

Although the rabbinical courts were available to Algerian Jews, they tended more and more to turn to Muslim civil courts. To discourage this practice the rabbis were able to threaten, and indeed put into effect, decrees of excommunication. On questions of minhag, however, the rabbis were often compelled to approve the local custom followed by African Jews. Some later practices originated in takkanot. The haskamot, agreements over administrative regulations, also legalized local practices. The particular regulations of each community gave it a certain individuality that it jealously preserved for future generations. This resulted in collections of minhagim, prayers, and liturgy (piyyutim), the work of local rabbis, written either in Hebrew or Judeo-Arabic. The communities of Tlemcen, Oran, and Algiers each had its own maḥzor. Sometimes the synagogues of the same town even had different liturgies. Thus, in the 18th century the community of Algiers was convulsed by disputes over liturgy.

Jewish-Muslim relations were, on the whole, good. It was only occasionally that outbursts of fanaticism gave rise to local persecutions. In certain towns it was accepted that at such times the mosques, although forbidden to infidels, should serve as a refuge to the Jews. The religious Muslim leaders sometimes helped them; for example, the marabout (Muslim holy man) of Blida, southwest of Algiers, stopped a pogrom and forced the plunderers to return their booty.

Generally, from the 16th century the situation of the southern Jews was better than that of their coreligionists in the centers under Turkish domination. The Turks were the ruling class who had come to exploit the country, and they treated the natives, both Muslims and Jews, roughly. Most Jews, living in separate quarters, were at their mercy. They increased the restrictions imposed on Jews in Islamic countries more through greed than fanaticism. On the other hand, the "sovereign" days, chosen by the Janissaries, and the beys, governors of provinces, humored the upper-class Jews, from among whom they chose their counselors, physicians, financiers, and diplomats. The Muslim rulers charged these diplomats with the difficult assignment of maintaining relations with European Powers, a task that was complicated by the pirate raids on European ships, condoned by the Algerian rulers. It was usually the wealthy and influential Jews originally from Leghorn, the Gorenim who received these assignments. Their high positions could not, however, protect them against the violence of the Janissaries who resented the favors the Jews received from the bey. The assassination in 1805 of the bey's chief aide, the powerful Naphtali Busnach, was followed by the only massacre of Jews to take place in Algiers.

The French government had accumulated enormous debts to the Bacri and Busnach families, relatives and partners, who had been delivering grain to France for them since the end of the 18th century. These unpaid debts were the cause of diplomatic incidents that resulted in the French conquest of Algiers in 1830. The French conquest opened a new era for the 30,000 Jews of Algeria. In the beginning the communities were allowed to continue their self-government, and the rabbis continued to administer justice. But this autonomous structure was soon overturned. Rabbinical justice was deprecated and jurisdiction of the Jews passed to the French tribunals. The muqaddam, who had previously headed each Jewish community, was replaced by a deputy mayor. These reforms did not give rise to any protests on the part of the Jewish population, as they retained their previous legal status. However, the changes caused some to leave: many European Jews returned to Leghorn, and the middle class, small tradesmen, and craftsmen emigrated to Morocco and Tunisia. On the other hand, Moroccan and Tunisian Jews, attracted by new conditions, immigrated into Algeria. There was also a movement of Jews from the south toward the centers and the port towns.

The Jews under French Rule

French colonialism lasted from 1830 to 1962. The duration of colonialism, the presence of French settlers, the involvement of French Jewry, and the impact of the changes in the country, its people, and its Jews shaped Jewish community history during this period. The cornerstones of the period were the establishment of the consistorial organization in 1845, the naturalization of the Jews in 1870, World War II and its impact (1939–45), and the decolonization processes from 1954 to 1962. The modernization process of Algerian Jewry was the most complete in the Muslim world; Jews became French citizens and dissociated themselves from Muslim society. It is not surprising that at the end of the colonial area most Algerian Jews continued their life in France, like all the French settlers.

Under the French each municipal council and chamber of commerce had one or two Jewish members. In 1858 a Jewish general counselor was elected for each province. In 1845, after a long mission of two French Jews, Jacques-Isaac Alters and Josef Cohen, consistories, on the model of those of France, were created in Algiers, Oran, and Constantine. Chief rabbis, brought from France, were appointed and paid by the government, and presided over all other religious functionaries. One of the tasks of these chief rabbis was to promote the emancipation of their followers, although they were not yet French citizens. Cultural assimilation was so rapid that it provoked a break with the old Jewish world. Some attempted to fight the trend toward total assimilation in such undertakings as the establishment of Hebrew printing houses in Algiers in 1853 and Oran in 1856 and 1880. French education, despite its advantages, led many Jews who were unprepared for it to leave Judaism. To counteract this trend talmud torah schools were opened in many cities. Several highly influential families formed a Jewish intelligentsia, capable of assimilating French civilization yet maintaining their own traditions. Members of these families were the first to enter the liberal professions, becoming magistrates, physicians, lawyers, engineers, high-ranking officers in the army, and, later, university professors. Both they and the French Jews favored the naturalization of Algerian Jews as did also French liberals.

Algerian Jews were granted the right of individual naturalization in 1865, and on October 24, 1870, by the *Crémieux Decree all Algerian Jews were forced to become French citizens, with the exception of those in the south, whose legal situation remained uncertain. This was the first instance in the Muslim world in which the Jew's legal status changed so radically. The naturalization of some 35,000 Jews resulted in a wave of antisemitism. Jews were attacked and in Tlemcen in 1881, in Algiers in 1882, 1897, and 1898, in Oran and Sétif in 1883, and in Mostaganem in 1897, where the violence reached its peak. Up to 1900 there were in all towns and villages cases of looting and killing, and numerous cases of synagogues being sacked and the Holy Scrolls desecrated and used as banners by the rioters. The *Dreyfus affair in France inflamed the anti-Jewish campaign even more. An antisemitic party came to power: Edouard *Drumont was elected the representative of Algiers and Max Regis became its mayor. Extraordinary measures were taken against the Jews. In Constantine, by decision of the deputy mayor Emile Morinaud, Jewish patients were not admitted to hospitals. The illegality of such steps, together with the fact that the Muslims failed to support the movement, brought about the defeat of the antisemitic party; in 1902 it ceased to exist altogether.

It should be emphasized that the wave of antisemitism came only from the French colonial settlers. It was a modern form of antisemitism deriving from the fear of a breakdown of the colonial hierarchy in which "inferior" elements might become part of the ruling class.

The heroic participation of Jews in World War I caused an improvement of relations, although in 1921 there was a renewed outburst of hatred in Oran. Hitler's rise to power, greeted with rejoicing by the antisemites, caused a new wave of antisemitic campaigns, which resulted in a massacre in Constantine in 1934.

The crisis was renewed in 1936, when Léon *Blum, a Jew, became premier of France. The Jewish Algerian Committee for Social Studies, directed by Henri Abulker, André Lévi-Valensi, Elie *Gozlan, and others, undertook intensive activities aimed at curbing the racial unrest. Subsequently, the Union of Monotheistic Believers (Union des Croyants Monothéistes) was formed; during World War II it was responsible for the Muslims declining to identify themselves with the antisemitism of the Vichy government.

Holocaust Period

Despite the bravery shown by the Jews on the front during World War II, one of the first measures taken after the French defeat in 1940 was to abrogate the Crémieux Decree. The 117,646 Jews of Algeria became the object of daily suffering: they were cast outside the pale of society, impoverished, and humiliated. The Algerian administration applied the racial laws of Vichy with excessive severity. After Jewish children were banned from attending schools and restrictive clauses were applied in institutions of higher learning, Robert *Brunschwig organized private courses and schools. The expenses of these private schools were met by the communities jointly, although the financial burden was heavy. Some time later, the government totally forbade Jewish higher education and put the Jewish schools under strict, malevolent supervision without, however, contributing toward their upkeep. Only the rabbis were granted the right to represent the community before the authorities.

Algerian Jewry, in danger of total destruction, was saved only by its own determination. The Algerian resistance movement was the work of Jews, and consisted almost entirely of Jews. Among its leaders were Raphael and Stéphane Abulker, Roger and Pierre Carcassone, Jean Dreyfus, Jean Gozlan, and Roger Jais. Their activity led to the insurrection of Algiers led by Jose Abulker on November 8, 1942, which neutralized the capital while the Americans landed in the country as part of Operation Torch. Paradoxically, after this victory of the allies in Algeria, General Giraud, Admiral Darlan, and Governor Yves Câtel, with the complicity of the local diplomatic representative of the U.S.A., Robert Murphy, took new measures against the Jews, including the establishment of detention camps. The protests of Jewish international and Algerian organizations and the French Committee of National Liberation in London, the intervention of highly placed Jews, Muslims, and Christians against this injustice, and a world-wide campaign were all of no avail against the will of the antisemites. Finally after the personal intervention of President Roosevelt, the Crémieux Decree was again put into force on October 20, 1943. However, it was only in 1947 that equality for all was proclaimed.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

General. A. Cahen, Les Juifs dans l'Afrique septentrionale (1867), passim; I. Bloch, Inscriptions Tumulaires des Anciens Cimetières d'Alger (1888); N. Slouschz, Travels in North Africa (1927), 295–343; M. Ansky, Les Juifs d'Algérie (1950); A. Chouraqui, Between East and West (1968); R. Attal, Les Juifs d'Afrique du NordBibliographie (rev. 1993); H.Y. Cohen, Asian and African Jews in the Middle East1860–1971; Annotated Bibliography (1976); R. Attal, in: Bi-Tefuẓot ha-Golah (1961), 14–20; idem, in: Sefunot, 5 (1961), 465–508; Hirschberg, Afrikah; idem, in: Journal of African History (1963), 313–9. BERBER-ARAB RULE (680–1516). I. Epstein (ed.), Responsa of Rabbi Simon b. Ẓemaḥ Duran (1930); R. Brunschvig, La Berbérie Orientale sous les Ḥafṣides, 1 (1940), 396–430; A.M. Hershman, Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet and his Times (1943); Hirschberg, in: Tarbiẓ, 26 (1956/57), 370–83; Corcos, in: JQR, 54 (1963/64), 275–9; 55 (1964/65), 67–78; idem, in: Zion, 32 (1967), 135–60; C.E. Dufourcq, L'Espagne Catalane et le Magrib aux XIIIe et XIVe siècles (1965), passim. TURKISH RULE (1516–1830). J.M. Haddey, Le Livre d'or des Israélites Algériens (1872); R.L. Playfair, The Scourge of Christendom (1884), passim; M. Eisenbeth, in: Revue Africaine (1952), 112–87, 343–84; Mainz, in: JA, 240 (1952), 197–217; Rosenstock, in: JSOS, 14 (1952), 343–64; HJ, 18 (1956), 3–26. FRENCH RULE UP TO 1948. C. Frégier, Les Israélites Algériens (1865); Féraud, in: Revue Africaine (1874), 30 ff.; J. Cohen, Les Israélites de l'Algerie et le Décret Crémieux (1900); J. Hanoune, Aperçusur les Israélites Algériens (1922); C. Martin, Les Israélites Algériens de 1830 à 1902 (1936); M. Abulker, Alger et ses Complots (1945); Mainz, in: PAAJR, 21 (1952), 63–73; HJ, 18 (1956), 27–40. ANTISEMITISM: J.F. Aumerot, L'Antisémitisme à Alger (1885); E. Drumont, La France Juive, 2 (1886), 4 ff.; G. Meyné, L'Algérie Juive (1887); G.R. Rouanet, L'Antisémitisme Algérien (1900); L. Durieu, Les Juifs Algériens, 1870–1901 (1902); Brunschvig, in: Revue d'Alger, 1 no. 2 (1944), 57–79; M. Eisenbeth, Pages Vécues, 1940–1943 (1945); Szajkowski, in: JSOS, 10 (1948), 257–80. CONTEMPORARY PERIOD. JC (Oct. 19, 1962, June 12, 1964, Aug. 30, 1968); Congress bi-Weekly, vol. 35, no. 15 (1964), 9–11; L'Arche, no. 40 (1960), 24; Information Juive, 139 (Sept. 1963), 3; 151 (Dec.–Jan. 1965), 6; 185 (Aug.–Sept. 1968), 7; Mandel, in: AJYB, 64 (1963), 403–11; 65 (1964) 326–30; 66 (1965) 478–83; 67 (1966) 441–4; idem. in: Commentary, 35 (June 1963), 475–82; In the Dispersion, 5–6 (1966), 318–20 (list of articles). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Heoxter, "Ha-Edah ha-Yehudit be-Algeria u-Mekomah be-Ma'arekhet ha-Shilton ha-Turki," in: Sefunot, New Series, Book 2, 17 (1983), 133–63; A. Ben-Haim, "Mivtzah Zebbu, Algeria 1947–1948," in: Shorashim ba-Mizraḥ, Book 3, (1991), 213–31; A. Attal, "Ha-Itton ha-Yehudi ha-Rishon ba-Magreb L'Israélite Algérien (hadziri) 1870," in: Pe'amim, 17 (1984), 88–95; idem, "Ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Woharran," in: Kiryat Sefer anthology, suppl. to vol. 68 (1990), 85–92; D. Cohen, "Megoiasim Yehudim me-Algeria bi-Shenot 1875–1878, Hebetim Kalkaliyyim ve Ḥevratiyyim," in: Pe'amim, 15 (1983), 96–111; E. Sivan, "Sin'at Yehudim be-Algeria ke-Tolada shel Matzav Koloniali," in: Pe'amim, 2 (1979), 92–108; G. Amipaz-Zilber, Maḥteret Yehudit be-Algeria 1940–1942 (1983); M. Abitbol, Mi-Kremieux le-Peten; ha-Antishemiut be-Algeria ha-Kolonialit 1870–1940 (1984); M. Laskier, "'Ha-Mossad' ve-ha-Du-Kiyyum ha-Muslemi-ha-Yehudi be-Algeria ha-Kolonialit, Parashat Constantin 12–13 1956," in: Pe'amim, 75 (1984), 129–143; J. Allouche-Benayoun, D. Bensimon: Les Juifs d'Algérie. Mémoires et identités plurielles (1998); R. Attal, Regards sur les Juifs d'Algérie (1996); A. Chouraqui, Chronique de Baba; lettres d'Abraham Meyer, mon grand-père, à ses fils (1914–1918) (2000); D. Cohen, "Le Comité juif algérien d'études sociales dans le débat idéologique pendant la guerre d'Algérie (1954–1961)," in: Archives Juives, 29:1 (le semestre 1996), 30–50; idem, "Les circonstances de la fondation du Comité Algérien d'Édudes sociales ou la prise de conscience d'une élite intellectuelle juive face au phénomène antisémite en Algérie (1915–1921)," in: Revue des Etudes Juives, 161 (2002), 179–225; idem, "Algeria," in: R. Simon, M. Laskier, S. Reguer (eds.), The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times (2003), 458–470; G. Dugas, "La guerre d'Algérie comme métaphore obsédante; 'Les Bagnoulis' d'Albert Bensoussan," in: Archives Juives, 29 (1996), 82–86; E. Marciano, Les Sages d'Algérie; dictionnaire encyclopédique des sages et rabbins d'Algérie, du haut moyen âge à nos jours. Adaptation et iconographie de Jacques Assouline (2002).